The Akitan Summer 2018

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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 photo by Priscilla Chong


MEET THE AKITAN STAFF pimms hubbell Director of Publications

Hey folks! I’m Pimms, and I’m in my 4th year in Akita. You’ll probably come to know me as the PA working at the Education center. I love eating food, going on cyling trips, visiting fetivals, eating more food, and relaxing in onsen. I hope you enjoy Akita as much as I do.

priscilla chong Editor & Creative Director

Hi everyone! I’m Priscilla, a 3rd year from Ugo Town. I lack self control and have a serious snack problem. Fun thing about living alone, no one will know if you eat a tub of ice cream in one night. I love food, coffee, skincare, and a good forest onsen.

reza danesh pajooh Editor of Book Reviews

I’m Reza Danesh-Pajooh, a fourth year living in Yokote. My hobbies are avoiding people, staying indoors, and making plans while secretly hoping that someone will cancel so I don’t have to go. Surprisingly, I’ve been told I’m a pleasant person.



Follow us @akita-jet


CALLING ALL PHOTOGRAPHERS! Hi! My name is Kristina Tan, and I am the Manager for the Akitan’s Instagram. This year, I’m hoping to introduce the greater JET community – as well as fellow local JETs, to the wonderful landscapes and people of Akita Prefecture. I also hope to introduce everyone to great recommendations of things to eat and do! I would love, however, to get help on this project! For anyone who has an interest in photography and wants to share information about their local haunts while establishing their profile in a higher platform, please contact me at I would love to get contributing photographers!

The Akita Instagram needs you!



Arcadia Park (Ugo Town), Priscilla Chong



From the editor

Welcome 2018 JE O

ften, we are asked by those around us “Why did you move to Japan?” and I can articulate my thoughts enough to give a coherent answer. Instead of truthfully try into all the feelings that brought me here, I go with the standard “I’ve been interested in

long time”. Now this answer isn’t false in the slightest, but it doesn’t grasp the extent of w for me to be able to live in such an amazing country. Being interested in a country is like falling in love at first sight, it’s exciting, everything is your eyes. Moving and deciding to live there however is a whole other ball game. It’s like

relationship, some days your life here makes you feel like everything is right in the world. Th

month the culture shock can smack you right in the face and you eat tacos every night for tw

heart becomes attached to the culture and people, but at the same time you feel as if this is a tr

of your youth. It’s an experience that will change you forever. It will alter your perspective of t how we build relationships, test your patience, teach you independence, and become part of

To the 2018 JETs, the difficult part is over, you all have taken a leap of faith and moved across the wo

JET community would like to welcome you to the start of your journey. It’s time to start exploring yo

We are excited to share our love of Akita with you, so feel free to ask us about our lives here. This is

in your life you will live in this place with these people. Your time here will pass by in the blink of an some memories and friendships that will stay with you for a lifetime. Welcome to Akita!

Priscilla Chong, Editor and Cre




n never quite ying to delve n Japan for a

what it means

wonderful in a committed

hen that same

wo weeks. Your

ransitory part

the world and your identity.

orld. The Akita

our new home.

s the only time

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eative Director

Nishimonai Bon Odori, Priscilla Chong


finding hokkaido in akita: Where does your mind wander at the mention of summer flowers in Japan? For most people, myself included, images of Hokkaido’s rolling fields bathed in sunshine come to mind. The northmost island of Japan is famous throughout the world for their flower fields and ice cream in summer.

7 Nishime sunflower maze, Priscilla Chong


a guide to local summer flowers But if you’re anything like me, finding the time, money or nenkyu from midJuly to early August is near impossible. Lucky for us, Akita is brimming with nature. I’m here to let you all in on some of our hidden gems, bringing the flower fields of Hokkaido, right here to home.


finding hokkaido in akita

Unshoji (Oga), Priscilla Chong

雲昌寺(うんしょうじ ) 〒010-06



Unshoji ‘Hydrangea’ Temple Nestled in the tiny coastal town of Kitaura on the Oga Peninsula a small temple sits on a hill overlooking the port. For most of the year, this small temple goes unnoticed, quietly bringing calm into the lives of local residents. However, for 1 month people come flooding in from all over Akita and beyond. Every year in late June over 1200 hydrangea plants come into full bloom. The stunning imagery that appears during this time is not to be missed. Waves of blue petals spill over the temple walls, connecting a sea of flowers to the Japan Sea. A sight like no other, the temple is an inspiring location for all day dreamers, flower enthusiasts, and avid photographers. The temple’s deputy head priest first started cultivating the hydrangea garden 16 years ago from a single plant. As beautiful as they may be to display in your home, cutting and picking the fallen flowers is not permitted, as the priest believes the flowers should bloom and wither as nature decides. Many of you

683 Oga-shi Kitaura-Kitaura Kitaura 57


finding hokkaido in akita

Misato Lavender Fields Widely used for its calming and relaxing effects lavender has long been held a holy grail flower in aromatherapy. What better way to destress than to immerse yourself in some lavender fields surrounded by Hydrangea tea, Priscilla Chong

mountains. Hokkaido’s Furano might be world famous, but you don’t need to

may not realize, but hydrangeas come in a

travel far to experience this hidden gem

variety of colors. In addition to the classic

in Akita. Located in Misato in Senboku

blue, you can see white, pink, and purple

area, the park is only a 30 minute drive

flowers depending on the acidity of the

from Omagari Station. Flowering season

soil they grow in. Hydrangeas or “ajisai”

runs from late June to late July. However,

originated in Japan. Due to their need for

I recommend visiting during the festival

an abundance of water in order to bloom,

period in the first half of July to make the

they came to symbolize the rainy season.

most of this destination. The park grows

The hydrangea festival is held at Unshoji Temple throughout June, with weekends being especially busy. Entry to the temple grounds during the blooming season is 300 yen. A small donation to support the continued cultivation of the flowers. Try the lightly floral and citrus hydrangea iced tea. The blue tea turns purple with the addition of lemon juice. You can also enjoy blue colored baba-hera!


Lavender ice cream, Priscilla Chong


美郷町ラベンダー園 〒019-1502 Senboku-gun Misato-cho Senya Odaino 1

Lavender garden, Priscilla Chong

seven varieties of lavender in the park. I

the small store sells dried lavender, mists,

was amazed to see white lavender, a local

and other items infused with the oil. But if

variety that was discovered 5 years ago

you are like me and love a bunch of dried

called ‘Misato yukihana’. It is so special

flowers hanging in your home, it will only

that it was given in a flower exchange to

cost you 300 yen to pick your own bunch

Nakafurano lavender garden in Hokkaido.

of stems straight from the field. The staff

Thanks to this agreement we can also

will even give you drying instructions to

now see Furano’s famous deep purple

take home. Before you leave, don’t forget

lavender ‘hayasaki’ blooming in Akita. If

to try the lavender ice cream, creamy,

you wish to take home this sweet scent,

floral, but not overpowering it is a delight!


finding hokkaido in akita

Nishime Sunflower Maze Ever since I saw it for the first time as a child, I have always loved the garden scene from Alice in Wonderland. The garden is filled with giant flowers standing tall and proud. Unlike Alice, who clearly didn’t appreciate the snide remarks from something that would normally be much smaller than her. The idea of being dwarfed by an overgrown, oversized flower garden has always sparked my imagination. I got my wish to some extent visiting the sunflower fields in Nishime, Yurihonjo. The giant sunflowers stood at

a similar height to me (168cm) with the petals wider than my face. I could almost picture a face appearing on one and giving me sass like those from Wonderland. These fields are not an official garden, but a plantation for the purpose of making sunflower oil. Located across the road from the Nishime Michi-no-eki, the fields are free to view and wander from late July to mid August. The contrast of yellow against the blue sky and green mountains is a photographer’s dream.


at the carpet of yellow



temporary viewing platform



lost in the maze in the opposite field. When you’re done, head on over to the michi-no-eki


some baumkuchen and softcream. Sunflower maze, Priscilla Chong

道の駅 にしめ 〒018-0604 Yurihonjo-shi Nishime-cho Numata Shinmichishita 1112-2



(lopposite) Baumkuchen, Priscilla Chong Akita-inu rice field art (Nairikusen line), Andrea Danko


a year in review

a year in review sandra syt-mui pang


can be a weird time of year.

