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2007 September Welcome

THE TRAM T.oyama’s R.andom M.agazine A WORD FROM THE EDITORS Welcome to the Welcome edition of the Tram! If you’re new to Toyama, this is your magazine, it’s about you and it’s here to publish your work and hopefully entertain you. On the other side of the coin, if you aren’t happy with the content, or think you could do it better, you can change that by sending in your own stuff. Freedom of speech is in: you can say what you like. You can even criticise AJET. Or Japan! But for now, just sit back and enjoy .

LauraC & Vannie (editors)

FEATURING Serious Journalism! News & Reviews Useful and Interesting Guides A Riddle A Healthy Recipe A Really Unhealthy Recipe & more!

Welcome to Toyama!


As promised in the previous issue of the Tram, our resident sleuth investigates:


For a broader picture of the private ALT changeover, please see the article ‘The Rise of Private Investigates being possibly too ALTs’ in the previous issue. Tostrong a word, a combination of day I will be focusing solely on wild speculation, second or third the rumours of the imminent dehand snippets of rumour, and the mise of the JET Programme. occasional actual fact having led me to do the unthinkable: write to CLAIR. CLAIR’s Steve Woerner was kind enough to supply To provide a bit of background answers to some of the more for you fair reader, the first post burning questions. in the thread entitled ‘The death of JET?’ appeared on the Toyama JETs message boards on September 26th, 2006, and a picture gradually emerged through the “I’m a little sad the JET program following weeks and months of a might be coming to an end. It has sharp drop-off in the numbers of JETs in Toyama ken who would been such a great experience! I have another JET as their succesguess people are always looking for sor. Every year, the numbers sheaper ways of doing things.” fall, (we are officially fewer than 100 this year, for the first time Jacquie Lengkeek, outgoing ALT since 1994), ALTs are spread ever more thinly between schools, and recently junior high school ALT contracts are being filled by private companies (if you were wondering why there Here, then, are the results of my are no new JHS ALTs in the Ta- inquiries. kaoka and Imizu City areas this year, that is why).


I n t e r v i e w

w i t h


P r o g r a m m e

Q Toyama prefecture has in recent years seen a decline in the number of JETs, which dipped below 100 for the first time this year. In most cases, the positions formerly held by JETs are being filled by ALTs from private companies. Is Toyama an isolated case, or are other prefectures experiencing the same trend? A The number of participant numbers has been declining over the past five years due to mergers and budget cuts happening all over the country. I can't say how many of these positions have been filled with private ALTs or CIRs because some Contracting Organisations have been forced to cut positions all together. Here are the numbers of JET participants over the last 5 years:

2003 2004 2005 2006 2007

► ► ► ► ►

6,226 6,103 5,853 5,508 5,119

Q In cases like this one, what is CLAIR’s position on stabilising JET numbers? What steps, if any, are being taken to keep JET ALTs a competitive option for schools and Boards of Education? A In terms of what is being done about stablising these numbers, not only CLAIR, but also each of the three government ministries involved in the Programme (MEXT, MIC, and MOFA) are actively promoting the benefits of JET to Contracting Organisations. In addition, MOFA is working on ways to find qualified candidates from around the world who will uphold the goals and principles of the Programme. MEXT is hoping to increase JET participant numbers by increasing the amount of placements in elementary schools. As you know, JETs cost more than private ALTs because of the JET salary, insurance benefits, and other advantages such as the airfare to and from Japan. While there have been many calls from Contracting Organisations to decrease the salary of JETs to make them more affordable, there are no plans to do so at the current time (at least none that I am aware of). Instead, CLAIR hopes to promote the internationalisation element of having a JET participant. JETs do more than just teamteach a class and go home. Many JETs are active in school activities, eat lunch with students, run English clubs, and do other activities that go beyond just teaching in the classroom. These interactions with students leave a lasting impression on students and inspire them to learn more about foreign languages and cultures. Q Are the rumours about the imminent ‘death of JET’ simply unfounded scaremongering, or are we really entering a new era of private companies cornering the market? A Contracting Organisations with JETs who go beyond the minimum work requirements to get involved in their schools and communities know that they are getting


their money's worth, which is why I think rumors about the "imminent death of the JET Programme" are quite far off. This is not to say that the decision to cut a JET position is based only on a JET's work performance. Some Contracting Organisations who are very happy with their JETs' work performance are still forced to make cuts because of the tight budget situation facing all local authorities in Japan. In a city near where I used to be a JET in Tottori, they didn't even have the budget to run their public library any more. In that kind of financial situation, it isn't surprising that the number of public servants, both foreign and Japanese, is also being cut. For JETs who are concerned with the future of the JET Programme, the best thing they can do is to try to be a good example of the "internationalisation" aspect of JET. CLAIR and the Ministries can talk about the benefits of JETs all they want, but the only ones who can truly show that JETs are worth the extra cost are the JETs themselves.

