Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Closing this Blog at end of 2011

Hello All -

I started this blog, when blogging felt like a new thing, way back in the summer of 2004, when I had just arrived in Japan to start what ended up being 5 years with the JET Programme.

I blogged and posted quite a bit back in those first few years - writing as a way to let friends and family back in the States know what my life was like in rural Japan.
A funny thing happened along the way - my family rarely read my posts, but I started getting comments and page views from an ever increasing number of strangers who were simply interested in life in Japan. I think this happens to many foreigners who come to Japan and start blogs or vlogs on YouTube to keep in touch with their friends back home only to find that their musings and experiences are of interest to many more people than they ever thought.

I started my own channel on YouTube back in late 2006 and it grew slowly at first until I started to blog specifically about being an ALT in the JET Program in early 2008. My YouTube channel became more and more popular and my time spent here posting text grew smaller and smaller.

I also joined FaceBook and now Google + and I feel like a lot of the links and material I would have posted here back in 2005 or 2006 I now post almost daily to sites like Twitter and Google +. So I'm seeing less and less of a reason to keep this blog going.

Of course, the archive of my experience as a new ALT I think still holds some value. Maybe I am the only one who finds my early postings amusing in their wide-eyed angle on things, but I think I would like to preserve these writings for myself, if no one else.

So my plan is to move (cut and paste) the early years of this blog to an archive I will set up at my newly revamped website -

I will forgo the postings of pictures that are no longer public, and simple updates about current events or daily trivia. But the postings about my life as a new ALT I will move to the new site so perhaps others can learn from them or chuckle along with me at their innocence.

I don't think this will happen quickly, so like the title of this posting states, I'm thinking this blog will remain open until the end of this year.

But after that, please keep in touch via my other sites - YouTube (I hope to go back to posting videos in the fall), Twitter ( @TaishaJason or @JapanJET ), and you can follow me on Google + at Myargonauts Jason.

I really, truly have enjoyed this blog over the years, but it's time to move on. I thank you for reading, and I hope to see you over at (opening again in September) or one of the other sites soon.


Friday, July 15, 2011

RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms

Amazing and thoughtful discussion of the problems with modern education.

I want to read more about this topic and think about it more,
as I continue my career as a teacher.

Wonderfully animated as well - what a great idea!!


Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Exotic Jedi from Japan,Old style Kenjutsu "Tenshin Shoden Katori Sh...

For all my students and friends who are into Kendo...

A fun video combining kendo with Star Wars!!


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Jason loves Pizza!

Jason loves Pizza!
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

So I assigned my freshman English students to make a pizza for their homework. The "English learning" part of the assignment was to read the recipe in English and follow the instructions to make a "traditional pizza" including the crust.

Some students made their own style pizza, on toast or gyoza skin, completely missing the point of the assignment, but most of my kids did a good job. They had to take a picture of the pizza and post it to our campus forum for my class.

Two students made this pizza and told me it was called the "Jason love pizza." :)

It's nice to know someone cares. ;D


Friday, June 03, 2011

LEGO Sandcrawler

Amazing custom-built Lego Sandcrawler from Star Wars: Episode 4.

Not the most exciting vehicle in the Holy Trilogy, but
an amazing job that took 9 months and contains over 10,000 Lego pieces.

I had some pretty awesome Star Wars toys when I was a kid, but
I was already 8 years old when the first one came out, so most
of the toys were bought for and played with by my younger bother, who was only 2 years old when Star Wars: Episode 4 came out in 1977, but was the perfect age of 5 when The Empire Strikes Back came out in 1980.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

CARS in Japan

Looks like CARS are coming to Japan in this clip from the sequel to my least favorite Pixar movie.

But anyone that's encountered a Japanese washlet for the first time can relate. :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

fun pics from my keitai (cell phone)

card from absent student
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

My new smartphone from AU in Japan has a pretty good little camera inside and it's much easier for me to snap the occasional random picture now, since I almost always have my cell phone with me.

Here are two recent, very random pics from my keitai.

Click on the picture to be taken to the Flickr page with a description of the picture.


stationary store Engrish

Friday, May 06, 2011

Weird picture of the day

anime eyelids
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

strange pic of a girl with "anime/manga eyes" painted onto her eyelids...

just thought I would share. :P


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

日本語 Shimane AJET Charity Hike on May 15th

Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Information in Japanese about the Charity Hike at Mt. Sanbe in Shimane on May 15, 2011.

Please click on the picture above to read more.


Shimane AJET Charity Hike on May 15th

SAJET Poster - Within Japan English (large)
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

Please click on the picture above to be taken to a larger version. Information about donations (accepted from anywhere in the WORLD) is in the post below, just under the YouTube video for the event.