Number 2 was to document my time here.

It’s when we have to say goodbye to our

Having done these two things, I was lucky

friends, who are leaving and hello to the

enough to able to experience as much as

new people, who arrive. It’s also the time

possible and to make a video that I could

of year, where we’re just trying to enjoy

look back on.

the beautiful weather and not die from the heat and humidity.

So for me; living in Japan has been an interesting experience. There have been

This summer at the end of July marked

many wonderful moments, but also some

my first year on JET. Which feels surreal,

confusing or frustrating ones.

but like everyone says “Time goes by more quickly as you get older.”

Some of my favorite memories include hanging out in a small bar in Golden Gai

Before coming to Japan, I decided I

during Tokyo orientation; the farmstay we

wanted to do two main things. Number 1

did in Odate, where we learnt to make

was to say “yes” to every opportunity and

kiritanpo, but was also filmed for the news



and experienced our first bit of snow in

We always had a laugh together and

Akita. As well as all the trips, that I’ve

went on many adventures. It showed me

done, but my favorite has to be the road

how important it is to have a good set of

trip that Saijel and I did during Golden

friends, especially when you are living in

Week. We saw snow in May, drove through

a foreign country.

many mountains, experienced buddhist hell at Osorezan, climbed a thousand steps at Yamadera and much more. Coming on to JET, I never thought that I would make friends that I was so close to

“it gave me the opportunity to see them doing something they are passionate about”

that they felt like family. I’ve been really

School has also been wild. The teachers

lucky and met some wonderful people

are so nice and my students are great, even

from the start. They became my Akita

though sometimes we don’t understand

family and having to say goodbye to some

each other. But they have definitely been

of them was really hard.

a highlight during my time in Japan. They draw weird pictures, which make me smile and we joke around about the stupidest of things. However I think one of my highlights is definitely cheering them on during Chusotai because it gave me the opportunity to see them doing something they are passionate about and

Akita JETs, Sandra Syt-Mui Pang


a year in review

seeing how proud they are to represent our school. My students bring happiness into my life and I always look forward to seeing them, so I feel that I made the right decision to do this second year. If you want to see what I experienced during my first year, you can check out my ‘1 Second a day’ video below. However my final piece of advice is:

“Be open to new experiences and have fun!”



18 Nishimonai Bon Odori (Ugo), Nathan Finch


19 Nishimonai Bon Odori (Ugo), Priscilla Chong


ncing my way into the community priscilla chong


will people remember about you when you leave


What impression will remain in the memories of your community? I never thought about these questions until I moved to Japan, to the small town of Ugo. I started thinking about not just what will be remembered about me, but how I want to be remembered. As JET participants we come from various cultural and educational backgrounds, yet we are all put in one box called ALT (or CIR/ SEA). People tend to view us as temporary. Given that on average most JETs only spend 1-2 years in Japan I can understand why it is tiring to put effort into building relationships with someone who you may never see again. Foreigners living as an expat will face these same challenges and work through them in different ways. However, this shouldn’t deter anyone from getting involved in their local community. I decided in my first year I didn’t want to be remembered as just another ALT. So with my limited language skills I got involved in a different way, through dance.


dancing my way into the community

nearby Nishimonai Hosenji Temple. The locals believe the origins of the festival began with a dance performed to honor the fallen lord Onodera Shigemichi. At some point this combined with an existing harvest prayer dance and the festival as we know it was born. The story, dances, and music were traditionally passed down through oral instruction up until a 2016 dance performance, Priscilla Chong

few years ago. I have never really been a ‘joiner’

I have now danced in my town’s festival,

let alone someone comfortable with

the Nishimonai Bon Odori for 3 years. The

performing. My hobbies have always

Nishimonai Bon Odori was designated an intangible folk cultural property in 1985 and is known as one of Japan’s top 3 bon odori festivals. Dancers clad in handdyed shibori yukata and hanui patchwork kimono dance in unison along a street lit by small bonfires. The dancing itself is mesmerizing to watch, but what makes this festival different to others are the straw hats and black hoods dancers wear to cover their faces. The black hoods known as hikosa zukin give a ghostly image and are said to represent spirits from the 2017 Nishimonai Bon Odori, Priscilla Chong



2018 Nishimonai Bon Odori performers (Ugo), Priscilla Chong

consisted of something I could do

festival, gave me a significant connection

alone, and in private. So how did I end

to the town. It was from this point on,

up dancing in the town festival, at school events and elsewhere? For once, I just said ‘yes’. I took 1 week of intensive training

"I was not just a teacher anymore, but a part of my town."

that I felt I was not just a teacher anymore, but a part of my town. The festival runs for 3 nights and features 2 songs and

in my first year, and oh boy was it strict.

dances. The music is lively and features

Every day I would having my hands and

spirited lyrics, this is contrasted by graceful

feet adjusted to the millimeter. The dances

dances and image of ghosts passing by.

are learnt from elementary school, and it

The performance runs continuously for

is traditionally performed only by locals.

4 hours, with dancers able to freely leave

The fact that I was welcomed to join the

and join the procession at any point.


dancing my way into the community

There are many ways to communicate

Some day in the future I will have the

that don’t require verbal understanding

experience, knowledge, and authentic

such as music, dance, sports, and the arts.

costume to bring this cultural treasure

3 years ago, I would never have imagined

out from the inaka and into the world.

that the strongest memory I have of my

Sometimes all it takes is a little interest,

life in Japan would be dancing. Yet here

an open mind, and a lot of courage to

I am in my third year, finally getting my

change from being just the ALT to an

own bon odori yukata personally tailored.

active member of your community.


Nishimonai Bon Odori (Ugo), Priscilla Chong



24 Iwate Sansa Odori (Morioka), Priscilla Chong

summer festiva

Blessed by warm balmy nights from late June through to earl

and go travelling. Akita spends most of the year hidden be

summer is the rare opportunity to get your shoulders out, ta

rooftop bars. Tohoku summer festivals are a quintessential

lived here for many years, or just arrived, there is somethin

community, where you can get involved, or events where th

The options are plenty, and the choice is yours. Take a look a

25 Summer fireworks in Akita, Pimms Hubbell


als of tohoku

ly September, summer is a delightful time to spend outdoors

eneath piles of snow, or with a constant chill in the air, so

ake an evening walk, and have some drinks at one of the few

l experience for anyone living in Japan. Whether you have

ng on offer for everyone to enjoy. Intimate festivals in your

housands of people from around Japan come to experience.

at some of the highlights of the 2018 summer festival season.