It seems then that there really is a countrywide trend among contract organisations toward cutting JET positions, but that CLAIR believe this to be mainly for economic reasons, and should be seen in the light of cutbacks across the board. Another rather striking feature was the tacit assumption that a private ALT will ‘just team-teach a class and go home’, rather than involve themselves more deeply in school life. Whether this is the case or not will surely depend on the person, as with

JET ALTs (plenty of people I know do just that – treat being an ALT as a job that they want to do well, but keep it separate from other areas of their life). However, as CLAIR and the ministries have a product to market, it is natural to expect that they would be talking that product up. So it seems that we can expect a continuing decline in the numbers of JETs, but with numbers still high, not necessarily an end to it all.



Am I going to be the crappest ALT ever? Siobhan Jackson I remember everyone telling me the first couple of weeks are the “honeymoon period” because everything is exciting and new. This essay is for anyone who finds that sentence unbelievably depressing. I want to write this essay for any new ALT sitting at their desk in the searing heat of August feeling lost and thinking “what on earth am I supposed to be doing?” My first couple of weeks here seems to be an amalgamation of different mortifying moments: Following my (male) supervisor into the toilet, eating with my chopsticks upside down and ignoring the mayor and greeting a random office worker instead. I want to reassure you if you feel the same or are sat at your desk feeling vaguely intimidated by the students. Other ALTs told me stories of classes giving them standing ovations, students waving at them excitedly from windows and bursting to welcome them. I, on the other hand, merely felt relieved that the student who looked like he was about to spit in my face, didn’t. This was my biggest worry. Tokyo Orientation gave me the feeling that unless I was universally worshipped or had a shrine erected in my honour, I would be a bad ALT. My first couple of weeks convinced me accomplishing this goal might be a tad difficult. The girls would laugh nervously with their mates and back away as I approached; the boys would ignore me or shout my name at enormously high volume. Just by saying “hello” I created mass hysterics, prompting me to subtly check if my flies were undone, I had a bogie creeping out of my nose or if I actually had something rude stamped across my forehead. I definitely got culture shock too, although I think its name is misleading. I wasn’t shocked by anything about the culture, in fact I loved it. That didn’t stop me actually uncontrollably sobbing, with a bit of rocking thrown in, alone in my house for a few nights. That’s when I looked up culture shock in the handbook and realized I might have it. I


felt not only isolated but like I was a burden on everyone around me. There wasn’t anyone I felt comfortable about seeing me in my scary mucus state yet, so I made a list of all the things that were good about my situation, and all the things I wanted to do with my time in Japan. The two lists proved surprisingly long and writing them calmed me down and highlighted all the little things I loved about Japan. Like when it rained I came home to find someone had put an umbrella over my washing, grownmen with fans, riding a bike with a basket and still being cool, my 257 year old neighbour shouting “genki!” whenever she sees me, students teaching me their cheering dance and wearing trainers at school. The feeling of being a burden was the worst. Convinced I was going to be the worst ALT ever, I felt increasing amounts of guilt every time my supervisor or teacher had to do something for me. This was pretty much all the time. My predecessor seemed to be the perfect ALT who spoke fluent Japanese and the students probably had weekly sobbing sessions wondering why they had left them with a useless, sweating lump who spoke English in a different accent. I wanted to hide in the staffroom FOREVER. Once I realized (in a seminal, tedium-induced moment) that you get back what you give out, this changed. I decided that the students might want to communicate with me they just weren’t sure how to do it. Over the next week I was persistently friendly to every student I came across. It was hard work, because sometimes a student would totally blank me which made me feel less confident about striking up a conversation with the next lot. So, sometimes I was totally rejected, but the times I would have really funny, excited conversations more than made up for it. (Albeit short ones: once I exhausted “what’s your favourite sport/colour/food?” I was somewhat at a loss over what to say. That was before I discovered “who do you love?”) I then psyched myself up and went and watched club activities. I joined in a couple of times, until being repeatedly beaten by 13 year old girls was too embarrassing. Sometimes it was awkward and difficult to communicate, but I think it helped the students feel familiar with me, and that communicating didn’t have to be solely about speaking. There were loads of funny moments when the kids were so shocked that I couldn’t catch the ball, and that I tended to duck when it came in my direction. This made us laugh and forget our awkwardness. Now, chatting to the students in the corridors, club activities and join-


