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Fukuoka JET newsletter

Issue #8

Dancing laws │ Travel: The Philippines │ Whaling │ Events the refill | February/March 2012 1

Editor’s note


elcome to 2012, the year of the dragon, and the eighth issue of The Refill! We’ve rounded up great articles to keep you occupied under your kotatsu.

Looking for new ways to keep warm in winter? Check out Professor Sempai’s article for some tried and true tips! Missing some home-cooked Tex-Mex? Tortillas, enchiladas and praline pie await your cooking pleasure! Not sure where to go for spring break? We’ve got travel ideas for you in Japan and abroad! And for the brave at heart, make sure to check out the Top 5 winter vending machine drinks!

And, while being neither a real professor nor a real sempai, Professor Sempai will gladly answer any questions you might have about Japanese life. Make sure to send them our way and we’ll make sure they end up in the right hands. We hope you enjoy this issue of The Refill! Don’t hesitate to write us at the.refill.fukuoka@gmail.com if you have any comments, suggestions or ideas for future articles. Thanks, and see you in April!

Rebekah Randle Editor-in-chief

the refill #8 ǀ Feb/Mar 2012

Editor-in-chief Rebekah Randle

Content Editors Keliko Adams Lauren Every-Wortman

Layout and Design Hugh McCafferty

Copy Editor Eryk Salvaggio

Contributors Tanya Bogaty John Crow Justin Endo Eliza Han Alecs Mickunas


Johnny Price Emily Rosenberg Kate Sibley Wenson Tsai Andrew Young

Cover photo: Lauren Every-Wortman


Photo: Emily Rosenberg

4 Short shorts

Lesser-seen Fukuoka: Costco Top 5: Filthiest vending machine treats of winter 2012


8 In Fukuoka Collecting India

10 Travel


Complicated The Satsuma express

14 Living

What’s your cup of tea? Words by the way Recipes

Photo: Eliza Han

20 Opinion

Murky waters Fukushima after one year

24 Entertainment


Photo: Tanya Bogaty

Events Ask Professor Sempai Reviews

30 Photos


Short shorts: Lesser-seen Fukuoka

COSTCO Eryk Salvaggio re-enters the land of ‘all-you-can-eat’ and ‘out-ofmy-way’ without a plane ticket


t Costco, Sports Utility Vehicles cram together like cold cats in boxes. Perhaps the engineers didn’t anticipate Costco’s catnip-like lure to the local crowd of big-box, big-car enthusiasts. This is shopping, American-style, and the experience of Costco is so red white and blue that it could make a military base seem downright anti-Capitalist. Costco should be applauded for breaking down stereotypes of “the Japanese” as polite, reserved and group-centered people who know how to properly queue. Here are the counterexamples for anthropologists: Drivers cursing out of their windows for a parking space ten feet closer to the entrance; people discarding items in the middle of aisles; people cutting each other off for free samples; enormous people with enormous shopping carts filled to overflowing with enormous boxes of food.

warehouse of food and cheap TV’s. And if you think I’m slagging America, you’re wrong. I grew up surrounded by the frenzy of 50 TVs bouncing off stacks of snacks with enough calories to power the state of New Hampshire. My childhood Saturdays consisted of bland warehouse-styled buildings and fluorescent lighting. Going to Costco reminds me of the ways Japan is different from the rest of the world. The rest of the world is filled with the noise and filth of obnoxious people, but it’s an inexplicable comfort to be reminded of it. Sometimes, you need to wallow. Of course, we’re all in favor of tortilla chips bags whose contents could fill pillowcases, conveniently located next to gallon-sized jars of salsa sold in pairs. I’m thrilled to find cereals that are neither corn flakes nor sold in the dessert aisle. The sight of Raisin Bran has never sparked such a thrill, as “two scoops of raisins” would probably fill an entire box of Japanese cereal.

The sight of Raisin Bran has never sparked such a thrill

It’s almost as though the enormity of everything inspires fiercer competition to dominate all available resources. The local grocery store in my town may be a crowded mess, but that’s more the tiny aisles filled with women too old to push a shopping cart out of the way. It’s almost as though the single-serve portions inspire a calm reserve, while the industrial-supply size of food at Costco inspires a kind of delirium.

I can’t say that Costco is any cheaper, and the added burdens of picking up a membership card and having to travel by car make it a messy endeavor. You can get there by bus, but in true American style, public transportation to Costco is an arduous hassle.

Show me one can of tomato sauce the size of a fist and I’ll toss it into my tiny green shopping basket. Show me 10 cans of tomato sauce, sized like aluminum watermelons, stacked into a mountain taller than my apartment complex, and I want as much as I can fit into my swimming-pool sized handcart.

But Costco is more than a chance to stock up on cheap rations. It’s a cultural excursion. It’s a place where people still dedicate their internal monologue to “being first in line.” It’s a cheap thrill, a local dose of culture shock that reminds you, perhaps too much, of life back home.

If there was an “Americatown” in Japan, one would probably design it as one designs a Costco: A giant

Eryk Salvaggio is a second-year ALT living in Chojabaru. He considers himself one of the happy people.


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Photo: Craig Morey (flickr.com/pixelthing)

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Short shorts: Top five

Filthiest vending machine treats of winter 2012

Photos: Wenson Tsai (flickr.com/itswenson)


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Wenson Tsai shows you how to keep warm in winter with these vending machine treats


ending machines in Japan are as ever-present as the ever-present Big Brother in a not-sodistant-dystopia. But in Japan, these Big Brothers are more like Soft Mothers nursing you back to hydration, open 24 hours a day.  

In the winter, the vending machine’s main priority shifts to preventing your hypothermia. The red-labeled warm beverage selections increase in number and variety.

Usually, vending machines serve a utilitarian function of last resort, but in Japan, companies put out versions with drinks not sold in stores, making them treasure chests of rare experiences. Here are the top 5 filthiest vending machine warmeruppers for winter 2012, in no particular order:

1. Kirin Gogo no Koucha Pungency (Kirin Afternoon Tea Pungency Milk Tea) This is milk tea with two times the tea leaf in it. Not wanting to be judgmental of the awful wasei eigo (English that only makes sense to Japanese people) name, I pushed aside visions of warm spoiled milk with lemony socks in it.  Now that’s pungent.  You’d think with such a bold name, at least the taste would punch you in the mouth.  This was not the case.  There may be twice the tea leaf, but it tastes like there’s twice the water – it’s thin.  And bitter.  It’s as if they invented a drink to recycle all the tea leaves they had already boiled to make regular milk teas.  They doubled up that run-off with extra water and canned it.  My outrage be pungent.

