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Volume 13 Issue 21 February 2017 Photo courtesy of Kelsey Woodford

Photo courtesy of Colette English



Jack Powers Editor | Polestar


ell, well, we've finally come out the other side. I applied for this position in November 2015 with very little idea what it would end up being.

Luckily, I hit the jackpot at the start getting Isabelle Legault as Designer. Even if she does eat doritos and add in erroneous u's, she's been the professional of the two of us. Others may demur, but I think we've churned out a scrappy (at-least) half-decent publication. I'm proud of each and every edition. I look forward to what the new Editor, Samantha Peterson, brings us here in Hokkaido.

Please continue to read and support Polestar. And eat that ramen. Jack

Designer Isabelle Legault Designer | Polestar


o I’ve realized that this is the first and last time I’m writing to you with the Designer by-line, and that feels pretty weird. I’ve certainly been around, creeping among copy edits and hiding in the background of layouts; every brightly coloured* box was really just me yelling “Hello!” from an uncomfortably close distance. Over the past year, I began each issue anxious to do our content justice and usually crossed the finish line looking like the love child of Doc Brown. Regardless, I really, truly, loved this job. Every spectacular photo and article submission made Polestar feel worth it. Pizza Hut delivery helped too. Huge thanks go to Jack Powers, who supported and stuck with me whether I was insanely eager or feeling overworked. He did an amazing job managing every contribution from rough draft to finished layout. Despite our small staff and often meager page count, we’ve received incredible feedback and confidence-boosters from other members of HAJET, and who knows if I could have done any of this without them. Looking back, I can’t say I’m happy with every design, but I sure as hell don’t regret any of it!

Thanks for everything, Isabelle

Photo courtesy of HEC

From the Pres. Ferfie Brownoff President | HAJET


ell HAJET, It’s been a slice. This past year has quite literally been a whirlwind for me. I’m sure it hasn’t been all that much different for any of you, either. There have been a lot of things that have happened this year for HAJET and for myself, and my relationship with HAJET fluctuated quite a bit as this past year progressed, as well. I’d be lying to y’all if I said that it was a breeze for me. I can look back on it with a lot of fondness, but there were a handful of struggles peppered throughout the last 12 months. Again, I feel that this is something that anyone of you can relate to. The thing that never really changed for me, though, was that the friends I made through HAJET were always there for me. Even in the most mundane way, HAJET has made this year worthwhile for me. I would like to reaffirm that I love the town and school that I work for. But, from a more social perspective, HAJET has been an indispensable resource; which is to say nothing about the other members I’ve worked with on the PC. Without their hard work, either in organizing events for you all, giving back to the community, or just being there for someone in need, HAJET wouldn't be what it is. Further, without the hardwork and dedication of Jack and Isabelle, my rambling opinions would never make their way to all of ya. So, I’d like to thank them for all of their work this past year, too. At the end of the day, HAJET has benefited me hugely, and getting to meet so many of you has improved my outlook on life. I’d like to think that I’ve broadened my horizons and I have an immense appreciation for the mundane. There’s a lot of natural beauty to be seen out here, and it’s thanks to you folks that I’ve been able to really soak it all in. While, in some ways, it’s a bummer to move along, I honestly couldn’t be more stoked on everyone who nominated themselves to get involved in the PC this coming year. You’re all fantastic and I can’t wait to see y’all in Niseko.

Stay Safe, and Be Kind, -Ferf Photo courtesy of Nikolai Muth

(Don’t lose your mind over money)

Photo courtesy of Michael Bugajski

First Year Rep.