ing in P.E lessons seems easy and are my favourite things to do at school. Closely followed by using the internet and reading my book covertly under my desk come exam time. I was anxious about my first lessons too. I wanted them to be fun, yet insightful and meaningful at the same time, transcending borders and giving students a love for English that would last a lifetime. I soon abandoned this idea and asked other ALTs for advice tips and games. I’ve had some awesome lessons thanks to this. I’ve also had some horrendous lessons, which left me with a feeling that all the students would prefer to be eating their own hand rather than be in my lesson. Strangely, and luckily, rubbish lessons don’t mean that the kids dislike you personally; they still want to talk to you after class just as much as the students you did an awesome lesson with. Some, of course, may still not talk to you at all. This is just shyness, and you’ll wear them down eventually. Most of the teachers seemed shy around me too. No matter how daunting it seems, I’d suggest giving out your omiyage personally. I was really embarrassed to do this seemingly simple task and tempted to dump it all on a central table with a note. My supervisor pushed me to give it out individually. It was a useful ice-breaker. Teachers who had avoided looking me in the eye before were so friendly and welcoming. I have honestly never seen people more delighted to be handed a squashed up piece of toffee before in my life. It was like I was offering my kidney to their dying brother, not a half-melted brown piece of goo. The truth is, I probably was a bit of a burden at the beginning, but now I feel I’m a help. Although, when I stabbed my hand with a carving knife in an art class and had to be rushed to hospital, I reverted right back into being a problem. I consoled myself by thinking that at least I was being a liability in an art class, mixing with the students and spreading internationalization and English like a virus. I’ll never be the perfect JET, I still do horrendously embarrassing things (for instance I found out the other day that the Japanese word “boin boin” I thought meant jealous, actually is a reference to chest size. I kind of regret pointing at a girl’s cute bag and saying it now), some students still ignore me and I’m pretty sure they’ll never erect a shrine in my honour.


Yet I really, genuinely enjoy my job now. By forcing myself to do things I wouldn’t normally do (sport, eating fish heads and talking about Bump of Chicken like I actually know who they are) I’ve managed to build up a fun relationship with my students outside the classroom. So, I guess my message is pretty much “ganbare”. They even wave at me excitedly from the windows now. Admittedly, a few times they’ve actually been waving at the student walking behind me.

Ah well. Can’t win them all… Good Luck! =)


Your Guide to Media Options in Japan by Max Caughron

Don't speak Japanese? Me either. Here's your quick and easy guide to Japan's (legal) English language media options.

NHK News Overview: at 6:00 each night there is a news program broadcast on NHK dubbed into English. It's only 30 minutes, but it's worth watching. You'll be kept up to date with: the scandalous disgrace of corrupt business leaders, the progress of local cementing efforts, the quantification of life into charts and graphs, and videos of adorable children playing. You'll be missing out on: anything that doesn't happen in Japan. World view: “Japan is a beautiful country. Japan is a beautiful country. Japan is a beautiful country.”

CNN Overview: Due to its host country being the vanguard of democracy (and military expenditure), CNN is broadcast around the world. Due to differences in longitude This Morning with Miles and Katie O'Brian is on at prime time and Lou Dobbs Tonight is in the morning. Available through local cable. You'll be kept up to date with: things killing Americans. Specifically, you'll be caught up on wars for advancing democracy and hurricanes. Also covered are Mexicans taking American jobs, and why you shouldn't buy products from China. You'll be missing out on: actual news from a cosmopolitan perspective. World view: “World? You mean the Amer-osphere?”

The Internets/ The Google/ Toyama JETs Message Boards Overview: You are at school until 4:00. You have a very fast Internet connection. You'll be kept up to date with: pictures of cats, 9/11 conspiracies, who your bases are belong to, things Tim Lindenschmidt found interesting, why other people's schools rule. You'll be missing out on: teaching English on the JET Program. World view: Geek chic.


Japanese Pornography Overview: Understand a culture's porn and you get a glimpse at that society's taboos. You'll be kept to date on: the sexual nature of marine life, restrictive knot tying techniques, and how disturbing the mind of a salaryman is. You'll be missing out on: unscrambled genitalia. World view: Painful, sticky and without shadows.

CLAIR/What's Happening? Publications Overview: This trite (except for Team Taught Pizza) collection took someone weeks and weeks of hard work and you give about 6 seconds of attention before recycling it. You'll be kept up to date on: when and where to be patronized by gaijin hunters, how to dodge taxes in your home country, traditional dances of Mongolian tribes people. You'll be missing out on: the normal brain function you had before reading it. World view: Are there four seasons in your country?

How’s your Japanese? Try this riddle on your students- you get some interesting answers! むしたちはかいがいりょこうにいきます。いかないむしはだれぇ?

Answer on last page.


