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the refill Fukuoka JET newsletter

Issue #3

Snowboarding │ Nepal │ Lazy recipes │ Life after JET

the refill | February/March 2011


Editor’s note


appy New Year and ようこそ 2011! Change is in the air! We’ve just started the year of the rabbit as the school year comes to a close, bringing staff rotations and students whose uniforms don’t fit quite right. Luckily, the weather is also in transition. Soon the dark, cold days will give way to plum blossoms, the hailing symbol of Fukuoka-ken. As March draws to an end, the ever-prolific cherry blossoms will appear, inspiring haiku and hanami parties alike. Unknowns can be difficult to face, and periods of change are generally chock-full of them. To gain perspective on transition points specific to JET’s, we asked a current JET and an alumni JET to speak about transitions in their lives: One details transferring positions from ALT to CIR, while the other reflects on returning to her home country after two years with JET. Both pieces help expand our understanding of the wide range of JET experiences.

As the weather and staff rooms change, keep your pen and camera handy to capture memories and new experiences. We encourage you to write us at the.refill.fukuoka@gmail. com with any comments, suggestions or submissions for future issues.

Rebekah Randle Editor-in-chief

the refill #3 ǀ Feb/March 2011

Editor-in-chief Rebekah Randle

Content Editors Keliko Adams Lindsay Pyle

Layout and Design Hugh McCafferty

Copy Editor Eryk Salvaggio

Contributors Bill Albertson Andria Barberi Laura Cardwell Jennifer Chan John Crow Laura Giorgio Chris Harber

Megan McLean Yannick McLeod Rena Okada Emily Rosenberg Mike Seidman Nobu Tanaka Andy Telfer Wenson Tsai

AJET: The Comic by Yannick McLeod


Cover photo: Mike Seidman

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4 Short shorts

Lesser-seen Fukuoka: Neko Café Keurig Top 5: All-you-can-eat buffets

Photo: Nobu Tanaka

8 In Fukuoka

Oniya Fire Festival Nightwalker 2011


10 Travel

Yanagawa Snowboarding Nepal

17 Living

Study tips: Kanji Recipes for lazy chefs Cold weather skincare

Photo: Cassie Lealamanua

20 Opinion

Life after JET From ALT to CIR

26 Entertainment Events Blood types


30 Reviews

Christie’s Norwegian Wood

32 Photos

Photo: Mike Seidman


Main photo: Megan McLean Opposite page (l-r): Keliko Adams, Eryk Salvaggio (x2), Rebekah Randle


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Short shorts: Lesser-seen Fukuoka

Neko Café Keurig Out-of-towner Megan McLean curls up with the cute and cuddly inhabitants of this café


ne thing is for sure: I love cats. I mean, I really love cats. I grew up with cats, and while I don’t have one now I desperately want one. So now I can say whatever I need to about street cats without you thinking I’m just a cat-hating jerk.

I lived in Jerusalem for a little while, traveled through quite a bit of the Middle East and go back to visit Israel fairly often. There are cats everywhere in the Middle East, Israel especially, and they’re scary and disgusting. Cats in Cairo all appeared to live in heaps of garbage. They looked and smelled like trash. The hostel I stayed in had at least 10 mangy cats living in the stairway, which was home to the downstairs restaurant’s butchers. Now, when I travel abroad, I tend to judge a place by its street-cat population, or lack thereof.

but all of them get along well with people and each other. The atmosphere there is almost eerily calm, or maybe normal for Japan. I relate all travel experiences to the Middle East - so everything in Japan is eerily calm.

When you visit the café you pay a small fee and order something from their extensive menu of food and drinks. You can even purchase a set that includes some time in the café and a drink or food. Then you just relax and enjoy the cats and the people. These places must attract some pretty interesting individuals. I saw a youngish couple on a (possibly) first date, a woman who looked like a regular (she knew all the cats by name and they all seemed to know her) and a few other boringly normal people. Even my friend, known for her intense allergies and irrational hatred of cats, loved it!

I was grossed out by the idea of eating food in a room crawling with cats – and I’m a cat lover

I knew that Japan would be clean. I was actually worried about Japan’s cleanliness. After reading the Wikitravel article on Japan, I imagined some security guard tackling me on the train and forcing me to put on a mask if I coughed or sneezed or blew my nose. So I couldn’t wrap my mind around cat cafés. I was grossed-out by the idea of eating food in a room crawling with cats. And I am a cat lover, remember? I was pleasantly surprised by Neko Café Keurig in Fukuoka City. It’s a really nice café, stylish and modern, but cozy, and very, very clean. Cats are everywhere. Not in the creepy, swarmy way I thought they’d be, but there really are a lot of them. They have all different breeds; long-hair, short-hair, tiny kitties and huge cats. Some are more extroverted than others

the refill | February/March 2011

If you find you’ve become especially attached to one cat in particular, you can adopt it! You’ll find books with photos and information about the cats. All of the cats at Neko Café Keurig are strays that have been rehabilitated and are ready for new homes. Not that they need to be adopted. I think the café looks like a pretty sweet place to live.

Megan McLean lives in Albuquerque, NM and works at Congregation Albert synagogue where she also edits and designs the synagogue’s magazine Kol HaKolot. You can read more of her writing in the blog she never updates


Short shorts: Top five

All-you-can-eat buffets Hungry? Laura Cardwell and Laura Giorgio dig into the finest buffets Fukuoka prefecture has to offer

T buffets.

he Japanese all-you-can-eat (バイキング) restaurant is a gourmet experience not to be confused with Russian-Roulette Chinese buffets or Golden Corral. Here are five of Fukuoka’s best

1. 天拝の郷 (Tenpai no Sato) Chikushino’s Tenpai no Sato has earned its reputation as “Best Buffet.” Getting there by car is easiest, but you can take a taxi from Futsukaichi. There is an onsen on the premises. When it comes to selection, Best Buffet trumps all. Memorable dishes include sliced steak cubes, seafood salad with dill, caramelized fried burdock, age-everything, and dozens of fresh vegetarian-friendly stir-fries and salads. Dessert is a very strong point; there are always at least ten different kinds of cake and pudding, a chocolate fountain with bananas and marshmallows for fondue dipping, and a wide selection of yogurt, fresh cream and fruit. Lunch ¥1,600, dinner ¥1,900. Gets hectic on holidays so plan accordingly. 2. 野の葡萄 (Ya no Budou) Located on the 13th floor of Tenjin IMS Building, Ya no Budou boasts a homey wood-furnished interior, friendly staff, and a seasonally changing smorgasbord of fresh, organic food. Regular crowd-pleasers include superior Japanese curry, white meat karaage, fresh salads comprising every possible ingredient, and an ever-changing array of tiny cakes and puddings. Seasonal specialties such as cheesy yaki-curry, fried-to-order tempura and steamy winter stews go quickly and you may have to resort to shoving if you want to get any. ¥1,680 for lunch, \2,200 for dinner. Reservations usually not needed. 90 minute time limit.

