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vo lu m e 1 7 num ber 2 // s e p te m be r 2 012


off they go!


nother year, another group of new JETs. Feeling old yet? 46 new JETs left for Japan from Vancouver over the BC Day long weekend, bound for the JET boot camp in Tokyo that also doubles as the beautiful Keio Plaza Hotel. They got their first experiences of the JET life through the Pre-Departure Seminars in Vancouver held at the downtown BCIT in late-June. Much thanks goes to the JET alumni volunteers and the staff at the Consulate General of Japan in Vancouver for their amazing work helping these bright people on their way.


t’s that time of the year again! Applications for the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) are now in progress. The test will be held at Capilano University in North Vancouver, and the test date is Sunday, December 2, 2012. The JLPT runs only once a year in Vancouver, so this is your only chance at taking the test until December 2013. Don’t miss out! Applications are accepted until October 5, 2012, and they can be sent in by mail, fax, or in person.

The test fee is the same for all five levels (N1–N5) at $70. More information can be found at the Capilano University JLPT site: Good luck!

Proceedings at the Vancouver Pre-Departure Orientation.

News from the JET Desk at the Consulate General of Japan


t is always interesting to note the kinds of questions that will occupy the minds of the new participants at their final orientation, on the day before their departure. Sometimes it is about omiyage or what is considered “free time” at the Tokyo orientation. This year, questions about luggage dominated the session. These queries covered everything from what constituted carry-on luggage for the flight (luggage + business article + personal item + suit bag?), and how much of it can we bring from Narita to the Keio Plaza, to do we really have to bring the professional wear to Tokyo orientation? Overall, though, the group was mostly anxious, but excited to be finally rounding the corner that would lead them to their placements in Japan. After the orientation, the new participants retired to the backyard of the Consul General’s residence for the rousing, send-off speeches and a toast from JETAABC president, Ann Yamashita. The post-orientation reception was well-attended, as usual, by the participants, JET Alumni members, along with various government, academic and Japan-related organization representatives. Of the 151 Canadians invited to participate in this year’s JET Programme, 52, largely from British Columbia, will depart from Vancouver. With early departure possible, starting this year, four left in April and May, 46 on August 4, and the remaining two will depart in August and September. They will join another 307 Canadian JETs already in Japan, bringing the total to 458. Canada has the second largest number of participants behind the U.S., but is ahead of the U.K.

in Japan. JETAABC also introduced the Sempai List program, which saw alumni matched with new participants to answer questions and offer support. We hope those of you who participated enjoyed the experience and we will look to using this resource again, next year. Thank you JETAABC! Your continued involvement with the JET Programme continues to help it remain highly successful. Superior adaptability, professional to a tee, a love for interacting with people, and a willingness to try almost anything. We know many alumni fit this bill. If you have friends or family, who do, too, and they want to experience onsen, ohanami and rajio taiso, just like you did, let them know that recruitment for the 2013 JET Programme will be underway, soon! Want to do it all again? Alumni, who have not participated since 2010, and did not participate for more than five years total, can re-apply, as long as they meet the other eligibility requirements. The application form and information session schedule will be available on the Embassy of Japan’s JET Programme website ( in mid- to late-September. Interested applicants can also register their email address to be notified of application availability at www.vancouver. Steve Chevalier Assistant to the Consul, Cultural Affairs

With the end of another JET cycle, the Consulate would like to thank all of the JETAABC members who helped us recruit, interview and prepare this year’s participants for their adventure




hree JETAABC board members attended the Canada Conference held this past June 8-10 in Calgary. Megumi Johns and I attended as representatives of the BC chapter, and Greg Joughin attended as the national Canada Representative. The JETAA Southern Alberta chapter fabulously organized the conference, and we were also warmly welcomed by the Consul General of Japan in Calgary, Mr Susumu Fukuda, and his staff.

Canada Conference 2012 Summary Report

The overall theme of the conference was strengthening and maintaining an active alumnae network. Topics of discussion at the conference included sharing of ideas for chapter events (particularly concerning helping new JETs prepare for departure, such as ideas for pre-departure orientation topics/workshops, and helping returning JET alums to re-integrate), working on developing a national JETAA Canada website and database of alums, and revising the national bylaws to be more comprehensive.

Changing Tides fundraiser, Photohoku camera drive, and the development and implementation of the Sempai List, which matched departing BC JETs with returned BC alums who lived in the same area. (Ideally the departing JET would be able to contact their predecessor, but as this is not always possible, the Sempai List would provide a resource of people familiar with the locality to offer advice on area-specific packing, etc.) Other chapters were particularly interested in the Sempai List, and the representatives considered trying to implement this project nationally in order to more closely match departing JETs with alums who lived in closer proximity to their assignments.

Megumi and I presented our chapter report of activities for the past year, highlighting the

text by

Kim Mc Nelly JETAA Southern Alberta

photos from

The keynote speaker, Erynne Sjoblom, former JET and now Executive Visionary of the Alberta/Japan Twinned Municipalities Association (A/JTMA), spoke on municipal “twinning” relationships. “Twinning” is similar to sister city-ship but generally involves smaller communities. The underlying principle is that both local governments sign a contract saying that they want to formally declare their mutual bond and also plan to do certain joint activities (such as mutual visits by school children or municipal staff) within a set time frame. You may have known that Vancouver’s sister city is Yokohama, but did you know that surrounding areas—including North Vancouver and New Westminster—also have strong twinning relationships with Japanese municipalities? In fact, many BC municipalities have had relationships with Japanese municipalities. The keynote speaker encouraged JET alums to offer support in helping existing relationships and creating new ones, possibly through our contacts with our JET Board of Education or city hall offices. CLAIR also presented at the conference, asking for JET alums’ help in promoting local Japanese products and particularly those from the Tohoku region in order to help stimulate the region’s economy. During a brain-storming session, we discussed how to adapt existing ideas for events to include local products, such as turning a sushi-and-sake fundraiser for Tohoku into a sushi-and-Tohoku-sake fundraiser. The national action plan items, including revisions to the national bylaws and development of a national JETAA Canada website, are long-term goals. Megumi and I will remain representatives for the BC chapter throughout the year and engage in regular Skype chats to work out the details with other representatives for these two projects. We will make reports to board members at the monthly meetings, and any revision of the national bylaws will be voted on by the whole board. The full report from JETAABC representatives can be found on the JETAABC website at



