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TOYAMA TIMES Volume 2 Edition 2

August 2009

Calendar

Pg 2

Welcome Weekend

Pg 3

By The Social Reps Mastering The Mountain

Pg 4 – 5

By Paula Kerrigan AJET Mount Fuji Trip Details

Pg 5

A Quiet Place in the Sun

Pg 6 – 7

By James Floyd Ode to Japanese 'Men'

Pg 8 – 9

By Kieran Murphy Enkai 宴会

Pg 10 - 11

By Jon Perry Leavers Charity Buffet and Auction

Pg 12

By The Charity Chaps Holy Shit It’s Toyama

Pg 13

By Brett Quimby Toyama Book Club

Pg 14

By Laura Rowntree Group B Regional Dinners

Pg 15

PA Corner

Pg 16 - 17

By Tiffany Dyer Michelle Runk’s Top 10 Kanji

Pg 17

Vegan Chocolate Brownies

Pg 18

By Erika Bateman

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Welcome Welcome, lets enjoy introducing ! Greetings to all of you from the Toyama Times Editors, Jon and Paula. To those who are just arriving, AJET would like to say “Hello” and “Yippee!”. We're all super excited about your arrival. よろしく This month, The Toyama Times has some cracking articles that we hope will entertain both new and seasoned Toyama JETs alike. We would like to thank everyone who contributed, we would be nothing I believe this is how it's if it weren't for you! done in America On a related note: WE NEED CONTRIBUTORS! Inexplicably, some JETs have chosen to leave Toyama, some even JAPAN! We need people that are willing to step up to the challenge and write for us, draw for us, photograph for us and generally get involved. If you like to put pen to paper; or listening to the rhythmic tapping of your fingers on the keyboard then why not write for us. Share your experience; your lack of experience; and anything else. To get involved send an email to Jon at ajet.newsletter@gmail.com

AJET Welcome Beer Gardens Toyama city, Koshikaikan August 7th, 6pm 3,300 yen Hey everybody! Every year we throw a big ‘All You Can Drink Party’ at the Koshikaikan. It’s on the 7th of August at 6pm in Toyama city. Come and meet the Toyama crew and learn the traditional art of nomihodai!. Buffet food is included as well. So come on out and enjoy a night of drinking and probably some epic karaoke. For more details contact Cory at socialreps@gmail.com. Check out the interactive map at http://toyamajets.net/map/index.php. If you are worried about getting to the Beer Garden you can ask your Regional Rep for help.


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August 2009

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What’s Happening – August 2009 CONGRATULATIONS! We'd like to congratulate Kathy Kuwahara (nee Tackabury) and her husband, Satoshi, on the birth of their daughter, Nozomi ( 希美 ) Marcella, Born on the 23rd of July. Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

26

11

28

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

29

30

31

1 Summer Breeze Fireworks

Group A Regional Dinner

2

3

4

6 Group B Regional Dinner

AJET Beer Garden

8 Happy Birthday Raewyn

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13

14

15

19

20

21

22

5

Zach Attack Concert

9 Toyama Orientation

10 Regional Meetings

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17

11 Tateyama Climb

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7

AJET Mt. Fuji Trip

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24

25

26

27

28

1

2

3

4

AJET Mt. Fuji Trip

30 WELCOME WEEKEND

31 Happy Birthday Vannie

29 WELCOME WEEKEND

5

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


TOYAMA TIMES Volume 2 Edition 2

August 2009

You’re in Toyama!

BAM!

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Now it’s time to rock. And it’s time to rock hard.

But listen, the thing is, we rock way too hard. So instead of totally rocking down all of Toyama, we decided to do it up in a campsite where we could rock as hard as we wanted. We’re so excited for you new Toyamaites (Toyamainians? Toyamaers?) that we are going to rent out a bunch of cabins in the woods and just do whatever we want. I really mean whatever we want. Activities may range from playing some guitar and chilling out by the soba grills to streaking across fields and dancing to DJs all night. You choose your level of rock. No one’s going to judge. Come on out on August the 29th for an amazing event in the woods, where you’ll find yourself saying things like, “Man, I met the most awesome people last night!” or perhaps “How did I get here? Who are you? Man I need some water!” It’s one of the first chances we’ll all get to come together, old JETs and new and really connect. And if that doesn’t appeal to you, Welcome Weekend will also be a great chance to get out into Toyama’s nature and enjoy some of the sites.

Come one, come all, let’s have a blast! When: Saturday, August 29th, 2009 Please feel free to show up around 4pm. It’s a beautiful area and it’d be a shame not to see it in the sunshine and sober.

Where: Tateyama Sanroku Kazokuryoko-mura Camp-jo

立山山麓家族旅行村キャンプ場 How do you get to such a remote location? Well, you have a few option campers. You can carpool up with someone driving (drivers can follow this link here for a map). Your other option is to take the train out to Tateyama ( 立山 ) station on the Dentetsu line. From the Tateyama station, it’s a 20 minute walk. Also, we’ll be sending cars to pick you guys up at the station. Check out the interactive map here for Tateyama station or the camp place. If you’d like to visit the official website check this out.

