C - The Art Issue #125

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The Art Issue 2023

C - The Art Issue

This issue was conceptualized as a means to display the varied talents of Japan’s international community. They come from many different creative backgrounds and develop many others still while in Japan. Enjoy their work and check out each contributor’s links for more.

Issue Concept and Design

Emily Griffith


Monica Hand, Dianne Yett, Kristen Camille Ton, Amy Ratcliffe, Sara Gyi, Marco Cian, Norris Wang, Sierra Block Gorman, Ryon Morrin, Andy Hanson, Marco Oliveros, Knox Yoder, PittaGay Powell, Chloe Holm, Alexandra Crombie, Sophia Maas, James Ball, Rachel Fagundes, Jon Solmundson, Natalie Andrews, Ashley Leung, Sage Olges, Valerie Mercado


Neither National AJET nor AJET CONNECT magazine owns any of the work displayed here. Everything in this issue was published with the permission of each contributor and should not be used for any other purposes outside of the issue.

Contact information for each contributor has been provided at the beginning of their spread, so please address each contributor individually with inquiries.

Cover Photo Raghav Modi on Unsplash.com Find us Online Facebook Instagram Twitter ISSUU
Photographs and graphics used for written submissions are sourced from royalty free websites.

Letter from the Arts Editor

eing the Arts Editor for CONNECT is always a pleasure and a joy, but there’s something extra special about the art issue. Art is, at its core, a reflection of the human experience. Every month I have the privilege of sourcing articles that explore the many ways in which foreigners experience the art and culture of Japan. In this issue I get to see those experiences reflected back once more.

I would like to thank everyone who contributed to this iteration of the CONNECT Art Issue. We received so many beautiful works, from creative writing to photography to painting to music to graphic design. All the pieces I saw, read, and listened to in the course of the selection process taught me something new about life in Japan and about my fellow expats.

I would also like to thank you, the reader. A comic by Michael Stenbæk Litven says, “Interpreting is generative.” By reading CONNECT and taking in the works before you, you are generating a new experience and interpretation, a form of art in and of itself. You are a part of the collaborative artwork we are all creating together.

Living abroad is an experience, and it also creates a community. When you take in the art made by other people who have left their home countries behind to live, work, and grow in a place so new and full of surprises, do you feel that connection? Do you feel how their experiences mirror yours, and how they diverge?

One piece that I had the privilege to help bring to print this year was “Feeling Connection at the Kansai Queer Film Festival.” This piece by Shad Schwarck really spoke to me as a queer person living in Japan. I enjoyed not just hearing about the films themselves, but experiencing his joy and sense of belonging second hand. It was about the art, and it was also about the ebullience of coming together with people who understand you, feeling seen and heard, and recognizing others in turn.

Another piece that I found particularly engaging is “Aokike Indigo: Keeping Tokushima Tradition and Community Alive” by Amber Burnell. The article is a wonderful conversation between the author and two Japanese women working to keep indigo dyeing alive in Tokushima. They are participants in a government-funded program that aims to revitalize low population areas and preserve local culture. The article is charming and sincere, and I felt a connection between the stories of these women and my own experience in the JET Program. Their honest thoughts about moving out to the countryside, trying to foster community engagement, and doing art that they were excited about resonated with me.

I hope that in this issue, you can find pieces that resonate with you. If you can see your reflection in the pages of this magazine, we have done our work.

Thank you for supporting CONNECT Magazine.

Table of Alex Cruz Akirov Issei Ellis-Shokatsu Tyree Johnson Becca Devoto Andrew Gerber Saphira Yukino 06 12 14 16 20 26 60 66 72 74 80 30 40 42 48 54 David Spencer Samuel R Howard Jon Solmundson Travis Tyson Kate O’Callaghan Abigayle Goldstein Samuel Tyson Hogg Quin Chloe Holm Sydney Michael 20 54 66 CONTENTS
106 114 118 124 130 134 136 140 144 148 82 88 92 100 102 Mia Takemoto Monica Hand Joshua Hodgson Kristen Camille Ton Zoë Vincent Mark Christensen Yasu Cub Nomfundo A. Zondi Rembert Dean Tori Bender Corrin C Nathaniel Hazel Stephen Paclibar Sophia Maas John Tran 82 124 148 CONTENTS

alex cruz akirov


Alex, originally from Venezuela, is a second-year ALT living in Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture. She is a photography enthusiast mostly inspired by art, architecture, and nature. For the past couple of years, she’s found inspiration in the storefronts of her adopted Japanese hometown.

Curry or Udon?Onomichi

Yamato Onsen - Onomichi

I’m so Locky! - Onomichi

I’m Late - Onomichi

Ohashi and Kurasawa (now a restaurant)Onomichi

drain cover project
Curry or Udon? - Onomichi
Yamato Onsen - Onomichi
9 I’m so Locky! - Onomichi
10 I’m Late - Onomichi
Ohashi and Kurasawa (now a restaurant)Onomichi

issei ellisshokatsu


Issei is a Kobe-born, Vancouverraised, Toronto JET who found safety, inspiration, peace of mind, and comfort in the Japanese countryside. Ending his sixth and final year as an ALT in Toyooka, he is excited to return to Canada as a better person than when he left.

My Friend’s Favourite Sunset

Colouring Outside the Power Lines


My Friend’s Favourite Sunset

Colouring Outside the Power Lines


tyree johnson


Tyree Johnson was born and raised on the south side of Chicago. What triggered his interest in Japanese culture was watching anime. After graduating from college with a degree in Japanese studies, he joined the JET Program in 2019. Just last year he got married and had a beautiful baby boy.

A Poem To My Son

A Poem To My Son

Thank you for being born and giving me the gift of fatherhood. Until you came into my life there’s two things I’ve never fully understood: What it means to be a father, And how precious life truly is.

I didn’t have a father growing up when I was a kid. And I can’t grasp what effects that experience truly had. But I never want you to know the feeling of growing up without a dad.

My little star. Look at how handsome you are. Still just an infant. People tell me to cherish every moment because kids grow up in an instant. I still look back on the first month you were born, ohh how I miss it. Even though It’s only been half a year, it feels like It’s been a minute.

