January 31st, 2015
This year, Ehime AJET formed the Ehime AJET Scholarship Committee to create a scholarship for 200,000 yen to provide one high school student in the prefecture an opportunity to study abroad this summer. The committee will evaluate applications based on academic merit, interest in cross-cultural exchange, and financial need.
The application process has two components: a written application and an interview. The written application requires the applicant’s background information, preferred study abroad program, school activity involvement, and a letter of recommendation. The interview provides an opportunity for the applicant to demonstrate his or her English speaking ability, to express motivations for studying abroad, and to share his or her hopes for the future. Any high school student in Ehime is eligible to apply.
The submission deadline for the 2015 Ehime AJET Scholarship is Friday, February 20th. The recipient will be chosen by the Ehime AJET Scholarship Committee.
Being an assistant language teacher of English in Japan affords an opportunity to positively influence students’ academic experience, development, and achievement. The Ehime AJET Scholarship Committee encourages students to speak and learn English in a foreign country; to interact with students of different ethnicities, races, and cultures; and to understand the concept of being a global citizen.
If you have any questions about the scholarship, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ehime AJET Scholarship Committee
July 27th, 2016
365 Days in Japan
One of my last memories of England before coming to Japan was sitting quietly with my parents, eating poached eggs at an airport cafe and looking bemusedly at my suitcase. We’d just wrapped the suitcase in clingfilm at an overpriced machine to keep my worldly possessions safe inside. At this point, the centre of the suitcase finally buckled under the pressure of the plastic wrap and contorted into an hourglass shape. The suitcase was red, and I smiled at the thought that I would be lugging around something very Jessica Rabbit-esque to my first graduate job. Maybe I should have interpreted it as a portent of the time trials to come, and not just the Mario Kart variety.
The Japanese time-warping began with the wrangling of time zones over Skype. When it’s midday in your hometown and dusk in your Japanese apartment, you get a twisty perception of the present. One thing that comes hand in hand with the navigation of these geographical hours is a new world of possibility. Sometimes in Japan I feel like some sort of freckly, amateur David Tennant, able to see all of these threads of potential stretching out into the distance. It’s a nice feeling. It’s not to say that being in Japan is completely pain-free — I often think about how time would be passing at home — but having so much possibility for travel, career, and life at my fingertips is something I feel very grateful for.
As well as all of the time-hopping, Japan also seems to affect the passage of time in other ways. At work sometimes time drags its heels, but on the whole it skips along as merrily as an Ichinensei playing Onigoko. Outside of the classroom, there are sometimes distinct moments where time seems to stop.
Last month, surrounded by the pine mountains, I performed a traditional drumming dance at a firefly festival with the students from one of my rural schools. I ate yakiniku leaning on the bridge as the sun stretched down and I saw fireflies glow in the valley below for the very first time. After the show we crouched down to hear congratulations from our Principal, still in our yukata and head-dresses, when I was snapped out of the reverie by the explosions of the fireworks starting. Hours after the children’s excited squealing had died down and I was back at my apartment again, I still felt the happy glow of that moment and of a good day well spent.
A lot of people voice their opinions on how to foster your time here. Sometimes, people seem to suggest that your time in Japan is some sort of rare orchid: “Don’t let your time run wild. Cultivate it, nurture it, give it a taste of the world’s nutrients, and take it back home to display it proudly.” At other times, people suggest that your Japanese time is like some sort of bohemian puppy: “Let your time run about and discover things for itself; sniff at every opportunity and time will nudge you in the right direction.” Depending on the tone that people use, the phrase I hear regularly (“21? You’re so young!”) takes on characteristics from either the orchid or puppy schools of thought. There’s something to be said for a combination of both approaches, though. You have to find the right balance between a pragmatic and a free-spirited approach to being in Japan. Although I am very familiar with that perennially inquired and still unanswered question of “How long will you stay in Japan?” the best advice I have received is to just take that decision one year at a time.
When I came to Japan I struggled (and definitely still do) with all of the things I don’t know, but I’ve already learned a lot, and I’ve now got a better understanding that part of the challenge and joy of being here is being able to embrace the inexperience in our Japanese experience.
I don’t know what the future will hold yet. Like that voluptuous, plastic-wrapped suitcase, time here is sometimes difficult to maneuver and can take on some unexpected characteristics, but I do believe it’s packed with a lot of promise. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in: The Mikan
July 20th, 2016
Hello JETs new and old.
The current guidebook on the front page has been outdated for a while, so now we present to you the new guidebook. We hope it is a useful resource to you, worked on each year by the PAs and RAs all around Ehime.