2. Ito-en Miso Shiru (Ito-en Miso Soup) Do you really need to have miso soup right now, on the street? You’re going to have it at the very next place you step into, whether it’s with sushi, or tempura, or chicken namban.  Don’t do this.  Please just walk away.  Ito-en, you are not good at things. 3. Hotto Karupisu (Hot Calpis) Calpis is a cloudy acidic beverage that tastes like sweat

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and thin yogurt. This is the hot version with milk and toasted sugar.  There’s definitely a caramel-ish thing going on, but the aftertaste is regrettable.  The journey of my tastebuds took me through lakes of spoiled milk and forests of stale pound cake before easing my head into the lap of an anthropomorphic vinyl being.  This drink tastes like breast milk from a Cabbage Patch Doll. 4. Knorr Koun Potaaju (Knorr Corn Potage) This is tasty.  The corn kernels are snappy and vibrant, the soup warm and comforting.  Exactly like drinking a yellow hug.  Have one now!  Disclaimer:  I cannot vouch for other brands.

5. Georgia x Green: Uji Macha Iri Couhii (Georgia Coffee with Uji Macha Green Tea) Tea and coffee have been eternal enemies since before the dinosaurs came and went.  Georgia takes a bold step in trying to flavor a coffee with green tea.  Like an America truly free from racial tension, the peaceful union of tea and coffee is an illusion.  This drink just tastes like coffee.  On Japanese TV I saw a struggling film student watching a cellphone video he had recorded of meat sizzling on a grill. He would shovel rice feverishly into his mouth, coercing his tongue into tasting delicious BBQ.  Perhaps Georgia is betting on mind over matter for this as well.

Wenson Tsai has been named by prominent publications as the 4th most-likely living human being to be the “Reincarnation of the Christ,” but the 3rd most-likely to be the “Incarnation of the Anti-Christ.” When the apocalypse comes, he plans to feed the horses of the 4 horsemen chunky peanut butter then piggy-back the saved as far into the sky as he can hold while they are rise toward the heavens in rapture. He doesn’t like heights though, so please send money donations toward a hangglider and flappy scarf. Here are some pictures for your eyes: flickr.com/ itswenson.


In Fukuoka

Collage: Lauren Every-Wortman


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Collecting Lauren Every-Wortman takes a look at a new India-inspired art exhibit in Fukuoka


ollecting India” at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum exhibits works inspired by Indian culture displayed alongside mementos collected by the artists, Japanese researchers and other Indophiles. This exhibition, on the cross-cultural connection between India and Japan, brings a refreshing vibrancy both in color and subject matter. In the sixth century, Buddhism served as a connection between the two countries. After World War II, curious artists and scholars began traveling abroad, flocking to India for cultural and spiritual exploration. As Japanese creatives looked to India, Indian aesthetics returned to Japan, further influencing public opinion on contemporary India.

The exhibition’s concept, to shed light on the formation of the image of India in Japan, falls flat. Divided into three sections, the introduction of India to Japan, Japanese artists influenced by India, and Indian objects in Japanese collections, it attempts to confront “the seeming chaos of India.” The exhibition itself does not evoke chaos, even if the amount of objects on display does at times feel overwhelming. Though the quintessential “idea” Japan holds of India remained unclear, artists and curators were clearly influenced by India as a place of mystery, mysticism and exoticism.


flora, while flashes of neon infuse black and white swirls of pen. This kaleidoscope effect expresses the universality of visual imagery. The aesthetics of two countries fight and interweave, eventually succumbing to the universal form of the mandala, and gently fading back into the opening images of nature and prayer. Outside of the animation room are a range of artifacts displayed from Indian popular culture, tradition and art. Of these some highlights consist of Sugimoto Yoshio’s collection of Indian fashion Barbies and Kuroda Yutaka’s collection of prewar publications on India including beautifully hand-painted travel books. Another notable section is comprised of two collections of Bollywood paraphernalia. Gregori Aoyama’s “Gregori’s Bollywood Emporium” recreates a vendor’s stall with Bollywood CDs, DVDs, magazines and collector’s items alongside his own hand-drawn manga depicting Bollywood’s famous characters punctuated with Japanese dialogue. Hanging on the wall behind the emporium is a different collection of Bollywood magazines organized like prize ribbons on the wall of a child’s bedroom.

The exhibition’s concept, to shed light on the formation of the image of India in Japan, falls flat

Unfortunately most of the art on display lacks any sense of cross-cultural collaboration. Most pieces are just in the style of Indian art with Indian themes, but produced by Japanese artists. One exception was Aihara Nobuhiro’s hand-drawn abstract animations, which showed the greatest fusion of the two cultures. His 1998 piece Yellow Fish begins with video of clouds rushing over the Himalayas, cut with rows of ritual candles flickering in the wind. As the music quickens, the video fades into drawings, in the thickly lined style of Japanese manga, illustrating images of humanity. Animals become machines and human genitalia transform into

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Wading through the collages of matchbox labels, Ravi Varma lithographs and textiles, the visitor becomes aware of the significance of the mundane. While many aspects of visual culture remain universal, some are so resoundingly different that such a little thing as a postage stamp can spark the imagination of a nation. Perhaps this is what the exhibitors meant by Japan’s desire to understand India’s “seeming chaos” -- simply, when confronted by so many foreign things, the only thing a person can do is try to organize them.

Collecting India: Fascination with Indian Visual Culture in Contemporary Japan, 21 January - 11 March, 2012, Fukuoka Asian Art Museum Lauren Every-Wortman is a second-year ALT in Kitakyushu. She loves city parks, mac and cheese, and has an incurable case of wanderlust.



