Dec 18

Posted by Tom Baker

The Japan Writers Conference, a free annual event that always attracts many current and former JETs in Japan’s English-language writing community, is held in a different part of the country every year.

The 2024 host city has just been announced: Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture.

The 2024 JWC will be held on the first weekend in November, but it’s not too soon to start thinking about participating now — especially if you are a writer who might like to give a presentation.

For details, visit the Japan Writers Conference website, scan JETwit for past posts in the category of “Japan Writers Conference,” or watch the video recap of the 2023 JWC below. It features JET alumni Suzanne Kamata, Charles Kowalski, Patrick Murphrey and yours truly.

Sep 3

Around Japan in 47 curries: Fukushima fire curry

Tom Baker (Chiba, 1989-91) is writing a 47-part series of posts on his Tokyo Tom Baker blog, in which he samples and comments on curries representing each of Japan’s 47 prefectures. Those covered so far include Kumamoto Prefecture horse meat curry and Gunma Prefecture silk mill curry. Here’s an excerpt from his 17th installment, about two spicy curries from Fukushima Prefecture.

Fukushima Prefecture has a long history of recovering from geological disasters. Some of those disasters can be remembered through local curries.

One such curry commemorates the July 15, 1888, eruption of Mt. Bandai, a volcano near the center of the prefecture. The mountain had been a smooth, Fuji-like cone before it suddenly exploded due to a buildup of underground steam. The blast – which went largely sideways rather than up, similar to the explosion of Mt. St. Helens in the United States a century later – left behind an irregularly shaped mountain with four separate peaks. According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the explosion could be heard from a distance of 50 to 100 kilometers, an avalanche of debris buried five towns and 11 villages, and ash fell from the sky along the coast of the Pacific Ocean, about 90 kilometers away. At least 461 people died.

Did I say there’s a curry that commemorates this event? Perhaps I should have said there’s a curry that cashes in on it. The design on the box of “Mt. Bandai Great Eruption Curry” is not exactly reverent. But I bought it in a souvenir shop at the foot of the still-active volcano. The people who live and work in such an area are entitled to a bit of gallows humor, especially more than a century later.

The back of the box includes warnings that children, pregnant women, and those with weak stomachs or high blood pressure should eat this lava-like curry with caution, if at all. So naturally, I was expecting something super-hot…

To read the full post, including a comment on radiation, go here.

Jun 17

Darryl Wharton-Rigby (Fukushima-ken, Kawamata-cho, 2005-07) has set up a Kickstarter fund to support his documentary project about Fukushima, “Don Doko Don: The Yamakiya Taiko Drum Club Project.”  Darryl was also organized a project earlier this year, together with former JETAA DC President Michelle Spezzacatena (Fukushima-ken, Kawamata-cho, 2002-05) that brought the Kawamata taiko group to D.C. for the Cherry Blossom Festival.

Here’s a little info about the project from the Kickstarter page:

Don Doko Don: The Yamakiya Taiko Club Story follows an award winning Japanese Taiko Drum Troop – comprised entirely of kids, teens and 20-year-olds – living in Yamakiya, a small town near the failed Fukushima nuclear power plant.  The group is forced to flee their homes and beloved mountain community after the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster wreaked devastation on them.


Living as refugees and scattered around the countryside outside and within the radiation zone, the brave Taiko troop struggles to stay together and practice; trying to keep alive the spirit of their community – and the hope of returning home one day. And then, after facing daily adversity and at their lowest point, they get invited to Washington D.C. to be the honored performer in D.C.’s 100th Cherry Blossom Festival; headlining a climatic performance at the Kennedy Center!



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