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Cover photo by Isabel Crevasse



meet the akitan staff alexander dao Director of Publications Hi, everyone! I'm Alexander Dao. This is my fifth year on JET living in Akita City. I love to make cookies, pies, and moofins. If you want sweets, I'm the guy to go to.

isabel crevasse Editor & Creative Director Hey y’all! I’m Isabel Crevasse, a second year JET living in Ikawa, a small town just north of Akita City. I spend all my time away from school hiking, travelling, and napping. I have no sweets to offer, but I’ve got plenty of good books and sleepy vibes to go round. 1


Bonfire at Namahage Sedo Matsuri, Isabel Crevasse


starting the school year right

new beginnings:

starting the school year right keith ikoma For some of you, going from March to April

is nothing new .

Keith: Yes.

But maybe you

are more flawed, human even. Here

Not that I’ve learned. From this year:

are some of my experiences of being a little too flawed during this transition.

Keith: Do you like ramen? Graduating Student: Yes. I like eating


ramen. Do you want to eat ramen with me?

Your students will graduate and move

In a goodbye letter from that student: “I

on. Hopefully you have really helped

wanted to eat ramen with Keith-sensei.

a few students. It’s an emotional time

I’m sad.” When students offer you a

for the students and maybe even for

chance to connect, don’t miss it!

you. I should have taken more pictures and spent more time saying goodbye—


possibly even connecting with students on social media. Don’t be like me. My

You have finally figured out a rhythm

first two years, I did not finish the year

with your English department—and

well. Example:

then teachers get transferred. It was my loss that I didn’t try to learn as much

Last class before graduation.

as possible from the best teachers I worked with early on. Let me share

Graduating Student: Keith-sensei, do

rules from my experience, which I also

you use Twitter?

should have learned earlier:




Low-probability of transfer:

not Japansplaining here, but let me tell

• the teacher is a tenured teacher but

you how it is: Say no. It’s fine. I was

new to your school

told when I got here to say yes to all

• the teacher is first-year homeroom

invitations like that because “in Japan,

teacher (junior high school or high

you need to attend all work parties.”


Instead, because I’m a genius, I asked

• the teacher is the one person in

what the social protocol was.


the universe you can’t seem to ever

generally, you can ask people all sorts

work well with

of questions about social rules. Maybe don’t skip department specific parties?

High-probability of transfer:

Although, as the token gaijin, I was

• teacher is on a one-year contract

asked to give a speech at one party.

• the teacher has been at your school

Moral of that story, don’t let someone

for a long time • the teacher is a third-year homeroom

“teach you about shochu” before you give a speech.

teacher • the teacher tells you that they

New School Year

requested a transfer because they hate the school

This is a huge opportunity for most ALTs. When I arrived I had very little

Which leads to the next topic.

control over lessons. In April, if I had been smart, I would have been ready




with ideas for the new year. Instead, I was slowly defrosting from the Akita

My first year here, between March and

winter and waiting for people to tell

May, I was invited to almost 15 work

me what was happening and I never

parties. I would have been bankrupt

really caught up. The following year I

if I had attended them all. I hope I’m

got smart.


starting the new school year right

I asked for the following things in April:

• To take over a few of the tasks that

• A list of which teachers taught which classes

other teachers didn’t want to do • Help to new teachers as they try

• A relatively finalized school calendar

to figure out their new lives and

for the year


• The learning goals for the year • A map of the office with all the teachers’ names in kana

Starting the new school year can be rough at times, but don’t let that keep you from recognizing it for the

I offered:

opportunity for growth and change

• An outline of possible teaching plans

that it really is. In a job that can all-

for the year

too-often be stubbornly static, this is

• A few activities that worked last year, supplemented by a few new ideas

Michal Jarmoluk via


your chance to renegotiate and reach for new job possibilities.



Kamifusen Lantern, Chey Parlato


日本語, the

japanese way

YOU LOOK LIKE A BLOWFISH Using Google-fu to understand the way Japanese people talk about English

michael charles aubrey One

of the easiest ways to find out how to say something in japanese

is to search

“X 英語”. Why えいご and not にほんご? Because when Japanese people search to find out how to say something in English, they’ll search something like, “良かった (よかった)英語”. The search results from such a query will have the phrase they wanted to learn in English written in Japanese by a Japanese person, along with the translation. This is very useful for an English-speaking learner of Japanese trying to figure out how to phrase something. Imagine you wanted to say something in Japanese. Consider the following.



I picked this to be intentionally ridiculous. Let’s pretend that I have no idea how to say this at all. The first thing we would need to do is to figure out how to say “looks like.” So you would search, “looks like a 英 語.”

Right away we get a translation from Google, but as a rule you should usually just ignore that: It is awful. Let’s take a look at the other results. The very first result is a website called Hapa Eikaiwa. On that page there is a chart of example sentences in both Japanese and English as follows.


日本語, the

japanese way

As you can see, “looks like” translates very differently depending on what you want to say. The only example sentence on that list that matches our meaning is “You look like Beckham.” The rest of the sentences have to do with drawing some kind of conclusion based on the other person’s appearance, whereas “You look like Beckham” is literally comparing the appearance of one thing with another. In that sentence, you can see that ベッカム is the person’s name, meaning the part of the phrase that we want is 〜に似ている (にている). But how do we know whether or not we’re on the right track? Let’s test it out. Nouns are very easy to figure out with any dictionary. Dog is 犬 (いぬ). If you search Google Images for 犬に似ている you get pictures of people who resemble dogs.



Now let’s try it with your target word: blowfish. A quick trip to a dictionary will tell us that blowfish is フグ. If you search Google Images for フグに似ている, admittedly you mostly just get pictures of regular old blowfish. However, the second result on Google Images is this lovely lady.

And look at that! Our phrase is even used in the title of the page! So now we know how to say that someone looks like a blowfish. How do we let them know that we mean it as a compliment? Let’s ask Google-sensei. Search for “in a good way 英 語” and the first result (if you ignore Google Translate, and you should) is the ALC website ( This is actually a website that many JTEs use when looking for example sentences. The first suggestion on that page is this.


