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Returner Handbook 2013

Departing ALTs and CIRs ken-wide, the Returner Handbook 2013 contains important information for you !

CLAIR COMPREHENSIVE GUIDE for the ‘gimme the theory’ types

GIFU JETS QUICK-REFERENCE GUIDE for the ‘I’m overwhelmed’ types

Whether you are an accumulator of Gifu animalia memorabilia or a 物使い捨て ”use and chuck-out” JET, these guides cannot be ignored. Full of useful information on return airfares, pension refunds,  apartment cleaning tips, car disposal documentation and reverse culture shock advice, it is worth more than a b.b.b.b.browse.  

Before you depart, we strongly recommend conveying as much information as you can to your successor, once you get approval from your Contractural Organization. To assist, your Prefectural Advisors have attached an easy-to-complete “Predecessor Pack“. Fill it in online and send a copy / leave a copy for your successor – it could be one of the most important things you do in the last few months.

PREDECESSOR PACK – MUNICIPAL JET

PREDECESSOR PACK – PREFECTURAL JET

Wherever you may be headed after JET, we hope you can come along to the AJET Goodbye Gifu bash at the end of June. With less than a month to go, it is sure to be a fun-filled affair.

Thanks again for all your hard work and best wishes in your future endeavours!  Don’t for get to CLEAN THAT APARTMENT !

Your Gifu JET support network

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Kakamigahara Cherry Blossom Festival

 
 

Gifu Jets ~ c’mon and hanami it up

 
AJET KAKAMI
 
When: April 6th (the festival will also be going on April 7th) from 10:30- 3:30
 
Where: Along the Shinsakai Canal in Kakamigahara (JR Naka stn. or Meitetsu Naka stn.). AJET will scout a location underneath the cherry blossom trees for a picnic style sitting area. Look for an AJET sign. Citizens Park next to the river will also have events during this time.
 
Cost: FREE. Just come and enjoy the event. 
 
What to expect: Kakamigahara has been named one of the top 100 places to see cherry blossoms by the Japan Cherry Blossom Association. Around 200,000 visitors come to Kakamigahara to view the cherry blossoms each year. Being a relatively small city (about 145,000 people), the festival tends not to be as crowded as some of the larger cities like Kyoto tends to be. 
 
Food and beverage situation: Along the river, there are many food stands selling things like yakiniku, soba, okonomiyaki, takoyaki, chocobananas, etc. so please bring money for stall food or bring some food and drinks to enjoy under the cherry blossoms.
 
RSVP to the AJET email or facebook invitation by April 3rd !

St Valentine’s in Japan – marketing ploy, obligation or true love?

…hot off the press from the Gifu Prefectural Government,

for the JET men of Gifu

♥ So here you are pal – first Valentine’s Day in Japan and given the multitude of ribbon-laced chocolate every woman in your office has put on your desk, you are convinced that you are the most popular and desirable creature strutting around the entire archipelago !  (Good on ya)

Sorry to break it to you ~ this is not necessarily the case.

Q) BUT, you may ask…. who on earth would give chocolate on February 14th and not expect at least a mini smooch in return ?

A) Those culprits again…. women in Japan 😉

February 14th

A date dedicated to the one-way passage (unless you choose to observe traditional western St Valentine’s rituals) of the below categories of gifts by females

1) GIRI CHOCO ~ given to friends and co-workers. “Giri” means something that you are “obliged to do”, and is thought to play a role in maintaining smooth relations. As a man, you will likely be in receipt of GIRI CHOCO if you are friendly in any way with a female, work alongside her or above her. Don’t expect anything too over-the-top, these are usually mass-produced.

Warning: watch out for CHO GIRI CHOCO (an obligatory chocolate that probably means you are not their favourite co-worker)

2) TOMO CHOCO ~ not restricted to male recipients, this is a “friendship” Valentine’s gift !

3) HONMEI CHOCO ~ something extra special that is designed to show the man of your life how much you like him. Ties, Cufflinks and the like will likely accompany a better-quality chocolate in a remarkably well-designed package set. Department stores specialize in these. This is what you want, fellas !

NB.  “JIKO CHOCO” refers to treating yourself on this day, usually because you could not resist the endless racks of dairy milk when purchasing for others!

March 14th  WHITE DAY

Role reversal ! The day that men return chocolate to the women around them. This started with marshmallow in 1978 – given the strong love symbolism associated with the colour white in Japan.

