May 14

************By Makoto Shirai, secretary, Japan-Insights Research Institute (Non-profit organization in Tokyo)

Emperor Gotoba forging a sword from the poetry anthology Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, circa 1840, Utagawa Kuniyoshi; Courtesy of Library of Congress

Dear Friends,

New essay on Japan-Insights!

2021 marks the 800th anniversary of Emperor Gotoba’s arrival in the Oki Islands, Shimane prefecture. Our Expert, Paul Martin, takes a closer look at the extraordinary life and influence on the sword and poetry worlds of the emperor.

https://topics.japan-insights.jp/Public/pdf/japan-insights_jp/topics/JIN_EmperorGotoba.pdf

Please share this expert’s experience!

Japan-Insights is a nonprofit open database compiled by leading experts in Japanese studies. The posts present a broad range of historical and contemporary topics that encourage visitors to engage with the real Japan through immersive experiences. Follow the Facebook page and website to learn about and share these insights from around the country!”

#japan #japaneseculture #Oki


May 2

************By Makoto Shirai, secretary, Japan-Insights Research Institute (Non-profit organization in Tokyo)

Woodblock print depicting tattooed Kabuki actors purifying themselves in a waterfall before completing the pilgrimage to Mt. Oyama. 1863, by Kunisada (Utagawa Toyokuni III) ©Isehara city, Board of Education

Dear Friends,

Have you visited Mt. Oyama near Tokyo?

Let me introduce an essay from Japan-Insights archives.

The fourteenth one is on Mt. Oyama Pilgrimage by Mrs. Alice Gordenker.

https://topics.japan-insights.jp/Public/pdf/japan-insights_jp/topics/JIN_OyamaPilgrimage.pdf

Please share this expert’s experience!

Japan-Insights is a nonprofit open database compiled by leading experts in Japanese studies. The posts present a broad range of historical and contemporary topics that encourage visitors to engage with the real Japan through immersive experiences. Follow the Facebook page and website to learn about and share these insights from around the country!”

#japan #japaneseculture #Oyama


Apr 27

JFNY Literary Series Episode #3

JFNY Literary Series invites notable writers in Japanese literature and their translators to discuss their work, speak on the art of translation, and touch upon the current literary scene in Japan. 

This session features Kanako Nishi and her translator Allison Markin Powell, moderated by writer Kyoko NakajimaGinny Tapley Takemori from the collective Strong Women, Soft Power and interpreter Bethan Jones also joins the session. Nishi is an award-winning writer who has published more than two dozen books in Japan. Several of her writings are available in English online, all of which were translated by Powell: 

Merry Christmas

In the Age of Endless Scrolling, Jun’ichiro Tanizaki Helps Us Stand Still

On Beauty, Sexual Violence, and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye

VIO 

The event is now available to watch on our YouTube channel! Watch the event here: 


Apr 24

By Jack McDonough, 2021 prospective JET

Teenage Thorfinn wielding a sword. Art by Grace McDonough. You can find Grace’s art here!

Picture laying in a peaceful meadow with waving fields of wheat, the melody of chirping birds, and rays of warm light from the sun above. As you stand up to walk away, a voice calls your name and you step towards it; upon taking your first step, the meadow melts away to a seascape occupied by two Viking fleets. Hundreds of ships and thousands of men clash for control of the sea as you hear the clanging of metal swords, the crunching of wood splinters, and the cries of dying soldiers. You witness death and destruction until you are thrown overboard from your ship and everything goes dark. This is the opening of Vinland Saga.

Vinland Saga is an anime produced by Wit Studio which was adapted from the manga ヴィンランド・サガ (Vinland Saga) by Makoto Yukimura. Set in the early 11th century in Danish-occupied England, Vinland Saga follows Thorfinn and his quest for revenge against Askeladd: the man who killed Thorfinn’s father Thors. Thors, a legendary warrior and former leader of the fabled Jomsvikings, deserted his position after a decade of war so that he could live in peace with his family on the island of Greenland.  The Jomsvikings find Thor’s village and demand his return to command, which is a plot to kill Thors in an ambush. Thors accepts due to their threat of destroying his village. When setting sail, Thorfinn sneaks aboard Thors’ ship. Thors is ambushed and killed by Askeladd and Thorfinn vows to kill Askeladd in a duel, going against Thors’ dying request for Thorfinn to never kill anyone. As Thorfinn is young and far from home, he joins Askeladd’s mercenaries so that he can survive and become a warrior great enough to kill Askeladd. 