3. Cabbages & Condoms/Slow+K Slow+K, located in Nakasu, is a fun buffet/private karaoke establishment that looks expensive, with classy tunes (deep/minimal house) and luxe seating in sexy colors. Since January 2010, Thai restaurant group Cabbages & Condoms brings real Thai chefs to Fukuoka to whip up mouth-


watering Thai and pan-Asian delicacies. Tasty rice noodle concoctions, creative salads, hot Thai curries and soups, and a huge dessert spread were all highlights. Choose from a dozen flavors of hard ice cream, make a soft serve brownie sundae, and then make a beeline for the chocolate fountain. ¥1,480 lunch Sat/Sun/holidays. Weekdays ¥200 cheaper. Add ¥1000 for dinner prices. 4. ピソリーノ(Pisolino) If you love pizza and pasta, Pisolino is your hog heaven. Three known locations in Fukuoka are in Dazaifu, Tobata and AEON Mall Chojabaru. No two are alike; I visited the Dazaifu branch. The pizzas and/or pastas are all made to order. Choose from a menu with about fifteen varieties of each, and for your salad/appetizers/desserts, head to a standing buffet. The pizzas are all good, with toppings ranging from dessert-y marmalade to tangy red-hot pepper and hearty curry cheese. The pasta’s not bad either, and at ¥1,380 for lunch and ¥1,680 for dinner, it’s an affordable place to train for eating contests. 5. Aletta Premium Aletta Premium, on the top floor of Solaria Plaza in Tenjin, calls itself an “International Buffet.” They offer a surprisingly comprehensive array of quality food from different countries. Each month, Aletta features a different area of the world. The night I went, the theme appeared to be Europe, which included some tasty borscht and paella. The food may not have been 100% authentic, but it was a worthy homage. The excellent dessert selections, particularly the chocolate fountain, helped end the meal on the right note.

Laura Cardwell is a third-year ALT in Tagawa City. She blogs at and gained a couple kg to bring you this article. Laura Giorgio is a ukelele virtuoso who blogs about Japanese children’s music at February/March 2011 │

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the refill | February/March 2011


In Fukuoka

Finding fire in the dark Nobu Tanaka recently attended the Oniya fire festival at Daizenji Shrine


he Oniya fire festival was held at Daizenji Shrine on January 7. This festival is 1600 years old and one of the biggest in Japan. The event attracts many visitors who believe being touched by the falling sparks can remove one’s troubles and ward off evil spirits. A friend from Montreal was in Kurume for a holiday and had never been to the festival, so we decided to go.

We arrived at Daizenji station, but had no idea where Daizenji was, so we just followed the people. We saw clouds of smoke and massive fire across the bridge. Vendors were selling masks, squid, tako yaki, corn and cotton candy. The old guy selling masks looked like he was wearing a mask, but he wasn’t. He must be a specialist of selling masks. We walked though the gate of the shrine to follow the runners holding the flames. We couldn’t follow them because there were so many people walking slowly in front of us. Trying to avoid them, we walked toward an area where it was dark and uncrowded. Suddenly the runners appeared in front of us and the darkness turned a reddish color. We tried to follow them but they were pretty quick and we couldn’t catch them. Then we saw the four or five bonfires they were running towards, and we ran too.

Men wearing traditional Japanese undergarments made from a strip of cotton cloth, called fundoshi, surrounded the two-meter high bonfire. The feeling of the heat and the sound of the fire was amazing. I started to take photos. Concentrating on my viewfinder, I couldn’t see anything else. After a while my friend said, “perhaps we shouldn’t be here.” I looked around and realized we were the only people wearing street clothes. We moved on to the next place, where big torches were located. We tried to find a good spot to watch the torchlighting. There were five or six of them waiting for joy and brightness under the darkness. We tried to get a good spot as close to the front as possible, but a taller guy blocked our view. We tried to avoid him, but it was too late as we heard the announcement indicating the lighting of the torches.

They announced that they would turn off all the lights before lighting them. When it got dark, the audience seemed to get a bit scared. Runners ran in front of us and lit the big torches one by one. It was amazing to watch the scene change from dark and sad to red and happy. Everybody retreated a bit because we were afraid of being burned. The leader of the runners signaled to make the torches higher. I pushed through everyone to get in front. It was so hot and I was little nervous about my camera, but I started taking photos anyway. I was sweating and my coat was burning a little bit. I was sure I could escape from trouble and ward off the evil spirits, though.

Photo: Michael Seidman


I have lived in Fukuoka for a long time, but I had never heard about this festival. I need to explore more.

Nobu Tanaka is a photographer. His artwork can be found at February/March 2011 │

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Strangers in the night Chris Harber recalls Nightwalker: a cheap way to drink up Fukuoka’s nightlife

Original photos: Nobu Tanaka


s I emerged from the Internet Cafe in Tenjin at 9 a.m., snow falling and Japanese girls running to avoid ruining their kimonos, I thought, “and so, another Nightwalker over.”

For a night out, one tends to go to the same place. You know what you’re getting and presumably you’re in for a good night - I mean, who wants to pay 2,000 yen to get into a club and find it’s not to their liking? That’s where Nightwalker comes in.   Nightwalker is one of the highlight events of the Fukuoka bar and club scene.  For the price of one entry ticket (¥2000 / ¥1000 in advance) you can access around 25 clubs and bars on Oyafukodori, Tenjin’s dense nightlife area. It gives you a great opportunity to explore Fukuoka after dark without paying numerous cover charges. Armed with a wristband and a map, you can let loose on Oyafukodori.   There's no official guide, but there are many people with suggestions for places to visit. You can stay as long as you want at each bar. This was the event’s fifth year and it’s held the night before the seijin no hi (coming of age day) which is the second Monday in January. It attracts a mix of people, both Japanese and foreign residents of Fukuoka.   This was my third Nightwalker and I went to eight venues with people from all over the prefecture. It expanded throughout the evening as we met acquaintances and new

friends. With the range of venues, you can experience many aspects of the party scene. One minute we were in a quiet bar down a side road, the next we were partying it up in Club X. Many venues had special events to correspond with Nightwalker. Voodoo Lounge had live music and others had drink promotions. The atmosphere at all venues was busier than most nights, with everyone moving around. Some groups had planned out exactly where they wanted to go, while others sauntered around at a leisurely pace. We decided on a few venues that we wanted to go to, but otherwise decided to see where the evening took us.   Most of the time we closed our eyes, held out a map and just pointed. Our evening started off at Voodoo Lounge, before heading off to favorites such as Cream, Lab-Z Remix and ending the evening with a bang (and shots) at Fubar. We also visited venues we had not been to before, such as Decadent Deluxe and Off Broadway, the former being a dark dance venue and the latter being reminiscent of an old-style whisky bar.   The event doesn’t really change from year to year, so if you missed it this year and you’re looking for a night out, check it out! If you’ve been before, try to visit different venues next year and see if you can reach the total 25.   Chris Harber is a third year ALT in Kurate. He shares his thoughts at

Who wants to pay ¥2000 to get into a club and find it’s not to their liking? That’s where Nightwalker comes in.

the refill | February/March 2011



Kawakudari Cassie Lealamanua clarifies a few grammar points while on a trip through Yanagawa’s historic canals

Photo: Cassie Lealamanua


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t the bottom-edge of the prefecture, where Fukuoka meets Saga and the Ariake Sea, lies Yanagawa City. On a rare free weekend between tests and speech contests, I set out with three work colleagues for this tiny town in search of unagi no seiro-mushi (a basket-steamed eel and rice dish for which the city is famous). At the time, I had no idea what it was, but my colleagues assured me it was well-worth the 2-hour drive from Kitakyushu. Upon arriving in Yanagawa, I felt I’d traveled back to an older, simpler era. Geita-clad deliverymen hurried down cobblestone streets delivering lacquer bento boxes of the town’s renowned specialty. Alleyway cats wandered in Map: Jenn Chan/Michael Seidman and out of open-air ceramic shops, curling around the sun-warmed display bowls or the feet of little old ladies. The air was heavy with the smell of shouyu and sweet potatoes.

