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featured JET artwork

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Kan-chan‟s Oishii Okonomiaki

Chotto …


Whale hunting / Dinosaur chickens

Monthly Topic





Korea / Cars



Recipes / Not Without Weeds



29 34

Oscar predictions


E-mail your artwork to be featured in the next issue!

Letter from the Editors,

Hounen Matsuri / Google Calendar


Eric Liebman


Life After the B.O.E. / Olympic Souvenirs

March and spring are a great time to celebrate beginnings. The BT has our own beginnings to celebrate this month. We‟d like to welcome Jonathan Edwards as our new Culture editor, and a new monthly series, Not Without Weeds, by Lexi Sanborn.

Submit your articles, artwork, and opinions to Disclaimer: Views and opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of the publisher. Each are expressed by the writer at the time of writing. 2

EDITORS: Regina Durr, Jonathan Edwards, Greg Ferguson, Betsy Pinkham, Lauren Wetherington Layout: Betsy Pinkham, Greg Ferguson Cover: Eric Liebman

Black Taxi is a monthly magazine for the JET community in Shimane prefecture, Japan, published online. Read us at ISSUU ( or be our fan on Facebook.


featuring local businesses and people

By Betsy Pinkham Right in downtown Kawamoto there is the best Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki place in Shimane. It‟s a pretty small place that has three or four booths that can seat five gaijin (though it‟s tight) and then some counter seats right in

perfectly to make tidy okonomiyaki. It all tasted great, despite the less than stellar appearance. But I think I prefer paying to have my dinner made for me, rather than make such a labor intensive meal myself. The staff doesn’t really speak English, and the menu is a mix of kana and kanji. But really, it‟s some pretty straightforward stuff – mostly various toppings that you‟ve probably read on the school lunch menu. So if you happen to be in the area, I really recommend stopping by. You won‟t regret it. Unless, of course, you‟re on a diet.

Vegetarians Beware! front of the grill. The maker of Shimane‟s best okonomiyaki is the owner of the place. One of the best parts of eating there is watching your dinner get made. If you have a quick enough eye, you might even pick up how to make it yourself.

Bacon is a standard ingredient, so if you don‟t eat pig, ask to have it left out.

Actually, several ALTs didn‟t need to have a quick eye as the owner held a little class one Monday evening (Kan-chan‟s off-day) and taught us how to make okonomiyaki. We were able to go behind the grill and assemble our own, though there really is an art to how twist your wrists

Contact Information かんちゃんお好み鉄板焼 0855-72-2456 島 根県邑智郡 川本町大字川本 541−6 3

… 一寸

debatable topics

/ chotto …

What’s with all the hype? Before moving to Japan, the thought of eating whale never crossed my mind. I was warned when I arrived that whale might turn up in school lunch. Lauren Wetherington would Of course I tried it, even though it felt innately wrong. I then updated my rather not chotto. Facebook status (like everyone else) and vowed that would be the last time I ever ate whale. But why? Why do people love whales so much? There is a huge international debate going on now regarding the whale industry. Although several countries are involved, I will focus on Japan ,Australia, and New Zealand in this article. The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was created in 1949 and consists of guidelines for the international regulation of coastal and pelagic whaling. Pelagic simply means out in the ocean. Although the IWC was created to help manage the whaling industry, it contains unenforceable rules and loopholes, making it practically worthless. For example, article VIII states that a Contracting Government “may grant to any of its nationals a special permit authorizing that national to kill, take and treat whales for purposes of scientific research” bound by restrictions and conditions that the Contracting Government “thinks fit.” So Japan, being a Contracting Government in the IWC, can grant its companies a special permit with its own conditions. This makes sense, right? Why go to all the trouble of creating a commission to regulate the whale industry if you are going to give the power of regulation away? Since then, Japan has pretty much killed as many whales as their scientific research has required. But what exactly is this scientific research and why does it require killing whales? The Institute of Cetacean Research has answers. Their objectives are: 1. Estimation of biological parameters to improve the stock management of the Southern Hemisphere minke whale, 2. Examination of the role of whales in the Antarctic marine ecosystem, 3. Examination of the effect of environmental changes on cetaceans and, 4. Examination of the stock structure of the Southern Hemisphere minke whales to improve stock management. 4

debatable topics

… 一寸

/ chotto …

Their scientific research requires sampling of internal tissues, such as ovaries, ear plugs, and stomachs. They also test for tissue contamination due to pollution. So okay, they do some research. Is this research even important? The Institute suggests that they have learned a great deal regarding the eating habits, genetic make-up, reproduction, and geographical distribution of whales. However, for their 2009-2010 season, their quota includes 935 minke, 50 fin and 50 humpback whales. Does it really take 1,035 whales to conduct valid research on reproduction and genetic make-up? I‟m not convinced.

Also note that Japan legally allows the commercial selling of whales caught and killed. The Institute receives its funding from government subsidies and Kyodo Senpaku, which handles processing and marketing of byproducts such as whale meat. Therefore, what starts off as scientific research ends up as commercial profit. It is no surprise that countries like Australia and New Zealand accuse Japan‟s scientific research as being bogus. So what are other countries doing about this? The United States is threatening sanctions, New Zealand and Australia are petitioning international courts, and some people are taking it upon themselves to fight for the whales. Animal Planet, a popular television channel in the US, has a TV show called Whale Wars about the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and its attempt to sabotage the Japanese whaling fleets. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is a non-profit marine conservation organization based in Friday Harbor, Washington. Read more about the society at The whale controversy has also appeared in Comedy Central‟s South Park as well as on the big screen. Louie Psihoyos‟ The Cove (2009) exposes the stunning fact that dolphins off the coast of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, were being killed for their relatively cheaper, poisonous mercury-rich meat and purposely mislabeled as whale meat in local shops and, astonishingly, public school lunches.

Credit: Ocean Preservation Society

Yet, what is it about whales, and even dolphins, that warms our hearts? True, some whales are on the endangered species list, so we feel a sense of moral obligation to our planet to maintain as many species as possible. The humpback whale is close and the fin whale is currently endangered, yet the minke whale isn‟t endangered. So is it okay to hunt the minke whale? The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society argues that since whale meat is no longer needed to help feed the masses, there isn‟t any point in killing them. Whale oil is no longer in demand thanks to petroleum. They also argue that whales are intelligent creatures that can feel emotion and pain, so we ought to do everything in our power to save them. But what exactly is animal intelligence? Some people argue that the pig is the most intelligent domestic animal. Should we save the pigs? Do these feelings come from feel-good movies and cute clothing logos? Some people will spend a lot of money to go whale watching. Do we somehow relate to whales as intelligent mammals? True, it is a cultural thing but which culture is going to win this one? 5

… 一寸

debatable topics

/ chotto …

By Jonathan Edwards You know what’s awesome? Dinosaurs. Big, giant reptiles that look like beasts from some strange fantasy world. The fun part is that said fantasy world really existed once long ago on the very ground where you and I stand now. They were real, they were mighty, and they were just plain cool. But you know what‟s not cool: chickens. They‟re stupid, they can‟t fly very well, and they really only exist for consumption by creatures higher on the food chain. Their delicious ambiguous taste is the only saving grace they have, so to speak. That chicken flavor has gotten a great deal of them Credit: Lindsay Laltoo killed I guess. So we have that established now. Dinosaurs equal awesome and chickens equal dumb. So imagine my surprise when a brief excursion for saurian-related information on Wikipedia brought up scores of artists‟ interpretations of prehistoric giant chickens … on the velociraptor page. A frantic check of other formerly cool dinosaurs yielded similar vile revelations. Dilophosauruses: giant chickens. Deinochyruses (the raptors from Jurassic Park): giant chickens. Chickens, chickens, chickens! What happened? 6

As anyone who has seen Jurassic Park (and if you haven‟t, what‟s wrong with you?) should know, the theory of what happened to the dinosaurs has been steadily shifting from “big giant doomsday asteroid” to “avian evolution to the Nth degree.” One of the jumping points for this latest theory was the similarity in hip structure between birds today and the ancient theropods, as opposed to lizards. All right, Science, so dinosaurs were more bird-like than originally thought. I‟m cool. I‟m down with that. Dinosaurs are still awesome. Then Science found some fossilized imprints showing feathers off the arms of very small dinosaurs. Okay Science, so some dinos had some feathers; accents to their leathery reptile skin, if you will. This is fashionable, and only further mystifies their already legendary profile. But no, Science didn‟t stop there; they couldn‟t. The drive that pushes Science to do bad things kicked in – the one demanding the exploration of truth and discovery. You know, the same drive that told Science it was okay to build thermonuclear weapons. And hummers. The types of things Science can do, but shouldn’t.