Gaijin for Sale or: How to make out like a bandit, at the grassroots level. So you’ll be thinking: I’m new here, I’d like to learn about Japanese culture, get out and see what there is to see in the ken, do interesting things with other like-minded people. The trouble is, maybe you don’t speak Japanese so well, or you’re not hooked up with the local networks, or maybe you’ve got debts to pay back home and can’t afford to go gallivanting around every weekend. Well then this article is for you! Over the last two years, I’ve practiced Zen meditation at a tranquil mountainside temple surrounded by 500 ancient stone Buddhas, I’ve made my own ceramic bowl at a famous pottery workshop, a glass paperweight at an amazing glass art centre, I’ve pulled a one-ton festival float with no wheels down the main street and drunk holy sake at any number of shrines, not to mention seeing the inside of a bunch of museums and art galleries that I would never have known were there, let alone how to get to. I’ve danced around the room in a gorgeous traditional wedding kimono, and learned an awesome, school-friendly recipe for scones on the way. And I did all this for approximately 700 yen a go, sometimes with a free bento thrown in. What’s the catch? Well, the thing with selling out is that eventually, you do have to, well, sell something. In this case, it’s your gaijinness. acity. isticness. Whatever. Because the way I got involved with these things was to sign up to every single event that any International Association in the ken was holding, as far as my schedule allowed, and answer a hundred quesAndrea Clatterbuck with molten tions from well-meaning middle-aged ladies about glass on a stick which country I was from, what school I worked at and why I came to Japan.


Sometimes I had to give my email address to someone I’d had a chat with, and sometimes after that I’d get an email saying ‘Hello. My name is Tomoko. Do you remember me? We talked at the…. Mostly they just want you to reply to their email. I’m cool with that. ALTs on the midnight firefly squidcatching observation trip

So my advice to you is- use what you’ve got! Put your foreign-aciousness out there, internationalise like crazy and reap the rewards. Now if you’ll excuse me, the scone-making gig gave me a hook-up to a lacquerware class for next year, so I’m off to study up

Disco’s Guide to the oh what a fool i was, scoffing at the idea of sitting at a computer, posting on a message board. how superior i felt to those who maintained friendships and gathered information in such places. how could i have imagined sitting still for so long with nothing to do?--winters spent huddled under my kotatsu, a 10 week stretch of no classes in the spring. how could i have known that a japanese staffroom can drive a person batshit insane and lead them to find solace in the cartoooooooons thread?

imagine my shock when i went over 1000 posts. please don’t tell my friends back home. there are people in the community that know way more about internet stuff, but who better to show you around the boards than someone who has done a complete 180 in one year? so here goes—first, the forums.


THE FORUMS *the japanese forum. this is not the most active part of the boards at the moment, but you could make it so. this is a great place to get help writing keitai emails to all the cute jboys you’ll meet. *upcoming events. even if you hate the boards, make sure to check this forum from time to time. anything and everything—concerts, sports, cultural events, classes, random get-togethers and of course ajet events—can be found here. toyama all ova ya face! i hope you really like pirates, because that’s all you’re allowed to talk about here. i kid--there are a bajillion (actually a little over 1800) threads here on every imaginable topic for you to post in, but what the hell, make your own. also if you wanna start some shit, this is where it needs to go down. oh yeah, facial hair is also a hot topic here. *important information. mostly archived copies of the tnb. if you don’t know what that is, it’s the awesome weekly email containing all sorts of information about upcoming events, jet meetings, and other official ish. you should start getting it soon. *teaching. oh no! you have 2 class periods to plan a 50 minute lesson on the past perfect tense using farm words vocabulary. check out this section, and soon you’ll have your ichinenseis saying “the farmer had slept in the barn with the cow many times before the sheep became suspicious.” *cir corner. this is the forum for coordinators of international relations to discuss coordinating international relations. if you have international relations that need coordinating, post here. *for sale! sell your shit! buy other people’s shit! give your shit away for free! *want ads. what do you need? maybe i have one laying around. *new toyama jets-2007. this will disappear soon until it’s time for the 2008 kids to show up. questions and queries. this is the place to ask questions. don’t post it in toyama all ova ya face and then say, “no one looks in questions and queries.” it’s bad form. people love to show how smart they are, so you should get an answer pretty quickly here. general site stuff. not a lot going on here. negative comments about the site or boards=whining. you don’t know that yet, but you will. travel. looking for a travel buddy? need your herpegonosyphillaids vaccination for thailand? trying to score some smack in bali? this is your place.


a few final thoughts: the search button is in the top right corner. the boards can actually be a good source of information, and sometimes you can find the answer to your question before you ask it. but if you can’t find something, there’s no harm in asking. if someone points out that someone asked your same question exactly 15 months ago on page 76 of the random thread, feel free to call these people out for being totally lame.


signing in anonymously. unnecessary. i used to do this when i got here because i never posted anything, and it just felt voyeuristic to just be signed in. but i think it’s ok to look around a bit and not say anything at first. now i only do it if i’ve lied to someone because i didn’t feel like going out or talking to them on gmail people talk shit. don’t get your feelings hurt, they’re just fucking with you. don’t run away. ignore it, or talk shit right back. no one is above getting told. they’re your boards, too.

the boards right now are dominated by a bunch of commies. political discussions with people you agree with are boring, so we’ve spent the last year arguing about some ridiculous stuff, like, “which is lamer to always be talking about—pirates or weed?” i’ve personally been hoping for a super brilliant right winger to show up and bring it. are you the fascist i’ve been dreaming about?