Blessed with blood and culture from two different hemispheres. American and Japanese, Blackanese to be crystal clear. Hey there, I want to talk to you about daddy’s most inner fears. Don’t be scared, and I promise this time to only shed silent tears.

So please listen closely because what I’m about to say next is critical. The more you grow the more I worry.

Will you treasure your diversity like it’s a miracle? Or perceive it as a curse that only makes life miserable? I’ll always be near to help pick up the pieces so the damage is minimal.

The more you grow the more I worry.

Because of the color of your skin, in America you will be portrayed as a criminal. However, people will see you differently in Japan and label you non-identical. You cannot control everything that happens to you, But how you choose to perceive them will make you a stronger individual.

The more you grow the more I worry.

Even though I worry about you because life is so unpredictable. It’s not about focusing on what should or would, but what could. And that’s why when I lay eyes on you, I feel absolutely good. Thank you for being born and giving me the gift of fatherhood.


becca devoto


As a photographer from the United States, Becca’s happy place is exploring the world through her camera lens. She focuses on lifestyle, landscape, and street photography. Her ongoing project is called “In the Inaka” which showcases the foreigners living in the Japanese countryside.

Totoro Statue in Takaharu

Sakurajima Eruption

Takayasu vs. Daieisho

Food Stalls along the Naka River

17 Sakurajima Eruption
Totoro Statue in Takaharu
Takayasu vs. Daieisho
Food Stalls along the Naka River

andrew gerber


Andrew Gerber is a former ALT for Nakashibetsu Town Board of Education.

Ezo Momonga Drinking

Maple Sap

Tsuru Tsuru Onsen

Snow Bunting

Mt Oakan at Night

Gray Musa

21 Ezo Momonga Drinking Maple Sap
Tsuru Tsuru Onsen
Snow Bunting
24 Mt Oakan at Night
Gray Musa

saphira yukino


Saphira is an author and teacher, Matcha and Ohagi-lover, and all-round artist of life.




Sometimes it is a good thing not knowing what is next. As fall began to approach last year, and the trees started shedding their leaves, I began to wonder whether it was time for me to leave as well. I had reached a point where I kept asking myself what the true meaning of love actually is. Is it to find that one person to spend the rest of my life with? Is it to learn how to love someone through all seasons of life? Or is it to learn to love myself enough to walk away from what is not working? Staying in an environment that evoked all of these questions didn’t provide me with the answers I was looking for. So I left, hoping to find some answers along the way. I put my work as a teacher on hold and set off to Ishigaki—an island with barely any waves. Homes protected by tiny and not-so-tiny geckoes. Wild peacocks saying hello from somewhere deep in the jungle. They aren’t native to the island and yet have found a home far away from home. Okinawa’s culture is pretty special. People seem to be very in tune with the circle of life. One day I went for a stroll down the street and saw people picnicking at their family graves to spend time with their ancestors. It was almost as if their loved ones never left. For many people on the island, death is nothing to be afraid of. On another sunny afternoon, I was walking past one of these gigantic graves that look like little stone houses, and I overheard an elderly woman joking that being alive is actually much scarier than being buried underground. I too broke into laughter, realizing that it was kind of true. During my stay, I met so many people who have helped me find the joy I had lost somewhere between being hurt and the fear of living. These people taught me that playing it safe in love is like walking around with a condom over my heart. That it is better to live with an honest “no” than with an uncertain “what if”. Better to be loved for who I am than to be accepted for someone I pretend to be. Better to grow through my mistakes than to lock my heart away.

My days went by quickly and I started to find my way back to what I was missing so dearly: the connection with myself. I got to spend my time with people who made me cry, laugh, forgive, and let go until I finally had the courage to hit the refresh button for my life. I learned a lot about love. That it is not about how much time we have together but about how bravely we give ourselves to love. That it is not about finding the right person, but about discovering the part of us that dwells in everyone. And that love is not about seeking “the one” but about finding oneness, and recognizing that we are all held together through the connection we share, no matter what age, race, gender, sexual orientation, or beliefs we live by. During a time when I felt the most lost and confused, these people taught me that life is not about falling in love, but about living in love. And instead of finding all of the answers right away, they allowed me to explore my questions.

Living in a culture that tends to praise those who fit in has taught me so much about what it means to belong. I’ve found that fitting in is actually the opposite of belonging. Your people will never ask you to change who you are. Instead, they’ll ask you to turn up the volume of who you are. To sing with passion. To laugh louder. And to stay silent if you don’t want to speak. They will take your hand and dance with your chaos. They will show you that you belong no matter how much you stick out. I know that longing feels like searching for a home but never arriving. But one day, you’ll find out that you belonged all along. All this time when you found yourself lost, in all the searching, breaking, and healing. All this time when you didn’t know your place in the world. You already belonged. You already belonged from the very first inhale you took when you came into this life.

david spencer


David Spencer is a graphic design graduate from the United Kingdom living in Kyoto. He can always be found cozied up indoors working on a design project, or out exploring the streets of Kansai with a camera in hand. All his photos have been taken in the Kansai area and aim to provide a subtle look into Japan amongst its varied environments.

Looming over Kyoto

Creatures of Nara

Minature in Nara

Rituals of Kyoto

Gates of Shiga

Shadows of Osaka

Angles in Kobe

Shining in Shiga

31 Looming over Kyoto

Creatures of Nara

33 Minature in Nara

Rituals of Kyoto

Gates of Shiga

Shadows of Osaka


Angles in Kobe

Shining in Shiga

samuel r howard

Samuel is a composer and bassist from Wakefield, West Yorkshire, now residing in Mie. His music focuses on rhythm, and he currently enjoys assisting with the local middle school music club activities (which he considers to be a comprehensive course in Japanese popular music). He is a student of the koto, on which he performs unimpressively.

