Oct 29

Isn’t Japan Supposed to be Polite?

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a 5th year JET in Okinawa, publisher of the blog MoreThingsJapanese.com and author of the YA fantasy novel Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

For those of you who don’t know, I spent my first three years in Japan living on Kitadaito Island. Kitadaito is a small island 320km east of the mainland of Okinawa. While I was there, I experienced the close community of rural Japan, and started writing. A bit over a year ago, I moved to Kumejima which his far larger. Since this is my last year with the JET Programme, I decided to visit Kitadaito during their annual Daitogusai Festival. While I still stayed in contact with many people from Kitadaito, and even saw them occasionally on the mainland, it was the first time I had really seen everyone in over a year.

A year might not seem like a long time to you, but in Japan things can change a lot. Teachers, doctors, and other civil servants often change jobs every few years. On Kitadaito, Junior High graduates have to leave the island since there is no high school for them. So even though it had only been a year, some students and friends were gone, many students had gotten bigger or changed, and there were new people to meet.

Perhaps most surprising was the fact that I had changed too. When I came to Japan I weighed 80kg (that’s 176lbs for all you non-metric people). If you’ve read Samurai Awakening, you probably figured out I played a lot of sports while I was there, and with all the running and sports festivals, I kept in decent shape. Things change though

Back to Daito

So last month, I went back to Kitadaito for 5 days. Nearly the first thing, every single person said to me was “太った” (futotta). Now if you plug that into Google Translate, you’ll get a translation of “Fat” with alternatives of “Chubby” and “Plump.”

Why did literally at least 15 people say this to me on my first day back? Well because when I went I was about 91kg (200lbs). But aren’t Japanese people supposed to be polite? Don’t they ignore stuff so that they can live through dealing with stuffed subway cars and close quarters? Strangely enough, there’s a lot going on in that simple little phrase, and a lot of different meanings.

…Read the full article at MoreThingsJapanese.com

Oct 19

L.M. Zoller (CIR Ishikawa-ken, Anamizu, 2009-11) is the editor of The Ishikawa JET Kitchen: Cooking in Japan Without a Fight. A writer and web administrator for The Art of Travel (formerly The Art of Japan: Kanazawa & Discover Kanazawa), ze also writes I’ll Make It Myself!, a blog about food culture in Japan, and curates The Rice Cooker Chronicles, a series of essays by JETs and JET alumni on the theme of cooking/eating and being alone in Japan.

New Rice Cooker Chronicles submissions always welcome. Just e-mail it to jetwit [at] jetwit.com.

I distinctly remember saying last year that I wished that Mister Donut would get a pumpkin-flavored doughnut, and this year, my wish came true!

Click HERE to read more.

Sep 25

Torii Gate at Kitadaito Shrine

Posted by Benjamin Martin, a 5th year JET in Okinawa, publisher of the blog MoreThingsJapanese.com and author of the fantasy novel Samurai Awakening (Tuttle).

Every year on September 22 and 23 Kitadaito Village celebrates its largest Festival.  These dates mark the beginning of autumn.  Kitadaito, also known as north Borodino island, is a place of 12sq kilometers 320 kilometers east of the Okinawan mainland.  It is unique in that it was settled by residents of Hachijo Island (near Tokyo) but is part of Okinawa Prefecture.  Over the past 100 years the island has become a unique chanpuru (mix) of both cultures.

After graduating from the University of Arizona, I spent three years living and teaching on Kitadaito, and returned this year after more than a year on Kumejima.  It was great to re-experience old memories and make new ones as the festival has changed since my time there.  Watch the accompanying video for a chance to experience a few bits from this truly unique day.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mALupCDXLw]

Read more about the Kitadaito Festival on Ben’s blog — MoreThingsJapanese.com

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