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Competition ! Back by popular demand ! We want to know what the most unusual thing you’ve seen in Japan is. Send your entry by April 23rd to ajet.newsletter@gmail.com and we will print the best ones in next month’s Toyama Times. The winner will receive a special prize! *If you have a picture please include it.

A word from the Ed: Come on Toyama-ken! We JETs have survived 3 months of freezation, rain, kerosene and wind. It’s been hard to get to work and our plans to meet friends have been marred with rain. It’s time for some SUNSHINE! And let’s drop the icy wind shall we. I have inserted a weather forecast (right) and I would like you to follow it. Now that the weather is sorted let’s see what there is to look forward to in this month’s issue of the Toyama Times. As usual we bring you a smorgasbord of book reviews, event reviews and Japanese culture. If you’re looking for a laugh to lift your mood, look no further than Jarrad’s article. And don’t forget to look at the platforms for the AJET campaigners on pg 17. The editing team would like to thank everyone who Toyama contributed to this month’s edition of the Toyama Times. Special thanks to Zach Z. for letting me exploit his skill. If you are interested in writing for the Times then bang off an email to Jon at ajet.newsletter@gmail.com and wait for the magic to happen. The deadline for the May edition of the Toyama Times is April 23rd, so get writing quick. We welcome submissions of art, poetry, comedy, reviews and anything else you can convert to PDF so if you have something to share now’s your chance. Toyama AJET Quick Contacts President: toyama.ajet@gmail.com Treasurer: hsolomon112@yahoo.ca Excursions: excursionsrep@gmail.com Social: socialreps@gmail.com Charity: toyama.for.charity@gmail.com Publications: ajet.newsletter@gmail.com

Toyama Times Staff Editors: Paula Kerrigan & Jon Perry Assistant Editors Kellie Petruzzelli & Nicole Meanor Staff Writers: Jon Perry, KYLE ALBRIGHT, Kieran Murphy


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Pg 3

Pg 5 6 Pg 4

AJET Prom By Brett Quimby

April Calendar

Pg 8

Highway Blues By Jon Perry

Pg 9

Pg 7

Oh, The Places By Jarrad Skinner

st Feisty Fish Fea Lomas By Alastair

Mino Monta By Cory Potwin

Pg 10 - 11 Pg 13 - 14 Pg 12

Game of Generals By Matthew Dowd

Kafka on the Shore By Kyle Albright

French Quarter Cafe By Laura Rountree


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TUE

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Easter Sunday

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Happy Birthday Hilda

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Happy Birthday Christine

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17 AJET Prom

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Happy Birthday Jonathan D.

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Happy Birthday Cory

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Happy Birthday Happy Birthday Shambhavi Yasmin

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!"#$ Showa Day

Advertise your event (or an event you know about) on the AJET calendar! Send info to ajet. ajet.newsletter@gmail.com newsletter@gmail.com


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007: A License to Dance

Two years ago, I ran a Prom event in Kurobe as a fundraiser for the Charity Show. With a budget of zero, and the support of many enthusiastic ALTs, that event was a total success, raising 30,000 yen for the Charity Show and providing good times for all who came out. This year, as an AJET Social Rep, I am bringing the Prom back, and I hope to repeat the success we had last time. Once again, this year’s Prom will be held at Colare in Kurobe City, and it will feature all of the fine music and dancing goodness of my previous Prom with a few new twists. The theme for this year’s Prom will be “007: A License to Dance,” an homage to James Bond and secret agents in general. There will be no mandatory costume or dress codes, but guests are encouraged to go for a secret agent look. We do ask that guests try to maintain at least semiformal dress, but again this will not be required. In addition to your typical prom

fare like dancing and the coronation of a Prom King and Queen, we will have a number of other attractions and services for our guests to enjoy. For starters, we will have pizza for sale by the slice from Kurobe’s acclaimed Pizza Jamboree, the best pizza you’ll find in the region. In addition, we will have a “bar” serving can beer and chu-hi, and I am currently looking into adding martinis to the menu as well. There will be a backdrop for photographs, along with someone on hand to snap shots for you. We are also planning on running a raffle with a cash top prize and a few goodies for runners up. While this event will be a chance for many of us to relive our high school glory days, I also hope to bring in many guests who have never experienced a prom. As I work at Colare, this event is currently being advertised here in Kurobe as a cultural event, and there seems to be a lot of interest in the local population as well. Thus, one of my goals for the Prom is to make it as authentic as possible, while still making it enjoyable for adults of course.