It’s complicated Justin Endo attempts to make sense of the cultural collage that is The Philippines Photo: Justin Endo


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hat makes the Philippines, “The Philippines?” Is there a distinct “Filipino Identity?” I’ve been thinking about these questions a lot after my brief sojourn to the Philippines. I’ve never been more confused about a country in my life.

Dirty yet clean. Often loud, but peacefully quiet at times. Budget friendly, but if you have money, you can burn through it quick. A melting pot of East meets West. When I say dirty, I mean it, but not necessarily in the negative sense. Perhaps a better word is “real.” The streets of Manila are unapologetic, which can be refreshing after the strict social order found in Japan. Yes, it can actually be dirty, with the smog and pollution, but there’s also a different kind of “dirty.” You see it in street stalls and small corner stores reminiscent of Latin America or other parts of Southeast Asia. The streets may be chaotic, but there’s really nothing like getting a bite to eat from a local vendor, grabbing a plastic chair and watching the world pass you by.

with dinner and drinks around ¥1000 per person.

Loud? Don’t get me started. Incessant honking means everything from a, “Hey, I’m here,” to...well, let’s just say it’s something I’d never use in front of my mom. People are always shouting, trying to get you to ride their bus or Jeepney, try their product, or just to shout. It was fun, but loud. Definitely loud. But it made the peaceful moments even more so. Take Makati, the business district of Manila and a city that never sleeps. Because of all the 24-hour call centers, people are up at weird times; however, the horns cease and vendors have mostly closed up. It’s just people hanging out on their shift break. A quick flight away on the white sand beaches of Boracay, the main drag is loud and full of parties, but walk a few blocks in either direction and the beach is practically yours.

East meets West? Trite, I know, but never truer. In Manila, most signs around me were in English, but all you can hear is Tagalog. In the evening news, the announcer does a bit in English, but then cuts to an onthe-ground footage where the interview is in Tagalog.

The streets may be chaotic but there’s nothing like getting a bite to eat from a local vendor

Yet, this is not the whole representation of the Philippines. It’s neat and clean too. The best example is the ever-present shopping mall. Though I lost track of the malls I visited, I still remember the best: the Mall of Asia. If you forget about the tightened security, you would never have guessed you were in the Philippines. It rivals (and perhaps beats) any upscale mall in Japan. Budget-friendly? A breakfast of spam, eggs, and rice cost us about ¥100 at a touristy restaurant. Beer from a konbini is less than that. A fried fish ball from a street vendor? ¥1! The service industry is incredibly affordable. I’ve never been to a salon in my entire life and am more of a ¥1500 haircut kind of guy. I did better than that at a Mall of Asia salon: ¥400 with a tip. How expensive can it be? After seeing crowds of people at every mall, there seems to be a considerable middle class with a strong demand for consumer goods. This demand is not limited to just the latest fashions or electronics, but restaurants as well. These can be a bit cheaper than Japan, but definitely not for the budget traveler,

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The food? Filipino food is a mix of everything from Malaysian, Chinese and even Spanish. Yet, this doesn’t even cover the vast kinds of food available in the Philippines from other countries. Fried chicken, gravy, and rice... at McDonalds? (Or Wendy’s or Jollibee...) Or snacking on pandesal (like Spanish pan de sal) or lumpia (like a Chinese egg roll). Or getting Sio Mai (Shumai) or shwarma (kebab) as drunk food?

What exactly is the “Filipino Identity?” A friend told me that Filipinos have taken bits and pieces from various cultures, whether from historical colonizers or global society, and made their own. Maybe there really isn’t one unique “identity.” It’s complicated. It’s not something that can be summed up with a tweet, status update or an article like this. Justin Endo is a second-year Kitakyushu City ALT who travels as much as his schedule and wallet allow. In his spare time, he likes to play taiko, slurp tonkotsu ramen and update his blog end0istic.blogspot.com



hen the television commercial celebrating the opening of the completed Kyushu Shinkansen Line went viral on YouTube in the spring of 2011, I couldn’t stop replaying it. The upbeat melody of Maia Hirasawa’s song “Boom!” and the widely smiling faces of thousands of Kyushu residents who cheered on the new Sakura shinkansen as it traveled the length of the island could melt the hearts of joy’s worst enemies. This was The Happy Train, and it was right here in dearly beloved Kyushu! I vowed that one day, I would ride it myself. I’m not a very spontaneous person. But sometime in late November of 2011, I felt the irrepressible urge to throw caution to the wind and just get away. This is not how I normally roll. But I had a national holiday with a day of overtime tacked on, and I wanted to get away fast. Where fast is concerned, what’s better than Japan’s famous shinkansen? A dear friend, now back in the States, once told me about a hitoritabi (solo trip) she had taken to Kagoshima City. I had only been there on the briefest of stints, barely making


connections from night bus to Yakushima ferry and back. Then I thought of the Kyushu Shinkansen commercial that never failed to bring levity to my heart. And it was decided. The shink thundered through four prefectures (Bye, Fukuoka! Hasta la vista, Saga! Ciao, Kumamoto!), and 79 minutes after departing Hakata, I alighted at KagoshimaChuo Station (Harro!).

Here are some brief details of how I spent my 24 hours in Kagoshima City, which I hope gives you some ideas if you’re at all interested in taking your own spontaneous jaunt down to fair Satsuma, or have some time to kill while passing through to Tanegashima/Yakushima (highly recommended!), although I know the city has much more to offer than what I was able to see.

Shiroyama Observation Deck Although the shinkansen experience and shochu-ing/dining were my primary objectives in Kagoshima City, I had to do something touristy. In the fading light of the afternoon, I hopped on a miniature bus that looped around the city’s major tourist spots and took it to the top of Shiroyama. I was just in time to watch the lights go on over the city as dusk faded. The city’s symbol, the active volcano Sakurajima, cut a sexy silhouette against the darkening east. I didn’t spend much time up there, just enjoyed the quiet and snapped a few photos before heading back into town. It was dinner time, after all. One notable point on the bus ride down was when the driver spoke to me, the only passenger, in the

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singsong local dialect. Kagoshima-ben is known throughout Japan for its unusual intonation. I hadn’t gotten a chance to hear it when I had passed through before, and although it strained my ears and all my Japanese ability, hearing it was just one more thrill in the Kagoshima experience.

