Oct 2

CIR continues Fukushima Live blog: Stories from people living in Fukushima prefecture

FukushimaAizuSaw the link for this posted by Eden Law to the JETAA Oceania Facebook group.  Here’s a sample post:

Fukushima Live Blog


“This blog Fukushima Live collects stories from people living in Fukushima Prefecture”

Hi everyone, my name is William. I’m one of the new CIRs here in Fukushima Prefecture, and am taking over for Lachie Tranter in the International Affairs Division. Lachie has kindly allowed me to continue his Fukushima Live blog. I hope to be able to continue to share with you all life in Fukushima, the challenges people here are facing, and many of the wonderful attractions the prefecture has to offer.

Recently I had the opportunity to travel around the Aizu Region here in Fukushima Prefecture. Aizu, the westernmost region of the three regions in Fukushima, is known for its rich history and sake-brewing industry.

The highlight of the trip was visting Ōuchi-juku. Located in the mountains of Minami-Aizu, Ōuchi-juku was a post town during Japan’s Edo period (1603 – 1868). It is famous for the traditional thatched buildings that line its main street, allowing visitors to experience the atmosphere of the Edo period here in modern day Japan.

Sep 26
Visit JQ magazine online at http://jetaany.org/magazine.

Visit JQ magazine online at http://jetaany.org/magazine.


As we head into fall, JETAA New York’s JQ magazine continues to provide content with an ever-expanding array of articles, interviews and features (see our recent stories here). We’re now looking for new writers, including recent returnees and JET vets, from all JETAA chapters worldwide for posting stories via our host at the global JET alumni resource site JETwit.com. (Scribes are also encouraged to join the JET Alumni Writers group on LinkedIn.)

Below are story ideas grouped by JET participants and alumni (JET World) and those more on Japanese culture (Japan World). And if you’re a JET or JETWit contributor from anywhere in the world with a story idea of your own, let us know!

Click “Read More” below for our fall 2013 ideas pitch package, and contact JQ editor Justin Tedaldi (magazine [at] jetaany [dot] org) to sign up for stories.

Now, JQ is looking for additional help behind the scenes! Our editor (celebrating his fifth anniversary at the helm in November) is seeking a capable assistant to help with the posting, social media sharing and story assigning across all JETAA chapters. If you’re a wiz with WordPress, Facebook and Twitter, and enjoy all forms of Japanese arts, events and media, reach out to Justin. Thanks and yoroshiku!

Read More

Sep 11

RocketNews24: Scowling mascot brings a little fame to Japan’s least popular prefecture

Michelle Lynn Dinh (Shimane-ken, Chibu-mura, 2010–13) is an editor and writer for RocketNews24, a Japan-based site dedicated to bringing fun and quirky news from Asia to English speaking audiences.

Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 12.42.22 PM

Yoshida-kun, Shimane Prefecture’s snarky and very unhappy-looking mascot

Shimane Prefecture, ever heard of it? If your answer is a resounding “no,” you’re not alone. The oddly shaped prefecture stretching along the western coast of Japan is barely known within its own country, let alone abroad. But one disgruntled mascot is out to bring Shimane’s shortcomings to light, making fun of the prefecture’s lack of popularity and population, and giving the area a little boost in positive publicity online.

For the 95 percent of you who don’t know, Shimane is a prefecture in the Chugoku region of Japan. Its claim to fame is having the most elderly people of any other prefecture and the most centenarians. Year after year, Shimane battles it out with neighboring Tottori for the title of “least populated prefecture” and has repeatedly landed itself at the very bottom of lists ranking areas by popularity.

Read More

Sep 11

Return On JET-vestment: “This is Fukushima” Calendar 2014 Fundraiser

Thanks to Ryan McDonald (Fukushima-ken, 2002-05) for sharing the below.  Another great example of Return On JET-vestment:

Last year, I and two other ex-JETs, created a calendar called This Is Fukushima. We paid for it ourselves and took donations from other ALTs in Fukushima. We made 2,500 copies and sent them around the world to the media, government officials, and even royalty. The goal was to show that Fukushima is more than a reactor. There is no Fukushima disaster, but there was a disaster in Fukushima. Too many people hear the word Fukushima and think it’s only a nuclear reactor.

This is Fukushima Calendar (2013)

This is Fukushima Calendar (2013)

This year the theme will be people and interesting places. We already have a few people in mind that have and are continuing to help Fukushima. We are also going to have more photos of some of our unique festivals. We want to print 4,000 this time and have a larger version with one month per page.