By Brett Quimby As with the previous Prom, proceeds from this event will be donated directly to the Charity Show. I hope this year’s Prom is just as enjoyable and successful as the last one, and faor that I need your Help. So come on out and enjoy a fine evening of espionage and intrigue. If you have any questions or would like to help, please contact me at bmquimby@gmail.com

The Details Time: Sat. April 17, 6:00pm10:30pm Place*: Colare in Kurobe (coming from Toyama, left turn off Rt. 8 at stop light just before Mac House jeans shop) Price: 1,000 yen; includes one free drink ticket *Colare is most easily reached by car. For those coming from JR Kurobe Station, we recommend arranging a ride from a Kurobe ALT or taking a taxi from the station. Cab fares to Colare should be just over 1,000 yen. Rides can be arranged for anyone coming to help. Feel free to email me for more information or better directions.


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Hokuriku Highway Blues On Saturday morning, myself and Toyama's best dressed man, Ally Lomas, set out from Uozu city with a fairly hazy plan of hitchhiking towards Niigata, finding some sake breweries, and consuming as much of Japan’s favourite rice based alcoholic beverage as we could over the long weekend. Hitchhiking had never crossed my mind as a way to travel in the UK. Too dangerous, said my inner self. Too much chance of meeting a pub bore who would pick you up only in order to secure a captive audience for his fascinating stories about the anomalies of European farm subsidies or the gauge specifications of Welsh model railways. In Japan, though, these worries seemed less pressing; hitchhiking would be a good way to meet people, and pub bores could be easily put off by pretending a total ignorance of the Japanese language. This, combined with the astronomical cost of train travel, suddenly rendered hitchhiking a good idea.

Uozu. Still, it doesn’t pay to plan too carefully when hitchhiking – you may end up going to a completely new place after striking up a conversation with a perfect stranger! So, we stood at the side of the road, pasted our biggest smiles to our faces, and held out our sign. Our first ride came in the shape of Oshida san's (pictured left) pick up truck, which he invited us to ride in the back of. This is completely illegal, but he was a snowboarder type and didn't seem to mind. If you've ever wondered what the view from the back of a pick up truck driving along the road to Itoigawa is like, well, you're in luck. It looks a lot like this:

He took us as far as the outskirts of Itoigawa, upon which a kindly construction worker, on his way to get some lunch, offered to take us into the centre of town towards the station and Route 8. However, before pressing on, our first sake brewery called. The place looked disappointingly closed upon our arrival, but a !"r plan had become no quick call to a phone number on more concrete by the time we the door, combined with a little arrived at the side of Route 8 in white lie about us having come all

By Jon Perry

the way from England to sample the sake of the Kaganoi brewery, soon gained us access to the heady liquors within.

History buffs may be interested to know that the Kaganoi brewery is the oldest in all of Niigata, dating from 1653, and that it was founded by Takaoka`s very own Toshitsune Maeda, who was responsible for the building of Zuiryuu temple. Non history buffs may not give two figs.

After taking an interesting detour to a free exhibition of wooden inlay pictures, and being thoroughly interrogated about the UK by the artist and his friend, we carried on towards Joetsu. The road here is pretty much on top of the sea, but hulking rows of tetrapods, looking like malevolent insects climbing over each other in


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a frenzied swarm, quashed any thoughts we had of resting on the beach. Still, our walk passed some pleasingly ramshackle buildings,

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They had, alas, finished their season’s brewing, but the young owner was happy to give us a quick tasting of their product, which was smooth, dry and delicious enough to persuade us to relieve him of a bottle of Katabune sake and two `one cups` for the journey. Wandering back to the main road took us past a bakery in a very traditional looking building, run by the campest man this side of Shinjuku Nichome.

and the unseasonal warmth kept our spirits high. Before long we had secured our third lift from Satosan, a jolly businessman and fisherman.

He sped us past tiny villages clinging to the edge of the land, and was kind enough to go well past his intended bookshop destination to take us to the tiny Takeda brewery.

Refuelling on purin and soft choux pastries, the sun was slowly lowering in the evening sky, touching the buildings with a golden tint and reminding us that we should get on before it got too dark for anyone to see our hitchhiking signs. We came into the enviable position of having two lifts; firstly, a woman with two children offered to take us, because her little ones had said we looked kawaiso, pitiful, standing by the side of the road. Immediately, another car pulled up, peopled by Yuuji the student.