Another interesting tidbit about Yanagawa City is that it is the birthplace of a man named Hakushuu, one of the Meiji Era’s greatest poets and the author of many children’s songs. In his honor, the boatmen usually sing these nursery rhymes as they take passengers along the waterways, often triggering entire boats to sing along in nostalgic chorus. The canal ride was stunning. Between songs, the boatmen would point out landmarks as passengers snapped away at turtles, ducks, and heron that call the waterways home. Children in the town waved at us as we passed, and the sound of a guitar echoed along the water when we neared a group of young fishermen on their afternoon break. There were even a few vendors that set up shop along the water, allowing us to purchase items without ever leaving the boat. Japan is always a stickler for convenience.

Trying not to look like too much of a tourist while amongst my three Japanese colleagues, I stayed my camera-hand as we passed traditional buildings and a sign reading “Eat This Place.” …but I could not refuse my inner sightseer when I came upon the town’s second specialty.

Apart from the unagi, what truly draws people to visit this tiny town are the charming canals that twist through the city, and the singing boatmen that traverse them. “Kawakudari (川下り)” is the Japanese term used to describe the act of “(traveling) down the river.” This is especially popular during hot summer days or during Yanagawa’s Doll Festival in the spring (see the Events section on page 26 for more information.) One might describe the experience as “Venice in a Happi Coat.”

Between songs, the boatmen would point out landmarks while passengers snapped away at turtles, ducks and herons

The canals, I learned, have been around since the 1300s. Yanagawa was a farming castle town then, and the canals were used to irrigate crops. Over time, the waterways became a means to transport goods within and around the area. In 1987, touched by the determination of the town’s people to preserve their historic canals, Studio Ghibli created a documentary about the area called Yanagawa Horiwari Monogatari.

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But no trip in Japan is complete without a little “high-tension.” The boatmen are skilled, but on one or two occasions, the thought of possibly having to doggy-paddle back to shore crossed my mind. The boats are shallow, narrow, and rickety, which makes boarding and disembarking a bit of an adventure. Step too close to the edge, and the vessel could capsize. This became most apparent when the boatman invited people to try their hand at steering. I eyed every wobbly high-heeled girl with consternation, my mind immediately envisioning underwater battles against eel legions who hoped to avenge their brethren I’d eaten for lunch. I turned to one of my colleagues.

“Are there any eel in this river?” I asked, going white as Pigeon-Footed Girl nearly knocked over Eager Seven-Year-Old. “Isn’t ‘eel’ a countable noun?” asked my colleague in response.

My eyes widened and I looked down at the water. Her grip on the edge of the boat tightened ever so slightly, too. Cassie Lealamanua is a second year ALT who lives in Kokura, works in Moji, and has fallen victim to the Japanese band Arashi.


e p o l s The

e s i m o r p f o s

Andy Telfer gives us the real deal on snowboarding in Japan


he title of Kawabata Yasunari’s 1952 novel, 雪 国 or Snow Country, best describes the greatest feature of Japan’s winter sports scene. Host to the winter Olympics and snow sculpture competitions, Japan has the white stuff in abundance. The Japanese have taken winter sports and stamped them with a unique flavor, with mixed results.

The ナイト or night boarding option offered by many slopes is a major plus. Not content with eight hours of daytime skiing, these additional four/five hours allow the keenest of boarders to push back their onsen dates and enjoy conditions that rival those during the day. Floodlights cast shadows over the runs, highlighting the gradient, texture and condition of the snow. ナイト however is not for the faint of heart. This increased visibility combined with a reduced number of boarders draws out the more adventurous and skillful boarders who aggressively ride the slopes at great speeds. While it’s common in Europe to have music around the en piste restaurants, bars and lodges, Japan blankets the tranquility of the mountains in incessant J-, K- and foreign pop. This resulted in my first encounter with redneck spawn Miley Cyrus. I often snowboard with a backing track, but also enjoy soaking in the serenity of the mountains free from the screeches of what sounds like injured snowboarders.

Photo: Jun Kaneko


Snowboarders are king, with skiers being rare. Skiers are largely confined to the more senior and foreign participants on the slope. It is fashion that provides one of the greatest dangers. Snaking down the slopes, sporting color combinations that Timmy Mallet would ponder before donning, the Japanese snowboarder coolly attacks the slopes and dress etiquette in a fashion no gaijin could dare to pull off. Fashion aside, it is important to attire appropriately for snowboarding. I have witnessed JET’s trying to do so in jogging bottoms/sweat pants to ill ends. Make sure you have waterproof clothes, goggles and a mask to protect your chin and lower face. February/March 2011 │

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Where to snowboard? Kujyu


Cheap, geographically convenient and Kyushu's largest ski area, Kujyu (九重) in Oita-ken has a lot to offer.

As the capital of this snow country, Niseko in Hokkaido is famed both internationally and domestically for its daily access to virginal powder snow. The holy grail for snowboarders, early risers can carve custom tracks from the highest tip to the bottom of the mountain. Even those of the nebo suru snowboarder variety can enjoy this privilege as the three valleys of Grand Hirafu, Annupuri and Hanazono have an almost limitless amount of snow. Niseko is a dynamic area, offering challenges to those across the snowboarding proficiency spectrum and is a must for aficionados.

With many coming from warmer climes void of snow and the opportunity to enjoy winter sports, this three-lift resort offers a perfect setting for those just dipping their toes into the sport. Kujyu's nursery slope or 'family course' is far from the overcrowded, narrow death trap that beginner’s slopes often are. At a mere 12 degree gradient, beginners willing to forgo the convenience of the chair lift in favor of traversing the slope can enjoy their day at a reduced rate. If you don't mind rehashing the same runs, Kujyu can be enjoyed by more experienced riders. The 25-degree advanced slopes serve as a refresher at the start of the season. A limited boardpark with two large jumps allows for aerial activities.

Another plus in the Kujyu experience lies in it’s aprés ski options. Picturesque onsens and restaurants litter the snaking roads to the slopes, yielding a host of cuisines unlike the basic cafeteria operated on the resort. Access is limited solely to cars and private buses. TEL: 0973-79-2200 Credit cards cannot be used and the ATM is 40 minutes away, so come prepared with enough cash to cover the ¥6,000 all-day ticket and any food/drinks.   Megahira Hiroshima-ken's Megahira resort is a popular choice for the Fukuoka boarder. A night bus ride away from Tenjin or Kokura, this resort can pride itself on a far larger piste than that offered by Kujyu. In terms of boarding, it acts somewhat as an intermediate zone catering to beginners and the slightly more experienced boarder. This is a more crowded option than Kujyu but its popularity is deserved.