… 一寸

debatable topics


Recently fossilized skin samples have been tested for traces of the components that make up current day feathers. Sure enough, results found some of the same elements that essentially give feathers their coloring. I remembered reading about this a few years back and thinking “Big deal. Raptors had feather-like mohawks or something similar.” That‟s of course assuming the results did indeed come from feathers and not some other feature we haven‟t considered, perhaps even a trait that no longer exists in current day animals. Dinosaurs have long been extinct after all. Regardless, I certainly wasn‟t thinking about prehistoric KFC, but Science was. They must have worked through lunch that day. So there you have it: dinosaurs now completely covered in feathers, and artists‟ renditions of giant chickens. To paraphrase the great, but fictitious Alan Grant Ph.D. ,“I bet you‟ll never look at a bucket of chicken the same way again.”

Of course, this isn’t the first time dinosaurs have been changed. The brontosaurus never existed because some jerk made a fake skull to replace the one missing for an apatosaraus skeleton (Littlefoot, for those of you in need of a helpful visual). Even the mighty Tyrannosaurus Rex stood upright long before being changed to the horizontal stance now widely recognized. However, both remained dinosaurs through the change. And large dinosaurs like these will continue to be so as they are immune to chickenization thanks to their size. Multi-ton animals like elephants and rhinoceroses maintain their heat internally with-

/ chotto …

out the need of an outer coating, and the same principle has been applied to dinosaurs. But at the moment nothing stands to spare the smaller, quicker ones from their feathery fate. Now, major changes like those aforementioned take decades to become popular consensus, and chicken raptors will be no different. But before Science goes to town with their feathered clowns, they should consider the consequences. These are creatures that have inspired children for over a century to pursue knowledge and sciences like paleontology, archaeology, and biology. Even if they don‟t follow the path all the way to a career, children will at least have made a start. I know I never went to the museum as a child to see the sections on human history, technology, or biology. The current design for dinosaurs that Science is now proposing tames and demystifies them. They no longer seem like creatures of another world, but an animal one would see on a ranch or farm. Sure, kids like those too, but not with the same sense of awe and reverence. Perhaps appearing more Earthen is part of Science‟s train of thought, but at what price to Science itself? Knowledge is not set in stone, and Science is well aware of this. Improved research, scientific consensus, and revolutionary theory all contribute to the fluid shift in our understanding of the universe. After all, Pluto is no longer a planet if you will remember. But here, with dinosaurs, they are breaking down a pinnacle of human wonder and fascination, one that helps support Science in many ways. Deprived of fantastical options like time travel or cloning, the appearance of dinosaurs is a fact that can never be proven. So with the creatures so far removed by time itself from any life form we could ever hope to know, is it wise to make a radical and unanimous shift for such a valuable asset? 7

monthly topic ‌


Credit: Lauren Wetherington

monthly topic ‌

Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end, then stop. The King, Alice in Wonderland

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end. Seneca

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. Sir Winston Churchill

Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Rick Blaine, Casablanca

Our first game is called Well Begun is Half-Done. Mary Poppins, Mary Poppins 9

monthly topic …

Lizzie Wilson is indomitable.

I was 16 and a student studying for my Alevels (the exams we take in England at 18 to go to university) when my mum died. As you can imagine, my life fell apart. I tried to carry on living a normal life and going to school, but it didn‟t take long for the grief and depression to take its toll. Instead of going to class, I spent my time drinking. I self harmed. I went for days without talking to anyone. I wanted to go to university but higher education or even just living a normal life seemed like something completely out of my reach. On results day I found out that I was close, but I didn’t get what the university would accept me for. I kept checking the website to see if I had been accepted and finally, success! The university had taken me on because of the exceptional circumstances and the fact that I was achieving the necessary results before my mum died. The next month I left home and moved to the other side of the country. It was the new start I needed. I was happier and a lot of healing took place there. When I found out about my university results, I learnt a really important lesson. The best thing about new beginnings is that it‟s never too late to make one. I had given up hope and given up on myself. I had constantly missed class and coursework deadlines, but at the last 10

minute I had pulled through and passed all but one of my subjects. Of course, the university had to accept me too! It‟s never too late and the new beginning can come from your own work, from the work of others, or how events naturally unfold. One of the great things about new beginnings is,even if you fail, you learn something from it and have a stronger, more experienced place to start from next. To contradict myself a little bit, I understand that in some situations, it can be too late. For example, I can never talk to my mum about herself and her life; that chance has gone. I‟ve come to believe though that it‟s never too late in that you can learn from missed chances just as much as failure in order to begin again in another area of your life. These things have really inspired me during my time on JET. If there is a bad situation, it helps me focus on improving it. If I don‟t see results straight away, I know I might one day. If I slide into a rut of inertia and negativity, it helps be begin again to make the most out of each day. Whatever you new beginning is about, remember that it‟s never too late.

Every second is another chance to change.

monthly topic …

Carole Deveau likes trying new things.

I think that I've been in Japan long enough to have gotten used to eating strange things. I have tried eating raw liver, raw horse, whale, cartilage, sparrow, sea cucumber, and many other „interesting‟ things. So, on my latest vacation to the Philippines, I tried one of their specialities – a balut. (For the vegetarians, stop reading here.) It's a boiled duck egg that has a partially developed embryo in it. You drink the "soupy liquid" from the egg, then eat the embryo followed by the yolk (with a bit of salt of course!). The taste wasn't so bad, but the thought of it just weirded me out. Now I can say that I've done it, but I chose not to ask for seconds.


monthly topic …

Adam Hacker walks on by.

Like a moth to a flame, each time I return to Tokyo my heart leads me to my old apartment in Shoto. Can‟t explain why exactly. I know it‟s there. Probably will be tomorrow too, but this urge has grown in the deepest levels of my psyche. Even now as I write, Tokyo-bound, I imagine my route to Shibuya and know that by day‟s end I‟ll have returned to my beginnings. I don’t mind this compulsion. Each walk is a return to a time when life seemed less difficult. Simple. I walk through the crowds of Shibuya station and its worldfamous crosswalk. Some say the busiest in the world, and I believe it. I pass the tall, cylindrical 109 Building, taking the right fork toward Bunkamura Concert Hall. I begin my ascent into Shoto and, even now, the noise seems miles behind. I pass nicely dressed Oba-sans, but seeing a foreigner here is no surprise to them. The traffic noise is gone and I‟m finally alone with my thoughts, in a city of millions. I turn left as I approach the bottom of my street, then follow the hedge to my right, around the bend, and it‟s revealed: Shoto Stripes House. I walk closer and imagine the textures of the facade, the grey and white tiled entry, and as I 12

reach out to touch, memories of childhood rush to the fore of my consciousness, all realized the moment my fingers touch the rock wall! It‟s fantastic. It‟s emotional. It‟s my beginning. I’ve done this walk at dawn and nearly every hour of the afternoon. But I most enjoy leaving the bustling nightlife behind, and with a beer in hand, I sit on the old white marble doorstep of an old life. Today I carry the same notebook in which you will find notes from my first return here in 2007, and I peer over them. I wonder how in the world‟s largest city I find a peace within me that cannot be elsewhere. Shoto was a time of new adventure and it was the beginning of the life I have today. For three years I lived there with my family, so I do understand this habit. It‟s a tangible artifact, unchanged, amidst a chaotic city where nothing is static and no one stands still. This place marks the beginning of a life less ordinary – my life. A life different from ninety-nine percent of all others. And so new beginnings I welcome. They will change your life forever.


tips and tricks in and out of Shimane


Seoul, South Korea

The capital of kimchi and beef awaits you.