27and opposite) (above Hanawa Bayashi Festival, Andrea Danko


hanawa bayashi (kazuno)

andrea danko

After visiting some crowded summer festivals in recent years in Kyoto, Osaka, Aomori, Akita, I visited Hanawa bayashi this August. Hanawa Bayashi is a festival where decorated floats play lively music until midnight.The 10 floats might look alike, but they are certainly not the same! You can see, hear and feel the difference when they parade in the square. Since the festival runs all night, sometimes they need to change the musicians. It was fun to see that they do not stop for even a moment, some drummers jump out, and the next ones are already in to continue. At day time you can have a closer look at each festival car, then in the evening you can easily follow them during the parade. Even the main attraction site is not that crowded. There is a corridor around the square to take pics from several view points, and seiza seating for 2000yen. If interested in a lively, colorful parade festival which is still mostly visited by the locals, visit Hanawa bayashi soon before the crowds arrive. It is listed as a Unesco intangible cultural heritage and increasing in popularity. Do not watch the videos, go and feel it!


kakunodate yamabuttsuke 29

The Kakunodate festival is more commonly known as



event. It is a famous early fall festival held from September 7 - 9 in Kakunodate,


Large decorated floats are





streets by groups of men. Young



on top of the floats, and like all festivals in Japan,



been tapping into the nihonshu



on. The highlight of this festival when floats enter the same street they must negotiate for right of way. Most of the time being hot-blooded youths, this fails and thus they must charge at full strength into one another until one float gives in.


30 Kakunodate Yamabuttsuke Festival, Pimms Hubbell

31 Sansa Odori (Morioka), Priscilla Chong


sansa odori (morioka, iwate) The





rewarding festival I attended this year. I can’t believe I didn’t attend this festival sooner. The sansa dance festival in Morioka City, Iwate is the largest taiko drumming performance in Japan. The festival is a fast paced, colorful parade of groups adorned in matching yukata, flower headgear, and unique accessories. The performers spin, jump, shout, and dance all whilst playing an individual taiko strapped to their body. Quite an amazing feat if you ask me. There is even a section where the public is free to join in and dance. Held in the first week of August over a couple of days, the city really comes alive on the weekend. For full enjoyment book a hotel and stay the night.

priscilla chong 32

summer festivals

akita k This was my third year attending kanto festival and the skills of the performers never cease to amaze me. The poles can reach 12m in height and weigh up to 50kg. It takes an incredible amount of strength and focus to be able to balance the poles at such a height. Let alone the fact that they are balancing them on their forehead, palms, and hips. This is a must-see festival for anyone living in Akita. As the parade moves down the chuo-dori in Akita city, you can enjoy the sound of taiko and supportive “dokkoisho, dokkoisho�. Get in close to the action and be in awe as elementary school children perform stunts we can only dream of achieving. Make sure you are paying attention! It is common for the poles to suddenly crash into front row spectators.

priscilla chong 33


anto festival

Akita Kanto Festival, Pimms Hubbell


yuzawa edo

It was unfortunate that we visited Yuzawa’s

a terrible rainstorm, but it didn’t take awa

personal delight comes from seeing everyo every summer, but the painted lanterns

painted for a Princess homesick for Kyoto

many softly glowing lanterns, with their d

women, and dinosaurs. (Okay, only one ha



Edoro Tanabata (Yuzawa), Priscilla Chong


oro tanabata

’s Tanabata Edoro Festival this year during

ay from its charm. Admittedly, much of my

one in the small community come together are also an impressive sight. Originally

o, it’s always pleasant to stroll between the

depictions of dreamy Edo scenes, elegant

as dinosaurs, but it’s clearly the best one.)


pimms hubbell


summer reads

Summer reads by reza danesh-pajooh

The Left Hand of Darkness

of the many things about this planet that

Ursula K. Le Guin

befuddles our main character, Genly Ai, who serves as an ambassador of sorts

A tour de force. This novel penned

for the pan-galactic human alliance, the

by the late Ursula K. Le Guin is beyond

Ekumen. His mission: to convince a world

compare. Hands-down one of the best

leader of the planet to join the alliance.

books that I have read in years. The original premise of this science fiction

story centers on a planet that experiences

to its utmost limits when Genly Ai, naive

almost perpetual winter. It is inhabited by

to the customs and cultures of “Winter�

humans that have evolved in such a way so

finds himself at the center of various

that there no longer exists gender or sex

political plots, quasi-religious rituals,

in the conventional way we understand it.

and a bond of kinship with one of the

The humans of Winter breed by entering

natives of the planet, which evolves into

a kind of rut, and both partners are

something a little more or less akin to love.

randomly assigned a sex for the purpose

In between, the reader is confronted with

of procreation. After the act is completed,

various themes and issues that, despite

they return to their genderless existence.

how obviously alien the people of Winter

All of the societies shown in the story

are, can only be construed as uniquely

have special rules in regards to this

human: such as the search for meaning

unique form of procreation, and it is one

in life, spirituality, dualism, the feeling of


This simple premise is stretched


isolation due to cultural differences in

In the Miso Soup

your new environment, even the value of

Ryu Murakami

patriotism and finding the ambiguous line between loving one’s nation and customs,

and complete rejection and hatred of The

many people are familiar with. Even those


in the know often refer to him as “the

Ryu Murakami is not an author that

other Murakami” due to his lack of star

Le Guin crafted this story with

power when compared to the author of

vision and purpose. Her descriptions are

“1Q84.” But as I worked my way through

breathtaking and her prose reads like

Ryu Murakami’s bibliography, I found

poetry at points. Instead of giving a static

myself drawn more and more towards

story about Genly Ai and his travels on

his literary style and prose. At his best,

this strange planet, she inserts anecdotes

Murakami is a poignant satirist, critiquing

and oral traditions from Winter in

the idiosyncrasies and culture of the

between chapters to better acquaint the

bubble/post-bubble eras. At his worst,

reader with the culture and mindset of

he’s a pulp fiction author. But at whatever

the planet’s peoples. For a science fiction

extreme his work falls under, the thing

novel that leans more towards the harder

I’ve come to love about Murakami’s novels

side of the spectrum, The Left Hand

are the quick bites of insight, the subtle

of Darkness is accessible and hard to

observations that characters make about

put down. As expats living in a country

their society that obviously originate from

with a culture disparate from our own

Murakami’s own mind.

(in general), this book should especially resonate with you. If you only have time

to read one book this year, make sure it’s

the Miso Soup” is the one that stands out

this one.

the most. In a roundabout way, it reads a

My Rating: ★


Of his books that I’ve read so far, “In

bit like Stephen King’s “Misery.” The main character, Kenji, is a “nightlife” guide for foreigners coming to Japan to experience


summer reads

hostess clubs and other less than savory

As a final note, I should mention that

establishments. Kenji agrees to take an

Ralph McCarthy, who seems to be the

American man, Frank, out on the town

exclusive translator for Ryu Murakami’s

for three days before the end of the year.

works, is one of the best Japanese to

But the more time that Kenji spends with

English translators I’ve ever read. Not

Frank, the more he realizes that his client is

once in any of his translations have I

more deeply disturbed than he could have

had a moment where I could decipher

ever imagined. A combination of fatalistic

the original Japanese phrase, or glean

curiosity and a sense of responsibility

the original framework of a paragraph. If

for his client leads Kenji to continue

nothing else, reading this book will serve

guiding Frank around Shinjuku as their

as a good example of how to properly

nights grow more twisted and depraved.

translate from Japanese to English.