Two-day boarding trips, including return transportation, one nights accommodation, access to onsen, dinner and breakfast the following morning come to around ¥25,000 and can be booked online or through travel agents. Generally housed in a cabin or hostel located 20/30 minutes drive from the slope, strict finishing times are enforced to return home for dinner and thus late skiing is out of the question. The benefits of this option outweigh the bad. Rentals, a cafeteria and food vendors can be found at the base of the slope and prices are marked up compared to those in cities. Megahira is great for snowboarding but lacks much else in its isolated location, however all your needs should be met by those running your accommodation.

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Return flights, if booked two months prior, can be as little as ¥30,000. Prices vary thereafter, so organize your trips well in advance. Accommodation close to the slopes can be pricey but much more affordable for groups as the mean cost is divided. Accommodation near the slope is usually of a higher standard and generally includes a deluxe continental breakfast and in some cases, dinner. If you wish to compromise position for price, there are hostels from around ¥2500, some of which have transportation to the slope. Rentals are available.

Although boasting large numbers of Chinese, Korean and Russian visitors, it is the Australians who dominate the area, operating a mini-fiefdom within this Northern territory of Japan. The popularity of the resort with foreign snowboarders has resulted in the residents of the area being unusually proficient in English and their businesses being modified to the preferences of their clients. The area has made moves to provide Japanese cuisine and a whole onslaught of foreign foods: Tacos, fajitas, pizza, Nepalese curry and Mongolian jingusukan are just some. The Niseko Northern Resort hotel at the base of Annupuri operates a no time limit lunch buffet for ¥1,800. I would recommend Niseko to those who have at least a week’s worth of experience. The high cost of travel and accommodation to the area seem unjustified if spent solely somersaulting down the beginners slope. I would aim to hone my skills at Kujyu first to gain the most value for my money. If you are a confident snowboarder, then you are going to find nowhere better in Japan. Not only for the snow and slopes but all the apres ski options that are available. For further details: html Why not combine your snowboarding venture with a trip to see the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri from February 7th-13th, Sapporo beer factory, the snow monkeys in the onsens of Hakodate and the Otaru Snow Candle Festival? Give the Sapporo Clock Tower a miss though!

Andy Telfer is a third year ALT in Kitakyushu City.



Photo (this page and over): Wenson Tsai

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NEEDS Wenson Tsai takes a look at life in Nepal and, in turn, looks at his own life


or days, my friend Alex and I had been talking about OK Baji, who we referred to as “The Baj.” “The Baj” this and “The Baj” that. I had even continued into a 3rd tier of familiarity and was referring to OK Baji as “El Baj-io.” What was “The Baj’s” real agenda? What was he getting out of this? I needed to know. I turned to my friend and said, “What would it take to get you out here in the middle of nowhere with no modern conveniences working to provide the most basic of life elements to a people you have no obligation to? Could you do it?” “I don’t know. You’d really have to want it. Or maybe almost need it,” he replied.

Peace Corps program and worldwide NGO’s squeezed a lovechild, I could only imagine “The Baj.”

In a book written by villagers entitled Our OK Baji, he is spoken of as a living god, a patron saint. Terms like these are used repeatedly without insincerity. His habits are revealed – he sleeps, walks, and eats like the villagers, refusing luxuries. He’s saved countless lives and his programs are more efficient than the government’s. He infuses them with philosophies such as “simple living, high thinking,” stressing the value of frugality, education, efficient time management, hard work, and self-reliance.

What would it take to get you out here in the middle of nowhere with no modern conveniences working to provide the most basic of life elements to a people you have no obligation to?

This was not easy. “The Baj” told me his life consists of trekking 3-4 hours every day up and down mountain trails. He can cover 1-3 villages a day. He listens to the villagers’ problems and writes them down in his diary. If he can help, he tries to find funding, mostly from Japanese NGO’s and private donors. He walks to over 100 villages, able to visit each 3 or 4 times annually. He returns to his basic house in Dholimara village only once a month to rest. Oh, and he’s 71 years old.

Before this trip, I had pictured a lone volunteer trying to add a couple crayons to the arsenal of some orphans, but I soon came to understand that OK Baji was an impressive relationship builder and a machine of effectiveness. He didn’t just help children; he was helping whole communities of villagers. His scope wasn’t just education; it was drinking water, food distribution, healthcare, clothing, bridge construction, cash crops, bio-fuel, and others. If the U.S.

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When we passed in the streets, children would whisper his name. We were rolling with the Nepalese Jesus, but how much of this was for real? Why would anyone give up a life in Tokyo to come here, not shower, and eat the same lentil curry twice a day with their hands?

In person, what impressed me the most about OK Baji was that his generosity seemed endless. When he talked to you, he gave all of himself and his attention – not an easy task for such a man in demand – and he magically got around to everyone. He was warm, possessing a child-like wonderment where his face would open in response to a comment as if he’d never heard it before, and he would say, “Ahhh! That’s right!” He seemed completely unconcerned about what organization I was part of or what funds he might get. We spent our time together as human beings, nothing more.

OK Baji’s first trips to Nepal 20 years ago were vacations to escape marital problems. During a fateful trek to the Annapurna Base Camp, an avalanche swept away his porter


who was never seen again. In a concocted snow cave, he and his Nepalese guide survived until the morning. That guide happened to be from Dholimara village and first brought him to the remote Palpa region of Nepal.

have been born in a straw-roofed hut near nothing, instead of our pristine air-conditioned wards where a mother’s main worry is electing pain-killers or not?

I couldn’t know for sure.

I didn’t have all the answers. But I had what I needed, for now.

Perhaps all that became the catalyst for the end of Kazumasa Kakimi, Japanese English and Math teacher of 23 years, and his re-birth as OK Baji, Nepali (and largely Magar tribe) social worker and developmental humanitarian. Perhaps, with his children independent, his wife having run off with another man, and his surviving a near-death experience left OK Baji with a need to be filled. A need he eventually filled, perhaps, by helping others. In the following weeks, I felt my days with “The Baj” had changed me. I’d spent thousands on travel and cameras, but never saved even one life. What joy could I have brought to people if only I’d used money in other ways? After all, how do we judge a life well lived but by the fruits of that life? In the lottery of souls, isn’t it conceivable that any of us could

It was all about me. It wasn’t about “The Baj” at all. Could I do it? No. Not now. Not while I still enjoyed shopping for the latest clothes, meeting the latest beautiful girls, and eating the latest dishes that are not lentil curry. Perhaps the time wasn’t right yet. I had to stop beating myself up over it. Besides, I had seen the refreshing possibility firsthand – empowered to know that when the day does come, if I work from love instead of fear, and move hearts with honesty, I, too, could perhaps change lives profoundly, like OK Baji. Wenson Tsai is a 4th year ALT in Fukuoka City. He is currently being alive and finding ways to help people get what they want out of themselves and life. If you like looking at things, there are pictures at com/itswenson.