White Day is widely thought of as a sales-boosting campaign where chocolates are priced excessively high (anything less than twice the value of what the male received from the female on February the 14th is considered a very ordinary performance). Don’t worry though, the modern Japanese man is switched on, and will not necessarily go spending his entire monthly stipend just to “keep the peace” with platonic friends or workplace colleagues.

Other days of romantic significance in the Japanese calendar

May 13 ~ May Storm Day. If things are not going well, this is the “most suitable” day on which to start your breakup hanashi ! This date falls exactly 88 days after Valentine’s Day, just when the frost dissipates.

April 14 ~ Orange Day. A day on which lovers express their love for each other by swapping citrus fruits from local orchards.

For the record ~ across the Japan Sea in South Korean the citizens celebrate being single on “Black Day” each year by consuming black bean noodles.

Valentine’s songs

Utada Hikaru’s First Love, 1999

Sayuri Kokusho’s Valentine Kiss, 1986

BOA’s Love Letter, 2007

Kuwata Keisuke’s Shiroi Koibitotachi / White Love, 2001

G-FILES: Archive 3 ~ Tono

The G-FILES: a selection of current Gifu Jet profiles from each of the 5 regions.

G-FILES TONO

Completing our sweep of the southern half of Gifu, we dare to interview two of Tono’s ALT stalwarts (nonconformus externalis?). For those of you yet to visit, Tono may just take you by suprise! Post Towns that once hosted royal Princesses and dignitaries along the famous Nakasendo, dried persimmon hanging from verandahs (and just about anywhere else on a house), pottery festivals and kurikinton are just some of the delights that await you……

 

NATHAN ACKERMAN

I’m from the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri in the U.S., and I’m living in Iwamura, within Ena City. I like hiking a lot, but have yet to find many trails around here.  At home, I play acoustic guitar now and then, and since coming to Japan, I’ve started learning Japanese archery and calligraphy.  Aside from that, I try to explore the area around my house as much as possible, getting to know the people in the shops and restaurants.  When the weather is bad or I find myself with more time than I know what to do with at night, I’ve been translating the Japanese version of the latest Zelda game symbol by symbol as a means to learn Kanji.  And also maybe because I love Zelda games.

 

 In college, I studied the language for four years and loved every minute of class.  After taking a tour of Kyoto, Tokyo and Nara with my classmates, and later staying in Aichi prefecture with a host family, I realized that I knew enough of the language to get by in daily life.  Couple that with the delicious food, the beautiful scenery, the friendly, polite people, and the adventure of starting a new life in completely unfamiliar surroundings, I couldn’t help but search for work here.

 

 Aside from getting a firmer grasp on the language and the intricacies of the culture, I’d like to see Hokkaido during the Snow Festival, visit Okinawa, and finally explore all of the shrine to Inari in Kyoto (I’ve been there twice, but never got to take all the trails).  Wandering around more of Nara would be nice, too. I’d love to do some mountain climbing, maybe starting with Mt. Ena and eventually climbing Fuji. If I can find a way, I’ve been wanting to get involved with one of the Buddhist temples nearby, to learn from the monks.

 

 I love this area.  There’s enough space and greenery that I feel like I can stretch out and breathe, unlike in the city, but also enough of civilization that I don’t feel stranded.  It’s beautiful here, and the people are friendly and considerate.  Life here is good.  I’ve never regretted asking for Gifu.

JESSICA DEMERS

I’m from the beautiful Upper Michigan within the United States of America.  I moved to the center of Japan in a small city called Ena in the summer of 2011 where I teach elementary & middle school as well as two high school students privately.  I’ve been working here for about two years now and I’ve already signed up for my third term.

I have several hobbies that I enjoy here in Japan, some of which that have started since I moved.  First and foremost I am an artist and fashion designer so I have set up a studio in my apartment to accomodate that.  Other interests include cooking, travel, reading, mountain climbing, traditional dance, playing the guitar, Dungeons and Dragons, learning Spanish and I’m sure I’m forgetting other shenanigans but that’s good for now.

I came to Japan for a huge list of reasons.  First of which is that I taught international students in my university and they inspired me with their bravery.  I had students with all different backgrounds.  Some came with their families, some were students, some knew a lot of English and some knew none.  There were characters from all corners of the globe and it was inspiring to see them learn every day.  I wanted to do the same.  I could have gone to any country.  However, there were other determining factors that made me chose Japan.  Culture for example.  Japan was the first country I had been to outside of America.  I needed some culture.  Inspiration is another one.  I graduated with a dual concentration in fine art and fashion and so I felt that Japan would be a place where I could get a huge range of visual influence.  Those would be the major ones.  Small ones also exist such as, I like anime, my friend studied Japanese and I like making kimonos also factor into my decision.

