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Toyama AJET Newsletter Vol.1, No.6, December 2008

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Nengajou: Bringing in the New Year with Glorified Lottery Tickets By: Rachel Chaffin




December is finally upon us, and even in this tiny corner of the world, the commercial spirit of Japanese Christmas has begun its assault on our senses. There's no escaping the shockingly bad J-pop renditions of famous Christmas carols. Boots constructed from space age thermal foil, stuffed full of packaged ham and beer sausage, are meant to pass as Christmas stockings. Ads encouraging the purchase of gaudy Christmas cakes are plastered everywhere, from department stores all the way down to convenience stores. While this strangely warped vision of Christmas seems pervasive, you need only talk to any Japanese person about the meaning of Christmas in Japan and you'll likely come up with answers empty of any real substance. Christmas for the Japanese seems to be the holiday equivalent of masturbation. The real deal is a week later: New Year's Day. The Japanese New Year's

Only about 30 cards? Must not be popular. holiday is centered on family step toward deepening your togetherness, new beginnings relationships with Japanese and connecting with people friends and co-workers can be close to you. To this end, many as simple as letting them know Japanese people subscribe to that you're thinking about the tradition of sending them. Nengajou can help you nengajou (), or New do just that! Recipients will Year's postcards. definitely appreciate your As foreigners, the cultivation thoughtfulness while you of relationships beyond mere participate in a distinctly acquaintance can be quite Japanese tradition. Nengajou can be purchased difficult. However, the first

In this issue…

Funky Presents

p. 9


p. 1-3

Toyama Thunderbirds

p. 10


p. 3

Kimono Contest Winner

p. 11

Editor’s Note, Comic, Poetry

p. 4

JET Effect

p. 12-13

Mince Pies Recipe

p. 5

Message from the Pres

p. 13


p. 6-7

Crafts in the Ken

p. 14-15

Book Review

p. 8

Upcoming Events

p. 16

Toyama AJET Newsletter Vol.1, No.6, December 2008 (continued from previous page) in any post office and in most stationery shops and department stores. Lately, even convenience stores offer a limited selection of nengajou (but really, don't be THAT guy). Most nengajou are postage-paid, so buying stamps are not necessary-simply take them to any post office and drop them off! The cool thing about nengajou is that they are ALL sent on January 1st. So, even if you send them to the post office early in December, the post office will keep your nengajou until New Year's Day! However, in order to ensure delivery, I recommend dropping them off at the post office no later than December 25th. Writing nengajou Nengajou have (obviously) two sides. One side, the back, is for addresses. On this side, you should see a box for a stamp in the upper left-hand corner. Immediately to the right are 7 smaller boxes. Addresses should be written vertically, right to left. The right half of the postcard is for the recipient's address. Write the recipient's postal code in arabic numerals in the boxes at the top. The first column should include the recipient's prefecture and city. Moving to the left, the second column should be indented and include the recipient's town, apartment building and apartment number. The third column should include the recipient's name (family name,

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A sample nengajo: back (left) and front (right). given name) followed by "sama" () in characters larger than those used for his or her address. The left half of the post card is for the sender's address. You should write in characters smaller than those of the recipient's address. Write your postal code in arabic numerals in the the boxes at the bottom. Your address should be written like the recipient’s address. The other side of the postcard, the front, is usually much more decorative. Most have drawings and New Year's greetings written on them. Often, the drawing is of the Eastern Zodiac animal representing the incoming year. Next year is the Year of the Ox, so expect to see a lot of ox/cow-themed postcards. However, nengajou featuring famous cartoon characters like Winnie the Pooh, Mickey Mouse, Doraemon, etc. are also available if your tastes happen to swing that way. Common New Year’s greet-

ings (1) include "akemashite omedetou gozaimasu" (  ) and "kinga shinnen" ( ). Some might even say "Happy New Year". You should also include your own personal message somewhere on this side of the postcard. General messages in Japanese: (2) Thanks for all the help you've given me this year. =      ! (3) I hope for your good health and good fortune in the coming year. = "# $% & '()*! (4) Thanks in advance for your kindness in the coming year. = +,-./01

2 ! (5) The date of New Year's Day for the coming year (Heisei 21) = 342156 However, it is also acceptable to write more personal messages in English instead! Finally, the best part about

