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Ryukyu star Winter 2014 Issue An OkiJET Publication

Ryukyu Star Editor

Kathryn Strong

Visual Editor Jd Banks

Prefectural Advisors Grant Minagawa Elizabeth Reuter

Published by

Okinawa Prefectural Government

Contact us at

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Editors’ Notes





5 13 23 31 39

PA’s Palace

7-8 Notes from the Kencho - Grant Minagawa & Elizabeth Reuter 9-12 PA Journal: SDC Write-UP - Grant Minagawa

Talk Shop

15-16 An Open Letter to my Students - Lucas LaPlante 17-22 Dealing with Low-Ability Schools - A. Nakama

Play Pen

25 Where in the World is Rekio the Lion? - Grant Minagawa 26 Chewy Comic - Alissa Masutani 27-30 The Adventures of Mr. King and R. Basile - Tom Becskehazy

Community Center

33-34 The Quiet Voice of Aloha and Kariyushi Shirts - Jess Berturbin 35-38 A Singly Guy’s Review of a Love Hotel - Rich Basile

Art Republic

41-42 Sunset in Kunigami - Kelly Farrow 43-44 Nishi and Iko Piers - Wendy Ng 45-54 Superimpositions - Rich Basile 55 Visual Poetry - Michael King 56 Cat’s Out of the Bag - Michael King 57 Death of an Empire - Michael King 58 O’Lyfe: A Wonderful Mystery - Jesse Whitehead 59-61 Hats - Taylor Gentry 62 Hasai Skeleton - Rikito Ogawa

editors’ notes For me, the year of the snake was one of happiness and personal growth. Already well-established in my position here, I delved deeper into my local communities, forming closer ties with students and neighbors through community events and volunteer work. While I'm not one for resolutions, each January I do pick some small theme for the incoming year, a personal goal to provide me with focus. This year my aim is to continue to deepen these community connections. In our capacity as grass-roots level cultural ambassadors, it's essential that we find the time and opportunities to share ourselves with our neighbors. This is particularly important in light of the current political situation on island. For the last month, my Sunday afternoon grocery trips have been accompanied by protest cries. Rallies have taken place on street corners. Commuting to work I'm confronted by banners urging Americans to "kaeru" (return), accompanied by adorable but disappointed illustrated frogs. Nakaima's recent consent to the Henoko land reclamation plan in exchange for Abe's promise of stimulus has marked a tipping point for public outrage. It is this hostility that we fight head-on in our efforts with our students, coworkers, and neighbors. It's not easy being an OkiJET. But the difficulties we face make each breakthrough dearer. Each invitation, kind-word, and smile represents a step towards helping to repair the image of foreigners that has been constructed by the Okinawan collective consciousness. This year, I intend to redouble my efforts at community engagement, striving to increase my visibility in my sleepy little corner of yanbaru. Each trip


Editors’ Notes | Ryukyu Star

beyond the walls of my apartment is a chance to represent a positive foreign presence. I’m very excited to release this issue of the Ryukyu Star—the redesign is a perfect compliment to the many wonderful community submissions we received. Jess discusses the blending of cultures represented in kariyushi wear as well as the social implications of attire. Kelly and Wendy's photographs of some of their trips to less populated parts of the prefecture highlight the abundant natural beauty of our island home. The first part of Tom’s short story provides a characterized glimpse into JET community life. In Grant's article we are given an inside look at what goes in to making SDC a reality, helping to shed some light on the rationale behind the way this JET year cornerstone is run. AR approaches interactions within the classroom with an informative and in depth article on classroom motivation—an absolute must-read for anyone who has ever looked out at a field of less-than-eager faces. Rounding out this section is Rich's review of love hotels. If your idea of community building includes heart pillows and giant monkeys, he has you covered. The latter part of the magazine is devoted to a systematic exploration of the genre of visual poetry. Headed by Mike King's explanatory article, this section features poems by Mike, Jesse, Rikito, and Taylor. In order to preserve artistic integrity, they are presented without commentary. In conclusion I would like to thank everyone involved in making is issue: the PA's, contributors, readers, and most specifically Jd, my fantastic co-editor. I wish everyone a happy and fruitful 2014!

Kathryn Strong

After looking at all of this issue’s submissions, I’ve come to a realization: this issue should be a turning point in the history of the Ryukyu Star. Star The writing has improved, there’s more visual content, and the Chinese zodiac sign has landed on a majestic animal, the horse. I can sit back and read my pretty-good-luck omikuji with a smile because I know it’ll be a good year for the Ryukyu Star. But pretty good luck doesn’t mean we’ll be horsin’ around. There’ll be a lot of hard work to get done. So the Ryukyu Star has undergone some major changes. The covers will be more consistent than they were before, and I’ll blend more illustrations with the articles. Enjoy!

Jd Banks



P.A. Palace

Grant once wrote the "Secret Adventures of Rekio the Lion" a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. When not serving time in the building nicknamed "the Deathstar", he enjoys taking pictures and traveling with his little wooden padawan.

P.A. Palace

A. Nakama is a third-year ALT in Okinawa City. He also is a long-time on-again offagain freelance writer.

Talk Shop

Community Center


Talk Shop

Born in Okinawa, raised in Hawaii, Filipino by blood, but with a universal stomach. Jess can be found taking long walks for the sake of long walks or scribbling on a notebook or eating some new food - or all of the above, all at the same time!

Elizabeth Reuter has prepared for summer by honing her incredible ability to find a fan anywhere and hog all its cooling glory. She loves writing and Okinawa, and is thus considering making her second novel about Okinawa. And giant monsters. A book always needs giant monsters.

Lucas LaPlante is a returning JET who spent 3 years as an ALT in Oita-Ken before coming back to teach junior high school in Miyako. This time, he hopes to get more deeply involved in the JET community, and aims to do so through his writing.