Michael Bugajski First Year Representative | HAJET


ey everyone! This is your First Year Rep (and soon to be Treasurer) coming at you again, and I hope you all are enjoying the delightful warm weather that has been creeping through Hokkaido. It actually managed to get into the positive digits in Asahikawa this week. I almost ditched my jeans and opted for shorts instead! I managed to complete one of my winter projects this month, or at least, managed to get it back under control. What, you ask? My budget. Oh yes, that was a delicious pun in the title. Strap in, kiddos, we’re gonna be talking about budgets and spreadsheets. Budgeting as a JET can be a tedious task, but it isn’t all bad. You might even find the exercise to be quite profitable! Despite working for several years on departmental budgets and spreadsheets, my work life never actually managed to seep too deeply into my private life. While I was a deft hand at crunching numbers and balancing budgets at work, my personal mental calculus was more “Well, if I skip out on the movie today, I can probably afford to get gas AND splurge on guacamole at Chipotle…” I was, perhaps, not the model of budgeting in my private life. But that brings us to here, now, in Japan! Pay day approacheth, and that fat stack of yen is gonna be feeling real heavy in your pocket… what is a JET to do?! The first step… set goals for yourself. How much do you want to save every month? Do you need to send money back home? Any nice things you have your eye on? Trips? These all cost something, but with a little self control and some clever filing, you can make progress towards all of these. For my personal budget, I like to use a combination of spreadsheet tracking and envelope saving methods to meet my goals. My goals are relatively simple: 1) Send money back home to pay for bills/student loans. 2) Save money for my envelopes (Toys, traveling in Japan, and a trip back to the US for a wedding), 3) figure out EXACTLY how much of my money is actually being used to keep the local Seven afloat 4) If I meet these goals and am not broke at the end of the month, send more money back home. Four goals aren’t bad, but the devil is in the details.

Step one of my process is to first figure out my fixed and variable costs. This is where the spreadsheet comes in. This is the part where you set out the things that don’t really change month to month: Rent, utilities, internet, groceries, phone. By now, you should have a pretty good handle on about how much you spend on groceries, but it doesn’t have to be exact. Its okay to ballpark the numbers (but you might want to overshoot)! Then decide your goals. You decide that every month you want to send 50,000 yen home, and that you want to make progress on your other goals. In my case, my goals are 1) Buying cool toys for myself, 2) Traveling around Japan, 3) Having cash to pay for a flight home for my best friend’s wedding. With that in mind, I decided that I want to save 10,000 yen a month for each of those goals. I can add that to my spreadsheet, so now I know my fixed costs! Every month, 80,000 yen + My living expenses are accounted for! Next comes the envelopes! This is a pretty tried and true method of budgeting, and to be honest, I actually think it kind of works (at least for me). At the beginning of each pay cycle, the first thing I do on payday is to transfer that 50,000 back home, and take 30,000 yen out of my account and put them in separate envelopes. That way, that money is out right away from my sight. Can’t spend it if I don’t have it! But, it is an easy way to quickly set aside money for saving, and if you are patient, you can save yourself a lot of stress if something unexpected comes up. You would be surprised how easily this actually works. Budgets don’t have to be mysterious, convoluted walls of numbers to help get you financially stable. They just have to provide the framework for you to make it happen, and the rest is up to you to stick to the plan. Less than ten lines on a spreadsheet and a trip to Diaso for envelopes is just the first step to getting your money saved. Now, if you want to get more into your spreadsheets, and figure out exactly how much you are spending on things like “Enkais” or “Train tickets to Sapporo every weekend,” you can make that happen too. But everything starts with a simple framework and clearly stated goals.