HISTORY Over 10 million people live in this capital city which was founded in the 14th century and occupied for 35 years by the Japanese. LOCAL GREETING 안녕하세요 = annyeong haseyo = Hello GET AROUND Use the rechargeable T-Money card (₩2500, with ₩500 refunded upon returning the card) for subways, buses, and taxis. Dial 1330 anytime for an English (or Japanese!) operator and translator. EAT Split a Korean BBQ with friends while grilling your own bulgogi and kalbi. Mix vegetables with your rice topped with chili sauce by eating bibimbap. Take a gimbap (Korean sushi) with you when you‟re on the go. Try dupbookki rice dumplings in sweet chili sauce at a street vendor. Don‟t forget to have pajeon – a pancake with spring onions you dip into sesame soy sauce.

Image Credits: Time Magazine

Regina Durr has traveled to over 25 countries and is rarely seen in the iinaka.

EXPLORE OFF THE SUBWAY LINES •See Deokusgang Palace (City Hall Station) to revel in the colors and grandness of the past before catching the tantalizing nightly show at Chongdong Theatre to see traditional music and dance performed. •Get an aerial view at N Seoul Tower, before you play like a kid at Lotte World – one of the world‟s largest indoor amusement parks. •People watch at night along Cheonggye Stream, an oasis in the hectic city. •Freshen up in a 24-hour jjimjibang (public bath house) if you forget how to get back to your hotel. •Dance at Gangnam for a posh, booty-shaking night out. Or, hit the college scene at Hongdae and Sinchon where clubs are packed on the last Friday of the month for Club Day (₩15,000, entrance to all clubs) and hip-hop dancers will put you to shame. •Shop at Dongdaemun Market for all the latest fashions 24 hours a day in any one of the 6-story malls (such as Migliore and Doota). Or, venture to Namdaemun outdoor market to haggle for goods while checking one of the gates to the city. Buy all your gifts at Insadong where silk placemats and silver chopsticks are sold by the bundle. •Day trip to Panmunjeom on a guided tour bus to see the Demilitarized Zone and peek into North Korea with binoculars. 13

tips and tricks in and out of Shimane

The ability to drive is a milestone of adolescence in just about any road-ready culture. The allure of being able to go where you want, when you want, is the perfect display of one‟s independence and personal freedom. So it sure sucks when all that gets taken away suddenly, don’t it? Through bad (but well intentioned) advice from the JETAA and lack of communication with my contracting organization, I found myself in a unique position among Shimane JETs. While most newcomers wisely came with the fabled International Driving Permit, I did not. I also quickly learned that the glorious mass transit system I remembered so well from previous stays is not quite so glorious and convenient outside the Japanese megalopolis. And so in late August I began a quest to find a suitable means of transportation, one that would quickly answer my needs and hopefully complement future ambitions. After much research, the simplest answer was converting my Ohio state driver‟s license into a Japanese one. And lucky for all you happy permit holders out there, this is the same process you will go through come summer when your fancy-shmancy piece of paper expires. Before I continue, I should note that through international agreements with different countries, some of you will not have to do the entirety of my experience. The way to find out is to research whether or not your nation complied with Japan‟s request to see data on driving tests, 14


Jonathan Edwards loves driving with the wind in his hair.

road statistics, appease any allegations of unfairness to Japanese abroad, and so forth. Since driving in America is handled on a state-bystate basis, the American federal government, in a true patriotic show of sloth and apathy, disregarded the entire process. With due apologies to their citizens abroad, of course. As such, Americans and any other nationality that have offended the Japanese road gods have to prove their worth on the test course. But I‟ll get to that in a moment, as I shall first start from the very beginning (a very good place to start).

Step 1 Have a valid driving license from your home institution. If you don‟t have that, then you have a hard and expensive journey ahead of you. Sadly, this article can do little for you from this point on, and you have my sympathy.

Step 2 Photocopy both sides of your license, your passport, and your ever-important gaijin card and ship them off to the main licensing center in Matsue. There is a cost to this, so be advised. For some reason the other licensing center in Hamada cannot translate these officially, so do not send the copies there. From my experience, you should receive the translation documents fairly quickly.

tips and tricks in and out of Shimane


Step 4

Schedule a meeting at your nearest driving center to verify the translation. This requires Japanese, so if aren‟t fluent you may need a translator. I suggest bribing a CIR as they are quite handy and can relate to being a gaijin. Japanese friends and co-workers will work too if you have a good enough relationship. In a worst case scenario, let your workplace know that this is essential to your continued timely arrivals and they should find a way to help you out.

Once the licensing center is absolutely 100% positive that you have not lied about nor forged any part of your driving experience in an attempt to destroy Japan‟s safe driving environment, you will be allowed to take the written test. The test will be a set of ten true or false questions which will be different depending on which variant you are given. If you review your JET handbook on signs, street markings, and road rules, you will be absolutely fine. Just be wary of poorly set up questions. Occasionally you will be given a picture, a statement accurately describing the action performed in that picture, and nothing more. As such, the knee jerk reaction will be to answer true – the car is doing exactly as the statement describes. Just remember that for these questions, they want to know whether or not it was legal for the vehicle to perform the described action. You only need to answer seven of ten questions correctly to pass, and they will review your wrong answers with you afterwards. What happens next depends on your nationality.

The meeting consists of two parts. One is the redundant checking of the official translation you already paid for and gave them. They will ask you what each little item on your license means, even though they have a piece of paper right in front of them that says exactly what you will tell them. They will also inquire quite tediously into the who, where, when, why, and how about your license. They will ask if you took classes, and if so, how many, how long, when, and where. They will ask where you got the license, and remember to let them know if the authority which tested you was not the authority that issued your license, as is the case for the State Highway Patrol and Bureau of Motor Vehicles in my home state of Ohio. This concept baffled my inquirer and took quite some time to make understood. They will also ask you what your test consisted of, as in what the course looked like and required you to do. Again, in Ohio you are tested on actual roads chosen at random by a state highway trooper sitting in your car, which took some time to convey to the Hamada representative, who apparently thought the very idea of letting drivers in training on actual roads insane. They will also ask you about the vehicle in which you were tested, and every other vehicle you have driven since, if you can recall them. Thankfully, this didn‟t seem so important.

Credit: Greg Ferguson

Step 3

The Japanese have their own way of getting medieval on unsuspecting foreigners hoping to get a proper driver‟s license.


tips and tricks in and out of Shimane


Step 5 My nation was dutiful and appeased the Japanese road gods: Congratulations! You have earned a Japanese driver’s license. They’ll give you an eye test and take your picture. Remember not to smile, or at least don’t overdo it. I know you’re excited, but the Japanese consider smiles on an ID either creepy or rude. I haven’t figured out which.