Kelly Farrow is a school library media specialist from the Chicago area. This means that anything related to reading, books, or libraries ranks pretty high on her interest list! She’s currently living in Haebaru with her husband, Eric.

Art Republic

Art Republic

People know him by many names: genius, revolutionary, Dick Cheney, Clit Tickler, Mike. He never really felt any of them did him justice. His friends tend to call him ‘The Voice of the People’. He is the voice the people never knew they had. You can’t really listen to him. You have to feel him and let him feel you too (metaphorical), deep, deep, inside you (metaphorical). This is visual poetry.

Art Republic

Alissa is a second year at Nago and Hentona high schools. She is an aspiring illustrator and nap enthusiast. Winter is her second favorite season because she can eat a lot of persimmons.

Rich writes about himself in the things he writes. Read more about him there.

Play Pen

Art Republic

Art Republic

Jesse Whitehead is a very tall New Zealander. Some say he is 197 centimeters long. Some say he is over 2 meters high. Others merely stare and mutter "ディージ でかい”. Aside from his physical appearance, be assured that he has many positive qualities.

Play Pen Her name is Taylor and she is from Virginia. Not really southern, but she likes to pretend. She lives in Naha and she is an ALT for three schools. Taylor enjoys eating ramen, doing yoga, and sleeping. Three words her friends use to describe her are brunette, brown eyes, and has feet.

Wendy is a first-year JET from the tropical island Singapore. She enjoys taking photographs of places, people and food when she explores her new home. Unfortunately, she just owes an old Canon IXUS camera as she cannot afford a proper DSLR (due to her ‘expensive-compulsive addiction’ to travelling).

Art Republic

His name is Rikito Ogawa. He is barely human. If anything he is a bird, but he doesn't like to be pigeon holed. Until he heard about visual poetry, he didn't know what beauty was, and then ... he just saw it. Now he gives it to you.

Want to be a contributor for the next Ryukyu Star? Send your articles to!


Notes from the Kencho Elizabeth Reuter Grant Minagawa PA Journal: SDC Write-Up Grant Minagawa

s ’ . P.A 5


Notes from the

Kencho Elizabeth Reuter Grant Minagawa

Dear OkiJETs, Welcome back! Hope you had a great winter vacation and are ready to tackle the looming behemoth that is 2014! It’s going to be an epic year, and it all starts with one simple question: to go or to stay? Hopefully you’ve already chosen your side! Returners The Organization (CLAIR) will host their annual After JET Conference (AJC) on February 20th and 21st (Thursday and Friday). This optional conference is a good source of information on returning home, finding employment and preparing for The End (of JET). Please see The Programme’s website for further instructions.


PA’s Palace | Ryukyu Star

Aside from the tasks mandated by CLAIR, the following are also recommended (should you choose to accept them): Obtain - Gather recommendation documents from your supervisor before they are lost to the annual changeover in April. Also, learn about the pension system in the After JET Guide on and the Japanese Social Insurance Agency www.sia. website (look for the English tab). Purge - Get rid of incriminating evidence, including that extra junk you’ve accumulated over the year(s). Decide what to toss, what to ship, and what to pass on to your successor. Train – Set your successor up for success. Make a list of things they might be interested in procuring from your person (it’s up to them whether to purchase or decline). Make resources like a school guide and lesson plan book, and leave the rest of your arsenal where they can find it. Strategize – Decide how to spend your last few months before The End. Make final travel plans and strengthen the bonds that matter to you most. Start networking in the motherland and have your exit plan ready. Your time is almost up. Fight the good fight and smile in the face of The End. Then move on to the next battle in the After(JET)life.

Reappointers It’s time to think about expansion. Those who have been lucky enough to survive until now will start to see the fruits of their investments, but the long years can spell boredom and apathy for some JETs. If you elect to remain here, you may wish to consider the following opportunities: Exert Influence – Implement some new ideas and set some goals for the upcoming academic year. February and March is the time when much of the school planning is done. Get involved in the planning now and you will stay more involved all year long. Gain Access – Get involved with the JET community. We are always looking for people with a certain skill set to help plan events and give new JETs a proper “welcome”. Infiltrate the local community through teachers and local friends, or take a class at a community center (kouminkan 公民館). Keep your Eye on the Ball – Set some goals for yourself. Think about why you plan to stay, or what you want to accomplish in terms of study, travel, health or fitness. Prepare for the Inevitable – All of us must leave JET eventually, so hedge your bets and plan ahead! Further your own agenda by taking courses online or working on personal projects. Use your time in Okinawa wisely.

Just when it seems like the dust has finally settled, culture shock and homesickness can rear their ugly heads from the great abyss! If you encounter feelings of sudden depression, anger, or frustration, just remember: you are not alone. Your PAs are always lurking in the shadows, and you can also call upon the Support System. The JETLINE (M to F 9:00AM to 5:45PM, (03) 5213-1729) and the AJET Peer Support Line (daily 8:00PM to 7:00AM, 050-5534-5566, Skype Username: AJETPSG) are also available. Arm your kairo and your kotatsu. Prepare for battle, for tonight, we dine in… Okinawa. But who knows about tomorrow!








PA Journal SDC Write-UP Hey everyone, Grant here! Hope you all enjoyed SDC last November! Everyone worked really hard and put on all sorts of great seminars for us. Give them a big hand! We got some interesting comments in the evaluations that I’d like to share with you, along with some responses to them.


PA’s Palace | Ryukyu Star

Overall Comments This year there were technological difficulties that delayed presentations.

And that’s unfortunate. Presenters are responsible for bringing their own equipment and making sure it works, but it’s hard to be sure of that when we don’t have access to the Center for test runs. SDC is not very useful for 4-5 year ALTs. Especially Discussions on TT and Interesting games and activities. If something else can be in place of those or the 4th-5th years were the moderators/presenters that would be better. (From a 5th Year ALT)

Maybe if you presented/moderated these workshops or an alternative, it would have been a better experience for you. Would you rather have the PA force 4th/5th years to present this? Workshops Comments There’s not enough elementary school stuff. Workshop IV’s classes were all designed for junior high or high school or special needs. There were no elementary school options. The good thing is now I have a couple ideas for elementary school workshops next year.