How much: 3,500 yen (3,000 yen for AJET members) What do you get for this? Accommodations, two free drinks, dinner, and breakfast (vegetarian options available).

What else do I need?

A sleeping bag or futon (we’ve got plenty of cabin space, but more people than beds) and some extra drinks.

Contact: socialreps@gmail.com or talk to your Social Reps Cory Potwin or Brett Quimby


TOYAMA TIMES Volume 2 Edition 2

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Mastering the Mountain By Paula Kerrigan So when I got here last year, although my house was bare and I spoke no Japanese at all, one of my only   concerns was 'When do we climb Fuji?'

Your are wise to climb Fuji once and a fool to climb it twice. I knew a girl once who had been to Egypt six times but had never seen the pyramids! Coming to Japan and not climbing Fuji is on a par with that for me. Its something you have to do once.

The trip was scheduled for late August, about a month after I’d arrived in Japan. I think we can all understand that Toyama is so hot in August that you can literally no longer imagine what cold is; can’t remember why it was a big deal a few months ago; can’t at all conjure up the feelings of needing to wear a jumper (sweater) or lie under a blanket. So when it was suggested to me that I should bring some warm clothes with me when going up Fuji I had no real concept of why I would need them. So I bought some crumby gloves and sweater and an extra pair of socks. The intrepid Ally Lomas organised the trip and on the morning we set out he had brought along a bag of warm clothes that he could spare. I grabbed a second pair of gloves for no comprehensible reason! When we got to stage 5 of Fuji and got off the bus it was about 4pm and raining

with a mist covering most of Fuji so that it was still possible to maintain the belief that `it isn’t that high`! I put on my sweater and attached my bicycle light (that I had bought in the 100 円 store) to my head. I bought a walking pole as an indulgence and set off with what was to become one of my best friends, Stephen Reid. The climb was something I will never forget, starting off as individuals and singing songs gradually changed to checking your partner was coping and huddling together at pit stops for warmth. By the time we reached the top 9 hours later, all social boundaries had been broken and we huddled close together. I was too cold to create a distraction as Stephen changed out of his trousers (in the middle of a crowded room) and into a see-through pair of wet pants he bought out of damp desperation. It didn‘t matter by then, dignity seemed ridiculous under the circumstances. For me, there was no point in trying to protect myself from the rain on the downward trail, everything I owned was soaking wet. I considered taking it all off and


TOYAMA TIMES Volume 2 Edition 2

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going down naked! In the end there wasn't time to follow this thought through, or to see the sunrise, as a tropical storm warning was issued and we had to get off the mountain as quickly as possible. I charged down with Stephen, falling every so often on the loose gritty red and black volcanic pumice that constituted our path. To keep each other's spirits up Stephen explained the meaning of life to me on the way down (as well as a few magic tricks I’d always wondered about) and by the time we reached the bottom (having TURNED LEFT) I

really did feel enlightened, wiser and proud of us all. If you are considering the trip this year remember that it is a MOUNTAIN and all the pleasure and pain associated with MOUNTAINS will be yours if you go on this AJET trip. In order to combat the Are-you-sure-it'sgoing-to-be-cold Syndrome that we experienced last year our Excursions Rep this year, Maddy, has collected up enough warm clothing to cover Takaoka's Giant Buddha in! For more details on this year's trip contact Maddy at excursionsrep@gmail.com

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QUICK FUJI FACTS Last eruption was in 1707. The summit is 3,776m (12,340 ft) high. The Japanese style paintings we often see of Fuji are by Katsushika Hokusai.

Do you want to tick off a must-do thing in Japan? Do you want to get to know other JE Ts better? Do you have legs? Then come on the M ount Fuji trip Date: Saturday 22nd – Sunday 23rd August Cost: ¥14 000 for AJET members

/ ¥15 000 for non-AJET members

How: By private minibus departing from Toyama city on Saturday afternoon to 5th station on Fuji. We will walk overnight to arrive at the top in time for a spectacular sunrise. The bus will pick us up at the bottom and whisk us back to Toyama on Sunday afternoon. EMAIL MADDY ASAP AT excursionsrep@gmail.com TO REGISTER YOUR INTEREST. You must have a reservation to go on this trip! Participants must have own legs.


TOYAMA TIMES Volume 2 Edition 2

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A QUIET PLACE IN THE SUN By James Floyd `Koffe` is located just off the tram road running South from Toyama Station toward the castle. Walk South on the tram road until you hit the stream, then turn right and walk less than two minutes. Koffe is on your right. Those who know me well enough know that I love to share the things I love with others. It's like Oprah's Favourite Things segment, but not as gay. Often, the information is passed one-onone, as different friends have different tastes. However, once in a while, something comes into my life that I feel I need to announce like a town crier, complete with funny hat and bell. This is one of those. The end of June marked Leaver's Weekend for Toyama JETs. It's a big farewell party to those leaving this and next month, and my friend from Fukui came to take part in the festivities. We didn't have to leave for the event until the mid-afternoon, so decided to hit up a coffee joint to read and study Japanese to pass the time. I suggested a small, new place along the river that I had strolled past several times.