There’s no question as to whether or not we can do it. We did already and can do it again. The only question is can we raise enough money to make it bigger and better. Any money raised over the goal will go to printing more calendars.

If you would like to donate, please go to GoFundMe.com

You can also look at some photos of Fukushima at http://www.ThisIsFukushima.org

  • Ryan McDonald (USA)- (Fukushima-ken, 2002-05)
  • Paul Sprigg (CA)– (Fukushima-ken, 2005–10)
  • Henare Akurangi (NZ) – (Fukushima-ken, 2007–11)

Aug 20

New Fukushima JETs make the local newspaper

Just saw this posted to the JETAA New South Wales Facebook group which was re-posted from the Fukushima ALTs Facebook group.

“New JET members are in today’s newspaper (Fukushima Minpo).  It says 43 new JET members visited the governor and expressed their hopes.”


Aug 18

Maryland-based Ehime-ken JET alums Elayna Snider and Chelsea Reidy have put together an illustrated book of their “88 temple pilgrimage” by bicycle in Shikoku.  They now have a Kickstarter page to help them raise funds to publish it and a wonderful video that explains what this is all about.  Definitely worth a look.  It’s hard to do justice in my own words, so click the link and watch and read for yourself:


Excerpts from the Kickstarter site:

There are 88 temples on Japan’s 88 temple pilgrimage. With two bicycles, a tent, notebooks and pens, plus a Rolleiflex, we will go to all of them. While we travel the 900-mile route, we’ll be collecting the materials needed to make 88 hand-bound versions of our illustrated book, Temple by Temple.

Elayna does the art, Chelsea does the words. A children’s book? It can be. A coffee table book? Sure. A book you have around and pick up from time to time? Yes! The idea and project did not come from any prescribed place of “Let’s make a kids book.” We are two people with varying ideas and skills and we combined them to make a book that describes the route, the temples, and this 1,200 year old pilgrimage which draws people of all different faiths and from all over the world.


Aug 8

JETs in the News: Sankei Shimbun profiles Fukushima JET, quotes JETAANY President

The following article recently appeared in Japanese in the Sankei Shimbun.  Very special thanks to CLAIR NY’s Matt Gillam for providing a quick and functional summary/translation upon request.  Scroll further down for the Japanese version.

“Fostering Japan Evangelist”


Article by Hajime Matsuura

Sankei Shimbun, August 7, 2013

On his way home the other day, Jaime Vogenitz, originally from Philadelphia, had an experience unthinkable in the US.  A woman with two children waved to him, gave him some deep-fried foods, and told him to have them for dinner.  “I was deeply moved. She must have known I am teaching here,” he said.  He arrived in Minamisoma (Fukushima Prefecture) last year in July and is teaching in the elementary school there.

He teaches 3 or 4 classes a day, about 500 or 600 kids altogether, and tries to find ways to make learning English fun for them. During his free time he also sits in on the kids’ Japanese language (kokugo) classes to improve his own Japanese ability.

Vogenitz is in Japan on the JET Program, which is a joint undertaking between local authorities and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other agencies. It brings Assistant Language Teachers, Coordinators for International Relations, & Sports Exchange Advisors from mainly English-speaking countries to Japan. Around 90 percent of these are language teachers like Vogenitz, and about half of those are from the US.

There was a blank space in heavily damaged Minamisoma after 3.11, but last year Vogenitz overcame stiff 1-in-5 odds to be accepted into the Program and became the first person to fill the recreated position.

Even though Minamisoma is so close to the Fukushima No. 1 Reactor and the situation there is known even in America, Vogenitz was happy to be able to be able to come here.  Having studied Japanese himself he says he “wanted to share the joy of learning a new language with kids in the affected areas.”

Just last month, on July 26th, a send-off party was held at the Ambassador’s Residence in New York for the 95 new JETs who would leave New York the next morning for Japan.  There was a mixture of anxiety and expectation, but everyone shared the same feeling of wanting to “become ‘cultural ambassadors’ after returning to the States to introduce your knowledge of and great experiences in Japan to people here in the US” (Monica Yuki, JETAANY President).

Begun in 1987, the JET Program has brought over 55,000 people to Japan.  About half the participants from the US have joined alumni associations there after returning home, which serve as “places for people who love Japan to get together”, and where they serve as interviewers for new JET applicants.  And while there was a lot of fundraising and volunteer activity in the US after 3.11, many JET alumni were out in front leading these efforts.