日本語, the

japanese way

Seeing as this is Japanese and you probably aren’t saying this in a vacuum, you don’t need to say the word “you” so long as it is obvious from the context who you are talking about. So in the end we have,

「良い意味(いみ) でフグに似ている」. Is this method perfect? Absolutely not. However it is leaps and bounds better than using Google Translate. If you would have tried to use machine translation you would’ve gotten this Frankenstein’s monster of a sentence, “あなたは良い方法(ほうほ う) で、吹き魚(ふきさかな) のように見えます (みえます)”. With this method at least you know that the resulting sentence is far more likely to be something that a Japanese person would understand, even if it isn’t perfect. Also, the more Japanese you know, the more effective this method will be. I know that it would be more common in spoken Japanese to say いい意味で rather than pronouncing it “よい”. I know that I’ve heard いい意味で used after an initial phrase to kind of soften a blow, so I know that I can say something like, “フグに似ているね。 いい意味で”. And of course, knowing more Japanese will fill in the gaps and keep you from guessing. I’m sorry that I couldn’t have taught you such a useful phrase before Valentine’s Day, but armed with this technique, I’m sure you’ll be ready for whatever your adventure in Japanese brings your way.




Shirahage Falls, Biei, Hokkaido, Chloe Doole



Juniko, Isabel Crevasse

Lake Towada, Isabel Crevasse



of dice and pen

of dice and pen brianna hom Nerds


cool ,


years that it has been portrayed in a

they are still enjoying more mainstream

more positive light—often showing

popularity in today’s era. One such sect

“non-nerds” discovering and enjoying

has emerged from the basements of their

the game (e.g. Community, The IT

houses, so to speak, and are basking in

Crowd, Freaks and Geeks).

may not be the

the (lime)light— tabletop roleplayers. While often openly mocked in the

With this increased exposure, more

past (recalling the stereotyped glasses-

people are asking, “What are DnD and



tabletop rpgs? How do you play?” To put

their level 20 druid), the past 10 years

it simply, tabletop rpgs are collective

or so have seen a rise in acceptance,

storytelling with an element of random

popularity, and acknowledged cultural

chance. Traditionally, one person—the

impact of tabletop roleplaying games.

Dungeon Master (DM) or Game Master

Recently, Netflix’s celebrated Stranger

(GM)—describes the setting and creates

Things showed the main characters

scenarios. The



characters that interact with the world.

the most famous and emblematic of

To do this, players describe an action

tabletop rpgs, though Dungeons and

and roll dice to see how successful they

Dragons has been referenced in media

are at it. The DM looks at the results

for decades. It is only in more recent

and says how the action plays out and











Tabletop RPG, Michael Charles Aubrey

what its consequences are. Different

If fantasy is not your thing, there are

DMs have different play styles; some are

many more types of tabletop rpgs out

more lax with rules, others focus more

there besides Dungeons and Dragons—

on characterization, and still others


set up their games to focus on beating

mixed with fantasy and magic), Call

enemies and leveling up.







Vampire: the Masquerade (gothic-punk Dungeons and Dragons is only one

and vampires), Star Wars, Deadlands



(the Old West and horror), Doctor Who,

Other popular fantasy titles include

Star Trek, or even My Little Pony—

Pathfinder, Exhalted, RuneQuest, and

and genres can vary wildly, blend, and

other settings based on popular video

take place in any time period, from

games and books (like Dragon Age,

pirates to ninjas, psychological horror,

Middle Earth, or The Wheel of Time).

post- apocalyptic survival, government






of dice and pen

espionage, or bears trying to conduct

the world and play with others through

a honey heist. There is a niche for

the roll20 site. If you want to experience

everyone, and


other people playing a game before

current popularity, there are more

jumping in yourself, some of the more

being created all the time.

popular podcasts and streams are The



Adventure Zone8 (a podcast by the McElroy Tabletop games still partially remain

brothers of My Brother, My Brother, and

hidden from outsiders, and they can

Me fame), Critical Role9 (famous voice

be hard to find if you don’t bring it

actors who live-stream and podcast

up or ask around. However, if you

their DnD campaign), Harmonquest

want to start playing, there are already

(featuring Dan Harmon, co-creator

several groups in Akita that meet for

of Rick and Morty and Community,

games every week or every month. If

though most episodes are not available

you can’t find one, then make a group

for streaming in Japan), Critical Hit10 (a

yourself! Tabletop rpgs are a great way

series of podcast campaigns that have

to get out of the house, exercise your

been running almost 10 years), and

creative juices, and build friendships.

Nerd¹¹ Poker¹² (a podcast of comedians

You can buy books and pdfs online at

playing DnD). Twitch has become a

DriveThru RPG¹ and RPG Now² and see

popular site for live streams of tabletop

what tickles your fancy, though if you

roleplay, though there’s plenty to find

look around the internet you’re liable

on YouTube as well. This13 article by

to find some free indie rpgs. There are

The Verge and this14 one on Inverse have

numerous³ guides4 for beginner DMs5

more lists of streams and podcasts out

and tips for continuing6 DMs as well.

there for your to check out, too.

If you want to play from the comfort of your own home on your own time,

So, if you were looking for an excuse

roll207 is a popular (and free) site where

to jump into the world of tabletop

you can search for games to join from

oleplaying, look no longer—if you are



roleplaying, look no longer—if you are


new and curious, a lapsed player, or a


veteran looking to expand, there are


hundreds of resources at your disposal,


and hopefully you’ll find a good starting


point here. Go out and immerse yourself


in new worlds—adventure awaits.

link at 11 is to the original series, link at 12 is for (Note:

the two newer series) 13

Mentioned articles, podcasts, guides, and links can


be found at the following web addresses:









Brianna Hom is a 5th year ALT currently DMing


for a 50 Fathoms campaign of the Savage Worlds


system, though she has had additional experience


playing Call of Cthulhu, Pathfinder, and a few

p h p ? 7 6 4 7 4 - S o - Yo u - Wa n n a - B e - A - D M - A -

independent one-shot trpgs, both online and

Po t e n t i a l l y - H e l p f u l - G u i d e - ( R e p o s t e d - a n d -

offline. Talk to her anytime about Critical Role.