“In the Miso Soup” is a work that will

My Rating: ★


make you uncomfortable. It’s chilling, gross, and surreal. Parts of the story will make you roll your eyes and drop your

Satoko and Nada (manga review)

suspension of disbelief faster than you


can say “Where are the cops?” Other parts describe events or mannerisms so

meticulously crafted, you’ll wonder if

decided to review a charming little

Frank is based off someone Murakami

four-panel manga series that caught my

personally met. All in all, the book is a

attention. “Satoko and Nada” is a slice-

fantastically written pulp thriller, penned

of-life story that revolves around the

with a raw, explosive, energy that I’ve

main character, Satoko, and her Saudi

never really encountered from a Japanese

Arabian roommate, Nada, as they study

author. Absolutely worth a read if you’ve

abroad in America. A lot of the jokes and

been in the mood for something that’ll

humorous bits revolve around cultural

unbalance you.

misunderstandings, either between the


To shake things up a bit, I’ve also


40 Nakasen Donpan Festival, Nathan Finch

summer reads

two main characters or their lack of

I’m always interested in reading the

understanding of American culture. But

Japanese perspective of living or studying

the true gem of this story is the friendship

abroad, so this manga was one that I was

that builds between the two girls, and

personally invested in, but if that’s not

how they come to truly care and rely on

your cup of tea, maybe you can hold out

each other despite their backgrounds and

on checking it out. In my opinion, “Satoko

differences in personal beliefs.

and Nada” is a fun, easy-to-read, manga series that may pique your interest, as it

At times a lot of the “morals” can

be a little on the nose, and ultimately it is aimed at Japanese people who may not

did mine. My Rating: ★


know much about Islam or Arabic culture, but the story itself is heartwarming and the art style is reminiscent of “Persepolis”

The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami

by Marjane Satrapi, though I’m not sure


if that was intentional or not. It should

Richard Blanco

also be noted that this series has not yet been translated into English, but it

“The Prince of Los Cocuyos” (The

contains furigana for almost all the kanji,

Prince of the Fireflies) is the memoir of

so it’s a pretty good way to get some

Richard Blanco, a gay Cuban man, and

practice reading Japanese if you’d like to

how he grew up in Miami and discovered

try that. At the very least, I’ve found that

himself. Blanco is first and foremost a

it’s a pretty good book to recommend

poet, and it shows. He has some intense

to students that might be interested in

moments that are gorgeously written,

studying abroad, as the author gives a

especially when he writes about the

realistic perspective by covering a lot of

moment he realized and admitted to

the fun and not-so-fun parts of studying

himself that he was attracted to men. But

in another country.

the rest of the memories in his stories don’t feel as inspired, and the difference



in the quality of writing is pretty stark.

truth is, you can’t be homesick for a place you hated living in. I’ve wanted to leave

Most of his memoir focuses on the

Miami since I was in middle school, so

Miami experience through the lens of

reading this book about another kid who

a Cuban-exile family. As a half-Cuban

shared the same sentiments as I did when

from Miami, I could relate to many of

we were the same age, yet felt a tinge of

the episodes in his life, bringing out

longing after he left was cathartic for me.

twinges of homesickness in my dried-up,

Maybe this review became too personal.

crusty, heart. But for people who aren’t

Hispanic or didn’t grow up in the pell-

this book so I could write out the opening

mell pandemonium that is Miami, “The

quote by Cesare Pavese,

If nothing else, I wanted to share

Prince of Los Cocuyos” won’t have much “You need a village, if only for the pleasure

of an impact.

of leaving it. Your own village means that At its core, the memoir is about

you’re not alone, that you know there’s

finding oneself. Blanco goes through

something of you in the people and the





realizes he’s gay and when he internalizes

plants and the soil, that even when you are not there it waits to welcome you.”

the fact that he’s Cuban. The culture that he had shunned as a kid for not letting him

I think by the end of the novel it’s obvious

be himself is one that he comes to yearn

that Blanco never wants to return to

for after leaving Miami. This paradoxical

Miami (in fact, he currently lives in Maine).

yearning is what made me really connect

But that acceptance of a “village” that

with his book. I’m a fourth-year ALT now,

you’d never choose to go back to, though

and I’ve often been asked about how I

nothing is stopping you apart from your

deal with homesickness. I’ve always tried

own aversion to returning, is a fascinating

to give diplomatic answers by telling

irony coming from the son of exiles.

people that I frequently facetime or text my friends and family or whatever. But the

My Rating: ★


43 Kakunodate Sasara Festival, Nathan Finch


The Gun

on the Chekhov’s Gun trope: since a gun

Fuminori Nakamura

was introduced in the story, the laws of storytelling dictate that it must be fired

“The Gun” by Fuminori Nakamura

before the end of the book. If you actively

and translated by Allison Markin Powell

try to find a meaning in the handgun and

is a story about a college student who

what it could symbolize, you can probably

happens upon a dead man holding a gun,

find yourself having a good time reading

picks it up, and takes it home with him.The

this book. Otherwise, the story is very flat.

longer that the gun is in his possession, the more enthralled he becomes by it.

“The Gun” is told in the point-of-

Soon enough, his obsession reaches a

view of Nishikawa, the college student

fever pitch, and his thoughts become

who finds the gun. The decision to tell

consumed only with experiencing what it

the story in the first person perspective

feels like to pull the trigger.

helps the reader get into the headspace of Nishikawa as he slips into an increasingly

The story is more interesting the

unbalanced mindset. So in that sense,

more you read into it. Does the gun

he is a fleshed out (relative to this story)

symbolize a male power complex? The

character that the reader can understand

main character is presented as unassuming

and empathize with. But that’s where

and soft-spoken, not really leaving much

the characterization ends. The rest of the

of an impact on his surroundings. But

characters that show up in the novel are

after acquiring the gun, he begins to

nothing more than cardboard cutouts.

move with purpose and confidence,

The two girls he enters relationships

though in another lens it’s fair to call it

with (unbeknownst to each other), his

an unhealthy manic energy. Perhaps the

dying father in the hospital, his next

story is a critique on American gun culture

door neighbor, the detective, everyone

and how it bleeds into other countries

in this story serves a singular purpose

due to the influence of America’s soft

and then fade from memory almost as

power. Or maybe it’s just a simple play

soon as the next chapter starts. Nothing


summer reads

feels grounded in reality, Nishikawa goes on long night walks to smoke and monologue far too many times for such a meager page-count, and the ending has no significant emotional impact.

To put the cherry on the cake, the

translation itself is amateurish at best. From outright typos to Google translateesque



dialogue, this

book did not read smoothly in the least.

Have any ideas for great books to

Comparing it to “In the Miso Soup” is like

reccommend to your fellow JETs?

night and day. Maybe a lot of the faults

Send your suggestions to Reza

that I found in “The Gun” were due to


the shoddy translation job, but even a bad

include a short review, a favorite

translation can’t account for the terrible

passage or quote, and why you think

pacing and lukewarm characterization of

it’s the perfect read!