Tenmonkan If Kagoshima-Chuo is the Hakata of Kagoshima City, then Tenmonkan is the Tenjin. It’s where the shopping (arcades for as far as the eye can see in all directions!) and eating happens. It was also the convenient location of my reasonable hotel. I was lucky enough to have a Kagoshimaborn Fukuoka friend in my phone who gave me a restaurant recommendation in the area. At the bar of the rowdy shop, I tucked into kurobuta hitori sukiyaki (black pork sukiyaki for one — what could be more perfect?) and my own small pour of the legendary Satsuma brew, imojochu cut with hot water. Sure, you can drink Kagoshima shochu anywhere these days, but it just doesn’t compare to sipping it on location. Like eating tonkotsu ramen at Taiho, Nagahama, or Ichiran! Ryuujin Rotenburo @ the Furusato Kanko Hotel On the balmy second day of my trip, I took the ferry from the Port of Kagoshima to the beast herself — Sakurajima, endlessly belching clouds of ash that

often fall on the city, and making it hard to get one’s laundry done. I was in search of a hidden jewel of an onsen, located INSIDE a shrine, into which both sexes can pilgrimage (clad in modest yukata robes, of course.) It wasn’t convenient to get to, but the experience of bathing within a shrine, at the edge of the sea, with a view of “Satsuma Fuji” (Kaimondake in Ibusuki, at the southernmost tip of Kyushu) in the distance, was worth any trouble. I’m only disappointed I didn’t go at night when they light braziers around the onsen — and that in the daytime, I got a bit sunburned from the water’s reflection. Another ferry, tram, and shink ride later, I was back in darling Fukuoka. On the wheels of the bullet train, 24 hours in Kagoshima City passed like a dream. But I know it will always be there, just a song and a fantastic marketing campaign away — or a yonmai bus ticket, if you want to actually be economical. Emily Rosenberg is a third-year CIR at the Fukuoka International Association. There are no two greater joys in her life than being so privileged as to live in Kyushu and occasionally splurging on riding the shinkansen.


Satsuma Emily Rosenberg heads south for a weekend excursion on the Kyushu Shinkansen


Photo: Emily Rosenberg

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Living Eliza Han returns to the world of tea ceremony and gains a deeper appreciation of the little things Photo: David Woo (flickr.com/mckln)

What’s your

? a e t f o cup


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imono. Tatami mat room. The sound of water being boiled. The faint smell of tea powder. Tranquillity. This is probably the image we all have of the way of tea: A mysterious realm. For those of us without artistic talent, it’s nothing but a lengthy and strenuous task to kill time in the days before television and smart phones. Surely enough, there were good reasons for this monotonous-looking pastime to have escaped extinction unscathed.

My first encounter with this Japanese tradition was during my one year study abroad. Fascinated with the Japanese university student life, I threw myself into the tea ceremony club without any prior knowledge at all. My little brain was soon filled with a bunch of questions that I never thought I would ask. Why use a tea whisk when you can stir just as well with a spoon? Why bother with all the delicate movements? Why should you not step on the border of a tatami?

“Because,” was the answer to most of my questions. Well an art it was, so like Picasso, the intricate characteristics were perhaps simply beyond the understanding of a plebeian like myself. Strangely enough, a tea ceremony club was on the top of my to-find list upon setting foot in this country again as a JET two years ago. This time, it turned out to be more than munching on yummy Japanese sweets. You should not walk along the border of a tatami because it is said to be the most fragile part of the mat. Back in the era of feudal lords, it was in your best interest to avoid going anywhere near the edges of the tatami as you could never be 100% certain that there were no assassins hiding underneath, waiting patiently for the moment to slice your foot in half through the weakest link. My appreciation for the way of tea grew upon discovering the reason behind every seemingly meaningless action.

One rainy Sunday last month, I tagged along to my very first semi-formal tea ceremony. After an hour long drive we arrived in front of a somewhat old Japanesestyle residence. The first session was 濃茶(koicha), which I cannot say is my favorite.

As the name itself suggests, it is very thick and rich – what I imagine paint would taste like. On the bright side, the accompanying Japanese sweet tastes like heaven. A bowl of this tea usually serves around three people, so the timing is important. If the first drinker takes his time sipping because he doesn’t want to burn his tongue, it could become a bowl of cold, green paste by the time it reaches the last drinker. The second session was 薄茶 (usucha). After the previous koicha, so thick that you doubt it is served to be drunk, this ‘normal’ type flows down your throat like water. Much more than the mere act of drinking a cup of tea, this is the perfect opportunity to check out precious utensils, calligraphy scrolls and flower arrangements that subtly contribute to the atmosphere, as well as carvings of Japanese motifs infused into 和の空間 (wa no kūkan/harmony, Japanese).

Every movement in this art is slow and long; it feels never-ending at times. A waste of time and energy, some may say, but I now see it as a sanctuary, free from the usual daily chores – to allow yourself to get lost in time, to appreciate the little things that you would not otherwise notice. A different utopia. …Until you feel pins and needles in your feet, struggle to stand after sitting in the 正座 (seiza) position for two rounds, only to find that what awaits you around the corner is, surprise surprise, yet a third session. Eliza Han is a third-year CIR whose appearance allows her to blend unobtrusively into the Japanese society – until the moment she opens her mouth to speak, that is.


words by the


Andrew Young on the importance of learning from your linguistic mistakes 16

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definitely have the best Japanese of anybody else here,” I thought to myself, wrongfully smug, at Tokyo Orientation back in July 2011. In that glamorous hall populated by first-year ALTs, I was sure that my formidable degree in East Asian Languages – focused on Japanese, obviously – had landed me this gig in Japan, and also gave me the audacious right to forcefeed my ego with such nonsense as “I am fluent in Japanese.” And what nonsense it was! As soon as I started talking to other JETs bound for Gifu or Hokkaido, I realized just how little that silly piece of paper framed in gold, proudly set atop my mother’s fireplace back in the Old Country (Canada), representative of four years of all-nighters at university, meant out here. And I hadn’t even spoken to any Japanese people yet.