Laura Rountree

5000 ALTs Across Japan Out of Jobs After the Discovery That English May Damage Japanese Vocal Chords Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) in Japan are being told not to teach English to the natives because the language may damage vocal chords. Japanese officials say students who speak primarily Japanese could cause harm to their vocal chords if forced by ALTs to offer a traditional "Good Morning" -- which translates as "ohayou gozaimasu" -- or "Good Afternoon" -- konnichiwa -- during class, The Korean Geomancers reported Tuesday. The officials were successful in getting the greetings banned by the Toyama Prefectural Board of Education, where officials justified the move by saying it goes along with the Health and Safety Executive's recommendation that students limit their English class time to preserve their vocal chords. The English Language Act requires government bodies to offer English classes in Junior High and High Schools, but the Board of Education says greetings from now on will be Japanese only. However, some have objected to the ruling as a violation of the rights of the students and ALTs. "I can't see how saying 'hello' will do students in a classroom any harm," said Flubbert Bunni. "It's not like they can say it correctly anyway."


In a nutshell: What: A double feature - One zombie flick and one exploitation/slasher Who: Directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino Why: Two totally different kick arse films! Fake trailers in between movies.

So what is Grindhouse Cinema? Since this double feature from Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino is a homage this is an important question. According to the directors it’s a sub-genre from the 60s and 70s incorporating exploitation movies and early slashers. These films were notoriously B-grade (at best) and were always low budget. Instead of spending lots of money (which they probably didn’t have anyway) the filmmakers would pump out sleazy, blood-soaked films that were short on production value but high on gore, sex, drugs, and violence. The films were usually shown as double bills at drive-in theatres and the dodgiest cinemas. They were famous for having very poor picture quality, mainly due to a very small number of prints being passed from theatre to theatre ad nauseam, and often had discoloration, damaged parts, and at times even missing reels. Rodriguez and Tarantino have done their very best to recreate an authentic grindhouse feel in terms of story, style, acting, and picture quality with the pair even rubbing dirt on the negatives to reduce the quality of the film itself. One particular highlight is the now famous inclusion of fake trailers for other grindhouse numbers by popular young directors Eli Roth (Hostel) and Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead). Rob Zombie also wrote and directed his preview of Werewolf Women of the SS with Nicholas Cage as a maniacal Fu Manchu. Fans of Rodriguez’s films will recognize Danny Trejo, the tattooed Mexican tough guy with the handlebar moustache who usually packs a tonne of throwing knives on-screen, in the lead role of Machete. The preview is pure gold and is being made into a full-length direct-to-DVD feature.


As a viewer a certain approach is required to appreciate the style of the films. At the very least you have to let go of any and all notions of modern day blockbusters and prepare to relish the peculiar artistic notion of the quality of lowquality. Forget crystal clear visuals and try taking pleasure in a scratchy, off-centre picture that is occasionally interrupted by the moving head or walking body of a pretend audience member. This simple trick is effective in achieving the drivein theatre feel of a giant screen dwarfing the audience and is disconcerting as it drags us from the story and draws our attention to the fact that we are in fact watching a movie. While both are fine examples of grindhouse cinema the two films are completely different in almost every respect and should be enjoyed as such rather than compared. Planet Terror is an action-packed tale of murderous zombies on the rampage after a biological weapons deal goes wrong. The actors do a solid job and the characters are interesting and well developed but the real focus is on explosive action and plenty of it. It’s meant to be a schlock zombie gore-fest, and is an absolutely terrific one at that. Rose McGowan stars in both films in very different roles. She’s unforgettable in Planet Terror as the one legged ex-gogo dancer who has an assault rifle instead of a wooden leg. Along for the ride are Freddy Rodriguez as Elwray, the hero with a past, Michael Biehn (Terminator), Carlos Gallardo (El Mariachi), and Michael Parks (Kill Bill) as the cops and a huge cast of undead zombies out to rip everyone else apart. This film delivers everything a B-grade action fan could ask for and more and I just can’t say enough about it. Loved it. Contrastingly, Tarantino’s Deathproof, a new take on the slasher film, is about a killer who calls himself Stuntman Mike and his slow, methodical stalking of two groups of girls. It’s full to the brim with Tarantino-esque conversations and is occasionally punctuated by extreme violence. That being said the final action sequence, a long hi-speed country chase, is thrilling. Kurt Russell is in great form as the ageing Mike, and Rosario Dawson (Sin City) is impressive in a more “girly” role. Sydney Tamiia Poitier, daughter of Sir Sidney himself, is fantastic as the brash radio DJ Jungle Julia. The surprise stand-out performance is by Zoe Bell, who plays a caricature of herself as a fearless stuntwoman. Tarantino was his own DOP for Deathproof and operates the camera nicely, including some of his trademarks such as the long take following