stadium blows up with excitement. almost literally. text by Thomas photos by

Law Lucky Herath, Wanda Yee


arlier on August 25, JETAABC hosted a barbeque at the JETAABC hosted a section at the Scotiabank Field (Nat Bailey Stadium) where more than 30 people joined us for the all-youcan-eat barbeque while watching the Vancouver Canadians play the Boise Hawks. The weather was cooperative and spectators enjoyed an excellent game under the clear evening skies. Then they brought out the fireworks. As part of their Fireworks Night program, the venue sent off a long round of fireworks, which reminded many of us of the senko hanabi sparklers we used to play with in Japan. That is, if that sparkler sent off fireworks the size of a baseball diamond. We got front-row seats from our spot right against the dugout. JETAABC is looking to host a barbeque there again next summer. Stay tuned for it!

pacific coast governments collaborate on monitoring tsunami debris

text by Thomas

Law Compiled with help from Loretta Siu, Greg Joughin, Ann Yamashita, and

donation total for jetaabc’s changing tides silent auction After a bit of a delay finalizing the transactions, the donation total for JETAABC’s February event is finally out. With more than half a year’s worth of hardwork and planning, the Changing Tides photo exhibition and silent auction raised a total of $3955 for earthquake and tsunami relief for the Tohoku region. $1500 was donated to Living Dreams and $2455 to Peace Boat for their relief programs. Thank you once again to all the donors, volunteers, participants, and supporters of one of our biggest events in JETAABC’s history.

With the impending arrival of more debris from the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011 on the North American west coast, British Columbia and the various states along the coastline have established an information website for those who are interested in the status of the situation or those who are interested in helping clean their coastal shorelines. The Japan Tsunami Marine Debris Joint Information Center website can be accessed at disasterdebris.

a film about taylor A documentary film has been made about Taylor Anderson, an Ishinomaki JET who lost her life in the Great East Japan Earthquake. Director Regge Life notes that this was a film not only about Taylor, but “all the young people who travel the world trying to make a difference.” Though the documentary started through Director Life’s own initiative, it has garnered the support of Taylor’s family and friends, JETAANY, and CLAIR. Live Your Dream: The Taylor Anderson Story premieres November 9, 2012, at Taylor’s high school in Virginia. Source link (clickable): Regge Life interview at, Live Your Dream homepage

t-shirts for fukushima Fukushima’s AJET group, FuJET, has started a t-shirt fundraiser to raise money for various charities in Fukushima. Eyes for Fukushima (E4F) works around the prefecture and has raised more than 400000yen for relief efforts. For Fukushima alumni who want to show their support, or those who simply want to help out and get a cool t-shirt, please check out Eyes for Fukushima at e4f. or their Facebook page at

make your inaka known Oita JET Chris Allison has started a website called “The Inaka” that aims to collect information about every small corner of Japan — pretty much every JET placement location! Contributors can add to the knowledge base anything interesting about their town. It can also become a useful place for new JETs to learn about their new towns as well. Source link (clickable):



jets on location In the final part of our JETs on Location feature, we look at how the couple of new JETs we have been following since their Pre-Departure Seminar in Vancouver are doing after one full year on the job. Have they re-contracted, or are they moving on to new chapters in their lives? I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all four of our volunteer/

contibutors for their writings throughout the past year: Aileen in Hokkaido, Russell in Fukushima, Simon in Tokushima, and Kane in Oita. Thomas Law Newsletter Coordinator

Aileen O’Brien

Russell Aquino

One year is up! It’s hard to articulate all the feelings I have about my year in Japan. Teaching Elementary school has been a dream, I’ll really miss all my smiling kids! I was able to learn Ikebana, tea ceremony, calligraphy, snowboarding and improved my Japanese more than I thought possible. I was able to travel a bit, obviously I saw Kyoto and a lot of Hokkaido. I feel particularly grateful for the opportunity I had to share Japan and Japanese culture with my family who came to visit me in May. Being on the JET Programme for a year has been an excellent way to experience Japan and foster my love of Japanese culture. Finally after 4 years of studying Japan in university for a degree in Pacific and Asian studies, I was able to come and see Japan. I have the JET Programme to thank for that and while I’m returning to Canada to continue my studies, I won’t forget my time spent in Japan, teaching kids English and learning new things everyday.

The other day, the PE teacher who sits across from me in the staff room moaned how he couldn’t believe how quickly 2012 has gone— already at late-June, we both acknowledged that, indeed, half the year was already over. Looking back, it seems like only yesterday that I was in my apartment, huddled under three blankets, and praying to the touyu gods to let whatever kerosene was left in my heater last until the morning. But, just as the blizzard that night eventually stopped, so did the snow melt, and warm weather finally made its way into the countryside of Fukushima.

ishikari, hokkaido

a i z u - w a k a m at s u , f u k u s h i m a

The new school year started in April with the usual fanfare of opening ceremonies and welcome enkais. I was particularly looking forward to this school year because the hours per week allocated to English classes were increased, and I wanted to use some of those hours for more creative lessons.




Aileen trying out a tea ceremony class.