If you find anything that needs adding to the book, or have further questions, please email the PAs at email@example.com
Posted in: Uncategorized
June 30th, 2016
Pirates, Monks, and Inakamono: Ehime in Contemporary Media
Tokyo is the center of Japan’s media industry, the place where a majority of production and marketing happens. The capital’s gravity is felt in everything from films to manga to advertising. Tokyo is modern Japan, and everywhere else assumes an outside position relative to the center.
There are extremes. Hokkaido is the frontier, making it a reasonable stand-in for southern Kansas in Lee Sang-il’s remake of Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven” and for Norfolk in the Studio Ghibli reimagining of “When Marnie was There.” Okinawa represents both relaxation and danger in the Japanese consciousness. Characters may go to Okinawa to vacation, but often enough they go to buy guns or drugs, as in Takeshi Kitano’s “Boiling Point.” In the extreme case of the cult anime short film “Blood: The Last Vampire,” a young warrior poses as a schoolgirl to kill demons. Both films take place on or around the American military bases.
In between these two geographical outliers is the countryside, the signs of which are nearly universal and coded to create nostalgia even in people whose only experience of the pastoral is through media. Much Japanese media set outside of Tokyo emphasizes the divide between tokai and inaka. When city folk trek to the inaka, they may encounter mystery or horror rooted in local traditions (see the film “Shikoku”), find spiritual healing (“Departures”), or become wrapped up in a comedy of manners. Films and novels set in the inaka without this “visiting protagonist” may be about attempts to make the country more like the city through economic revitalization plans (“Hula Girls”) or material consumption (“Kamikaze Girls”).These rural settings have defining characteristics such as local landmarks and dialects, but they are reduced to places we want to go because they are different from the alienating crush of city life.
With all of this in mind, what images does Ehime conjure in the Japanese imagination? Using the Ehime film section at my local Tsutaya, Wikipedia, and a website cataloguing location shoots across Japan, I’ve compiled a list of media (mostly films) set in Ehime. One quality of Japanese media that frustrates this kind of research is the intentional ambiguity of settings outside of Tokyo. Many films and dramas with scenes shot in Ehime take place in anonymous seaside towns.
It goes without saying that the most famous work set in Ehime is Natsume Soseki’s “Botchan,” a gentle satire of country folk from the perspective of a city boy. The novel has been embraced by the targets of its humor, who have named everything from a stadium to clinics to parking lots after the novel. As a part of the literary canon, “Botchan” is an extraordinary example, but there are very few contemporary works explicitly set in Ehime. The ones I found fit the patterns discussed above. The settings have qualities specific to Ehime that make them curious to outsiders and familiar to locals, but thematically they serve mainly to create a contrast between the city and the country. The most common imagery in these works is of healthy, tanned seafarers and pilgrims in white, and Ehime is accordingly associated with summer. The following is a list of works that engage with the Ehime setting in different ways.
“Crying Out Love in the Center of the World” (2001)
(Also known as “Socrates in Love”)
By some measures one of the ten best-selling books of all time in Japan, this soapy teenage romance by Kyoichi Katayama is set in his hometown of Uwajima and features many of the city’s landmarks. The film version (2004), directed by Isao Yukisada (who also made “Go,” the smash hit about a Korean-Japanese teenager) was largely shot in Shikoku and features the Ehime Prefectural Office doubling as a hospital. An 11-episode TV drama aired from July 2–Sept. 10, 2004.
“The Daughter of the Murakami Pirates” (2013)
The winner of the 2014 Japan Booksellers’ Award was this work of historical fiction about Kyo, the wild daughter of the last great pirate lord of the Seto Inland Sea. She gets wrapped up in the conflict between Oda Nobunaga and Ishiyama Hongan-ji Temple. In reality, nothing is known about Murakami Takeyoshi’s daughter except for her name, which author Ryo Wada took to create a selfish, insecure, but inevitably good-hearted protagonist who idolizes another legendary ocean princess: Tsuruhime. It was recently adapted into a manga, a medium more suitable for the story’s exaggerated characters and often contemporary themes. For anyone interested in these seafaring clans, I recommend the Murakami Suigun Museum on Oshima Island.
“I am a Monk.” (2015)
Based on a collection of autobiographical essays by Missei Shirakawa, the head priest of Eifuku-ji Temple in Imabari, this film was shot largely on location. Like many contemporary Japanese films, it is more episodic than narrative-driven. The protagonist is a monk who becomes head priest at age 26. While the film is cheesy and at times even amateurish, it captures the temple inside and out. “I am a Monk” also documents daily life at the temple, including scenes of visits from traveling salesmen, meetings with disgruntled parishioners, and monks getting blackout drunk.