The little Japanese I know certainly comes in handy, but I quickly realized how difficult it is to jump into a country where one knows nothing in the language beyond “hello how are you I am fine thank you.” Study is vital, yes, but I want to remind you to practice without fear of mistakes. I’ll tell you a story. I teach at two high schools. At one school I’ve managed to keep my degree in languages a secret, instead telling them I majored in history. Those students are convinced that I don’t know any Japanese (which is hilarious because I can understand perfectly when they call me smelly, fat or handsome).

My other school is a slightly lower level school where the boys all have anime-hair and play baseball, and the girls swear they aren’t wearing makeup even though since yesterday their eyelashes have bloomed threefold like flowers. At this school, they listen to me if I use a bit of Japanese, so when I want their attention, I say しずかにしなさいよ! (shizuka ni shinasai yo, ‘be quiet!’)” They usually laugh raucously before actually paying attention again, but it works.

‘Andrew,’ my supervisor patted my shoulder, ‘when you speak Japanese like that, you sound like a girl.’

One day, at the school that I have fooled, I was talking about ‘the other school,’ and told them the phrases I use very often. The entire English department burst into laughter, much like my other students. “Andrew,” my supervisor patted my shoulder, “when you speak Japanese like that, you sound like a girl.”

You have likely heard of something called 方言 (hougen), or ‘dialects,’ by now. ‘Standard Japanese’ is what’s spoken in Tokyo and in formal situations like meetings – everything else is done in Fukuoka’s own dialect, which generally replaces Standard Japanese’s だ (da) sentence-ending with や (ya). But that’s just the tip of the dialect iceberg. The reason I sounded like a girl in class was that Fukuoka’s dialect naturally sounds notoriously aggressive and ‘manly’ to Japanese ears. The reverse can also be true – Tokyo’s dialect can sound flimsy, feeble, and ‘feminine’ to the Fukuokan’s ear.

All I’m saying is no matter how long you’ve studied Japanese, you will make mistakes – but that’s totally fine. Mistakes are arguably fundamental to the learning process. Just think about how many mistakes some of your students made in English a year ago. Learning is making the mistakes, learning about them, fixing them, and then retelling the story in your now-flawless dialect of Japanese to your coworkers at an enkai. Or writing about how you talk like a girly-man in The Refill.

Andrew Young lives in Chikugo but teaches in Omuta and Miyama. His caffeinefueled rants can be found at soggiesttowel.tumblr.com.


Recipes  Kitchen experimentalist John Crow shares some of his favorite Tex-Mex dishes

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hile Japanese food is wonderful and everyone should attempt making it, sometimes we crave a taste of home. I’ve experimented with recreating familiar childhood flavors from Texas over the years. It’s never perfect, but it gets closer every time.


ralines are actually French in origin, but the recipe came across the border from Louisiana into Texas. Simple and cheap to make, they quickly became a staple of TexMex cooking.

Photo: Rebekah Randle

Pecan pralines

Ingredients • 200 g sugar • 225 g brown sugar • 1 tsp vanilla extract • 3 tbsp corn syrup (or Lyle’s Golden Syrup) • 1 tbsp butter • 90 ml milk • 170 g pecans

Directions Step 1: Mix all ingredients together in a cold, dry pan. Heat on medium until mixture begins to boil, then cook and stir for about 4 minutes. Step 2: Remove from heat, stir mixture for 1 minute. The mixture should be less glossy and darker.

Step 3: Spoon about 1 tablespoon of mix onto baking sheet. The mix should begin to harden shortly after being placed, so work quickly to prevent the remaining mixture from hardening in the pan (reheat if necessary to soften). Let rest for 10 minutes before eating.

Step 4: If the pralines are too sticky and chewy, the mix probably wasn’t cooked long enough. You can chill these pralines in the freezer to make them easier to eat.



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Flour tortillas


ome prefer corn tortillas, but homemade Texan tortillas are thick, fluffy and soft. They’re a great snack on their own as well as an integral part of Tex-Mex cooking. This recipe yields eight tortillas. Ingredients • 250 g flour • 1.5 tsp baking powder • 1 tsp salt • 2 tsp vegetable oil • 175 ml milk, heated

Directions Step 1: Mix flour, baking powder, salt and oil in a large bowl. Slowly add warm milk, stirring until a sticky ball is formed. Knead the dough on a floured surface for about 2 minutes. Place in a bowl, cover

with plastic wrap to retain moisture and let rest for 20 minutes. Step 2: Divide into eight equal parts, roll into balls and place on a plate. Wrap once more and let rest for another 10 minutes.

Step 3: Gently flatten and spread one ball of dough on a floured surface with hands, then use a floured rolling pin to flatten and spread the dough. Fry the tortilla in a dry pan on medium high heat until it starts to puff up, or about 30-45 seconds. Flip and repeat. (If too much dry flour accumulates on the pan, rinse and dry it before continuing.)

Step 4: Keep cooked tortillas covered to retain moisture. Wrap in foil and refrigerate to store longer, though they will harden within a day or two.

Chicken enchiladas


ike chili, no one can agree on a single definitive recipe for enchiladas. I won’t claim this is authentic, but the ingredients are readily available and the flavor is solid.


• 400 g chicken, boneless / skinned (sasami cuts recommended)

• 1 whole onion, diced • 3 whole green peppers, diced • 2 cloves garlic, minced • 90 grams sour cream • 120 g cheddar cheese, shredded (filling) • 1 tbsp parsley • 1 tsp Oregano • 1 tsp pepper • 1 tsp salt • 100 ml salsa • 1 tsp chili powder • 8 tortillas • 80 g cheddar cheese, shredded (topping)

Directions Step 1: Pan-fry the chicken until juices run clear

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(other cooking methods are fine and possibly preferred, depending on the cut of chicken). Remove and let rest 5-10 minutes. Shred by hand or with forks. Step 2: Add vegetables to pan, cook until onions turn soft and clear, then add chicken and seasoning. Mix well and add salsa and cheeses. Stir well and let simmer until desired thickness is achieved. I recommend Pace Picante salsa from Costco. For people that have trouble with spicy foods, a mixture of tomato sauce and salsa is recommended.