My nation is too good to play into a ridiculously over saturated bureaucracy: Next up, you must prove your driving ability on that special go-kart-looking track you see outside. Thankfully, as a gaijin you have two special course arrangements made specifically foreigners. It’s not as intensive as the set laid out in the real Japanese tests, but I would still take the time they give you to memorize your path. You can request either an automatic or manual transmission, but remember that if you test on an automatic, you will only be allowed to drive automatic vehicles. If you’ve been driving in Japan all along up to this point, the test should be no problem. The only practice I advise is staying on very narrow roads in a curve or turns in a compact alleyway. The S-Curve and Box Curve look intimidating, but are quite easy while thankfully being the hardest part of the test. …Unless of course you are from the sane parts of the world where we drive on the right side of the road. Drive on the right side, now the wrong side, and you will fail instantly with the option to complete the circuit. On a track with absolutely no traffic to remind you of this fact, turning can become a tricky test of overcoming habit. Not that I would know from experience or anything…

Credit: Greg Ferguson

But pass all that, and now you too have an official Japanese driver’s license. Congratulations!


tips and tricks in and out of Shimane


Blake Bridgewater is driven.

18 … What to Buy (Yellow/White Plate) 18 … Where to Buy (Dealership/Private) 20 … What to Check 20 … What to Have (Inkan/Hanko; Inkan Shomeisho) 21 … Buying the Car (Transfer of Ownership; Car Recycling Fee)

21 … Insurance/Tax 22 … Shaken (Inspection Criteria; Where to Get Shaken Renewed; Inspection Day; Costs) 24 … Additional Resources

It’s a familiar 1st year JET story: This winter you only had a bike to get around, and since biking and winter don‟t mix, you‟ve likely passed up more than a few events during the colder spells only to watch re-runs of weird Japanese comedy shows on TV. Many JETs without a car are guilty of the same thing. They stay in their apartment under the kotatsu instead of riding their bike and fighting the cold and snow to socialize. Now that you’ve vowed to never live through another winter that way, you‟re now eagerly looking at buying a car. Well, this is the best time of year to it! Departing JETs are starting to post cars for sale and many of you 1st year JETs have a small nest egg saved up from staying inside all winter. As excited as you are to get a car, the actual process must seem scary and daunting. If you‟ve talked to other JETs or Japanese people, they‟ve probably scared you half to death by mentioning all the crazy taxes, costs and fees attached to owning a car. Maybe they even mentioned weird words such as shaken too. It’s true that owning a car in Japan is a little more expensive than the West, but if you know the “ins and outs” of buying and owning a car in Japan, the costs can be minimized substantially! Many of you are likely first time car buyers or are buying a car on your own for the first time. I‟d like to help you out by giving you some basic tips and the necessary procedures for getting a car in Japan. 17

tips and tricks in and out of Shimane

When buying a used car, you basically have two options. You can get a “kei car” (i.e., Yellow Plate) or a regular car (i.e., “White Plate”). Both have their pros and cons regarding cost and general safety.

travel 3. The car should appear to be in good condition and well maintained. This is especially important if shaken comes due when you own the car. If the car isn‟t in good condition then you risk the costly possibility of your vehicle not passing shaken without repairs.

Kei Car (i.e.,Yellow Plate) A kei car is a “light car” which is smaller than what most people are used to in the West. These cars will save you money on gas, tax, insurance, and shaken, but they are basically gokarts with motorcycle engines. They are essentially only used as city cars. With an engine 660cc or smaller, a length limited to 3.4m, and a width of 1.5m, they‟re obviously quite limited. Safety standard ratings are also less strict than with normal-sized white plate cars, so keep this in mind if you plan on driving for long distances or on the highways where speed limits are higher. Regular Car (i.e.,White Plate) White Plate cars are anything that doesn‟t meet the kei cars‟ strict size requirements. They are more expensive, but for the extra cost you are include the peace of mind that the car can safely do highway speeds and is far safer in an accident. Minimum Requirements for Your Car When buying a car, you should require these items at the very least: 1. It should have some shaken remaining. Buying a car with no shaken is risky. 2. It should come with winter tires. (During the winter time it is compulsory by law to have a pair of winter tires on your car.) 18

Buying a car in Japan is basically the same as in any Western country. You can buy a used car from a dealership or from someone selling their car privately. Many JETs sell their cars to other JETs when they leave JET/Japan. People might tell you (or you might read) that there is no used car market in Japan, and that used cars aren‟t worth anything. This is somewhat true. Japanese people tend to buy new cars, and as a result the used car market isn‟t very large (especially private sales). So it‟s a buyer‟s market (to a certain extent). A used Honda Civic that might cost a lot more in your country should cost quite a bit less here in Japan. The main reason for this is due to the shaken and other fees and taxes you need to pay. I explain this later, but this is the main reason for the lower sticker cost of used cars.

tips and tricks in and out of Shimane


If you are a JET looking to buy a car off a dealership or another JET, you should be aware of a few things. Before you continue, I basically used this site as a resource:

So your best bet is to tell them what you want and for what price so that you don‟t end up having the car‟s price go up as the hidden costs start to pile on. chap1.html

Privately/JET If you plan on buying a car privately off another JET, there are a couple things you must keep in mind too.

Dealership Buying a used car from a dealership will typically be expensive. You also might have difficulty getting a car from a dealership unless you pay cash up front. If you are looking to buy a newer, more expensive car (say ¥1 million or more), they almost certainly won‟t finance the car to you. (Usually financing is over a 24-48 month period.) If you buy a cheaper car in the ¥100,000¥400,000, the dealership is more likely to let you pay the car off over a 3-5month period in installments.

The car is likely older and has been passed down from JET to JET. It‟s also likely the car has had many short-term owners, and with this in mind you have to basically assume you are taking the car as is.

Make sure it has winter tires. The seller should include them as they are required by law/insurance companies in the winter. Also make sure the seller can provide all the documents that you need for the car‟s transfer of ownership (explained a little later). If the car is more than 10 years old, you need to assume things will start to break down. If you decide to buy a car off another JET, you shouldn‟t be afraid to offer an amount of money that reflects the car‟s age, general condition, what is included with the car, and how much shaken is left.

It is also worth noting that the dealerships‟ sticker price on the car is usually for the car itself. This means that it might not come with a warranty, 2 years of shaken, winter tires, etc. You might get lucky and find it included, but as I have discovered this normally isn‟t the case.

Goonet is a good website for getting an idea of car values in Japan. It has an English site and includes details on what comes with each car. (e.g., shaken, recycling fee, etc.):

The dealership will charge you more money for all the stuff not included in the car‟s sticker price. 19

tips and tricks in and out of Shimane


Always check the basics when buying a used car:

Now that you’ve decided to buy a car, this is where all the fun stuff happens.

1. Check the oil. If it‟s low and dark like molasses, chances are the owner never did general maintenance on the car.

Buying a car is a long process. Whether you buy it from a dealership or privately you should expect that the transfer of ownership will take a couple of weeks from start to finish.

2. Check the general condition of the tires. If you drive on worn-out tires, it can be a huge safety hazard. New car tires are actually really expensive in Japan, so you don‟t want to drop another ¥40,000- ¥60,000 on a new set after buying a car. Here is a website that explains how to tell when your tires need to be changed: 3. Check to make sure all the electronic/safety components work on the car (lights, wipers, horn, mirrors, heater/air conditioner, radio, seat belts, hazard lights, signals, etc.) 4. Test drive the car! (Or have the seller drive you around in it.) If the car is making weird noises that cars shouldn‟t make, that is an early warning sign that you might have future mechanical problems.