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Yuji had come home for the holidays, and it was him who took us to Kashiwazaki. On the way we took the chance to quiz him about where we should spend the night. Assuring us that Kashiwazaki was pretty dull, but that Nagaoka, the next city, was zettai tanoshii (definitely fun), we decided to cut our losses and take a train there. As it turns out, the misconception under which Yuji was labouring was pretty enormous. Nagaoka looked duller than a ten watt bulb, and initial reconnaissance did little to improve our opinions; it felt like we were Jehovah’s witnesses and the whole city was pretending not to be in. In the end, though, we found the city’s hiding place; a bar with live jazz, delicious beer, and cheesecake. Next morning was rainy, cold, and viciously windy. After failing signally to find any sake breweries, it was time to cut and run. Holding out our Niigata sign, fingers numbing and water blowing through our waterproofs, we must have cut a sorry enough sight for Mr. and Mrs. Yamazaki and their Maltese, Kojiro, to pick us up and get us towards the more hospitable conditions of Niigata city.

***Do come back next month for the concluding part of Ally and Jon’s thrilling adventure!


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Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

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By Jarrad Skinner

For your convenience, we've provided an English translation of the principal's speech to graduating students $

%

Good morning, everyone. I'm not sad to say goodbye to you _______________________________________________________________________ today. It's about time you learned the truth. We've tried our best, but _______________________________________________________________________ we failed you. You'll leave school today to begin your adult life. And _______________________________________________________________________ the world outside of here is colder than you can imagine. Maybe you're _______________________________________________________________________ eager to leave, thinking the world awaits your talents. I'm here today _______________________________________________________________________ to inform you it does not. You're completely unprepared. Or maybe _______________________________________________________________________ you're eager to leave because you think of this place as a prison. I'm _______________________________________________________________________ here to inform you that this was merely a playground. We dress up _______________________________________________________________________ everyday according to our roles and put on a show for our own _______________________________________________________________________ satisfaction. _______________________________________________________________________ Out there, you will find a world that will never pause to even _______________________________________________________________________ consider humoring you with the impression that you're of any _______________________________________________________________________ consequence. The luckiest of those among you have already had a _______________________________________________________________________ peek at this truth. You think the world cares that it's raining on a day _______________________________________________________________________ you had plans outdoors? You're angry at nothing but your own _______________________________________________________________________ helplessness. Not one curse you cry is heard . _______________________________________________________________________ I truly hope you enjoyed your time here. Even if you didn't, you _______________________________________________________________________ may find yourself looking back at your time here fondly. A small smile _______________________________________________________________________ will creep onto your face before you realize that day by day you are getting older, and you'll shake _______________________________________________________________________________________________ this thought away and return to whatever distraction you put in front of your face to demand your _______________________________________________________________________________________________ attention. _______________________________________________________________________________________________ Do you know one day the sun will explode? And until you have an answer for that problem, _______________________________________________________________________________________________ consider everything you ever do pointless. Not one thing will remain which will have a trace of _______________________________________________________________________________________________ your existence. Oh! Interstellar-travel? I got three words for you: Universal heat death. We can't _______________________________________________________________________________________________ even prevent global warming. _______________________________________________________________________________________________ Anyway, do what you can, while you can, or not, whatever. You may consider yourselves _______________________________________________________________________________________________ lucky if you already have a job lined up for yourself. If you think spending your healthiest years _______________________________________________________________________________________________ serving someone else is luck, then yeah, you're lucky. The jobless among you are simply without _______________________________________________________________________________________________ the social pressures and resources to distract themselves from the pointlessness of existence. _______________________________________________________________________________________________ Maybe some of you will travel. For those of you, I offer this advice. People are pretty much _______________________________________________________________________________________________ the same everywhere. They're selfish and eternally self-deluded that they know more and are of _______________________________________________________________________________________________ more consequence than they actually are. Do you think anyone truly knows anyone else? You'd be _______________________________________________________________________________________________ wrong. We exist trapped somewhere between our skull walls unable to appreciate anything or _______________________________________________________________________________________________ anyone for what it actually is. We wander lost in our own personal halls of mirrors. _______________________________________________________________________________________________ Work hard, but don't forget that some fool on the other side of the planet can try to make _______________________________________________________________________________________________ money for nothing, and as a consequence, the factory you work at will be closed down. In addition, _______________________________________________________________________________________________ there are those willing to destroy in a feeble attempt to prove themselves right. _______________________________________________________________________________________________ Reason is but a shadow in this world and I advise you not to waste your little time wrestling with _______________________________________________________________________________________________ shadows. The innocent are bound to the damned. _______________________________________________________________________________________________ That is all. _______________________________________________________________________________________________ Now let’s sing the school song. _______________________________________________________________________________________________ _______________________________________________________________________________________________

#


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Feisty Fish Feast Finished! Champion Crowned