Updated) 6

h t t p s : / / w w w. y o u t u b e. c o m / p l a y l i s t ? l i s t = P L


7atuZxmT9570U87GhK_20NcbxM43vkom 7




winter festivals of tohoku

ani ski resort mt. moriyoshi

john lennon Ani-machi is usually a town cocooned

enjoy the summit’s powder and snow

by the everlasting winter snowflakes.

monsters. None of the trails were

However, I managed to get some clear

incredibly difficult and there is a ski

skies when I went skiing there. It only

lift from the halfway point going back

lasted for half of the day, but as the

to the summit keeping you where the

snowfall subsided I was able to get some

good snow is. Also, this ski resort is not

great shots of the picturesque summit.

that crowded and staying at the top is

Be prepared for the bitter cold, and

even less crowded.



John Lennon at Ani Ski Resort


winter festiva

Winter in Tohoku feels, more often than not, harsh, dark, an

against your windows, on the roofs and on the roads. When yo

easy to forget how beautiful snow can be. While we might, of co

grove draped thickly in white, or in the way the snow falls like that cut through the winter blues to remind us how lucky we

is marked by dozens of winter festivals, ranging in scale from th

want to warm yourself with good company, hot sake, and festiv

beauty, Tohoku’s festivals have you covered—and nowhere ar

Akita Prefecture. From giant painted lanterns to dancing d


Hirosaki Snow Lanterns, Isabel Crevasse Nebuta Festival in Aomori, John Lennon


als of tohoku john lennone

nd endless. Each day brings new snow to pile up on your car,

our days are spent working around and fighting against it, it’s

ourse, remember our wonder at the glimpse of a towering cedar

e gentle, unhurried stars on still nights, it is the winter festivals are to be in Tohoku. February, the final month of deep winter,

he quaint and local to famous and awe-inspiring. Whether you

val foods or immerse yourself in traditional culture and winter

re the festivals quite so impressive (and numerous!) as the

demons, fire-swinging to peanut throwing, Akita has it all.


winter festivals of tohoku

POKEMON WITH YOU TR john lennon The train was renovated in the summer of 2017 to bring happiness to children and Pokémon lovers after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011. You can get on the train in southern Iwate Prefecture at Ichinoseki Station and ride it to Kesennuma Station in northern Miyagi Prefecture. It’s literally decked out with Pokémon, with a huge focus on Pikachu. And, at each station you stop at along the way you can get out to see more Pokémon decorations and get Pokémon stamps.

IW Iwate Snow Festival, John Lennon




Pokemon with You Train, John Lennon

Just a little across the Iwate Prefecture border, before Morioka City, is Koiwai Farm and Iwate Kogen Snow Park. At these close locations you can experience the Iwate Snow Festival. At Koiwai farm there is tubing, sledding, small snow sculptures, wood crafts, dairy products, a restaurant and food cooked in igloos. At the Iwate Kogen Snow Park there are giant snow sculptures, a maze, food stands and a fireworks display. Also, you can hit the slopes at night with various colored lighting!


winter festivals of tohoku

25 Swinging Fire, John Lennon


Why did you come to Japan? It was to twirl fire over your head, で しょう? What can I say about this festival except, “Go and try it!” It was so much fun watching people swing straw ropes attached to flaming bales of hay over their heads. And then I, too, got up there and did it myself; it was so fun and exciting! You spin the rope around you and the movement really ignites the fire. You continue until the fiery bale of hay burns off from the rope and goes soaring through the air, combusting like the big bang. You get to keep the rope as a good luck charm, and this festival is for clearing out the bad luck of the previous year.

hiburi kamakura festival

john lennon


winter festivals of tohoku


paper lantern festival john lennon

Just a bit north of Lake Towada in Semboku, next to Kami-Hinokinai Station, you can experience the Kamifusen (Giant Paper Balloon) Festival. So, this festival can be kind of a trek. If driving, you should go really early to get parking, and if possible it may be easier to take the train in. Disclaimer: Watch out for falling paper balloons! The lanterns are filled with hot air using propane torches and launched into the wintry night sky. It is beautiful watching them take off and float together ,effortlessly higher and higher, but remember they will come back down eventually. There are attendants watching the balloons and ready to collect them when they finally fall. I’ve seen them land in the roads, on buildings, in the mountains, and even back down into the festival area! Come and see this stunning danger, and be sure to dress to stay dry and warm.



Kamifusen, John Lennon


namahage se

29 Namahage Nebuta Festival Performance, in Aomori, Andrew John Mowle Lennon


edo matsuri john lennone

You have all heard of the Boogie Man, now meet Akita’s version of it, Namahage! On the Oga Peninsula there are tales of demon-like beings that come down from the mountains to drink sake and scare children into studying harder! Next to the Namahage museum, you can enjoy this festival and watch children cry because their parents dragged them to the festival. At first you can buy some charms from the shine’s shop, eat some festival food, and listen to the Namahage taiko group perform. Then the Namahage come down from the mountain carrying torches and parading through the crowd before letting you take pictures with them.

john lennon 30

winter festivals of tohoku : namahage sedo matusiri


a miko serves hot sake to a cold namahage festival - goer Juniko, Isabel Crevasse Photo by Isabel Crevasse



winter festivals of tohoku : namahage sedo matusiri


Juniko, Isabel Crevasse

shinto priest

ts inspect sesame rice cake offering for the namahage


Photo by Andrew Mowle


winter festivals of tohoku : namahage sedo matusiri


Juniko, Isabel Crevasse


namahage dance and frighten festival - goers Photo by Isabel Crevasse


winter festivals of tohoku : namahage sedo matusiri

namahage return to the mountain with their offering Photo by Isabel Crevasse


Juniko, Isabel Crevasse



winter festivals of tohoku : setsubun


sure a lot of


that visit

but this holiday, unlike other events


such as New Year or Obon, is not as


uniformly celebrated throughout Japan.