For almost all workshops, we’re completely reliant on ALTs to come forward and present workshops. If no one offers anything for elementary, then there’s nothing that we, in turn, can offer you. If you have ideas, then great, I hope you present something next year. The discussion on team teaching was not useful. We were separated from JTEs, so that was pointless…

I hoped that, since all the moderators had participated in this at least once before, this wouldn’t need explaining. Maybe we should give more structured guidelines on this workshop. Coffee table at registration.

Ok, we’ll put it right next to the snacks and the mini-bar. Buy your coffee before you get here. There are a million convenience stores around!


General Comments SDC was an informative and bonding experience. I learned a lot (mostly useful information), was refreshed with ideas, and got to interact with other JTE’s which is fantastic because I was able to understand their workplace mindset better (also because my JTE could not come). After SDC was awesome, you know why.

Who is this? No, I don’t know why! I love SDC, but I want university professors to come and present to us.

We used to have a lot of outside presenters, but CLAIR cut the budget on MYC/SDC. We can’t afford anyone from outside anymore, and we were lucky to have Prof. Latham, but that was only because the U.S. Consulate sponsored her workshop. The SDC is (somewhat) for experienced ALT’s to share technique with inexperienced ones. I feel SDC does not take into consideration that certain situations must have been dealt with order for the solutions of the more experienced to be effective for the inexperienced.

How should we go about doing this then? Force ALTs into bad situations with JTEs so they can learn how to deal with them? Suggestions Comments Repeat important/good workshops over both days so can be caught. I don’t know why we are “discussing TT” and then not discussing TT in these workshops. I think clear guidance needs to come from Kencho on this. Seems to fall into outrageous incidents rather than day-to-day sharing.

We can repeat workshops, but there were so many ideas this year that it would have had to spill into a 7th workshop session. Discussion has traditionally been on scenarios and left up to moderators, but maybe they gravitate towards more sensational ones. We can structure it more in a certain direction if we get input as to what direction that should be. Discussions for TT needs to be reconsidered. It’s fundamentally flawed and almost useless. PA should have given a presentation. At end showing ideal presentation.

How is it “fundamentally flawed and almost useless”? The PA already plans the entire conference; it’s not realistic to have this kind of expectation. 11

Put a presenters’ room for the IT Center presenters. Have an IT person for computer problems.

We didn’t really get a lot out of the main building presenter’s room, only a few people seemed to use it. Atta-sensei did a great job of helping us with the many tech issues the IT center rooms had. Would have liked more professional development in addition to JET run workshops. Also, please include maps of rooms within the buildings.

Maps are a good idea! Is it difficult for JTEs to have a presentation in workshop? (From JTE)

You tell me. I pushed for JTEs to present workshops this year, and wanted at least five. Some actually refused, and it was a struggle to get three for the TEIE workshop. We’d like to get more in the future, but convincing them to present in English in front of ALTs and their JTE peers is a huge hurdle to overcome. Suggested Workshops for Future SDCs Mental Health issues for ALTs. There isn’t a good enough support system or awareness for this (and it’s unfair for the other ALTs to have to be counselors). I have already witnessed 3 JETs have major emotional breakdowns and have seen them self-destruct. This self-destruction affects other JETs in very negative ways. There should be a better understanding in how to recognize and alert professional health counselors for these distressed JETs.

Good idea. Have bentos available for purchase.

We give a 90 minute lunch for a reason. Go get your own food, we don’t have the time or resources to organize something like that. Even if you could buy one at the Center, where would you eat it? There’s no eating permitted in the rooms. Working with Special Needs.

But� we did that�


Talk Shop!


An Open Letter to My Students Lucas LaPlante Dealing with Low-Ability, Low-Motivation Schools A. Nakama


open letter to my students



Talk Shop | Ryukyu Star

Dear students,

Working at junior high schools in rural Japan, I have come to grudgingly accept the fact that very little of what I say to you in English classes will get through. Some of you are English All-Stars and shine as bright beacons of hope in an otherwise English-poor country. The rest of you I see struggle; I can only hope that you persevere. Your education system is what it is and although I could fill this letter with suggestions to improve both it and your English comprehension, I will save that tirade for another time. I will say, however, that it is improving and, after recently meeting with the director of the JET Programme at CLAIR, I am convinced that there is a genuine desire to make English education more effective. My goal in this letter is to communicate why English is important to your future and the future of your country, because I genuinely care about both. Foremost, I would like you to be acutely aware that Japan is not only an island nation, but also a language island. The fact that very few people outside Japan speak Japanese tends to have an isolating effect, making it difficult for both Japanese people traveling abroad and foreigners living in Japan. This is an unfortunate characteristic in an age when the world is increasingly more connected and interdependent, and this cultural isolation could do damage to Japan in the long run. One aspect of this isolation is that it limits cultural interchange between Japan and other countries. I find this particularly sad, as I believe we all have much to learn from each other. In the Meiji era, Japan was considered adept at adopting the best practices used in other countries, and this strategy could be just as effective at revitalizing an ageing Japan today. However language remains a barrier. I also believe that the rest of the world could learn a great deal from Japan about cooperation, community spirit, and determination in the face of adversity. I hope that in the future, a more English-fluent population will help to

facilitate this exchange. On a personal level, speaking an international language will offer Japanese people the opportunity to make new friends around the world, an experience that I have always valued highly in my own life. Another factor to consider is that the language of international business is English and Japanese people, facing a slowing economy at home, may see more opportunity both at home and abroad if they speak English proficiently. The simple truth is, when conducting international business, companies are reluctant to work in a country where language barriers will be a problem, and they typically desire employees that can converse with other employees and business partners around the globe. This ability is becoming an increasingly standard requirement in the world today. I would hate to see Japan or any of my students left behind because they lack language skills. Especially in a rural community like Miyako Island, English can be a passport to a larger world and a more comfortable life. Even in a local context, English opens doors into the tourism industry, which is not only lucrative, but can be very rewarding. Finally, it has been shown that speaking more than one language changes one's thinking and broadens one's mind. It allows you to think in new ways that may not be as obvious in your native tongue, to see novel solutions to old problems, and to retain a mental flexibility that lasts into old age. There is also, of course, a sense of pride that comes when understanding begins to dawn, when a language that was previously opaque to you suddenly starts to become clear. I hope that you will experience this moment and will find it as rewarding as I did when I started to grasp basic Japanese. I hope that you will make the most of our time together, and I promise that I will do whatever I can to not only help you, but to make English as interesting and engaging an experience as possible.