Step 3: In a casserole dish, spread a thin layer of salsa. Place approximately 1 tablespoon (amount depends on tortilla size) of filling on the center of a tortilla, gently wrap and place fold-side down. When all tortillas have been placed, pour remaining filling on top and sprinkle remaining cheese. Step 4: Bake in oven at 180 degrees Celsius, or until the cheese is melted and tortillas are browned. Cool ten minutes before serving.



Murky waters Tanya Bogaty (figuratively) digests the enduring tradition of whaling in Japan


efore coming to Japan, flipping through channels at my parents’ house, I stumbled on the Animal Planet reality show Whale Wars. The program follows angry conservationists as they sabotage Japanese whaling ships, ramming into them and throwing stink bombs.

Emotionally charged portrayals like this and The Cove were all the rage as I prepared to move, so I felt obligated to defend Japan from skeptical friends and family. I parroted things I’d read online or heard from people who had visited, that “most Japanese don’t really eat whale anymore.” If I said that to you, I take it back. People in Japan eat whale. Saying they “don’t anymore” wrongly suggests that most people here, except a few “heathens,” have become more “civilized.” I grew up with the idea that whaling was a thing of the past. I was born in Massachusetts, which has a long history of whaling. New Bedford, Mass.– the setting at the start of Moby Dick, lies about an hour from my hometown and had a thriving whaling economy in the 19th century.

But these days in Massachusetts, whaling is history. The New Bedford Whaling Museum chronicles the industry’s rise and fall, from its emergence as a crucial supplier of oil and manufacturing materials to its downfall following over-


harvesting and the discovery of petroleum.

In fact, we’ve transformed from whale murderers to whale lovers. We sit on boats for hours to catch a glimpse of them. We even have a special edition license plate with a breaching North Atlantic Right. With that background, I came to Japan expecting whaling to be at odds with modern culture, but that’s not the case. Ideas about whaling here are not necessarily backward; they are just different. For example, I had to explain whale watching, the classic New England pastime, to a fellow teacher. Her confusion hinted at the cultural gap.

“How do you ‘watch’ whales?” she asked, “From a submarine?”

“No no,” I chuckled, amused at her mistake. I explained in stilted Japanese, “We watch from the top of a boat.” “Oh, from a glass-bottom boat?” she asked, nodding and thinking she understood.

“No,” I said once again, “From the top of a normal boat.” I realized I needed to explain more. “You only see parts of the whale.” Pause. “When it comes out of the water.” February/March 2012 │

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Photo: Tanya Bogaty

“How boring!” she said.

Despite my zeal for whale watching, I did feel silly explaining this. What kind of mature custom was I claiming to be a part of? Another factor in Japan is its enthusiasm for whale meat. A few months ago I came across a brochure for a prefecturewide whale-eating festival in Nagasaki. Then at last April’s work party, the lavish, expensive meal began with two dishes served with a flourish: a pot of tiny, wriggling fish meant to be swallowed whole and alive, and whale-heart sashimi.

Transport this dinner table to the States, and I’m sure the conversation would turn to a heated debate on the ethics of swallowing a live creature versus chomping down on a whale’s most vital organ raw. But here, the first course was like a party game. We giggled as a fish jumped out of a coworker’s mouth onto his napkin and passed around plates of rich, muscle-ey whale heart.

My coworkers explained that these were rare foods and respected my decision about whether or not to eat them (I ate the little fishies, but not the whale). I realized that in Japan, whale is a delicacy that can elevate the extravagance of an occasion. What a difference from how I had imagined

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the practice of eating whale – as something reserved for rural villagers, stuck in the ways of the past.

A few days after that dinner, I asked a coworker about her thoughts. She has no problem with whaling, she said, because she feels that the Japanese industry isn’t wasteful: each part of the animal is used, while in America’s history of whaling, more went to waste. This viewpoint was mirrored in an exhibit on whaling at the Fukuoka City Museum. Though I struggled to understand parts of the untranslated exhibit, I could easily see how the introduction of weapons from abroad affected the whaling industry. The artifacts on display changed from elegantly carved harpoons and woodblock prints of whaling customs to heavy, efficient killing machines. So who are the “heathens”? I’m not sure. I’ve gained a more nuanced view about whales in Japanese culture. Still, I’m not ready to eat one of the cuddly creatures myself. Tanya Bogaty is a second-year ALT in Chikugo. She went to Whale Camp once.


Fukushima after one year

Alecs Mickunas reports on the aftermath of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami one year later Photo: Keliko Adams


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iding the Limited Express train from Fukuoka City in late July of 2011 to my new home in Buzen City, I looked out at the mountainous landscape west of the Nishitetsu railway.

I had just carefully explained to my two high school coordinators how difficult a decision it had been to work and live in Japan mere months after the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami of March 11.

As of January 2012, The National Police Agency has confirmed 15,845 deaths, with many still healing from injuries and the whereabouts of others still unknown. Thousands of buildings were destroyed in what the World Bank called the most expensive natural disaster in world history. Yet it was the nuclear accidents, the worst of which was the level 7 meltdown at the Fukushima 1 Plant north of Tokyo, that made my decision to accept this appointment difficult.

After Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s resignation he reflected that, in the days following the disaster, he “…wasn’t sure whether Japan could continue to function as a state.” But like my friends who were living in prefectures far from Fukushima in March, my two new acquaintances told me they were able to go on with their lives almost unaffected by the disaster.

is “absolutely impossible,” as this would “drag down Japan’s overall economy.” Solar energy is being utilized in Japan to a greater extent since the disaster, and the proposed construction of floating wind turbines off the coast of Fukushima will shift reliance away from atomic energy. The people of Germany and Italy have called for an end to nuclear power in their respective countries, but as Nobel Prize winner Oe Kenzaburo has said, Japanese people “must continue to live under the fear of nuclear disaster.” There has always been strong opposition to Japan’s nuclear energy program in Fukuoka. Public opinion has likely been affected by the atomic bomb survivors of nearby Nagasaki. According to Yumiko Murakami of Tokyo, Fukuoka was one of very few prefectures that refused to accept nuclear waste from the Fukushima reactors after the meltdown.

There are reactors in Saga and Kagoshima prefectures, with Kagoshima City holding anti-nuclear demonstrations almost as often as larger cities such as Tokyo. The November 2011 Sayonara Nuclear demonstrations in Fukuoka City brought together more than 10,000 people and received significant media attention.