Thanks for reading!

Shimane AJET Charity Hike

If you are not in Japan, but would still like to help,
please consider donating to my friends in Shimane
who are raising money for the children and victims
of the March 11th tsunami.

Donations - Click Here


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cathy's House - Wonderful day

And people wonder why I don't watch alot of Japanese TV... :P

This is seriously wacky!


Sunday, April 03, 2011

Snoopy toys in Japan

Snoopy toys in Japan - 4
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I love collecting the free incentive toys and charms you get for buying certain bottled beverages in Japan.

This is a new series of Snoopy and Woodstock toys attached to bottles of Pepsi cola.

Each toy represents a country with a typical food that Snoopy or Woodstock are sitting in or on top of.

I got all 8! :)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Donations Update and Contest Winners

My newest vlog, where I discuss how the donations are going (they're going great!) and I give away a few Japanese toys to some viewers who left a comment on a recent video.

Thanks for watching!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Trying to do my small part to aid in the relief and recovery effort in Japan. Go to YouTube to leave a comment and thus donate .50cents to the cause.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

the furture of education online

In the back of my mind, this is where all my seminar lectures and teaching experience and YouTube videos would lead - some kind of online forum with information that could help a broad spectrum of people that I will most likely never meet.

A very good vid and very inspirational for me.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011


Fantastic PSA by Dame Judi Dench and James Bond (Daniel Craig), who appears in drag in the end.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Let's get social: Networking frames - scanners

Let's get social: Networking frames - scanners

So often people don't quite understand when I'll go on and on about a particular film I like.

Sometimes it can be something intangible - some connection to the film I have on a personal level that others may not share.

Other times, my appreciation is born out of a deliberate attempt by a gifted filmmaker (in this case, the ridiculously talented David Fincher) to infuse his/her film with subtle elements that add to the narrative and give the film a depth that resonates long after you finish watching it.

My favorite film of the past 6 months has been "The Social Netowrk," a film that could be easily dismissed by some as too "talky" or a movie where "not much happens."

But the film is alive with interesting characters and whip-smart dialog, courtesy of the brilliant writer Aaron Sorkin, who also created TV's The West Wing.

And two other more subtle elements are the soundtrack/score, which very deservedly won an Academy Award, and the editing, which did not.

The above article also highlights the framing and camera angle and set up choices that make the film more than just two people talking in a room.
Give it a read if you want to more fully appreciate a stellar film.


Sunday, March 06, 2011

The BRIT Awards 2011 - Adele sings Someone Like You

Adele is my favorite recent singer. I got her debut album, titled "19" since she was 19-years-old when she recorded it, and fell in love with her voice, especially on the Bob Dylan cover song "Make you feel my love."

This is the lead off single from her new album, performed live at the Brit Awards in February.


Saturday, March 05, 2011

Tron Uprising Animated Series Trailer

Sweet! This is a word now used commonly in English to talk about something we like or something that is cool - "This show looks sweet."

And this show does look very sweet indeed.
I'm a huge TRON fan, and I really hope I have a chance here in Japan
to see this show as it comes out.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

All of Japan Song -- 都道府県の歌

Fun song, done in the style of the Animaniacs song where Wacko names all the countries in the world, about all the prefectures in Japan.

Think I should learn this and do it as part of my jikoshokai in April to my new college students? :)


Snoopy store in Osaka Japan

Filmed with my new keitai (cell phone) in Osaka the day before Christmas in 2010.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

3 films in 3 days and then... The Oscars

One good thing about coming back to San Diego this spring is that I got to watch the Academy Awards live yesterday with my family - both my mom and my sister like movies, and were happy to spend the 3+ hours watching what turned out to be a rather boring and predictable awards show.

In preparation for the Oscar telecast on Sunday evening, I decided I would go see three of the films with multiple nominations, including Best Picture: True Grit, Black Swan, and the eventual winner, The King's Speech.

Luckily, my folks live within 10 minutes of two decent mega cinemas here in the San Marcos area, so all three films were still playing with multiple screening times to choose from.

I flew in to LAX on Thursday, and spent most of Thursday night and Friday getting over jet lag, but was awake enough on Friday night to see True Grit at 10pm.