Hokkaido Hockey: An Eagle’s Tale Chris Santos Contributor | HAJET


his year the National Hockey League (NHL) of North America is celebrating 100 seasons of hockey. You might assume that ice hockey in the land of the rising sun is, like the American Football `X-League` of Japan, a young sport struggling to form a base here. However, Hokkaido has the oldest hockey team in Asia, the Oji Eagles, who are just 8 years younger than the most prestigious hockey league in the world. The Oji Eagles story begins not with a sheet of ice or a frozen puck, but with a paper mill. The Oji Paper company began in 1873 in Tokyo and built its third factory in 1910 in the port city of Tomakomai, Hokkaido. According to legend, hockey had begun in Japan when Ryozo Hiranuma imported ice hockey equipment in 1915 and held a game in Nagano. By 1923 students from Hokkaido University had taken up the sport and held internal competitions against fellow students and teachers. In 1925, a group of 5 workers at the Oji Paper plant in Tomakomai decided to form a company team. Inspired by the local wildlife, they named the team after the white-tailed eagle. The name stuck, and so did the tradition of Oji Paper and ice hockey. The Eagles soon emerged as a dominant force in Japanese hockey before any kind of national league existed. The early years of the sport were based around the `All Japan Ice Hockey Championship`, a single elimination tournament that began in 1930 and continues today. The Eagles won the tournament 13 times before the Japanese Ice Hockey League (JIHL) was established in 1966 and 35 times in total. The team was so successful that hockey and paper became linked, leading several other paper companies to form teams, but the only one to survive is the Nippon Paper Cranes who play out of Kushiro, Hokkaido. Much as the red-crowned crane and the white-tailed eagle do battle over the frozen lakes of Hokkaido, the two teams were naturally destined to do

Photo courtesy of Chris Santos

the same. With the creation of the JIHL championships came naturally to the Eagles, hoisting their first JIHL championship two seasons into the formation of the league. In 1975 the Eagles success managed to tempt the first foreign player to join a non-Tokyo based team in Japan. In what must have caused a katakana induced migraine to the Oji fan club, Vyacheslav Ivanovitch Starshinov, former 2-time goal leader in the Soviet Hockey League, a member of the `Red Army` team that terrorised Olympic hockey, and proud holder of the `Order of the Red Banner of Labour`, suited up for three seasons for the Eagles. Despite Starshinov netting 55 goals in just 48 games, the team didn’t take the championship during his tenure with the club. The JIHL was unstable. The league began with five teams and expanded to six. Teams folded and names changed, but thanks to their parent company, the Eagles were never in serious financial peril. At the turn of the millennium the writing appeared to be on the wall for the league. The formerly cheese sponsored Sapporo Snow Brand hockey team re-branded in 2001-02 as the Sapporo Polaris. Having a great name however couldn`t save them and they folded after just one season. Kokudo Ice Hockey Club followed in 2003 and the four remaining teams played just twelve games each in the final season before the league was dissolved. Ultimately the declining popularity of Hockey in Japan killed the league, when they dust had settled the Oji Eagles had 13 JIHL championship banners hanging from the rafters. The decline in hockey’s popularity was also being felt across the sea of Japan as the Korea Hockey League collapsed at roughly the same time. It was decided that the only way to survive was to stick together. The Oji Eagles became a founding member of the newly formed Asia League Ice Hockey (ALIH). After holding a shortened 16 game season in 2003-04 to test the waters, the 2005-6 season kicked into full gear. Since then the ALIH has grown to 9 teams representing Korea, Russia, China and Japan. But at the formation of the ALIH the Oji Eagles were in the middle of their biggest championship drought in history. They had last won the JIHL championship in the 1993-94 season and hadn`t tasted ultimate victory since then. It appeared that despite never winning the big one in the JIHL that the Cranes were poised to become the number one team

in Hokkaido, capturing the ALIH cup in 2003-04 and 2006-07, while the Eagles couldn`t make it past the semi-finals. The 2007-08 season was different though. The Eagles were famished for championship gold, and when a predator has gone without substance for such a long time it can either curl up and die, or it can prey on the weak. The Eagles chose the latter and unleashed a campaign of terror in the playoffs. They defeated the Nikko Ice Bucks in the quarter final three games to nil, Korea`s High1 in the semi final, again three games to nil and came up against the defending champions in the finals, their old rivals the Nippon Paper Cranes. The battle of Kushiro vs Tomakomai was set and the Oji Eagles repeated their feat for a third and final time, winning three straight games and completing an undefeated path to their first ALIH championship. It would be another three seasons before the cup came back to Tomakomai when the Eagles became two time ALIH champions in 2011-12. The years since that season have seen the rise of the Tohoku Free Blades and Korea`s Anyang Halla as well as the continued success of the Cranes. The Oji Eagles have never been far from the hunt, being the only team in the short 13 year history of the ALIH to have an unbroken playoff streak. The Eagles are sure to make the playoffs this year sitting comfortably in third place above their rivals the Cranes. But they may come up against the second place Russian bruisers Sakhalin and the first placed Korean Anyang Halla; whose goal tending is currently dominating the league. The Eagles and Halla are neck and neck in goal scoring however…could a third cup be calling?