Vinland Saga is a rare anime in that it’s devoid of common anime tropes, making it a show that non-anime watchers can easily get into. The show also has a great soundtrack of epic battle themes and soft, melodic piano scores that contrast the scenes of bloodshed and the beautiful landscapes Thorfinn both sees and imagines throughout his journey. The animation by Wit Studio is fantastic and transports you to the various locations shown in the anime.  Vinland Saga also has compelling characters who all have clear goals, but most of those characters die in the pursuit of achieving their dreams. 

My favorite character is Askeladd, who serves as the enemy and the father of Thorfinn as he grows up on the march in war-torn England. Thorfinn and Askeladd’s relationship morphs from avenger and villain, to soldier and commander, and eventually student and teacher.  At first, Askeladd seems like the classic sell-sword: he follows the highest bidder to become as rich as possible; but as the story progresses, you find out his goal is much greater and his deeds almost seem necessary. In one scene, Askeladd remarks, “everyone’s a slave to something,” which sums up the major theme of the story: Thorfinn is a slave to revenge, Askeladd is a slave to his nation’s legacy, and Thors is a slave to his family and finding harmony in a chaotic world. There are other characters who fit this description, but I’ll leave that for you to discover. Vinland Saga is definitely a must-watch for both anime and non-anime watchers, especially if you enjoy historical fiction, which judging from the success of shows like Peaky Blinders, Vikings, and The Last Kingdom, there are plenty of fans of the genre. As long as you’re a fan of good storytelling, then you’ll be captivated by Vinland Saga from the opening battle to the compelling conclusion.


Apr 16

Japan Insights—Another account of two gardeners exploring Japanese gardens

************By Makoto Shirai, secretary, Japan-Insights Research Institute (Non-profit organization in Tokyo)

Hama-rikyu Gardens, March 2019

Dear Friends,

Have you visited to Japanese gardens in Tokyo?

Let me introduce an essay from Japan-Insights archives.

The thirteenth one is on The Gardens of Tokyo by Fran and Jake of KEW.

https://doc.japan-insights.jp/pdf/JIN_REF_20200531150532.pdf

Please share this expert’s experience!

Japan-Insights is a nonprofit open database compiled by leading experts in Japanese studies. The posts present a broad range of historical and contemporary topics that encourage visitors to engage with the real Japan through immersive experiences. Follow the Facebook page and website to learn about and share these insights from around the country!”

#japan #japaneseculture #Tokyo


Apr 9

Job: Japan Studies Program Assistant – University of Pittsburgh(Pittsburgh, PA, USA)

Posted by Sydney Sparrow. Click here to join the JETwit Jobs Google Group and receive job listings even sooner by email


Position: Japan Studies Program Assistant
Posted by:
University of Pittsburgh
Location: Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Contract: Full-Time

Here’s a job passed along to us directly from the University of Pittsburgh:

The University of Pittsburgh is looking for an entry-level Program Assistant for their Japan Studies Department.

The Program Assistant will be primarily responsible for providing administrative and programmatic support for developing community engagement programming in the field of Japan Studies. The Program Assistant will promote Japan Studies across a broad range of disciplines and languages, in engagement activities coordinated with the Asian Studies Center, other units of the University, K-16 teachers and students, local internationally engaged organizations, other major universities, community colleges and Title III/Title V- eligible institutions. The Program Assistant will work with faculty, staff, students, K-16 educators, pre-service and in-service teachers to develop outreach materials about Japan Studies. 

Application Process: Click here for more information and to apply.


Apr 5

(Virtual) Volunteer Opportunity with Japan-America Society of Washington DC’s Japan Bowl Competition

Here’s a virtual volunteer opportunity passed along to us:

The Japan American Society of Washington DC (JASWDC) is recruiting volunteers for the National Japan Bowl competition. The National Japan Bowl is an annual quiz bowl style competition where high school students across the country demonstrate their knowledge of Japanese language and culture. This year’s competition will be held remotely on Thursday and Friday, April 8 and 9, 2021 on Hopin, an online meeting and event platform. We are looking for volunteers to monitor teams as they compete in the preliminary rounds.

Time Slots for volunteering would be as follows:

Thursday, April 8
12:30-2:10 pm EDT Level 2 Preliminary Round
2:20-4:00 pm EDT Level 3 Preliminary Round
4:10-5:50 pm EDT Level 4 Preliminary Round

Friday, April 9
12:15-2:15 pm EDT Level 2 Preliminary Round
1:55-3:55 pm EDT Level 3 Preliminary Round
3:30-5:30 pm EDT Level 4 Preliminary Round

We are recruiting volunteers who are comfortable with sharing their screen on a video call and can volunteer on either of the days of the competition. Volunteers do not need Japanese language skills. However, knowing some Japanese language and culture would make the volunteer experience more enjoyable. By volunteering with us, volunteers are able to interact with students studying Japanese language and culture, learn more about Japan, and participate in cultural events at the competition. Volunteers will also be gifted with the JapanBowl goodie bag, which includes the official Japan Bowl t-shirt and other items!