This network is also “a market to cultivate supporters of the US-Japan relationship.”  JET alumni who return to the States help form the backbone of society, and are active in a wide variety of fields from foreign officers and academics to journalists, and some have even run for Congress.  They conceal the potential to become the wellspring of Japan’s soft power.

The JET Program’s continued existence was in danger from the DPJ government’s ‘jigyo shiwake’ review process.  But putting aside evaluations of its management, the review failed to recognize the Program’s “return on investment” and “cost-benefit analysis” in terms of foreign relations and cultural exchange value.

Vogenitz says, “I am grateful to have such meaningful work,” and he hopes to study management after he returns to the States. In the meantime, his father, who supported his going to Minamisoma, is planning to visit him there next summer.


「日本伝道師」育てる外国青年の招致事業 ソフトパワーの源泉に

2013.8.7 16:02














Jul 26

Books: An English Language Guide to Crafting in Tokyo

TCG_cover_1000x1414Interview by Rose Symotiuk (Hokkaido 2003-2005) with Angela Salisbury, author of the Tokyo Craft Guide:

As a JET, I keep track of my friends from my Japan days on Facebook.  I started seeing posts by my fellow JETs for this cool e-book about crafting in Tokyo.  Imagine my surprise when I realized that one of the authors, Angela Salisbury, was an old friend from high school!  

I reached out to her to find out more about the book, crafting in Japan, and the JET crafting scene….

Rose: So, how long have you lived in Japan?

Angela: 3 years

Rose: Why did you move to Japan?

Angela: Adventure!  The real answer? My husband’s job needed him in Asia, and we decided Tokyo was the place for us.

Rose: Is there an expat crafting scene in Tokyo?  If so, can you tell me a little bit about it? Read More

Jul 24


Tara Hohenberger, who first fell in love with saké and the Japanese culinary world as an ALT in Nara (2001-2003) wrote to us about a film project she is helping produce.  The documentary The Birth of Saké profiles the production seasons and lives of the workers at Tedorigawa, a fifth-generation, family-owned sake brewery in Ishikawa, Japan. Tedorigawa has been producing some of the world’s top award winning sakés since 1870 and still utilizes very traditional brewing methods.

Tara is working on the project with filmmaker Erik Shirai, who was a cinematographer on The Travel Channel’s No Reservations’ with Anthony Bourdain.  The crew was first invited to the brewery in August of 2012 and was intrigued by the intense and relatively unknown process (even within Japan) of traditional saké making. Led by Brewmaster Teruyuki Yamamoto, the team of brewers is made up mostly of migrant farmers who grow rice in the summers and return to the brewery in late October to begin an intense six-month period of saké production. They will live under the same roof and eat three meals a day together. At the most intense time, when they brew the ultra-premium Daiginjyo variety they will barely have time to sleep.

cookedIn January 2013, they returned to Ishikawa and were granted permission to spend several weeks living amongst the workers at the brewery. It allowed them a rare window into a cast of vibrant and dynamic characters and fueled their interest in painting a deeper portrait of the people behind the product. Shirai’s film captures this little understood world with his signature lush visual aesthetics in the stillness of winter in northern Japan.

On July 9, they launched a Kickstarter campaign running through September 2, 2013, to complete the project. They hope to raise $50,000, which will allow a visit to film the Brewmaster in his hometown of Noto, Japan to illustrate the contrast of the intense life he leads inside the brewery for six months a year, with that of his land, his rice fields, his wife, children and his grandchildren. The film will also capture the critical moment when the workers return to the brewery to begin the production cycle again. Funding will also cover editing, musical composition, licensing, equipment rentals and other post-production costs.


You can view the trailer on The Birth of Saké’s Kickstarter page at


The filmmakers greatly appreciate your help in spreading the word about the film.  Follow them at facebook.com/birthofsake + on Twitter: @iamwhatieatTV

Jul 8

News agency Kyodo News has recently been publishing monthly articles written by JET alumni who were appointed in rural areas of Japan, as part of promotion for the JET Programme. Below is the English version of the column from June 2013. Posted by Celine Castex (Chiba-ken, 2006-11), currently programme coordinator at CLAIR Tokyo.



“The four years I spent in Japan were some of the most significant years of my life; years I would not trade for anything in this world.”