We don’t have very much public or reliable transportation where I come from so first time I ordered a ticket and rode the skinkansen all the way to Fukuoka was a memorable and proud experience.  I love the Snow Festival in Hokkaido.  I went with some wicked awesome ladies.  Gujo Hachiman the both times I’ve been there have been bloody fabulous.  Buckfast, whiskey and dancing with a Frenchman, Irishman & Scotsman was absolutely hilarious.  First festival with my comrade, Gabriel Misaka was a memory I’ll never forget. The fireworks seemed to last the whole night. Amazing. My twenty-third birthday I dressed as an elf and walked part of the Nakasendo.  After the evening merriment I thought I lost a contact in my eye and called an ambulance.  You could imagine how interesting a foreigner dressed as an elf in an ambulance bed slurring in broken Japanese that there is a contact stuck in her eye must look.  There was no contact.   Every day in Japan is an adventure.  How can it not be? 

The Best of iOS for Gifu JETS

by Jodie Condick and Jason Walters

Jodie’s Picks

If you have an iPhone in Japan, it’s probably made your life easier at some point or other. I know that I rely on it a lot. This is a list of apps that I use, and perhaps they will help you too. If you have any favorite apps, let me know and I’ll add them to the list.

Practical apps

The Japanese era calendar system can be confusing to convert to western years, especially if you’re in a hurry to complete paperwork. Gengou free is a tool that quickly converts one into the other.

NHK World TV (Live) streams TV programs live in English. It is overdubbed, which can be a little annoying if watching for pleasure. However I thought this app was invaluable just after 3/11. Not being able to understand news reports in Japanese was frustrating, and this really helped me understand what was going on.

With Dragon dictation, record a voice (in English or Japanese), and the words will appear on the screen. You then have the ability to edit the text, or cut and paste it into a message or dictionary.

Currency (by Jeffrey Grossman) is a simple app that converts several currencies at once. I imagine XE Currency would also be a good choice.

Skype is so well-known that it’s become a verb. But maybe you didn’t know there’s an app. Use it to make free calls worldwide. I’ve heard that Viber allows you to make free calls and send messages to other iPhone users who have it installed.

Apps for learning Japanese

Kotoba! Dictionary is easy to use, and includes examples and bookmarks. It has kanji lists for JLPT study (although for the old 4-level test rather than the newer 5-level test). You can also see what kanji is taught within each grade at school, and learn about kanji radicals, stroke order and composition.

Kanjibox is a smart, intuitive tool for studying kanji, increasing vocabulary and improving reading skills. It can also be used for studying kana. You can start at any JLPT level and work your way up. The app learns when you know something or if you need more practice, and produces personal statistics. If you also use Kanjibox on your home computer, you can sync your scores.

Katsuyo is a Japanese verb conjugator. This is not so much a tool for studying conjugation, but rather a helping hand when you need to conjugate a verb in a hurry. Handy if you get stuck writing a message in Japanese.

For beginners, Tae Kim’s Guide To Learning Japanese is great. Tae Kim recognizes that “Japanese is different [to English] in just about every way down to the fundamental ways of thinking,” and has created what he calls “a Japanese guide to learning Japanese grammar.” For example, it teaches the plain form before the polite, kanji is introduced immediately, and it encourages us not to force our English expressions into Japanese. Worth a look, especially since it’s free.

Tae Kim also has an app called Kana Kanji Funtime, which can be bought for a small fee. It’s also for beginners who want to learn kana and some basic kanji. Although I haven’t used it, it could be helpful.

Fun stuff

SoundCloud identifies songs playing around you. Your phone will listen, and then tell you the name of the song and artist. Alternatively, sing to it and see if it can guess your tune!

Next time you’re in a sushi shop, try out Sushipedia. Search by name, ingredients or what’s in season now. There’s a detailed description and picture of many kinds of sushi.

The game Reversi is quite popular in Japan. Use the screen as a board to play with a partner, or play the computer.

Mr AahH! I heard this was something of a craze in Japan for a while. A simple, tactile game in which you have to get the character to jump onto poles of differing sizes.

I like Tonkatsu Camera. Take a picture of someone, and their head will appear in the middle of a piece of fried pork.