My co-worker at Seiho Senior High School, Kenji Shiramizu, was in attendance with his chapter of the Fukuoka Teacher’s Union. According to Mr. Shiramizu, the union was not actively engaged in anti-nuclear talks prior to the meltdown at the Fukushima 1 Plant. Since the disaster, Fukuokans are concerned about the restart of the Ikata plant north of Fukuoka in Shikoku’s Ehime prefecture.

As citizens of other nations living in Japan in trying times, we must reflect and decide whether we support the continued use of nuclear power in our own countries

Almost one year after the earthquake that is often described as having crippled the nation, the cleanup and rebuilding of damaged structures in 18 prefectures continues with unprecedented speed and efficiency. Yet many people are still without permanent housing, and fears concerning the complete shutdown of the Fukushima Plant continue. Prime Minister Naoto Kan received much criticism for his slowness to acknowledge the gravity of the disaster at the Fukushima plant. According to The New York Times Topics page for Mr. Kan, it was his “well-founded mistrust of a system of alliances between powerful plant operators, compliant bureaucrats and sympathetic politicians [that] deprived him of resources he could have used to make better-informed decisions.” Some degree of collusion between the current prime minister and the parties previously mentioned will likely determine the future of nuclear energy in Japan.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. is conducting stress tests to assure not only that the 54 reactors in Japan could withstand future earthquakes, but that equipment within the plants are working properly. At this time, only five of the nation’s plants are in operation. According to new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, another summer without a greater number of plants in operation

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Additionally, protests continue in opposition to the construction of a plant in Kaminoseki in the Seto Inland Sea, an area of intense seismic activity. Construction of the plant was unanimously opposed by the local fisherman’s co-operative as early as 1982, yet the proposed site is still a source of controversy. That there are no existing nuclear facilities in Fukuoka Prefecture is due to the vigilance of those who oppose its use here.

The two natural disasters that occurred last year in Japan -- in conjunction with a third precipitated by technology -- have cut into the world’s faith in the safety of nuclear energy. The testing being done in Japanese facilities has already revealed malfunctioning equipment. Moreover, the safety of this method for generating energy cannot anticipate disasters such as those Japan experienced last year. As citizens of other nations living in Japan in trying times, we must reflect on the situation in Japan and decide whether we support the continued use of nuclear power in our own countries. Alecs Mickunas is a first-year ALT living in Buzen City. He is currently translating the poetry of Japanese modernist writer Junzaburō Nishiwaki.



Event guide compiled by Keliko Adams Photo: Karen Blaha (flickr.com/vironevaeh)

Do not miss

Valentine’s Day / White Day February 14 / March 14



n Japan, Valentine’s Day is for girls to give gifts of chocolate to guys, whether they are friends, coworkers or boyfriends. Usually, handmade chocolate or more expensive chocolate (called honmei-choco 本命チョコ, “chocolate of love”) is given to your special man, and cheaper, obligatory chocolate (or girigiri-choco 義理チョコ, “courtesy chocolate”) is given to others. In return, men give chocolate or other gifts to women for White Day on March 14. February/March 2012 │

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January Glow! Shine! Flicker! The Art of Light Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, January 2 – April 3 10:00-20:00, closed Wednesdays. faam.city.fukuoka.lg.jp Leonardo Da Vinci: “L’idea Della Bellezza” Fukuoka Art Museum, January 5 – March 4 Admission: ¥1,300, 09:30-17:30, closed Mondays. fukuoka-art-museum.co.jp

February Cirque du Soleil “Kooza” Fukuoka Big Top, Hakozaki Shrine Gaien, February 9 – April 1 Fukuoka. Tickets range from ¥7,000 to ¥13,000. ¥1,000 discount for weekday performances. Photo: Keliko Adams

Saidai-ji Eyo Hadaka Matsuri Okayama, February 18 Men wearing only fundoshi (褌) gather in groups of 10-12 and run to Saidiji Shrine where they will compete to catch one of two pieces of wood, bringing that man good luck for the year. Kyushu Yamamoto Kai Ohori Koen Noh Theater, February 26 A chance to see noh (能, musical drama) and kyogen (狂言, comedy) performances. ¥5,000, 12:00. ohori-nougaku.jp Doll Festival (Hinamatsuri) or Girls’ Day Nationwide, March 3 Displays of dolls in Heian-era court dress are displayed. Yanagawa is famous for its hinamatsuri celebrations throughout March.

Photo: Keliko Adams

Kyokusui No En Dazaifu, March 4 In addition to seeing the plum blossoms (ume, 梅), you can also check out this festival where participants write waka (和歌) poems before drinking sake out of cups floating in the stream.

We Jammin’ Bourbon Street, Tenjin, March 10 Come see the finest talent your fellow JETs have to offer! ¥3,500, 19:30. Contact fukuokaajet@gmail.com for more info.


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AJET Hanami and Cycling for Charity Kokura, April 7 Enjoy the spring cherry blossom with a stamp relay bike ride for charity around Kokura castle. ¥1,500 entry fee (fukuokacharity@gmail.com). Afterwards, relax and have a picnic under the blossoms at the foot of the castle!


 Ask

Professor Sempai

Dear Professor Sempai, Whats the best way to keep warm in winter? - I’m Cold in Kitakyushu


any foreigners are surprised to see that Japan has four seasons, while the rest of the world has none. As a result, all winter they can be heard with their grateful prayers of thanks for the energy provided by a freezing morning: “Oh my god, Oh my god, it’s so cold.”

In some textbooks I have studied about foreign cultures, I saw that many foreigners will burn wood to stay warm, a practice pioneered by vikings and hobos. Luckily, we in Japan have pioneered the world’s most advanced technology to fight the chills.

For example, we have nabe, a hot soup that you can boil on a controlled fire. We also have kotatsu, a small heat plate attached to a table, which we put a blanket on. Scientists have decided that this generates enough heat to brown a piece of toast in just under three hours. As a result of this technology, Japan has saved millions of dollars on unreliable technologies used abroad, such as “insulation” and “central heating,” which have the


unfortunate result of making one unaware of the season.