Hetaguchi Kotoba
41 Hetaguchi Kotoba

jon solmundson


Jon Solmundson is on the other side of the glass, peering at you intently. “I’m a third-year JET living in the sleepy cabbage town of Nanporo, Hokkaido,” he says with a rehearsed cheerfulness that does little to assuage your concerns about his long, snake-like body and multiple sets of arms. You move to the next exhibit; nothing more to see here.

At first, a trickle


At first, a trickle

“Is that rain?”

No. Of course not. Masao sighed, his tired exhale cut short by a stab of gurgling hunger. “Could be.”

Ginji’s bony hand reached out to the stream, trying to form a cup. His shaky fingers found little success, save for washing away some of the accrued grime and soot from their surface. A pained chuckle found his lips as he turned back to face Masao. “Seems like this cave will turn me frail and grey too, eh old man?”

Masao didn’t want to look at him, didn’t want to catch the bright glint of his smile in the torchlight from the mining helmet sitting between them. To smile back, to give into the warmth, would be a wave of relief from grim reality. But the fraud would collapse him, expose a hopeless emptiness he had been carefully smothering. He moved his gaze up just enough to catch Ginji’s expectant, hopeful eyes, then turned away without a word. Ginji shrugged; a superhuman effort of nonchalance given their situation.

His hands failing their efforts, Ginji leaned, open-mouthed, into the flow pouring through the small hole in the cave wall, about half a metre overhead. “Eugh, tastes like ass.” The words were half gurgled, water leaking from the sides of his smile as his eyes still pursued Masao’s attention. “But I guess it’ll be that way for weeks given all the gas we’ve been sitting in, huh?”


“Gonna need one hell of a bath once we get out. Or three. Probably have to change the water a half dozen times just to get all them crevices clean.”

“Kid, it’s-”

“I hope that the rain doesn’t make it too difficult for them to reach us, but I’m sure-”

“Kid, they’re flooding the mine.”

During Masao’s seven decades, he had twice seen a man shot dead while standing. He may as well have seen a third, for the way his words tore through the boy. It wasn’t news. They’d heard the unmistakable sound of the pumps not an hour earlier. But, silently, the pair had created a polite fiction where that fact remained unacknowledged. Now that wall of unreality evaporated. Like a show magician tearing the sheet from their table without moving the plates: Everything was just as before, but the setting was different.

“Yea-h?” The youth’s voice broke, pointlessly choking back the indignity of crying in front of his mentor.


“But. . . they. . . we. . . We can swim up with the rising water!”

“Maybe.” Masao’s hands pulled away from his forehead as he opened his fingers in a limp gesture of resignation. “They’re long tunnels, Ginji.”

The torch-bearing helmet began to float on the water, scattering flashes of light around the room. The cold feeling crept up past Masao’s knees. Briefly, he fantasised of a world where he played along with Ginji’s nonsense optimism. Where they both pretended things were fine for this final handful of minutes.

Would that have been better?

With a terrible crack, the hole in the roof widened, chunks of stone falling to the floor. Water pounded into the cavern harder, faster.

It wouldn’t have been worse.

But the time allotted to learn life’s lessons was exhausted. Still, it wouldn’t do to have it finish between bitter silence and choking sobs.

As it bobbed towards him, Masao picked up the floating helmet and put it on. He pulled the straps around his chin, the spotlight sweeping the shadows away from the other side of the tiny cavern, revealing the full, sorry state of Ginji’s emaciated form. Masao took a pensive breath. “You know there’s a lot of old stories about waterfalls, kid. Your papa ever tell you any?”

Ginji winced, raising a wet hand to block the lamp’s searing beam.

Masao raised his voice over the thundering water. “Mine did. A lot. He loved river fishing. Plenty of waterfalls by those rivers.

“He used to tell me, if you listen close, real close, you can hear voices; sounds in the water. Not from the fish, or the movement of the river, not from the fishermen or their boats. From. . . somewhere else.”

Masao’s light turned away from Ginji, upwards, to the source of the rushing water. He tilted his head and peered into the hole. Ripples from the crashing fall splashed his chest as he waded towards it, towards Ginji.

“Scared me real good, it did. Stayed away from the rivers and falls whenever I could. But now. . . You know, now, ‘somewhere else’ doesn’t sound so bad.”

He paused, tilting his helmet up and facing towards the young man. He met the tear-stained gaze of his comrade and, for the first time in their five days interred here together, truly held it. “Seems like we’re most of the way there already, right kid?”

With one final, defiant step, Masao stepped past Ginji, directly under the deluge. Darkness swallowed the cavern as his helmet light vanished.

Ginji screamed. Pain, surprise, terror, all together.

His arms shot out, flailing, groping where Masao had been only a moment ago. Nothing. Only cold, wet, unyielding darkness. The echoing thump of the cascade. He stood frozen in shock, as the rising water swallowed him.

Underwater, the splashing gave way to a churning rumble. There was a peace to it; the constant rhythm, the way it resounded through his head as he floated weightlessly. It recalled a preconscious sense-memory; the sound of a heartbeat, the closeness of walls on all sides. But it was wrong, tainted by the cold chill of the water, weak lungs crying out for air.

The force of the current pushed on Ginji’s face. It streamed in from somewhere above, from somewhere outside of this miserable little hollow in the rocks. The only guide left in the blind abyss. He grabbed hold of the wall, curling his legs like a spring. His hands reached out ahead, feeling the water course through his fingers. His legs tensed, and he pushed—hard.

This story was inspired by the Yubari Shintanko mining disaster. On the evening of October 16, 1981 methane gas exploded in the mine. The following morning the mining company announced the mine would be flooded to limit fire damage. Though they said it was unlikely survivors remained, the company admitted this would drown anyone remaining underground. Strong resistance from local families and labour unions prevented this until October 23. At that time, 59 men—including 10 rescuers who had gone back underground after the disaster to help their comrades— were still unaccounted for underground. The bodies of all men lost in the accident were recovered by March, 1982.

Photo by Nick Nice | Unsplash.com Photo by Vincent Erhart | Unsplash.com

travis tyson


Travis, an American hobbyist photographer living in Japan, has traveled extensively to capture the essence of different cultures through his lens. His unique style blends traditional Japanese aesthetics with modern techniques to create striking images that invite viewers to contemplate the beauty of the world as he sees it.