The staff always seemed to notice my presence walking past, and it felt as if very little effort would need to be made to launch into conversation (a feeling that foreigners often have in Japan, and one rarely bores of). We grabbed our books and notebooks and started the three minute walk to this place from my apartment. Yes, it is very close, just up the stream that runs from Toyama Castle, down past my apartment and beyond. When we arrived at KOFFE (a hybrid of Koji, the owner, and their principal menu item), we were immediately greeted by the co-owners. Koji is a quiet but extremely pleasant man who carries an expression when he speaks to you like he is about to reveal the best news you've ever heard. His partner is named Sai, which is short for Saiko, but she shortened it after they moved to Manhattan and

people began doing doubletakes when she introduced herself. They lived in the Big Apple for two years before moving back to Japan only recently. Sai is a Toyama local, whereas Koji is from Nagoya. I realized after only a few minutes from when I sat down that this place was more than a coffeehouse. It would be my refuge from the somewhat tedious mechanics of Japanese work-life. It would be my quiet place in the sun. Their menu is simple and very limited. You can choose from a handful of various blends that they roast on-site in the morning. They also have iced coffee (a staple in Japanese food culture) and cafe-au-lait. Sai is also a formidable baker, and prepares fresh pound cakes, cookies, meringues, and the best cheesecake I have ever tasted. Japan is certainly familiar with cheesecake, but not all that familiar with *good* cheesecake. Sai's recipe is decadent and addictive, to the point that I have made them promise to not let me order it more than once a week. They alternate between regular and coffee-infused cheesecake, and both have their ups (but no downs). Oh, and the coffee is rich, full-bodied, delicious.


TOYAMA TIMES Volume 2 Edition 2

Nothing like you'd get at the convenience store (and combinis have loads of selection) or even the local Starbucks. KOFFE is the real deal. As amazing as the coffee is however, it is not what draws me to the place on a now regular basis. After all, I have a coffee-maker at home. It is the atmosphere and the people at Koffe that make it such a special experience over and over. The decor is minimalist. White walls and light pine furniture, accented tastefully by brightly coloured books, placed loosely along the ledges. Light bulbs hang naked from white wiring. The front entrance slides open completely, tables flow to the edge, virtually outside. The 2nd floor is cozy, hardwood floors and more simple but tasteful decor. Something you would see in one of those coffee table books, "Places You Wish You Could Be Right Now". The focal point on the main floor is the large, glossy red and black bean roaster in the back corner. It compliments the simple white shades, while reminding the customer of how fresh that cup-a-joe they're sipping really is. Koji got it in California and had it shipped (for a fortune, I'm sure) to Toyama. He told me he'd teach me how to roast some beans if I ever showed up

August 2009

before they opened. Koji and Sai are also great because they automatically turn off the conventional Japanese customer-service mentality when foreigners show up. They're still wonderful, but it feels casual, genuine and warm. Not to say that they are not grateful for the business they get from the Japanese community, they are, but there is a strong status quo when it comes to customer service in Japan, often leading us foreigners to miss the more casual approach back home. KOFFE also attracts some interesting returning customers. Kei, for example, is an older fellow with long whispy grey hair held under a blue toque (or beanie or whatever you Americans call it). He often wears overalls and a necklace around his neck stringing together a large assortment of keys - something he employs as a mnemonic device when getting others to remember his name. You almost imagine there to be a train whistle strung along there with the keys, it would certainly be fitting. I've also met Sai's mother, several Japanese who have lived abroad, and a pleasant couple from America around my age, who Koji and Sai had been raving about when I first showed up. When we eventually showed up there at the same time, they brought along bread they made in their

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rice cooker to share with Koji and Sai. Kei arrived with bushels of lavender for the couple. I came along with a CD of Diana Krall tunes I copied for Koji (he likes female jazz vocalists, as I found out when he popped in a Stacey Kent CD and I started singing along). It seemed everyone was exchanging things. I felt so comforted that evening, like I was at home with my friends. It struck me then that Koji and Sai were not your average business-owners. I can't fully capture in words how amazing this place is, and how awesome it was to have found it. I have introduced several of my friends to KOFFE and they have always returned, often bringing others along. As I sit and read my book, I often overhear customers explaining in Japanese that they heard from someone else about the coffee and just had to try it out. For a new, little place off the beaten path and not near any other commercial buildings, it keeps a steady flow of customers; a testament to what quality product, simply beautiful atmosphere and delightful staff can bring.