Nadya Dee (Kagoshima-ken, Hioki-shi, 2007-11) is a writer, editor and blogger born and raised in the city of Kingston, Jamaica. With a Bachelors degree in English Literature from The University of the West Indies, she joined the JET Programme in 2007 and spent four years living and teaching English in Kagoshima, Japan. She currently works as an independent copywriter and her professional website can be found at http://nadyadee.wordpress.com. As a writer, she intends to write books and collections of short stories which explore the evolution of human consciousness. Through her international experiences she hopes to create written works that speak to the heart and soul of all mankind. 


Ichi go Ichi e 一期一会: A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity


Before going to Japan in 2007, I knew nothing about Kyushu let alone Kagoshima. I searched the internet but could only find a little information about the place that I was going to live for a year. I learnt about the active volcano Sakurajima and the “Last True Samurai” Saigo Takamori but I never expected to have such an amazing experience and I never thought that, half way across the world, I would find my second home.

I joined the JET Programme to broaden my international experience with the intention of spending just one year. I left my homeland, Jamaica, and went to Japan as an Assistant Language Teacher to teach English as an alternate form of communication. I went as an ambassador, to increase global awareness and foster a positive relationship between Japan and Jamaica; two countries so far apart but with such similarities. While living in the town of Ijuin, in a city called Hioki on the Satsuma Peninsula in Kagoshima Prefecture, I taught Bob Marley songs, learnt Kagoshima-ben, played taiko, danced in a mud festival, wrote haiku and made great friends who I now consider a part of my extended family.

As a Prefectural ALT I taught at a technical high school, an agricultural high school, a special needs school and two different high schools in and around Hioki and Ichiki-Kushikino City. My responsibilities included lesson planning, team-teaching in Oral Communication classes, motivating students to practice English, editing essays and compositions, helping students to prepare for skit and speech competitions, providing pronunciation and interview preparation support as well as promoting international awareness within Japanese society. I always ensured that all my students learnt about Jamaican food, music and culture in my self-introduction classes.

After a year of adjusting to life in Japan I got the rare opportunity to perform taiko with the ‘Fukiage Seishou Daiko Group’ in four festivals throughout the rural area of Hioki City. In the following years I went on to teach reggae dances to my Japanese friends and we also performed in various shows and matsuri in and around Kagoshima City. Read More

Jul 2

 Eliot Honda (Ehime-ken, 2009-2012) has started a unique video series on Sister City Ties in which he interviews current and former JETs:


Jun 26

BBC: Fukushima schools rebuild after disaster

It would be interesting to hear any comments or perspectives from Fukushima JETs or alums about what they describe in this BBC article.  (Thanks to Eden Law of JETAA New South Wales for posting it to their Facebook group.)

Fukushima’s Schools Rebuild After Disaster

“How do you re-build an education system destroyed by a disaster? The OECD’s Andreas Schleicher describes the efforts in Japan, two years after the nuclear accident in Fukushima.”

Link to full article:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21576192

Jun 6

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a 5th year JET on Kume Island in Okinawa, publisher of the blog MoreThingsJapanese.com and author of the award-winning YA fantasy series Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

It’s no secret that Japanese food is popular outside of Japan.  Not only is the food in-country highly rated, but there are Japanese restaurants all over the world.  A lot of people wonder, why is Japanese food so good?  It’s a complex answer.  Many will tell you it’s umami, others the care and thought put into food, and yet more that it’s the simplicity of the dishes that highlights natural flavors.

I’m not a food expert, but I think it’s a bit of all the above.

When I lived in the States, I never ate fish.  Maybe it was because I lived in the desert and all we got were frozen or river fish.  Whatever the reason, I’ve had an aversion to most fish since I was young.  Then, 5 years ago, I got dropped on a little island in the Pacific, their second industry being fishing.  Their food was fresh, delicious, and amazing.

A week ago I had a shrimp that was still moving a bit.  And IT WAS SO GOOD.  My family will tell you what large strides my palate has taken over the last five years.  So why was that prawn tail I had so much better than any other shrimp I’ve ever had?  How did a bit of still moving shrimp overcome 23 years of stubborn dislike?

Simplicity.  The shrimp was peeled, and served with a bit of soy sauce.   There were no other flavors to get in the way, no cross-contamination from sauce pans, pasta, or other fish.

Umami. The briny flavor combined with the bite of soy and the sweetness of the meat meant create that unique sixth taste that everyone raves about.  It’s a balance easily lost when the simplicity is left out.