ALTs might be mistaken in thinking

There are aspects of the event which

that the event is only about wearing a

can vary depending on region, and

mask as children run around the room

even households omit certain aspects

screaming and throwing peanuts.

of Setsubun if they wish. Setsubun



take part in a




event .

offers a lot of room for variety, which For those of you who haven’t had to

means there’s a lot of room to transform

endure this or simply don’t know what

it from the kiddie holiday you might

Setsubun is, let me tell you. This event

know into a fun event for adults.

happens each year on February 3rd and is seen as an event to welcome

Three years ago, my friend (a Honjo

spring. The setsu in Setsubun comes

local) asked if I wanted to celebrate

from kisetsu (season) and denotes the


transition point from winter to spring.

experienced the elementary school





version, I quickly declined her offer. These are the bare bones of Sestubun,


She then explained that it was more


fun than I thought, so I let her talk me

ehomaki. This is always a super fun

into it.

process as people keep messing up their rolls under the pressure of their

Being a foreigner, I had no idea what

Japanese instructors. Once everyone

to do, so she and her friend went to the

has made their rolls, it is time to find

supermarket to buy all the ingredients

that year’s lucky direction. Yeah, we

and things we would need for the day.

were just as confused when we were

She also decided to commandeer my

told this too. You see, you can’t just eat

apartment. One of the parts of the

the ehomaki willy-nilly. There are rules.

Setsubun event is making “ehomaki”.

Three of them, to be exact. First, you

These are like long sushi rolls, but

must eat the ehomaki while facing the

they need to contain seven ingredients

lucky direction (determined by using

for the seven gods of good fortune.

google and a compass app). Then you

So my friend and another local came

must eat the roll as if it is on a conveyor

to my place early to start cooking the

belt. By that I mean, you need to keep

ingredients. My apartment is a small,

the roll to your mouth at all times and

one person apartment, so I just hovered

constantly feed it in as you try to chew

around pretending to help as they took

and swallow what already in there. You

over my kitchen. After a while the rest of

can’t just bite off a piece and chew it as

the guests, mostly other ALTs, arrived.

this is seen as inviting bad luck! Finally,

Everyone brought snacks and drinks

this must all be done IN SILENCE.

and their finest banter. If nothing else

For my two Japanese friends, this was

happened it would have still been a fun

totally normal and they started us off.


About four seconds in the absurdity of the situation started to dawn on us. We






were all holding in our laughter as best

ingredients to the ‘living room,’ and

we could to be respectful but someone

my friend taught us how to roll the

made a sound in their throat for a split


winter festivals of tohoku : setsubun

Eating Ehomaki, Liam Fahy

second. That was all we needed to start

people could breathe again, we started

the domino effect that would have all

to prepare for the second phase of

eight of us crying with laughter at both


the situation and each other. Then we

translates as “bean scattering” and is

would laugh so hard that some people

the part that most elementary schools

would start to cough or gag on the

do. Mamemaki works by having one of

big rolls in their mouths, which only

the members of the household put on

added fuel to the fire. Because of this,

a demon mask. That person then has to

what should have taken about three

enter the house, walk in as far as they

minutes got extended to roughly ten as

can and then turn around and leave

we struggled to breathe and eat at the

the house again. This is accompanied

same time.

by everyone else saying “Demon Out!

event, “mamemaki”.


Luck Come In!” or “Oni was soto! Fuku Once the ehomaki were eaten and


wa uchi!” in Japanese as they throw


peanuts at the masked person. As we

of... I found a peanut in my apartment

were having the event in my apartment,

three days ago. IT HAS BEEN OVER

it was decided that I would be the


demon. This would have been fine


if half of the people who came to the party didn’t pelt the peanuts at me as

This year setsubun fell on a Saturday, so

hard as they could.

we had the usual aspects of the event, but this time with alcohol! It was a lot

With the two main parts of the party

of fun making the rolls, choking on

competed everyone chills out and

them, drinking, and everyone shouting

enjoys more ehomaki or snacks. If your

at Alexa at the same time asking her

guests are nice, they might even help

introspective questions or playing the

clean up the hundreds of peanuts now

best of meme hit sensation ‘Vitas’. This

strewn all over your apartment. This is

year, I had to play the role of demon


again, luckily with a second person to help take some of the peanut heat.

Last year was pretty similar, except I

Once everything had settled down, we

wasn’t the demon that time. As it was my

headed to one of the best pubs in Honjo

apartment though, my friends decided I

and enjoyed nomihodai and karaoke

still needed some form of punishment.

until four in the morning. It was great.

So throughout the evening, they worked together to hide scores of peanuts all

I highly recommend that everyone try a

over my apartment. And I mean all over.

real setsubun party. Don’t let elementary

In my pillow, in the freezer, in the lights,

schools fool you into thinking that this

in medicine bottles, in the pockets of

is a lesser event than it is. Its bizarre

my work shirts, in my shoes, in the

and fun and painful all in one! And that

microwave, in a bag of flour, in pretty

is the very best kind of holiday.

much anywhere you can possibly think




Juniko, Sapporo, Isabel Andrew Crevasse Mowle



meet the artist: jackie jean-franç ois

priscilla chong It

was a



May when I met Jaqueline (Jackie)

night last year

for dinner in Yuzawa. Chatting over quesadillas and coffee, I saw a faint

About Jaqueline Jean-François

sketch on the wall that would become the iconic art for TRA. What started

Jackie, a fourth year ALT from Yokote,

out as a quick mid-week catch up

is not someone you would call shy.

soon turned into a live art session.

Widely known in her community as a

We spent the next three hours mixing

teacher, it comes as a surprise to many

acrylic paints to get the right skin tone

to hear about her life as a local artist

and discussing the angle of one hand

in rural Japan. Born and raised in New

that just didn’t look right. Painting

York, Jackie’s artistic pursuits began

on café walls and windows isn’t what

early on in life at Fiorello H. LaGuardia

most people would expect to be doing

School of Music & Art and Performing

after coming on the JET Program, but

Arts. Continuing her artistic studies

that is exactly what Jackie does in her

in an Undergraduate degree at Hunter

free time. Some open-minded friends

College, she minored in Studio Art.

having fun one night turned into a


serious creative project, showing us

studio projects and student exhibitions

what can be accomplished when you

at MoMa 2010’. Her favorite styles are

really get involved in your community.

illustration and portraiture.





Jackie Jean-Franรงois, Priscilla Chong


meet the arist

How did this work of art come about? In March 2017, I was at TRA one night talking to the owner about making the café look less bare. The café had only just opened so we were throwing ideas around he pointed at the wall and asked me to paint something there.

priscilla chong

The panel art was something that flowed on after completing the wall art. The fabric used in the backboard

TRA, Priscilla Chong TRA, Priscilla Chong

is something I found while back home in New York. I wanted something to bring colour to the bar, to contrast the masculine wood aesthetic. What kind of responses have you had to the art? It has been very positive. The front of TRA is all glass, so people can see the art from outside, and it has drawn customers in. Most people are very surprised to find out it was done by an ALT, initially thinking it was a professional artist. It’s been photographed and uploaded on social media a lot too.