TOYAMA TIMES Volume 2 Edition 2

August 2009

Ode t Japanese 'men'

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By Keiran Murphy

My Ode to Japanese Men. If I could, I would writ a haiku If I could, I would sing a sonnet t you. But I can't so I shan't. Instad I wil just say: My love for you is everlastng. Japanese men have intrigued and excited me since I first came to Japan 6 years ago. They kept me warm at night, cooled me on hot summer days and they are one of the things that drew me back here, and my love for them will go on long after I leave this time. Men, or noodles in English, (What? You thought I meant something else?) are as varied as the seasons of Japan. From the thin summer noodles (somen), to the hearty udon noodles that soak up the warm broth on a winter’s day, there is a variety for everyone.

To help justify my obsession I need to explain one of the strange vagrancies of Japan, local cuisine. Lisa and I spent our first year together in Japan in Iwate Prefecture on the Pacific coast side in the north of Honshu. As the crow flies it’s about 400km from Nanto to Ichinoseki in Iwate, but the variation in food is amazing, with noodles and yakiniku taking the place of sushi. Imagine if you will, that for every kaiten sushi restaurant in Toyama you find the same number of restaurants in Iwate, but they are either yakiniku or noodles places. I knew of two kaiten restaurants in a population of 125 thousand; one was always empty. The other, the one time we did go, was deserted at diner time and you had to order everything.   By contrast, during the year we were in Iwate at least three noodle places opened - for one they literally took half a hill away and put the restaurant up in about 1 month. Being ‘born’ into a Japanese cuisine world like this meant that I fell in love with noodles, four types in particular. Two of those, zaru soba and

ramen (Chashu ramen to be exact) are well known here. But the other two, Reimen and Jajamen seem to be almost mythical outside Iwate.

My introduction to Reimen definitely influenced my love of it. In my second week in Iwate (January) I hit black ice in the town’s car and skidded for a good fifteen meters before hitting a car coming the other way. My Kacho took me out for ‘never mind Reimen’ and not another word was spoken of the accident, nor did I see a bill for the accident or the Reimen. Reimen is actually a Korean noodle dish and is served in most yakiniku places in Iwate. It is made with a cold, thickish glass noodle served in a chilled broth based on kimchi. On the noodles you get some

Noodle Fast Fact: The Japanese style is to slurp your noodles loudly, try it-it's fun!


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sure you look up the local specialties, you will not be disappointed. You can compete in the annual Wanko Soba Eating Competition in Morioka in February. The current record, dating from 1996, is 559 of these deceptive little bowls eaten by Hirofumi Nakajima.

chashu pork, half a boiled egg, a few veggies and a piece of fruit (usually a slice of watermelon). A favorite game in our town was to see how hot you could make it and still eat it; it would be glowing red, with chilli everywhere. I played the game once and came away with lips that looked like a Baboon’s backside. Jajamen, also an import into Japan, is alltogether a different bowl of noodles. It is a dish mainly peculiar to a few shops in Iwate. It’s a dry noodle dish, made with flat Udon like noodles, black miso paste, ground beef, sesame seed oil and a heap load of raw garlic. It is, to say the least, a very strong smelling and tasting dish. It was Lisa’s favorite dish from Iwate, as we would enter the outer suburbs of Morioka she would invariably

yell ‘Jajamen’ at the top of her voice, causing me to almost crash into a river once. Other noodle dishes in Iwate included wanko soba where you beat the server by putting the lid on the bowl before it is refilled, or die; Zaru soba, where the noodles are grey from the wheat and piled high; and Ramen made with hand made noodles and the top of the dish is covered in chashu pork. I really do miss my men. If you ever find yourself in the north, make

How To Find Men in Toyama And you are now probably wondering why I told you about these dishes, well if you know where to look in Toyama you can find authentic noodle dishes from Iwate.

Minmin (see the toyamajets.net interactive map), on Route 156 in Tonami will do Reimen and Jajamen if you order ‘off’ the menu, and they have the best chaushu pork in the prefecture.


TOYAMA TIMES Volume 2 Edition 2

By J on P er r y

宴 会

August 2009

I write this in the office the morning after an enkai to welcome new workers into our department. The word enkai ( 宴会 ) is made of two characters the second meaning ‘to meet’ and the first meaning ‘to get boisterously drunk and make inappropriate advances towards female colleagues young enough to be your daughter’. The hangovers we all possess, painful legacies of last night’s activities, form a collective silent pall over the office. My colleagues are various shades of pale, and one of them is sitting at his desk apparently unable to hold his head upright, making it look like a corpse has been propped up with cushions. The general impression is of a group of people who have spent three weeks in the company of the CIA under-

going extraordinary rendition. You could cut the lethargy in the air with a knife, except that presumably no-one could be bothered. Keyboards are being used in a fashion reminiscent of my mother’s initial attempts to type a letter on the computer; index fingers extended, they look unfocusedly at their screens as if not sure whether it is really there, tapping away at an average speed of six words every lunar cycle. If you want anything concerning city planning looked at, it’s probably best to wait till tomorrow. Of course, this is standard fare for enkai everywhere. Ours began straight after work. The women had all changed out of their uniforms, and some of the men had loosened their ties, which is a generally accepted salaryman signal meaning ‘I’m going out to get rat-arsed’. In the restaurant, beers were poured immediately. They looked cold, refreshing, and incredibly inviting after a day at work. However, seasoned enkai veterans will know what happens next. The organizer got up, and asked the kacho to make a speech and a toast. There seems to be a law here, that no matter how fine a person one’s kacho is, when there is beer going warm and flat in front of your very eyes,