“Tora-san Meets His Lordship” (1977)
Released twice a year for over 20 years and almost all directed by Yoji Yamada, the beloved Tora-san films (officially “It’s Tough Being a Man” in English) are a testament to the Japanese love of formula. Over the 46 films in the Tora-san series, the eponymous protagonist visited every prefecture in Japan except Kochi, Saitama, and Toyama. The 19th installment features a visit to Ozu and opens with the hero daydreaming while waiting for a train at Shimonada Station. Tora-san is a perpetual fish out of water, a traveling salesman with a rough Tokyo-Shitamachi accent and manner. He is kind and unlucky in love. This film’s core is a friendship between him and the wealthy descendant of Ozu’s domain lord. It features many scenes shot in Ozu and on Gogoshima.
“Godzilla vs. Destoroyah” (1995)
While not entirely set in Ehime, this installment of the long-running film series features a close call between the big lizard and the Ikata Nuclear Power Plant. This imagery is uncomfortable in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, though the scene is silly in spite of itself: a high-tech fighter jet applies a soothing lotion to the monster’s burning nuclear rash. I don’t have much experience with these movies, though I learned some from Youtube explanations and rankings while watching this highly acclaimed installment.
Other films set in Ehime available at Tsutaya:
“Samurai Pirates” (2013)
Like a G-rated version of “The Daughter of the Murakami Pirates.”
“Shodo Girls” (2010) A “big competition” film set in Shikokuchuo and based on a true story.
More than “Crying Out Love” and even “Botchan,” the specific settings of “I am a Monk.” or “The Daughter of the Murakami Pirates,” rooted in real life and history, can’t be swapped out with any other place in Japan. We can enjoy most works set or shot in Ehime because we live here and our connection to the setting is different than for films set in other inaka, but I wonder what impression they have on viewers from Tokyo. Do images of our prefecture convey specific qualities, or does it merely become part of the larger dialogue between inaka and tokai? I can’t say, but I hope to see more novels and films that engage with Ehime (and Shikoku) on a deep level.
May 31st, 2016
Anime and Manga Update
I’m a big fan of anime and manga and, if you let me, I would never shut up about it. However, it’s sometimes better to be brief. Instead of talking excessively of how great anime and manga is, I’ll just get to the point.
Firstly, I have two recommendations for new anime that are currently airing.
1) “Mayoiga” (English: “The Lost Village.” 12 episodes)
This is an intriguing mystery anime with a lot of characters that you can’t wait to seedie… and they probably will. The screenwriter is the same one behind “AnoHana”, “Toradora” and other great works. Plus, there is almost no evidence of an absolute original source material (i.e. a manga/light novel), meaning that the trolls and spoilers will stay in their caves.
2) “Koutetsujou no Kabaneri” (English: “Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress.” 12 episodes)
Another anime original, this could be the love child of “Attack on Titan,” “High-school ofthe Dead,” “Princess Mononoke” and… “Rail Wars”…? The director is Tetsurou Araki, meaning it’s basically anime nobility. I admit it’s too similar to some of Araki’s more popular (and largely aforementioned) works to be called smashingly original, yet the show has wicked potential, and could be one of the best ones this year if they don’t screw it up.
In a similar vein, I’ll just recommend a few manga series that I enjoy(ed), and maybe expose people to something new.
My first recommendation is “Psyren” (2007; 16 volumes). “Psyren” is an underappreciated shounen, horror, supernatural, mystery, romance, adventure series with an engaging plot, characters you’ll like, and a main character who isn’t full of crap.
I also recommend “Mahou Tsukai No Yome” (English: “The Ancient Magus Bride.” 2014; 5 Japanese volumes; 3 English volumes), a supernatural/romance shoujo series (directed at girls/young women). The manga is stuck somewhere between old shoujo , where everybody messed with everybody else’s mind and occasionally tried to kill each other, and modern shoujo, where everything is so innocent and sweet you run the risk of becoming diabetic.
The series is getting a home video release in summer for those who prefer anime.
Finally, I recommend “Nana to Kaoru” (2008; 16 volumes). I admit I’ve only read some parts of this manga(*wink wink*) as I’m not really into… what Nana and Kaoru are into. However, I have had a largely enjoyable time with this manga (*grins). The title characters have doubts and problems that could belong to any one of us and are really endearing. I left out the genres because I’m entertained by the idea of you finding out for yourself.
Finally, some anime-related news. Easily the best thing I’ve seen so far (outside the Summer 2016 anime line-up, of course) is the fact that “Ghost In The Shell” is getting an actual live action release. AND that they’ve started filming. AND that the release date has been set, meaning… this is happening!