Two and a half months in, and while the increased workload has made for more challenging time management, I’m glad to have more opportunities to interact with my students. I’ve noticed that, compared to last year, there are more students who are comfortable engaging me with their English: “Russell-sensei, I have a stomachache.” (I’m sorry. The school nurse isn’t here today.) “Russell-sensei, have you ever loved Zac Efron?” (No, and I’m not particularly interested. Neither is he, I’d presume.) “Russell-sensei, let’s have a Pokemon battle!” (Fine, but only if I can have Pikachu.) Small steps, but they’re definitely an improvement from the usual hellos and good mornings in the hallway. Outside of school, life in Fukushima goes on. This past March marked the passing of one year since the tsunami and nuclear disaster of 3/11. While small aftershocks continue to occur just often enough to remind us of that day, the focus has largely shifted to moving on and figuring out what to do for the future.

Aizuwakamatsu, from one of the mountains nearby

I have to admit that, surrounded by mountains, forests, and lakes—the incredible natural beauty of this prefecture—it is sometimes hard to imagine that only a few hours away towards the coast, there are entire towns that remain uninhabitable, and that for children in nearby cities, radiation dosimeters have become part of the standard school uniform. I’ve spent the past year getting to know a Fukushima that is a product of the disaster, but I’ve also come to realize that this land and these people are so much more than that: there are places here worth exploring and a culture worth getting to know. For most JETs in the ken, educating others about this side of Fukushima has become a mission—a duty in addition to the regular work that we do in our schools and offices. There’s still a lot of work to be done as part of the recovery effort, and I’ve signed on for a second year to continue helping out. But, with the work comes smiles, friendships, and the opportunities to build lasting bonds. Even in a small way, this English teacher is happy to be able to make a difference.

Clockwise from upper-left: cherry blossom petals falling down at one of the shrines during spring, a picture of one of the sunsets in Aizu, a picture of one of the “Five Coloured Lakes” of Fukushima



Cheering for my school baseball team at Koshien. The characters on my cone read: “Beppu Aoyama”.

Kane Mercer b e p p u , o i ta

Well, my first year as a JET will be ending soon, and I have to say, that I love this experience as much as I did when I first started. I believe the last time that I wrote was in the winter when there was an apartment fire. I remember writing about how helpful everyone was in helping us back on to our feet again. We moved from the shelter of my school, to free housing, to another apartment and eventually back to the same building where we were before. Moving three and a half times between December and April sure kept us busy, but for every single challenge that we faced, we have had countless memories that we will fondly look back at when we eventually return to Canada. One of those special memories was when my whole school went together to Spring Koshien (one of the most famous baseball events in Japan) to cheer on our baseball team. I felt so proud of my kids as they worked their way up through the Kyushuu baseball tournament—training as hard as they could to make the most of their only chance to become professional baseball players. Japanese high school baseball teams usually designate roles for each year. During the 1st year students train hard and manage cheerleading and in the 3rd year most students become mentors, deciding to focus on schoolwork. It is the 2nd year when students can make their dream of going to the Koshien (and possibly becoming recruited) come true, and in our case it really did happen. It was the 2nd time that my school had ever reached that level in its history, and by the time we got to the nationals, we had all of Kyushuu cheering us on. Cheering is such a special thing in Japan, too. I think that the common belief in Japan is that the quality of the cheers by the people in the stands has a real effect on how the game will turn out. Sure we stand and clap when we see a nice play in Canada, but in Japan everyone supporting the batting team stands up together, chanting and clapping to the sound of taiko drums. I have never heard of a Canadian school renting 12 buses to take their entire body of students and staff on a 12-hour bus ride to watch a baseball game. This kind of thing just doesn’t happen in Canada and it is during these moments of watching the students laugh and cry, cheer and cooperate with each other, that I really feel that I have experienced something special here in Japan. Sure, at one point during the game we were only a hit away from tying the game and a double from winning, so losing 0-1 was unfortunate; but after seeing the drama unfold and the way in which they pulled together as a team to do their best, I think that it was even more important to me than the final result.

My school went to Koshien, one of the most important baseball events in Japan.

A picture from our annual AJET Oita bike trip. This year we went from Oita city to a campground near Saiki city.

Much thanks to Aileen, Russell, and Kane for their contributions!

On the road between Oita and Saiki.




food Q

uick, what’s the first trick in the book for all JETs when we are trying to strike up a conversation with anyone? “Talk about food.” What a simple, yet amazingly awesome concept. With this universal topic, you can have long, socially-acceptable conversations with anyone from kindergarteners to your boss’ 100-year old grand-aunt, anywhere around the world. On top of that, recently there has been a growing culture of “foodies” in Vancouver — people with increasingly sophisticated palates and an insatiable curiosity to try out the “next best thing”.To celebrate that wonderful saviour of many eikaiwa classes, we dedicate this issue to food.

how to make awesome bentos and still have time to sleep like a panda text and photos by

Wanda Yee


ontrary to popular belief, preparing a visually pleasing and delicious bento does not require sacrificing hours of your time. With a little bit of preplanning and organization, a simple bento can take as little as 10 minutes. Here are a few time-saving tips: Plan your bento in advance: Instead of staring into your fridge and trying to frantically MacGyver something into “lunch” in the mornings, knowing what you’ll be making ahead of time and ensuring that you have all the ingredients on-hand will save you from a messy kitchen and a potential “hit or miss” situation with lunch. has a free, downloadable weekly bento planner that is separated into 4 sections (carbs, protein, veggies, fruit/extras) to help keep your bento nutritiously balanced and it also doubles as a weekly shopping list. Take a look and see if it will work for you: http:// weekly-bento-planner Stock up: Now that you have an idea of what you’ll be eating all week, it’s time to stock up on some bento staples. If it’s something you know you’ll be using in your bento often, it’s helpful to have the items cut/peeled/frozen (or however you like) in a container, so it’s ready to go when you need it. I tend to use a lot of fruit and vegetables in my bento, so I have small tupperware containers of chopped onions, peppers, cut melon, washed berries, etc. that I can just spoon out and use.