So then, what other creative pursuits have you been involved in? I have been doing a lot of volunteer freelance art lately. I co-designed two sets of T-shirts for TRA and we just finished a set of stickers. Are you working on any projects at the moment? I just finished some badges.


How did you get involved in the local art

What is your dream project?

community? As an artist I really want to create It happened by coincidence. I was

something that has a lasting impression

a regular at cafes and got to know

on people. Something that clearly



shows my style so that when people see

networking ,as they are involved in

it they can recognize it like, “Oh, that’s

local DJ events. I started attending 90s

Jackie’s work”. I am hoping for this

lounge and met the owner of TRA there.

anytime soon, but I would like to get to




a point in my artistic career that I can create something like a legacy.

Jackie’s panel art, Priscilla Chong


meet the arist

Describe yourself in three words.

TRA, Omotemachi, 2 Chome−3−1 Yuzawa, Akita 0

Ambitious, curious and sensitive What Netflix shows are you currently watching? Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Rosa Diaz is the best, but I really love Hitchcock and priscilla chong Scully too. I’m also watching Jane the Virgin, Black Mirror, and Terrace House: Opening New Doors. Okay, last question. What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently? I was at 7eleven and I bumped into this guy. He left the store, but suddenly came back in, took out his phone and showed a photo of me asking “Is this you!?” The photo was of me from a year ago at the Yokote Bonden festival. I had actually searched for his photos for 6 months after the festival, never finding it until now. Oh, and I was interviewed on local radio, Yuzawa 96.3.

... 49



THE AKITAN (Interview answers have been paraphrased with permission of the artist.)

Jackie’s Mural at TRA, Priscilla Chong



Juniko, Sapporo, Isabel Andrew Crevasse Mowle



winter reads

winter reads Tess

of the


drinks far too much at her sister’s wedding, lets slip a family secret, and

Rachel Hartman

punches a priest-in-training in the best

nose, Tess finds herself with no choice

intentions, is the bad seed of her

but to flee. With no destination in mind

family. Her elder sister, Seraphina, is

other than away, Tess takes to the road.

the genius exception to all rules; her

When she runs into a friend from her

younger twin, Jeanne, is the sweet

past—a quigutl, one of the the small,

and dutiful rule-follower. Tess, on the

lizard-like cousins to the dragons—on

other hand, is a lifelong rule-breaker,

his own journey, she decides to join him

and she is suffering the consequences.

on his quest to find one of the seven

Having ruined herself (and very nearly

world serpents of myth.





her family’s reputation as well), she is consigned to a life either as a nun

Though set in the same world as

or as Jeanne’s maid and governess.

Hartman’s Seraphina and Shadow Scale,

Unfortunately, she is also very, very

Tess of the Road is much less of an epic

angry—at her oppressive mother, at

fantasy than a quiet, character-driven

the society that she can’t seem to fit

story. Tess, a bitter, impulsive drunk, is

herself into, and, most of all, at her

as unlikeable as she is deeply lovable.

own irrepressible badness. When she

Unable to escape her own hurt and



trauma, she lashes out at those who

number 9 dream

love her and inflicts wounds of her

David Mitchell

own. As she walks the road, however, memories of her past surface and

Abandoned by his mother, 20 year-old

show readers another side of Tess.

Eiji Miyake embarks on a haphazard

Ultimately, Tess of the Road is a story of

journey in the hope of finding his

healing, compassion, and interpersonal

estranged father. His pursuit takes

connectivity. As Tess journeys forward,

him from the quiet cedar forests of

she begins to learn how to braid the past

Yakushima Island in Kyushu to the

in with the present, to look it squarely

grimy back streets of Shibuya. Despite

in the eye while still moving forward. It

achieving every Japanese adolescent’s

is the perfect book to read in the last

dream of making it to Tokyo, this is but

weeks of winter, reminding readers that

the beginning of a saga of bad timing

darkness fades and frozen landscapes

and worse luck for Eiji who, in his

will thaw into spring.

search, manages to get himself on all the wrong radars.

“Was she as varied, she wondered, as part of herself as rough and rutted as the

For those who have grown weary of

Goreddi roads, and some other part as

yearning for summer’s warm smile

efficient as the Ninyish? She often felt, early

during the long Akitan winter, why

in the morning, when the world seemed

not let yourself be whirled away by the

most malleable, that she contained these

escapism of an adrift 20 year-old in a

different potentials, and more. It wasn’t

narrative where you’re never quite sure

merely that she could be anything, but that

if events are occurring in the alleys of

she was everything, all at once.”

Tokyo or simply in the narrator’s head.

Isabel Crevasse

Replace contempt for Akita with that


winter reads

Yakushima, pining for summer with a

curious, calculating, and too smart for

father figure, and throw in a couple of

her own good, vows to play the slow

homicidal yakuza members for good

game of vengeance. The Traitor Baru


Cormorant follows Baru as she works her way up through the ranks of the

“Dreams are shores where the ocean of

Masquerade, aiming for the top so

spirit meets the land of matter. Dreams

that she may dismantle the empire as

are beaches where the yet-to-be, the once-

brutally and thoroughly as it did her

were, the will-never-be may walk a while


with the still are.” Chloe Doole

This novel, like Baru herself, is stark and ruthless. Readers will watch as

The Trator Baru Cormorant


Seth Dickinson

each coming with increasingly dire




consequences, to exact revenge on the When Baru Cormorant is seven, the

Masquerade she hates so intensely. As

Empire of Masks sails into her home

she works harder and gains more power

island of Taranoke to conquer it and

in the empire, it becomes impossible to

bring it into the Masquerade. This

tell who, exactly, Baru is a traitor to—

transition will not be easy for Taranoke,

the Masquerade, Taranoke, or herself.

as their family structures, traditions, and culture are considered “unhygienic” and

The Traitor Baru Cormorant is not a happy

criminal by the empire, and adhering

novel, but it is a deeply compelling one,

to their cultural beliefs will be met with

As Baru falls farther into monstrosity

swift and vicious consequences. When

(yet ever closer to her goals), readers

her family is destroyed, Baru, always

will feel wrenched by the same forces



that pull at Baru. You will want her to

The Ink Dark Moon

make different decisions, to find a new

Jane Hirshfield and Mariko Aratani

way to fight the empire, to escape the system… yet at the same time, you will

The Ink Dark Moon brings the poetic

want her to reach the top, to achieve her

works of the original Akita bijin to us

ambitions and leave a path of scorched

in English. Even if you are unsure who

destruction behind her.