By Alastair Lomas, Lomas, Sports and Fisheries Correspondent

Crowds waited with baited breath as the umpteenth approxi-annual All-Toyama Sushi Challenge got underway at ‘Sushi Kui, ne!’ in Takaoka on Saturday March 13th. It’s been a while since there has been one in the prefecture, at least officially, but Toyama AJET Charity Reps, Alastair Lomas and Michael Grudzinski re-instated the most important food-based competitive event in the Toyama calendar with a bang! Aside from deciding the person with the most powerful appetite in the area, this year the organisers hoped to raise money for the production of the 20th Toyama International Charity Show, which will be held at the end of the spring, and to donate money to its chosen charities. 27 hungry people from around the region descended on the venue for a 4pm kick-off on Sunday afternoon determined to become Toyama’s fastest, fullest fish-fanatic. Outside was cold and grey but conditions inside the arena were perfect for a highscoring game. Temperatures were moderate and the conveyor was moving in a clockwise direction at

an average speed of 8cm/s with over-the-counter orders also provided. Portions were 2 rolls a plate, with avocado and buri proving popular but with a surprise poor showing for natto. Proceedings got off at a fast pace, but sushi is a plate of two halves and as belts were loosened and stacks mounted it became clear that the main fight would be between the mammoth appetites of Phil Keenan and Rachel Chaffin. Both contestants exceeded the target set 2 years ago of 30 plates by previous champion Alastair Lomas, who backed down early this year at a middle-order score of 20 (retired hurt) complaining of mercury poisoning. As the second half wore on things continued at a fast pace, with special mentions going to Ryan Pruitt and Tuan Vinh for healthy knocks. However, towards the end it was obvious that the consistency of Chaffin and Keenan would be impossible to beat. Eventually experience wonout and Rachel Chaffin (pictured above with her spoils) had reached a final tally of 40 (declared) at the end of the 90 minutes, making her the 2010 Sushi Queen. In the process she set a prefectural record and a personal best. Interviewed after the event, the new champion gasped, "Desperation was the name of the game. At 29 plates, I knew I didn't have enough money to pay for all

I'd eaten if I lost. I couldn't lose!" Phil Keenan was run-out on 31 and went home for an early shower. Miss Chaffin was rewarded with her prize (a free meal) and left with her head held high and her digestive tracts hanging low. After all the emotional highs and lows, it must be remembered that this competition was held in the name of charity. The contestants between them raised 13,500& to help enable this year’s charity show to be the greatest spectacle in Toyama history since the battle of Uozu in 1582. In addition, the contestants single-handedly saved the prefectures aging fishing and ricegrowing industries. The Toyama International Charity Show will aid Toyama Aiikuen (a school that provides a safe and stable learning environment for children from abusive homes) and Room to Read is an international charitable organization that alleviates poverty in southeast Asia by building schools, libraries, and by publishing locallanguage reading materials. More details can be found from April 12th on the show’s new website: www. t oyamacharityshow.org. Alastair and Michael would like to thank Sachi Yoneyama and Kaho Matsumaru from the Room to Read Tokyo Chapter for crossing the harsh mountains at the end of winter into the Snow Country to lend their support.


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Mino Monta: The Man Who Haunts Your TV

By Cory Potwin

I

f you’ve ever watched

TV for more than 10 minutes in Japan, you’ve probably seen this silver haired media giant. I personally watched his news show every morning for a year without knowing his name, or why he revealed earthquakes, murders, and power outages in a flashy, game-show fashion. After years of wondering who this man of mystery was, I finally decided to sit down and do some research on the star. Why is it that no matter when I turn on the TV he seems to be there? And how could it be that he's important enough to be on my wiener-mayo bread? Not just anyone is printed on those things. So that's exactly what I intended to find out Little did I know that this man was a Guinness World Record holder and perhaps one of the most famous entertainers/ newscasters Japan has. It wasn’t until one of my fifth graders during a

TV 34 hours and 45 minutes a week. Even more amazing than this is that most of that is actually live TV. In 2006, Mino Monta took the Guinness World Record for most hours of live TV in one week with 21 hours and 45 minutes. Although he was already world famous for being overworked, it wasn’t quite enough for him. He made a longer day for himself and in 2008 he beat his own record, setting himself up for 22 hours and 15 seconds a week, which he performed with surprising consistently for a year. How does this man manage to work so many hours of live TV, rehearsals, commercials, radio, and still manage two hours at the gym every day? Simple, he says. According to the Mino Monster himself, he only needs about 3 hours of sleep a day to keep him going. At 66 years young, you would think he’s on his way to retirement, but I think we still have a few years to squeeze out of him yet. Here’s to another couple decades with Japan’s most overworked celebrities.