The ALIH begin on March 18th and concludes on April 16th. Official Website: http://www.alhockey.jp/ English Language Fan Website:http://hockeyinasia. hockey/

Photo courtesy of Chris Santos

Tsurui Cranes | Colette English

Nemuro | Colette English

Asahiyama Zoo | Michael Colbert

Toyokoro Jewelry Ice | Kelsey Woodford

Photo courtesy of Jack Powers

Niikappu Record Museum Jack Powers Editor | Polestar


very good Dosanko knows Clark’s famous farewell, “Boys Be Ambitious.” The motto pulses through the ingenious and ongoing development of a determinedly untamed natural landscape and touches on every bit of genius captured all over Hokkaido. However, clearly a bunch of bureaucrats got too drunk on the Clark KoolAid at some point around the late 80’s and early 90’s. Faced with declining revenues and population, small towns in Hokkaido got creative and the line between being ambitious and being desperate was maybe well blown up in often extraordinary and ridiculous ways. A wind museum here, a Christmas amusement park there, the bones of boneheaded bureaucratic and entrepreneurial energies are littered across the island. What’s left is often head-scratching, possibly abandoned, and definitely road-trip gold. In my town of around 5,000 people, we have a large museum dedicated to vinyl records. Niikappu is known for horse-breeding. Roughly 90%

of Japan’s racehorses are bred in the area with many going on to have distinguished careers on the mainland or on the international circuit. The town enjoys unusually mild winters for Hokkaido making it an ideal place for raising horses. Unsurprisingly, the town’s land is largely filled in by sprawling horse farms and most of the town’s residents work in some capacity with the horse-breeding industry. Now none of that has anything to do with records, but nevertheless that great Niikappu skyline (oh yes!) is composed of one building: The Record Museum (レコード館). Established in 1997, the Record Museum stands next to the Niikappu michi no eki (try the green bell pepper ice cream!) on the Hidaka subprefecture’s “Thoroughbred Road.” The building itself stands like the axis of a giant record player with the spindle at the top also serving as a restaurant with excellent views of the area. Local iconography generally features a combination of a bucking thoroughbred horse and a record thrown together. You could be forgiven for thinking it’s all kitsch and tacky and sort of cute in that way. But there is a real museum, one that’s worth more than it likely has any

The museum building has one big exhibit, several listening rooms where you can select a record to listen to from the museum’s 300,000 strong collection, and a large auditorium for concerts. A mannequin of Thomas Edison diligently working on his phonograph invention greets you when you enter the exhibit. The first room explains the early history of the record player from the hands of Edison and his associates to its commercial development and onto its introduction into Asia. The museum showcases an interesting collection of very early record players, including an original Edison phonograph (the only one in Japan) and an original graphophone from Alexander Graham Bell (one of three of its kind in the world, with one of the others in the Smithsonian.) The museum features records, record players, and accompanying slides from different eras to explain the progression of the form. An entire wall is dedicated to the war-time history of the record player from 1929-1945, when records were

mainly employed as propaganda. As you wind further through the exhibit it starts to look less like a museum than like an uber-eccentric grandfather’s basement playroom. Popular records from each decade dot the walls, shiny neon jukeboxes clutter the floor, and old musical instruments await patrons to play them. It’s all a bit off, of course, but this was once someone’s genius idea: to build Japan’s only museum dedicated to vinyl records in a town without access to a train line or a highway. Like Springfield’s monorail system in “The Simpsons,” the Record Museum is largely unused today. Virtually none of my students have ever been inside the record exhibit part and I don’t see many record-otaku tourists milling about around there. But still it stands. Sometimes the why need not be asked. Just listen to the music.

Photos courtesy of Karisa Whelan

right to be.