99% of the characters. Should another translator take a crack at “The Gun” and try to convey the subtler nuances that may have been overlooked to add another layer of depth to the story, then I might reconsider how I feel about it, but until then I can’t recommend this book in good faith. My rating: ★





Guest Book Review by Danie Manos

Unseen City

programmed to believe that these two

Nathaniel Johnson

things do not mix, when, in fact, even in the paved streets and austere skyscrapers

Living in Akita, I would hope that most

of a city as “unnatural” as New York there is

of us have an appreciation for nature,

an incredible amount of natural diversity.

however, even the more urbanite among




the nature we find in isolated and





but the

wonders of the urban


Johnson describes an

us would enjoy this book as it is not about


“even in the paved streets and austere skyscrapers of a city as “unnatural” as New York there is an incredible amount of natural diversity”

ecologist who decided to simply stop and observe



Central Park during his walk. In doing so, he was able to identify 227 different species


of bees, right in the We tend to view “City” and “Nature”

heart of New York City! Nature does not

as separate - so much so that when

disappear when we enter city limits - it’s

teaching our students English antonyms

still there in the scruffy hedges alongside

we might use “City” and “Nature” as an

the road, creeping out of the cracks of in

example of “opposites”, along with “Black”

the pavements, or crawling around our

and “White”, or “Hot” and “Cold”. We are

kitchen floors.


guest book review

Ecologists have been so concerned

describe a “pigeon” or a “rat” with the

with studying “untouched” wilderness,

same reverence. Indeed, part of why we

that academic discourse on the nature

are less interested in urban wildlife is

of urban environments has been rather

because they are considered nuisances.

neglected. Indeed, if we walk into a

Ants are pests, pigeons are “flying rats”,

bookstore or library we could find

and rats are, well, rats. It’s as if we can

countless nature guides on the wildlife

only appreciate nature from afar, but the

of prairies, the amazon, the black forest,

moment it enters our human space it

what have you. But how many books are

becomes less “beautiful”.

there about the wilderness we might find in New York City or Tokyo? Sadly little.

Well, Johnson gives these pests their

long due praise. An American, Johnson

This is due, in part, to the reputation

dedicates the book to the particular

of urban wildlife. While a shika (deer)

species we fellow Americans would find

or kuma (bear) might be seen as elegant

bumbling around our city streets, but

or even majestic, it is laughable to

most of the vermin he describes are found



in most other countries too, including

City’s primary purpose is less to teach

here in Japan. Each chapter teaches us

us about American urban wilderness

the incredible facts of a particular urban

and more to encourage us to explore

pest, starting with pigeons, then looking

our own local environments. Johnson

at weeds, squirrels, birds (particularly

himself was inspired to write when his


young daughter turned just old enough





to begin questioning everything around

“It’s as if we can only appreciate

her. He was enamored with her curiosity,

nature from afar, but the moment it

the same curiosity we all have when we

enters our human space it becomes

are toddlers: wanting to follow ants back

less beautiful”

into their hole, pondering what the birds

vultures, ants, crows, and finally ending

plucking dandelions from the sidewalk

with snails. You might be wondering

just to count the number of petals. It is

how much there is to say about these

hard to write a non-fiction book that keeps

particularly “unincredible” creatures that

the reader’s interest but he approaches it

we see everyday - surprisingly there is

in a way that ignites the same childlike

a lot. Reading this book was just as eye

curiosity we all had at his daughter’s age,

opening and jaw dropping as watching

yet sadly neglect in adulthood.

around her might be talking about, or

an Attenborough documentary. I had no idea how complex the history of pigeons

As sojourners, we are encouraged

was, nor how remarkably ancient gingko

to be curious; here in Japan, we have a

trees are.

rare opportunity to deeply explore a foreign place. There is so much around

While, again, this book is clearly

us to discover, and this book is a fantastic

written by an American about American

inspiration for doing so. When I first

wildlife, I think we as JETs have much

arrived I was mostly concerned with

to gain from reading this book. Unseen

uncovering my local human culture, but


guest book review

this book made me realize that I should

My copy was given to me as a gift, and has

explore the new environment I lived in as

since been given away. But you can order

well. As Johnson encourages in the first

your copy on Amazon Kindle or from

chapter, I bought a notebook to catalog

The Book Depository (with free shipping

the nature around me (just a 100 yen nooto


from Daiso!). I can’t say I’ve kept up with it religiously, but by simply having it I have become more observant of my natural

“As sojourners,

environment, and it is incredible how

we are encouraged to be

much I have learned about Akita through

curious; here in Japan,

simple observation. I now feel familiar with the patterns of seasonal wildlife and as a result it has enhanced my overall experience living here. For example, from the moment daffodils pop out of the ground in early spring, I could tell you the blooming order of all the flowers to follow, as well as when particular insects will begin to appear. Just by knowing the

we have a rare opportunity to deeply explore a foreign place. There is so much around us to discover, and t his book is a fantastic inspiration for doing so.”

nature around me, I feel more involved in it, and I feel less of a tourist and more of a resident. As Johnson notes:

“The more closely we [look] the more the world [opens] itself to us, as if to reward our attention.” Danie’s Rating: ★





50 Kakunodate Sasara Festival, Nathan Finch





may have ended but that doesn’t mean you need to whip out the soup pot

just yet.

September definitely cools down but it's perfect weather for some vegetable

salads, baking, and strolls around town. Some of you might be seasoned home cooks, others maybe it’s your first time ‘really’ living alone. Cooking is not as difficult as it may seem, just follow these recipes for some simple, and delicious meals to round off the end of summer and beginning of fall.

Strawberry Almond Friands Makes: 12 Time: 35 minutes

Preheat the oven to 240C Lightly whisk the egg whites until foamy

What you’ll need:

Add butter, almond meal, sugar, and flour Using a spoon, stir until just combined

6 egg whites

Pour into muffin tins

185g butter (melted)

Lightly press strawberry slices on top

120g almond meal

Bake for 25minutes, or until golden.

240g icing sugar (sifted) 100g strawberries (sliced)


Extra icing sugar for dusting

It’s normal for the mixture to be liquid Lower the oven temperature if cooking too quickly Keeps for 2 days in an airtight container


summer recipes

Summer Gin Pairings

“揚げなすサラダ” Sautéed Eggplant Salad (2-4 servings)

The key to a choosing a good garnish is to know your base gin. Compliment key

Time: 20 minutes

botanicals with a similar accent.

What you’ll need:

Strawberry and Basil G&T 2 medium eggplants

2 parts gin

1 cucumber

tonic water

1 large tomato


1/4 onion

fresh basil

2tbsp mentsuyu 1tbsp vinegar

Muddle gin, basil, and strawberry with

1 tsp sesame oil

ice. Strain into a chilled glass, and top with tonic water. (complements a floral

Cut the eggplants (rangiri*)

gin well)

Deep fry eggplant for 1 minute Remove excess oil with paper towel

The Beez Kneez

While hot soak in the dressing

2 parts gin

Set aside to cool (refrigerate)

1 part lemon juice (fresh)

Thinly slice onion

1 part honey syrup

Cut the salad vegetables (rangiri) Drain excess liquid before serving

Shake all ingredients together with ice. Strain into a chilled glass, garnish with


lemon zest. (Hendricks works well)

*rangiri is an angled cutting method Soak cucumbers with eggplant for a


marinated flavor

To make honey syrup, dilute 2 parts

Serve warm or chilled

honey to 1 part water.



Pear and Almond Cake Time: 55 minutes What you’ll need:

Pre-heat oven to 190° C. Grease a cake pan

125 g unsalted butter

Beat butter and sugar together until pale

(room temperature)

and fluffy using an electric mixer

125 g sugar

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well

2 eggs

Fold in the dry ingredients

100 g all-purpose flour (sifted)

Spoon batter into pan

100 g almond meal

Arrange the pear halves over the top of

2.46 g baking powder

the cake and bake for 25 minutes.