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(continued from previous page) these cards are those funny numbers covered by red squiggly lines on the back of the postcard. These are lottery numbers! The lottery usually isn't for money, but for appliances, gift certificates, etc. The lottery is held in midJanuary and the winning numbers are printed in local and national newspapers. If you receive nengajou, make sure you ask one of your coworkers when the lottery will be and for help keeping an eye out for the winning numbers!

you may not receive any nengajou, especially if you're a first year ALT and/or you've never sent them before. The sad fact is that we tend to get overlooked as recipients until we send nengajou for the first time. This being the case, you may receive many embarrassed thank you's and hand-delivered nengajou. However, why not establish a precedent? You and maybe even your successors could receive nengajou for years to come.

That's it! Pretty simple, right? Now, all you have to do is drop your completed nengajou off at your local post office and wait! However, mentally prepare yourself now, as

Now, go forth and send nengajou! ◙

Japanese Reaction to Obama By: Maddy Roddell Just like the rest of the world, Japan jumped right on board with the U.S. presidential election. Our nearby town of Obama in Fukui was struck with the fever, and took great initiative in selling biscuits printed with the back of Obama’s head (for legal reasons). According to a poll conducted by Asahi Shinbun, almost 80% of Japanese people think that Obama’s win is “good”, whilst only 4% think it is “not good”*. The Japanese-US relationship is a close one, in which Japan is often said to be dependant on America, both economically and militarily. It was actually the current PM’s grandfather, Yoshida (they like to keep politics in the family in Japan!), who signed the Peace Treaty and the Japan-US security treaty in the early 1950s that has been so influential in shaping Japan-US relations in the post-war period. The last decade has been no exception. Famously, President Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi had a very close relationship. Before the elections, Aso said that his priority lay in strengthening US-Japan relations, weather that be with Obama or McCain. In an admirable show of courage, Aso invited the next American president to ‘depend’ on him. Following the election, Aso and Obama had a telephone

Koizumi treats Bush to a display of his moves, when Bush took Jun-chan to the home of his idol, Elvis Presley. conversation in which the importance of fostering ties between the two countries was stressed from both sides. However, Japan is rightfully concerned by Obama’s stance on East Asia. In relationships with China, and particularly North Korea, Japan assumes an intermediary role. However, it looks as though Obama will seek to build a closer relationship with China, and he has expressed the need for direct negotiations with North Korea. If Japan is left out of these exchanges, it will no doubt damage US relations. In the frenzy of excitement over the election of Obama, it would be easy to overlook the fact that the Japanese government has been quiet in its reaction. Perhaps the Japanese government are not quite as excited by this ground-breaking election. ◙ * The Asahi Shimbun is infamous for its stating-thedownright-obvious polls.

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Entertainment M e r r y

C h r i s t m a s

CHRISTMAS CAROLS Saturday, December 13th 2:30-4pm In Daiwa, Takaoka Mark the date! Get into the Christmas spirit by carolling in Takaoka. You don’t have to be a good singer, you don’t even have to sing. I have experienced a lot in this country without giving much in return. This is a chance for the JET community to give some our culture back to our Japanese hosts. That being said, everyone is welcome, so please invite your Japanese (or other!) friends, students, teachers to come and sing or listen. For more information please contact Paula at

The Newsletter is thriving, thanks to the hard work and enthusiasm of the contributers. Following on from last month here are a few profiles on some of our writers‌ st Mo Kirwan: 1 year ALT, Takaoka: Mo found her niche in Japan early. Taking an immediate interest in Japanese cuisine, she soon became my go-to girl when I needed to know anything about eating. Mo’s articles present an accessible view on what and where to eat in Japan with honest, frank opinions. David Piper: 1st year ALT, Takaoka: Our resident cartoonist. Dave’s skillful drawing and his sense of humour combine to make him the ideal cartoonist. Lets face it, I know most people only read the comic! You too could be a writer for the newsletter. If the autumn colour makes you feel like writing or rhyming, we would love to see it. If you would like to contribute anything to the newsletter please email me at Entertainment Editor: Paula Kerrigan

Poetry Corner A bike on a bridge. A face in a gray rain suit. A hail up the nose.  

