The Akitan Autumn 2021

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autumn ISSUE

21.12.21 1


We are always looking for new content and ideas for The Akitan. Don’t hesitate to contact us at if you might be interested in becoming an Akitan contributor!

Cover by Brooke Dalgleish 2


CONTENTS A Word From the Editor.....................................................p.14 Meet the new ALTs in Akita................................................p.18 Just Around the Riverbend...............................................p.26 Bicycle Tour.......................................................................p.34 Red Autumn.....................................................................p.42 Japan: One Beat at a Time................................................p.46


A Few Moments.................................................................p.52 The Apple Pie That Fixes Everything.................................p.60 Good Music, Great Weather...............................................p.66 Extra Life: A Gaming Marathin for Charity.......................p.70 “You Died” and Thats OK..................................................p.76 Road Station Fooding.......................................................p.82 Book Recs.........................................................................p.88 Cytokine Storm...............................................................p.100


Greetings from the prc

Philip Vyas Creative director & Editor of the Akitan Hi, I’m Philip! I’m a third-year ALT living up in Odate. I teach at two junior high schools. I’m from South Africa. I enjoy playing soccer and travelling in my free time. Hope you enjoy this edition!



brooke dalgleish and kim bartos Social Media Managers Hi! We are your Akita PRC social media managers! Kim: I’m the JHS and ES ALT in Kosaka and I also contribute webcomic strips to the Akitan. I enjoy drawing, animating, and learning languages. I also play D&D and often read about ghosts and the like in my free time. Brooke: I’m the Kazuno and Kosaka High school ALT. I’m obsessed with flowers and coffee and spend most of my free time adventuring outdoors capturing Akita’s natural beauty. We run the Akita JET social media accounts and we always look forward to connecting with you! 5



7 Ripe For Harvest, Brooke Dalgleish

Charity Akita チャリティ秋⽥ About Us We are an unincorporated non-profit voluntary association that works to strengthen the expat and Japanese community by providing opportunities for people to connect, and to pass on the legacy of volunteerism in Akita prefecture.

Hosted events Beach Cleanup English Cafe Appi ski trip Christmas Carolling Sumo Tournament ...and more!

Follow us! 8


Purple in the Front, Brooke Dalgleish


Ch ari ty A k ita 's 2022 A n nua l Sk i T ri p

安比 Appi Ski Resort


h ttp s:/ / chari t yak ita. co m/









Mt. Moriyoshi, Todo falls, Philip Vyas


A word from the editor Autumn was brief and beautiful. I hope everyone got to see some gorgeous red views, ate lots of sweet potatoes and chestnut flavored deserts, I know I did! The brief autumn period has ended and now comes Akita’s winter. You have probably heard of winter being Akita’s “hard mode” Temperatures drop below zero which makes life a bit more cumbersome. It is easy to take something as basic as moving around your apartment for granted. The winter season certainly highlights this as I now begin to strategize the quickest ways to exit the warm, do what I need to, and quickly jump back either under the blankets, Kotatsu or in front the heater. This year winter is a bit darker as the prospects of travelling home and seeing family still remain difficult. I hope that everyone in their respective blocks will find ways to enjoy the festive end of year period together. The right people can truly turn a frown upside down. Please be careful on the roads, happy holidays and I hope you enjoy this edition!

Philip Vyas, Editor & Creative director



Gold reeds, Brooke Dalgleish


Left: Lake Towada Top: Dakigaeri gorge river Right: Dakigaeri gorge foilage Bottom: Rice fields Brooke Dalgleish




meet the new jet alts in akita North block marcia gomez Odate My name is Marcia Gomez! I’m from Houston, Texas! I am placed in Odate, Akita! I’ve been a bilingual teacher for 5 years! I am fluent in Spanish. I was a girls soccer coach for a year! I played rugby and soccer all through middle and high school! I love food, soccer, and anime!



zach garcia Odate

My name is Zach. I am from Colorado, USA and was a middle and high music teacher before I came to the JET Program. This is my first time living abroad and my first time visiting Japan. I want to meet as many people as I can and learn as much as I can while I am here. Some of my hobbies include running, hiking, and playing music. My primary instruments are the tuba and the trombone. I also love playing video games, especially the games from The Legend of Zelda series. I also like many kinds of anime and I am always up for an anime watch party with friends. I also am a speedrunner that plays Ocarina of Time and Yoshi’s Story, which I stream on Twitch.

ashley fagan Kitaakita My name is Ashley Fagan. I’m from Monterey, California, USA. I have been placed in Kitaakita I enjoy oil painting, stamp carving, cooking, and playing video games. I just built my first PC!


andrew acs Noshiro Hi everyone! My name is Andrew Acs, and I am a new ALT in Noshiro. I am from Arlington, Virginia. I like baking things like bread and cake, but unfortunately ovens here are small and expensive. I also play the euphonium. I look forward to eventually meeting you all!

Ethan robinson Mitane I'm Ethan Robinson, from Colorado in the United States, and placed in Mitane! I spent five years as a teenager in Sapporo, so I'm very happy to be back in Japan and explore everything that Akita has to offer, especially the hiking, nature and everything about the inaka. I love reading, writing, gaming, and music, including songwriting and recording. I'm super excited to meet fellow JETs and make my new home in Akita! 20


yuri block rosemary nguyen Yurihonjo Hello! My name is Rosemary, but I also go by Rose. I am from Maine, U.S.A. I got placed at Nishime ES and Nishime JHS in Yurihonjo! I recently graduated from Bowdoin College where I studied Asian Studies and Biochemistry. A little bit about me, I like traveling and eating yummy food! I would love some recommendations for places in Akita and Tohoku to explore! I enjoy playing volleyball, dancing, listening to music, and reading in my spare time! I’m looking forward to meeting everyone!