Apps may or may not be available depending on which country’s iTunes store you use.

Jason’s Picks

Before I extol the virtues of mobile apps for ALTs, I will take my lumps- yes, I’ve only covered iOS applications for Apple devices, for no other reason than that I’ve only ever used iOS applications for Apple devices.  I’ve no doubt that Android and its ilk have no end of high-quality solutions for streamlining your life in Japan, but my ignorance demands that someone else write that article.

For now, here are my “big picks” for useful, enjoyable, and ridiculous mobile applications for iPhone and iPad that can give you a leg up in your life as a Gifu JET.

Japanese Study

Japanese    http://japaneseapp.com

Hands-down, this is the best combination dictionary/kanji reference/stroke order teacher/JLPT study app out there.  It allows input in romaji, kana, and kanji (via touchscreen handwriting or by individual components), cross-references characters in kanji compounds, provides hundreds of usage examples in Japanese and English, and the interface is completely polished.  It also provides animated stroke order demonstrations for nearly every kanji you’re likely to come across.  You can make your own study lists with this bad boy, it provides quizzes to keep track of your progress, and JLPT vocabulary lists are built-in.

Human Japanese  by Brak Software

This is a multi-module textbook and online course that can be followed, in its entirety, on your phone, and is perfect for new learners of Japanese.  It does a great job of approaching Japanese grammar in a way that makes it seem entirely logical and intuitive.  Its general approach to language is something like “many people feel that the x is difficult to understand, but here’s a way we do the very same thing in English.”  By taking away the mystique, it makes basic Japanese grammar and pronunciation totally sensible.  The guy’s writing style is probably the best I’ve ever seen in foreign language education. Even if you’ve already been here a couple years, this natural approach can provide good memory tools and help with retention.

KanjiBox by Unknown Genius Software

This is a straightforward offline Japanese study tool.  Use it to practice kanji or kana through quizzes, flashcards, drills, tests, and track your progress with the extensive scoring tools.  You can use the touchscreen as well to practice your writing, and can get a sense of how legible your kanji really is.  Works great for JLPT practice, with built-in vocab lists, and can be synced up with your Facebook account in order to compare progress with other friends using the app.  Note: this one isn’t a dictionary

JAPOW! by CocoLounge

A limited but entertaining app that helps you get a handle on any number of inappropriate, odd, or slang Japanese expressions.  It’s also got a nice selection of Japanese onomatopoeia (sound symbolism words like ペラペラ or フワフワ), and the accompanying illustrations are glorious.  Fun to pass around at an enkai.

 

Getting Around

Google Maps vs. Apple Maps

This is a tough one.  I use both.  They’re both really good at one thing while dropping the ball on the other.  If you’re looking for a location and don’t have a clue where it is, Google Maps is the way to go.  Its database has just about every location you could need in every corner of Japan, from onsens to 100-yen shops to small family-owned izakayas.  Where it sometimes loses steam is its turn-by-turn directions.  It often has a difficult time understanding whether you’re on a highway or a nearby frontage road, and is still really bad about its traffic predictions, which can lead to some rerouting issues.  Apple Maps, however, has great turn-by-turn directions, can usually get you from A to B effortlessly and has pretty solid subway/bus/train information, but unfortunately seems to have lost 80% of its Japanese location names in the iOS6 update.  If you’ve got a pin to your location, I’d recommend Apple Maps to get there quickly.  If you’re trying to find a spot by name alone, go with Google.  Thankfully, both are free.

温泉さがし by ArtisanForce

This one’s all in Japanese, but if you’re hooked on hot spring baths like myself, it will help you track down nearly every last on in every prefecture.  The interface isn’t so user-friendly, but it’s thorough, and will keep you in cozy onsens no matter where you find yourself.

Hyperdia

An honorable mention here for the Hyperdia app, because it sucks out loud.  If you need to puzzle out a train schedule, use the very-accessible mobile site on your phone’s browser.  The app is a subscription-based, stupid incoherent mess.  Not worth your time.

 

At School

TeacherKit by TeacherKit

This one’s usefulness to you will depend on how much input you have over your teaching and grading.  If you’re a high school teacher, this might come in handy- I used it for two straight years to keep track of 800 students in 18 different classes, and it was a pleasure to use.  This thing is a gradebook (which allows for weighted assignments and tests), class roster, behavior and attendance log.  You can also import photos in order to practice matching faces with names.  You can input your seating charts, export gradesheets to Excel or Numbers, and sync data with your own computer in-app using Dropbox.  If you find yourself in charge of your own curriculum, assignments, and giving your tests, then you’ll get some good use out of this.