A special haiku Is impossible to write That says how much I   

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PiePie-ning for Yuletide Fare! (Mince Pies a la Toaster Oven) With the season of drinkingyour-own-body-mass-in-alcohol, and stuffing-your-cake-holewith-whatever-passes-in-frontof-it upon us, I started reminiscing over the delicious fodder that I would have to do without while in Japan this Christmas. For me, there is one food item in particular that truly sums up Christmas: the mince pie. This delicious Christmas treat is not readily available in supermarkets like it is at home, so I made it my mission to come up with a simple recipe that defies the confines of both the Japanese supermarket and our tiny Japanese kitchens. Enjoy! Mincemeat Mixture 2 lbs apples (red and green) 680 grams of raisins 450 grams of sultanas 450 grams of currants 795 grams of brown sugar 60 grams of chopped almonds Rind of 1 orange and 1 lemon Juice of ½ a lemon and ½ an orange 30 grams of mixed spice ½ teaspoon of nutmeg ½ pint of brandy/ rum/ flavoured liquor/ beer/ stout (Guinness is great!) Method Chop ingredients above as finely as possible and mix together in a large bowl. You need to store this mixture for about 1 week in the fridge in order for the flavours to amalgamate and mature. The mixture should be enough for 12 small pies.

Acquiring the ingredients... ingredients... In terms of the dried fruit, nuts and spices, you should be able to find small packets of them in Jusco or your local foreign food store. If you’re having trouble finding them you can order them on in their food section (obviously!) The advantage of this is twofold; they sell bigger packets AND they deliver to your door within 3 days. Yay! Cheating... Cheating... Of course there’s a much easier way i.e. get your loved ones to send you some jarred mincemeat mixture from home! Ask them to be kind and send the best quality they can afford. Better quality mixture equals better quality pies and happier gaijin. Where’s The Pastry?! Making pastry can be troublesome, so my advice is to buy frozen pastry instead which you can find in a reasonably large supermarket. Shortcrust pastry is the more traditional option, but puff pastry will work just as well and will cook quicker. Method Cut the pastry into discs using a glass or cup. Place a tablespoon of the mince mixture onto the centre of the bottom disc. Brush some egg yolk around the edges and place the second disc on top, pinching around the edges to seal/ make it look pretty. Dust with some brown sugar if desired. Place on an oven proof tray and pop into your toaster

Mo Kirwan

oven (yep, you read right....toaster oven!) at 200 degrees Celsius/ 350 Fahrenheit for about 50 minutes. Due to the size of toaster ovens you will probably have to bake them in batches. You can cut down on the cooking time by microwaving the pies first for about 5 minutes and then baking them for 35-40 minutes. Mince Pie Gyoza Anyone? (well we are in Japan !) This is a variation of the traditional mince pie but just as delicious and really easy to make! Gyoza skins are readily available in Japanese supermarkets and provide a good alternative to pastry. Simply place a teaspoon of mince meat mixture onto the centre of the skin, wet the inside edges of the skin with water/ milk, pinch together to seal and you’ve got yourself mince pies, Japanese style! You can cook the gyoza the traditional way or bake them in your toaster oven at 200 degrees Celsius/ 350 Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes. These little parcels of delight are delicious with some fresh cream with Baileys or brandy mixed into it, or just good old vanilla ice cream. Serve hot but don’t burn your tongue! ʠ

Toyama AJET Newsletter Vol.1, No.6, December 2008

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Wandering the Back Roads of Uozu

Ally Lomas

Rows of daikon… shrines the size of dog kennels… Bizarre insects. Not the sort of thing to turn the prefecture into a major international tourist destination, but then, we are not tourists. As the autumn and winter nights draw in, and the glut of public holidays and three-day weekends come to end, my mind often turns to exploring in Toyama rather than further afield. There is, of course, one problem with this. Toyama is not famous for its things to do. A glance at one of the many guidebooks designed for foreigners visiting Japan cements this. The less adventurous would be fooled into thinking that all is doom and gloom. I, for one, gain pleasure from discovering the unexpected, the unusual, and the unplanned, and I would think that I have a lot in common with other JETs in enjoying this.

The absence of English information makes it a lot easier to discover something new.