breakfast show-and-tell whipped out a combini bread with his face on it that I even learned his name. Norio Minorikawa, or more commonly referred to as Mino Monta, is the TV personality you’ve probably seen hosting such shows as the morning news (Mino Monta no Asa Zuba!), Amazing Animals Doubutsu Kisoutegai), Secret Citizen SHOW(Himitsu Kenmin SHOW), and the Japanese version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? (Kuizu $ Mirionea). Of course, being a game-show host, news caster, and actor isn’t quite enough for Mr. Minorikawa, he’s also often on the radio, as an announcer and a singer, in a countless numbers of commercials, and owns his own business. It’s recently been Banzai! Banzai! Banzai! estimated that this man is on


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The Game of Generals Shogi

is a strategic board-game that, like many things Japanese, blends several imported ideas with a twist. Shogi is related to the western game of Chess, sharing a common origin in antiquity. Both Chess and Shogi are hundreds of years old, but have evolved in different directions both geographical and conceptual. Having spent many bored winter afternoons playing Chess as a kid, I was drawn to the game because it was something familiar and something different at the same time. Consequently, I bought a set, and have been playing around with it for the last month. What I found was the game was actually much more complicated and rewarding than I had expected it to be, and what was an initial curiosity has turned into a pastime. An explanation of the name and the rules will help in understanding why it is so interesting. The game is written in kanji as 将棋, the 'Game of Generals' (将 - sho: general, 棋 - gi: boardgame). The name is reflected in the pieces; in addition to the classic Pawn (歩 兵 - Fuhyo), King (王將 - Osho), Knight (桂馬 - Keima), Rook (飛 車 - Hisha), and Bishop (角行 Kakugyo), there are two types of Generals: a Gold General

(!将 - Kinsho) that can attack in any direction except diagonally backwards, and the Silver General (銀将 Ginsho), who can attack forward and diagonally, but not backwards or to the sides. There is also the Lance ("# - Kyosha, which means incense chariot) that can only strike forwards. To accommodate for these additional pieces, the game

By Matthew Dowd

patterns. However, these are merely cosmetic differences compared to the single rule that changes the method by which the game is played. W h a t t r u l y differentiates Shogi from Chess is the drop rule. Simply stated, any piece that you capture is added to your reserve, and you can replace a normal move by dropping a captured piece in any legal square anywhere on the board, including deep behind the defenses of your opponent. The addition of this rule changes the way in which the player has to think about the board. Worrying about how your opponent is moving isn't your only concern; players also need to worry

Shogi pieces are wooden pentagons, not figurines

board is expanded an additional row and column to a 9x9 board. Each player has only one Rook and Bishop, and there is no piece equivalent to a Queen. Furthermore, there is the Promotion rule. By making it into (or out of) the opposing player's starting area, your pieces can be flipped over to their Promoted forms, which gives them different (and usually better) movement

Pieces removed from the board will make another appearance

about what their opponent is holding in reserve. Any piece you lose will be used against you later. Leaving poor


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defenses behind can cause you to lose key pieces rapidly, and easily. There are also rules stating that there can only be a single pawn in a column, so sometimes losing a pawn will allow you to place another one much further on the same row, letting you skip several turns worth of movement. With so many choices in a given turn, the game has an additional layer of strategy and depth. This is what captured my attention, as it is even more subtle than Chess is. Due to this added complexity, Shogi is still an 'unsolved' game; present computer players aren't yet capable of beating champion Shogi players as there are too many factors to take into account in the equations: There is no 'Deep Blue' for Shogi. Shogi has an interesting history as well as rules. It started in India in the 6th century A.D. as Chaturanga, which is the first known version of this game. It was adopted by the Persians and became Shatranj, which then was imported to Europe as a courtiers' game that developed over the centuries to become Chess. At the same time that Chaturanga spread into Persia, the game also spread into China and was altered to become Xiangqi (Elephant Chess). From there, into the Korean Peninsula, and then through trade and piracy it spread into Japan, most likely

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in the 10th century. Having already been changed and influenced by each culture it passed through, the game was split into diverse forms by the Japanese and became popular with the nobility. The origin of the drop rule is not known with certainty, but the prevailing theory is that it is an idea taken from the the Warring States period. Due to fluctuations in loyalty, merchants and mercenaries were known to switch sides if defeated in battle, and this is the inspiration for reusing captured pieces. The game made the transition from a noble pastime to a proper part of the culture as a result of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Early in the 17th century, the Shogun had the game rules standardized, and declared three of the master players of the time to be ĺ??äşş, Meijin, granting them hefty allowances and assigning them samurai retainers to boot. These titles were handed down until the end of the Shogunate, and have been replaced by tournaments held throughout the year. Also during this time, a ranking system was created to determine which players were deserving of titles. This is known as the 掾 (Dan) system, where the higher the number, the better the player is considered. This is the origin

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of a ranking system you likely have heard about in martial arts: a first degree black belt is a first Dan fighter, and a Grand Master is a Tenth Dan, or tenth degree black belt.