True Grit is a somewhat laconic and stilted Western made by the ever-intriguing Coen Brothers; a remake of a John Wayne movie from 1969 (the year I was born) with Jeff Bridges in the Wayne role of Rooster Cogburn, a US Marshall/bounty hunter with questionable tactics and morals.
What made the movie sing for me was the performance of 14-year-old Haille Steinfeld as the young Mattie Ross, a girl in the post Civil War south who learns her father was murdered in cold blood and yet no one seems to be doing anything about it. The dialogue the Coens give Mattie and the way Steinfeld delivers this dialog is superb and earned her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She lost to Melissa Leo for The Fighter (a film I have yet to see), and the film True Grit lost in all the other 9 categories it was nominated for.
If you like the Coen Bros style (The Big Lebowski, Fargo, No Country for Old Men, Raising Arizona) then I think you'll appreciate their take on the Western genre, and I enjoyed the film despite the rampant nihilism on display.

I followed True Grit with The King's Speech on Saturday at 10pm. I had a free ticket for this one, so didn't have to shell out the $11.25 for a ticket I did the night before. Having had a big lunch and almost no dinner on Saturday, I thought I would treat myself to a medium popcorn and medium cola at the concession stand. When the clerk informed me that the combo would be $12.25, I chuckled to myself and instead settled for a small Mr. Pibb (ahh, Mr, Pibb, how I've missed you) for $4.75, which was still in a bigger cup than a "large" size cola in Japan.

The King's Speech is a well-made, well-acted and ultimately uplifting story centering around the Duke of York, who would eventually become King George the VI of England and reign during the dark days of World War II.
For all that the movie is, it is not, in my opinion, a "Best Picture of the Year" type film. Like I said, it's well-made and I enjoyed it, but I doubt I would buy it on DVD or tell friends, "You MUST see this movie." It was a safe choice for the Academy in a year when they could have made a much bolder and interesting choice for Best Picture.
I won't argue with Colin Firth getting the Oscar for Best Actor for this portrayal of The Duke or York, who was Queen Elizabeth II's father. He is magnificent in the role, and makes the cantankerous King, who suffers from a stuttering speech impediment, into a very sympathetic character. The film is really a duet between Firth and Geoffrey Rush, who plays his speech therapist. Rush got justly rewarded with a nomination for Best Supporting Actor, but lost to Christian Bale for The Fighter. It's the first time two British actors have won Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor since the 1950s. The King's Speech won 4 Oscars in total, but the film feels like "The Queen" did a few years ago. That movie too had a fantastic performance at its core (Helen Mirren's portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II, for which she also won an Oscar), but it didn't win Best Picture. Both movies are well-made and interesting to watch, but both feel like Masterpiece Theater movies writ large with better sets and direction than a TV budget would allow.

The King's Speech has natural appeal to the largely older Oscar voting branch of the Academy, and I can see why it won, but in my opinion, The Social Network or Inception are better choices for Best Picture of 2010.
Those movies mesmerized audiences with their stunning visuals or razor-sharp dialog and both films took complex subjects and made entertaining movies out of the concepts by the sheer artistry of the their directors. Both The Social Network and Inception will reward repeat viewings, while the King's Speech will become just another Oscar footnote.

I was very happy that The Social Network won for Best Screenplay (adapted) for Aaron Sorkin, the man who created two of my favorite TV shows - The West Wing and Sports Night, and for Best Original Score, since I thought the music in the film set the perfect tone and was such a big part of why the Social Network is such a stunning film.
Inception had to settle for mostly technical awards (it won 3 and the award for Best Cinematography), but the true travesty was that truly unique director Christopher Nolan was not even nominated for Best Director and the film also failed to win a nomination for Best Editing, even tho it is a master class in editing.
I would have been consoled had David Fincher, another amazing director responsible for films such as Fight Club, Seven, and Panic Room, had won for Best Director for his inspired direction of The Social Network, but instead the Academy went with Tom Hooper, a TV director making the transition to feature films with The King's Speech.

The last film I saw in my 3-day marathon was Black Swan, a psychological thriller set in the world of a professional ballet company.
I went to an 11am showing on Sunday, and this was the most well-attended of the 3 screenings I went to, with about 30 other people joining me at this last attempt to see the film before the Oscars that evening.
Natalie Portman, an actress I've been watching and enjoying since she debuted at the age of 11 in Luc Besson's Leon - The Professional in 1994, won the Oscar for Best Actress for her performance as Nina, the troubled ballerina who wants to be perfect but doesn't have the soul to infuse her performances with greatness.
She is fantastic in this role, which required her to train for a year to become a good enough ballet dancer for the demanding performance scenes, and she also had to embody the split personality the character becomes.
Black Swan is directed by the visionary Darren Aronofsky, who made the truly incredible film Requiem for a Dream and 2008's The Wrestler. He does some spooky and twisted things in this movie and I was hooked in from the very beginning all the way to the tragic end.