140 yen can buy 5 kg of rice which can feed 7 people. 3000 U.S. dollars can build a two-room school building so children have access to education. A little bit goes a long way in Nepalese terms. For more information on how to help, please contact The Fukuoka JET Charity Group continues its relationship with OK Baji and his efforts through fundraising and local contributions. Thank you, everyone, for your continuing support and encouragement. There is an opportunity to hear OK Baji speak on July 30, 2011 in Buzen City, Fukuoka Prefecture. Please contact fukuokaajetcharity@googlegroups. com for more information.


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Kanji: A radical writing system Bill Albertson shares some helpful hints on how to master kanji


hile living in Japan, we are challenged every day to speak a language quite different from English. As our ability in Japanese improves, we gain a deeper understanding of the culture and people who surround us. The Japanese language is a window into the world and culture in which we have come to live.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Japanese is its use of kanji, or pictographic characters that each have meaning on their own. The Japanese borrowed kanji from China about 1,500 years ago and used the characters to express their spoken language in writing. After the adoption of kanji, the phonetic syllabaries hiragana and katakana were created to be used in conjunction with the characters. Modern written Japanese is comprised of a harmonious combining of all three writing systems. Through our study of Japanese, we gain a cognitive ability that most Westerners do not possess- the capacity to read and interpret kanji. Most Western languages use an alphabetic system in which letters are strung together to form words with meaning. Kanji, however, are single pictographic representations of words which our brain must interpret differently than a seemingly arbitrary sequence of letters. When a kanji is read, the meaning penetrates the brain at once, as opposed to an alphabetic word which is revealed only after the brain has processed the letters. Although quite different from learning an alphabetic language, learning kanji is not as daunting of a task as it may appear at first. Each character consists of a series of radicals, which are the building blocks of kanji and may provide hints to the meaning. For example, the kanji for

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話 ‘light’ is written 明, which consists of two radicals: 日 (sun) and 月 (moon), each of which exists independently and as radicals. New learners of Japanese may struggle to memorize new kanji, but as time progresses, radicals will become familiar and remembering how to write a new kanji will simply consist of recalling the series of radicals present in the character.

Radicals are not only useful in the memorization of characters, but also in guessing the meaning of unknown words. For example, the kanji 話 consists of two radicals, 言 and 舌. The left radical, 言, means ‘to speak,’ while the right radical, 舌, means ‘tongue.’ Once the reader understands the meaning of the radicals, it is not surprising to learn that 話 is used in the verb ‘to speak’ (話す, hanasu).

Some radicals, however, may not be as useful to interpreting meaning as they are ‘sound radicals,’ or radicals that reveal a clue to the pronunciation. Unfortunately, sound radicals were derived from the Chinese pronunciation and generally do not reflect the sound of the Japanese pronunciation. Although linguistically interesting, the sound radicals offer little assistance to students of Japanese. As you continue your language learning adventure, remember to enjoy the experience. It may be difficult at first to remember the almost 2,000 kanji frequently used in Japanese, but over time, reading and writing in Japanese will come more naturally. Practice reading and writing frequently, and soon you will be able to read and write this seemingly cryptographic language with fluency and ease.

Bill Albertson is a second year ALT living and working in Kokura. He is interested in linguistics and language education and hopes to pursue a career in TESOL.


Recipes M

y personal motto when it comes to cooking is “how lazy I can get and still make good food?” And “pancake mix” and “rice-cooker” are definitely my favorite phrases when I do my lazy cooking. I’d like to introduce here two of my laziest, most


Rena Okada shares some of her favorite recipes for lazy cooks delicious recipes using these ingredients. Enjoy!

Rena Okada lives in Fukuoka and is engaged to former JET ALT Matt Stratford. She enjoys watching movies and writes about it at

Prep time: 40- 45 minutes

Ingredients: • 150g Pancake-mix (ホットケーキミックス) • 1 egg • 10g sugar • anything else you want to put in (tea, cocoa, nuts etc.)

Directions: Step 1: Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Step 2: Put the egg and sugar into a bowl and whisk it until they are smooth. Step 3: Put the pancake mix into the bowl and mix it with the other ingredients. If the dough is too loose, add more pancake mix. Step 4: Pull the dough in a rectangle shape, 2cm thick. Step 5: Bake it for 30-40mins. Step 6: Cool and cut into biscotti shapes. Prep time: 40- 45 minutes

Char siu pork

Ingredients: • blocked pork • 350 ml Coke (do not use Diet or Coke Zero!) • 50 ml soy sauce • cooking sake • vinegar • 2 tablespoons sugar • ginger • garlic

Directions: Step 1: Bake the blocked pork until all sides are brown (inside does not have to be cooked, only the outside). Step 2: Put all the ingredients into a rice-cooker and press the button. It really depends on your rice-cooker but you may have to cook it twice. Step 3: Cool the pork in a fridge and slice it into char siu shapes (see photo). 一緒にゆで卵を煮てもおいしい よ!You can also cook peeled boiled eggs with it!.


Photos: Rena Okada

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Cold weather skincare


e spend most of the warm months in Japan’s humid island climate desperately trying to dry our clothes and combating mold growth, but then the weather does a 180 to bonedry cold. Winter is harsh on skin, so here are some tips for keeping your skin happy until summer sets in again and you cannot believe your life in Japan ever lacked moisture. Though perhaps a “girly” topic, it certainly doesn’t pertain to women alone, so men, read on as well!

1. Wait for it… MOISTURIZE. This seems, and is, obvious, but it’s an easy step to forget when you are dashing from the comforting steam of your shower through your freezing jutaku to dive under your covers or kotatsu. Try to moisturize after you wash your face in the morning and before you go to bed at night to combat the natural dryness of the air and any heating (kotatsu, gas heater, air-con, etc.) you come in contact with. Thirsty skin will thank you!

2. We are all tempted to make our showers and bathwater as hot as possible in the wintertime, especially when the lack of central heating means the indoors is almost unbearably cold. But know that extremely hot water can dry out and even chap your skin, so if you insist on cranking that dial up, be sure to slather on body, hand, and even foot cream immediately after. 3. The next step after moisturizing is to HUMIDIFY! There are several ways to do this, from purchasing an electrically-

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Emily Rosenberg provides some tips on products and practices to maintain healthy skin during the cold weather

powered humidifier (加湿器 kashitsuki) to placing a pan of water near your heater, or even just hanging your clothes to dry indoors. The idea is to put moisture back in the air, so it doesn’t drink up so much from your poor skin. One thing to take care of is to NOT drape wet clothing or towels over any space heater (gas, kerosene, etc.) you may have—as this is a huge fire hazard! 4. When it comes to buying skincare products, Japan and nearby Korea are two of the best—and worst—places to shop. The best because the selection is vast and the quality is high, and worst because said selection can seem so daunting that you might want to turn and march right out of the store. When shopping for products suitable while in Japan, take these two words with you: しっとり (shittori, moist/damp) and 潤い (uruoi, moisture). These words will appear on products that will help keep the moisture in your skin. Even if you have blemish problems, you may want to avoid products with salicylic acid, as they are too astringent and further dry out your skin. When it gets warmer out, look for さっぱり (sappari, fresh) type formulas. Hopefully these tips will jump-start you on helping your skin survive the winter!

Emily Rosenberg is a second-year CIR in Fukuoka City who gets rather excited about Asian skincare and beauty products. To read her monthly column for the Fukuoka International Association’s e-mail magazine, visit



Life after JET Keliko Adams talks to JET alumna Andria Barberi about making the most of time in Japan and what she has done since leaving the program

How long were you on JET? Two years (2006-2008).