jade fitzgerald Yurihonjo Hihi everyone, my name is Jade and I am the ALT at Ouchi JHS and Ouchi ES :) I am from America (Santa Barbara, California) and this will be my first time with a snowy winter! I went to UCSB and got my BS in Environmental Studies. I played water polo for UCSB and still enjoy playing competitive games. I love hiking and backpacking when weather permits and in my spare time, I like to read. I love art!!! I enjoy drawing and painting when I can find the time, but I also love appreciating/ viewing art at museums, installations, online, etc. I’m looking forward to meeting and getting to know everyone! 21

south block natasha green Daisen I’m Natasha and I’m from Canton, Ohio! I’ve been placed in Daisen-shi. I really enjoy doing yoga and I spent 2 months of my Summer hiking on the West Coast. I love all things floral and watching Korean dramas.

thalia thomas Omagari I am from Jamaica. I have been placed at 1 JHS and 2 ES (My base school is Omagari Minami Junior High School). Hobbies: I enjoy listening to music, particularly Reggae, Dancehall, R&B and Alternative music. I also enjoy traveling and having new experiences.



Yellow leaves, Brooke Dalgleish




Autumn Flowers, Brooke Dalgleish


Just around the Riverbend! Brooke Dalgleish




For some reason, you can’t help but to belt out the song “Just Around the Riverbend” when you canoe the Yoneshiro river in Futatsui. There is something about the meandering river with all the beautiful nature and wildlife that makes you feel like you’re a part of a Disney movie. Next to the Futatsui michi no eki, is a company that rents out wooden canoes for people to take a guided canoe tour of the local river.

This year we decided to do it again and try the 10K course. We were all worried because the forecast called for rain but it turned out to be a beautiful fall day. A perfect example of the Japanese phrase, “ 秋晴れ”, which means a clear autumn day. If you are interested in canoeing, it is fairly easy to book a trip. You can book online and the guides are always eager to practice their English with foreigners! The link to their website can be found in the October There are three options you can choose Akita Newsletter on the second page. from for the length of the tour: the mini course, the 5K or the 10K course. Last year, If you have a group of six or more people my friends and I did the 5K trip and we you can even get a discount. The 10K route loved it but were left with wanting more. is the most expensive but you receive a



voucher for a free soak in the local onsen everyone is in the water, there is time to and a free meal at the restaurant attached practice your new paddling skills. to the roadside station. This is a great experience for beginners because for the most part, the water is very calm. There are a few areas that have “laugh and giggles” which are tiny waves, nothing to be alarmed at, but they make the water look a little white from far away. There are tons of “eddies” which are bodies of water that move back upstream and they usually form after faster moving water. You can find an eddy on the sides of the river which makes it easy to pull up to The guides will provide the canoes, land to slow your boat or get out. paddles, life jackets, shoes so your pair won’t get wet, and hats to protect you from If you are in the front of a big group, an the direct sun. There isn’t a lot of shade eddy is perfect to wait in while the rest of so bring sunscreen and water to stay your group catches up to you. The guides hydrated. Due to Covid-19, everyone must will be there continuously to help and to wear masks until you get in the water then teach you how to properly go down the you are free to space out and take them off. river. The guides have stopped driving people to and from the drop off spots so everyone has to use their own cars. Don’t forget to have one car at the finish line (at the michi no eki) to transport drivers back to their cars afterwards. Once at the put in spot, guides will give a small lesson on how to paddle both forwards and backwards, how to stop, and how to turn your canoe. Then they will assist everyone into their canoes and once 29

As you enjoy the river, you can take in the breathtaking views that the Yoneshiro river and Fujisato have to offer. The guides are available from late spring to the end of October. This means the views will vary depending on what season you choose. We went in the middle of October and could 30

enjoy the fall leaves changing and we also saw a lot of wildlife. The water is very clear so you can see the small fish swimming below you. There are sometimes water snakes, please don’t touch them, they are poisonous. In the air you can find an abundant number of cranes, blue herons


and hawks. If you’re a birder, this is a great experience to get up close and personal with them. Also, if you’re into rocks, I know we have a lot of geology majors out there, one side of the river follows the cliff side so you can get a great view of rock formations. The other side of the river follows more of the roadside mixed with small beaches and some homes with occasional bridges. It’s a very beautiful route and is super calming. The 10K takes about 45 minutes to an hour and it’s a great chance to float down the river and enjoy talking with friends. I highly suggest this experience to everyone, especially those looking to connect more with Akita nature. If you have questions about the canoe experience in Futatsui, feel free to reach out to me and I can give you more details! Also, feel free to check out their website!


All photos courtesy of Brooke Dalgleish 31



Kiminomachizaka, Philip Vyas


From Noshiro to Oga Bryce Fowler



Tanehub’s bicycle tour 35

This November, I had the opportunity to participate in a weekend electric bike tour from Noshiro to Oga. I biked with a wonderful group of friends on a 70-kilometer route between the two cities, traveling through rice fields, along the coast, and over the mountainous Oga peninsula. The whole trip was organized by the Oga City Tourism Association DMO Promotion Office and managed by TANEHUB. I had never used an electric bicycle before. For the first hour I rode with the bike powered off, and on flat ground the difference from a normal bicycle wasn’t very noticeable. However, as soon as I


hit the first real incline, the extra weight made a world of difference. These e-bikes are heavy. After tiring myself out much too early in the day, I decided to give the assist mode a shot. The method of assistance was much different than I imagined it would be. A meter on the screen displayed how much the bike was working at any given time. I found that it would only help you reach and maintain set speeds. For example, the max setting, TURBO, was around 25 kilometers per hour. Past that, the bike let off and I did all the work. The slow and steady method was perfect for uphill battles, especially if I needed to accelerate


from a stopped position and then keep pace. However, I also found myself trying to speed ahead to take pictures of the others, and then quickly catch up once they had passed. The assist mode was not the best at this, as once I got past that desired speed, it stopped helping. Even on flat ground, I found it difficult to maintain a fast top speed with all of the extra weight. Overall, I think these bikes are perfect for a group looking for a leisurely tour, but for those who need speed, they might not be worth it.

sunshine for the whole trip, and the views were beautiful. After riding through open farmlands and coastal highways all day, we very quickly found ourselves surrounded by lush, green forest for the final stretch. The elevation started jumping as we buckled down and rode towards our campsite. We were making good time, but at this time of year there’s only so much daylight, and we needed to make it before the sun set. Slowly but surely, we headed up the road, into the Oga mountains.