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he turns into a verbose windbag whose interminably vacuous cogitations on how fine a job the section has done over the past year go on for so long that by the time he raises his glass to toast the assembled company, the previously effervescent and refreshing beverage has turned into warm wee. When the kacho, and anybody else deemed worthy (for worthy read ‘old’) enough to share their platitudes had finally finished, we could begin on the food. Course after course issued forth, as did beer, shochu and sake. Throwing off their usual mantles of respectability, these were attacked with a ferocity probably not seen since the end of Prohibition. As the alcohol began to work its course, I went out to find the toilets, where it was something of a shock to find a large block of ice in each of the urinals in the gents. Not like ice cube size, but a proper, heavy block of ice. Had they run out of urinal cakes and heard that ice was an acceptable substitute? I can think of no satisfactory explanation as to why any establishment would feel the need to chill your waste products as they went down the drain. I wanted to ask someone, but I couldn't bring myself to say, `Excuse me...… about that urinal ice…’


TOYAMA TIMES Volume 2 Edition 2

It just seemed like I would be taking a liberty with the poor waitress to ask her any questions involving bodily functions at such a formative stage in our acquaintance. The drinking soon took its toll. Faces reddened so much that it looked like a convention of tomato-headed aliens had come to town. Decorum, which had only been an occasional visitor all evening, finally put on its coat and got off for an early night. Impromptu outbursts of singing (in the loosest possible sense of the word) foreshadowed the inevitable karaoke which was to follow. The gaze of older eyes wandered illicitly towards the prettier female contingent, who tried not to notice. In one corner the normally taciturn chap who does the accounts appeared to be warbling a heartfelt love ballad to an air conditioning unit. Surveying the scene, I couldn’t help but wonder how this situation had come about. All these people, when at work, are upright, often uptight, salarymen with an average humour threshold that would make a Trappist monk look like the life and soul of the party. The Bacchanalian celebrations continued out into the street, into a taxi and down to a karaoke bar run by an old couple who carried the weary looks of those who had made a living catering to

August 2009

intoxicated whims. Classic pop songs from ages past were belted out, and gradually others joined in (each in his own key, of course). Whisky from the boss’s private bottle was drunk and glasses refreshed with alarming frequency by the old couple. Here two of the younger members conducted an argument over the merits of their respective high school baseball teams. There, the elderly head of the department enjoyed a snooze on a barstool, despite listing leftwards at a precipitous angle. The quieter male members of the party had drunk enough to approach me and ask all those questions which had been burning away inside them all year. With few exceptions the questions   were all related to the size, shape and quality of my nether regions, but I suppose international   exchange has to start somewhere. Gradually, as the clock approached midnight, six hours of imbibing were crowned by the chief of city planning falling out of the door, being refused access to a taxi, and attempting to lead the group in a quick round of the city song. Dispersal was understandably slow. Numerous friendships had formed during the night, of a depth and fleeting impermanence consistent with excessive alcohol consumption

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so parting was accompanied with much wailing and gnashing of teeth. From then on, things could only go downhill, angry wives to be faced that evening, followed by a hangover the size of Tokyo Tower the next morning. Best, then, to leave the festivities here, with the discordant rabble making fond, incoherent farewells in the cool of midnight. If you’ve read this entire article just to see if I would tell you why there was ice in the urinal here are the leading theories I could find on the subject: • The melting ice acts as a slow, continuous flush • Ice cools the air around the urinal. Cool air sinks, which serves to contain the smell • Cold discourages drain flies • Fun to melt, helps users aim better, compensates for poor male sanitary habits …if you have any of your own ideas please email ajet.newsletter@gmail.com and I’ll publish them next month.