If you do a private purchase, chances are the seller doesn‟t know what the transfer of ownership entails. Unless the person selling you the car implicitly says they will help you, assume you will need to hire someone to do it. Fortunately, Japanese people are usually just as clueless as us when it comes to doing all the paperwork. As a result, dealerships and agents are available to do the name change/ownership transfer for a small fee. – anywhere from ¥8000¥15,000. Let‟s look at what you need to prepare beforehand when you get a dealership to do the ownership transfer – your inkan or hanko, and an inkan shomeisho (proof of registration). Your inkan or hanko First, you will need an inkan or hanko (a seal that has your name in katakana), and you must register it at your city hall (it‟s called inkan shomeisho). When I arrived at my school, my supervisor already had a hanko made and waiting for me. It says my name in katakana and cost me around ¥600. It‟s a very important item – basically the equivalent to a signature. You will need it for various things such as banking, work attendance sheets, or notarizing other workrelated documents that might come up.

tips and tricks in and out of Shimane

The Inkan Shomeisho (i.e., Proof of Registration) Before you can buy a car and have the ownership transferred to your name, you will need to register your inkan at the city hall in your town. It‟s a relatively painless procedure and took me less than an hour and cost less than ¥2000. I did it with my supervisor. If your Japanese isn‟t strong, I highly recommend you get help with your supervisor or a Japanese friend. You may or may not be required to do this before you get the dealership to start the car‟s transfer of ownership paperwork. You should ask them what they require from you. Below are two links addressing this process: ration.html 3/005.html

If you do this on your own, be prepared to take time off work, and recruit the help of a Japanese speaker. It‟s far easier and cheaper in the long run to get a dealership to do the change. A dealership should charge you less than ¥15,000 to do all the ownership transfer paperwork (regardless of whether or not you buy the car from that dealership).

travel Car Recycling Fee Recycling fees should be paid by the person who originally purchased the car when it was new (if the car is a year 2004 or newer), or when shaken was done (if the car is less than a year 2004). Basically this fee is only paid once and is transferred to the new owner. When I bought my White Plate car, it was already paid and came with the car. So chances are privately sold cares should also have it included.

Personal Insurance This covers you as well as third parties involved should the accident be your fault (people in your car or the car/person/object you hit), or if the your victim only has the basic minimum insurance covered under shaken. It cost me around ¥100,000 for the year. It is generally cheaper for kei cars (Yellow Plates). I‟ve over simplified Japanese car insurance. It‟s basically another topic on its own (Japan‟s system is based on shared responsibility when an accident happens). But needless to say, you should get this optional insurance.

Here are two links which explain what documents the previous owner needs to provide and what documents you will need to provide. chap1.html#b ACar


tips and tricks in and out of Shimane


I have included a few links for reading and rough price estimates:

service, vehicle weight, and motor insurance. For specific info, read here:

liable /e-ibaraki-report/0612carinsurance.html pense.html

And here is a flowchart describing the process from start to finish: Yearly Road Tax The yearly road tax is paid once a year. You get the notice in the mail in the New Year, and the tax has to be paid before June 1st. It‟s very easy and painless to do. When I received the statement in the mail, I was told I had to pay around ¥40,000 for my 1800cc White Plate car. I brought the statement to my bank, gave them the money, and they gave me a receipt. Here is a Japanese resource that tells you the cost based on the car‟s engine size: w/index.html Shaken Inspection Criteria Here is the official shaken document provided by the National Agency of Vehicle Inspection:

For a detailed understanding, it's easier to read Page 4. Basically, your car is superficially checked to make sure it's safe in good running order. (That means they don't check it over with a finetoothed comb and make you repair or replace a bunch of mechanical parts!) So if your car is well maintained, it should easily pass shaken. Some mechanics might try and make you think otherwise, but it‟s written in plain English what is required to pass the inspection. Where to Get Shaken Renewed When you get shaken renewal, you have 4 choices:

Used cars in Japan require you have the shaken renewed every 2 years. In a nutshell, shaken is a type of vehicle inspection required by all cars being driven on Japanese roads. Shaken is broken down into 3 fees: inspection 22

1. User shaken (Renewal Inspection applied for by users themselves), 2. Agent shaken (Renewal Inspection applied for by an agent of user), 3. Certified Maintenance Garages, and finally 4. Designated Maintenance Garages. Consult the link below for exact info:


tips and tricks in and out of Shimane

In my opinion, options 1 or 2 are your best bet. Garages and dealerships in Japan can be just as dishonest as their counterparts in the West. I've heard horror stories where garages told JETs that they had to do a ton of repairs on their car in order for it to pass shaken. Though the car may have been poorly maintained, I know firsthand of a JET who was told that their well maintained car required a bunch or mechanical repairs which were not needed! If you want to do shaken yourself, you can save a lot of money on fees and needless repairs if you don‟t use a garage. For us Shimaneans, here is the location and contact info for the shaken inspection station in Shimane: You should probably know Japanese at a JLPT 2 level, or have a friend who is native Japanese or JLPT 2 to help fill out paper work. Necessities for Inspection Day There is a ton of stuff owners need to have prepared before getting the car ready for shaken renewal. Whether the owner does it themselves or takes it to a garage, there are a few things one needs to provide as the car‟s owner. If you do the shaken process yourself, I included supplementary info. What owners need to provide: 1. Motor Vehicle Inspection Certificate (Shaken Certificate) 2. Records of Periodic Checks, Maintenance and Repairs 3. Motor Vehicle Liability Insurance Certificate 4. Motor Vehicle Tax Payment Certificate

If you do shaken yourself: 1. 2. 3. 4.

Renewal Inspection Application Form Vehicle Inspection Result Slip Motor Vehicle Weight Tax Payment Slip Follow what they say here: o/info/index.html 5. Wash and clean the car. 6. Check all the easy superficial stuff before the inspection (i.e., lights, horn, safety belts, etc.). For specific information and pictures of what all the documents look like, click on the link below: ocument.html Approximate Costs of Shaken Well this is what everyone wants to know! The cost of shaken is something you need to consider when factoring the value of the car when you buy it or whether your ancient car is worth the renewal once you have it. Unfortunately, the costs are as clear as mud. From talking with other JETs who maintained their cars properly, the final cost appears to be around ¥90,000 to ¥150,000 for a White Plate. If you buy a Yellow Plate it should be less than half that. Costs vary depending on the size of the car and its condition. Also, many JETs go to a garage, and these are the final costs including the shaken fee, garage fee, and repair costs. Hopefully this guide is a good start for JETs looking to buy a used car in Japan. If you have questions or comments, email me at Enjoy driving in Shimane! 23

tips and tricks in and out of Shimane


Info on owning a car in Japan: Buying and selling a car: Buying a car in Japan:

Signature or inkan: Wikipedia shaken explanation: Shaken experience (forum post): Extremely useful firsthand account of shaken and explanation: t=5 Another shaken story: Driving in Japan: Getting rid of a car:


Image Credits: Greg Ferguson

recipes and more


March 3rd is Hinamatsuri (Girls’ Day in English). Besides the dolls that Betsy Pinkham thinks chocolate is love. form the main feature of the holiday, the food is pretty good too. One of the most common foods is Hinachirashi, a sort of Chirashizushi (scattered sushi). It‟s made by preparing sushi rice and then topping it with various vegetables, scrambled eggs, and shredded nori. The colors for Hinachirashi, as with most Hinamatsuri foods, are pink, white, and green. The pink often comes from sakura denbu and the green from nanohana (rapeseed.) This is a nice traditional dish … but why not mix it up by making Hinamatsuri Onigiri? You can make your own edible Odiari-sama and Ohina-sama.