It was this that made me put aside my cynicism, get on my bike, and explore my back yard…Uozu. Uozu town (officially it’s a city, but, well, it’s not) is more interesting than it first appears. For starters, (and one of various reasons that it’s not a city), most of it is unbuilt on. Like most towns in Toyama, it has a small area populated by people, and medium-sized area populated by rice and ravens, and a large area populated by trees and bears. When there are trees and bears things can never be boring. Riding away from the coast, you can find many interesting things. Buildings not made of concrete. Rows of daikon, onions or kaki hanging around as if the whole of Toyama was an outdoor larder. Tiny little shrines the size of dog kennels. Bizarre insects. Not, I admit, the sort of thing to turn the prefecture into a major interna-

tional tourist destination, but then we are not tourists. By going out into the inaka you can see real Japan, not the polished touristic veneer of Kyoto or the grey, dusty and gloomy realms of the teacher’s room at school. Little collapsing houses and old ladies in vegetable patches with gold teeth are what Japan is built out of. The coasts also hold interesting things. Down at Uozu’s rather unexceptional harbour a man once started talking to me and ended up giving me a bag of fish he’d just caught. Little old buildings with tiny winding alleyways creep up from the concrete coast. Fishing boats bob up and down, hung with rows of lights. People collect seaweed and shellfish from gaps in the concrete. Sometimes there isn’t even concrete. One of my favourite discoveries last year was an entire village on the edge of

Toyama AJET Newsletter Vol.1, No.6, December 2008 (Continued from previous page) the mountains near one of my elementary schools. It was ancient, based around a templeand-shrine complex, in a valley so deep in must have rarely seen the sun. It took all afternoon to get there, and there was nothing really there when I got there, but it was pretty and filled in a hole in my mental map. In the summer, forced to ride the dentetsu to Toyama from Uozu thanks to some kind of electrical fault on the JR, I realised it was actually really nice to be on a train surrounded by rice in low evening sunlight. There are little wooden stations; friendly station masters; drunk men who ask you if you’re OK and watch your reflection in the window until they fall asleep; bears; and the general (rare in Japan) feeling that as long as you get there, being in a hurry doesn’t matter.

This year, with the help of Steve’s car, we have taken exploring Toyama to new lengths. A result of the corrupt and useless bureaucracy of rural budgeting has resulted in a large number of entirely unmarked and meaningless roads to nowhere on the edge of the mountains. The downside to these is that they don’t go anywhere and ruin perfectly useful wilderness, but

Page 7 the upside is you can drive your car to the end, sit on a swing in a never-used playground, and watch the changing leaves and sunset.

On our last trip, turned back on a road closed by early snow, we crossed a plateau outside Oyama to discover monkeys. We drove down a side lane to look at them and found a huge group had launched a guerrilla raid on a farmer’s kaki tree under cover of dusk. As we watched, a white van sped down the road, a dog running alongside. The monkeys did what they do best and the dog was left barking excitedly at empty trees. The point of this article is not really about my experiences however. It’s to put the idea out there that there is something worth doing in Toyama. Living in the sticks in a foreign country requires a certain change of mindset, and new ways of entertaining yourself. Toyama is not famed for its club scene; its shopping; arts; or many of the things JETs are used to at home. One option is to stay at home and watch Youtube videos all day. The other is to get out there and see the Japan we live in.

Go and play in the countryside. It’s nice out there. ◙

A UNESCO World Heritage Site right on our back doorstep! Gokayama Did you know Toyama has a UNESCO World Heritage Site right in our backyard? If you haven’t experienced the fantastic Gasshō houses of Gokayama yet, the winter is the perfect (and even recommended) time to visit, with the snow adding an air of romance to the unique view of a village so isolated in the mountains that electricity didn’t reach it until 1925! The houses are between 300 and 400 years old and before WWII there were over 1,800 such buildings in the area. Now that number has dwindled in the face of modernity to just 150; 100 in Shirakawago just over the border in Gifu, and the rest in Gokayama.

Toyama AJET Newsletter Vol.1, No.6, December 2008

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The History of the Siege of Lisbon by José Saramago (Translated by Giovanni Pontiero) By Katherine Kapsidelis

Sometimes its so hard to pick up a book that we don’t. Or we grab the nearest thing. With the prospect of long haul flights or copious amounts of free time approaching for many of us Katherine Kapsidelis offers up a book that is both intelligent and entertaining, as well as being refreshingly on the left of the beaten holiday reading track.