Lucas LaPlante 16

Dealing with

Low-Ability Low-Motivation Schools

Since I teach each class at multiple schools, I work with a wide range of classroom atmospheres and abilities. Although each class is unique in character, a broad metric is useful for looking at “ability” and “motivation.” “Ability” is straightforward. “Motivation,” on the other hand, is more complicated than you might expect.

A. Nakama 17

Talk Shop | Ryukyu Star

Motivation in the ALT classroom In the academic field of Learning Science, “motivation” is a broad set of technical metrics that attempt to capture the amount of a student’s willingness to engage with educational material, varied by all sorts of minute-but-interesting factors. When talking about ESL education as a JET, however, I blend the technical term and the connotative meaning with a spin unique to Japanese culture. As grating as it is to those raised in Western education environments, you have to take into account a student’s willingness to do what you are asking them and in what circumstances. In Japan, being the hierarchical culture that it is, straight up refusal is rare compared to American classrooms, and the ways it manifests are striking. The classic example is the students who are usually sleep during class. Every ALT finds their own ways to deal with them. Dealing with different levels of motivation For example, the typical dream classroom is high ability and high motivation. These are those classes where you bring in an activity that is challenging for students in general, but this group can handle it with ease and does so with relish. Then you have the low ability but high motivation classes. These groups are also pretty fun, even if you have to adjust your activities for lower expectations or rely on goofy games. Of course, why a group has high motivation matters. Is it because they like you or English, or because the JTE is a draconian disciplinarian? Or they’re merely obeying commands without much joy or engagement? Whatever the case, any high motivation group is easy to work with. Low motivation classrooms, on the other hand, can be hell. High ability and low motivation is workable, especially if their abilities are high enough that you can just use direct questioning, call-and-response techniques, and other such classroom methods where basic communication is a given. But with that worst of all possible worlds—low ability and low motivation—what can you do?

One important technique is to establish a baseline of expectations that you do not waver on. For example, if I am directly talking to a student, I do not allow them to ignore me. I prefer not to be strict or stern in getting a response out of them because that breeds resistance. It’s better to be friendly or energetic or charming. However, I make sure it is clear that if I am speaking to a student, they are expected to respond with English, even if it’s really bad English and even if I have to help them along with some mental scaffolding in Japanese. When everyone knows that I am not going away until I get a response, and instances of turning away or pretending to sleep are cut down dramatically. Students will naturally rise to meet your expectations, a well-documented phenomenon known as the Pygmalion Effect. With high-achieving classes, you have to provide them with the tools to match your high expectations. I try to keep my motivations similar between classes for the sake of promoting equal opportunities with students. This means that with my low motivation classrooms, rather than foregrounding how high I expect to aim, I let them know that there is a floor beneath which they cannot drop—and then provide them with the tools to meet those minimum expectations before starting to reach higher with their capabilities. Even with this norm set, it is almost impossible to keep some low motivation classrooms on task. You can expect any individual student to respond and engage when you’re directly focused on them, but the rest of the class feels free to goof off. With some classrooms, you can get around this problem by constantly providing group leadership through a heavily-supervised activity. For example, leading students in group call-and-response drills, or working them through a set of worksheet problems works well. But there are some absolutely empty-spirited classes that will do nothing without your direct attention on each individual student—and since you can’t be everywhere at once, you have to structure your lessons in a specialized way.


Let’s see a real world example Let me step you through how I’ve handled this recently with a post-summer vacation activity:

“How was your summer vacation?” “What did you do?”

I deviate from my normal pattern and start class by writing two questions on the board:

Then I ask my co-teacher these questions one at a time. If they’re on the ball, they will ask back. Otherwise, I just briefly throw out some easy-to-understand details.

“I went to Osaka. I ate okonomiyaki. I saw my family. It was very fun.”

After that, I ask the students the same questions. With some patience, careful choice of who I’m asking, and a lot of charisma, I can get a decent conversation going with at least one student. All of this takes maybe ten to fifteen minutes. In other classes, it usually takes about five, since I cut out the priming example and the scaffold of writing on the board.

Once this is done, I explain that next I want each student to give me one word in English about summer. I explain this simply and carefully, and depending on the JTE and class, I will either have the JTE translate the in-


structions, translate the difficult parts myself, or demonstrate by example what I expect them to do. Then I will go around the class asking each student one at a time for a word and then write it on the board. Repeats are not allowed.

For classes with less than twenty students, I will usually do this twice, and for classes between twenty and thirty students, I will only do it once, but I will then supplement with extra words of my own until there are maybe 35-40 on the board. Meanwhile, students are free to talk or do whatever they’d like while I work with each individual student to get a word. If I’m doing a good job and the students are interested and energized, then they will usually be talking about the student I am currently focused on. This process takes around 10 minutes. After this, I have the students make groups. Then I explain the next segment of the activity: I will ask students one at a time for the Japanese meaning of a word on the board that I point to. I will also be running a timer set between two to three minutes. Whenever the timer beeps, the group that I end on will have to pay a penalty. For most classes, this means they have to answer an easy question. For the rare class that is into it, I might have them do a silly dance or something. I play it by ear. Sometimes, I say something like, “Please tell me five summer foods.” I make sure the students can answer using words from the board. This is a pretty awesome technique that has built-in support, builds on prior knowledge put into a new context, and allows students to think categorically—which is to say, more flexibly—about words they already know. After doing this a couple of times, students tend to get a little restless, so I will change up the activity. Sometimes, I will ask students to pronounce correctly the word I point to, and hold them to reasonably strict standards to keep it interesting. Other times, I (or a JTE) will say a Japanese word from the board, and the students have to provide the English meaning, often by scouting out the board and sometimes by just yelling out random words from the board until they happen on the right answer. I continue in this way until the end.