Jungle Julia around in her apartment. As a slasher/exploitation flick this film is very interesting, although rather slow paced, and many critics were impressed by its surprising feminist twist. I definitely enjoyed it and think it is worth a viewing but if I had to choose I would say I much preferred Planet Terror as the balance of good, simple characterization with lots of action was exactly what this fan of the genre was after. One last thing. In an attempt to attract more viewers in the UK, Grindhouse has been split into 2 separate films with different release dates. Apart from ruining the olden day drive-in theatre double feature effect this also means seeing the films without the famous fake trailers. A very poor idea if you ask me. I highly recommend seeing both films together the way they were intended to be viewed. A DVD copy, or a downloaded/backed up copy to replace the scratched/lost copy which you previously legally purchased, ran through a big screen TV with a stereo hooked up for meatier sounds and explosions would make for a better experience than seeing it in pieces at the cinema. Besides it doesn’t matter how low quality the copy is, with Grindhouse this will only add to the intended effect. NB: I make absolutely no claim to be an objective, non-biased reviewer. Where would the fun be in that? I write about what I love and what impresses me. Oh yeah, and if you haven’t see Sin City you’d better hurry up and sort that out because it’s wicked! Andrew MacAskill


Quattro Stagioni Every morning every night, In the changing autumn light The iron road rattles you across the Shō. Every morning looking out Across the factories that spout Their fumes that dull the glassy waters down below. A pair of eyes in the dark On the street down by the park Pierce you to the bottom of your soul. Just another boy alone As you both stagger slowly home Through the winter in Toyama in the cold. But now the maple leaves are dancing, As the pale sunrays are glancing From the blue-tiled roofs and windows one by one. And the newly planted rice Replaces melting snow and ice While far away the mountains glisten in the sun. But here at last is summer In its glory, and the hum of The cicadas in the trees is always there. Still there’s no respite from the heat That hangs on every torpid street And you’re not sure if you should breathe, or drink, the air. Anon


How to Not Be 200lbs Without Being Ascetic By Kate Quinlan

I'm turning 27 years old this year, which although it's better than the alternative, scares the piss out of me. On the plus side, at 26 and holding, I'm in much better shape than the average American. The number of overweight or obese people has increased dramatically to the point where it's referred to as a 'national epidemic'. There's a lot of fat Americans out there. And, more disturbingly, a lot of them are kids. Now, I'm not the poster-child of health and fitness. I smoke. I eat what I want. I've only recently returned to the gym. Prior to coming to Japan, my eating habits were actually really good, I smoked less (thanks to the NY ban on smoking in restaurants and bars) and went to the gym five days a week. Then, for more than a year in Japan, I basically sat on my butt. And yet, my butt did not expand beyond the confines of the jeans I already owned. So, here are Kate's Rules for eating without A) getting fat, and B) living like a monk. 1)

Don't eat straight out of the box. I don't care what it is. Unless it's a single-serve box or bag, there's food for more than one person in there. And yet, you'll be digging your fingers through the crumbs in no time if you just eat from the package. Instead, pour some in a bowl (a small bowl) and eat it slowly. Even if it's bite-size (like chips or Cheezits), take two bites to eat them.

2) Halve your portions. Most restaurants serve too much food. Either order from the seniors' menu, or save half your meal to take home and eat the next day. Most plates at home are too big, too, so we have an urge to fill that empty space. Place your food in the center of the plate to create the impression the plate is fuller. Or, buy colorful plates with wild designs so they don't look so empty. 3) Don't eat in front of the TV. This is a bad, bad habit. When your attention is focused on the television, you're eating on autopilot. When you can't remember if you tasted anything or not, you feel the urge to eat more. Instead, bring a book to the table. Having one of your hands full returns your attention to the mechanics of eating. Or, better, bring a friend or your family to the table and linger over conversation. 4) Wait. Before you leap up for seconds or for dessert, wait five to ten minutes. Have a glass of water. You may feel full already, so why eat more?