“And what is most curious is that no one among those present should have contradicted this inaccurate version of the facts when the evidence was so readily available, which only goes to show how lacking in curiosity some people are and how slow their minds work, when confronted with such a dogmatic statement, wheresoever it may come from and whatever the reliability, whether from a fat woman or Allah, not to cite other well-known sources.” (196)

José Saramago is a Nobel Prize winning Portuguese writer. “The History of the Siege of Lisbon”, written in 1989, is the story of an ordinary proofreader who abruptly interrupts his normal, ho-hum life by adding a single word – “not”– into the historical text that he is editing. This “not,” inserted at a pivotal moment, shakes up his life and crucially changes the course of Portuguese history – or, perhaps, it does not. The novel, which weaves in and out of the “history” of the siege of Lisbon to follow the story of the proofreader, is both a love story and a serious reflection on history and its construction. It makes explicit the role of the individual, both as authors and historical actors, and shows how it is impossible to simply record history. History, Saramago argues through the story of the proofreader, is always created – and creation includes both fiction and

truth, along with the errors, judgment, and hopes of its authors. One of the most unique aspects of Saramago’s novels is his writing style. His sentences last for paragraphs, if not pages, and encompass full conversations with the aid of only a comma. He leaves the “she saids” and “he saids” behind and the resulting dialogues are lyrical, engrossing, mesmerizing – and sometimes a bit confusing. If you let yourself fall into the flow of the conversations, however, this confusion does nothing at all to detract from the story. There is so much more that should be said about this novel. In short, however, I would definitely recommend it. Though the format and writing style are perhaps a bit challenging (especially at first), it is a witty novel that raises some important questions about the way we understand history. The story of the proofreader is also quite entertaining – and romantic while effortlessly sidestepping the cliché. ʠ

Toyama AJET Newsletter Vol.1, No.6, December 2008

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Ooh Thanks , I’ve Always Wanted a Smoking B aby... By Ruth Kingdon

Whether you’re going home for the holidays, or just thinking about sending a few pressies home to your nearests and dearests, and taking a pair or novelty chopsticks home just won’t cut it then look no further than your local 100 yen shop. Here I have compiled a top 5 of just those sort of wonderful products for you, to take the effort out of that always draining and depressing experience – buying stuff for other people.

5. Golden Poo

3. Age Defying Mask

Some golden poo items are functional (money box, purse etc) but this one is in fact just a model of a gold poo on a red cushion. Your mum would love this – if she was a habitual weed smoker and she needed something to amuse her while she waited for her dealer to answer the phone because he doesn’t get up till 4pm on weekdays.

Carrying the slogan “How old are you?” I would assume that the makers of this item believe that if you add red spirals to your cheeks, a mono-brow and a line of a drool to your face your age will be totally undecipherable. Wicked.

4. Surprising Leg “Looks so real! Its incredible .” I am not sure if you can file a case for false advertising if the manufacturers of the product are not even attempting to conceal that their bold statements utterly false.

2. Smoking Baby Ever wanted to see a baby smoke a cigarette? Now you can! Just light the specially designed incense “Li’l Smokes” and watch him puff away. You can even buy refills, but they do curiously cost more than a real packet of Marlboro lights. And remember, as the slogan on the box says:

` REAL Babies Should NEVER Smoke`

1. Panty Hose Game It really is just a glorified pair of tights with four legs but it is the official top gift to send home to your loved ones. They can laugh for hours with the Lets-all-put-our-head up-some-tight-legs-andthen-pull-and-see-whocan-get-their-heads-outfastest-and-not-get-stuck game. The packet also comes emblazoned with the slogan “Everyone looks stupid!” which, I think, is as good as saying the game comes with free money.

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Toyama Thunderbirds Are Go! Baseball at its best… By Jon Perry

In the last sports article, I introduced Toyama’s top football team, so this time we move on to baseball. Now, I’m English, so writing about baseball may seem incongruous. It is. My combined baseball experience up to this point has involved three matches. For my first, I sat next to her my friend as her beloved Orix Buffaloes were walloped 5-0 by the mighty Lotte Marines. I focused mainly on developing a sunburn so extreme it caused old ladies across Japan to ask after my welfare in concerned tones over the next two weeks. My two other experiences were matches between my old university, Keio, and their local rivals, Waseda. I spent the majority of these matches infuriating an American acquaintance with my inability to understand even the simplest of precepts of this new game.