How does this work? This style of activity works really well in low ability, low motivation classrooms because its segmented nature allows some students to kill time without impinging on the mood of other students or their ability to complete the activity.

Other penalty questions you can use: * Tell me 3 places you can go * Tell me 4 summer things I like * Tell me 5 hot things * Tell me 6 summer activities * Tell me 7 words that are in both Japanese and English

For a low-ability, low-motivation student, a class with the ALT can be a special kind of hell where he is expected to do something outside of his abilities while being yelled at by a strange person he doesn’t understand. This takes some of the pressure off by only having each individual student perform a little bit at a time while taking advantage of scaffolding from peers, the JTE, and the ALT when they need to engage fully. The friendly competition provides an energetic atmosphere that allows students to get excited and focus on the social aspects of the activity without feeling lost or struggling with English outside of their abilities. This isn’t the only way to do things, of course. If you’re having trouble, take some time to dissect the activity I’ve provided and work out some of the principles behind it that make it effective. Then you can use those principles to design your own activity that better fits your teaching style and personality. In the meanwhile, enjoy the high-ability and high-motivation classes. Good luck with the rest.


Low Motivation High Ability

High Motivation High Ability

This is boring and awful. No wonder nobody respects me.


OMG, so easy! Like riding a unicorn, eating taiyaki.

Low Motivation Low Ability What is my life and why did I ruin it with Japan?


High Motivation Low Ability I don’t know if they’re learning, but at least they’re excited!





Where in the World is Rekio the Lion? Grant Minagawa Chewy Alissa Masutani The Adventures of Mr. King and R. Basile Tom Becskehazy 24

ney outside ge rate killing out through d branch.

ries to: Y, CO. DING, 1F PAN

Where in the world is Rekio the Lion? Grant Minagawa

ess is looking Please subunt of docuo:




Rekio the Lion is a shifty little Shisa Ninja from Hong Kong. He lives in Okinawa and travels the world looking for adventure, photo-bombing famous sites and landmarks along the way! Today he visits the nearby land famous for bubble tea and stinky tofu. Here he is at one of the tallest buildings in the world! Where is he this time?? Turn to page 63 for the answer!

ever you go a, take your ard with you. en the police apanese citiu for it. Play Pen | Ryukyu Star 25


Alissa Masutani



Adventures of

Mr. King and r. basile by Tom Becksehazy 27

Play Pen | Ryukyu Star


here once was a gentle sheep farmer named Mr. King who lived in the lovely green valley of Emerald-upon-Beefhaven, nestled deep within Merrifanny County. Mr. King tended to his sheep with a kind hand, working from sunup to sundown every day but Sunday. He’d head to the local village of Binkin-Borgleswich for a pint of ale and a Gentleman’s Massage at the Angry Mule Pub. After a day in the fields, he’d return home to his wife, Mrs. King, who prepared suppers of corn porridge and baked chicken, washed down with spiced goat’s milk.

Mr. King fell asleep every night with a smile upon his face and awoke every morning with that very same smile. He’d never stepped foot outside Merrifanny County and, as far as he was concerned, he never would. The world outside the County was full of bandits and vice, and Mr. King liked his life of farming, porridge, and weekly pints of ale just fine. Lately, however, there were rumors of livestock going missing near the County line. Well, not exactly livestock. It was more parts of livestock that vanished: a prize bull lost its left horn, a pig lost its curly tail, and Mr. Martin found his horse missing half its mane. People reported things disappearing from their property (or their persons!), too. Old Ms. Cook had her barn roof taken in the night*, Mr. Crawford found himself without his milking pails, and old man Runcie had the brown stolen from his irises. Mr. King’s neighbor to the east, Mr. Franklin, awoke one morning to find that his two big toes were missing from his feet. “Oh, parsnips and poodle tails, Mrs. Franklin! Me toes have been taken! How will I ever do the beet mashing now,” said Mr. Franklin to his still-sleeping wife. “I can’t very well mash beets without me toes, can I?”



he local constabulary remained baffled. After all, gold, silver, and jewels remained untouched. Other than that, the only connection between each crime appeared to be a prevalence of wiry black hairs scattered about. Now, if there was one possession that Mr. King prized above all else, it was his collection of hats. He had derbies and fezzes, fedoras and muftis, pith helmets and knit caps. On rainy days he’d often sit in his makeshift salle de chapeau, remove the hats from their glass cases, and brush them until they looked worthy of tenancy in the richest Paris showroom. He’d put them on, close his eyes, and, for a few moments, allow himself to imagine wearing the hat in its intended environment. The pith helmet took him to the Dark Continent, where he slashed his way through thick green vines beneath a canopy of ever-shifting leaves and light, the heavy air of the jungle pressing in around him like the fetid breath of a crocodile. The fez transported him to an antediluvian bazaar deep within Constantinople. He was a member of the sultan’s elite guard, slipping through shadows draped across narrow alleys, a scimitar in one hand and a garrote in the other. So when he awoke one morning to find that all thirty-four of his hats were missing, with a single black, wiry hair resting upon each glass case, he immediately fetched his shotgun from under the stairs and began stuffing shells into his leather hunting satchel. Mrs. King, noting a particularly large vein throbbing upon her husband’s forehead, knew better than to speak with him when he had his blood up. Instead, she packed him a large lunch of turnip and cheese sandwiches and goat’s milk and put out his favorite pair of shooting boots.