5) There will always be cake. Or icecream, or cookies. Nobody is going to stop making sweets, so don't eat them like there's no tomorrow. Treat yourself once or twice a month to a full-fat full-size desserts and enjoy it without the guilt. The rest of the time, it's not denial - it's discipline. 6) Substitute. For those times when you've just got to have something sweet or salty (and hey, nothing wrong with that), there are substitutions. Baby carrots, peanut-butter-on-celery, chocolate milk and lightly salted popcorn are really tasty. 7) Really don't eat in front of the TV. Take up a hobby that keeps your hands busy while you're watching television. Knitting, crocheting, cross-stitching and other forms of needlework are really excellent for this. Plus, eventually, you'll have something pretty to show for it. The point is, keep your hands busy and you're less likely to occupy them by stuffing your face. 8) Don't buy. Limit the amount of snacks you buy. Select your snack for the week. Chips or cookies or icecream. Not everything! Make it last. Don't buy a new snack until that one's gone. It's good for your waist and your budget, because snack foods are expensive. 9) Can the soda. Soda is probably the worst thing in the world for you. But, as an occasional treat, it's not so bad. Just don't let it become your regular beverage. If you gotta have the caffeine, stick to tea or coffee. If you crave the cool sweetness, switch to chocolate milk, juice or lemonade. I drank milk all the time growing up, so my bones and teeth are really strong (as the dentist remarks with awe). Now in the evening with dinner, I generally drink cranberry juice. Buy 100% juice, because from-concentrate usually has a lot of extra sugar added to that extra water. Pure might cost a little more, but at least it's all juice. When you do buy soda, buy it in cans, not bottles. Who on earth needs 20oz of soda? Nobody. Buying in cans reduces your portions for you. 10) Trim the fat. Cut fat where it won't hurt. I switched to skim milk when I was 14. It was gross for a while, and I put lots of Nesquik in it. In short order, I got used to the taste and the texture. Reduced fat crackers, cookies and peanut butter are barely distinguishable from their full-fat counterparts. 11) Cap the salt. A lot of foods already have salt on them. Don't add more. Many people add salt automatically to their food, no matter what food it is or how much it already has. If you skip the salt, you'll realize how much the flavor of food actually improves. Since you'll be tasting the actual food, not the sodium. Really, the only foods that need salt are potatoes and popcorn, because let's face it - they're boring without it. Use a small spoon, don't just dash it all over the place.


12) Have some honey, sugar. Don't use refined sugar. It's bad for you. Instead, put honey in your coffee or on your breakfast cereal. It's tasty, sweet and much better for you. 12) Don't miss breakfast. The really big reason for this is you burn most of your calories in the morning. Breakfast is your opportunity to have a danish, a mocha latte, bacon. I usually have whole-grain cereal, or whole-grain toast with peanut butter. On the weekend (Saturday or Sunday, not both), I make french toast, pancakes, fried eggs and bacon or muffins (and I don't feel bad about it!) Incorporating protein into your morning gives you more slow-burn energy to get you through until lunch time without a mid-morning snack. Really, go ahead and have the latte! 13) Buy fresh. I didn't like veggies growing up (who did?), but living on my own has made me recognize the wisdom in getting some recognizable nutrition. Frozen or canned vegetables are gross in the extreme. Fresh vegetables, on the other hand, are much crisper and flavorful. Eat veggies in salads and stir-fry so you don't cook out the nutrients. Find a salad dressing (uh, ideally not a creambased one) that you really, really like, and the make yourself a big salad for lunch or dinner. With a sliced chicken breast on top, it's a meal. Add cheese, and you'll wonder why you had to be forced to eat your greens. Japan has a sesame salad dressing that I could almost chug from the bottle, but it's tastier on a salad of spinach, broccoli, carrots, spring greens and romaine lettuce. Buy darker leafed vegetables, as they have the most vitamins and minerals (step away from the iceberg lettuce!). For example, broccoli has lots of iron and calcium - two minerals women need most. Fresh might be more expensive in winter months, but with farmers’ markets getting into swing, price is no excuse. 14) Only eat at the table. Do not eat in bed. Don't eat in front of the TV (I can't emphasize that enough). Don't eat standing at the counter. Don't eat in your car. Unless there is some emergency that means you have to grab food on the go, allow yourself enough time to eat in a leisurely way. You'll eat less if you can take your time and enjoy it more. I get up a little bit earlier than I need to so that I can have a good breakfast without rushing. I'm also really lazy, so if I can do it, so can you. 15) Holidays. If you keep yourself disciplined when it comes to your everyday eating habits, you'll keep off the pounds even when your life is mostly sedentary. Or, a holiday rolls around. I ate utterly guilt-free at Christmas, stuffing myself with turkey, stuffing, gravy and pie. In fact, my boyfriend had to stop me from drinking half a mug-full of reheated turkey gravy. There's a picture of the two of us out for a fancy dinner, and I wore a dress so form-fitting it didn't allow hardly any undergarments. And while I look at it and think, "Geez, I really need to go to the gym and tone those arms,"... I also look pretty damn good, no excuses.