As for the battery, the charge seemed endless. I may not have used mine the full day, but when I was using it, I favored the TURBO setting, as speed demons are wont to do. By the time we reached our destination that evening, I hadn’t even lost the first tick off the battery icon. There were, however, two bikes out of the eight that gave us problems during the trip. Even fully charged, they lost power and would not turn back on. This was pretty easily remedied for us, as we had a team of organizers following along throughout the trip; for a normal customer, though, this could be much more troublesome. We were graced with clear skies and

One issue many of us had with our route was the lack of cafes or shops to visit for breaks; however, as we neared our destination, we came across the Blueberry Garden. This little cafe was hidden in the woods, boasting its very own blueberry farm where you can pick your own blueberries from the fields. Although we were well out of season for picking, we did enjoy some blueberry smoothies out 37



on the patio.

The second day was mostly spent coasting. We got woken up by a few quick Reaching the Oga Campsite, the sun hills to start the ride, but the rest of the was barely still peeking over the trees, trip was long stretches of downhill. After spilling a golden glow on everything one last bend, I could see the ocean on around us as we got off our bikes and the horizon, and knew we had made it celebrated. We were not done yet, though; to Oga City! As we pulled into town, we we immediately piled into the organizers’ were directed to the bike shop, located cars and rode up to the Hachibodai next to the station. After a round of Lookout for the sunset. We made it just celebrations and post-trip discussions, we in time to soak in the view of the sun went our separate ways to enjoy the other hanging over the Sea of Japan, and posed shops in the area. for some pictures in the evening glow. It turns out, there are a ton of other That night, we stayed in the cottages at touring route options available through the Namahage Auto Camping Ground. the e-bike shop! I especially would like to I personally loved them; it was a perfect try the peninsula loop, which is supposed balance of rustic, log cabin vibes to be a real workout. If you want to try with plenty of amenities to keep you this activity, you can rent these e-bikes comfortable through the night. The per hour or day at the Oga Rotating vaulted ceilings and loft area added an House (男鹿自転舎) in Oga City! It’s openness to the space as well, and the right next to Oga Station, so it is easily south-facing windows and deck made for accessible by both car and train! a beautiful sunrise.


All photos courtesy of Bryce Fowler



Trill, Bryce Fowler


Early morning ponder, Bryce Fowler


Red Autumn

Philip Vyas

In-between Odate and Noshiro in Futatsui, lies a park called Kiminomachizaka. It roughly translates to: “The hill where I’ll wait for you.” The park has a strong love theme. It is a great date spot and boasts some beautiful red autumn foliage, a bell that lovers can ring together as well as a café. It is not only for couples as the scenery is beautiful and attracts all kinds of people. The park is built on a hill and has a steep incline. To add to the love theme. People can participate in a love letter writing contest. There is also a good amount of Sakura trees to view during spring and the blooming of Sakura is accompanied by a small festival. To experience a truly “red” autumn I definitely recommend visiting this park.



All photos courtesy of Philip Vyas




45 Kiminomachizaka, Philip Vyas

Japan: One Beat at a Time Kim Bartos 46


At the time, if you googled Kosaka, not much appeared save for a pixelated image of Nanataki Falls. My mind started to short circuit. Would I be able to succeed in reaching some of my goals in such a small town? Why don’t they have an English club that I read about other ALTs being a part of? Every situation is different?!?!? Is there even Wi-Fi there?! Where am I going….? Albeit a bit hazy and jet-lagged ridden, most of my worries subsided within the first week of arriving in the hot, blistering summer of 2018.

Before coming to Japan I gave myself a few “must dos” in hopes to motivate myself to get involved with whatever community the JET Programme placed me in. Some of these included: starting a penpal service at the school, taking the JLPT, getting involved with local events, and joining one of the endless school clubs like martial arts, archery, or taiko!! I foolishly assumed these would all be available and more. So, you can imagine my surprise when I got my placement for Kosaka, a town with less than 5,000 people; subsequently placed in a school with a whopping 87 students and a total of four clubs. Ping pong, track and field, basketball, and band.

When asked the ultimate question, “Why did you come to Japan?” I made an effort to mention some of these goals, one of which seemed to catch on quickly and became the talk of the town. Kim-sensei wants to play taiko!! The Japanese drums! Much to my surprise, there is an active taiko group that plays at local festivals in Kosaka called アカシア太鼓 [AcaciaDaiko]. It’s a small, humble group mostly of middle-aged and older women who want to keep the traditional music alive in their town. Evidently they were thrilled to have fresh, young blood. The leader of the group, who happened to be the supervisor of the CIR in Kosaka at the time, came to me directly at work and asked me a million questions. One of 47

which sounded like an invitation to play. I had just arrived in Japan so my Japanese level was not at “Akita oba-san level” yet, so I just blinked like a doe caught in headlights and agreed to join. And I am so glad that I did.

members were 6th grade boys. My students. Two tiny little beans that were too shy to look me in the eye. They are now taller than I am, openly crack jokes with me, and are preparing to take entrance exams into high school. Watching them grow while playing taiko together every Thursday has been a memory I will treasure in my heart for as long as I live. I already look back at photos of them and get all teary-eyed. Being the grade they are in now, they have to switch their focus to studying for exams and whatnot. So, the performance at the school festival would be their final. Due to COVID-19, many of the performances we’d normally do together were cancelled, so opportunities and time to showcase our hard work were growing thin. Thanks to the efforts and strong-will of our leader, she was able to convince the school to let us play on the same day as the school festival.