“I’ll not be back until I’ve found the scoundrel that’s done me wrong, Mrs. King,” said Mr. King as he opened the front door, carefully placing a few black hairs into his pocket. “You’d best not wait for me tonight, for I’m going to roust a few of the other farmers and their bloodhounds and get to tracking this blackguard. We may be out all nigh-” Mr. King had stopped talking, for standing their upon his doorstep was a fellow wearing nothing but a smile upon his face, which could scarcely be seen among the tangled mess of his thick, black beard, and Mr. King’s beloved flat cap perched askance his head. “Ah! Just the man I’ve been looking for,” said the stranger. “Allow me to introduce myself; R. Basile, at your service.” You’ll have to wait until the next Star to find out what happens between Mr. King and R. Basile, why such strange occurrences plague Merrifanny County, and how Mr. Franklin will mash his beets with two missing toes! * Her one hundred and eleven cats, suddenly forced to sleep in a roofless barn in the middle of endless April rain, soon fled to the neighboring Duthie farm and its warm, dry horse stables. The incessant feline meowing made the horses nervous, and so they ate the cats, one by one, to calm their nerves. It is a little known fact that cats are a particular delicacy among horses.


Community Center everyone’s welcome! 31

The Quiet Voice of Aloha and Kariyushi Shirts Jess Berturbin Ain’t No Love: A Single Guy’s Review of a Love Hotel Rich Basile


Jess Berturbin

The Quiet Voice of Aloha and

Kariyushi shirts 33

Community Center| Ryukyu Star

Lately, I’ve found myself looking around during my school’s morning meetings to see what everyone is wearing. Ever since the principal and vice principals switched over to suits, longsleeves, sweaters, and jackets have become popular among the staff. I’ve stubbornly continued to wear aloha and kariyushi shirts despite the drop in temperature, partially because I honestly don’t have many clothes. More than half of my meager wardrobe is comprised of aloha shirts brought from my home in Hawaii and kariyushi shirts bought shortly after landing in Okinawa. Although it gets a little tiring constantly being asked, “Aren’t you cold?” I’ve decided to disregard any underlying meanings and gaijin smash this particular issue. Fashion has never been particularly important to me. I was once gifted a tote bag that has written on both sides, “From the bottom of my heart, I hate you fashion.” Not to say that kariyushi wear or aloha attire are unfashionable. Growing up in Hawaii, I’ve witnessed a guy in an elegantly-designed aloha shirt turn just as many, if not more, heads than a guy in a swanky three-piece suit. Similarly to kariyushi here, aloha shirts in Hawaii are synonymous with formal wear. They are so dressy that before I left for the mainland U.S., there had been only two occasions where I’d been required to wear aloha attire: my high school senior luau and a college friend’s wedding. After I graduated college and moved to the contiguous 48, I didn’t bother to bring any aloha shirts with me. People on the mainland don’t hold aloha attire in the same regard, probably because they aren’t intuitively aware of the differences between a high-end Tori Richard aloha shirt and a $10 Aloha Stadium swap meet aloha shirt. I knew what aloha shirts meant to people who weren’t from Hawaii, and I didn’t want to emphasize the fact that I was a cultural outsider. Aloha shirts and their offspring, kariyushi, were created for the temporary outsider: tourists. While the reasoning behind the aloha shirt’s origin is arguably to make money, its design was formed from the unique mix of people that make up Hawaii—fabric from Japan, prints from the Pacific Islands, and untucked style of wear

from the Philippines, particularly the barong tagalog. There is actually a striking resemblance between the barong and the long-sleeve kariyushi. The latter’s muted tones and intricate embroidery always stirs my childhood memories of the Philippines. While my father was stationed in Okinawa, my family visited our relatives in the Philippines during summer breaks. This was before Okinawa had adopted kariyushi wear and before I had moved to Hawaii, so to me, the barong seemed like the coolest piece of clothing, both in temperature and in style. The finest barong are a translucent off-white, almost brown in color due to the pineapple leaf fibers they’re made from. The embroidery stands out sharply against the plain white t-shirt worn underneath. I remember being uncomfortably sucked into a dress for weddings and other formal functions, jealously side-eyeing my barong clad male relatives sitting so nonchalant and cool. There is nothing more Filipino than the barong, and yet there is an unspoken rule that only men can wear them. Although aloha attire and kariyushi wear are marketed for everyone, there are unspoken rules for those as well. For example, at the two occasions that I’d attended that called for aloha attire, I wore an aloha dress. No one explicitly said that I couldn’t wear an aloha shirt and slacks but somehow that custom had been communicated to every woman in attendance. Coming to Okinawa, I was eager to wear both aloha and kariyushi shirts because of their links to my childhood and the many places I call home. Both shirts distinctly indicate a certain place (Hawaii and Okinawa) and particular season filled with warm days and festivals, but they also silently mark gender and societal expectations. Therefore the second reason I’ve continued to wear aloha and kariyushi shirts is simply, “Why not?” Choosing to continue to wear aloha and kariyushi shirts is not a personal act of defiance against the weather but rather an interpersonal act of challenging the unspoken, underlying meanings these shirts hold.


Ain’t No Love a singly guy’s review of a love hotel


Community Center| Ryukyu Star

Rich Basile

For those of you who didn't know, love hotels are where new Japanese people are made. They are filled with rooms that couples rent on an hourly basis in order to hump without restraint. They do this so their neighbors or family members don't hear them and all the comical sounds necessary to propagating the human race. For the purposes of internationalization, I decided to visit a love hotel by myself. I didn't want the heat of passion to cloud my judgment. Now that I think of it, objectivity and loneliness aren't too far apart. There are many love hotels in Okinawa City. Choosing one would have been a difficult task if it weren't for the hotel with a giant gorilla on top. Call me old fashion, but I can't see past the inherent connection between apes and love. As grandma used to say, "Ain't no love like monkey love."

considered drinking them all, but I ultimately decided against ingesting something from a love hotel bathroom. Best case possibility: I'd obtain the stamina of 40 men. Worst case likeliness: I'd contract some kind of venereal disease.