So it was a good 3 days spent at my house of worship - the local movie theater. None of these films has even opened in Japan yet, and I currently live at least a 2 hour drive from a decent movie theater, so I plan to see even more movies while I'm home in March.

Coming up I want to see:
The Adjustment Bureau with Matt Damon (March 4th)
Battle: Los Angeles with Aaron Eckhart (March 11th)
Limitless and Paul (March 18th)
Sucker Punch (from the director of Watchmen and 300) which I'll only have a few days to see since it opens on March 25th and I fly back to Japan on the 27th.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New GReeeeN video and song

I really like the J-Pop group GReeeeN.

They were uber-popular while I was teaching at Jr High schools a few years ago, and I think they're still popular with Japanese teens, altho I haven't heard anything about them in a while.

Until I saw this new song of theirs on YouTube today.

Unfortunately, in the song seen below, they are mostly back-up for an annoying "tarento" named "Bekki." I believe she's half-Japanese and half... something not-Japanese, which perhaps explains her un-Japanese name, altho it could just be a stage name.

GReeeeN is made up of 4 dental students who never appear on camera so you can see their faces in their videos or on their album covers, etc.
But I thought they were going to give that up when they graduated from Dental School. Oh well, I hope they bring out a new CD in 2011 - I enjoy their music.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

2 cents in 2 minutes - Episode #3 - Sumo scandal & role models

The latest installment of my new series - 2 Cents in 2 Minutes.

I discuss the recent Sumo "yaochou" scandal and talk a little about role models.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Another Valentines Day comes and goes

It's V-day today, and boy is it cold.

Started snowing at lunch today and I'm back under the kotatsu all the time
at home just trying to stay warm.

Can't wait to get back to San Diego in a few weeks and enjoy either
the warmer temperatures or the benefits of insulation and central heating.

For Valentines Day today I offer the following random bit of trivia
from my Peanuts page-a-day calendar:

"Trite but true, flowers bring a smile to a woman's face.
That's what a 2005 Rutgers Univ. study showed.
All study participants smiled when given flowers.
Gifts of fruit, candy, and candles did not elicit even a grin from some of the recipients."

Speaking of Peanuts, my all time favorite comic strip, I feel a little like Charlie Brown on V-day. He and I share a horrible track record in the love department.
It's been 8 years since I had a "valentine" and I don't see that changing anytime soon. Oh well, there's always sumo coming up... (what? they canceled the basho? *sigh*)

who got beat in bowling by a guy from Ireland and a girl recently - oh the shame!

Random additional trivia:
Five Frequently Misspelled Words

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Found in Translation -- Valentine's Day

Fun little video explaining how Valentine's Day is slightly different in Japan.

He leaves out one category that is common in Jr High and High School - tomo choco or tomodachi chocolate, which is girls giving chocolate to their female friends.


Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Japanese Girl Explains Spiderman

The same Japanese girl who explained Titanic is back,
this time explaining the first Spider-Man movie.


March 2011 Sumo Tournament Canceled

I've been reporting on this most recent scandal to hit the world of Sumo on my all-Sumo channel on YouTube.

Below is the video I made on Feb. 4th when the news first broke and above is my reaction to the news that they are canceling the March tournament in Osaka.

As a big fan of the sport of Sumo, this is really a bad development, with face-saving measures taken by the JSA (Japan Sumo Assoc.) board seeming to hurt Sumo fans more than helping us continue our enjoyment of the sport.

Match-fixing, or "yaochou" in Japanese is not illegal, and it has long been suspected in the lower divisions of Sumo, but this is the first time they have solid proof it has happened.
Americans like myself are a bit immune to less-than-honorable goings-on in our major sports, but it usually doesn't diminish the love of the sport itself, and my guess is the same will hold true in Sumo.

I am eager to watch the next basho, and I sincerely hope that they get all this worked out before the May tournament in Tokyo.


Japanese students - make a vlog!

Practice makes perfect. This is a phrase you hear often in America.

It's a cliche, クリシェ , but it's true too.

You'll only get better at speaking English if you practice and don't worry too much about making mistakes.

The great thing about making a vlog is you can edit out some mistakes and try again if you really mess up.

Take the young woman in the video below.
A friend on YouTube recommended her channel - she's in high school in the UK
and studying Japanese on her own.
So she doesn't have a lot of chances to speak Japanese in England - there just aren't that many Japanese people around where she lives.
So she speaks Japanese into her camera and puts it on YT, and adds subtitles in English and Japanese as well.
It's really good practice and also brave, because sometimes you get bad comments on YouTube. But most people support her and try to encourage her to keep trying and making videos.