Cook for the future: Instead of pulling out the pots and pans and cooking something new every single day, I cook in bulk because I’m lazy. Take rice, for example. I cook a few cups of rice every week and throw them in microwave-friendly ziplock bags in the fridge. When I’m putting together my bento, I just toss a bag into the microwave for a couple of minutes and it’s done. Simple! I also cook my “proteins” and “mains” in batches as well and freeze them. Ex: meatballs, soboro, spare ribs, stir-fry, etc. My only caution is to be vigilant about putting and checking the dates on the freezer bags/containers, so that the food doesn’t stay there too long. Leftovers: Leftovers make for the best bento-stuffers for several reasons: 1) Zero food waste, 2) It’s already made, and 3) You already know what it tastes like, so no surprises. Pack it in advance: I am not a morning person. I always assemble and pack my bento for the next day as soon as I come home from work (or after dinner), so that I can sleep in a little longer the next morning. All you need is a microwave at lunch and you’re good to go! So, if you’ve ever considered packing a bento for work but was deterred by the thought of having to slave away in the kitchen, don’t be. Give it a try and see if it works for you!



Standing under the blue and white awning, I stare at you through the window. Between the manga and onigiri, you sit and stare right back at me. I dance through the barrage of “Irasshaimase!” and sidle up next to you. Like a kid in a candy store or like the kid in the candy aisle a meter away, I smile at you. You are surrounded by your brethren of Meronpan, Anpan, and the wildly exotic Currypan. But it is you – Koppepan with the butter and jam middle – that I want. As I pick you up, my mind enters the abyss of the bygone day. Photo: Student Life in Japan (Blog)

Ode to Lawson’s

Koppepan text by

Bryan Chau

Long day; Sad day; Mildly Oppressive Day. A teacher thought that Hangman was too violent for the classroom. Lost my indoor shoes and had to wear slippers; three sizes too small. Student mocked the way I said “Banana” despite it eerily sounding the same in both Japanese and English. BA-na-na? … Ba-NAN-a? …. Ba-na-NA? Am I wrong? Did I pronounce it wrong this whole time? No, it can not be!… Can it? I awake from my nightmarish delusion of yellow fruit, small feet and missing consonants. I look down at you, Koppepan. You would not mock me with your soft, moist and aromatic shell. Nor would your creamy and sweet centre of butter and jam misplace my shoes. Even the ¥100 stamped across your forehead would not ridicule me in my time of need. From the counter, the clerk, clad in blue and white stripes, glances over at me. Staring and goading me into buying the Koppepan. “Take it … Buy it … Eat it,” he subconsciously reiterates to me through his eyes. “Buy a copy of Men’s Non-no too.” Kimura Takuya looks at me from the cover and nods approvingly toward the Koppepan. “Buy a BA-na-na too” he whispers from the glossy magazine. BA-na-na? … Ba-NAN-a? …. Ba-na-NA? I stride confidently towards the register with Koppepan in hand. I watch you, my quiet friend, being scanned and logged in some faraway machine which mattered not to me. All that mattered was that you and I were to be together very soon. As the whooshing of the automatic doors and “Arigatougozaimashita!” echoed behind me, I look down at my Koppepan. No longer on the shelf between the comics and the triangular riceballs, you are finally in my hand. I tear open the plastic packaging and savour the sweet mixture of bread, butter and jam. I take the first bite and it tastes like triumphant victory over a day to be forgotten. But alas, what of tomorrow? What if tomorrow brings more sorrow and self-loathing? I look in my other hand. What is this?… Another Koppepan? Always buy two for a better tomorrow. Background Photo: Get Beneath the Surface (Blog)




y name is Sabine and I love natto. There. I admitted it. My husband also loves natto. My toddler loves natto. We are a natto-loving family. This was all wonderful in Japan, where a 3-pack of natto is about $1.50, but here in Canada, buying natto can put a natto-loving family in the poor house! So one day I got brave and made some natto myself. Here’s how:

Let’s Make Natto! text and photo from

Sabine Sasakura

You’ll need: •  One package of supermarket natto (and this could be the only natto you ever need to buy again!) •  Small, dried soybeans. Start small, with only about 1 -2 cups of beans •  a cooler •  a 1–2 litre container. I used a glass pickle jar. •  a glass/ceramic container and parchment paper cut to fit on top Instructions: 1. Soak the dried beans over night 2. Cook the beans as per the package. I am lazy, so I cook mine in a crock pot for 12 hours. 3. Put the cooked beans in a glass or ceramic container 4. Add 2 tbsp of natto as starter and stir 5. Place the parchment paper on top 6. Boil water and fill your 1-2 litre container 7. Place glass container of beans and natto in the cooler and put the boiled water in the cooler close to the beans (but not touching) 8. Put the lid on the cooler and wait. 9. You want to keep the environment warm and damp, so keep changing that boiled water every 12 hours or so. 10. Wait about 1 week, and you should have goopy, slimy natto! It is normal for it to smell like dirty sweat socks. It is not normal for any odd coloured mould to grow on it. It can take on a slightly whitish sheen, much like the styrofoam natto has, but do not eat it if there is anything technicolour or otherwise going on with it. Make and eat at your own risk! It is, afterall, a fermented product, so it’s always an experiment! Make sure you use super clean, disinfected if possible, tools! Happy natto-making! Stay tuned next time for “Let’s Make Makkoli!” (a “raw” sake)


born in vancouver:


y now you’re probably pretty familiar with the Japadog hot dog stands in downtown Vancouver that sell specialty hot dogs with a Japanese take. Did you know that it was started in 2005 by a new immigrant Japanese couple whose dream was to create a world famous food stand? At one point they still couldn’t hire any employees, but had a newborn baby in their life, so they brought their child along with them when they worked.

text and photo by

Thomas Law

Over the years, with new employees and awards, they now run four stands and a store in Vancouver, with a new store that opened in New York earlier this year. With a great variety of hot dogs (serving a different combination of hot dogs at every stand) and “shaked” fries, Japadog has managed to achieve its dream of being a famous food stand. If you’ve never tried out a Japadog before, you gotta try it to see what everyone’s been talking about.