I am talking about, you have surely heard her name—Komachi. Daughter

Dickinson’s novel is bleak and pulls

of the Lord of Dewa (modern day Akita

no punches, but it is one of the most

and Yamagata prefectures) of the Heian

engrossing novels I have read in recent

Court, Ono No Komachi is suspected

years. The


to have had many lovers in Kyoto and

story, The Monster Baru

wooed them with her tantalizing poetic

Cormorant, is slated to be released later

invitations. Originally from Ogachi,

this year.

the very town where I am writing this





review, I can confirm that she did spend “And he looked at her with open eyes, the

some time here (perhaps through to

bone of his heavy brow a bastion above,

the end of her life). Her preserved

the flesh of his face wealthy below, and

home remains a beautiful attraction

in those eyes she glimpsed an imperium, a

and centuries later rumors about her

mechanism of rule building itself from the

still pepper local gossip: “You see that

work of so many million hands. Remorseless

mountain there?” My JTE tells me,

not out of cruelty or hate but because it was

“There was a man who lived there. He

too vast and too set on its destiny to care

wanted to marry Komachi-san but died

for the small tragedies of its growth.”

while trying to deliver her flowers.”

Isabel Crevasse Komachi’s physical beauty was more


winter reads

than enough to bewitch countless men,

reading the poems in their intended

but it was her poetry that has made her

language, Jane Hirshfield and Mariko

a goddess of legend; she is the only

Aratani translate them into equally

female member of Japan’s rokkasen


(six immortal Heian poets). Sadly, as


a non-Japanese speaker, I thought

American poet, admits that much of the

her powerful writing would forever

nuance is lost in translation, but her

remain a mystery to me. That is, until I

thorough notes are not only insightful

discovered this book.

for deciphering their deeper meanings






but informative of the characteristics The Ink Dark Moon is a collection of

of waka.

works by two prominent Heian Era writers, Ono No Komachi and the later

The short poems are a quick read,

Izumi Shikibu, geniuses in an age rich

easy to pick up between classes (and

with female writers (Murasaki Shikibu,

a great conversation starter!). Upon

the author of “The Tales of Genji,”

my first reading I found some poems

being among their contemporaries).

to be surprisingly cliché – painfully

Though Izumi doesn’t have the intimate

reminiscent of my own cheesy love

connection to our home like her

letters written in vain to my middle

predecessor, I felt her poetry was even

school crush. But this is forgivable,

more evocative, sensual, and sometimes

considering they were written long

humorous: “I used to say, ‘How poetic,”

before ‘cliché’. And then there are also

but now I know this dawn-rising men

those that truly stand out, the ones that

do is merely tiresome!” Preach, girl.

make this book well worth the read: “In this world / love has no color- / yet how

While I am sure that it is no match to


deeply / my body / is stained by yours.”


A must-read for those of us living in

seen in fantasy books. If you haven’t

Akita. You can order it on Amazon or

guessed, this is not your typical pre-

from the Book Depository.

history or middle ages fantasy setting.

Danie Manos

With the use of flintlock pistols and with the technology they have in the




Brian McClellan

books, I would say it is based in an alternate 16/17th century period world. This is not steampunk.

Promise of Blood is the first book in Brian McClellan’s Powder Mage trilogy.

The books are refreshingly simple in

Honestly, I didn’t read the blurb or any

plot: political upheaval and scheming.

information about this book before I

But don’t get me wrong, there are

began reading it. It had appeared on so

still plenty of interesting twists to the

many lists of great fantasy books that

story. The characters exist mostly in

I put it on my ‘to read’ list and forgot

the gray spectrum in terms of morality,

about it. I finally got around to reading

which makes it feel more gritty and

it at Christmastime, and I can see why

real. There also aren’t too many many

it was on all those lists.

main characters so the storylines don’t deviate too much from each other.

Hearing the words ‘fantasy’ and ‘powder mage’, I assumed the books would be

What I like about this book is that it’s

about a Gandalf type figure who uses

easy to read, but also really engrossing.

magic via different powders he carries

The magic systems are are diverse and

on him. I was way off. In this series, a

unique and the characters are a joy to

powder mage is a human whose magic

follow. If you enjoy the fantasy genre

is based around gunpowder and bullets.

but are looking for something with a

Guns are something that I have rarely

bit more bite, then I highly recommend


winter reads

this book, and this trilogy as a whole.

Don’t fear, this book doesn’t hold to a single gray register. Jar City sets itself

“The age of kings is dead, Adamat, and I

apart from similar novels by modulating

have killed it.”

its tone, and surprisingly humorous Liam Fahy

moments make the horrors seem even viler.




Jar City

is also a master of the hook: ending

Arnaldur Indriðason

a scene with a bit of information so tantalizing that you have to read on.

Who would kill a lonely old man, a

Even the most insignificant characters

single node without any apparent ties to

in Jar City are endowed with vibrant

the rest of society? Starting in autumn’s

personalities, and the main supporting

last gasps, Chief Inspector Erlendur


Sveinsson must dredge up hidden

junkie daughter Eva Lind, his priggish,

connections as Iceland descends into

metropolitan partner Sigurdur Oli,

winter. Like many other Scandinavian

and the mysterious Marion Briem,

mystery protagonists, Erlendur is a

whose androgynous voice always holds

middle-aged man estranged from his






family, deeply unlucky in romance, and subsisting on a woefully unbalanced

If you’re looking for a book that

diet (far too much sheep’s head). His

captures the cruel chill of winter, you

fair but brusque personality jives well

can’t do any better than Jar City.

with the austere Icelandic landscape: neither ingratiate, but both are subtly

“The trees had shed their leaves, carpeted


the garden and covered the ground, and the knotty branches stretched up towards



the darkness of the sky. Along a gravel

much respect I have for it. Madame

drive which led to the garage, Reykjavik

Bovary, however, is different. It is, of

CID were arriving at the scene.”