Engaging Politics Globally Michael Colbert Contributor | HAJET


sit at my desk and refresh Facebook. I sift through the deluge of posts about Trump gagging the EPA and National Parks. I read articles on the New York Times and BBC about building a wall. Once in a while, I look up from my computer and wonder if teachers are concerned by how unhinged I must look, forehead wrinkled and frown lines growing. My head throbs throughout the day, and I wonder if this is something I should get checked out. After Trump’s inauguration, millions took to the streets in Women’s Marches around the world from Washington D.C. to Paris, Melbourne, and Tokyo. People protested the immigrant ban at LAX and JFK and lawyers offered free legal counsel. In the wake of his election in November, people have gotten more politically engaged. People are demonstrating all over the country. And here we are, outsiders living in Hokkaido seemingly removed from all the action. As an American, I feel an obligation to return and resist, but I simultaneously dread the prospect of leaving Japan. Why leave somewhere a full twenty-four hours of travel away from the mess in the States? Though in Hokkaido we may not be able to vote with our feet in marches and rallies, there’s still plenty we can and should do. Being abroad is no excuse to not speak up. Some of these actions are specific to Americans, but with dangerous reactionary forms of populism gaining traction around the world, these ideas apply to everyone. Taking one or two actions a day is not only important but empowering. Let’s see what we can do from the inaka.

Talk with locals Americans overseas can disrupt political discourse and the idea of the States abroad every day through discussion. Talk with Japanese teachers about race during lunch and talk with your friends about the environment over drinks. Act as a cultural ambassador for your USA and distinguish that your experience is only one of many. A caveat with this one: as a guest in Japan, it would be equally damaging to tell people what they should think and what they should do. Don't be prescriptive to Japanese culture but share about your culture and learn about Japan. Debate, try to learn other ways of understanding issues, but don't tell people that they must do things differently in their country.

Get creative Can you articulate your opinion in a way that other people can connect with? Literary magazines and journals for expats abound all over the world. Perhaps you can share your opinion as a voice from abroad in a column or letter-to-the-editor for a local newspaper. Maybe there’s even a local radio show that looks for foreigners to talk with. Maybe these same media in your hometown would be interested to talk with you as someone who sees what is unfolding from afar.

Study Japanese and have political discussions Having taken only one year of Japanese before coming to Hokkaido, I’m far from engaging in groundbreaking political discussions in Japanese with Japanese friends. Since the Inauguration, though, I’ve found new inspiration to arm myself with the lexicon to discuss race, gender, and the environment in a different language.

Get on social media Follow movements like Black Lives Matter and 350 on Twitter and Facebook. Also keeping track of Japanese

social media is an easy way to remember that Japanese activists grapple with many of the same issues as American activists, especially environmental protection and anti-nationalism.

Read the news One of the best tools in our arsenal is knowledge. Reading the news regularly is key. Read lots of it, and read it from many different sources and perspectives. Don’t forget to read local and national news as well. Bookmark the Japan Times and read it before morning meeting. Write, email, and call your senator and representatives Calling your representatives is the best way to get them to listen. If it is too difficult based on international cell phone charges or the time difference, send a letter or write an email. Know who your representative and senator are and chime in. Watch how they vote on issues and remember this when they are up for reelection.

Vote Though the current focus is on the most recent election, expats planning to be overseas for extended periods of time should make sure to request absentee ballots for every election, and not just the presidential ones. Make sure to request your ballot early and send it back promptly. Voting is the easiest way you can help, so don't forget.

Listen Though advocating for others abroad is important, one of the best things you can do while living in another country is to listen. Every day you’re confronted with difference and you learn something about Japanese culture and society. Be receptive to what you can learn from both Japanese people and other JETs. What do people have to say about their country? What problems do they face? What can you learn from that? How can you bring this understanding back home upon your return?