Can you make a video like this where you speak English for 3 minutes?
Why don't you try?


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Impact of JET alums felt in Japan-US relations


Here’s a great article that just appeared in The Mainichi Daily News titled “Returnees of English-language program key to Japan-U.S. ties.” Notably, the article quotes several JET alums who are established foreign policy experts including:

* Michael Auslin – Director of Japan Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
* Ben Dolven – Current director of the East Asia division at the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. Congress’ official think tank
* Michael Green – Head of Japan Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former head of the Asia team under President George W. Bush’s National Security Council (Note: Michael was a “Monbusho English Fellow (MEF), a precursor to the JET Program.)
* Andrew Ou – Currentlyworking in the U.S. Embassy’s political section

Here’s a link to the article

Here’s the text of the article:

Returnees of English-language program key to Japan-U.S. ties

WASHINGTON (Kyodo) — When current participants in the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program gather, the discussion often focuses on English teaching methods. When the program’s U.S. alumni get together, however, talk often turns to a weightier subject: U.S. foreign policy towards Japan.

Since the program was established in 1987, it has brought tens of thousands of young Americans to Japan to engage in cultural exchange, with a focus on teaching English.

Although the program has an uneven track record when it comes to improving Japanese students’ English, it has quietly and unexpectedly become a powerful tool for achieving another objective: grooming the next generation of American leadership in U.S.-Japan relations.

Michael Auslin, a former participant of JET and prominent Japan expert at the American Enterprise Institute, said recent attacks on the program by the Japanese government’s budget screening have focused on the quality of its English teaching, while ignoring a more important feature as one of Japan’s most valuable tools for conducting “public diplomacy” both with the United States and other countries.

JET’s success in this regard is perhaps best demonstrated by the number of former JETs occupying Japan-related positions in both the academic field and the U.S. government. The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo alone employs 25 former JETs, and JET returnees have done Japan-related work at the highest levels of the U.S. government.

“The JET Program created a fairly large cadre of people who had Japan experience,” says Ben Dolven, a former JET and current director of the East Asia division at the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. Congress’ official think tank.

“You’ve got a core of people who have had this experience all over, who are now part and parcel of U.S. policymaking on Japan,” he said.

Dolven’s point is illustrated by an anecdote told by Michael Green, the head of Japan Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former head of the Asia team under President George W. Bush’s National Security Council.

Green, who participated in a precursor to the JET program, was tasked with putting together a group to examine how the 2001 election of Junichiro Koizumi as Japan’s prime minister might affect its relations with the United States.

The task force consisted of Japan experts from various government agencies, ranging from the Central Intelligence Agency to the Treasury Department.

“The interesting thing about it was that you had all of these people from all of these agencies, who had been JETs…” or, like Green, had participated in similar programs in Japan, he said.

The group put together a set of recommendations that “became, in many ways, a blueprint for President Bush’s first meeting with Koizumi,” Green said.

Dolven said since JET program participants often work in rural areas, the program gives them a more nuanced view of the “real” Japan, a background that provides crucial context for better understanding the country and making informed policy decisions.

“There are lives being lived all over the country, and if you are just focused on Tokyo, you miss so much,” Dolven said.

Auslin also said that JET is probably the most successful, institutionalized, organized way to get young foreigners to obtain a deeper understanding of the “real” Japan.

This sentiment is perfectly embodied by Andrew Ou, a former JET now working in the U.S. Embassy’s political section.

While on the JET program 10 years ago, Ou developed a relationship with Ichita Yamamoto, now a leading figure in Japan’s main opposition Liberal Democratic Party. Ou cites this connection, as well as his JET experience with Japan’s local politics, as invaluable to his current work analyzing Japanese politics.

“You can’t put that into an equation and come out with a figure of how important it is for bilateral relations,” he said. But he believes that his own and others’ experiences on the JET program “add up to invaluable benefits for the U.S.-Japan relationship.”

Recent criticism of the JET program comes at a time when many scholars have observed an increasing tendency in Japan towards turning “inward,” contributing to what the Japan Center for International Exchange, a New York-based think tank, has called an erosion in the “the institutional base of U.S.-Japan policy dialogue and study.”

Ou finds criticism of the JET program especially disappointing. “I think as a group, JET alumni have a bigger impact on bilateral policy than any other,” he said.

And that is what makes it essential to “emphasize how important the JET program was and is for me and countless other diplomats,” he said.

(Mainichi Japan) February 5, 2011

Monday, February 07, 2011

Big America #2 - the IDAHO burger from McDonald's in Japan

Even tho I know it's not that good for me, I now eat at the small McDonald's in my town about three or four times a month.
I always, and I mean ALWAYS, get the same thing.