If you are interested in volunteering, please contact the Japan Bowl volunteer, John Mabilangan, at japanbowl@jaswdc.org to arrange a volunteer training session. The training session should take 30 minutes.


Apr 4

IUC Alumni Talks with Chris Hainge and Paul Speed of Kyoto Brewing Company

Join us for the fourth IUC Alumni Talks of the series, with Chris Hainge (‘08) and Paul Speed (‘11) of the Kyoto Brewing Company.

Chris and Paul met through the JET Program, where they were both placed in Aomori. They both have experience working in the private sector, Chris worked at Ritsumeikan and Paul had worked in both recruiting and finance. Unexpectedly, they decided to begin brewing beer and started the Kyoto Brewing Company (https://kyotobrewing.com/en).

Join us for an hour-long chat, complete with audience Q&A and an additional 45 minutes of online networking.

Register for the event here: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZwocuqqrD4jH9zQEalaRCTeYMSKt7miXLI9


Apr 2

Japan Insights—A Jomon Park in Tohoku

************By Makoto Shirai, secretary, Japan-Insights Research Institute (Non-profit organization in Tokyo)

Northern Jomon culture seen from the world
Kazunori Takada (Director, Goshono Jomon Park)

Dear Friends,

Do you know the roots of Tohoku and Japan?

Let me introduce an essay from Japan-Insights archives.

The twelfth one is on Northern Jomon Culture seen from the world by Mr. Takada Kazunori.

https://doc.japan-insights.jp/pdf/JIN_TOPIC_20200330094820.pdf

Please share this expert’s experience!

Japan-Insights is a nonprofit open database compiled by leading experts in Japanese studies. The posts present a broad range of historical and contemporary topics that encourage visitors to engage with the real Japan through immersive experiences. Follow the Facebook page and website to learn about and share these insights from around the country!”

#japan #japaneseculture #Tohoku


Mar 31

WIT Life #352: Japan in the News

Professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03) presents WIT Life, a periodic series about aspects of Japanese culture such as film, food and language. Stacy starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she offers some interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

What a difference a month makes! Here in NY the vaccine effort is in full swing for adults over 30, and many of us are keeping our fingers crossed in the hopes of snagging one. The rollout in Japan will take a bit longer, and currently Osaka and other areas seeing surges in cases. As a result, stronger restrictions (i.e. limited restaurant operating hours) have once again been implemented, much to the chagrin of proprietors. But the sakura are in full bloom in Tokyo, so hanami at least provides a nice distraction 🌸

Recently the NYT had two interesting Japan focused stories I’d like to share. One profiles the artist Kyohei Sakaguchi from Kumamoto (my JET home!). It does a deep dive into his architecture-related works, his living with bipolar, and his support of others with mental health struggles. His 2020 book Call Me When You’re in Pain details his experiences with suicidal thoughts, answering calls from strangers in crisis, and his strategies for coping. I find his activities remarkable considering the stigma of mental health issues in Japan, a stigma likely to be particularly strong in conservative Kumamoto.

The other article discusses why QAnon never gained traction in Japan, a hypothesis also evaluated in an AV Club article yesterday. One reason for Japan’s resistance is the idea that it is already well versed in conspiracy theories and therefore not as susceptible to new ones. Another factor is the conflict-averse nature of Japanese society, as well as the reluctance to talk about politics. However, one commenter in the latter article disagrees with this assessment, referencing the term “JAnon” which was used to refer to QAnon supporters in Japan. For more about this phenomenon, check out this Bloomberg podcast. Happy reading/listening!


Mar 24

Oregairu: Do You have the “Real Thing?”

By Jack McDonough, 2021 prospective JET

Yui Yuigahama, the best character in Oregairu (At least I think so). Art by Grace McDonough. You can find Grace’s art here!

In my last article, I wrote about Kaguya-sama: Love is War: a romantic comedy that is both funny and romantic. Today, I want to tell you about My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU, which is not very funny and barely has any romance at all but provides its audience with outstanding drama and impactful character development. 