Dotonbori Hustle, Osaka

Oiran Procession, Tokyo

Violence, Noto

Embers and Kiriko, Noto

Toroyama Festival, Noto

Oiran Procession, Tokyo Dotonburi Hustle, Osaka
50 Violence, Noto
Embers and Kiriko, Noto
Toroyama Festival, Noto

kate o’callaghan


Kate is an Irish expat who currently resides in Okinawa. She started painting 11 years ago and exhibiting 3 years ago. Her work themes are water related and she enjoys getting lost in the reflections of her subjects.

Abstract Kimono A

Abstract Kimono B

Summer Dreams


Rainy Memories



Abstract Kimono A

Abstract Kimono B


Summer Dreams

57 Adam

Rainy Memories


abigayle goldstein

Abigayle Goldstein is an American JET currently living in Fukui Prefecture. She has been previously published in a selection of literary magazines and is the author of a chapbook of poetry titled Thalassophile. Beyond her Bachelor’s in English and Master’s in Secondary Education, she plans to pursue culinary arts and journalism.

A Letter at the End of a Year


A Letter at the End of a Year

dear me,

when you arrived on this lonely island, you immediately started a collage from a scrapbook of moments harvested from the place / the time / the people you came from laid out photographs on the tatami mats lived each memory again one by one

kissed the polaroid faces of the people you love and had to buy de-mold for tears that soaked into the straw

when you arrived on this lonely island, you knew you needed to take stock needed to weigh the options of your heart needed to quit drowning out the whisper of your soul couldn’t outrun the quiet anymore so you

turned the music off

you sat in the stairwell alone

every day since then you’ve been adding pictures to the collection new memories, just as precious pausing to assess what was juxtaposed with the present displaying growth and dreams and happiness on thumbtack / washi tape / sketchbook surfaces as if to prove something to yourself

and you have taken some things from your past and filed them away as outgrown, unnecessary, painful, hopelessjust as part of you as the rest now only for reference

it’s time to look for the future hope for the best

i know you are lonely

it’d be a lie to admit anything less though you love to cook you could hardly bring yourself to make dinner most nightsyour mind filled with sepia-toned images of breakfast nook conversations / dinner table board games / friends spilling from couches to cushions on the floor / strings of christmas lights

your fingertips feel the phantom softness of fur your ears can hear your mother’s mournful windchimes

you want to go home

but you owe this becoming to a little girl you used to be you are desperate to give her this dream this life she imagined since she was thirteen derailed by events and relationships she couldn’t foresee

for her you’ve decided it’s time to unwrite the narrative others have penned to reach into the slideshow of the past and take that girl by the hand whisper gentle apologies and welcome her to this gift of a present


you have to imagine that others understand what it’s like for language to pass, misunderstood through your mind to be haunted by landscapes and skylines that aren’t your own mocked by sky and stars that grace the eyes of your people without ever bringing you close

yes, for the first few months you refused to call this place home

you’re fucking lonely but you’ve made something beautiful

in just a few months, you carved out a place in this corner of the world desperately / mercifully / never really alone

and you learned it’s possible you can belong wherever you want

wherever you are, you can love and wherever you love, you call home

you’ve made this your home

until it’s time to go home

though you feel like you’ve just settled in you’ve always been the type to chase the wind towards whatever comes next unsettled, but a catalyst


and though it hurt, at first this change, this place you know it’ll hurt again to leave but don’t worry we’ll leave an art installation on the balcony that time-capsule collage of memory a photocopy folded neatly and tucked in our wallet to keep us company

i hope you continue to live like this arms wide open despite all the pain giving pieces of your heart away just promise me you’ll leave a little bit of your self on this island

i pray it’ll call you back someday

it’s a part of life and privilege to say goodbye and hello to come and go even wounded, to open up to love deeply and end up nursing a broken heart

i’m proud of us

i’m proud of every version we’ve become / every life we’ve lived / every love we’ve known

from you in the future, with hope

65 Vector by grmarcstock | vecteezy.com

samuel tyson hogg


Samuel Tyson Hogg is a current ALT from New Zealand based in Kitakyushu City, Fukuoka. His photography not only shows a slice of Japan but also the self expression one can have through photography.

A Hallway Sarakura

Underpass Monstera

67 A
69 Underpass





Quin is a self-taught illustrator with a particular passion for surrealism. He has been in Japan for three years and hails from the twin island republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Pretty Face Bad Behavior

73 Pretty Face Bad Behavior

chloe holm

Chloe Holm is an Ehime JET alumni from Ohio who is now living and working in the greater Tokyo area. In addition to writing in her free time and during the morning commute, she loves watching movies and reading with the BookTok community. She is also the CONNECT magazine’s travel section editor.

Forgotten Spaces


Two Temples

Alphabet Soup


Forgotten Spaces

The space between the mountains folds inward like building tops, mighty mammoths as pressed petals, each fold creasing at the point between god and his bewilderment; These spaces always dance on the edge of vision, distanced and decayed questions that lose their way in the deepening dark, a brief barrier between this world and the next. I folded the temple roofs on my way through, found each tile of ceramic, plastered with hot spring soil and liquified air, tasted metallic leftover river rain that plunged down towards my door. There seems to be a lost beauty in the spaces no one knows about, a kind of lost-heart-feeling that whistles between bamboo stalks and shoots through yellowing gingko leaves. The way the water hangs on the edge of summer, mixing with the persimmon clouds atop my mountains, just resting there gently on a chime. When my fingers try to cup the lasting spaces of autumn, white words whisper through the valley, catch on the dragonflies whirling wings, collects on the dying firefly lights, silhouettes on the last train of the night, and I listen to the world tip towards the morning, bright, bold, beckoning.