Hinamatsuri Onigiri (Makes two dolls) Ingredients 2 eggs 1 ½ tsp mirin 2 cups cooked rice, prepared for onigiri 1 carrot 1 cucumber Hard boiled quail eggs Black sesame seeds Toothpicks

Directions Mix the eggs and mirin and make one very thin, round omelet. Cut in half to make two moons. Wet your hands and shape the rice into two triangular onigiri. Wrap an omelet moon around an onigiri with the round edge being the bottom of the robe. Steam a few thin-sliced rounds of the carrot in a microwave to soften them. Cut the rounds into thirds and the best one will be Ohina-sama’s fan. Next, cut off a piece of the cucumber‟s skin, about 2cm long, ½ cm wide and 3mm thick. This is Odairi-sama’s baton. Break off the tips of two toothpicks and use them to pin the fan and baton to the onigiri through the omelet. Nestle a quail egg into the top of the onigiri to be the dolls‟ heads. – pointed side up for Ohina-sama and down for Odairi-sama.

Credit: Huiwen Xin.

Gently press the sesame seeds against the eggs to become the eyes. Serve with some clear clam soup and a side of nanohana sprouts. Enjoy! 25


recipes and more

Takikomi Gohan with

Chikuwa and Enoki

I think we all love those special kyuushoku days where we get the Elisabeth Pardee has special rice. Instead of the filling but somewhat boring white rice, you receive the ingredients for fun. a veritable bounty of delicious! Bamboo sprouts, chicken, mushrooms, curry … the possibilities are endless. But what to do during those long weeks of vacation without access to delicious kyuushoku? Or what if you‟re like me and don‟t eat kyuushoku? Well, here is an easy-peasy lemon-squeezy way to make your very own takikomi rice. Read on!


2 cups (360 ml) of rice

Seasoning 2 tbsp Cooking Sake 2 tbsp Soy Sauce 1 tbsp Mirin

2 sticks Yaki Chikuwa (fish sausage)

100g enoki mushrooms

½ sheet of Yaki Nori

360ml dashi stock from powdered dashi (about ½ tsp of powder mixed with 360mL water)

Directions 1. Wash the rice thoroughly in the rice cooker bowl. After, leave the rice in the water for no more than 10 minutes, then drain the water. 2. Add the dashi stock and let sit for 30 minutes. 3. While it is sitting, prepare the chikuwa and the enoki. Cut the chikuwa in half lengthwise and then cut into 3-4mm slices. Remove and throw away the bottom of the enoki leaving only the white mushroom part. Slice into 1-2cm long pieces. Make sure to separate the pieces so as to prevent clumping. 4. Once the rice has sat for 30 minutes, add the seasoning and mix well. Add but DO NOT MIX the enoki and chikuwa. 5. Cook rice. After, blend the rice, chikuwa, and enoki with the shamoji and serve.


6. Break the yakinori into small flakes and add to rice. Enjoy!!

recipes and more


Lexi Sanborn is working on her farmer‟s tan.

This entire idea of a garden began on the premise of three factors. For one, despite living in the second-least populated prefecture, my home is next to a noisy national highway and between two parking lots. Secondly, being somewhat of a foodie, I was dismayed to find that my number two go-to vegetable – zucchini – was not regularly available in supermarkets (to date, I have only found it once.) There were two options: do without and complain (which I continue to do), or start a garden. And thirdly, to some degree I have always been a nature child. Starting a garden isn't as easy as it sounds. To begin, where does one get the land? Sure, there are vacant lots all over the place, but that‟s usually because they‟re for sale. I'm sure the neighbors wouldn't have been happy if their ALT turned squatter. So, how to acquire rentable land within walking distance from my home? Over the course of a few months I casually asked the Japanese I knew about how this was done. None seemed to know, not even the local JA Bureau. It was a mystery. I even went so far as to ask my BOE for help, but as a vegetable garden isn't something crucial, it was not put high on their to-do list. Finally, I went to the big boys: City Hall. First thinking I wanted to grow rice, they offered me a parcel about 30 minutes away. I then re-explained that all I wanted was to grow vegetables (particularly zucchini). Giving my add-

ress and phone number, they said they'd ask around and try to arrange something. After that initial meeting, I felt productive and proactive. Literally within 30 minutes, they called saying they had found a spot. I was overjoyed. The next day I went to inspect the map and agree to the location of the plot. Although it was a tenminute walk from my home, it was doable. We arranged to meet with the land owner the following Monday for an official inspection. On that day, I arrived on time and found a small mosh-pit of Japanese grannies and grandpas who‟d decided the original plot was too far, too windy, too lonely, and sometimes dangerous. As such, they instead found a plot right in front of the Community Center only five minutes by foot from my home. As this entire process taught me, breaking into the community isn't easy and getting a plot of land has its challenges. However, this would be nothing compared to the reality of growing and maintaining a garden.


recipes and more

My plot of land is big and hasn't been used in many years. It was covered with a tangle of weeds and dead grass. Armed with my trowel and shovel, I set right to work clearing it. After about 45 minutes I had perhaps 3x4 ft. I also understood how all these Japanese grannies become gnarled like tree trunks after years of gardening. With darkness approaching early for the time being, I had decided to only visit the patch sporadically during the week and as much as I could on the weekends.

Several days later, while attempting a morning jog, I stopped by my garden to make sure the weeds hadn't re-invaded. By chance, a neighbor (who I‟ll call Granny Sone) offered the loan of her gardening tools. I declined briefly before eventually accepting, for as my early experience in the week taught me, bigger tools are better when clearing land. Perhaps, invigorated by exercise, I found myself returning that same afternoon to continue weed cleaning. Granny Sone saw me out again, deciding that before I proceeded any further we must go and do our official duty: introduce ourselves to the neighbors. Most are well over the age of 70, and sadly I had difficulty understanding them, but they seemed interested 28


and welcoming enough. The last person, a retired salary-man turned farmer named Ishihara, was initially shy but later quite willing to offer guidance and assistance to this newbie of the „ag „world. I had a feeling that things were looking up, even if I never got around to weeding. The following Saturday dawned bright, clear and beautiful. All week I had checked the weekend's weather, praying we wouldn't have the snow flurries we'd been having all week. Under the sunny skies I attempted weeding with the borrowed hoe and then later a shovel. Weeding is the most grueling chore of all, but through my efforts I found some treasures. My plot was filled with narcissus and iris bulbs which I dug out with all my flimsy strength. I now have a new project of planning out a flower garden in addition to my vegetable garden. How the list grows. I also found remnants of my garden's past glory: skimpy potatoes, sweet potatoes, and mint. Excited at the prospect of using them, I was quickly told by Ishihara that they were no good and should be thrown away. He was quite helpful, having investigated an entire list of Japanese-English technical farming terms like fertilizer, crop rotation, and neutralize. It reminded me how thoughtful Japanese people can be, and how some of them have a strong desire to communicate with foreigners. Though it’s only been a month, I already feel healthier and more involved in the community. I can feel my hibernation under the kotatsu slowly coming to an end, replaced now by the warmth of the sun and the buzzing of newly hatched mosquitoes in my ears.

language and understanding Japanese life


Just when you thought festivals couldn’t get more exotic than Naked Man February: the last of the three coldest months of the year. Despite the ridiculously low temperatures, the second month of the year is when various shrines across Japan decide to hold the Naked Man Festival. For those of you who haven‟t yet experienced one, try to picture a legion of mostly Japanese men in nothing but a loin cloth fighting over some objective (which changes depending on your location). The celebration is quite the spectacle, one I always hear about on my trips to the Land of the Rising Sun whether I attend them or not. Despite the popularity with foreigners, I cannot help but find surprise at the festival being a giant case of false advertising. Mostly naked, yes. Truly naked, no. Not only do the festivities fall short of their titular spectacle, but with the popularity over such a bizarre event, I‟m surprised that the following festival in March falls far under the radar.: Hounen Matsuri. And before I continue, I should probably concede that once again we are confronted with a slight case of false advertising. Hounen is Japanese for a fat or prosperous year, but given the celebrations I‟ve