I drove my scooter into the garage bay beneath the room that I wanted to rent. As is customary, I sealed off the bay with a giant plastic curtain to hide my shame. Inside, I was treated to a cement corridor leading up to an unassuming window. The hallway was quiet and sterile. I could almost hear the lack of sound. I imagine that people get stabbed there quite often. Next to the window was a series of buttons corresponding to all the available rooms. I pressed a button, prompting a key to be ejected from the chute below.

I should note that, somewhat confusingly, there were three chairs in the lobby, but only two condoms in the whole room. Something about that seemed wrong. I can't quite say what, possibly because of my Roman Catholic upbringing. There was a TV too, but I dislike TVs. It was probably the most sinful thing about the entire love hotel. I've been told that you can use the TV to order movies, so I decided to briefly flip through a few of the menus. I'd have dug a bit deeper, but I was worried about putting myself into debt by accidentally ordering a bushel of smut. In hindsight, for the purposes of this review, I should have explored some more. After all, I have been meaning to see that recent Lincoln biopic. I know it's a long shot, but perhaps it would have been under the "foreigner" section? Soon after finishing this review, I learned that some love hotels even have videogames forcing me to conclude that my conception of love is painfully lacking.

I proceeded to my room, hoping to run into a couple to practice my Japanese with. No such luck. Inside the room was markedly nicer than the cement hallway where yakuza go to die. Not that the hall didn’t have a certain charm. The room was big, with lots of smaller rooms jutting off of it. The most prominent sub-room was a bathroom with a huge bathtub, a person-sized rubber mat that I decided not to lie on, and an assortment of bottles containing fruit-scented jellies adorned with pictures of mouths and strawberries. Assuming them to be some bath time fruit beverages, I briefly

Outside the bathroom, there was a small lobby with a table and some chairs, presumably a place to host a small social function before giving it to your loved one. There was a menu on the table with a phone next to it. I can't imagine that phone being used for many meaningful conversations. As a matter of fact, I bet the office staff dreads calls for anything other than food orders. The selection of food was mostly cake and ice cream. No natto, unfortunately. Am I really the only one who sees the blatant eroticism about those tiny, fermented beans?

There was also a huge bed with tons of pillows, a foreign concept to me, as I prefer to sleep on the cold, hard floor. The floor at my apartment has an embrace that is complete and unforgiv-


ing. I've really come to value those qualities in surfaces that I lie on. Much to the hotel's credit, the floor was rather firm, considerably unforgiving, and while not cold enough for my liking, entirely serviceable. At the bedside was a huge, horizontally-aligned, full body mirror. In its reflection, I saw myself standing there alone. Now would be a good time to mention that the hotel's tissues were really good at absorbing tears. Some point soon after that, I willed myself unconscious and had a vision of my recently-deceased grandfather chopping down a birch tree with no leaves. He looked at me, full of concern and said that I wasn't getting any younger. I woke up somewhere other than where I fell asleep, and decided that it was a good time to leave. Once again, I crossed the hall of innumerable puncture wounds and made my way to another window. I expected this window to be automated until a pair of hands jutted out from the wall. These hands had no face. I've concluded that there are no faces in love hotels. I gave the faceless hands my key and paid the toll: $30 for however long I was trapped in that awful vision quest. On the upside, they gave me a prize. On the downside, it was a necklace for what should have been my lover. Author's Note: As with everything that I write, the above is a delicate balance of misplaced truths and wholehearted fabrications. Let me (possibly) set the record straight. I have been to a love hotel. I went with my then girlfriend, who is my current nothing. Despite my best efforts, she remains the ghost of a lover, negligently haunting me to this day. That's not to say that she's dead, but it'd probably be less painful if she were. My recently deceased grandfather is, in fact, recently deceased, having died during last year's SDC, something that I blame entirely upon Grant Minagawa. There is a gorilla love hotel (which I would name Monkey Business), but I didn't go to that one.


I regret this to no avail. I went to some regular mom-and-pop operation. There were no windows. There seldom ever are. This leads me to believe that Japanese people make love like cats, in secret, as opposed to me, a guy who doesn't own curtains and always has at least one window open. What kind of animal makes love like that? Possibly a ring-tailed lemur? I hear that they breed well in captivity. Well, whichever animal it is, that's the one I am. I didn't have that dream about my grandfather. It's something that he said to me in real life. My grandmother never said anything about apes and the quality of their love. I, however, do; I bet that it's powerful beyond my comprehension. Once, while getting ready for senior prom, my mother told me that I should put cologne on my wrists, behind my ears, and on my stomach. The latter continues to trouble me deeply and is likely why I have become averse to all forms of soaps and personal perfume. The love hotel that my ex and I visited did give us a prize, and it was a necklace for her. She didn't want it, so she made me take it, along with the two uneaten ice creams that she ordered. Let me tell you this much: I'm not going to deny a girl dessert, but if I go to a place called a love hotel, I'm not going there to eat ice cream. I still have the necklace. I use it to emotionally numb myself. I've since become an apathetic juggernaut. I ate the ice cream a long time ago, in a place where love wasn't an immediate possibility. When you order food, they have a stealthy carrier deliver it to you via a small window outside your room. If you have a loved one, they will undoubtedly do unto you grievous emotional wounds, leaving your person untended as you slowly bleed out, but before that happens, I'd suggest taking them to a love hotel just for novelty's sake. I'd recommend going to the one with the enormous, sensual gorilla on top. If you go, let me know how it is. Please be sure to tell me if it's themed or not. Send me your reviews at


Art Republic

Sunset in Kunigami Kelly Farrow Nishi and Iko Piers Wendy Ng 39

Superimpositions Rich Basile

Visual Poetry Death of an Empire The Cat’s Out of the Bag Michael King O’Lyfe: A Wonderful Mystery Jesse Whitehead Hats Taylor Gentry Hasai Skeleton Rikito Ogawa



Art Republic | Ryukyu Star

Kelly Farrow

Sunset in Kunigami Here are some shots of an amazing sunset way up north near Kunigami, in Higashi. These were taken on November 30th, 2013. If you want to visit yourself, the coordinates are 26.627437, 128.17436.