Some, however, still complain, and for this reason we have the gas stove. The gas stove was pioneered in the 1960s as a way of pumping poisonous exhaust into hot air balloons. The invention was later modified and became the touyu heater, which produces only 75% of the poisonous exhaust needed to power a hot-air balloon. For this reason, Japanese engineers have built the draftiest apartments in the world, especially for our government housing. If you suffer the unfortunate condition of having a well-sealed apartment, you can always crack a window to invite the season into your home.

Otherwise, take a hot bath to get warmed to your core. When drying off, you have the extra advantage of exposing your skin to the cold, so you can still have a taste of winter’s rich, frozen bounty. Professor Sempai is neither a real professor nor a real sempai.

Photo: Lauren Every-Wortman

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hether you pegged her as a one-hit-wonder or not, there’s no denying Florence And The Machine has punched out another stand-out pop album. Florence Welch’s 2009 debut album Lungs brought us such gems as Dog Days Are Over and Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up), with Kiss Like A Fist being the first single to catch our attention. No wonder it was Mercury Prize nominated.

Lungs included hit after hit, perfect for radio play and dance floors. However, Florence is not your everyday pop starlet. Armed with guts and a harp, Welch proved that she could deliver a hit while still staying true to her alternativefolk roots. Ceremonials gives us determination laced with ambitious pop ballads, showing us that Florence And The Machine has naturally evolved into a well-formed musical stalwart. Florence And The Machine, while hailing from England, could easily have been born from the experimental, often percussion-based bands that emerge out of the wonderful Scandinavian sound. Wildbirds and Peacedrums or Lykke Li spring to mind as two artists that share a similar musical path, particularly when compared with Ceremonials. The simplistic drums, harp and piano in Heartlines are reminiscent of the bleak frozen winters of the North.

Ceremonials Florence and the Machine Universal, 2011


In between the toe-tapping dance-floor numbers there are moments of operatic beauty, such as No Light No Light. Welch’s signature wails are expertly layered over organic percussion, creating an eerie gothic sound. If this were the ‘80s, the video clip would be set in a ghoulish mansion a la Celine Dion’s It’s All Coming Back To Me Now; sheer white curtains and candles not optional.

Never Let Me Go and Seven Devils follow suit, leaving a slightly uneasy taste in your mouth, but in the good kind of way. Seven Devils is a highlight for me, combining that eerie sound with Welch’s haunting vocals while still managing to feel uplifting. This is the great thing about Ceremonials. While tracks vary in tempo and style, the album as a whole still manages to be light, leaving you feeling satisfied and encouraged. This is an overall theme evident in her wellcrafted lyrics, tying it all together, such as in Lover To Lover’s “I’ve seen that I’m heading down, but that’s alright” or Shake It Out’s “I am done with my graceless heart, so tonight I’m gonna cut it out and then restart... It’s always darkest before the dawn.”

Reviews R Ceremonials has clearly been a step in the right direction for Florence And The Machine. While her debut caught our attention, her follow-up has proven she has the stamina to survive in such a cut-throat genre of music. She has quirk, she has charm, but most of all she has the talent. Welch will continue to “keep following the heartlines on [her] hand”. Kate is a first-year ALT hailing from Aotearoa (NZ) living in Iizuka-shi, Fukuoka. Loves: the word ‘ennui’. Does not love: the moment when you have laced up your shoes and you realise you left your keys on the bench.


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my Tan’s The Joy Luck Club explores the relationships between four immigrant Chinese mothers and their American-born daughters. Each character’s narration tells a story about her own life, revealing significant events from her past and the effects of those events on her current nature. The stark contrast between the mothers’ stories and their daughters’ convey that these two generations, though they have lived so close to each other, truly come from different places. Tan uses mahjong not only as a platform for the book’s premise, but as a structural foundation for the novel. The title The Joy Luck Club is the name of the mothers’ weekly gatherings to play mahjong and celebrate the small joys in life, carried out through times of war and poverty. It is during these weekly gatherings that the mothers develop their intimate, lifelong friendships. Mahjong is similarly played in four rounds consisting of four hands each, players matching tiles into groups of four -- and the novel’s chapters are also grouped in fours and separated into four sections. The four mothers, for varying reasons, have all escaped from their past lives in China. These reasons are told to the reader, though their daughters and some of their husbands are unaware of their previous lives. The daughters feel the effects of the struggles their mothers encounter in their new lives, yet never fully understand why their moms act the way they do.

The Joy Luck Club Amy Tan G.P. Putnam’s Sons


This lack of understanding presents a major theme in Tan’s stories: the inability to communicate cross-culturally between American “low-context culture” and Chinese “highcontext culture.” A high- context culture is characterized by the existence of ‘in-groups’ which are usually low in racial diversity, value the group over the individual, have a strong sense of tradition and experience very little change over time. Because of this, individuals use few words when communicating and instead rely on members’ shared backgrounds and traditions. On the other hand, low-context cultures are made up of individuals with differing backgrounds and experiences, therefore communication between individuals needs to be explicit. The mothers in this book all come from a Chinese highcontext culture and thus say very little yet expect a lot to be understood from that. However, the American daughters expect their mothers to communicate clearly with them using base terms that they can understand. This often doesn’t happen, leaving mothers and daughters feeling frustrated and confused when trying to talk to each other.

Reviews R Being from a low-context culture and currently living in a high-context culture, I found this aspect of the book to be very interesting, as this is an obstacle I struggle with on a regular basis. As an individual who is forever not in the in-group, I often don’t know what is expected of me, what is funny, or what will happen next. But at least now I understand why.

Keliko Adams is a third-year ALT in Yukuhashi. She read The Joy Luck Club while on a trip in China and was pleased to discover that she visited a town mentioned in the book.

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Mike Seidman Hong Kong 2011

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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.

contact us at

the.refill.fukuoka@gmail.com 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. Photo: Mike Seidman


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The Refill issue 8  

Based on Fukuoka’s tradition of kaedama, in which a refill of ramen noodles is served for leftover broth, The Refill serves up additional in...

The Refill issue 8  

Based on Fukuoka’s tradition of kaedama, in which a refill of ramen noodles is served for leftover broth, The Refill serves up additional in...

Profile for therefill