The Big Mac meal, or in Japanese - ze biggu maku setto.

Costs 630 yen if I get the L size cola, which would be a medium in America.

I've been eating Big Macs for more than 30 years now. Kinda weird when I think about it.
But just the other day I was at the Mickey Ds in my town when 4 of my college students came over to me (it's in a food court type setting in a mall) and started to chat. Two of them have never had a Big Mac before. "Too big," one of them said.

But they'd all just eaten the new burger - the IDAHO burger, part of Japan McDonald's new campaign of American style hamburgers that started off with the for-a-limited-time-only TEXAS burger.

The IDAHO burger has bacon and a big hash brown patty in addition to meat and cheese and sauce. It's looks pretty good, but I haven't tried it because I always get the Big Mac. There is nothing about the Big Mac I don't like except for the two pickles, which are easy to take off.
But the IDAHO burger has mayonnaise and I HATE mayo. And I always feel weird about asking for a "special order" at McDs. The ones in America just aren't geared up for special orders, like the way Burger King is. If you order a burger at a McDs in America minus one of the regular ingredients, you almost always have to wait for them to make it for you, while everyone else is eating their food already.

Anyway - if you've tried the IDAHO burger, let me know. I may finally try something different at a McDs for once.

The vid below is a YT friend who eats even faster than I do - believe it or not. He eats more than one IDAHO burger in this video - do you think it looks delicious?

Friday, February 04, 2011

Photo Essays of High School students in Japan 日本の高校生のフォトエッセイ

I stumbled across a cool website showcasing photography by Japanese high school students.
Prize-winning works in the “Photo and Essay Division” for high school students of the 31st Yomiuri Photo Grand Prix.

I plan to make a vlog on my YT channel about this and why I think it's so cool, considering the images Westerners are routinely bombarded with regarding HS students in Japan, but I thought I would share the link with you now.

Go HERE to see the prize winning entries from a few years ago.
Some of the text and stories are really interesting.

These are the basic guidelines for the contest, which does include a 300,000yen First Prize.
Introduce a high school friend you know well, expressed through a set of not more than five photographs and a text of 150 words in English or 200 characters in Japanese.

The site is bilingual - the above link is in English, but you can click to get 日本語。


Thursday, February 03, 2011

Setsubun (節分) Bean-Throwing Festival

Today is a holiday of sorts in Japan called "Setsubun."

It's a fun holiday (you don't get the day off tho), where you throw beans out your window and doors to ward off the evil spirits, and welcome good luck into your home.

Kind of like the English expression "Out with the bad, in with the good."

You can see a video I made in 2008 about Setsubun, where I participated in mamemaki at one of my elementary schools.

You can read all about Setsubun at this link to Wikipedia.

Have you ever done mamemaki?


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Who are JETs?

I often get asked what "kind" of person JET is looking for, or who has a better chance of making it into the program.

While there are certain traits and accomplishments all JETs shares, such as being a college graduate and having an interest in Japan, the JETs I met over my 5 years in the program were a very diverse group of young people from many different countries.

This is perhaps illustrated by this page showing the representatives and leaders of an organization called AJET.

AJET is the Association for Japan Exchange and Teaching, and it's basically a group for all active JETs in Japan to have a way of communicating with each other and with the ministries in Tokyo that organize and oversee the JET Program.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Royal Wedding Condoms

Royal Wedding Condoms
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

One of the professors at my uni is taking her seminar (or "zemi") students to the UK for Spring Vacation (haru yasumi or 春休み).

I've been joking with them that they have to bring back great souvenirs (omiyage or お土産) for me, their favorite Media Center helper. (One of my jobs at the school is to staff the Language Learning Support Room (LLSR) when I'm not teaching - so the LLSR has become my de facto office and a great place for the students to come to get help or just chat in English)

They will be in England at the height of the preparations for the big Royal Wedding between Prince William and Catherine. So I thought they should get me something to commemorate this event, but I think this souvenir of the wedding is perhaps going a little too far... LOL


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Visiting Nara with Paul - Part One

Hello Everyone,

January sure went by fast, didn't it?

I just posted a video I made from footage I shot back in late December, when my younger brother, Paul, visited Japan for the holidays.

We spent a day in Nara - one of my favorite places in Japan.

You can watch the two videos below.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Japanese Girl Explains Titanic

Another fun video I saw today on YouTube.

I love watching random videos on YT. :)


The Values We All Stand For

Vid from YouTube I saw today and thought I would share.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Oscar noms

The nominations for the upcoming Academy Awards were announced this week.