Why did you initially come to Japan? What were some goals that you had when you first came? Did this change during your time here? I had never thought about moving to Japan until living overseas in Spain. It seemed like everyone I met there knew someone who was working or had worked in Japan and everything I heard was good. The JET Program appealed to me because it provided a structure and support system that


I didn’t have in Spain. I also thought living in Japan would be a great way to learn about Japanese culture, learn a new language and travel in Asia. I’m from a small town with little diversity, so living abroad has always appealed to me. I think it gives you great perspective. I most certainly learned about Japanese culture, I learned some of the language, though I would have learned more without my Englishspeaking significant other also being there, and I did have great opportunities to travel. The only goals that changed for me were that I became inclined to travel through volunteer work thanks to GO M.A.D. and my priorities for February/March 2011 │

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traveling became more focused on traveling within Japan.

What did you struggle with when you first arrived? How did you deal with it? I struggled with being incompetent initially! That was a good life lesson for me, because I really was immobilized by my inability to speak, read or understand anything. Luckily, Japanese people are so kind and generous and never made me feel foolish for my inability to communicate. Because of their willingness to try to understand me I really felt motivated to learn Japanese as quickly as possible. So, I

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began taking Japanese language lessons and that was a huge help - not only because I was able to communicate better but because friendships were created out of that class. I also struggled with my role as an ALT at first. I had a lot of down time, and I was always worried that I wasn’t doing enough to help prepare lessons. I made sure to work on projects for my students, whether that was posters, activities, or rewards for conversations with me. Whether those projects were utilized or not was not important, it was just important that I had created them, and over


time my teachers took an interest in what I was working on and that gave them an opportunity to ask me to use them. Eventually, I learned to be prepared and do as much as possible outside of the classroom, but to be OK with whatever my role would be in the classroom. I learned the importance of flexibility and patience and I worked really hard on letting go of my worries or frustrations. That helped me immensely.

Why did you leave at the time you left? My goal was to spend two years living in Japan and that’s what I did. I could have stayed another year, mainly to learn Japanese better and to travel more, but I felt that I had hit a plateau with my job and another year might have been too much of a good thing. In addition, I became engaged and my fiancee lived in another city. We were ready to get married at home and you can’t really argue with that!

Did you struggle upon returning home? I struggled with work at first. I had to remind myself that I couldn’t bring a book and my Nintendo DS along to work because I actually had to work the entire eight hours a day! Work in the US is also a lot more fast-paced so I had to catch up quickly. I also struggled with a lot of little things. I had to condition myself to stop bowing! I would catch myself doing it all the time, mainly while walking or biking. That was a humorous thing but it was a symptom of a bigger struggle to adapt to a different culture. I would have to remember that I wasn’t supposed to bag my own groceries, and I had to remember how to use the bank and how to set up a life on my own. I was fortunate to have my then-fiancee with me to compare notes and reminisce with and that was really helpful. So, if you aren’t returning with a significant other, I would definitely take advantage of your local JET returnee program.

I had to remind myself that I actually had to work the entire eight hours a day

What are your fondest memories of Japan? My fondest memories of Japan are most certainly of the people there. Japanese people are so kind and that really sticks with you. I also really loved tea ceremony and ikebana and just biking around rice paddies and mountains. There was a calm that came with living in Japan for me and that is something that is special to my time there that I don’t think I could ever recapture. What do you miss the most about Japan? I miss my friends, my co-workers, my students, my neighborhood, the food and speaking Japanese. I still spastically shout out Japanese words but it’s just not as fun when no one knows what in the world you’re talking about.


What have you been doing socially and career-wise since you left? What have been your priorities upon returning home? My priorities upon return were to find work, get married, create a good group of friends, get involved in my community and apply for the Peace Corps with my husband. It feels great to say that I believe I accomplished all of those goals. Socially, I’ve been working to create a great circle of friends. This can be a bit of process because at my age (now 30) most people already have a set group of friends so it takes some time and patience to be brought into the fold and find friends with similar interests and values. I volunteer through the United Way’s Schools of Hope program as a literacy tutor once a week. I’m fortunate

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because my company, Wolverine World Wide, Inc (WWW), encourages volunteer work and allows us to do this particular program during the work day. I also volunteer on a committee for my home town’s hospital foundation. Each year we throw a Charity Ball to raise funds for a different service area in the local hospital. I work mostly on auction items and that has been a great way to network and learn about fundraising. Through working with local businesses to create silent auction items, I have made some great friends, and have strengthened bonds with community members. By volunteering at work, I’ve also made friends in different departments, which has helped broaden my range of friends and co-workers. I was fortunate to return to the company I left when moving to Japan. I started out temping, and after six months I was hired to work for Merrell footwear. I’ve been working for Merrell for nearly two years now and I love it. I work in Product Development and our team has had the great opportunity to move into a new building and work on a project called GRid 70 that brings together design groups from five of the biggest companies in West Michigan. It’s a very open atmosphere and we have breakfasts, seminars and other events to help us get to know each other and collaborate. The best thing about this has been the collaboration between the design & product teams within WWW because although we have many distinct brands, we’ve been able to inspire, influence and teach each other.

As for the application to the Peace Corps, that has also been a success and my husband and I have just been informed that we’ll be leaving for Indonesia in April to teach English. As I’ve been reading through our assignment information I’ve been comforted by how familiar some of our new adventure will be. I believe my time on JET really helped prepare me for this and for working with others in general. The patience, flexibility and enthusiasm that my time on JET gave me really helped me so much in life in general. What advice would you give to JETs who will be returning home at the end of this year? Find other JET’s or Japanese people upon your return. It will be more fun to share your stories with them and they will give you better support than those without much knowledge of Japan. Stay in touch with your Japanese friends in Japan and keep those connections alive. I would also say to get busy! Find a job, volunteer work, physical activities or hobbies that will keep you busy and give you a purpose upon your return. Having a purpose will help with those reverse culture-shock blues.

What advice would you give to JETs who are staying? Live it up! Make sure to really get involved in those activities you love that are particularly Japanese so you can come home with a skill that will always connect you to Japan. Get more involved in your community and visit all of those places you haven’t yet had a chance to visit.

Any last words? Whether people have heard of JET upon your return or not, this experience will only enhance your life.

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From ALT to CIR As we transition from winter to spring, John Crow tells us about his transition from ALT to CIR


ometimes, it seems as if there’s an impenetrable veil between the world of CIRs and ALTs. Most ALTs have no idea what a CIR actually does on a daily basis, and some CIRs don’t know much more about ALTs. I was fortunate enough to work as an ALT for two years before converting to a CIR position, which I have held for the past year and a half. While my experiences are hardly decisive, I’ve seen enough to recognize some fundamental differences. The basic job descriptions are no secret. CIRs operate primarily in Japanese, whereas ALTs are expected to speak English. ALTs work with children and at schools, whereas CIRs operate out of city halls and international associations. ALTs teach and assist with English education in formal classes, while CIRs often do translation and interpretation and other international exchange activities. What I wasn’t expecting was the dramatic shift in pace. Most ALTs have been asked to join a class with little to no prep time. It’s stressful, but it can be energizing and fun. Even when I did have advance warning, I usually didn’t need a huge amount of time to prepare for a short elementary or middle school class, as I was often only asked to provide an activity or game. I often found ALT work to be high energy, low prep and quick to execute.

more involved than anything I ever handled as an ALT. My reasons for changing job types were professional and personal. I had originally considered applying to be a CIR instead of an ALT, but I lacked confidence in my Japanese. After a year and a half as an ALT, however, I had grown more fluent and hoped to improve to a professional level. I wanted to gain experience working outside of ESL. And, more simply, I wanted to challenge myself in a new environment.