Through this taiko group, I have been able to play at multiple cultural events and festivals, at nursing homes, at Korakukan (the oldest wooden Kabuki theater in Japan), and even at Kosaka Junior High School’s school festival. The latter is my most recent and by far most emotional performance. When I arrived in 2018, two of the 48

A small notice about the performance was passed around the teacher’s office, surprising some when my name was included in the list of performers. What started off as just a small way to give these boys their last send-off, quickly became a bigger event with many people planning to come and watch. Due to the uncertainty of which events will be


cancelled and which will be held next year, as well as the strong chance I wont be renewing my contract, I took this opportunity to invite my friends too!

congratulate me on a great performance too. The support I got from my coworkers and friends filled me with confidence and pride that I haven’t felt in a long time.

Our group played 7 songs in total during our performance. They were a variety of play-styles which require different positions and directions of our stances as well as the drums themselves. For some reason, my taiko leader thought it was a good idea to have me perform all 7 songs. For anyone who doesn’t know much about taiko, it isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do for a long time. To create robust sounds against the drum head with the bachi, straight wooden sticks to play with, you must use great force and quite a lot of physical stamina. Needless to say, any photos of myself are going to be red-faced and sweaty. So, apologies for that. As if fate was trying to say “look at how hard I’m working!” my bachi split in half down the middle during the second

I owe a lot to my experiences through Acacia-daiko. Thanks to this group, I was really able to truly become a part of the community. Even though Kosaka is a small town, it’s helped me grow so much as an individual, and I couldn’t be more thankful for that. I gained confidence in my Japanese, learned endurance and time management, and even learned how to take time for myself and when to say no. I hope to continue taiko wherever this grand adventure called life takes me next.

to last song, and quickly forming blisters decided to flare deep, almost fakelooking, red. When the performance came to an end, I looked out into the small but decent crowd and saw their obvious delight. I imagine many people were basking in the short return to normalcy. I had many people come up to me later and All photos courtesy of Kim Bartos



Nanataki falls, Kim Bartos

Leaf in hand, Kim Bartos

Row of red, Kim Bartos



A Few M

Mini-vignettes of one lang experiences wit

By Rachel Y

The screen goes blank as the last threads of “See you soon!” echo through my headphones. My knee fidgets as I watch the whirling icon, my computer preparing to enter the new chat room. Who will it be? Will there be one or two, maybe three students? Where are they from? Do I know enough slang for this? Questions zip around my mind as I force my knee to still and focus instead on the faint breeze from my oscillating floor fan. I’m an English teacher, this is no different than what I usually do. It’s fine. It’s exciting. It’s an adventure. Suddenly two expectant faces peer out at me from my screen. “Hi!” we all exclaim together, waving, and it begins.


He flips excitedly through the pages of t book.” The vivid bright orange of the cov Dr. Suess popular in Japan?”, I ask. He p he doesn’t think so. “Harapekomushi is p “Oh, The Very Hungry Caterpillar! That’s reading it when I was little,” I exclaim. He children’s books, a nostalgic air about him, on his phone. Bringing our attention bac Suess is famous for writing with rhyming w ‘their’ and





guage teacher’s everyday th her students.


He leans inquiringly toward the blank notebook and pen. “Should I use these?” he questions. I nod my head in the affirmative and ask back, “Do you think it will be difficult?” He shrugs nonchalantly, “I don’t write in English much, but I know how. It’s no problem.” He adjusts the pen in his grip and proceeds to write each letter of the alphabet. Without any direction, he chooses to use all capital letters. He pauses briefly before ‘M’ and writes with his finger in the air, before scribbling ‘N, M’ and continuing on. He skips over ‘X’ entirely, but finishes with a slight flourish and smile.


the book responding, “I don’t know this ver shines dully in the overhead light. “Is ponders this for a moment before saying popular and so is Disney,” he continues. s very popular in the U.S., as well. I loved goes on to discuss some famous Japanese , and shows me their covers and characters ck to Green Eggs and Ham, I explain, “Dr. words,” “Rhyming words?” he puzzles, “like d ‘there’?”



She grasps the pen in her right hand, looking distant as she taps the paper and considers what word to use. “Like ‘bicycle’!” she exclaims, “Each kanji has a different meaning, but together they mean ‘bicycle’”. She excitedly writes three characters side by side, a small mass of complicated strokes and lines, and points at them as she explains each meaning, “yourself, turn, wheel”. Although each character stands for something individual and can function as a word on its own, I can easily understand why she’s connected this with English’s use of affixes. As I muse on this, she continues to come up with more examples, writing out ‘train’ and ‘car’ in similar yet different sets of characters.


“I often use technology for connecting with people,” she states as she gazes out from my screen, “especially during quarantine, so I think it can be an important part of self-care.” Her navy bucket hat sits stoically atop her head as she continues to speak. “It’s also connected to what I study, so I think it’s interesting to see how people and technology interact with language.” The light dimly reflects off her oversized glasses. “How so?”, both the other tutor and I inquire at the same time. She smiles, “Like when you use Siri or a smart device, what gender is the voice?” As she becomes more animated and gestures to support her points, her navy bucket hat begins to bob in time to her movement as she nods her head excitedly and light twinkles off her glasses.