Vector by Kirsty Pargeter | vecteezy.com


I collapsed the world to fit inside a child’s cupped hands: folded the creases of the mountains, inverted the edges of sandy lake bottoms, shrank every lasting sip of oxygen into the size of a praying mantis, and plopped unceremoniously into the soft, supple hands that held the paper with the care of a mother hen. Her eyes gleamed with unwrought recognition of oceans swirled among lands fabled in a classroom, so much that she created a pathway from end to end, traced an unending, twirling line over all and slipped seamlessly into the rhythm of the journey. When I tried to lift the world, she refused: said this wonder didn’t belong in my hands and to let her hold onto it for a little while longer. My grasp yearned for it, to peel away the edges, reveal an inner side that resembles a flattened crane, but I didn’t.

I let her stare just a little while longer at an unused world miles apart from my own, mismatched core and undulated forest towns, and I fell into the deep delight swirled in eyes meant to help those to return from the spaces between folds.

two temples


we weave pipe smoke through the mountains, shoot tea leaves up into temple ledges, pray over crushed sticks. I was asked to raise a finger toward Buddha and catch myself in his nose. try to remember where our feet lie in tandem, where a washed toe finds balance in a basin and again in a smoked room. colors weave through the marked meanderings fallen up through gates before descending past the charm gift shop. we built up to be closer to God, packed people into spaces fit for cattle and asked for a purpose. the incense still curdles when a lone song cries to be heard through the bronze.


trickery laid out broken necks and feet to build a path up broken bamboo and fire pounded stone. I see hot spring exhaust as exhalations to a fox god, faux pas tails that guide us. the buildings serve to gather and lead, and the gates ahead to guide and sort. I choose the left, my spirit right. this is why a god splits the body in two; better to live sorted than die in one cradled shoot leaf. odaijini means blessing, how lonely it must be for gods not to listen to our multiplied feet falls caught on red stained gates the color of the ones before.

Vector by rawpixel.com | freepik.com

Alphabet Soup

I say chuga chuga when the letters fall off the spoon into the brush and T-R-A-I-N loses its T. I eat the soggy limp noodles.

I went looking in the growth for a T and an A and a P lost in the guzzling stream, stream that stole a packet of vocabulary from me and gave to fishes to nibble and crunch, my words, reduced to moldy fish food. at least it is sustenance for them and useless to me.

What’s the word for “distribute” again? Half meanings and used up sounds that drift so easily away on a swift, winters scheme.

What does a place “contribute?” partial findings tucked under mossy stones and folded into the rough shafts of bamboo shoots, shoots I eat for lunch and still can’t remember if the word starts with an R or a T, words that fall like lead into an alphabet soup, the letters swimming like the fishes and laughing, laughing up at me for forgetting, for remembering, for giving in to the mess of tomatoes and letters.

“C” and “E” and “Q” try to find their way into a sagging mouth, and it forms, quickly, used up gone.

How quickly those sounds shift. the chuga chuga passes again and it’s swept up in the current, the train plunging deep, deep, into the mountains, deeper than sounds left out to shrivel up in the sun.

Background by Olga Thelavart | unsplash.com

Vector by mirtsamoa5633427 | vecteezy.com

sydney michael


Sydney Michael is a first-year CIR, fourthyear JET in Yamaguchi Prefecture. She got her undergraduate degree in Asian Languages and Literatures. She enjoys casual photography, both in her day-today life and while on vacation. During a conference in Yokohama, she spotted a Mario figure left behind and decided to snap this shot. An unstaged moment of art in her everyday life.

Mario in Tokyo
81 Mario in Tokyo

mia takemoto


Takemoto is a British-Japanese artist born in Australia. After graduating from the University of Edinburgh with an MA Fine Art, Takemoto moved to Himeji, Japan, where she is continuing her art practice. Takemoto’s paintings examine the places she feels rooted in and the places she has routed through, namely Scotland, England, Japan, and Australia.


At the Peak

Susuki Grass

Melody in Nagoya

Moon in Asago


At the Peak

Susuki Grass
Melody in Nagoya
87 Moon in Asago

monica hand


Monica is a second-year JET based in the lush and rural Shikoku. She loves rocky shorelines, unruled notebooks, and fresh popcorn.

A Cicada Story


A Cicada Story

After emerging from life underground and shedding their shells, cicadas have only four to six weeks to live. The summer of their lives above ground lasts barely a day.

Life was fresh and sticky. The air was thick and wet. These were the conditions most hoped for, and by chance it was so. This was when the song was sung best, the vibrations cushioned just right to carry a kiss far across green fields. The time was now, there was not a second to spare, and he knew it. He quivered in anticipation, working to keep it inside.

As the sun warmed the air, his song began. Starting low but building, the heaving of his body and wings was exhausting, but he burned with a need to keep going. He went on for ages, body growing tired from the endless push and pull.

At last, he felt a change. Something was near, and he knew it was love. At once, he worked the song, as strong and as high as he could. Focused only on the sensation, and nothing more. Though his efforts were valiant, the love was lost to another who flitted and sang with triumph in a neighboring tree.

Distraught, feeling as though the world would leave him behind, he went away in search of somewhere else, somewhere better to find the affair to complete his song. Flying fast and low, weaving through the trees into the open, he didn’t notice the approaching car. He pulled back just in time, but was blown hard by its speed as it roared past. He tumbled with the wind, unable to catch it. He hit a post hard, finally knocked from the wind’s grips, falling and landing on his back.

At first, he was stunned. He laid there, with the world around him all wrong. Coming to, his legs frantically grasped for something to latch. He tried to beat his wings but they could not open from under him, pressed against the hard gray unnatural rock. He tried his song, but the result was a broken array of notes, as his body skittered across the ground.

He remained there, slowly losing the strength to struggle. His legs grew tired.

Then at once the sun no longer splashed across him. Instead it was a shadow that blanketed his exhausted body. Terror struck him and his movements ceased at once. He made not a sound, forfeiting to the world as a silent prayer in exchange for whatever was over him to move on— whether predator or threatening cloud.

It didn’t work, though, as the shadow’s owner, an old rice farmer who leaned his weight off his wooden cane, had stopped on the sidewalk specifically for this cicada. The emerald green and deep brown bug was stuck, legs in the air. The man slowly stretched out his cane, pausing just next to the insect, preparing for the delicate maneuver.