One of Japadog’s hot dog stands along Burrard St




n 2008, a book titled “The Hundred Mile Diet” brought locavorism (eating food grown locally) to the forefront of our cultural consciousness. In the book, the authors tracked a year of trying to eat only items that were grown within a hundred miles of their East Vancouver home. Since then, the concept of shortening our food chain from where it was grown to where it is served has really started to resonate with people around the world. This awareness of what foods can be grown, produced and eaten locally, has not escaped Japan where there has been a resurgence in the popularity of farming. “Chisan Chisho,” which means “produce local, consume local” has been a common slogan that is propelling a movement of young urbanites to return to rural Japan and the small-scale farming lifestyle.

Emi at the Farmers Market

Currently, I am working as an urban farmer in Vancouver — growing food in under-utilized spaces around the city, promoting awareness of how we can re-localize our food system. It is empowering to me to know that half way around the world, similar work is being done, and that there is a consumer push towards purchasing local food that is fueling the success of new organic farmers.

Emi Do, our former Social Coordinator, is the farm manager and co-founder of Yummy Yards — an urban farm and edible landscaping service located in Vancouver’s Westside — as well as the coordinator of Metro Vancouver City Farms, a cooperative of urban farms. Check out the two organizations’ respective websites at www. and www.vancouvercity Of course, if you’re interested in locally-produced foods, check out www. for information on Farmers Markets around the city.

At the Farmers Market in Kerrisdale

produce local consume local

Every Saturday, I sell produce that I’ve grown around the city at the Kerrisdale Farmers Market. It’s so amazing to meet members of my community and hear how text and photo from excited they are about the work that I’m Emi Do doing in their neighborhood. Though my skin is about eight shades darker than it should be and my hands are as rough as sandpaper from too much time spent digging in the soil, it’s moments spent talking to satisfied customers and neighbors that makes this work worth it. Whether or not you believe in the sustainability of local food, if you’ve ever tasted a snap pea harvested just a few hours before market, or a tomato still glistening from being sun-kissed on it’s vine the afternoon before, I’m sure that you too will join the “chisan chisho” movement… It’s just that sweet.

The following is an excerpt from an essay Babeeta wrote for The Art of Living Foundation, an NGO involved in stress-management and service initiatives. s I sit down to eat the khichdi I made (a light rice and lentil porridge), filled with delightful veggies, topped with melted ghee and ground pepper, I watch the steam rise from my plate in sheer contentment… It is a cold mid-November day. I gazed down at the plate feeling the warmth of the food in my tummy. Normally when I am absolutely famished, I can completely devour the contents of my plate, hardly taking time to breathe. But today was different. I was feeling the fullness just in the vast array of colors, the comforting smell and the sight of the drooling ghee on the plate. I wished at that moment that everybody would love khichdi the way I do and not just associate it with something you only eat when you are sick and weak. Khichdi is my favourite savoury food... I believe that what makes it tasty is when a special ingredient is added... love.

The Yoga of Eating Babeeta Chhabra

text by



For me, the art of loving food and the awareness of the love that has gone into making it, is the “Yoga of Eating”. Also, the awareness of applying the yoga yamas while preparing and consuming food. It seems that in the race of the 21st century, the Yoga of Eating is subsiding as we tend to eat food on the run, nuke it in the microwave, eat while on the iPhone. So the days of sitting at a family table, saying a prayer and taking time to chew, has become an image of the past. Yet when we look into the diverse cultures and traditions around the world, sitting and eating together is a common thread that weaves the social fabric of a society.


You’ll find me here… (Japanese food done right in downtown Vancouver) text by

Alison Chiang Law

photos by Thomas


t’s not the sake I come for though I’m sure it’s divine… the fine glass bottles gleaming from the bright bar and reflecting off the fast hands of an amicable bartender. It’s the ambiance and the eyepopping beauty that comes in the form of simple low-lighting décor and dishes so neatly presented. The dishes are like flowers in full boom, teasing you with its ravishing good looks. My dining guest and I were drawn immediately to the tofu and avocado salad placed on a large round appetizer-like plate brimming like an overflowing fountain. The avocados were delicate and fresh while the yellow and red peppers, crisp and sweet. Small pieces of tofu were placed in the middle of the plate and had a nice soft centre. Lightly shredded seaweed were placed fittingly on top. Rounding off our appetizer stock was the agedashi tofu and karaage nanban (otherwise known as deep fried oh-so-juicy chicken). The tofu had a nice texture which meant it was cooked right, but I prefer to go slightly light on the dashi stock. Perhaps the sauce could have been offered on the side. The karaage was near perfection! If you are going for one deep-fried option, this nice, crunchy battered goodness is it.

Ashrams, churches, temples, mosques, synagogues embrace this concept of eating together. So the question is how do we integrate this value back into our busy lives? According to Johanna Baig, an artist and advocate for healthy eating from the U.S., “Society is becoming more isolated with the internet, Facebook, Twitter and everyone is too busy looking at their iPhones. So there is a decrease in interaction and relating to each other… culture is becoming more isolated. We need to make a commitment to sitting together with family and friends and also having get togethers with themes like eating foods from varying ethnic backgrounds so that one can learn about different cultures through food and reconnect”.