The anime is based on the light novel series Yahari Ore no Seishun Rabukome wa Machigatteiru by Wataru Watari, meaning My Youth Romantic Comedy is Wrong, As I Expected, and is abbreviated to Oregairu. The story, which first aired in 2013 and finished last year, follows three characters: the pragmatic, loner Hachiman Hikigaya, the beautiful, erudite Yukino Yukinoshita, and the pretty, energetic Yui Yuigahama as they lead Soubu High’s Service Club. The audience experiences the story through Hachiman’s cynical point of view, and much of the story is delivered in internal monologues that show off his pessimistic nature. Hachiman is forced to join the service club by his teacher, who fears Hachiman’s way of thinking will never change and that Hachiman will be doomed to a life of reclusion. Yukino begrudgingly accepts Hachiman into the club and their story together begins. 

 Throughout the series, Hachiman, Yukino, and Yui solve problems that their classmates bring to the Service Club, usually normal high school social situations like helping someone ask out their crush or planning a school dance. With each problem, Hachiman and Yukino offer separate solutions: Hachiman offers expedient solutions that would solve everyone’s problems at the expense of himself, while Yukino offers solutions that would push her to exhaustion, but allow for everyone to be happy with the outcome. In one instance, a classmate by the name of Tobe asks the club to help him confess his love to his crush. When Hachiman finds out that the object of Tobe’s affection does not like Tobe back, Hachiman lies and confesses to the girl to save Tobe from embarrassment. While Hachiman believes that since no one likes him, embarrassing himself to save Tobe means that no one has to get hurt; in reality, Yukino and Yui are crushed when they see Hachiman sacrifice himself and tell him to stop embarrassing himself. The two girls grow to care about Hachiman and can’t bear to see his sacrificial acts any longer. 

The show relies on Hachiman’s monologues and dialogues with other characters. Most scenes are of mundane, everyday things, yet feel incredibly tense due to the subtext of the words of each character; Oregairu is drama at its best. While season one’s animation is just ok, seasons two and three are beautiful and when combined with the great musical score and phenomenal voice acting, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better drama anime. 

While watching this show, I felt uncomfortably similar to Hachiman, at least when thinking about my high school self. Hachiman changes from an isolated pessimist to someone who wants to find, what he calls, “the real thing” with his friends Yukino and Yui.  Hachiman initially believes that he needs to bottle up his emotions and never be vulnerable in front of anyone. He later realizes that it’s better to care and it’s better to have something that could lead to heartbreak than to go through life alone; it’s ok to ask for help and it’s ok to say what you really feel. When you step back and think about all of the tension in Oregairu, you realize that the root cause of grief is denial; the characters deny their feelings and allow their agony and heartbreak to fester rather than accept reality and allow themselves to feel and grieve. So my recommendation is to get some tissues, get some ice cream, and allow yourself to get attached to Oregairu. Afterward, ask yourself: “do I have the real thing?”


Mar 19

Japan-Insights: Three episodes from the disaster in Tohoku

************By Makoto Shirai, secretary, Japan-Insights Research Institute (Non-profit organization in Tokyo)

Homes on the Hillside with Views to the Bay and Pacific Ocean Beyond ©Kanda S., K. Schierhold

Dear Friends,

Have you thought about the recovery of Tohoku?

Let me introduce an essay from Japan-Insights archives.

The eleventh one is on Beyond2020_nx by Dr. Shun Kanda.

https://topics.japan-insights.jp/Public/pdf/japan-insights_jp/topics/JIN_Beyond2020.pdf

Please share this expert’s experience!

Japan-Insights is a nonprofit open database compiled by leading experts in Japanese studies. The posts present a broad range of historical and contemporary topics that encourage visitors to engage with the real Japan through immersive experiences. Follow the Facebook page and website to learn about and share these insights from around the country!”

#japan #japaneseculture #Tohoku


Mar 18

JFNY Online Pop-Culture Event Episode #6

Anime Takes the Stage: 2.5D Musicals + Beyond

Tuesday, March 30th, 8 PM EDT

About this Event 

What is a 2.5-Dimensional (2.5D) musical?  

It is a stage adaptation from two-dimensional media such as anime, manga and video games. This new genre of Japanese pop culture has gained remarkable popularity in Japan since the debut of Musical: The Prince of Tennis in 2003.  

2.5D culture attempts to recreate the fictional world (2D) in the real world (3D) and is expanding and deepening in Japan. It has manifested itself in different forms such as cosplay, voice actors’ concerts and V-tubers. As a part of the phenomenon, 2.5D musicals have brought anime, manga and video games to the stage and created a whole new cultural practice of theatrical performances.  