course, written in beautiful, precise

Roland Will

prose, as one expects of Flaubert, and the plot is fast-moving and exciting,

Madame Bovary

however clearly tragedy-bound it might

Gustave Flaubert

be. What too-often goes overlooked, however, is the fact that Madame Bovary

Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary tells

is funny. In this novel, Flaubert cynically

a realist tale as old as time: a young,

skewers every tier of his contemporary










the stifling confines of society (and,

provincial life and the bourgeoisie.

by extension, her marriage), turns to

Even readers unfamiliar with 19th

adultery to discovery passion, romance,

century French social structures will

and meaning. This being a realist novel,

be able to see the humor, as Flaubert

things, of course, spiral out of control


and go tragically wrong. Even if, by

narratives of romance to pieces as well.

some small miracle, you’re unfamiliar

Emma, the titular Madame Bovary, is

with Madame Bovary, you’ve heard the

selfish, shallow, and obsessed with

story before.

finding romantic passion; Charles, her





husband, is weak-willed, mild to the Despite focusing on English Literature

point of being desperately boring, and

in both my bachelor’s and master’s

helplessly devoted to his faithless wife.

degree, I am not typically a fan of the so-called classics. I have never found

For all Flaubert’s cynicism and satire



here, Madame Bovary also, of course,

particularly engaging, no matter how

offers a deeply serious story. At its




winter reads

center, a woman chafes against the constraints of society and sets herself on the path of tragedy rather than give up her dreams of passion and meaning. It is a cruel story, but humor often is cruel. Read this novel with an earnest heart, and you will find a moving tragedy; read it with a cynical one, and you will uncover a wealth of grim humor.

Have any ideas for great books to

Madame Bovary contains multitudes,

get your fellow JETs through the

all conveyed in masterful and lovely

winter? Send your suggestions to

prose, and is well-worth reading for


all. Because of Flaubert’s well-known

Please include a short review, a

obsesson with language, scholars will

favorite passage or quote, and why

encourage you to read Madame Bovary

you think it’s the perfect book for

in its original French. If you can, I


wholeheartedly encourage you do to so; if, like me, your French is limited to “Lady Marmalade” quotes, I suggest Margaret Mauldon’s translation. “She was as sick of him as he was weary of her. Emma was rediscovering, in adultery, all the banality of marriage.” Isabel Crevasse




winter reads

Riverside Kamakura, Jenny Cambell




priscilla chong & isabel crevasse 63


Perhaps you’ve got school lunch fatigue, or maybe you’ve run out of ideas for new dishes you can make with the standard ingredients offered at your local grocery store. Whatever the case, we can all get a little sick of Japanese food from time to time, no matter how healthy and delicious it may be! Here are a few easy ways to mix up your cooking routine without having to spend a fortune or trek out to the nearest Kaldi or Jupiter.

Apple Crumble What you’ll need:

Toss apples with lemon juice, sugar, and cinnmon in a bowl; transfer to baking

4 large apples, cored and diced


1/4 cup sugar 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Mix dry ingredents in a large bowl.

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Pour melted butter over mixture and stir until all is combined and wet.

1 1/2 cups plain flour 3/4 cup sugar

Pour crumble mix over apples and bake

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

at 180C/ 350F for 45 minutes.

1 cup rolled oats 225 grams unsalted butter, melted

Drizzile with honey. Top with shredded

Store-bought vanilla ice cream, to serve

coconut or almonds, if desired. Serve

Honey (sugar can be substituted)

hot with vanilla ice cream.

Optional: shredded coconut, sliced almonds

Mount Chokai, Isabel Crevasse

Priscilla Chong


winter recipes

Hearty Vegetable Couscous

add couscous. Cover and let sit for 5-7

(4 servings)

minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork.

What you’ll need:

Mulled Wine

1 eggplant, cubed

(8 servings)

1 large clove garlic, diced 1/2 large onion, diced

What you’ll need:

1 tomato, cubed

1 orange (or mikan), sliced

2/3 cup couscous

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup water

2 cups water

Black pepper

1 teaspoon ground cloves

Bouillon powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Olive oil

1 bottle red wine

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan. When

Combine orange, sugar, water, cloves,

it flows smoothly across the surface,

and cinnamon in a large pot. Stir and

add all vegetables. Top with a dash of

slowly bring to a boil.

black pepper and bouillon powder and stir. To prevent burning, watch and stir

Reduce the heat and le simmer for 15

occassionally. Add olive oil if needed.


When all vegetables are soft, remove from pan and set aside in a bowl.

Reduce the heat again, add the wine, and slowly reheat, taking care not to

Using the same pan, boil water. When

boil the mixture. Once completely

water boils, remove from heat and

warm, enjoy!



Salmon in Miso Sake Sauce

What you’ll need: 1 tablespoon red miso paste

1/2 tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 cup cooking sake

1/2 tablespoon brown sugar

1/4 cup mirin

2 cuts of salmon

1/2 tablespoon sesame oil Thoroughly mix sauce ingredients in a bowl. Heat frying pan. Place the salmon cuts in the pan once it is warm. Pour sauce on top. Allow sauce to come to boil and remain for about 2 minutes, or until the smell of alochol subsides. Flip salmon and serve when cooked through.


Isabel Crevasse



Juniko, Sapporo, Isabel Andrew Crevasse Mowle



ndatchi birth announcement

NDATCHI BIRTH ANNOUNCEMENT Prefecture Announces Announces Tech Reform Mascots, Ndatchi’s Children Akita City, Akita Ndatchi, the newly ambitious mascot

mascots, announced the new Wifi

of Akita Prefecture, has announced

initiative being launched in celebration

the birth of his twin robot-Namahage

of Wifikun’s birth.

children. His wife, unnamed, is said to be at home, resting comfortably and

“We are confident that we can establish

taking care of the house.

Akita City as a place of technology once everywhere has some access to the

Ndatchi, who embodies the spirit of

internet. We have more than 10% of the



needed registered seals from residents

population, released the names in

on the required paperwork. A dedicated

a fax from the Prefectural Offices.

fax line has been opened so people can

His newborn daughter, AIchan, and

do not need to bring their documents

newborn son, Wifikun, have been

in person.”


widely hailed as representative of Akita’s youthfulness and bright future.