Our one sushi dish (“The Godfather”) was an 8-piece sushi roll neatly lined-up and filled with avocado, cucumber, cream cheese topped with mango slices, prosciutto ham and capers. To sweeten the deal, kiwi sauce and balsamic vinaigrette was swirled along the sides. The presentation alone will win you over. This place makes sushi, “real sushi size,” if you know what I mean! I save the best for “The Godfather” last… I have to admit was a sushi roll that I’m a yakisoba filled with avocado, lover. Done right, it’s the ultimate comfort cucumber, cream food. We ordered cheese topped chicken yakisoba and with mango slices, it comes on a steaming hot cast iron plate situprosciutto ham, ated upon a wooden and capers. board. Making a beeline towards the dish, I was not disappointed. The accompanying teriyaki sauce was tantalizing but not overpowering. One must sweeten the palate with dessert. The choice was a marble chocolate cheesecake. For the price ($6.99) and the size (small), your chances of getting a more fulfilling dessert lies elsewhere. All in all, along the crowded downtown strip known as Granville, it’s easy to mistaken this place as another watering hole, what with its unpretentious black picnic table umbrellas and smallish signs. To me, it’s as good as Japanese food gets in an already crowded market for the best ‘raw fish’. Each and every time I head into Shuraku, I think I’m back in downtown Tokyo and enjoying a splendid meal. Shuraku 833 Granville St Vancouver

Through the understanding of the Yamas of Yoga, or codes of conduct, one can grasp the value of connecting with oneself and the community through eating. To find out how the Yamas of Yoga apply to eating, please check out the full essay at



It translates as “Southern Barbarian-style Chicken” due to its introduction through Kyushu by, shall we say, barbarian-like western foreigners.

in search of chicken namban text and photo by

Kim Mc Nelly


have spent the past year since my return from Japan in search of chicken namban. It may not have been the noblest quest, and it was fraught with disappointment—“What, this izakaya doesn’t have it either?”—but, friends, I have finally found success. Let me introduce you to the wonders of chicken namban, why you should love it, where you can find it (in Vancouver), and how to make it at home. The name itself belies its origins—like many of my personal “Japanese cuisine” favorites (gyoza, ramen, croquette), chicken namban is a spin-off from an imported food. It translates as “Southern Barbarian-style Chicken” due to its introduction through Kyushu by, shall we say, barbarian-like western foreigners. While chicken namban can be found within Japan outside of Kyushu, I discovered after leaving Japan that it’s relatively rare in other areas. Many Honshu-born Japanese waiters in Canada have looked at me rather quizzically when asked if their restaurant ever serves it. This may explain the difficulty of finding it here in Canada. Yet even if you never had the chance to order it in Japan, this is an amazing dish you should try. Chicken namban is basically deep-fried chicken which is then (post-frying) marinated or otherwise deluged with a vinegar-based sweet-sour mixture. Then it’s topped with a creamy, tartar-esque sauce. The sweet


and sour mixes with the crunchy-creamy—it’s an awesome explosion of flavor in your mouth. And did I mention the fried chicken underneath all of that? In Vancouver, the cheapest and best place I’ve found that offers chicken namban is Café de l’Orangerie (, a Japanese-French restaurant just southeast of West 70th Ave and Granville St in the Marpole district of Vancouver. Ignore the online menu, it’s not up-to-date; they offer so much more than what is listed there. They have a chicken namban set that comes with rice and a salad for under $10, plus Japanese-style western dishes like “hamburger steak,” croquette, hayashi rice, and many varieties of spaghetti including the one with fish eggs and squid. They’ve also got amazing desserts such as black sesame parfaits and an ever-changing case of homemade confections, including matcvha-flavored delicacies like crème brûlée. The chef and small group of waiters are all from Japan, too (Miyagi-ken, Oitaken… all over) and are quite friendly.

For those far-flung from Vancouver (and all the foodies out there, too), here is an honest-to-goodness home-cooked Japanese recipe for chicken namban. I learned to make it this way from my JET area’s amazing school lunch planner and personal good friend, Iwamoto-sensei. This is translated directly from her notes to me:


an afternoon at marulilu café

text and photo by

Thomas Law


he Marulilu Café on Broadway and Cambie is a quiet little retreat from the bustle of the nearby intersection. You order at the counter, then eat at your table, but the atmosphere is very chill, and nobody looks to be in a rush, especially if you’re there in the afternoon. Its menu is a collection of “comfort food” from Japan, but not the ramen and sushi kind. At Marulilu, you can find omurice, okonomiyaki, katsudon, and rice burgers. And if that ever gets old for you (can it?), they have a wide variety of breakfasts, sandwiches, and cake as well. It is a great place to bring a friend or two to enjoy some wellmade food while enjoying a nice chat. The ambience is gentle and homey, and unfortunately it’s becoming harder and harder to find these kinds of cafes in the age of Starbucks and Tim Horton’s. The location is very accessible and convenient to get to, and it’s definitely worth stopping by for a meal.

Ingredients A: For creamy tartar-like sauce •  1 boiled egg •  1 tablespoon minced onion, rinsed in water and dried on paper towel •  3T mayonnaise •  1/4 cup lemon juice •  1/2 tablespoon cream •  salt and pepper to taste •  (Optional: tartar sauce, to taste) •  (Optional: pickles/parsley, just a little, chopped well) B: For sweet-vinegary marinade-like sauce •  1 onion •  1 red pepper •  150cc vinegar •  3 tablespoons sugar •  1 tablespoon mirin (sweet cooking sake) •  3 tablespoons shoyu (soy sauce) •  1 tablespoon ketchup •  1 tablespoon worcester sauce •  1/2 teaspoon salt C. For chicken •  2 slabs of chicken (about 500 grams. I prefer skinless, but in restaurants it’s generally still got the skin) •  a bit of flour, for coating •  1 egg •  salt and pepper to taste •  oil for frying

Putting it all together A. Making the creamy tartar-like sauce: 1. Finely chop everything that needs chopping. 2. Mix everything. B. Making the Sweet-Vinegar sauce: 1. Slice the onion and red pepper. 2. Put all other ingredients in a pot and warm up. 3. Turn heat off, dump veggies in, set aside. C. Making the chicken: 1. Wrap chicken in saran-wrap and pound on (to tenderize). Try to pound into a uniform thickness. After, season lightly with salt/pepper. 2. Lightly coat the chicken with flour. 3. Beat the egg, then dip chicken into egg. 4. Fry 3-4 minutes on each side in oil at 170° C, until even the centers are a “kitsune” color, or “the colour of crusts of foreign bread.” 5. Take the chicken out of the oil, and while it’s still hot, put it into the pot with the sweet-vinegar sauce. The flavor will really sink in if you pile some of the veggies on top. Let the chicken marinate a minute or so, then dish out the chicken/ veggies and top with the creamy tartar-sacue. Yum!