So, the chap with the bat has to run if he hits the ball? “For the fourth time, YES, HE DOES. It’s not like your cricket where they’re allowed to stand there all day until everyone decides it’s time for a cup of tea. We like our games to finish on the same day they start!” You will gather,

then, that I am not a natural baseball correspondent. Indeed, I look on baseball as I look on dieting: a wonderful thing for somebody else to do. So, this introduction to the Toyama Thunderbirds will be a) mercifully short and b) mostly taken from Japanese wikipedia entry, translated for your reading pleasure. The team is a relative newcomer on the baseball scene, founded in October 2006. In their inaugural season they emerged as champions of the Hokuriku region, seeing off the Ishikawa Million Stars in the deciding match of the season. Japanese amateur baseball consists of regional leagues, whose winners then go on to compete in a knockout competition. The Thunderbirds victory let them progress to the regional finals (somewhat cryptically called the Island Ring Competition), in which they dispatched the equally cryptically named Gunma Diamond Pegasus 3-0. This meant they were through to the final of the Japan Baseball Grand Championships, which took the form of a 5 game series. First blood went to the opposition when the Kagawa Olive Guyners (we’ve moved on from the merely cryptic to the utterly daft) won the first match 3-0; as did second blood, leaving Toyama with a

mountain to climb at two down, three to play. However, the third and fourth matches were played on home soil at the Toyama Baseball Stadium, and this seemed to spur the Thunderbirds into action, winning 5-2 and 4-0. The 5th game, then, was an enticing prospect. Things looked good for Toyama, who held a 2-1 lead going into the eighth. However, the Olive Guyners managed to pull it back at the death, coming out with a 3-2 victory and the right to call themselves Japanese Amateur Champions for the second year running. The Thunderbirds looked shocked and bewildered; the knowledge that their team name is much less silly than their opponents a scant consolation as they collected their runners up medals. However, they will be back next year. Despite their loss, they will be heartened by their performance in their first season, and will be asking themselves, “Can we go one better next season?” Their answer must surely be, in the words of Barack Obama (or Bob the Builder if you prefer), a resounding: “Yes, we can!” ʠ

Toyama AJET Newsletter Vol.1, No.6, December 2008

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Dressed for Success

An interview by: Tiffany Dyer

She folded. She pulled. She snapped, tucked, tugged and tied, and she did it all with flare and grace! That’s right, Toyama’s darling CIR from Namerikawa, Michelle Runk, is the winner of this year’s Hokuriku Region Kimono Contest, Foreigner Division! Here are a few things she has to say about kimonos, the contest, and her victory:

only on time, but also on accuracy, style and manner.

Why did you join the kimono contest? I joined the contest because I was told it is held once every several years and I figured the contest would be my only chance to participate in something like that. Another reason was because if I entered the contest, the lessons were free.

When is the national competition [in Tokyo]? How are you preparing for it? The national competition is in April, I am not sure what day yet. Starting this month I will be practicing hard core. And I will also try to remember to put on my zori this time.

Did you take lessons? How often? What were they like? I took lessons once a week for a couple of hours for 3 months, and the last month before the contest I sometimes went twice a week for several hours. The lessons were kind of like: set up obi and accessories, make obi, have obi checked by sensei, put on kimono, be checked over by sensei again, undo the obi, set up again and repeat and repeat and repeat… Later on we (Van and I) were

What was the most nerveracking part of this experience for you? Between getting my accessories stuck together, (all velcro) and forgetting to put on my zori (kimono sandals, kinda like geta), the whole thing was nerve-racking from start to finish.