One last bonus hint - Only buy smaller pants. Do not allow yourself to go up a size, ever, unless you are pregnant. But shedding some inches around the waist so that you have to buy smaller clothes... That's not a shopping excuse, it's a celebration. I'm all in favor of women being their natural, healthy size and not obsessing over their weight or stick-thin supermodels. But there is nothing natural about eating chips and drinking soda all the time. I weigh the same now as I did at 18 and I can still wear my prom dress 10 years later. When I see girls ten years younger than me and 30 pounds overweight, it makes me want to cry. Actually, it makes me want to say, "Oh, yeah, baby. I haven't lost it, I still got it!" And I mean my figure, not the pounds. Now that I'm going back to the gym and have committed to quitting smoking, I expect I'm only going to look healthier, fitter and hotter.


Cooking yakisoba at welcoming weekend!



To continue the cooking theme, here is a sexy recipe for you to try, from our very own sexy vegetarienne‌..


1/2 cup ricotta cheese (Daiwa in Tak has this!) 1/4 cup grated Parmesan 1/4 teaspoon oregano 2 packs fresh shiitake *you can opt for eggplant or spinach instead of shiitake if you prefer 2 tbsp olive oil 1 white onion (cut into small pieces) 3 garlic cloves (crushed or finely cut) 1 egg 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper 1/4 teaspoon salt (to taste) 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg Fresh pasta and sauce, recipes over here 1 egg mixed with 1/2 teaspoon water

Start a pan on medium heat, add olive oil, onions, and garlic. Cook until onion becomes translucent, then add mushrooms (etc.) Take 1/2 of the mixture and allow it to cool slightly (I enjoy tossing it into the freezer for added quickness!) then in a bowl combine all ingredients, except for the pasta and egg wash. (reserve other 1/2 for sauce) Using the fresh pasta recipe, roll out your dough. Cut into 3 or 4inch rounds with a round cookie cutter (or if you are ghetto, a glass/ plastic cup works). Place 1/4 teaspoon into the center of each round. Brush egg wash (on the bottom half of the round and fold over to seal. Fold back around your finger and turn down the edge to form a tortellini. In half a gallon of rapidly boiling salted water add the tortellini in batches. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until they float to the surface. Remove to a strainer to drain. Remember to seal the tortellini completely, or they will explode in the water, and you will lose the deliciousness.


Sauce: 1/2 reserved mushroom mixture 1 small carton heavy cream 1/4 cup grated parmesan 1 teaspoon oregano any other spices you like

Fresh Pasta: 3 cups all-purpose flour 2 large eggs 3 tablespoons water 1 teaspoon olive oil 1/2 teaspoon salt On a clean surface make a well with the flour. In a measuring cup mix the eggs, water and oil and salt. Pour the wet mixture slowly into the flour and mix with your 2 fingers until all of the wet is incorporated. Do not force the dough to take all of the flour. Cover with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour to rest. If you are going to roll this by hand you should knead the dough on a floured work surface for 8 to 10 minutes. I usually serve this with a mushroom sauce, but it can be served plain or with tomato sauce as well, whatever you prefer.

Mix all together in a saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil, then turn to low heat, allowing to simmer until it becomes a bit thicker. Best served immediately poured over tortellini .

Serves 4-6, or 2 if you are REALLY hungry and/or 1 if you are Jimmy.

Laura Thimling

And if you’ve had enough of dieting, this is a recipe for some of Cheryl’’s famous cookies! Guaranteed to keep you coming to Charity Show practice:-)

SNICKERDOODLES •1/2 cup butter, softened •1/2 cup shortening •1 1/2 cups white sugar •2 eggs •2 teaspoons vanilla extract •2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour •2 teaspoons cream of tartar •1 teaspoon baking soda •1/4 teaspoon salt •2 tablespoons white sugar •2 teaspoons ground cinnamon Cheryl Hou

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 400° F (200°C). Cream together butter, shortening, 1 1/2 cups sugar, the eggs and the vanilla. Blend in the flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt. Shape dough by rounded spoonfuls into balls. Mix the 2 tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon. Roll balls of dough in mixture. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until set but not too hard. Remove immediately from baking sheets.


Don’t Look!

Here’s the answer to the riddle. Q むしたちはかいがいりょこうにいきます。いかないむしはだれぇ? A か!(蚊)=mosquito! If you put the sentence into kanji, you would automatically read it as ‘虫たちは海 外旅行に行きます。’(the insects go on a holiday abroad) However, a second possible kanji arrangement is ‘虫たちは蚊以外旅行にいきま す’. (The insects go on a holiday without the mosquito).

This issue Tram’s cover is brought to you by Bowen, exJet.

Does anyone wanna submit a comic here next time? Write for the T.R.A.M! TOYAMATRAM@YAHOO.COM Ps. Thanks to Cheryl, Hilda, and others for letting me steal pictures

2007 September Trammis!!


Welcome Edition 2007

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