Sometimes You Want to Go… text and photo by

Bryan Chau


orm Peterson enters the bar and a loud joyous cry of “NORM!” rings throughout the tavern. He takes a seat at the end stool and orders a beer. My seat was actually the second seat closest to the wall and in front of the beer tap at Ashina. And instead of “NORM!,” I got a raucous cry of “CHI BON!” — My Chinese name — from the owner, chef and resident reformed misfit, Miura Kikuo, or affectionately known as Kiku-chan to many of his friends. A close friend at the Board of Education first took me to Ashina about 3 months after my arrival. It was a hole in the wall if the wall was littered with holes; a restaurant where if I drove by it a million times, I would probably miss it a million times. After getting to know my directions around town, I realized Ashina was really just a five-minute walk from where I lived, so it became a regular hangout. I was actually there so often that I would help out by clearing tables, cleaning griddles and doing dishes.

The specialty at Ashina was okonomiyaki, monjayaki and any variety of meat you wanted to grill on the griddle. But Kiku-chan’s specialty for me and the usual motley crew of guys was whatever was left in the fridge mixed with whatever sauce that was left and grilled to appetizing perfection on the large griddle. It could be a large deep water fish one day to a mixture of tripe and motsu another day. One night when it was slow, Kiku-chan was out into the yard in front of the restaurant playing with his son when he suffered what appeared to be a stroke. He felt light-headed, almost fainting. He was cold, clammy and complained of tightness in his chest. He was taken to the local hospital. A couple of the guys and I cleaned up the restaurant and shut her down for the night. We didn’t go to the hospital to visit, partly because we didn’t want to impose on his family and probably partly because we didn’t want to see our friend in such a bad way. Ashina was closed indefinitely due to illness. About six months later, I happened to drive past Ashina and expected to see darkness and an empty parking lot but instead, I saw lights and a full lot. I parked a few blocks away and walked in to a resounding “CHI BON!” I haven’t seen my friend for half a year but there he was behind the counter, cooking up a storm with two large metal spatulas. Kiku-chan looked like nothing had happened. I continued to go to Ashina about once every week up until the time I left Japan.

Kiku-chan refused to call me Bryan. He said “Chi Bon” was, according to him, more cool-sounding and had Recently, I contacted a mutual friend (a member of that motley a better ring to it. He was comical and he loved regal- crew of guys) to catch up and he mentioned that Kiku-chan closed ing stories of his youth when he Ashina for good not long ago after suffering another episode with his was a young street tough chinhealth. pira who through the magic of storytelling eventually became Kiku-chan’s specialty for a responsible husband, father Sometimes I catch myself thinkme was whatever was and restaurant owner. ing about Japan; I don’t mean to left in the fridge mixed but it just happens. A lot of happy memories, some sad and some unwith whatever sauce that usual ones likes those of me sitting was left and grilled to on a bar stool, listening to Kikuappetizing perfection on chan talking about throwing sewer rats onto his neighbour’s roof or the large griddle. some other prank he used to pull. I would be lying if I said Ashina had the best okonomiyaki, yakiniku or monja around but I never really went there for the food; I went there for my friend and to hear his stories. Dedicated to my friend, Kiku-chan.




was never much of a foodie until I went to Japan, and I don’t think I had any concerns about how different the food would be for me. Growing up in a Filipino household with my mom’s amazing home cooking, I was used to eating rice for breakfast and having fried fish for meals, and soy sauce was an everyday staple. Also, sushi restaurants are everywhere in Vancouver, so I thought I knew what to expect. Little did I know what culinary delights Japan held for me.

Even the sushi was different; there were no California rolls or dynamite rolls to be had here. I did not realize how Westernized my view of sushi was until I came to Japan. My placement in Aomori afforded me the opportunity to sample sushi at its freshest, from the maguro caught in

One of the most memorable dishes I ever tried was ramen with squid ink. It was my first year in Aomori, and we were on a Halloween scavenger hunt, which meant a full day of zipping across the prefecture in search of this food, or that temple, or some famous I tried anything landmark. As we were working our way down the and everything at list, we found a little ramen-ya in a small village. I was excited; I had never tried it before and I least once. I even loved squid. As the server placed the piping hot sampled barbecued bowl in front of me, I felt slightly underwhelmed. sparrow (suzume) It wasn’t as dark as I thought it would be and the taste, well, it tasted like regular ramen with on a stick at my bits of squid. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it.

local izakaya.

That first year would be followed by three more years of edible adventures in Japan. Okonomiyaki, shabu shabu, tsukemono, natto, basashi, cold udon on a hot summer’s day… I tried anything and everything at least once. I even sampled barbecued sparrow (suzume) on a stick at my local izakaya. (Verdict: dry and not too meaty). At one of the first of many office parties, I immediately went straight for the little bowl of chawanmushi on my plate, thinking that it was a custard or flan-type dessert. Expecting sweet instead of savoury, I was pleasantly surprised by the silken warmth of this egg mixture with its little bits of mushrooms and kamaboko. It was heaven in a bowl.

edible adventures text and photo from

Dinah Linsangan

the waters of Oma to the hotate brought in from Hiranai. I have yet to find hotate in Vancouver which matches the succulent scallops of that town. Living in Japan gave me a greater appreciation for food and how to really savour and enjoy it. I also take a lot more photos of food now! It’s also motivated me to think about my own heritage and to try to master my mom’s recipes. Though my time in Japan has ended, the adventure continues.