Given my reasons, was it a good choice? Well, my Japanese has definitely improved. Some days I don’t speak a single word of English, something I couldn’t have imagined two years ago. I’ve gained a great deal of knowledge about PR and event planning, and I now have more experience writing professionally in Japanese than in English. Still, I have regrets. I could have become more involved outside of the classroom as an ALT. Some of the ways I connect with the local community as a CIR are things that ALTs can do, such as speaking at community centers and participating in local events.

In the end, I think both jobs allow you to make a significant impact on local communities, and both are excellent opportunities for personal growth

CIR work is almost the total opposite. I’m almost always aware of my upcoming responsibilities, sometimes months in advance. The majority of my work requires extensive planning and coordination with people and organizations. Formal requests for translations or speeches are expected to take time and, thankfully, no one expects me to walk into a room and give a presentation with only a five minute warning. For example, a basic three hour cooking class requires an official proposal, facility rental, itemized budget, and print/radio PR. The process must start months before the scheduled date, and the time spent holding the event is overshadowed by the time spent preparing for it. The end result is incredibly rewarding, but the planning is much


I also miss working with kids every day. Now, I normally spend the day in an office and interact much less with local residents. The sense of accomplishment I felt after classes is much different than the ambiguous doubt I feel after finishing CIR work — I don’t really know how many people read my articles, listen to me on the radio, or take something away from my events. But when I do get feedback, it’s satisfying.

In the end, I think both jobs allow you to make a significant impact on local communities, and both are excellent opportunities for growth. My time here has been tremendously fulfilling, and I’m very happy to have had the good fortune to see both sides. I hope some of you get the chance to experience both jobs someday too!

John Crow is a 4th year JET in Yukuhashi City. When he’s not finding ways to incorporate his hobbies of cooking and sports into his work, he’s driving long distances while singing along with the radio in his car. February/March 2011 │

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Event guide compiled by Keliko Adams

Photo: Keliko Adams

Do not miss Hanami

Mid February to early April


Hanami (花見) literally translates to “flower viewing,” a Japanese Spring custom. Enjoy the blooming flowers and take advantage of the good weather. The most popular type of flowers to view during hanami are cherry blossoms, which usually start to bloom around the end of March in Fukuoka prefecture. As cherry blossom season gets closer, keeps a “Cherry Blossom Report” to let you know which days are good for hanami parties. Plum blossoms, which begin to bloom in mid-February, are also popular for hanami events. February/March 2011 │

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February Yanagawa Hina Matsuri Yanagawa City, February 11 – April 3 Though Hina Matsuri takes place only on March 3rd in the rest of Japan, Yanagawa is known for going all out in celebration. Local residents and businesses put out elaborate doll displays made from Yanagawa’s unique local cloth, and a boat parade winds through the city’s canals with girls dressed in kimono.

Photo: Keliko Adams

Huis Ten Bosch Tulip Festival Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture, February 26 – April 10 Enjoy a new spring in the gardens at Huis Ten Bosch where the tulips announce spring in brilliant colors.


Kyokusui-no-en Festival (曲水の宴) Dazaifu Tenmagu Shrine, March 6 Ladies and gentlemen dress in ceremonial court robes under the plum blossoms in full-bloom. The festival includes tobiume-no-mai (飛梅) dance by shrine maidens and cups of sake floating down a stream while festival participants write Japanese poems (waka 和歌) and then drink the sake. Dai Himonjiyaki Aso, Kumamoto Prefecture, mid to late March A fire festival in towns near Mt. Aso. The main event of this festival is Aso-no-Hi on the 12th when a 350 meter “火” symbol (hi, fire) burns on the side of Mt. Aso.

Photo: Kıvanç Niş

More Tambourine, Less Nonsense Bravo, Kurosaki, March 12, 7 pm Musical performances by JETs, hosted by Yannick McLeod. White Day Nationwide, March 14 This is the opposite of Valentine’s Day. On White Day men return the women’s Valentine’s Day favors by giving them chocolates. Traditionally, they should be bigger than those given by the women. Punk Spring Music Festival Osaka, Nagoya, Tokyo, March 1 – 3 With acts like Hoobstank, Good Charlotte, and Pennywise.

AJET Charity Bike Ride Kokura, April 2 Join your fellow JETs in a bike ride for charity! All proceeds from the event go to Katatsumuri Gakusya, an organization in Kitakyushu that works with students with disabilities. Write to for info. Photo: Keliko Adams

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AJET Hanami Kokura Castle, April 2 Relax, eat, and drink with friends under the cherry blossoms. Write to for info.


The thing about

blood type

Lindsay Pyle explains why people in Japan will often ask what your blood type is


lthough lacking scientific evidence, there is a widespread belief in Japan that a person’s ABO blood type (ketsueki gata 血液型) can predict personality and romantic compatibility.

The trend began in 1926. The Japanese military, following the example of German researchers on blood lineage, published a report declaring that people with Type A blood were generally mild-tempered and intellectual, while people with a Type B blood were the opposite.

The Blood Type classification was used again in the 1930’s. That time, it was used to explain the violent uprising of Formosans in Taiwan, whom the Japanese had recently conquered, as compared with the Ainu people, whom the Japanese had conquered with far less issue. The Formosans had a much higher percentage of Type O blood than the Ainu people, who were primarily Type A (by far the most common blood type in Japan). The Japanese military decided it would be best for Japanese people to procreate with Formosans to dilute their wild nature by introducing more of the Type A blood. It soon faded in popularity as its unscientific nature became evident.

Ketsueki gata became popular again in the 1970’s when Masahiko Nomi, a lawyer and broadcaster with no scientific background, published a widely purchased book explaining blood type in relation to character and romantic pairings. Much like the western zodiac, the claims about personality based on these traits have little or no scientific validity, but most Japanese people still believe them to one degree or another. Japanese students undergo a physical examination for school where their blood type is tested, so one’s blood type is common knowledge. If you know yours (or anyone else’s), listed below are some characteristics of each Blood Type.

Type A

Speaking broadly, Type A’s are perfectionists: calm, composed, level-headed and serious. They have a firm character and are reliable and trustworthy. They think


things over and make plans deliberately. They often try to suppress their emotions, which makes them appear strong, though they have a nervous and fragile side. They tend to be hard on people who are not of the same type, and thus surround themselves with others who have a similar temperament. (Most compatible with A and AB).

Type B

Type B’s are curious about and interested in everything, and tend to have a lot of hobbies and projects. Their rapidly changing stream of passions and creative projects eventually results in many forgotten interests. But, they are good at discerning which projects and people matter most and are quite dedicated to the things they hold dear. They are very bright and energetic and tend to excel easily, but they can be selfish and irresponsible due to their unpredictability. (Most compatible with B and AB).