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Leavers’ Charity Buffet and Auction Review By The Charity Chaps: Michael Grudzinski and Ally Lomas Photo credits: Emmett Barton We’d like to send a big どうもありがとうございました! to everyone who came out to the Leavers’ Charity Buffet and Auction. The event, held on Saturday, July 11, was a smashing success. The fun had and delicious food eaten would not have been possible without the fifty or more people who came, combined with the cooking wizardry of the staff at the Peace Street Kitchen. On a clear summer night, a diverse mix of the ALT/CIR and Toyama community came out in force to eat incredible vegetarian food and bid on a range of interesting and unique items up for auction. In fact, the restaurant was packed and the charity-goers spilled out into the street, creating a summer block party feel. People chewed on sautéed chickpeas and drank fine Wolaver’s Organic Ale, conversing and sharing a laugh. During dining, guests meandered to contemplate the various auction items up for grabs. After dinner was done, many people crowded inside for the live auction. Featuring photographs from Cambodia, an original Japanese oldschool Nintendo, moss plants, a picnic set, and even one of the most . . . legendary toasters ever seen, the auction generated a lot of money for our chosen charity. Of course, the main reason for the event was to raise money for Room to Read, enabling them to build a library in Cambodia. The charity portion of the entrance fee and all the money made from the auction will go to Room to Read. Thanks to the unimagined turnout and the vast array of auction items sold, we raised a grand total of . . .

91,200 円

This is the amount of money we had after we paid for the food. We’d also like to thank an unnamed JET who decided to donate all 12,000 of their Japanese stimulus money to charity that night, which helped us get so close to raising 100,000 円 in one night! Once again, thanks to all of the buffet and auction guests for helping to make the event such a big success! To build a library we need a total of US$19,000 (1,800,000 円 ), so we still have a way to go. But, do you know what that means? We'll be organizing other equally fun and/or delicious events in the near future, which we'd like to invite you to! Watch this space, we'll be in touch. Together we can do this!


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H o ly Shit It’s Toy a m a!: 10 T hings To Do O u t H e re

By Brett Quimby

Congratulations on your placement to Toyama, land of rice paddies, old people, and very decent water. While this area may qualify as being out in the middle of nowhere, there are fortunately a number of things to do and see while here. I would like to take the time to present to you ten such things, many of which are unique experiences you won't get anywhere else in Japan. Note this is not a Top 10 list, but rather a small sampling of things to check out while you're here. 1. The Beach: It’s summer, and Toyama is located right along the Sea of Japan. No matter where you are in Toyama, there is probably a beach within reasonable distance so find some friends and enjoy your summer days. 2. Tatemon Festival: One of the most unique festivals in Japan, the Tatemon festival is held in Uozu on the weekend of the first Friday in August (7th-8th this year). See local families and volunteers push and pull massive Christmas tree-shaped tatemon floats along the coast. While you’re there, catch the fireworks show and other festival fare. 3. Owara Kaze no Bon: Another festival, this one is held in Yatsuo in September. This festival features beautiful traditional dance and music, and it draws huge crowds from around the country every year. 4. Takaoka Daibutsu: One of the 3 great Buddha statues in Japan, along with the ones in Nara and Kamakura. While not quite as massive as the other Daibutsu statues, the one in Takaoka is still an impressive sight, and worth a look. 5. Kurobe Gorge: A special mini-train that once hauled construction workers and equipment now takes tourists through the scenic Kurobe Gorge. While beautiful any time of the year (when open, the train does not run during the winter months), it is best to go in the fall when the leaves change color. 6. Winter Sports: Ski? Snowboard? Want to try? Toyama is a great place for winter sports, with several ski slopes in the prefecture and even more within driving distance in Niigata and Nagano. Once winter rolls around, it’s quite easy to find a group of eager, snowhungry JETs to tag along with. 7. Firefly Squid Tour: Definitely a Toyama-only experience. Hop a boat from Namerikawa at 3 am in search of the mysterious Firefly Squid. You even get to eat them! This tour is only available around April when the squid are in season. 8. Ainokura Gassho House Village: Check out this World Heritage Site featuring traditional thatched-roof houses. This village gives the visitor a look back into Toyama’s distant past. 9. Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine Route: While all JETs get to climb Mt. Tateyama shortly after arriving here, I highly recommend returning in late April or early May for the Alpine Route. Walk through a massive valley of snow and see the area around Mt. Tateyama when it is buried in snow and ice. This area is only open for a short period in the spring. 10: Tonami Tulip Fair: Held in late April to early May in Tonami, the Tulip Fair features 450 different types of tulip on display. It’s a good opportunity for some excellent photos, and there are other events and attractions available for guests as well.


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September Book Club Meeting When: Saturday, September 5th, 3-5 Where: Kosugi (on JR line between Takaoka & Toyama-shi) Map & Directions: http://tinyurl.com/ms6vn7 Host: Disco (090-8095-2774) Whether you come every month, haven’t been in a while, or have never been, we’d love to have you! As usual, (vegetarian-friendly) dinner will be provided, but BYOB. We will be discussing Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. There’s at least 2 copies floating around, but amazon has it in stock for only 1,305 円 , so why not order one?Here’s a review by Brad Thomas Parsons:

"I was born twice: frst, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974." And so begins Middlesex, the mesmerizing saga of a near-mythic Greek American family and the "roller-coaster ride of a single gene through time." The odd but utterly believable story of Cal Stephanides, and how this 41-year-old hermaphrodite was raised as Calliope, is at the tender heart of this long-awaited second novel from Jeffrey Eugenides, whose elegant and haunting 1993 debut, The Virgin Suicides, remains one of the fnest frst novels of recent memory. Eugenides weaves together a kaleidoscopic narrative spanning 80 years of a stained family history, from a fateful incestuous union in a small town in early 1920s Asia Minor to Prohibition-era Detroit; from the early days of Ford Motors to the heated 1967 race riots; from the tony suburbs of Grosse Pointe and a confusing, aching adolescent love story to modern-day Berlin. Eugenides's command of the narrative is astonishing. He balances Cal/Callie's shifting voices convincingly, spinning this strange and often unsettling story with intelligence, insight, and generous amounts of humor:

Emotions, in my experience aren't covered by single words. I don't believe in "sadness," "joy," or "regret." … I'd like to have at my disposal complicated hybrid emotions, Germanic traincar constructions like, say, "the happiness that attends disaster." Or: "the disappointment of sleeping with one's fantasy." ...I'd like to have a word for "the sadness inspired by failing restaurants" as well as for "the excitement of getting a room with a minibar." I've never had the right words to describe my life, and now that I've entered my story, I need them more than ever.' When you get to the end of this splendorous book, when you suddenly realize that after hundreds of pages you have only a few more left to turn over, you'll experience a quick pang of regret knowing that your time with Cal is coming to a close, and you may even resist fnishing it-putting it aside for an hour or two, or maybe overnight--just so that this wondrous, magical novel might never end. 


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Here's a quick rundown of when the Group B Regional Dinners are taking place. Contact your Regional Rep for further details.

Takaoka GROUP B Welcome Dinner

Toyama GROUP B Welcome Dinner

Where: Jindaiko (located in red light district, near Daiwa.) When: Thursday August 6th, 2009 Time: 7pm ~ 9pm Cost: Individual Order Meeting place: *North side of Takaoka station, @ 6:40pm.

Where: Hanbey When: Thursday August 6th Time: From 6:30 – 8:30 pm Meeting Place: in front of CIC at 6:15 X marks the spot! (by the water fountain) Karaoke to follow.

Tonami GROUP B Welcome Dinner

Niikawa GROUP B Welcome Dinner

Where: Someday Bar (located in Fukuno.) When: Thursday August 6th, 2009 Time: From 6pm

Where: Peyote (Take the JR line to Uozu) When: Thursday August 6th Time: From 6:30


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PA C orner Where’s My VACATION??

…Surviving the longest month of the year If you’d told me a month ago that I’d be practically begging for classes to start again, there’s a good chance I would have slapped you. By the time the spring term ended, I was swamped with class and tests, and was dying to have a moment where I could just catch up with my work and breathe (and maybe even study Japanese a little)! Of course now, like many of you, I’m starting to sing an entirely different tune. Without class, the days are long, and they feel like they’re getting longer. Japanese teachers go to work even when the students are on vacation, and for us ALTs, when we aren’t teaching, sometimes it feels like there is no point to us coming to work at all! August can be brutal. At some schools, teachers go out and do club activities all day, and at others the Japanese teachers are *still* running around, scrambling to get this-or-that done before the day ends. For ALTs, however, it feels like time is frozen. Our main purpose here is to interact with the students, and it feels very isolating when the main way of achieving this is temporarily removed, while those around us seem to continue their daily routine as usual. Isolation can lead to feelings of burnout, restlessness, and sometimes even resentment of the people around us for not including us in what seems to be “their” world. Sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for a month straight, can literally make a person crazy. After all, there are only so many hours I can spend studying kanji before I go crosseyed, and only so many different ways I can try to organize my lessons. However, August doesn’t have to be so painfully boring. Here are some suggestions to keep your genki juices flowing:

•GET OUT OF THE STAFF ROOM!! Sitting at the same desk for 8 hours and hardly speaking to anyone is a guaranteed way to drive yourself crazy over the summer! Even if it’s just going for short walks around the school, or eating lunch away from your desk, find reasons to get up, move around and change your surroundings throughout the day. •Visit your students during club activities. Your students are still kicking around here and there; go find them! They will love it, and it’s a great way to get that human interaction you may find yourself missing now that classes are over. •If you study or read during work, why not take it to the library? Again, a change of atmosphere will make a difference to your day! •Try to limit your internet usage. Using the internet is a good way to pass the time and interact with other JETs, but it will also separate you from the rest of the staff, and it’s easy to find yourself glued to the screen after a certain amount of time—I know, I’ve been there! •Try to make a daily work routine for yourself, and stick with it. Set a certain amount of time each day for studying, spending time with students and preparing lessons for the future…this structure could be just what you need to make the most of your time at work. •Try out your Japanese—try to talk to someone in the staff room each day. •Particularly for incoming JETs, this could be a great time to dive into some of the materials left on your desk. Do some research, and use this time to study lessons and teaching methods. It’ll make your life a lot easier in the long run!