1 can pears (sliced)

Remove cake from oven, drizzle with

50 g flaked almonds

honey and sprinkle the flaked almonds.

Honey for glazing

Return to the oven for 10 minutes.

Icing sugar for dusting

Dust with icing sugar to serve


Serve warm on its own or with vanilla

Make almond meal with a food processor

ice cream


summer recipes

the spice salt. Serve immediately.

Toasted sesame seeds


Perfect for when you are feeling a bit run


down, lazy, or have a sore throat. This Japanese staple is filling, healthy, simple,

Time: 10 minutes

and gentle on the stomach.

What you’ll need: Put the cooked rice in a single serve Cooked rice

deep bowl

Salted salmon flakes

Top with a generous amount of flaked

Shredded nori

salmon, crushed senbei, vegetable, nori

Bubu arare or crushed senbei

and sesame seeds

Mitsuba or thinly sliced green onion

Pour hot dashi stock, or green tea over



remove basil and chicken from oil

Taiwanese Basil Fried Chicken (4 servings) Time: 30 minutes What you’ll need:

Marinate the chicken with the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sake, sugar and five-

600g boneless chicken thigh

spice (at least 10 minutes)

3 cloves garlic (minced) 1 tsp grated ginger

Coat the chicken pieces in the potato

1 tbsp soy sauce

flour and shake off any excess.

1 tbsp cooking wine (sake) 2 tsp sugar

Heat the oil in a wok or saucepan. When

½ tsp Chinese five-spice

the oil is hot (not smoking)scatter the

1 cup potato flour (katakuriko 片栗粉)

basil leaves into the wok and stir for

Oil, for deep-frying

about 20 seconds, or until the basil

1 cup fresh basil leaves

turns translucent. Remove and drain on absorbent paper.

Spice salt 1 tbsp salt

Increase the heat of the oil and fry the

¼ tsp Chinese five-spice

chicken in batches until golden brown

¼ tsp white pepper

and cooked through.

pinch chilli powder Toast spice ingredients in a dry frypan Note:

over low–medium heat for 2 minutes

Use a wok and fry in small batches to use less oil

Toss the chicken with the fried basil

A shallow skimmer strainer is useful to

leaves and season with a good pinch of





Charity Akita Greetings new JETs, old JETs, JET alumni, and friends! Charity Akita is rolling out this year with a brand new Board of Directors and we’re really eager to continue our annual events (and maybe plan some new ones!)

Who are we? Charity Akita is a non-profit group organized by current and former JETs with the primary mission of planning events throughout the year to bring together our community. We are not affiliated with any government, business, or other public/ private organizations. Just a bunch of expats looking to have a good time and raise some money for charity! How to get involved! Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (@CharityAkita) or email us at We are always looking for volunteers and for new ideas!


charity akita announcement

MEET OUR NEW 2018 BOARD executive director

Peter Hall

deputy director

Chris Dean


Caty Sullivan

social media manager

Danie Manos

location liason

Aki Regan

community and charity liason

Asami Jin

WHAT’S COMING UP? We would like to thank everyone again who came to the Welcome Party at the beach. We had a great time! These are our tentative dates for our usual yearly events. Mark your calendars, and keep an eye on our Facebook & Twitter to get updates.


Halloween Party Christmas Caroling Appi 2-day Ski Trip St. Patrick’s Day Party Sumo Tournament





60 Fuji Rock Festival 2018, Aki Regan

fuji rock festival


FUJI ROCK FESTIVA typhoons, tunes, and the surge

3, 2, 1,

and may the odds be ever in your favor .

The beat

that remind me of how

dropped on Skrillex’s opening song and in less than 10 seconds

strangers have changed, a

I lost my entire group of friends. For the next 4 minutes I floated

in Japan. We are often t

through the crowd sardined against bodies, desperately trying

of etiquitte that dictate s

not to lose my slides and phone. Miraculously ending up front

in Japan. When we ca

and center, it was here that I would remain for the next 3 hours.

the phone, how to line u

I planted myself beside a tiny Japanese obasan (she did not

acceptable clothing. As t

realize what she had got herself into), locked my hands around

we are held to a high sta

the barrier rail, and battled

in the public eye. So b

against the crushing pressure of the EDM crowd. Now I am not new to the music festival scene, I spent a great deal of my time in Australia at live


[‘baŋәraŋ]noun ____________________ an uproar or disturbance.

able to witness people

go of those restraints, as well as free myself from them was a refreshing change. Fuji Rock

shows, in mosh pits, and the

is a festival for all

occasional circle of death. (throwback to my emo teen years).To put

ages. Everyone

it simply, this was not my first rodeo. However, I was not prepared

is able to leave

for the reaction of a largely Japanese crowd at the Skrillex and

their stress

following Kendrick Lamar live stages. The two major headliners


for day 2 of FRF18’ were a completely different experience to

and just

any concert I have attended in these past 2 years. I realize now


that I’ve become accustomed to the organized towel swinging


crowds at most Japanese concerts. It’s these small moments



AL 2018


Priscilla Chong

my expectations of

as a result of living

told of the rules

social behavior

an speak on

up, what is



being let



63 Post Malone (FRF’18), Didy Huang


good music, spend time with friends, and frolic in the great outdoors. First held at Mt. Fuji in 1997, the festival quickly outgrew the original site. It is now held at Naeba ski resort in Niigata, attracting 125,000 attendees this year. I highly recommend it. The cheapest accommodation is camping, however this has its drawbacks. Typhoon Jongdari hit the festival site late Saturday night. It was a rough time trying to sleep whilst winds blew the tent wall into my face. All in all, Fuji Rock Festival

Kendrick Lamar (FRF’18), Kate Smith

was an amazing weekend. I made some hilarious memories with some amazing people. We started

check out the aftermovie here:

off as a makeshift group of friends, but we bonded through the trauma of Skrillex’s ‘Bangarang’ surge.

Friends who survive festivals together, stay together.



FRF’18, Didy Huang 64



66 Kakunodate Yamabuttsuke, Pimms Hubbell

seeing a lot of japan in a short time

SEEING A LOT OF JAPAN IN liam fahy Japan has an absurd amount of places to see.


But with the shape of the country, it

The first destination I aimed for was the

can take a lot of effort to scratch a lot of

‘Kappa bridge’. This is a scenic bridge that

places off your bucket list. For golden week

spans a crystal blue snow melt river in the

this year I decided to explore as much

mountains on the border of Nagano and

of the country as possible. So I decided

Gifu prefectures. The only reason I know

to drive from Yurihonjo to Fukuoka and

about this place is because I saw it as one

back. In total it would be over 3000km

of those background videos you see when

and I would get it all done in 8 days.

you do karaoke. Anyway, while the bridge was the main destination for the day, the

Before I left, I planned my route trying to

actual drive through the mountains was

get a good balance of driving and actually

beautiful. One thing to

seeing things. I also decided to use the

note of you want to come

toll roads for any driving over 50km as using the local roads would add actual days’ worth of driving to the trip. This was obviously more expensive but totally worth it. Anyway I’ll break it down by day I guess.