Pristine flower, Brooke Dalgleish






Top left: Halloween in Kazuno, Brooke Dalgleish Bottom Left: Hachiween, Philip Vyas Middle Top: Halloween Birthday, Arianne Solomon Middle Bottom: Mario Party, Brooke Dalgleish Top Right: Halloween Banquet, Brooke Dalgleish Bottom Right: Jasmine and Hades, Arianne Solomon 57

Autumn is a s where every le -Albert



second spring eaf is a flower. Camus




The Apple Pie that Fixes Brooke Dalgleish Everything “Apple pie is like duct tape, it fixes everything” – anonymous

baking pies!

I’ve been in Japan for a total of three years Thanks to the pandemic, all of us might have and for the first two and a half years I didn’t picked up some new skills and/ or hobbies have an oven. My school owns most things we have never tried. My pandemic new hobby in my apartment like my microwave so when was baking! that stopped working earlier this year, my school said they would replace it with a new I have always been a pie fan. I favor some one, of course within their budget. I wasn’t more than others but I’m willing to try every expecting much so I was pleasantly surprised pie at least once. My favorite has always been when I received a microwave oven. This gave pumpkin pie but a close second and third is me a new freedom of cooking and baking apple and peach pie, respectively. Back home anything I wanted to make! Again, I’m not in America, at least one family member of much of a cook but I do have a serious sweet mine would bake a pie for every holiday we tooth so I was mainly focused on baking. At celebrated together. I would always help but the same time, I was really missing home I never really took on the responsibility of a this year. Like many of you, I haven’t been whole pie on my own. able to go home at all during my time on JET, so I really wanted to bake things that I never knew where to even start. The crust were nostalgic. I started off simple and made or the filling? I don’t know! To be completely cookies and brownies and slowly made my honest, I really don’t care for being in the way up to pies. kitchen. I’ve always had an “Eat to live, not live to eat” outlook in life, however, if the I live in Kazuno City which is a small town pandemic has taught me anything, it’s to slow that has more apple and peach trees than down and enjoy the small things in life… like it does people. Every year, people from all 61

over town give me a number of apples and peaches and I normally can’t keep up with eating them all. This time around, I knew exactly what to do! Bake a pie! Baking in Japan is a bit difficult with their lack of supplies in the baking “aisle” and especially difficult in a small town. However, I was able to find a simple recipe from back home and found “pie sheets” for the crust and called it a day! I started with peach pie and it was delicious, but I do have to say my apple pie turned out the best. I had a Halloween party with a group of friends and decided to bring an apple pie in the shape of a pumpkin as dessert. Since pumpkins are scarce around here, I couldn’t make a pumpkin pie and I didn’t get the chance to carve a pumpkin. That being said, carving faces into the pumpkin-shaped apple pies was oddly satisfying. They turned out very cute and very yummy. I’m not saying I could make a career out of this

I will share my recipe with you all but of course you can always ask google sensei for help. I think I will try another pie for the holidays, possibly rhubarb or maybe I’ll go crazy and try a chocolate pie! All in all, we probably have all picked up a new hobby or activity during the pandemic whether it’s to kill time, connect with family from afar, or to relieve built up anxiety. I found baking does all of that for me and if something does that for you, share it with us in the Winter edition of the Akitan!

and I would never want to, but I will say baking gave me a newfound confidence of something I never knew I could really do. On the other hand, It has become a calming ritual for me, an activity I can do when I miss home and feel anxious. This is something I learned during the pandemic.


Right: Brooke’s apple pie recipe




Red Maple, Jody Frye


Crispy leaves, Jody Frye


Good Music, Great Weather Last October 30, we had the opportunity to attend a music festival with friends. It was a glorious autumn day as the sky was clear, the leaves were vibrant, and the people were ready to have a good time. Organized by BLOOMING PEACE FES, this was the second event they had for the year. BLOOMING PEACE FES aims to “make the beautiful scenery of Akita even more brilliant with the power of music and art.” The festivals last summer and autumn were held at 山の学校, a lovely area a few minutes away from Akita City. It’s a space where music, art, and concern for the environment come together. Captions for pictures: There were lots of food stalls this time. A personal favorite was the Gapao Rice (¥900). You can add extra toppings such as chicken, coriander, egg, and chili sauce. Almost all of the bands and artists who performed were from Akita. The original music they played were perfect for a clear autumn day. The DJ sets also set the vibe for the night. Dancing in the moonlight, you say? You can make your own leather namahage keychain and buy cute fragrant candles in the booths. It’s quite impossible to resist buying them! At 6pm, a food truck parked at the venue. It was Blue Buck Diner who was responsible for making a lot of people hungry. The smell of their 100% Akita beef burgers were such a delight!





More Pictures From the Event



Photos coutesy of Ally Ty


Extra Life: A Gaming Marathon for Charity JOHN JARVIS Hey pro gamers, I know what you’re thinking, “Wow I love gaming so much. I wish I could play games for 24-straight hours and get paid to do it. And since I’m a great person, I wish all the money would go to a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital.” Nine years ago I was in your exact position! I too wanted nothing more than to play games for 24-straight hours and have 100% of the tax-deductible proceeds go to a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital of my choice. Then one fateful day, my friend on campus said to me: “Hey John, you like gaming right?” “Sure do.” I replied. “You should participate in Extra Life.” “What’s that?” “It’s a 24-hour gaming marathon that raises money for children’s hospitals. You can sign up for free at or spend $19 to sign up as a Platinum Player to unlock rewards as you hit 70

certain milestones, which helps keep the organization afloat.” “Okay I’m in. But what if I fall asleep before 24 hours is up?” “Just do your best, nobody is going to force you to play all 24 hours. The most important thing is that you raise money for your hospital.” “That makes sense, but I don’t know how to stream. Last I checked twitch was an involuntary body movement, and now apparently it’s a streaming platform??” “While many Extra Life participants choose to stream their marathon, it’s not a requirement. You can participate however you’d like, although I’ve found streaming a lot of fun each year!” “Well what if I want to play a board game instead?” “You can do that too. If it’s a game, it’s viable. You can play hopscotch for all 24 hours if you want; play a single game, play a medley of games, it’s up to you.”