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I hope you find these suggestions helpful! It’s easy to get stuck in a rut and feel like you are wasting your time away at your desk. I think you’ll find that reaching out to coworkers and students, a change of atmosphere and clear daily goals/routines will make a big difference! If you find that these suggestions don’t work for you, try something else! For example, many people start personal projects in their down time, like starting an online course, writing a blog/journal or reading a book (English or Japanese). When I’m not busy, sometimes I go and practice piano in the music room. It’s relaxing, and if a student hears me and comes in, it’s a great center of conversation  That sense of restlessness and frustration you may start to feel while you are sitting at work is your mind telling you that it wants something different. Listen to this message and switch up your routine if you have to! We may not have classes in August, but we can still enjoy ourselves and make the most of our time! I’d like to share one final note, about the cultural difference between Japanese teachers and teachers we may be used to. Many of us come from countries where if you are at work, it’s because you have something to do, and if you

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don’t have any work, then there is no point to being there. In fact, the teachers in your home country might not go to work during times when students are on vacation. This is not the case in Japan. In Japan, teamwork is key, and even if you feel like you are not doing anything, the Japanese value your availability during these times when some people are busy and some are not. You are part of the team at your school, even if sometimes you don’t feel like it, and that’s why even in the summer, when you don’t have classes, your presence is wellappreciated. Your coworkers may not directly ask you to complete any work-related tasks, but they recognize your presence and value your time and availability. Keeping this in mind, don’t be shy! Make small talk with your coworkers or ask them a question about Japanese or Japan! Even if they seem very busy, they are available for you as well and though it might seem like you’re interrupting them during a task, by speaking to the people around you, you are actually contributing to the team spirit of your workplace! I hope you can give some of my suggestions a thought, and make the most of the school’s “down season” (good God, did I just make a SPORTS metaphor!?) Take care, and be happy and healthy! Tiffany

Michelle Runk’s Top 10 Kanji – in order of stroke count 河(5) カ、かわ , River ( A cooler way to write river…I wish Namerikawa was 滑河  and not 川!) 氷(5) ヒョウ、こおり , Ice (Useful for festivals…when you see that you know there is shaved ice) 油(8) ユ、あぶら , Oil ( Helpful for cooking?) 思(9) シ、おも(う ), Think, feel (It looks like a rice field is weighing heavily on someone’s heart… or that maybe the most important thing in one’s mind is rice?) 酒 (10)  シュ、さけ , Alcohol (If you don’t know this one yet, it’s good time to learn now!) 桃 (10) トウ、もも , Peach (Movin’ to the inaka, Gonna eat a lot of peaches…) 無 (12) ム、ブ、ない , Nothing, none, not (Helpful for when you are looking for non alcohol, non sugary, non fatty things…or when you want to make sure there is alcohol, sugary and fatty things in whatever you are looking for.) 傘 (12) サン、かさ , Umbrella (Cause it looks like an umbrella! …only the rain is underneath the umbrella.) 鳳 (14) オオトリ , Phoenix (Let’s face it…anything with phoenix in it is just cool.) 輝 (15) キ、 かが(く ), Sparkle, glitter (Put light and army together and you get sparkle!)


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Vegan Chocolate Brownie By Erika Bateman Brace yourself! At first glance of the ingredients this recipe looks rather frightening, but I assure you that they are a guilt-free, delicious dessert! I feel that this dessert is perfect in a country where eating beans for dessert is the norm. If you’re interested in other great vegan recipes check out http://happyherbivoure.com Ingredients: 1 can or about 1.5-2 cups of any bean (I used kidney beans) (rinsed, patted dry) 2 bananas 1/4 cup cocoa 1 tbsp ground cinnamon 1 tsp vanilla extract 1/2 cup quick/instant oats (or you can use whole wheat flour, but its better with the oatmeal) *optional: a few drops mint extract (I used about a shot glass of peppermint schnapps) *optional: 1/4 cup raw sugar or honey chocolate chips *optional: chopped walnuts ** if you’re bananas are really ripe (browning) you probably won’t need the extra sugar; I suggest making the batter without it, then taste testing it to see if you need to add more sugar.

Directions: 1. Preheat 350F 2. Combine all ingredients, except oats, in a food processor or blender 3. Blend until smooth, scrapping sides as needed 4. Stir in the oats 5. Pour into a greased 8×8 in pan 6. Bake approx 30 minutes, toothpick test   (at first, it might not look set…they will harden up) 7. Allow to completely cool before slicing (so important) ** if you find these brownies are too soft or too fudgey, add another 1/4 cup oats or flour.

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: ajetnewsletter@gmail.com

Toyama Times Staff Editors: Paula Kerrigan Jonothan Pery Staff Writers: Michael Grudzinski Ally Lomas Jon Perry Kieran Murphy


Toyama Times