A SHORT TIME here is that you can’t actually drive to the bridge. You have to drive to a nearby town and get an official bus from there. Besides the bridge, there isn’t much there.There’s a café and a gift shop. But the area is just beautiful and even though it was busy with tourists, it felt very peaceful and serene. Leaving the mountains, Komatsu in Ishikawa would be my end spot for day 1. One the way


seeing a lot of japan in a short time

Kurashiki Culture District (Okayama), Liam

though I stopped in Takayama. Takayama,


though more so Hida was the inspiration

The first stop on day two was the

for the quiet town scenes in the movie

cultural district of Kurashiki in Okayama

‘Kimi no Na wa’ and you can definitely feel

prefecture. You might of seen this place

it. Takayama is a small town packed with

on the news earlier this summer as the

giant toti gates, lanterns, old style houses

surrounding area was heavily flooded due

and it’s possibly the most Japanese place

to the rains. The culture district itself was

I have ever been.


Before leaving, I picked up a bottle of their

The main draw to Kurashiki is its canal

local nihonshu to see how it compares to

and surrounded historical streets. Many


of the buildings now sell traditional crafts



or snacks, and some are now very old


curry restaurants. I didn’t spend too

For accommodation in Hiroshima I

much time here as my next destination

stayed at a capsule hotel. I chose one that

involved getting a ferry and with it being

also had links to a really cheap car park.

golden week I knew it would talk a while

For Hiroshima, I wanted to chill a bit

to get a seat on it.

more. So half of the day was spent visiting some of the historical areas related to the

My next stop was the island of

atomic bombing, as well as the museum.

Okunoshima, also known as rabbit

The day I went, was really sunny and

island. It’s a good thing I got there early

warm but not hot. It was the perfect day

as it took 2 hours waiting in line to get

to do your own walking tours. I went

on a ferry to the island. Golden week

to the bomb hypocentre, the a-bomb

crowds really do live up to the infamy. As

dome, peace park and the war museum.

you’d expect, the island is packed with


rabbits. Over 3000 in fact. The island

earthquake proof renovations so I didn’t

also has great walking/cycling paths that

get to see everything.






Even so, the

circle the island. It’s a great area to just stroll and enjoy the scenery as well has having rabbits running around you at all times. If rabbits are not your thing, the island also has an interesting history in the manufacturing of poison gas during WW2. After returning to the mainland, I headed straight for Hiroshima. Okunoshima “rabbit island” (Okayama), Liam Fahy


seeing a lot of japan in a short time

museum was very interesting. What I liked was that it showcased the terrors of war and had an overarching message of peace and striving to make sure we never go back to those times. After the museum I got lunch at a café that had outdoor seating. From my table I could see the a-bomb dome clearly. I was also aware that the hypocentre was only 200m away from where I was seated. Hiroshima is a very beautiful city but it’s also sobering knowing that where you standing, 73 years ago, one of the greatest weapons devised by man was released. After lunch I grabbed my car and drove an hour away to another ferry. This one was to take me to Miyajima. Luckily, Miyajima is a major tourist area so I didn’t have to wait long to get on a ferry. Miyajima is probably most famous for its big tori gate that stand amidst the ocean when the tide comes in.


The tide however, was out when I arrived.

trip I didn’t research things to do or

But this also let everyone who was there

eat at, so I was really surprised to se

walk out onto the beach and walk around

overrun with deer. I had encountered

the base of the gate. Also, for a lot of this

it wasn’t too shocking, but it was a lov


Itsukushima Shrine (Miyajima), Liam Fahy

r places to go or places to

The island has many different paths and different temples,

ee the village on Miyajima

pagoda and viewpoints to discover. There is also a park/garden.

the deer at Nara before so

This is a fantastic example of the Japanese style garden, with

vely surprise.

red bridges going over ponds, koi everywhere and lots of momiji


seeing a lot of japan in a short time


(top) Hiroshima Peace Memorial; (bottom) the great Torii at Miyajima,


trees. These Japanese maple are beautiful

sides by massive trucks. My car is a tiny

in fall and they are sometimes deep fried

yellow plate Daihatsu mira, so it wasn’t

and eaten as a snack.

the best feeling in the world. That mixed with the rain and my rising tiredness, I got

If you are lucky you will also get to hear

an overwhelming feeling of “man I wish I

some of the monks chanting and playing

was just in my nice big bed in honjo”.

various drums. With the setting of Miyajima, it really smacks you in the face with a “THIS IS JAPAN” feeling.

DAY 4 The entire day I was in Fukuoka, it was

The next part was the worst part of my

raining. So I decided I would have an

trip. I had underestimated how long it

indoor activities kind of day. So I turned

would take to drive from Hiroshima to

to instagram to give me inspiration on

Fukuoka. And having overstayed my

things to do. That’s a tip I have for people

time at Miyajima, I was soon driving in

going to a new place and not knowing

the dark. This was something I tried my

what to do, or finding some hidden gems

hardest not too do as I spend a lot of time

that the locals put up on insta. While I

driving and then walking around and

was in my hotel room, I was browsing #福

exploring, so by the time evening comes

岡 and one event flooded the feed. An art

my energy would start to wane. About

exhibit was currently showing in Fukuoka.

an hour outside Fukuoka, the heavens

Every piece of the exhibit was some form

opened up and it started pouring rain. At

of aquarium. These tanks ranged in size

the time I was on the bridge that connects

from a cereal bowl to massive tanks. Every

Honshu to Kyushu. This is a major freight

tank was either beautifully designed or

transport road so I was surrounded on all

had some cool lighting effects.


seeing a lot of japan in a short time

Fukuoka is famous for tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen. Fukuoka is also home of the first Ichiran tokotsu ramen restaurant. Amazingly, there was no queue when I got there, maybe the rain helped with that. The ramen was super delicious and it was an interesting experience in itself. You are separated from every other diner and the staff serve your ramen from

through it. In the evening they had a big

behind a curtain. This is to let you focus

light show projected onto the fountain

entirely on the ramen. They want you to

jets of the canal. Fukuoka is definitely a

taste the ramen, savor the ramen, BE the

city that comes to life at night. While the

ramen! It was tasty. I recommend. The

city had been a bit quiet and grey due to

last major thing I did in Fukuoka was

the rain, it exploded at night.

go to Canal City. This is a big shopping DAY 5

mall with a water feature/canal running

After two nights in Fukuoka, it was time to start heading north again. Today’s plan was to get to Osaka with just one major stop along the way. The stop was kintai bridge in Yamaguchi prefecture. This is a long Japanese style humpback bridge in the middle of nowhere Yamaguchi. But it looked interesting so I wanted to check it out. Ichiran ramen (Fukuoka), Liam Fahy (top) aquarium art exhibit, Liam Fahy



After parking with everyone else on the

the road I was on was newly opened and

dry rocky riverbank I walked got a ticket

was not yet input to google maps, as I was

to allow me to cross the bridge. There

driving through a beige blur on the map

really isn’t anything on either side of the

with nothing around, so I missed my exit

bridge but it was nice to sit and read my

and joined the golden week traffic. With

kindle and eat an ice-cream in such an

the traffic and some of the backtracking I

idyllic area. If bridges aren’t your thing,

had to do, I added another 2 hours onto

then don’t bother coming here.

my already long drive. Fun times.

From there I had a straight drive to Osaka.