With a little more exposition added for you, dear reader, that’s approximately how I started doing Extra Life. This will be my 9th year in a row participating and in total I’ve raised over $8000 for the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital thanks to all the generous donors.

all 120 shrines, finding all the memories, and defeating Ganon while raising 2120 dollars in the process, the best year on record!

I encourage anyone who is a gamer, especially those that stream, to sign up for Extra Life. You can register any I’ve played many games over those years. time throughout the year and donations Usually I choose a game or two to beat remain open until the last day of 100% within 24 hours depending on how December. It’s definitely not too late to long I think it will take. I’ve played The participate in Extra Life 2021, but if you’d Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (100% rather do it next year, you can register as cleared), Pokémon Yellow (completed the early as the first week in January. Even Pokédex), Super Mario Galaxy (all stars), if you don’t want to participate, I would the first Pikmin (100% cleared), a medley certainly appreciate if you would check of Kirby games (100% cleared), Mario out my donation page at 64, Kirby 64, Pokémon Snap and Yoshi’s participant/JohnJarvis where you can find Story for the 64 special (100% cleared), more information, a timeline of my Extra and last year I played through the Legend Life achievements, and, of course, please of Zelda: Breath of the Wild completing click that big green donate button.


Your donation will help children battling cancer, cystic fibrosis, and other illnesses, accidents, and injuries at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital in Maine. In the event The Akitan gets published before I do my stream, this year I’ll be playing Splatoon 2 nonstop for 24 hours starting on Saturday, December 11th at 9PM. If you want to follow along in my adventure, I’ll be doing my yearly

stream at and will be playing the majority of Sunday. As I said, donations will remain open until the last day of December so even if you’re reading this after my stream has ended, please feel free to make a donation! Thank you! For the squids! Uhh, I mean… for the kids!

All Photos courtesy of John Jarvis 72


Autumn Leaves, Brooke Dalgleish



Falling Leaves, Brooke Dalgleish


Late Autumn, Brooke Dalgleish


“You Died” and that’s OK

Calligraphy and Dark Souls - A comparison and retrospective JODY FRYE For forty-five minutes I sit in a side room in my teacher’s house, slowly and methodically writing out kanji stroke by stroke. I make sure that the paper is flat, taut. I make sure that there’s not too much ink on my brush. I double check the spacing of each stroke, and do my best to make sure their thickness is consistent and edges are clean. For forty-five minutes, I maintain my concentration on each kanji, making sure that each is satisfactory. I’ve already scrapped 3 pages within the first 5 minutes because I can never get the second stroke right: but this submission 76

is good! I’ve finally found that state of flow. At forty-six minutes I can feel my hand begin to twitch. Three strokes to go. Taking a second to put my brush down and give my hand some relief, I look at the clock: barely ten minutes left, no time for another submission attempt. I pick up my brush again, but my mind is already onto whether or not Itoku will still have discount karaage by the time we get there. While I fight against myself to try and get back in the zone and focus on the final strokes, I miss-space the first, the second is at the wrong angle, and my hand


twitches again on the last one. I heave a sigh as our teacher politely says it’s not that bad.

Another week’s class with seemingly nothing to show. Every Thursday evening, a number of

character’s demise. And you will make mistakes. Again, and again, and again. Against regular enemies and bosses alike until you want to throw your controller against the wall and ask “why do I even keep playing this game?” The game requires your entire focus, and, when you can spend upwards of 15 minutes on an individual boss fight, you can literally be shaking by the end of it. And, when all it takes is one, miss-spaced roll for your character to be knocked off an edge or simply reduce your health to zero, you’re constantly aware of the inherent frailty of your attempt. Some bosses are easier than others, and there are of course tricks to handling each one, but ultimately the key is patience. There are some on the internet who pride themselves on completing the game without dying or without taking any damage, but they have spent hundreds if

ALTs in Odate will meet at our wonderful not thousands of hours dying to get there. teacher’s house, practice under her guidance, and usually play video games at As we played through Dark Souls 1, mine afterwards. 2, and 3, we were forced to play more patiently, taking our time to master our I specifically chose not to say “relax at understanding of the tools provided for mine,” because our go-to games have us, when to put on pressure and when to been those from the notoriously difficult give space. Most importantly, we accepted Dark Souls series. These are games where that failure is simply a part of the game. the tiniest mistakes can lead to your 77

The same can, in a different sense, be said of calligraphy. Obviously, the pace of calligraphy is much slower and less adrenaline inducing, but it’s a comparison that we have found ourselves making numerous times over the years. For both, a great deal of concentrated focus and mental stamina is required. In calligraphy, you have to keep track of how much pressure you’re applying to the brush (which therefor also determines how thick your strokes are), the spacing between those strokes, the cleanliness of the lines, and ensure that your brush has neither to much nor two little ink: too much, and it will saturate the sheet, too little and your stroke will simply peter out. In Dark Souls, you have to keep track of your stamina bar, lest you be unable to dodge or attack, being completely vulnerable. You have to keep a safe distance from your enemies, which ensuring that you’re able to close that distance to strike. Obviously, both will test your fine motor capabilities, as well. In calligraphy, some months are harder than others. You may have the final kanji be 12 strokes one month and 21 the next. So too in Dark Souls, it is not uncommon for an easier enemy or boss to be 78