The cicada was panicking. Just as he thought that this was the end, he suddenly found himself upright. His legs hit the ground hard and instinctively they stretched and felt the ground below. Still he paused, unsure what had happened, again unsure what to do. Thinking only of the love and life he could so easily lose.

Gradually, though, the shadow moved along, returning his body to the sunlight and sounds of life. The cicada, relieved, spun about to find the wind. When he caught it and tried to fly, he was lopsided until his wings adjusted. The cicada was off.

He found his way to an open field, where he heard the songs of so many others, yearning and pleading. Finding a place of his own amongst the tall green, the light turned to fade. Time was running out, he had lost so much already. This time, when he began to sing, the song was different.

He sang now with the sounds of loss. The aches of regrets and dreams unmet. Its pitch was stronger now, but not forced. The vibrations felt fierce yet smooth. It comforted him, that song of his, and so he sang on. So absorbed he was that when she landed just beyond the blades of grass to listen he took no notice.

The rapt listener edged closer, captivated by the emerald singer and moved by the somber tune. It felt familiar; it felt nostalgic for something she hadn’t known. She craved to be closer to it, wishing she too could sing. Unsatisfied with listening, she began to beat her wings in time with him.

The sound of her stunned him, but seeing her iridescent wings glint in the moonlight he all but forgot himself. He watched as she furiously beat on, the rhythm inviting him to join again. He was flustered but instinctively moved closer. At an interval he began again.

They played together into the night as one. Those passing the field, people and insects alike, stopped to listen to this song that was so familiar and yet so unique. Their union was like two halves finally joining, he felt that even if the world ended that night, everything had been worth it.

A few weeks passed after that first great love. She was gone now, but he no longer longed to sing. He felt satisfied and fulfilled, but tired. The cicada again found himself on the hard unnatural path though this time his legs were planted to the ground. He had seen the clouds block the sun in the late morning, felt the anticipation in the air and the cries for love from the younger cicadas. But he only sat, waiting.

Then the rain began to fall in thick menacing splashes around him. But he didn’t move. In this cloud’s deep shadow, he felt no fear, knowing he had done what he came to do. These were the conditions most hoped for, and by chance it was so. One last time, he sang their song.

joshua hodgson

Joshua is a photographer/videographer who lives in Kansai and loves to explore the countryside of Japan. He has a passion for Japan’s unique landscapes, delicious local foods, and extraordinary wildlife.

Takoyaki in Osaka

Curious Cat Takayama

Firefly Squid Fisherman of Toyama

Fuji Chureito Pagoda in Spring

Miyajima at Sunrise

Nakagin Capsule Tower

Takoyaki in Osaka
Curious Cat Takayama
Firefly Squid Fisherman of Toyama
Fuji Chureito Pagoda in Spring
98 Miyajima at Sunrise
Nakagin Capsule Tower

kristen camille ton


Before moving to Fukuoka from Tennessee on the JET Program in 2021, Kristen earned a living as a graphic designer who dreamed of one day becoming a painter. Outside of graphic design and teaching, she enjoys tending to her balcony garden, painting in oils, and traveling around the lush southern island of Kyushu.

Fukuoka Mascot Ramen
Fukuoka Mascot Ramen

zoë vincent


Zoë Vincent has been living in Japan since 2015 and finds inspiration in her interactions with others. ‘The Competition’ is her first short story.

The Competition

C full short story

The Competition

Before he could register what was happening, his mother had breached the entrance of the bathroom, and his body was responding instinctively. Pulling his legs over the porcelain side of the bath, he took a deep breath and plunged under the water. It was too late, though. He had been seen. The first words he heard upon resurfacing were, “Daisuke, what have you done.” Not a question, but a howl of despair.

Tomorrow was the day of the inter-school swimming competition, and Daisuke Hirano had been practising most days after school for weeks now. He wasn’t nervous; he loved swimming, and besides, all his friends would be there. Some would be watching from the viewing gallery, and Takashi, Aki, and Tooru would be right there with him, waiting for their turn to join the relay race and compete against the other teams.

It was the final under-11s swimming competition of the school year, and consequently the last competition Daisuke would enter before starting secondary school in April. The thought of no longer practising and competing with his three best friends made him feel like a water balloon had lodged itself somewhere in his belly, so he tried not to think about it too much.

His mother had been the one to give him the idea. She had made an offhand comment that morning; how, seeing as it was his last competition, maybe they should take a good-luck charm with them on the day. An auspicious stuffed toy or figurine.


Daisuke daydreamed all through his classes. His mind was already back home, poring over the toys that overflowed from his shelves and closet. He needed something lucky, something meaningful. Suddenly, he had it. Daisuke bit down on his pen, a huge smile erupting over his cheeks as he pictured his grand arrival tomorrow, and the looks on his friends’ faces.

Now he was sitting in his bedroom with a large scrapbook spread open between his legs. Daisuke flipped carefully through the pages; each plastered with brightly coloured stickers. Whenever he opened the scrapbook, he would reverently examine each and every one of them. He got great enjoyment from presenting the book to his mum and dad while reciting where he’d got each sticker. There was one part of the scrapbook he hadn’t shown them, though.

The inside back cover featured a pull-out pocket that could hold Polaroid photos, craft paper, and other wafer-thin scrapbooking essentials. This was where Daisuke kept the hefty collection of stickers he was yet to commit to the page.

And then there were the other, special stickers, each individually cut out, their smooth matte coating inviting to the touch. He had been given them by Mr. Takano, a regular at his parents’ soba restaurant. Daisuke often hung out at the restaurant after school, and always looked forward to Mr. Takano’s visits.

Mr. Takano owned some fancy trade-related company. He regularly travelled abroad for work, and it wasn’t unusual for him to bring back strange and wonderful stories, as well as souvenirs, for the whole Hirano family. That day, however, Mr. Takano had ushered Daisuke to the far corner of the counter, out of his parents’ sight, before presenting him with a secret box—and a warning not to show his mum and dad. Daisuke had smuggled the box home, only opening it once safe in the privacy of his bedroom. He ripped off the tape, opened the lid, and then blinked hard to check he wasn’t dreaming.