Anyway, I arrived and checked into the

That was until my google maps started to

seediest hotel in Japan.

freak the hell out. I can only guess that

Dotonbori (Osaka), Liam Fahy


seeing a lot of japan in a short time

Kintai bridge (Yamaguchi), Liam Fahy



DAY 6 I had been to Osaka before so this time was devoted mostly to shopping and eating food we can’t get here in Akita. But since it was golden week, it seemed like every person in Asia was in Osaka that day. DAY 7 For this day I was heading back to Gifu for what I thought was going to be a beautiful scene of flooded rice terraces. I was so wrong, but so much happier with what I got. After driving though a small town, I started my ascent up Mt. Ibuki. I was a little worried as my car does not like going uphill. Anyway, I got to my destination, but what surrounded me instead of rice fields, was a large tea plantation. The layout of the plantation was also high up in this steep valley, so they call the area the Machu Pichu


79 Tea plantations at Mt. Ibuki “Machu Pichu of Gifu”, Liam Fahy



seeing a lot of japan in a short time

of Gifu. The plantation had free parking

car, the trip wasn’t as cheap as I had

and some nice walking trails. After your

hoped. Driving on the toll roads was the

walk they offer you some fresh tea from

biggest cost, followed by fuel. But for the

the leaves grown right there. I left Machu

freedom of where to go when you wanted

Pichu and headed once again for Komatsu

to it was worth it. It was also not as lonely

in Ishikawa to crash at my friends place.

as I thought it would be. I had some good playlists and podcasts to listen to along


the way. Download “My Dad Wrote A

The last day of my trip was the drive home.

Porno” if you haven’t listened to it yet!

This felt like the longest part of my trip. But before I got back to Akita prefecture,

I didn’t include everything I did or saw

I stopped in Sakata to grab some pizza

but I hope this can inspire someone to

hut. One last treat before my domestic

travel more, or just wing it when you have

holiday ended.

some days off. If you have any questions about anywhere I went, tolls, or anything

Overall I drove 3170km, visited over 10

like that, ask me anytime.

prefectures, and knocked a load of things Happy travels

off my bucket list. While I had my own




Flooded rice fields, Liam Fahy



(top) Mt. Kurikoma, (bottom) Oyasukyo Gorge, Priscilla Chong


fall in love with fall

fall in love with fall danie manos “Akita” doesn’t mean “Autumn Rice Fields” for no reason! Tourists come in bus loads from as far as Tokyo to witness our vibrant fall leaves. Don’t miss out! Our leaves are forecasted to change come next month. Let me recommend to you some of my personal favorite places for autumn sight seeing.

Mt. Kurikoma

Oyasukyo Gorge

Like I said, busloads of tourists make it

Not a fan of hiking? Fear not! Just a short

out to Kurikoma-yama come autumn,

drive from Mt. Kurikoma is the equally

so the hiking paths can get a little busy.

beautiful Oyasukyo Gorge. A feature

But don’t let that put you off! Not only

of the Yuzawa geo-park, this gorge is

can you get breathtaking views of a sea

literally steaming – don’t dip your toes in!

of fall leaves, but you can soak your achy

I honestly cannot believe I haven’t gotten

legs in the outdoor onsen at the bottom

a picture of it in autumn; with a canopy

after. Located on the border of Akita,

of autumn leaves above and below, this is

Iwate, and Miyagi, on clear days you may

a really beautiful place to get some insta-

even see Mt. Chokai, Gassan, and Zao!

worthy shots (not pictured is a bright red

The hike is about 4km on the Akita side

bridge overhead!). The hike down and up

and isn’t terribly difficult – at least, if the

the gorge takes only about ten minutes…

obachans from Tokyo can do it then so

So you might be thinking, is it worth the

can you! Park at Sukawa Onsen「須川高原

trip? Absolutely! With all of this steamy

大露天風呂」to start your journey. Oh! And

water readily available, you bet the gorge

don’t forget waterproof shoes!

is lined with some really cozy outdoor


fall in love with fall

onsen. Each bathhouse has a rustic feel, built with wood slates or stone, with some baths right up against the river itself. My personal favorites are Tarobee and Abe Ryokan. Check out the area website: Note: I feel I can’t forget to mention that you can buy some really delicious fresh Kurikoma ice cream here!

Kawarage Jigoku – AKA “Hell” Also located in Yuzawa (perhaps you are

legs, you can take a short walk through the

noticing a trend), this place is cheerfully

woods to soak in a steamy onsen waterfall

named after the fiery pits of Hell. Perhaps

– yes, I said that right, an onsen waterfall .

this is because the mountain is so volcanic

Don’t forget your bathers though! This is

it’s completely stripped of life, leaving

not a private bath!

nothing but pebbly dust and steamy yellow sulfur. Gosh Danie, why would I

If you do want a private bath, you cannot

want to visit a smelly bald mountain?

miss out on bathing in Doroyu onsen,

Bear with me. The best word I can use

right next to Kawarage Jigoku, arguably

to describe this place is “surreal”. With a

one of the most famous onsen in Akita

back drop of fiery red fall leaves, visiting

(next to Nyuto, of course). Sadly, many of

here felt like I was walking on Mars. Also

the facilities burned down in a terrible

for you non-hikers, you can drive right up

fire just a few years ago, but the baths are

to it! But if you are ready to stretch your

still running despite there



86 Kawarage Oyutaki (Yuzawa), Priscilla Chong

fall in love with fall

Kawarage Jigoku, Sandra Syt-Mui Pang

being some reconstruction. Doroyu is a

Notable mentions:

mud bath, expect to come out with your

Lake Towada (Akita/Aomori)

skin looking hella fresh. (Thanks, Satan!)

Shirakami Sanchi (Akita/Aomori)

Get your hiking boots and cameras! These are just three of my favorite places,

Naruko Gorge (Miyagi) Hachimantai (Akita/Iwate) Dakigaeri Gorge (Akita) Hottai Falls (Mt. Chokai)

and I am clearly biased toward Yuzawa. But there are sightseeing spots all over

If you visit any of these places

Akita prefecture. Ask your friends and

(or others) please send in your photos

neighbors for their recommendations!

for the Akitan Fall edition




88 Mitake Shrine Festival (Ugo), Priscilla Chong

upcoming event september


yuzawa udon expo

kiritampo festival

Taste udon from around Japan

Make your own kiritampo

Date: 9/29 ~ 9/30

Date: 10/6 ~ 10/8

Location: Yuzawa City Hall

Location: Odate



90 ’ s

fall leaves cycle

lounge ( dj event )

Dance with some young people

Changing colors along train lines

Date: 9/29

Date: 10/10

Location: Akita International

Location: North Akita


Website: http://www.akita-satoya-

Website: http://www.90slounge.

com/ goshiki lake festival

Catch a fish with your hands Date: 10/15 Location:Yamase Dam multipurpose square Website:



ts around akita october akita brewing festival

Enjoy Akita’s nihonshu Date: 10/20 ~ 10/21 Location: Alve, Akita City Website: https://japan-attractions. jp/alcohol/akita-brewing-festival/

november remember to change to snow tires

Do you know of something fun that will happen in winter? Let us know for the next edition.



the staff of the akitan would like many talented contributing

Most photographs are credited in pla

Jose Alonso, via (background, 2 ) Sandra Syt-Mui Pang (banner, 15)

James L.W, via (banner, 37 ) Tom Ritson, via (banner, 46) ‘strawberry’, via (background, 51) Toa Heftiba, via (background, 54) Marisa Harris, via (background, 55)



e to extend our grattitude to our writers and photographers .

ace, but we would also like to thank: Danie Manos (background, 57, 58) Aki Regan (background, 62) Liam Fahy (background, 67, 68) ‘fall forecast’, via (background, 85) Andrea Danko (background, 89) Priscilla Chong (background, 91)


Thank you for reading