My (bloody?!) Valentine Isabel Bush Contributor | Polestar


lack magic—love potions—Twitter—Valentine’s Day in Japan can really take a girl’s blood, sweat, and tears out of her. Women and girls are expected to prepare chocolates for the men and boys in their lives. These chocolates range from 義理チョコ (giri choco, or “obligation chocolates” for platonic friends and coworkers) to 本命チョコ (honmei choco, or “truefeelings chocolates” for romantic interests). As teachers in junior and senior high schools, it’s hard to miss the refrain of “先生、チョコをあげるよ!” in the teachers’ lounge on Valentine’s Day. These annual gifts of chocolate, and their reciprocation on White Day, are often a source of emotional tension for teenaged girls and boys, especially when one party has strong unreciprocated feelings. It’s an age-old problem, one that transcends country or time, or any other aspect of cliché. In the agony of adolescence, how can someone respond to romantic rejection? Some girls in Japan claim to have turned to witchcraft. Since the start of the 2010s, a number of Japanese Twitter users across a range of ages have discussed the practice by girls with unrequited crushes of adulterating their homemade honmei choco with body fluids or excretions. With the widespread popularity of Twitter in Japan, teenagers have used microblogs and other social networking services to discuss their own experiences making or receiving such honmei choco. Some chocolate-receivers sounded frightened or tongue in cheek, while the (female) chocolate-makers discussed how to best disguise their additions, or which secretions they most regularly added.

“I mix in menstrual blood with my honmei choco every year.”

“If I get my period on Valentine’s day, then I can put my secret ingredient in.”

“Please gods. Please send me my period on the day I make my Valentine’s chocolates.”

“One of those girls who quietly mixes her own spit into the Valentine’s chocolates.”

“If I’m making Valentine’s chocolates, I want to put my own blood in them.”

“My suggestion to those people who are trying to mix their blood into hand-made chocolates for Valentine’s day is frozen raspberries (framboises). They look like dried, congealed blood, and because more than anything they have a tart taste, they’ll make people think that it’s blood.”

This user posted from account linked to his professional profile as a computer sciences professor at a Japanese university. His contributions indicate that this practice has existed in some form since before the use of SNS. At first glance, this case study sounds deceptively headline-ready: Teenage Girls! Using Magic! To Enchant the Boys They Like! In Their Valentine’s Day Sweets! And Then BRAGGING About It on Twitter! Clutch your pearls, grab your smelling salts, and prepare for a chocolate-covered menstrual blood apocalypse. Contrary to the headlines that made it to Englishspeaking press, the true newsworthiness of this incident lies elsewhere. This concept of sympathetic magic, of literally and metaphorically becoming a part of someone you love, is not exclusive to Japan. Examples of similar behavior can be found from Singapore, Haiti, New Jersey, and the Holy Roman Empire, committed by young women and men, Real Housewives, and both halves of heterosexual marriages. The girls’ discussion of potency is also not unique, acknowledging that the more private, intimate, or taboo a bodily secretion is considered by a society, the more personal, and by extension, more powerful of a resource it represents. It follows, then, that if these teenagers are engaging in risk behaviors for a variety of diseases, (ranging from food poisoning to hepatitis), then these tweets would be evidence of a public health issue among Japan’s youth. At the very least, the rise in popularity of social networking services such as Twitter would correlate to an increase in diagnoses for urine-, saliva-, and bloodborne illnesses in teens and young adults. However, no such phenomenon has been reported. After all this

fuss, does anyone really do this? While these Twitter users cannot be dismissed out of hand as liars, perhaps searching only for the bite to match the bark is not productive. Perhaps the bark is bite enough. The concept in folklore studies of “subjective meaning” (as opposed to objective meaning or reality) allows these teenagers to find meaning enough and fulfillment enough in only barking. The act of tweeting, semi-anonymous within a self-selected network of peers, provides all the thrill of making one’s beloved (and one’s peers) aware of one’s intentions, enough to fear those intentions. That risk is mitigated by the controlled anonymity of Twitter. The larger audience on SNS platforms are paradoxically less able to report threats of poisoning to the proper authorities. But most importantly, Twitter provides a space for these girls to assert a self-created identity, one whose power can’t be quantitatively disproved. On the internet, no one knows you’re not really a witch.

Photo courtesy of

Colette English

Profile for Polestar

Polestar February 2017  

Polestar February 2017