followed by an exponentially harder one - a fact you only realize once you’re in the heat of things. However, there are times when, in spite of the pressure, you do enter a state of flow. You no longer look at the clock or at the boss’s health bar. You simply play, either with a brush or a controller. It’s just you and your opponent: the boss, or the kanji. It’s an ironic, almost zen-like state of mind where you hands seemingly move on their own. You simply think, and reality manifests itself in dodges and changing strokes while time stands by and watches. But, if you’re distracted in either circumstance, you are guaranteed to make tiny mistakes that will ultimately result in failure. And fail we have. From week to week and month to month, we’ve tried our best every time and failed and failed again. As time has gone on, both calligraphy and the games got harder, and perfection was what was required. And, every now and again, we are able to do just that. After over two years of calligraphy, the three of us climbed the ladder of ranks in calligraphy to 初段 Shodan - functionally a black belt rank where we are approved All photos courtesy of Jody Frye

to teach calligraphy to elementary school students. We made endless mistakes, received numerous failing marks on our submitted works. Slowly but surely, we accepted each one of those failures as a natural part of the process - not something to enjoy, but something that was necessary. Failure simply was, and that was ok. All that was left to do was to focus as hard as we could, and buckle down for the next run against boss and kanji alike. Even after achieving Shodan, and one of our team members returning home, we’re continuing to grind away and see how far we can get in both calligraphy and the games made by the developer of Dark Souls. It’s always tense, and, now that we’ve passed the bar of Shodan, the bosses of kanji are getting harder and harder. We can no longer afford to make mistakes - but we will, and that’s ok. It’s part of the process, and every time we fall we will get back up, wipe the blood from our sword, the sweat from our hands, and keep pushing forward. In the words of our teacher, we are always “getting better.” Both calligraphy and the Souls games can be tough, demanding, nerve-wracking, and at times zen. They’re not always fun, but when you finally win, there’s no doubt in your mind that you earned it.






Road station fooding June Kim Do you know about the michi no eki or “roadside stations?” They’re all around Japan, and they’re similar to rest stops except some of these offer more than just a place to park and use the restroom. Many of these will sell souvenirs, feature local produce, and unique experiences, only to that area! These are great ways to experience different areas around the prefecture! Many stations will have flyers for local events as well as a farmers market for some cheap produce. You’ll also find restaurants that will try to offer unique cuisine if possible. Each one will usually have a unique soft serve flavor as well. Here’s some food that you might find around Akita’s roadside stations!

Kazuno Antler, Kazuno At Kazuno Antler, there are quite a few places to eat in this roadside station that’s built around a square. Not only can you see a museum featuring some local festivals, but you can also try out their local Kazuno beef! You can even have it as a beef hamburg set



Akitako, Akita City While Akitako offers some great views of the ocean as well as a sprawling 360 sight of Akita City, you can also do some shopping, which also includes some Costco items at their shopping area. While their restaurant includes some fancy Japanese food, you can also try out one of the oldest udon and soba vending machines still in operation in Japan. While the soba and udon itself is nothing special, it’s interesting to try out for just a few hundred yen.

Michi no Eki, Nikko If you’re in southern Akita, Nikko and Yurihonjo have quite a few things to offer. If you happen to be in that southwestern tip though, be sure to drop by the Nikko roadside station. There’s a lot to explore including some free foot baths and a variety of food stalls and restaurants. Included in these is a Korean shop that offers some delicious Korean food and if you can manage some Korean with the owner there, you might be able to get some complimentary pickles!


Showa, Katagami Showa has a beautiful greenhouse with a variety of flowers and plants. Though strolling through these flower fields during spring time is ideal, enjoying the greenery in other seasons is also enjoyable as well. But exotic plants aren’t the only thing that’s great about this roadside station. If you have a craving for some steak, the restaurant here can help with that! The portions are rather generous and you can enjoy a nice open and relaxing atmosphere as well!

Michi no Eki, Hinai Ready for dessert? You can’t miss the soft serve ice cream cones at these roadside stations! While flavors can vary from normal to weird, such as vanilla, Hokkaido milk, and mountain grape to shishito pepper and even Hinai egg flavor (as pictured)! But some of them are absolutely worth trying out, even if it doesn’t sound like something up your alley. The strangest sounding flavors may surprise you!

All photos courtesy of June Kim 84


Cute Coffee, Brooke Dalgleish 85



Lurking in the cold, Jody Frye 87

Book Recs

Catherine Johnson

I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time on Instagram. Even more so during autumn b cozy, spooky, autumnal aesthetics. Do you know what pairs well with a cozy, spooky, autumnal So, if you’ve been looking for the perfect spooky book to read as you get cozy under your kotat seasonal reading suggestions for ya!

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado 248 pgs. A spooky read This book is a collection of short stories centered around women’s lives and the violence targeted at their bodies. An experimental work that bends horror, fantasy, legend, magical realism, and one you should definitely research before reading if violence or ED are triggering for you.The most famous story from the collection is The Husband Stitch, a retelling of the classic The Green Ribbon, which is about a woman who finally unties a ribbon around her neck after years of her husband asking to see underneath, only to reveal that the ribbon was what was keeping her severed head attached to her body all along. Couldn’t put the book down as I was completely enraptured by how it was both surreal and mythical yet a reflection of very real fears, traumas, and anxieties. If you want more Carmen Maria Machado, I recommend her memoir about an abusive same-sex relationship titled In the Dream House also written in a similar haunting voice. 88


because I’m a sucker for some good l aesthetics? That’s right, BOOKS. tsu then you’re in luck! Here’s some