Wendy Ng

Nishi and Iko Piers Two scenic piers that mirror each other’s beauty…

Nishi Pier at Kuroshima Island (西桟橋, 黒島)


Art Republic | Ryukyu Star

Iko Pier at Taketomi Island (伊古桟橋, 竹富島)


superimpositions Rich Basile

cat nap, ďŹ nal marquest (above)

cannon dancer (left)


farenheit 85


my shack buddy - going to the graveyard ; to make myself a friend ; going to the graveyard ; we’re gonna play pretend



(above) shell man trips (left) the reimprisoned buddha - returned amongst us ; made once more a man ; his ďŹ rst and only earthly want ; was for a paper fan


tidal cloud



night dark



Visual Poetry

Visual Poetry Michael King


Ladies … Gentlemen … Fans of art … Fans of absolutely nothing at all … Welcome to The New Paradigm. For millennia, art has been governed by the same concepts that have dictated society and religion—good and bad, pure and evil, worthy and unworthy. No more. Enough. In society, to some degree, we need these rules. Without them, things would fall apart. In art, I propose to you: no rules. Let’s wilfully take this thing known as “art” apart, for it has mocked us. This is visual poetry. This is a call to arms to everyone. Submit anything and everything. Stop being afraid! There is no good art. There is no bad art. There is no worthy and no unworthy. There is only that that is submitted and that that isn’t. What is visual poetry? During discourse with visual poetry founder, and general total geezer Jesse Whitehead (24), we discussed what separated the visual poetry movement from the modern art movement that came before. “Modern art was about branding s@#$ as art and claiming it is great. Visual poetry is about branding art as s@#$ and letting it be known.” Did you ever write your name on an application form? Yes = visual poetry. No = visual poetry.

Did you ever look at a cat? The cat = visual poetry. You looking at the cat = visual poetry. “Hey nice VP man - looks real s@#$%*!" "Oh thanks man, hahaha, it was easy as s@#$!" Submit something. Anything! Submit it anywhere! Submit a piece of ham to your next-door neighbour. Submit a tissue to the Louvre. It is all art and it is all great/s@#$/nothing/something. Every movement needs roots, somewhere to call home. And that is where the Ryukyu Star comes in. I have faith that the courageous, revolutionary Ryukyu Star, with wonder-minx editor-in-chief, Katie Strong (19 (going by looks)) at the helm, will be the virtuous birthplace and safe haven for this non-judgemental art revolution. This is a call to arms. And in this festive time we must submit and follow the (Ryukyu) star, for it will guide us! “[visual poetry] … aims to inspire those people, who always said “I’m no good at art”, to submit their own [body hair] to the Prada in Barcelona, not out of mockery or bitterness, but out of confidence, safe in the knowledge that there is nothing more and nothing less artistic than [their own body hair].” Without further ado, it begins.


Death of an Empire Michael King


O’Lyve - a Wonderful Mystery Jesse Whitehead


Hats Taylor Gentry


Hats Taylor Gentry



Hats Taylor Gentry (left)

Hasai Skeleton Rikito Ogawa (above)


announcements Theme Announcement The theme for the Sp ring 2014 issue will be “Rainy Season”. Betwee n winter cold and sum mer typhoons, Okinawa has a rainy season. Whil e there’s something to be said for rainy Sunday afternoons--the sound of rain has always been on e of my favorites--getting through two months of daily showers requires a little creativity. How do you survive the time ind oors? What books do yo u read? What shows or mov ies do you watch? What foods do you eat? What restaurants, museums, or stores do you take refu ge in? Where do you es cape to? What places ar e especially beautiful th is time of year?


e Lio is Rekio th ld r o W e h Where in t an Taipei, Taiw , 1 0 1 i e ip Ta

Contact Us Comments? Q uestions? Your feedback is alw Contact the ed ays welcome. itorial team at ryukyustar@aje


Call for Contributions Want to see your name in print? Have something you want to share with the Okinawa JET Community? The Ryukyu Star is currently accepting submissions for our Spring 2014 issue. The deadline will be White Day (Friday, March 14th)! All formats are accepted—photos, articles, comics, games, recipes, videos, etc.—and creativity is encouraged. Please send submissions to We look forward to them! If you want to take this relationship to the next level, we’re looking for a few more regular contributors. Here are some column ideas: Chef Extraordinaire Arts/Culture Reviewer Uchinaguchi Sensei Outer-island Correspondent Travel Journalist Games Master: mazes, logic puzzles, crosswords, etc. Island Explorer

Calendar February 2 – Nago Half Marathon Festival Trip 5-8 – HAJET Sapporo Ice appointment Forms 7 – CLAIR Deadline for Re Day 11 – National Foundation 14 – Valentine’s Day ence 20-21 – After JET Confer March s Early March – Graduation Star Deadline yu 14 – White Day & Ryuk 21 – Spring Equinox 24 – Spring Break Starts April 7 – Back to School 29 – Showa Day

JET Book Trading Club on Facebook If your bookcases are looking as barr en as the trees outside your windows, co nsider turning the entire island into your lib rary by joining the Oki nawa JET Book Trai ni ng Club on Facebook! We freely trade alre ady read paperbacks, so you’ll have somethi ng to read between is sues of the Ryukyu Star.


Ryukyu Star - Winter 2014  

The winter edition of the Ryukyu Sta

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