Unfortunately, living in Japan can make it difficult to see the nominated films and performances in a timely manner. We often have to wait months here for a film to be released after it debuts in the States, and I've often seen the DVD available for a film on the American Amazon site before it has even played theatrically in Japan.

Here are the ten (yes, 10 - the Academy changed it from 5 last year to include more popular films in the competition) films nominated for Best Picture of 2010.
(I've seen four of the ten so far - I've bolded those titles)

* “Black Swan” Mike Medavoy, Brian Oliver and Scott Franklin, Producers
* “The Fighter” David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman and Mark Wahlberg, Producers
* “Inception” Emma Thomas and Christopher Nolan, Producers
* “The Kids Are All Right” Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte and Celine Rattray, Producers
* “The King's Speech” Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers
* “127 Hours” Christian Colson, Danny Boyle and John Smithson, Producers
* “The Social Network” Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca and Ceán Chaffin, Producers
* “Toy Story 3” Darla K. Anderson, Producer
* “True Grit” Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
* “Winter's Bone" Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan-Yorkin, Producers

Which movies have you seen? There are at least 3 more on that list I really want to see.
Out of the movies I did manage to see in 2010, I'll have to give it some thought and post my own Top Ten in a few days.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Where I sleep

futon 3
Originally uploaded by Jason In Japan.

I just posted 6 pics of my Japanese tatami bedroom - click on this pic to be taken to my Flickr site to see the other 5 pictures, which all have descriptions.

Description for this picture:
You can see the triple layering of the futon here, and the double pillows. Finding a good pillow in Japan can be difficult - so many of them are made with an indentation where your head is supposed to go, but I don't like that style.

You can see the electric space heater sitting on top of my mini ironing board, which I use a lot since I have no clothes dryer and my stuff gets pretty wrinkled just air drying in the cold winter air.

On the small table is my alarm clock, cell phone and iPod, as well as the wireless house phone (which I never answer). Under the small table is reading material like magazines and whatever current novel I'm reading, which at the moment is "Norwegian Wood" by Murakami.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Nanba-kun (ナンバ君、"Mr. Number")

Today I learned something new.

I was doing some research on Japanese passports online and I came across this blog called ShiShi Girl.

She talks about sending postcards using Post Crossing, which is a pretty cool website that connects you with other people who like to send and receive postcards.
One of the professors here at my school uses this site in one of her classes and she has all her students send postcards all over the world. She has them use her return address here at our university to ensure some privacy for the students. It's a really good idea and she's gotten back some really wonderful postcards.

Anyway - while one her site I was reading about kamon, a type of family crest symbol used in Japan, one of which appears on the cover of the Japanese passport.
After that I clicked around and learned about this character I didn't know about:

Do you see a strange little face symbol? That's the Japanese post's Nanba-kun (ナンバ君、 "Mr. Number" ) character, essentially the J-version of Mr. Zip.
Who's Mr. Zip you ask?
Go here to find out. :)

Ahh the wonders of Google and Wikipedia. How did we survive 10 years ago without them?? :D


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Superhero movies - by the numbers

I really enjoy American Comic Books, and I also enjoy many of the superhero movies made from DC and Marvel comics.

Here is an interesting info-graphic made about Superhero Movies.

Friday, January 14, 2011

せんぱい こうはい

I don't hear these two terms as much at my new job at a university as I did when I worked mainly at a Jr High School, but you do still sometimes hear it.

Very useful vocab if you plan to spend time in Japan.

(info from The Japan Forum.)

せんぱい 先ぱい (senpai) Someone in a higher academic level or more advanced / superior position than you in a given discipline or pursuit. Someone who entered the school, university, or place of employment before you did. This term is widely used in clubs and other areas of Japanese junior high and high school life. The term senpai is used to mean seniors in general, but it is also used to refer to individuals with the person's name -- usually their surname but sometimes their first name -- plus "senpai," as in "Tamura-senpai" or "Yuki-senpai." The corresponding word for students / people in lower grades / positions is こうはい 後はい koohai , though this is not used in conjunction with surnames or other names to refer to those people.

Jason again... :)
The concept of having to show respect and deference to those "above" you is an important concept in Japanese daily life and should be closely observed and respected by those foreigners wishing to spend any length of time in Japan.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The January Grand Sumo Tournament

The Hatsu Basho, or New Year Grand Sumo Tournament, has begun in Tokyo and will run through Sunday, January 23rd.

I watch every day when I get home from work and on the weekends too.

I usually film the last few matches of each day and throw in some of my own commentary and play-by-play.