y father-in-law in Japan is an avid gardener, so when I visited there last February I asked him what the easiest vegetable was for him to grow. His reply? The humble daikon. His advice? It loves the cold and it overwinters well, which means that you can leave it in the ground throughout the winter and harvest it as needed. It also grows fairly quickly, taking about 2 months to get to a usable length. The only real challenge with daikon is that it needs loose soil that isn’t very rocky to grow in. Don’t plant them too closely together — they need at least 12 inches between them. The soil doesn’t need to be deep, as about 1/2 of the daikon grows above ground — a very strange root indeed! I’m even tempted to try a couple of these in a container for the winter. One final tip: put a piece of fine mesh over the top of your seedlings until they are well established to keep out the lovely boring bugs that feed on the roots of carrots, radishes and turnips. Seeds can be ordered from West Coast Seeds (called Minowase radish) or Stokes seeds. Happy planting!

Let’s Grow Daikon! text and photo from

Sabine Sasakura



e v e nt s + n ot e s jetaabc ceramics class at hidé ceramic works Oct 13 — 11:00am HiDé Ceramic Works 2368 Alberta St, Vancouver, BC Fees: $35/person — RSVP required, pre-payment preferred Back by popular demand! Come learn how to make Japanese-style ceramics from ceramicist Hide Ebina, who has created many pieces of ceramics for popular local izakayas in Vancouver as well as art pieces for other organizations. No experience required. You have a maximum of two hours to create your ceramics. You start with a set amount of clay — the faster you use up your clay, the faster you finish — but you can choose to buy more clay. The initial amount is enough to make a ramen bowl or two sake cups. The price includes all the glazing and kiln work that comes after you shape your piece. Please note that this “post-production” work will take 4–6 weeks, which makes it a great gift idea for Christmas. Please contact Lucky at social@ for more information and for RSVP.

JETAABC japanese classes

princess cruises recruiting staff for new japan route Princess Cruises is recruiting staff for its new itinerary sailing around the waters of Japan. They are looking for English- and Japanese-speaking staff for the following range of positions: Retail Staff, Cruise Staff, Pursers, Photographers, Musicians/Entertainers, and Nurses. The position requires that you be away from home for 3–6 months depending on the assignment. More information can be found in its advertisement in the Vancouver Shinpo at this link (clickable): t&view=article&id=51&Itemid=12

calling dodge-ballers! Sept 20 — early Dec East Vancouver Fees: $40–50/person The JETAABC dodgeball team JET Set Throw is looking for more people to join the team. You don’t have to be an experienced player to join the team. We welcome all players. We play on Thursday nights from either 7pm or 8:30pm (schedule varies). The season will start on September 20th and will end in the beginning of December. Games are usually played at East Vancouver schools such as David Thompson Secondary, Charles Dickens Elementary, etc., but it can change. Cost will be around $40–$50 per person. Please contact Ann at president@jetaabc. ca if you’re interested.

Ryoshi: Nikkei Fishermen of the BC Coast Sept 15, 2012 — May 19, 2013 Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre 6688 Southoaks Crescent, Burnaby, BC From the bustling docks of Steveston to remote inlets on the northern Coast, Japanese Canadians have made unique contribution to fishing in BC both before and after the war. Their story is intertwined with the labour and political history of BC – before 1949, the province had some of the toughest racial exclusion laws in Canada. With pride and perseverance, the Nikkei community proved their skill as fishermen and cannery works, and built a new life as Canadian citizens.

tomoe arts introductory dance class

TBA JETAABC is currently in discussions to restart its Japanese classes. Please stay tuned to our social media channels for more information!


Sept 19 — Dec 5 The Scotiabank Dance Centre (Davie & Granville) Fees: $180.00 + HST for entire session (10 classes), plus $35 for purchase of a dance fan.


TomoeArts is offering an introductory class in nihon buyoh (Japanese classical dance) starting September 19. Space is limited so please contact TomoeArts to reserve! info@ or 604–607–5978.

backtrack The four letters that intimidate many people studying Japanese. — page 2. We are not alone out here. There are more of us. Many more... — page 3. ka-BOOM! — page 4. So I get a cool printed t-shirt from Japan, and I get to help people in Fukushima? — page 4. The strangest case of year-long stalking: the “stalkee” writes back three times a year. — page 5–7. I wish the real Wolverine has carrot claws. Hugh Jackman, make it happen. — page 9. Fact: I always thought they were dinner rolls when I passed them by at the combini. That’s why I never ate one. — page 10. You can GROW your own natto?! — page 11. Who needs the beach when you can tan yourself working in a greenhouse? — page 12. When you first meet “The Godfather”, do you have to kiss it first? — page 13. I swear this is why Kim decided to move to the west coast. — page 14–15. I ate that whole thing after I took that picture. The things I do for this newsletter… — page 15. “CHI-BON!” It does sound cooler, but you gotta shout it everytime. — page 16. What happens when you mix ink with ramen? Disappointment. — page 17.

This issue’s cover photo was taken by Thomas while he was waiting for the okonomiyaki he ordered at Marulilu Café (see p.15).

stay in touch!


write for us! Please send submissions (anything!) to Thomas at:

Aileen O’Brien

Greg Joughin

Steve Chevalier

Alison Chiang

Wanda Yee

Ann Yamashita

Kane Merce r


Babeeta Chhabra

Kim Mc Nelly

newsletter designed + compiled by

Bryan Chau

Loretta Siu

thomas law

Dinah Linsangan

Russell Aquino

Emi Do

Sabine Sasakura JETAABC


September 2012 Volume 17 Issue 2  
September 2012 Volume 17 Issue 2  

Newsletter of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Alumni Association of British Columbia and Yukon - September 2012: The Food Issue