Keynote by Apple

A remarkably complete app for creating multimedia presentations ala PowerPoint, but arguably more user-friendly than whatever you’ve got on your office computer.  The iPad app has a quicker learning curve than the iPhone version, but both are completely intuitive and thorough.  If you’ve got an iPhone and Keynote, all you need is a simple adapter (Yamada or K’s Denki for about 1200 yen) to hook up to any projector or screen.  Do it all on your phone, start to finish.  No kidding.

 

Honorable Mention

Camera + by taptaptap.com

With everything from hipstery filters to absolutely essential level adjustments, exposure options, and truly professional-looking effects, this is the app that all your friends use instead of the built-in Apple Camera app.  It’s simply a better camera.  You might call it a Camera, plus.  Get it, and the lamest sidestreets of the inaka become an Instagram-bound window into your east Asian paradise for friends and family back home to gush about.  いいな。

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

Because it’s Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and you can play it on your motherloving phone.

TED

No better way to spend a long train ride than getting inspired, informed, or your horizons broadened by the first-class speakers featured at TED: Ideas Worth Spreading.  The loadtimes are usually great, even on 3G, and the archive of talks is extensive.  This one’s free, and it’s a must-have.

Overseas travel and insurance reminder

Christmas is almost upon us, and as the beginning of winter tries to figure out when to start, a lot of us are about to head out of prefecture (and perhaps country!) for some serious seasonal celebrating…