Jonathan Edwards is a proud member.

witnessed, the Japanese have interpreted the term hounen to focus on the more human side of prosperity… the primal instinct side. As such, dubbing the occasion the Fertility Festival feels much more appropriate. However, I first learned of the celebration as a foreign nickname far more accurately depicting the events held within – the Penis Festival. Yes, you read that correctly. Just as Naked Man varies from shrine to shrine, so too does Hounen Matsuri. I have heard that some shrines focus on the female genitalia, but I have only had the fortune of being invited to witness the male related counterpart. And what a celebration there was. The main event consists of a parade between two shrines in Komaki, an area in outer Nagoya, the centerpiece of which is an enshrined (but very visible) giant wooden phallus carried by group of eager monks. So eager in fact that about every 15 minutes they stop the procession to spin in circles moving the shrine up and down, making the giant wooden replica „dance.‟ They are preceded and followed by priestess carrying 29

language and understanding Japanese life

much smaller wooden phalluses, which men are invited to rub to bless their own fertility, and probably their libido too. Also in the procession are small trees surrounded by barrels of holy sake that is passed out to the attending masses. Outside of the parade, like every other festival, there are countless street vendors, only now they are peddling delicious innuendo. The bulk of these stands are near the parade‟s finale, where the sake trees are torn violently apart by the eager drunk crowd looking for more good luck. And finally, blessed mochi is thrown into the crowd by priests and city officials. Large, rock hard mochi. I once saw a man in front of me struck in the face by one, shattering his glasses and probably his nose as well. So in truth, public and religious officials are stoning a crowd to thunderous applause. What a way to get back at the voters.


Incidentally, the festival always occurs around March 15th, often putting the festivities in competition with those of St. Patrick‟s Day, only a few days later. So if any of you find yourself in Nagoya on the 15th, try looking up Komaki. You‟ll definitely have a story to one-up your Naked Man cohorts.

This month‟s feature photography by Greg Ferguson.

If ever you wanted a dazzling Engrish t-shirt of your very own, you need look no further than your nearest TRIAL. 30

language and understanding Japanese life


Jacob Heller has time on his side.

I had a buddy in college, a guy I met at Nanzan University in Nagoya, who liked to date girls. A lot. I mean, I think everybody wanted to date, but he was really the only one in our posse who had the stones (and/or the linguistic ability) to really make it worthwhile. So he dated. Often. Diversified his portfolio, even. He dated two or three girls a week, sometimes more. He had both good and bad experiences, mostly bad, if I'm to believe his stories … point is, he had a unique time-management conundrum: He had to juggle his Japanese courses, club meetings (one of the many ways he would meet his dates), and of course the dates themselves. Additionally, both he and I lived with host families, so we had responsibilities at home too. I wasn't really sure how he did all this at first; I just assumed he was a genius. I mean, his Japanese was far beyond my own, and he was dangerous, madman smart. The man could play piano, sing, and we always joked that he saw the world in kanji the same way Neo could see the computer code in The Matrix. It turned out he managed all his mischief with iCal on his Mac. He had a calendar for classes, another for dates, and another two or three more for club activities and his host family. On any given week, he could glance at the weekly view and get a good overview of what he'd be doing with Saki, Yumi, and Chie, as well as the blows he'd be delivering to my ego via Smash Bros. at the local coffee house.

A year and a half later, I had returned to the US, graduated from college and moved to Japan to teach English. I arrived in August, and in October, my three-year-old Thinkpad – a grizzled war veteran that had seen its fair share of bumps, bruises and soda spills – finally bit the dust three months out of the warranty period, prompting me to invest in a new MacBook Pro. Up to that point I'd been a Windows guy, mostly because I needed that damn trackpoint (I still do! Damn it!) to get anything done on my laptop, but I finally bit the bullet and bought a Mac because Apple makes beautiful machines and I needed a little more elegance in my life.

About six months in, I realized several problems with my time management skills. First, I was (and still am) very absent-minded. I had a different school practically every day – sometimes even two. My schedule wasn't set in stone, either. Every week there would be changes as schools tried to shuffle their days around in order to maximize my single weekly, oftentimes monthly visit. My teachers and supervisor would sometimes give me conflicting schedules or dates, and all I could do was glance at my monthly schedule and shrug.

I needed a better way to visualize and manage my time. 31

language and understanding Japanese life

The first thing I did was put my school schedules into iCal. I set up a separate calendar for each school and assigned them colors that I wouldn't forget (which have since come to symbolize certain schools and even emotions for me) and put three monthsâ€&#x; worth of scheduling data into my calendar. Managing changes was a snap. Since all my calendars were locally stored on my machine and iCal is fast, if my teacher or supervisor informed me of a change, all I had to do was switch to iCal, find the date in question and make a note of the change. iCal even synced with my iPhone. It was everything I needed ... until I made the switch to Google Calendar and discovered the superior alternative.

My initial impetus for switching to Google was more about portability than efficiency. I wanted to be able to log in from anywhere and check my calendar, even if my PC was in traction. So, one day I jumped in, moved all my events by hand to my Google Calendar, deleted everything in iCal and basically took the plunge blind, hoping it would work out. I had problems from the outset. At first, I couldn't figure out how to easily


culture sync my Google Calendar with my iPhone the way iCal had, and what made it worse was that I made some mistakes setting up calDAV syncing at first, resulting in a month or so where I was convinced that I'd never be able to sync my calendar to iCal on my desktop. Google Calendar's user interface is slick, but because I was using it every day I wanted it uncoupled from my browser and integrated into my Applications folder. Initially I tried a Fluid SSB (Site Specific Browser), but a few months later, when I was fiddling with it again, I realized I had simply misinterpreted the syncing directions at first. Now I have my Google Calendar synced using calDAV to iCal on my desktop. Google provides some simple setup instructions to help with this task. Meanwhile, on the iPhone side of things, I had some issues with syncing at first, but with the 3.x iPhone OS update, Google allows for syncing of calendars (and now Gmail, too) via an Exchange account which greatly simplified my life.


language and understanding Japanese life

Now, you might already have your own system for managing your time. However, for every single person that is reading this and nodding their head, there are tens of thousands of people out there who are still penciling in their schedules on a wall calendar somewhere and missing out on all the little things that make keeping a Google Calendar great:

ting anything important.

Access -- Access it anywhere. I can make changes via the web interface, on my iPhone on the go, or on my desktop in iCal and have these changes be instantly propagated to every other device and made available immediately, which is great for scheduling everything from work to dinner dates.

Sharing and Availability -- Given my schedule and the nature of my job, sharing and availability arenâ€&#x;t my top priorities. I'm not available when I'm at work and I very rarely manage or am being managed, so there aren't any meetings to invite anyone to, nor is there a reason for me to share any of my calendars with anyone else; however, I imagine that in the future these two features will become better integrated with other Google services like Google Voice, such that you might be able to set a custom availability and have Google Voice direct your calls to numbers based on your availability and all sorts of other neat tricks. In the future. Right, Google?