Ladies & gentlemen, this is what happens when you do not have classes for four solid weeks! While I am still very, very much a beginner at the game, I have come to really appreciate it, despite its difficulty. If you are interested in giving the game a shot over a cup of coffee at Cafe Mimpi, or if you happen to know a cranky, grizzled Shogi master who is looking for a random foreign guy to pass his game wisdom on to, shoot me an email at dowd.matthew@gmail.com.

We can chill like this guy


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Kafka on the Shore

By Kyle Albright

Few authors in Japanese literature have received the same of amount of international success and popularity as Haruki Murakami. If you go to a bookstore in Japan that happens to have an English section you will undoubtedly find at least one Murakami book, if not an entire shelf. Consequently, I wanted to experience the hype and decide for myself if his numerous accolades measured up to his skill as a writer. Now his short stories and novels run the gamut in terms of style, audience, and subject matter so I was unsure which work to choose. I consulted a trusted friend and they pointed me in the direction of Kafka on the Shore. This lengthy piece of fiction was first printed in 2002 and contains many of the ingredients thought to be uniquely Murakami. The book follows two primary characters, Kafka Tamura, a 15 year old runaway, and Satoru Nakata, an elderly man with limited mental functions but the ability to talk to cats. Although these two characters have little in common, their actions and experiences are inextricably combined. Kafka is a determined runaway eager to control his own fate and make sense the world. Nakata on the other hand, is an ageing simpleton who lets experience dictate his behavior with no effort to grasp any true meaning. These characters never meet, but are both working towards a common purpose without realizing what it is. Along their respective journeys we are introduced to many colorful people and cats. Each one serves

a purpose towards the resolution of the plot. There are multiple settings in Japan ranging from the urban to the uninhabited wilderness. Murakami takes these average literary ingredients and throws in metaphysical elements that border on fantasy. The book has its fair share of downfalls. You must have some belief in the metaphysical relationships that humans experience. As a primarily non-fiction reader I found this difficult. In terms of style, Murakami can be long-winded in his descriptions of things that might seem unnecessary to the progression of the plot. I enjoy eloquence but have a difficult time turning my back on functionality. The interspersed discussions in which Murakami seems to be flexing his knowledge of history, philosophy, music, and science are also small drawbacks. I enjoy learning as much as anyone, but in most of these instances it had little to do with the plot or characters. At 615 pages, I would have been happy with a few more omissions! So with these critiques in mind, I want to discuss what makes Kafka on the Shore exceptional and enjoyable. First, we are presented with enough characters to be selective with which ones we choose to like or disregard. Second, the moments of suspense and excitement are evenly dispersed. To up the ante, Murakami includes a substantial amount of sexual imagery. Not enough to alter the genre of the novel, but enough to make it

strictly adult reading. Another likeable element is Murakami's direct and easy to follow language. Thoughts, emotions, and events are communicated very clearly, making the book not only easy to digest, but quick to read. The characters do reach a point of resolution, conveying a bewildering sense of triumph at the conclusion of the novel. Most notably, few authors combine such a diverse amount of subject matter and come out with a novel so coherent and relatable. Murakami shows that he is a master of employing a multi-level, interconnected plot that sucks us in. He engages our compulsion to seek resolution in a way that makes turning the pages feel all the more effortless. As an author, Murakami also transcends any perceived cultural divide without sacrificing the distinctively pleasant attributes of Japanese literature. If Kafka on the Shore is any measure of Haruki Murakami's ability and success, I certainly look forward to reading more his books in the future.


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The French Quarter Café

By Laura “Disco” Disco” Rountree

It's finally happening-I'm opening my own restaurant. Well, for one night at least. I'm pretty excited about it. I'm calling it the French Quarter Café, in honor of the location of some of the best dining experiences of my life. The unique cuisine of New Orleans reflects its complex cultural heritage. In the city's French Quarter, Cajun and Creole influences come together to create a culinary landscape like no other. Cajun cuisine was developed by French Acadians, who were forced to leave Canada only to be relegated to the swamps of Louisiana after their long journey South. Cajun food is considered to be the more rustic of the two styles. It's characterized by heavy spicing and use of local ingredients, including alligator, crawfish, & turtles. Louisiana Creole cooking comes from, well, Louisiana Creoles. If Cajun cuisine was the food of people living off the land, Creole was the food of the aristocracy in the city. It is a bit of an oversimplification, but you could think of it as the cuisine of French & Spanish colonials, infused with ingredients taken from the Native American & Caribbean people, prepared with the techniques of African slaves, and later improved on by Italian & German immigrants. It's not unusual for visitors to New Orleans to find food to be the most memorable part of their stay. And if