Background by Takeshi Ishikawa | vecteezy.com

Before him lay a veritable cornucopia of the wackiest stickers he had ever seen, along with a handful of individually wrapped wet wipes, a glossy pamphlet in an indecipherable language, and a handwritten note from Mr. Takano. The note contained instructions and informed him that the stickers had come all the way from America. Daisuke deliberated endlessly about how and when to use them. Two years had passed since that fateful day at the restaurant, but now he knew exactly where they’d go.

Daisuke casually sauntered into the kitchen where his mother was cleaning up after dinner. As quietly as possible, he filled a glass with water. Then, when she wasn’t looking, he grabbed a dish cloth and stuffed it under his school shirt. Pulse pounding with adrenaline, he rushed back to his room, and placed the procured items on the tatami. Daisuke spread the special stickers out over the cover of his futon, stripped down to his boxers, and— almost as if in a meditative state—began the slow and deliberate process of covering his body in temporary tattoos. . .

Vectors by dumbmichael | vecteezy.com

mark christensen


Mark Christensen is a fourth-year ALT from Snohomish, Washington, USA. An avid photographer, he has a passion for mountaineering and capturing the unique beauty of Japan’s natural resources. He currently resides in Omuta, Fukuoka.

Sadako’s Vigil

Umbrella Street

Onisube Fire Festival

Kawachi Fujien



Mt Fuji

Sadako’s Vigil Umbrella Street
Onisube Fire Festival
Kawachi Fujien
111 Providence
112 Mt Fuji

yasu cub


Yasu Cub is a four-member band formed and based in Tokyo. Their new wave/ dream pop/shoegaze sound nestles perfectly within the Tokyo indie scene, landing them a spot on In The Valley

Below’s June 2023 tour. Their album Highways is available on Spotify and Apple Music.

Band Members

Jacob Oki Ahearn - Bandleader, Guitar, and Vocals

Yasuhiro Soda - Guitar

Shintaro Kimura - Bass

Dennis Michael Sullivan - Drums


115 Highways

nomfundo a. zondi

Nomfundo is an Assistant Language Teacher who hails from South Africa. She currently resides in Hokkaido, Japan. In her spare time she enjoys traveling, writing and producing her podcast, The Sun in Japan. She believes words have the power to heal and hopes her writing does just that for readers.

Poems on Saudades
C poem account

Poems on saudades

Def: Saudades (plural noun)

Emotional state of longing

Saudade is an emotional state of melancholic or profoundly nostalgic longing for a beloved yet absent something or someone.


The saudades I have lived with since I met you is unbearable

How terribly unkind of you

You have turned me into a poet

One of those tortured souls

That paint pages in melancholy

Mixed with tears

You make me live in my head loving you

But I walk the earth alone

While someone else gets the pleasure of you.


I think my friends are tired of hearing your name

So I tell it to the moon

The moon offers me no pity

Or loving advice to propel me forward She sits icily in her place above

Offering me nothing but her light

And, I suppose that is what the memory of you does for me too.



I have become really good at moving on It finally occurred to me that life is motion It is flow

Energy transforming from one to another This gives me hope

Things are always coming in All whilst others say their goodbyes

Just as you did But today, Today I miss you.


I recite my poems like spells

Enchantments sent out to bring you back to me

Carefully, I alchemize the words in my head

With the longing in my heart

I recite my poems like spells

My pen is the wand that spews forth the magic Each word rising like incense to draw you in I recite my poems like spells, prayers, intentions, incantations, manifestations

That soon, I may look over to my side and see you again.

Vector by freepik | freepik.com


In my daydreams I bask in the sun

And sit at the foot of the trees

I read you the poems inspired by you

Setting the pain of them free

Like a butterfly leaves the cocoon

Letting their fragrance escape like roses in the springtime

I long to set these words free

Let them be incense, rising like prayers

Healing those who heed them

Healing me.


“Leave her alone,”

The Brain told the Longing


Said the Longing

“Shhh, let her rest,”

Said the Brain

“The Heart has been through enough.”

Vector by monstreh | pixabay.com

Vector by marina mazneva | vecteezy.com


I got tired of dedicating love songs

To non-existent men who couldn’t love me

So I decided to see me

When those melancholic sounds come on I am the love that I long for The love that I can have

I do not evade myself

And I can choose my happy ending

It is me

I am the happy ending

I am the main character and the love interest

So it only makes sense to choose me

To pick me.


I use words to heal the parts of me I expected you to My pen and paper are my mortar and pestle

Although there is pain in the grinding

The salve I create mends

I use words to close the gaping wounds you left Like a needle leads a thread

I weave closed the doors in me that you chose to walk out of I use words to quench the thirsty valleys of my heart

That wait day after day for a sip of you

I am the elixir

I use words to form tendons and ligaments

On bones long dead waiting for you to speak

Yet you keep your lips sealed

Finally, I use my words

Because in the echo of your absence

I realize the power within me.

Vector by photographeeasia | freepik.com Vector by aviyabc | freepik.com


Be here now

Stop living your life neither here nor there

Call yourself back to this place

For it too is holy ground

Baptize yourself in this moment

That you may be reborn Over and over.


Sometimes we desire to be in a relationship not for companionship, no

We seek to share the load of our existence

The burden it is to exist sometimes gets too heavy to bare alone

We seek to avoid accountability for being ourselves

A lot of the time, our worst selves

By looking over to our side and lovingly, longingly, loathingly

Saying, “Ow, you know me”

You know me and my faults, my weaknesses, my grief

You know the Pandora’s box of my pain, even if you have only taken a glance at it

That is much longer than I can bare to look

“Ow, you know me”

Like I know you

Like I know your pain, for it is much easier to bare because it is not my own

If it gets too heavy I can hand it back

But now, it is time to say to myself

Lovingly, longingly, knowingly

“Ow, you know me.”

Vector by khaneeros | vecteezy.com Vector by photographeeasia

rembert dean


Rembert Dean is a fourth-year JET living in Miyagi. They often photograph various locations around Tohoku. They dabble in landscape, portrait, and wildlife photography. Since coming to Japan, they’ve been working on improving their technique and exploring different subjects and themes in their work.