GifuPAs hope Santa isn’t as indecisive as winter is proving to be – and that snowboard you asked for arrives under tree in time for the next ski trip to Takasu or Ontake. By the way…  don’t forget to read through the below travel insurance information for JET participants. HAVE A BLAST !

~~~

Both of the below will be in effect during your travel, however the range of services covered varies depending on whether you are travelling to your home country, a third country, you are out of Japan more than 30 days, the type of medical attention required, and whether or not it is a pre-JET existing
health issue.
*These forms of insurance DO NOT cover loss or damage to personal effects (whereas a different travel insurance may), or coverage for expenses incurred by injuries or sickness sustained / originating during official work duties.
1)     National Health Insurance (Social Health Insurance)

* Take your insurance card with you
* Generally covers such items as hospitalization, nursing care, surgery, emergency dental, medicine, but no unnecessary or preventative treatments.
* Up to 70% of these expenses may be reimbursed upon claim

2)     JET Accident Insurance Policy

(Taken from the Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co. Ltd guide)
You will be pleased to know that your accident insurance policy that was entered into upon arrival
in Japan can also be used for accidents occurring overseas. However, claims procedures and eventual
reimbursement usually takes a very long time. For complete details and claimable items, please reference your green policy guide.

*What’s covered?

Some expenses arising as a result of accidents (ie. Death, physical impediment, medical expenses, personal liability). Rescue expense claims may be covered if travelling to a country other than your home country.

* * The policy is designed to assist the policy holder with expenses above and beyond the 70% generally covered by the National Health Insurance (but not including the initial 5000 yen)

CLAIMS procedures:
Treatment should be paid for overseas, and all associated documentation kept for claims procedures.

These vary for the National Health Insurance and the JET Accident Insurance portion of the claim. The JET participant or supervisor should telephone these institutions to firstly report the date, time,
place, cause and symptoms of the injury or illness, as well as the name of the hospital or clinic where treatment was provided. The policy number to quote for JET Accident Insurance is 5364888600, phone
number 0120-881-018 (M-F 9:00 ~ 17:00) or 0120-529-955 (other times).

Please check the official JET Programme website, National Health Insurance and JET
Accident Insurance guides for copies / links to required claim documents.

http://www.jetprogramme.org/e/current/insurance/tokio01.html

Blog travel / accident insurance download

General travel abroad information

New Year in Japan – experience it !

G-FILES: Archive 2 ~ Gifu

The G-FILES: a selection of current Gifu Jet profiles from each of the 5 regions.

This month, we get acquainted with two JETs living and working in the Gifu region of our prefecture. Their profiles offer uniquely differing perspectives, given they live on opposite sides of the Nagara River. Let’s see what these two Gifu gurus have to say about the most populated region in the entire “ken”….

NAOMI WILSON

I’m from Melbourne, Australia.  I arrived in Japan in July this year and am currently living in Motosu city, which is about a 20 minute drive from Gifu city. I teach at an Elementary school 2 days a week and a Junior High school 3 days a week.

Before coming to Japan I had been working full time for 5 years, and whilst I loved my job in Melbourne, I had itchy feet and was keen to get out of an office and do something different for a little while.  I am really enjoying being involved with the daily school routine that is so different to Australia.

Melbourne is famous for its coffee culture and on coming to Japan I was daunted by the thought of having to face a bad hangover or a crappy work day without a double shot latte. I seem to however have been fortunate enough to be Shinkansened to the café heart of Japan. Our region has amazing coffee and a morning special called the ‘breakfast set’. This is where you buy a drink, and receive a free breakfast – usually some fancy bread with red beans and jam, something hot like an egg or potato gratin, and a salad of some sort. I’m on track to hit every café in the region by Christmas.

I love to swim. Already this year I’ve been to beaches on both the Japan Sea and Pacific coasts. There is also an amazing river swimming spot near me in the beautiful town of Neo.  I’ve just recently joined the local swimming pool. The highlight of my swims is that at 10 minutes to every hour, everyone clears the pool and we all stand around the edge in our bathers facing each other doing Japan’s national stretching track.

The Gifu region and I are still slowly getting to know each other but I’ve already become quite attached. I love that we proudly claim Japan’s third biggest shopping mall, third biggest wooden Buddha and third oldest Cherry tree. I love the location and that within 30 minutes of leaving my apartment I could be on top of Mt Kinka, or at the secluded onsen in a deserted village, or drinking a Mojito at a Mexican restaurant in Nagoya.

SAM RASHKOVICH

Hi all, my name is Sam Rashkovich, and I’m a 2nd year JET here in Gifu City. I hail from New York, though not, as is usually assumed here in Japan, from the big city itself! I’m one of the CIRs who work at the prefectural office, specifically in the Tourism Division. Many of you are likely familiar with the “Gifu Crossroads” Facebook page or blog or whatever-else-is-out-there-it’s-hard-to-keep-track (笑), and that stuff is all, for better or for worse, my doing! Through the job, I’ve had the opportunity to travel throughout Gifu Prefecture in the last year-plus more times than I’d like to attempt to count, so for all of you out there, and especially the JETs who are new to Gifu, if you’re looking for travel related info, feel free to ask!

I’ll admit that I sometimes feel restricted as a result of not having a car, but one of the nice things about being where I am in a decently developed area is that I’ve been able to pursue hobbies within an area easily navigable by bike, so I’m definitely thankful for that. Among the things I do after work are taiko drums and tennis, and I was extremely lucky to find places where I could pursue these activities right nearby. They are both things that I knew I wanted to get involved in, even though one of them isn’t “Japanese” at all. When I’m home, I watch an ungodly amount of TV (mostly American), which might not sound like the best way to make use of my time in Japan, but it does keep me grounded and give me a sense of comfort, which I think is important as well. Aside from this, going out to eat, heading to the theater to watch a movie, and checking out a new festival are all ways I enjoy spending free time.

My relationship with Japan has been a work-in-progress for quite a long time. Starting when I was six, I studied the Japanese martial art of jujitsu (don’t be surprised if 95% of the Japanese people you ask are unfamiliar with this…in a weird twist, it’s an old one that doesn’t really exist in Japan any longer and is thus more well-known abroad) for about a decade, so that was a huge influence to be sure. Japanese cuisine has also always been my favorite, even though I refused to eat raw fish until the night before my first trip here, when I finally wised up! Anime also was a central influence (as I assume it was for many others) and is what initially spurred me to study the language. I immediately was taken with it and majored in it in college, so really, making my way here to Japan was nothing if not a natural progression!

As someone who has been to many different parts of Japan, there are a lot of great memories, from attending the deservedly famous Sapporo Snow Festival to experiencing the mystical atmosphere at the Grand Shrine of Ise to exploring nighttime Nagasaki with a group of friends. The same can be said about places here in Gifu; where I went to school in New Hampshire, it snows a lot, but nothing compared to what I experienced this year in Shirakawa-go when some others and I literally took a trek through the woods about two meters off the ground (read: on top of two meters of snow!). Marveling at the paper sculptures at the Mino Washi Akari Art Exhibition is definitely one of the most memorable experiences I have had so far in Gifu, and performing at a huge taiko festival held in Mie and getting to see so many other amazing groups perform was a highlight as well. Meeting new people is always a thrill, and I hope to do a lot more of that going forward!