Quality.  Kume Island is known for miso cookies, sugar cane, and white sand beaches, but it’s also home to many kuruma prawn farms.  Kuruma Prawns are similar to tiger shrimp, but a slightly different species.  They’re the kind of shrimp Jiro’s restaurant used in the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.


So what makes Kume Island’s shrimp so good?  Checkout the video below then head over to Kumeguide.com to learn more about Kume Island Prawns.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOWypVlKW34&w=300&h=169]

**Please note: At least 3 shrimp were harmed in the filming of the video and writing of this post.  They were delicious.**

May 31

Jim Gannon (Ehime-ken, 1992-94), Executive Director of the Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE/USA) and a member of the JETAA USA Disaster Relief Fund Committee, was recently in Tohoku for work and shared the following update regarding one of the projects that JETAA USA helped fund:

Jim says he met with Kodomo no Empowerment Iwate (click here for their Facebook page) and also had a chance to talk with two representatives of the Rikuzentakata Board of Education and learned:

  • The BOE and many people in the prefecture see the Manabi-no-heya project we supported as a crucial element of the town’s recovery, and the Ministry of Education has selected it as a model project for introduction around the country.
  • They currently have 206 students enrolled in Rikuzentakata alone, and have expanded to Kamaishi, Ofunato, Miyako, and other affected cities, adjusting the program to fit local circumstances.
  • The big news they were happy about was that one of the students from the tutoring program was just ranked #1 out of 600 on the Rikuzentakata high school entrance exams.
  • The Ministry of Education and private source have provided funding for the project that is many multiples of JETAA USA’s, but the organizers and the city officials all credit JETAA-USA as providing the seed money to help get this off the ground.

Here’s a news video about the project (in Japanese – if someone wants to post a summary in some form that would be great, btw):

Photo #1:  From Kodomo no Empowerment’s gathering of their Rikuzentakata program managers (senior tutors), on Saturday. They got together to discuss how to improve the program, discuss student management issues, etc. The fact that they were sacrificing an entire Saturday for this shows just how committed they are. The person standing is Iwate Prefectural University Professor Katsuhiko Yamamoto, who heads Kodomo no Empowerment.


Photo #2:  A student named Masako who was a student in the Otsuchi program, which is held in a temporary housing unit. She is showing off her desk where she had been studying English. She just enrolled in Nagoya College of Foreign Languages, an extraordinary triumph for a student from a small town like this. She seems to be taking some time to volunteer now with a development NGO in the Philippines in order to give back and also to brush up her English.



May 29

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a 5th year JET on Kume Island in Okinawa, publisher of the blog MoreThingsJapanese.com and author of the award-winning YA fantasy series Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

Kinjo Town PathKinjo Town surrounds the Shuri Castle area in Okinawa.  While Shuri is impressive in its own right, there is much to see outside the Castle grounds.   During this past Golden Week, I took a trip to the Okinawan Mainland, and a friend was kind enough to show me a few out-of-the-way spots.  Through Kinjo Town runs the ‘Ishidatami’ or Rock Road,  a walkway paved in history and adorned with interesting and beautiful flowers along the way.  Follow along for a taste of Kinjo Town.

On the way to to our start, we passed one of Shuri Castle’s side gates.  The area is full of steep roads and interesting places.

We also stopped at a nearby soba shop for lunch before beginning our walk.  This Shisa is a traditional statue on Okinawan homes used to protect against evil spirits and bad luck.

The place we ate was very busy so we sat outside in an almost garden-like area where I found this purple flower.

For Lunch, I had soki soba, or noodles in broth topped with rib meat.  It is another traditional Okinawan food.

Right at the start of our walk, we found these Hanging Heliconias.  Conveniently there was a nearby sign that labeled the flowers along the route in English and Japanese.

This is the first of two springs we saw along the route.  These were used for drinking and washing by the people of Kinjo Town.  Spots like these were marked by small tiles with maps of the area.

These white and pink flowers were labeled as Sokei-Nozen, and hung above a wall.

Here is an old style gate with clay tiles of the same kind of construction seen at the Udun Palace.







The second spring was below the road level and had a pool in which crabs lived.  In the second photo you can see where the water flows out at times.

About half-way along the path, right before a rather steep slope (or just after if you go the other way) there is a small rest house with tatami mats where you can take a load off.

Here’s a map of the area in Japanese with the various sites around Shuri marked.  Check out part 2 for the walk north through the grounds along the rock road to the pond above Shuri. This article was originally posted on More Things Japanese.

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