Dearly by Margaret Atwood 124 pgs. A cozy read

Ok, I say cozy because it’s a poetry book that can be r there are some really sweet pieces in there, but of cou Atwood - author of The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testam there is some spooky, apocalyptic, dystopian, sci-fi go poems you’ll come across aliens and zombies; themes loss, the environment, and more. Told in a melanchol in the end. I found these poems quite accessible, enjo they are avid poetry readers or not.



read in one setting, and urse it is by THE Margaret ments, and many more - so oing on as well. In these s such as memory, love, lic voice that is still hopeful oyable for anyone whether

Bunny by Mona Awad 307 pgs. Definitely and absolutely NOT cozy This book gets creepy.. and gorey.. which makes a great spooky read in my opinion! Samantha is in a prestigious MFA program, but can’t seem to get along with her cohort - The Bunnies, at least at first. As she gets deeper into the saccharine yet cult-like sisterhood of the Bunnies, things get weirder and weirder. Ritualistic off-campus ‘workshops’, monstrous creations, surreal parties all juxtaposed with The Bunnies’ picture perfect looks and overly sweet attitudes making every moment of this book incredibly eerie. I’m still in the middle of this one and I can not wait to see what happens in the end. 91

Future home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich 263 pgs. A spooky read indeed, but a cozy moment or two.

Hot take: this book is often compared to The Handmaid’s Tale, which is another book I l Future Home of the Living God is wayyy better imo, and that’s NOT just because it takes my home state of Minnesota. Society is crumbling into a religious totalitarian dystopia as are discovered with unusual characteristics, hinting that evolution is starting to reverse. C is pregnant, has to navigate a world that has a target on her and her unborn baby’s backs wasn’t chaotic enough, Cedar has also just come in contact with her Ojibwe birth mothe of understanding more about her and her baby’s origins. This book is labeled as specula for a reason. Personally I loved the vagueness in the background because it added to the and intensity, though I understand that’s not for everyone!

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders 343 pgs. Heckin’ depressing spooky read.

I remember hearing so much hype about this bo that needs your whole attention so mayyybe don That being said, what I was able to follow was so place during the American Civil War when Linc Willie’s death and his afterlife. The plot comes a the reader feel like they too are in a transitional I was finishing this one, it reminded me of Jean-



love, but s place in s newborns Cedar, who s. If that er in hopes ative fiction e mystery

ook when it came out! But.. this is definitely a book n’t listen to the audiobook while multitasking... o wildly sad. This book of historical fiction takes coln is president, but is centered around his son and goes between worlds and characters making state, or bardo, just like the ghosts in this story. As -Paul Sartre’s Huis Clos (No Exit).


For the Kiddos (aka books I read to my ES students Journey (Journey Trilogy #1) by Aaron Becker 40 pgs.

Beautiful illustrations with no words. Readers use their imaginations to guess what’ll ha on this adventure of a lonely girl and her magic piece of red chalk.

There’s a Monster In Your Book (Who’s In Your Book Series) by Tom Fletcher 32 pgs.

Oh no! There’s a Monster in Your Book! How are you going to get him out? This is a sup one to make interactive.

The Little Kitten (Ollie #3) by Nicola Killen (24 pgs.)

Cute little Halloween story about Ollie and her cat named Pumpkin who befriend and h kitten they find shivering in a pile of leaves. Loved the twist at the end!

Ha rd ly Hau nte d by Je s sie Si ma (42 pgs.)

A house is worried that… it might be… HAUNTED! A journey of self-love and acceptan house comes to appreciate it’s creaky doors, squeaky stairs, rattling pipes.

Curious George’s First Day of School by Margaret & H. A. Ray (24 pgs.)

Curious George goes to school to be a special helper, but… is he actually going to help o make a BIG MESS!? 94

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Quick Recs (aka some books on my tbr)

Where the wild ladies are by Aoka Matsuda 288 pgs. Feminist retellings of Japanese Folktales?! Sign me up!

How by 384

Not colo

Th by 336


Hoo Mik 288

Nothing but Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw 128 pgs.


More Japanese folklore, a wedding, a haunted house, and a lonely ghost bride with a black smile.

Feel fre things. you kno of those Happy



w Beautiful We Were Imbolo Mbue 4 pgs.

thing is scarier than when fiction reflects the realities of environmental degradation, onialism, and greed.

he Only Good Indians Stephen Graham Jones 6 pgs.

tive American representation and an entity seeking revenge? What’s not to like?

ood Feminism Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot kki Kendall 8 pgs.

says on intersectional feminism, I’ve had my eye on this one for a while

ee to reach out to me if you read any of the books on this list or just want to talk about bookish Better yet, if you think there’s a book that suits my reading tastes I’d love to know! (Especially if ow of some new, POC, translated to English, etc. authors and books, I’m always looking for more e!) reading everyone~

... 97



99 Autumn fall, Brooke Dalgleish

cytokine storm by cj like our minds, the body too can self-ruin if invaders, like dark thoughts, colonize and kill our cells the body screams chemical cytokines to its white blood cell army ordering to eliminate the enemy but sometimes the body screams too long, too loud creating soldiers too strong, too proud so that they murder healthy bystanders unable to differentiate healthy, sick; love, hate killing its own form by parasitic cytokine storm




A e y b d

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m u t u A


Hello Winter




This is a com time around mu A hu

Brooke Dal



Thank you so much for reading the Akitan!

mmunity made magazine and without your submissions it would not be possible. This d we were truly amazed at the sheer quality of submissions. Thank you, everyone, so uch. We hope we can continue to make this publication with your support. uge thanks to all the writers, photographers, gamers, foodies and book worms!

Further Photo Credits: Philip Vyas, 102-107 backgrounds, lgleish, 58, 100 background, 93, 95 side trimming, 52 bottom trimming, 108 owl eyes Jody Frye, 89, side trimming Nexusmods, Dark Souls “you died,” 80


Thank you for reading