Come join the panel discussion with Akiko Sugawa-ShimadaZihui Amethy Lu, and Mayuko Fujiwara as they introduce the uniqueness of 2.5D musicals using examples such as The Prince of TennisSailor MoonNarutoand Touken Ranbu.They will be comparing it with other conventional musicals, history of Japanese theatre, as well as discussing where 2.5D musicals fit in the larger scheme of the 2.5D culture and why they are expanding. 

The discussion will be followed by a live Q&A. If you have any questions about the adaptation of anime and manga to the stage, now’s your chance to ask the experts! Please ask your question when you register for the event via Eventbrite. Live commentary will also be enabled on the YouTube stream, so you can participate in the Q&A session on air as well. 

This is a FREE event. Registrants will receive the link to the stream via email. 

[Eventbrite Registration page]  

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/ep6anime-takes-the-stage-the-rise-of-25-dimensional-musicals-and-beyond-tickets-143770715079

[Twitter] 


Mar 15

JETwit’s JET Alum Movers & Shakers: Doug Tassin, Fukushima-ken (2007-2010)

************
JETwit’s JET Alum Movers & Shakers is produced by Ryan Hata (Tottori-ken, 2014-2017), Margie Banin (Kochi-ken, 2005-2007), and Jim Walsh (Fukushima-ken, 2018-2020). Want to be featured next? Submit your information here.

Doug Tassin, Fukushima-ken (2007-2010)

Accomplishment: The Launch of the Krewe of Japan Podcast, sponsored by Japan Society of New Orleans

More Information: Sponsored by the Japan Society of New Orleans, the Krewe of Japan Podcast launched in February 2021 with Doug as one of its co-hosts. But what is a “krewe”? A krewe is an organization that stages a parade or event during the Carnival season in New Orleans. Much like a Mardi Gras parade with diverse entertainment and an overarching theme, the Krewe of Japan Podcast is about to march right into the podcast library of those in New Orleans and around the globe. Through insightful and entertaining conversations with a variety of experts and professionals (both foreign and native Japanese), Japan enthusiasts, and others in various fields involving Japan, the Krewe of Japan will highlight a broad spectrum of Japanese culture, travel, history, language and much more.

Public Information: Have ideas for an episode, feedback, questions, or just want to share your Japan experiences? Let the Krewe know!

Email: kreweofjapanpodcast@gmail.com
Twitter: @kreweofjapan
Instagram: @kreweofjapanpodcast


Mar 12

Author Series: Reading and Q&A with Karen Hill Anton

March 31, 2021 at 8 PM EDT / Japan Time: April 1, 2021 at 9 AM

Register: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/1816153914492/WN_s3uAB54vTaykEOnmbToJhg

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/3803751933045660

Join USJETAA, U.S. JET Alumni Association, and NABEA, National Association for Black Engagement with Asia, for a conversation with author Karen Hill Anton. This event celebrates the publication of Karen’s latest book, The View from Breast Pocket Mountain. It will feature an introduction to the book, Karen reading a book excerpt and a Q&A session. We encourage anyone who is interested in learning more about her experiences and the book to attend. The View From Breast Pocket Mountain just won its first award from the Book Readers Appreciation Group (B.R.A.G.) Medallion. This competitive award for independent authors rated the memoir “Excellent” in all categories.

The View From Breast Pocket Mountain is a unique and previously untold story, a treasure trove of experiences crossing borders and cultures, creating a life, and finding contentment in a far-off country. To those who’ve ever wondered what their lives would be if they’d taken that road without a map, this is the book you need to read. The book gives us a glimpse of a life not designed or even imagined. To find out more visit: https://www.karenhillanton.com/book


Speaker

Karen Hill Anton wrote the popular columns “Crossing Cultures” for The Japan Times and “Another Look” for Chunichi Shimbun. As a consultant and coach, she works in the area of cross-cultural competence. She served on the Internationalization and Society Advisory Council of Prime Ministers Keizō Obuchi and Ryutaro Hashimoto. She is Emerita: Board of Governors, Temple University Japan, Shizuoka Human Rights Association, and the Jun Ashida Educational Foundation.

Karen has been an enthusiastic supporter of the JET Programme since its inception, and spoken to JETs on numerous occasions. Her daughter Mie was a CIR in Mie prefecture (smile), and her son Mario was assigned to Oita prefecture, where he now makes his home. Karen studied Japanese calligraphy for 25 years and attained second-degree mastery. She has taught modern dance and is now a devoted student of Hula. Originally from New York City, she has lived with her husband William Anton in rural Tenryu, Shizuoka prefecture since 1975.


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