The winner of the Hokuriku Region Annual KimonoWearing Contest (Foreigner Division) is:

Michelle Runk! able to do the kimono without any major mistakes, we were only checked once, after we were finished with both the kimono and obi. What was the competition like? What did you do, and how do you think they judged it? The competition definitely did not feel like one to me. There were only 8 of us, and I already knew 4 people. It was more of a “let’s put our kimonos on stage without screwing up too much and laugh about it later” thing. I made my obi first, took off my kimono belt and redressed myself properly, then put on the obi, making necessary adjustments. I was told the judges judged not

Do you plan to continue studying kimono-wearing after the contest? Why or why not? I am planning on studying a bit of kimono wearing after the contest—I would like to learn another kind of obi. Finally, any words of advice for aspiring kimono-wearers? Its hard work, frustrating and complicated all at the same time, but its definitely worth it when you can buy your own kimono and put it on yourself. Once you memorize the steps it gets much, much easier. Another bonus is when your Japanese friends ask you to teach them! ◙

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JET Effect: Fukui City Orphanage Project The Fukui Shi Orphanage celebrated Health and Sports Day this year in a way that was uniquely befitting of its origins. Fortytwo years ago, the second Monday of October was set aside to commemorate the 1964 Olympic games in Tokyo, and to foster healthy minds and bodies through physical activity. Almost half a century later, another kind of international sports event was taking place: an EastMeets-West Sports Festival and barbecue organized by local JETs. On this sunny Monday holiday, in a big dirt field behind the Fukui city orphanage, children were balancing bean bags on their heads and bouncing along on the backs of volunteers they had been getting to know for the past six months. "When our Kencho ALT asked the Fukui JET community to think about new volunteering opportunities, Michael Maher King approached a local orphanage to see what the ALT community could do to help the home" Lauren Stockhauen, the Fukui JET co-president says of the project's simple beginnings. Six months ago, with the help of a local Elementary school teacher familiar with the orphanage staff, Mike was able to set up a meeting to talk about starting

monthly volunteer visits to the home. The orphanage staff were very excited about the idea, but because there was no precedent for this kind of volunteer activity, it took careful planning and a tender approach to get things off the ground. Since then, the project has bloomed spectacularly. Each month, a number of volunteers equal to the number of children who participate spend two hours playing games and becoming human jungle gyms for the kids. The visits are aimed more at giving the children one-on-one interaction and allowing them to develop friendships with people from around the world than teaching them English. The EastMeets-West sports day was a culmination of these visits made possible by the relationships built over the past six months. On the sports-day agenda was a flavorful mix of traditional Japanese and foreign field day events from tug-of-war to a three-legged race.

The response to the ongoing project from both children and orphanage staff has been overwhelmingly positive. "They love it and are delighted at everything," Mike says of the Fukui Shi Furien staff and children, "The staff have huge respect for all the ALTs, which is really great for the ego." The volunteer interest is also growing. In addition to JET volunteers, many local people and even an international club have approached the organizers to get involved. There are now over 60 people on the volunteer list, which has allowed the project to expand. Fukui JETs are now visiting another orphanage in Southern Fukui, and they hope to eventually send volunteers to all five orphanages in the prefecture. The organizers were very excited to encourage other prefectures to start similar projects. Mike, the cheerful and dedicated leader, is full of wisdom. A few pearls include keeping motivation up by getting people involved in the planning, starting small, explaining clearly what you want to do and listening to any concerns and questions they have. Lastly, he has a positive belief in the mantra, "the more the merrier": they are hoping to continue expanding the project and

Toyama AJET Newsletter Vol.1, No.6, December 2008

Page 13 further involve the local community. The organizers were pleased to have a prefectural newspaper cover the event. They are hoping it will encourage more members of the Japanese community to get involved. Michael Maher King concluded with, "Basically the orphanage project keeps surprising me with how easy it is and how rewarding it is...I cannot recommend this project enough to every Prefecture in Japan. Try it! You will be surprised by how many people want to help, and how much of a difference you can make to a few kids lives who really need you.“ 

A message from the pres

To anyone taking the JLPT, any level, on December 7th, AJET would like to say…

GOOD LUCK AND  DID YOU KNOW… In Japan,  (kitto katsu) translates loosely into “certain success.” Because this sounds so similar to Kit Kat, the Japanese have gone wild for this lucky confection! It is not uncommon for friends to give KitKat bars to one another before a major test or interview. Before a friend, coworker or student’s next major test, why not give them a KitKat for good luck? They might not pass, but at least they won’t be hungry!