Type O

Type O blood people generally set the mood, creating harmony in social situations. They are typically easy-going and optimistic. They are generally well-liked because they are benevolent, generous and big-hearted. They have a surprisingly stubborn side and secretly hold their own opinions on things. They like to be the center of attention and can be rude, arrogant and self-centered. (Most compatible with O and AB).

Type AB

People with Type AB blood are thought to possess “two personalities.” This can range from outwardly social to shy, confident to timid, responsible to careless. They are thought to have one persona for those who do not know them well, which is sociable, composed and confident. They also possess a second persona for those who know them personally - shy, sensitive, unable to handle too much and timid. (Compatible with everyone).

Lindsay Pyle is a 1st year ALT in Yukuhashi who is mildly obsessed with astrological signs, and thinks the latest hype about zodiac signs changing is hogwash. February/March 2011 │

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Photo: Ollie Crafoord

In Japan, the most prevalent blood type is A.

In Western Europe, Australia/ New Zealand and North and South America, the most common blood type is O. In fact, around the world, this is the most common blood type. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, B is the most common blood type. AB is the least common blood type internationally, representing only 0.8% of the world’s population.

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Photo: Michael Seidman

Christie’s Pasta e Pizza Fukuoka-shi, Chuou-ku, Keigo 2-16-11 Lunch 11:30 – 15:00, Dinner 17:00 – 00:00 Closed Wednesday 092-751-1171



izza in Japan tends to be unreliable at best. Limp, lifeless crusts; lackluster processed cheeses and a jumble of toppings that regularly include corn, mayonnaise and “wiener” all contribute to an underwhelming experience that fails to justify the inflated price tag. But hidden within the narrow avenues of Akasaka, one of Fukuoka’s more interesting and unexplored neighborhoods, you’ll find the best pizza this side of the Mediterranean.

Christie’s Pasta e Pizza offers a variety of Neapolitan-style pizzas and other Italian fare at reasonable prices. Upon entering the restaurant to familiar chimes of “Irasshaimase,” one marvels at the beating heart of this establishment: an impressive wood-burning oven, which dominates the small interior. The atmosphere is intimate, with warm lighting and space for 20 or so diners. Seating is flexible, with small wooden tables that can be pushed together or shared between small groups. Coats and bags are kept out of the way in nets suspended overhead. For appetizers, there is a menu of small-portioned antipasti priced at 280 yen, including simple, yet high-quality items such as delicate, sliced prosciutto and cured olives.


Generously portioned salads, topped with fresh-grated cheese and black pepper, make a great start to any meal and are suitable for sharing.

Fresh pastas are cooked to a perfect al dente and are organized on the menu by sauce base (oil, basil, tomato, meat, cream). There are many options, ranging from the classics to Japanese-fusion. Adventurous diners looking for a bit of local flair might indulge in the Hakata Tonkotsu meat sauce spaghetti, while those after a traditional experience will perhaps be tempted by the bacon, mushroom, and mozzarella spaghetti, complete with molten gobs of fresh cheese. But if you’re like me, you came for the pizza. The classic Margherita is a strong choice, with rough, hand-torn chunks of mozzarella and fresh, whole basil leaves. A personal favorite, the Quattro Formaggio, is served with a small decanter of honey to drizzle over each slice. The resulting blend of sweet and savory is worthy of sonnets and epic poetry. But the most interesting pizza is the Pizza Zucca, topped with pumpkin, gorgonzola, mozzarella and black sesame seeds. No matter what pizza you order, be sure to make liberal use of the spicy tougarashi oil provided at every table.

Round your meal out with a glass of wine, or some dessert and an espresso. You will hardly remember that you’ve been in Japan all along. Note: Be careful not to confuse Christie’s Pasta e Pizza with the Christie’s Trattoria on the same block.

Michael Seidman is the SHS PA in Fukuoka. He enjoys all things culinary and hanging out with his new pet octopus. February/March 2011 │

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Norwegian Wood Haruki Murakami Vintage International



amed after the melancholic Beatles song and aptly rife with sexual innuendo, Haruki Murukami’s Norwegian Wood (Vintage International; paperback, $14.95)  is a must-read. It was published in Japanese in 1987 as Noruwei no Mori and became an instant hit, selling over 4 million copies and making Murukami an icon in Japan almost overnight. The book was translated into English in 1989 by Alfred Birnbaum, but current copies are Jay Rubin’s translations from 2000. Most people in Japan are familiar with the book - even if they haven’t read it, they definitely know it. Opinions may not be altogether positive and I’ve heard that Norwegian Wood has been better received by foreign readers. But the book is a “bestseller,” and people have told me that they never read it because they didn’t like “mainstream stuff.”

As a result - and because of the risque content - the more I read, the more I tried to keep it hidden. Which was difficult, because my eyes were glued to the book on the train, my lunch-breaks and when I went out for coffee. I was enchanted. When I finished it, I was genuinely sad that it was done.

It is the story of Toru Watanabe’s first year of college in Tokyo during the student strikes of the late sixties. Somewhat reminiscent of a character from a Hemingway novel, he is a detached and isolated young man who sleeps with girls, drinks whiskey and reads The Great Gatsby as he is underwhelmed by life in Tokyo. The book is a coming of age story about Watanabe falling in love with his dead best friend’s high school girlfriend, Naoko, who is unable to adapt to life after his death. Their relationship colors his life as he crests the age of 20, an important year in Japanese society. Meanwhile, during their love affair/friendship, he “makes the acquaintances” of many other women, including a lively and modern young woman named Midori who could steal his heart. This was the first book I read by Murukami and I was astounded by his simple yet stirring style. Norwegian Wood exemplifies his elegant ability to convey emotion and setting without fluff.  While the story is at times very sad, the novel leaves a different impression. A reader is allowed to indulge in sexual anticipation, bathe in nostalgia, wallow in the sadness of loss and pout in the frustration of being resigned to a strict society in the midst of a hypocritical revolution. His style reminded me of all the things I love about Hemingway, Vonnegut or Kerouac - intelligently styled, simple, and a faithful depiction of real life.  Reading it after my brief acquaintance with Japanese culture was instantly refreshing. I don’t know if I’ll see the movie, for fear that it would ruin my impression of the story, but I highly recommend the book. Photo: Bert Werk

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Lindsay Pyle is a 1st year ALT living in Yukuhashi. Since reading this book, she has been reading nothing but Murukami, and is currently working on his most recent collection of short stories.


Photos 33 34 35 37


Eryk Salvaggio Keliko Adams Nobu Tanaka Jenn Chan

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the refill?

Based on Fukuoka’s tradition of kaedama, in which a refill of ramen noodles is served for leftover broth, the refill serves up additional information about life in Japan for Fukuoka’s JET community.

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The contents of this newsletter are strictly for entertainment purposes. The magazine cannot be held responsible for actions taken as a result of its content. The viewpoints published herein are those of the authors and do not reflect the philosophy or viewpoints of the Fukuoka Board of Education, the JET Programme or CLAIR.


The Refill issue 3  

Issue 3 of Fukuoka JET's newletter

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