View of the First Sunrise of 2023 at Cape Iwai


Lake Tazawa Akita


bishamondo Temple Iwate

Zao Fox Village Miyagi

Sakura at Hirosaki Castle Park in Aomori

Lake Tazawa Akita View of the First Sunrise of 2023 at Cape Iwai Miyagi


bishamondo Temple Iwate

Zao Fox Village Miyagi
Sakura at Hirosaki Castle Park in Aomori

tori bender


Tori is a second-year ALT living in the mountains of central Hyogo. She loves to watch Netflix, paint, and walk by the river when she isn’t teaching elementary or junior high school students. She is a big fan of being cozy and anything nostalgic.

Cafe Owner

Ichikawa Town

Kamakura Nights

Rainy Shrine Visit

Cafe Owner
Ichikawa Town Kamakura Nights
Shrine Visit

corrin c


Corrin C is a creative living in Higashi Hiroshima. Originally from Los Angeles, California, she enjoys writing, apparel design, and chilling out. You also may have heard her voice online and in a few video games.

Fire Water



A spark of dim light can assure I am alive With a small gust of wind, I will disappear out of sight Glowing embers unfolding of stories left untold Smoldering in a long Winter’s cold

Then as my sparks turn to flame These become the hardest to tame

Dancing in the shadows of dew painted Spring The echoes of the wind carefully listening Hearth burning brighter in glorious shades of red Blazing with the heat of Summer ahead

My roaring flames that crash against thunder Tumbling with the damp air pulling me under Crystal spheres calling, down they pour Returning me to the place I once was before


You pour into the shapes of the undulating earth Filling the spaces made just for you Fresh to the touch you hurry along Following the stream to where you belong

Over the hills and under the banks

This beckoning road is the path you take Flowing crystals with a rising tide

Sunlight refracting with no place to hide

Splashing above the colored horizon

You descend as shooting stars

Surrounding the earth in jewels below Shimmering in the seasons you continue to flow

Weaving through the long grown pastures

You seep your way inside of me

Blue spring diamonds flushed my face

Dying the colors of my skin with your grace

Image by freepik | freepik.com


nathaniel hazel

Fox [Untitled] Ginzan Evening Koi

Nathaniel is a fourth-year ALT living in a seaside town in Miyagi. He primarily focuses on nature and landscape photography, but has pivoted towards portraiture. PHOTOGRAPHYTHE ART ISSUE
137 Fox [Untitled]
138 Ginzan Evening
139 Koi

stephen pacilbar


Stephen is an illustrator and art history graduate from the cloudy land of Ireland. Inspired by Irish illustrators like Harry Clarke and Jack Yeats, Stephen works with pencil and ink to produce monochrome illustrations related to Japanese life. Recently, he has been incorporating his illustrations as an Area Leader through emails and poster events.

Illustration for ALT

Welcome Letter

Illustration for Firework Event

Illustration for Sketchbook Club

Illustration for Kimono Event

Illustration for Area’s Unofficial Mascot

Illustration for Summer Festival Event

Illustration for the First Area Leader Email

Illustration for ALT Welcome Letter Illustration for Firework Event

Illustration for Sketchbook Club

Illustration for Kimono Event

Illustration for the area’s unofficial mascot

Illustration for Summer Festival Event

Illustration for the first Area Leader email


sophia maas


Sophia Maas is a first-year ALT teaching in Saga Prefecture. They enjoy exploring their corner of the world and taking inspiration from everyday life.

a scene imagined while cycling past a 360円 ramen shop at 10 o’clock at night


a scene imagined while cycling past a 360円 ramen shop at 10 o’clock at night

His lazy thanks as the server sets down a warm bowl of soup dissipates into the building’s hazy atmosphere. He sighs. It’s late, and tomorrow is work. Tomorrow is always work. His only relief is that tonight is as long as he wants it to be, and even if he wakes bleary and hung-over at least he would have been alive for those few midnight hours. He is set on his dinner, noodles languishing in a rich broth with thin pork and jammy eggs. The entourage tastes remarkably like chunks of salt putting on their costumes for the day and going to work. Nevertheless, it is food, and he is hungry.


Tomorrow, he thinks. Tomorrow will be when the world finally changes. Tomorrow, he will stand under the shelter of his office building and call his mother, who he’s been meaning to call for seven months. He will ask her how she’s been doing, and finally say the things he’s always wanted to say to her with the rain soaking his shoes. Maybe he will even say he loves her for the first time in twenty years, if he feels she deserves it. Maybe she will even say it back.

The day after that, because he really doesn’t have all that many vacation days, he will go to work.

The day after that, he will go to work.

The day after that, something will break, and he will call in sick. He will lay in the dark, listening to the cars passing below his window, and try to reconcile the endless turning of the wheel of his life and what it means that his mother will see his apartment for the first time in three years.

The day after that, because he really doesn’t have that many vacation days, he will go to work and cry at his desk, wiping away his tears with a hand towel, careful enough so no one notices. He will think of taking up cycling, because running has never gotten him fast enough, but he has nowhere to keep a bicycle.

The day after that, he will go to the bar. Drink late. Visit the same ramen shop he visits every week. The server will put down the same bowl of warm soup with its salt in many forms. The light and noise and steam will fog the windows. On an impulse he will clear a sliver of glass and see a bicycle pass by under the streetlamps. Tomorrow, he will think. Tomorrow is when the world finally changes.

Image by Darren Halstead | Unsplash.com

john tran


Before coming to Japan, John wouldn’t think of himself as a photographer. He initially brought his camera to show photos to family back home and never expected photography to take a big part of his life. However the more he traveled and saw the beauties of Japan, the more he became engulfed in the hobby.

Path of the Glowing Sakura

Make Way for the Mikoshi

Good Morning Fuji-san

Offerings to Fuji-san

Path of the Glowing Sakura

Make Way for the Mikoshi

151 Good Morning Fuji-san
Offerings to Fuji-san

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