Wifikun comes as the government has

concerns that wifi will open up security

begun promoting wifi as a futuristic


technology to promote growth.


online, a notice printed in the Sakigake

Sato, PR representative for the new

explains that all risks will be mitigated


residents Although

have nothing

expressed appears


with a firewall blocking access to search


engines, SNS, YouTube, and cloud services.

“This is the type of news that gives me hope for my town in northern Akita and

AIchan has become the face of new

my rice fields. There seems to be no

committees that will begin meeting to

other way to save my neighbourhood,

improve Akita. AIchan gives hope to

which has mostly been abandoned,” said

some that robots could soon take the

Mr. Suzuki, 85. “Maybe my grandchild

place of steadily declining populations;

will come from Tokyo to visit the new

they may even learn to reproduce. Many


people have reacted favorably to this

... 70


Juniko, Sapporo, Isabel Andrew Crevasse Mowle Ema at Towada Shrine, Isabel Crevasse




HAKODATE aki regan


port city located on the southern

Hakodate Hokuto Station from where

Hokkaido, Hakodate offers

you will have to take another 25 minute

tourists a unique experience. As one of

train ride to the main JR Hakodate

the first points of international trade

Station. From there, you can enjoy

in Japan, remnants of early western

exploring the city on foot, by bus and/

influence can be found throughout the

or by tram. The tram was a cheap and


fun way to see the city.

For those itching to do a little exploring,


Hakodate makes for a good weekend

Sitting at the base of Mt. Hakodate,

getaway. From northern Akita, it is a

this neighborhood is filled with old

simple four-hour train ride that will

European-style buildings that makes it

take you through the small mountain

a fun place to walk around. The hilly

villages of Aomori and then underneath

streets surrounding the main park are

the ocean into Hokkaido.

lined with cozy cafes and restaurants



that are good pitstops for catching your Most likely, you will arrive at Shin-




explore ...

Filled with lots of little shops, the Kanemori Warehouse District is a good place to buy gifts and souveniers. One store sold tapestries and other imports from southeast Asia for relatively low prices. You can also drink local Hakodate-brewed beer at the beer hall or get some gelato and crepes to go. Take a stroll along the water, look at the boats, and, at night, enjoy the glow of string lights—definitely a romantic date spot.

kanemori warehouse district 74


try ... lucky pierrot When

talking about my plans to visit

Another must-try in the Hakodate bay


area are the Hasegawa yakiniku bento.

one spot: Lucky Pierrot, a local carnival

The meat and vegetables are cooked to

themed hamburger restaurant . Despite

serve, for only about 500 yen.



my hatred for clowns, I decided to check it out. There are more than

Finally, you can’t be near the ocean and

ten locations around the city, two of

skip seafood. Hakodate’s kaisendons

which are conveniently located by the

(海鮮丼) are famous and can be eaten




district. The




cheeseburger I ordered took two hands

to Hakodate Station, houses many

to hold (perfect size). It was greasy and

kaisendon shops. Most are reasonably

flavorful. And although my skin was


screaming NO my stomach was happy

enough, and you can also check out the

about the choice.

fish vendors next door.







do ... mt . hakodate ropeway

The scenic view from the top of Mt. Hakodate. My friend and I went around 5:30 p.m. and did not have to wait, but the observatory was very crowded, which made it difficult to take pictures – still worth it. A roundtrip ticket costs around 1,200 yen.

other places of interest include :

• Yunokawa hotsprings • Yumoto Takubokutei Hotel onsen’s views are fantastic. • Daimon Yokocho, similar to Tokyo’s Golden Gai. A neat place to walk through (although the bars are overpriced according to locals!).

... 76

an ode to sempais past


When I arrived in Japan

Watashi wa ni-

I’d hit the end of my plan

-hon wo tabemasen

I thought I was in my jam

Please be my sempai

But no, I knew nothing

And call me daily

I then moved up to my town

We went on trips to the mall

You came and showed me around

And saw some koyo in fall

We let our hair all hang down

You seemed to know almost all

And still I knew nothing

And still I knew nothing

You offered pointers

We often went out at night

Late night restaurants and

Where is my bicycle light

The best bar in town and

Drunk me is still quite a sight

Where to rent my snow gear from

Did I just learn something?

Hey, I just got here

You offered pointers

And I’m a newbie

Late night restaurants and

I’ll be your kohai

The best bar in town and

I’ll call you daily

Where to rent my snow gear from



Hey, I just got here

I still know nothing

And I’m a newbie

So teach me daily!

I’ll be your kohai I’ll call you daily

Hey, I just got here And I’m a newbie

O nama beeru

I’ll be your kohai

Futatsu desu

I’ll call you daily

Please be my sempai And call me daily

Kochira gaijin Dokushin dayo

When I got to Akita

Please be my sempai

I didn’t know much

And call me daily

But with a small nudge We hit the town, town, town

When I got to Akita I didn’t know much

When I got to Akita

But with a small nudge

I didn’t know much

We hit the town, town, town

And nothing’s changed but Now I’m less awestruck

When I got to Akita I didn’t know much

So now I’ve been here

And nothing’s changed but

Almost two years

Now I’m less awestruck



79 Road to Oga Peninsula, Isabel Crevasse



the staff of the akitan would like many talented contributing

Most photographs are credited in pla


Celia Ortega, via (banner, 3)

Michael Charles Aubrey (banner, 15)

John Lennon (banner 19, 23, 24)

Chey Parlato (banner, 27)

Liam Fahy (banner, 39)

Andrian Valeunu, via (background, 45)

Jonathon Simcoe, via (banner, 53)


ike to extend our grattitude to our writers and photographers .

ace, but we would also like to thank: Hannah Pemberton, via (background, 63) Caroline Attwood, via (background, 66) Fernando Arcos, via (banner, 69) Manu Schwendener, via (banner, 73) Aki Regan (background images, 74-76) Joanna Kosinska, via (banner, 77) Isabel Crevasse (background, 81-82)


The Akitan Winter 2018  
The Akitan Winter 2018  

In this issue of the Akitan, we take a look at all the best winter festivals, beautiful scenery, and some good ways to pass the cold Tohoku...