Superior Notification -- Google Calendar offers notifications that trump anything iCal has to offer. My neighborhood has a very strict garbage collection schedule, and when I first moved in, dealing with six different types of trash days was a headache. As soon as I completed the initially time-consuming task of entering each and every one of these pick-up dates into their respective garbage calendars, I set up email notifications and now I get an email a few days before any rare garbage pick-ups, giving me time to prepare my styrofoam and plastic so that I don't have to stack it up in the kitchen for months and kick myself after I've realized I've missed yet another recycling day. Google also offers free SMS notifications to a large number of international phone carriers, including all the major Japanese cell phone providers which makes it extremely handy even if you don't have a device that supports Push notifications. Furthermore, I get an itinerary every morning at 5am in my Gmail inbox that tells me everything I'm going to do in the day ahead. It sounds simple, but it lets me skip coffee and wake up naturally without having to worry about forget-

Public Calendars -- Although I'm only subscribed to one public calendar at the moment (Japanese Holidays), Google offers a number of public calendars that you can subscribe to: sports schedules, international holidays, phases of the moon, etc.

Getting things done requires ample opportunity and setting up a Google Calendar is one of the first steps you can take to create those opportunities. Set up a study calendar with a block of time set aside each day to study or complete that project you've been working on. Say you're training for a marathon and need to run a mile a day, but can't ever seem to find the time. Set up a new calendar, tell Google to notify you by email an hour ahead of each scheduled event, and chalk up a bit of time every day for your required exercise. Then, when you get home from work and check your email, you'll see the damned thing sitting in your inbox: Go. Run. Do anything. Remember Everything. Waste Nothing. 33

楽しい / tanoshii

everything entertainment

Oscars Greg Ferguson finds For the first time in roughly 70 years, the Academy Awards (aka the enlightenment in Oscars) will expand their list of Best Picture nominees from five to ten. By now entertainment this is old news, but what remains to be seen is how this will fare come March 7 when those long-coveted statuettes are handed out. As residents of Japan, you‟ll likely have not seen many of these films outside of some dubious, clandestine methods, although there is one titanic nominee which has pervaded just about every corner of the globe: Avatar. Yes, good ol‟ megablockbuster „Smurfahontas‟ has the highest box office gross in history, the most advanced special effects in history, and hands-down the highest profile going right now. But does it have the highest chance of winning in each of its nominated categories, including Best Picture? Don‟t be so sure.

With ten nominees vying for the most important film award of all, and with each voter being required for the first time to rank each nominee in order of preference, it‟s hard to say which one will come out on top. For a film with no acting recognition or a screenplay nod, Avatar might be passed over as mere „eye candy‟ (I‟m not judging – only speculating on the voters‟ mindset). Then again, you may remember the clean sweep accomplished by Lord of the Rings: Return of the King in 2004 and would not be faulted for throwing your support behind the winsome Pandora-jin, who not so long ago snagged a Golden Globe for Best Drama.

The Hurt Locker on these grounds would seem prudent. (It also won the BAFTA – British Film & Television Awards – trophy for Best Picture; a consolation should it not get the Oscar.)

The stiffest competition is The Hurt Locker, a low-budget and low-grossing Indie action/drama about a US Military bomb expert in the Iraq War. It also happens to be both a critical darling and a film recognized by the sorts of industry insiders who also hold influence over the awarding of Oscars. It won the Producers‟ Guild Award for Best Picture (producers being the actual recipients of the Oscar for Best Picture) and quite notably recei ved a Directors‟ Guild Award for Kathryn Bigelow. Traditionally, winners of this have gone on to win Oscar, so siding with 34

For my money, I‟d be happy with most any of the ten nominees winning (with the exception of the loathsome Precious: Based on the Novel LightSkinned Blacks are Better than Dark-Skinned Blacks by Onyx). In a perfect world, A Serious Man by the Coen Brothers would be the serious contender, but if The Hurt Locker wins, then that‟s just as well. As for Avatar, all I can say is I am sure there are those who look back on their vote for Titantic for Best Picture and wish that, in spite of its monumental leap forward in CGI technology, they‟d voted instead for The Sweet Hereafter.

If the main race is between Avatar and The Hurt Locker, that leaves eight other films with the potential to upset. Some more than others, of course (like hell you‟ll see District 9 being given its tiara and sash). Should votes among the top three or four on the ballots settle on a couple of other specific films with traction and momentum, then you could see either Inglorious Basterds or Up in the Air (in that order) claim the prize.

The 82nd Annual Academy Awards Predictions for all Categories


Best Motion Picture of the Year The Hurt Locker

Best Achievement in Costume Design The Young Victoria

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart

Best Achievement in Makeup Star Trek

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role Christoph Waltz, Inglorious Basterds Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role Mo’Nique, Precious Best Achievement in Directing Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen Inglorious Basterds Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published Up in the Air

Best Achievement in Cinematography Avatar Best Achievement in Editing The Hurt Locker Best Achievement in Art Direction Avatar

Image Credits: A.M.P.A.S.S.

楽しい / tanoshii

everything entertainment

Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score Up Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song “The Weary Kind,” Crazy Heart Best Achievement in Sound Mixing Avatar Best Achievement in Sound Editing Avatar

Best Achievement in Visual Effects Avatar Best Animated Feature Film of the Year Up Best Foreign Language Film of the Year The White Ribbon Best Documentary, Features The Cove Best Documentary, Short Subjects The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner Best Short Film, Animated Wallace & Gromit in ‘A Matter of Loaf & Death’ Best Short Film, Live Action Instead of Abracadabra


Anything useful…or not useful

While the best and brightest Japanese minds still toil laboriously on the concept of central heating, there is a new innovation for which they may be credited: the White Goat. This $100,000 baby will take approx. 40 A4-sized office papers and convert them into a fresh roll of toilet paper. Made by Oriental, Co. Ltd., this ecofriendly wonder will purportedly save up to 60 cedar trees a year when it is unveiled this spring.


Female farmers in small town Biei, Hokkaido, are putting out a line of “countryside couture.” Oxymoron? Perhaps, but that‟s not stopping them! The designers are hoping that “Agri-Fashion” will make young people interested in farming. Although the amount of attention and number of orders is a surprise to the designers, it remains to be seen whether we‟ll be seeing this new trend on the streets of Shibuya. 36

何でも / nandemo

何でも / nandemo

Anything useful…or not useful

The Olympic experience would not be complete with some wacky souvenirs. Lillehammer, – Winter 1994: MooseLillehammer,Norway Norway – Winter 1994: dropping earrings. Earrings werewere made outout of Moose-dropping earrings. Earrings made treated moose feces when a record snowfall of treated moose feces when a record snowfall forced moosepopulations populations urban forced moose intointo urban areas.areas. They They sold for $20 a pair. When life you sold for $20 a pair. When life hands hands you moose moosemake droppings, poop, jewelry.make jewelry.

Salt Lake – USA Winter– 2002: Jell-O pin. Salt City, LakeUSA City, Winter 2002: Only 2,002 pinsOnly were2,002 made Jell-O pin. pins(get wereit?). madeTheir (get individual auction value today is between $200 it?). Their individual auction value today is and $250. between $200 and $250.

Athens, Greece Greece – Summer Summer 2004: Athens, 2004: Olympic wedding dress. No joke. No This dressThis was on sale Olympic wedding dress. joke. in a local bridal it just scream dress was on sale salon. in a localDoesn’t bridal salon. “class”?it just scream “class”? Doesn‟t

Beijing, China – Summer 2008: Live goldfish key chain. If you survived the air pollution, perhaps you wanted to remember your Beijing Olympics experience with a live goldfish dangling from your keitai. In China, a live gold fish symbolizes wealth and harmony. Animal rights activists disagree.

London, England – Summer 2012: 50 pence coin. Designed by Florence Jackson from Bristol, this 50 pence piece will enter into circulation later this year.

Image Credits:


The Shimane Black Taxi: March 2010