they're in town for Mardi Gras, it might be the only thing they remember. It is with my own delicious memories of the Big Easy in mind that I am creating the menu for the French Quarter Café. Sucking the heads off a pile of juicy crawfish or inhaling a plate of beignets from Café Du Monde may not be a possibility in Toyama, but don't you worry about that. I’m shipping in some special ingredients straight from the Mississippi River Delta to recreate a few of New Orleans's most famous dishes as well as some original creations inspired by this amazing city. So maybe Cajun food

wasn't something that you had around the house growing up. Maybe the only thing you know about New Orleans is that there was a massive hurricane there a couple years ago. In fact, you're not really sure if you want to eat at my restaurant. What kind of menu items can you expect? Well, I wouldn’t even bother if I wasn’t going to include Filé Gumbo, the quintessential New Orleans stew of tomatoes, summer vegetables, chicken, and sausage that gets its flavor & texture from nutty dark roux and powdered sassafras leaves. Oh, you don’t eat meat? Come on now, veghead, you know I’ve got you covered. If


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any of my fresh summer salad or pasta side dishes leaves you wanting more, a plate of creamy Red Beans & Rice will certainly satisfy. There will be some less hearty fare as well--like Shrimp Remoulade, an appetizer in which spicy boiled shrimp basically serve as a delivery vehicle for a tangy tomato horseradish aioli. In keeping with the spirit of the host city of the most decadent annual party in the U.S., the French Quarter Cafe will be selling Hooch--fruit soaked in booze for days--by the cupful. And to prove we don’t hate your liver, we’ll provide free non-alcoholic beverages. I’m now in the process of testing all my menu items-traditional fare as well as some new creations. It’s going really well. I expect some toes to curl. I’ve included some photos so you can see what I’ve been working on. Have I convinced you yet? You say you want the when & where? Well, I’m glad you asked because this is the best part. The French Quarter Cafe will be just one part of MASQUED, a magical night of unforgettable fashion, music, food, and libations. It all takes place on Saturday, June 19 at Mau Fine Arts Gallery in Toyama-shi. Proceeds from MASQUED will go towards ongoing projects in over 60 countries supporting the education, empowerment, and entrepreneurship of women & girls in communities struggling with poverty and violence. Trust me, you don't want to miss this event. Mark your calendars. And come hungry.


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An ode to toyama It’s that time of year again when the weather warms up (hopefully!) and the sakura bloom. Winter jackets get left behind, abandoned on their coat rack for another several months. You begin to see “outdoors“ as a place where events can be planned and not a pneumonia-inducing Hell we must endure only insofar as to get from one heated building to another. And my apologies if your heating stinks in the first place. Yes, my friends, it’s time to love Toyama again. It’s time to put away your umbrellas and dust off your parasols – wait – are you telling me it’s still a cold, rainy dystopia out there? Aw, shucks. Well, luckily for me, the weather did not inspire me to write this article, but rather a recent trip to Osaka did. Midway through March, AJET organized a very successful excursion to watch sumo in Osaka over the holiday weekend. For me however, traveling to Osaka had become an annual March tradition. Being my favourite big city in Japan, it always excites me to revisit old gems and discover new ones. The excitement was obviously shared. As my fellow foreign companions boarded the bus down, I could see it in their eyes. I whispered, “Osaka” with a big grin plastered on my face. They thought that was creepy and turned away, ignoring me. Just kidding, they grinned back, wideeyed. We sat on the bus with the barely tolerable anticipation of a child waiting in bed early

Christmas morning, looking like a cocaine addict as they wait for the earliest opportunity to bust downstairs and tear their presents a new one. We were right to be excited. The trip was awesome, as always. With that said, I did find myself missing Toyama while I was there. I missed the familiar faces, the mountainous landscape, the rivers whose bottoms you can actually see, the sense of calm. I never admitted it to anyone, lest they retaliated by popping me into a carrier bag and tossing me off the Dotonbori bridge (and you are ALL capable of such a thing!) but my lingering yearning to be back home, if only for enough time to breathe in the clean air, was solidified when I arrived back to Toyama late Tuesday night and hopped on my bike whistling my way home, swerving to avoid the psychotic Toyama drivers whose antics I had to endure the last four

days without. I was actually happy to be back. I was in an abusive relationship with Toyama, but the bruises healed over the last four days and I missed my baby. You know, everyone likes to take a crap on Toyama. I think it might actually be a national past