I then post these videos on my All-Sumo YouTube channel.

Here is the first video I did for this January tournament, explaining where the wrestlers are ranked and what to expect over the next two weeks.

Feel free to go to my channel for daily Sumo updates.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Comig of Age day video with English explanation

Cool vid by a Tokyo vlogger (who is half Japanese) about attending his Coming of Age ceremony this past weekend.

I might go to my local one next year, since I'll know many of the students by then, or maybe I'll make my way back to Izumo to see many of my former students who are now 20.

Enjoy the vid.

Monday, January 10, 2011

First vlog of 2011

This is my first video at my main YouTube channel - myargonauts - for this new year. But I started vlogging about SUMO yesterday at my All-Sumo channel - JasonsinJapan. (Links are also on the right side menu)

Thanks for watching!

Coming of Age Day

Congrats to all my current 2nen sei students (Sophomores) at my university - most will be celebrating their Coming-of-Age Day today. My local town actually had the official ceremony yesterday - my guess is to allow parties to take place afterwards and give the students and their families the Monday national holiday to recover. :)

Here is some more info from Wikipedia:

Coming of Age Day (成人の日 Seijin no Hi) is a Japanese holiday held annually on the second Monday of January. It is held in order to congratulate and encourage all those who have reached the age of majority (20 years old (二十歳 hatachi) over the past year, and to help them realize that they have become adults. Festivities include coming of age ceremonies (成人式 seijin-shiki) held at local and prefectural offices, as well as after-parties amongst family and friends.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

New Year traditions in Japan

Here are some things Japanese people and a few of us Westerners living in Japan do to celebrate the New Year holiday:

Hatsumōde (初詣) is the first shrine visit of the New Year in Japan. Some people visit a Buddhist temple instead. Many visit on the first, second, or third day of the year as most are off work on those days. Generally, wishes for the new year are made, new o-mamori (charms or amulets) are bought, and the old ones are returned to the shrine so they can be burned. There are often long lines at major shrines throughout Japan.

Most Japanese are off work from December 29 until January 3. It is during this time that the house is cleaned, debts are paid, friends and family are visited and gifts are exchanged. It would be customary to spend the early morning of New Year's Day in domestic worship, followed by sake—often containing edible gold flakes—and special celebration food. During the hatsumōde, it is common for men to wear a full kimono—one of the rare chances to see them doing so across a year. The act of worship is generally quite brief and individual and may involve queuing at popular shrines. The o-mamori vary substantially in price.

Some shrines and temples have millions of visitors over the three days. Meiji Shrine in Harajuku for example had 3.45 million visitors in 1998.

A common custom during hatsumōde is to buy a written oracle called omikuji. If your omikuji predicts bad luck you can tie it onto a tree on the shrine grounds, in the hope that its prediction will not come true. The omikuji goes into detail, and tells you how you will do in various areas in your life, such and business and love, for that year. Often a good-luck charm comes with the omikuji when you buy it, that will summon good luck and money your way.

(Info from Wikipedia)

I used to visit my local shrine, IzumoTaisha, every year while I lived in Taisha town. It was always super crowded, but a great atmosphere permeated the area.

This year I didn't go - I live too far away now, and it was really snowy over the New Year holiday. I haven't found a nice shrine I like in my local area yet, but I have to look around some more.


Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Great review of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

One of my favorite long-form reviewers is back with another detailed look at a failed film - this time the 3rd of the Star Wars prequels - Revenge of the Sith.

It's the best 100 minutes you'll spend in front of your computer monitor this year.

Go HERE to see the review split up into three 30+ minute segments.

After watching his take down of the first prequel - The Phantom Menace, I was eager to see more.

And yes, I'm a huge Star Wars fan, but I have to agree with most of his review about how awful the prequel films are, and he gives good reasons why they're so bad.

And part three, where he compares Revenge of the Sith to Orson Welles' Citizen Kane is particularly funny and insightful about the art of cinema.

Sit back and enjoy!

RIP Pete Postlethwaite

Pete Postlethwaite, the British character actor who appeared in three films in 2010 alone, has died at the age of 64, following a long fight against cancer.

I read this news on one of my Cinema sites yesterday and was a little stunned.

Not only was Pete relatively young, but he seemed to show up in film after film.

I first noticed him as a character named Kobayashi in one of my all-time favorite movies, "The Usual Suspects."

Since then he's had many memorable roles, and I always enjoyed seeing him appear in a film. From Alien3 to Lost World to Inception, Pete always turned in a good performance. One of his sweetest movie roles was in "Brassed Off" which was set in his native England.

Mr. Postlethwaite will be missed.