JETs taking the JLPT would accept any of these flavors…

Toyama AJET Newsletter Vol.1, No.6, December 2008

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Craft in the Ken By: Mel Messer When I think of craft fairs in America, I think of grassy fields where jaded ex-hippies, sweet-faced Mennonites, middle aged Do-It-Yourself folk, and elderly Renaissance men and women wander out of their hermitages to present their carpentry, pottery, and blown glass on card tables, kiosks, and truck beds. I think of leatherwork, knitted scarves, and handmade jewelry. The Toyama Craft Fair is not so different, except it is indoors and these artisans probably have more regular human contact. The clean, white-washed, well-lit interior of the second floor of the Shimin Plaza gave the atmosphere of an art exhibition rather than a market. I sort of wished I had dressed nicer or that I had received a free glass of wine. Nonetheless, I did get what I came for: 18 meticulously organized booths worth of craft from the ken. I felt the happy adrenaline all scarf-lovers must feel upon entering a craft fair, except for in this ken, we get our wooly yarn from Hokkaido, the land of milk and honey. I felt the weight of my coffee thermos, wondering if the heating of my face was caffeine-related. Nope. Still half full. It was scarf fever. I did a biased first survey of the place, noting the booths with the funkiest scarves, and then another round to look at everything else. The highlights of the fair were undoubtedly the quality of the crafts and the geniality

of their makers. A quick poll of four other Anglophone patrons revealed the coolest swag at the fair was unanimously the lacquer ware. I witnessed the purchasing of several lacquer pieces from an elderly married couple who kept forgetting the prices and conferring with each other. They were a jolly but slick pair of vendors, pointing out other lovely pieces for our mothers and overseeing the painstaking, flip-flopping decision making processes of their patrons with care and patience. It made me think of an American potter who I asked whether she had any other plates of with the same glaze as I was holding? Look around, no. Or if she might make some with me in mind since I visit her regularly? No. Or if she ever made any pieces with the same glaze, would her daughter give me a call? No. Bear in mind, these pieces were not cheap, she

Toyama AJET Newsletter Vol.1, No.6, December 2008

rarely sold any, and she needed to. It was her livelihood. Customer service and warmth is not always the main concern for artisans back home. At the Fair, the silver worker greeted me as I passed, looking equally for a chat as for an admirer of her work. She confided in me that she was from Fukui, not from Toyama, that she just happened to be passing through that weekend. I told her I’d keep quiet on that, and she empathized on teaching high school sannensei at a craft school who no longer wanted to learn because they had jobs lined up, as she had done before she quit teaching to pursue jewelry making fulltime. The other patrons I spoke with all had similar interactions and felt that the people were just as much a part of the Fair as the crafts. I had been counting on this fair to fulfill my

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Christmas shopping list for the family. Craft venues are one of my most relied upon sources for gifts back home. From the Green Market in New York, to the farmers markets and craft shows in local coffee shops in Kentucky, to El Marcado in downtown San Antonio. I left the Shimin Plaza with just one woolen scarf for my aunt, sated nonetheless. The Toyama Craft Fair was, in fact, a fair, and not simply a market. â—™

Toyama AJET Quick Contacts: President: Treasurer: Excursions: Social Reps: T.R.A.M: Librarians: (Tonami/Takaoka) TBA (Toyama) (Niikawa) Charity: Webmaster:

AJET Newsletter Staff: Editors/Formatters: Tiffany Dyer Paula Kerrigan Staff Writers: Michael Grudzinski Mo Kirwan Ally Lomas Jon Perry Maddy Roddell Haiku Guru: Bryce Rawers Cartoonist: David Piper Production: Danielle Lewerenz

Toyama AJET Newsletter Vol.1, No.6, December 2008

Page 16

What’s Happening – December 2008 Sunday



Wednesda y










6 Happy Birthday Lurdes

Namerikawa Book Club

Happy Birthday Jaimee




9 Happy Birthday John D



15 Happy Birthday Lee



18 Happy Birthday Danielle



23 Emperor’s Birthday







V{Ü|áàÅtá VtÜÉÄá

Toyama Book Club Meeting







Happy Birthday Stephanie

New Years Eve

Be sure to look for more upcoming events on, or through the TNB (Toyama News Bulletin), sent via email each week!

AJET Newsletter  

December 2008