By James Floyd

time. When I told folks in Osaka where I lived, I would wind up having to either explain where Toyama was in Japan, or awkwardly stand there until their laughter subsided. It irked me, but you know, so do shrimp with their heads on, and I have to deal with them, too. I realized later however that we all criticize Toyama. It’s so easy. Toyama is an easy target – but deep down, we love her. Maybe it’s because it is we that make Toyama so awesome. I hung out with some JET ALTs we met our first night in Saka, and they were cool, but they all seemed a bit jaded. Like the guy with 500 television channels and yet nothing to watch. It made me think about the foreigners in Toyama, and the amazing things we have done together and the things coming up. I think there is a lot to be thankful for, living in Toyama. We are a good team and we make the best of what we have, often resulting in good times. I do love Toyama and I look forward to Toyama showing me some love by ending this rain. So, in conclusion, the next time someone asks where you live in Japan, don’t be shy. You stand up proud and say it out loud:

Kanazawa! (hey, it’s close enough!)


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Maddy, over and out.

By Maddy Rodell

The hangovers from the Sumo Trip have faded away and that lovely Osaka sunshine has become just a distant memory. But what a great weekend that was! Thanks to everyone who came, and a special shout out to our drivers, Adam and Will. Our fantastic hostel (Hostel Koma) was situated very near to Namba Station - conveniently right near the Sumo Tournament. We also hit the jackpot with a nomihoudai and pizza tabehoudai. But the sumo was definitely the star of the show, proving to be surprisingly addictive. The hall filled up as the rankings improved and the energy in the room coupled with the excellence of the wrestlers led to a thrilling final. For those of you who have not been to see sumo in Japan yet, we can highly recommend it. Even if you don’t know anything about sumo, you’ll get caught up in the excitement and you’ll be cheering with the best of them. The next sumo tournament is in Tokyo in May. Details can be found here: http://entsumo.pia.jp/en/sumo05.php.

This year there’s been four excursions – more than ever before! I hope you have as many happy memories from the trips as I do – from seeing the sunrise on Fuji to the Tracks bar in Hakuba, and from drinking in K’s house to taking photos of the sumo wrestlers in Osaka. We’ve done some pretty varied activities and I hope they gave you the opportunity to experience some things that you might not have done otherwise. On a personal note, I’d like to thank everyone who’s put up with my stresses (you know who you are!), helped me with counting (I’m getting better, honest!) and everyone else who helped me out on any of the trips; whether it was holding envelopes, making sure everyone was present, or just waiting your turn to ask a question. Most of all, I’d like to thank everyone who said thank you. Every time you do, it means so much to me and the fact that you’ve enjoyed yourself makes the hard work completely worthwhile.


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one s i h t

Hilda Solomon Hey Toyama! Hilda here, your current AJET Treasurer. For this upcoming term, I am running for the AJET Representative position. I have various experience to draw from - AJET T.R.A.M. & Treasurer; Takaoka Regional Representative for two years; Toyama Orientation volunteer for 3 years; and involvement in the wider Toyama community and charity events. My goal is to continue to build and improve the AJET council, bringing together not only JETs, but all other factions of the Toyama community, Brazilian, Russian, etc., for new and repeated favored events throughout the year. Let’s Banzai for an inclusive AJET!!!

x

EXCURSIONS REP Candidate

PREFECTURAL REP Candidate

It’s almost time for the annual AJET elections. We’re looking for capable men and women to carry the torch for the 2010-2011 term. So far only 2 brave souls have thrown their hats into the ring. They can’t run AJET by themselves though, so why not follow their good examples and think about running for AJET too. Social, Charity, Publications and Treasurer Rep positions are still available. If you decide to run please contact Paula at toyama.ajet@gmail.com. Remember, elections are being held during your regional meeting at the end of April.

Matthew Dowd Hey everybody! I want to be your Excursions Rep for the 2010-11 JET year, so help me open up Japan for you by voting for me. I have plenty of experience travelling in Japan, and making arrangements should be a snap. I speak enough Japanese and have booked enough hotels and flights to be able to get everything done. I know my way around Kyoto and am eager to drag our new JETs up Fuji-San this August. I will also be open to suggestions for trips, and will try to plan new trips for those who went everywhere this year. By the beginning of the next JET year, I should have my full driver's license, so one less driver will be needed to run things. I came to Japan to travel, and I want to go everywhere and take you with me. Let's travelling!"


Toyama Times