My hopes for the movie are that they stick to the original material but explore a different story arc than the original movies and the various series; that they tone it down enough that a wider audience can understand the plot but not so much so that you leave the theatre dumber than you entered; and that they keep the atmosphere mature and not make it family-friendly.
I have already seen controversy around Hollywood whitewashing the cast. However, I find that no different from Japan Asian-washing the “Attack on Titan” movie. I honestly don’t mind if they use big-name actors that will deliver a performance and rake in the bucks. What I would mind is if they change characters’ names and backstories to fit their new lighter complexions. For a series with such complicated characters as GITS, that would be disrespectful to the original story and ensure that the movie shares only the name with the original and nothing else beneath (if you’ll pardon the pun) the skin. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in: The Mikan
March 30th, 2016
Tell Me About the Rabbits
From fox villages to cat cafes, Japan has a reputation for animal tourism. And one of the most unique examples is Okunoshima — an island overrun with rabbits — located between Ehime and Hiroshima prefectures in the Seto Inland Sea. After hearing rave reviews, some friends and I decided to visit the island in mid-March.
For such a popular attraction, Okunoshima was surprisingly difficult to reach. We took a train to Imabari, where we caught a bus to Omishima, the largest of the islands along the Shimanami Kaido. From the bus stop at Inokuchi port on Omishima, it was about a 45-minute walk to the next port on the island, the only place we could catch the ferry to Okunoshima.
The clerk at the ferry port sold bunches of carrots for 100 yen each — a good indication of how many people visit for the sake of the rabbits. We’d come armed with our own carrots and lettuce, so we didn’t buy from him this time around.
The ferry runs once every couple of hours, and, after missing the 10 a.m. ferry, we opted to eat lunch on the dock while waiting for the noon ferry. We spent the short, 15-minute ride watching Okunoshima grow larger as the ferry grew nearer. From sea, the island has nothing distinct about it; it’s a mass of pine trees and boulders like the other islands in the Seto Inland Sea.
But as soon as we set foot on the island, we were greeted by a swarm of bunnies feasting on pellets that a couple of tourists tossed to them. It didn’t take me long to open my bag of lettuce. The rabbits, though definitely not underfed, were eager for a treat, and hopped right up to tourists who had anything in their hands. One of my friends shooed away curious bunnies as they sniffed at the orange case on her phone.
These rabbits are not the skittish animals found in neighborhoods back home. They put their paws on my knee as they stretched for food, nuzzling my hand even when I didn’t have anything to offer. I’m something of a sucker for animals, and I encouraged them, waving strips of lettuce in the face of whatever bunny wandered my direction. Coos and cries of “kawaii!” could be heard all around — especially from me, though I’d like to pretend I have more dignity than that.
Not all of the animals are cuddly, though; among the fat, fluffy bunnies were several rabbits missing eyes or with chunks of their ears torn off, more like scruffy bunny pirates than house pets. These battle scars likely came from squabbles over territory or food, since outside dogs and cats are banned from the island.
Aside from rabbits, Okunoshima is famous for its poison gas plant, which produced mustard gas and tear gas during World War II. Though the plant was abandoned after the war, modern tourists can learn about the island’s history at the Poison Gas Museum and other former manufacturing operations that dot the island’s perimeter. Now, these abandoned husks of buildings serve as more hiding places for the rabbits, who dig burrows near old foundations and sleep under decaying bridges.
Urban legend has it that Okunoshima’s rabbits are the descendants of test subjects that were released into the wild when the gas factory closed. Another popular theory holds that the current population is descended from eight classroom pets that were released into the wild. Whatever the case, the 2.5 km of Okunoshima are now dominated by more than 700 rabbits. It’s impossible to visit and not see a rabbit.
Regardless of the island’s past, it has a promising future in tourism. The island has its own resort and campground, complete with onsen and a gift shop where visitors can purchase any rabbit-themed souvenir imaginable — from tenugui to rabbit-shaped cookies. Connected to the gift shop is a cafe where customers can enjoy small meals or ice cream while watching rabbits frolic on the hotel’s lawn.
We finished our day on Okunoshima by walking along the boardwalk back to the ferry port. Even on the wooden planks of the boardwalk we found wayward rabbits hopeful for a carrot or two. As we sat on benches waiting for the return ferry, three rabbits joined us, lounging under a tree and looking tired, but content, just like us.
Compared to their house-pet cousins or the cats who inhabit cat cafes, I’d imagine the bunnies of Okunoshima have no reason to complain. With the exception of a few gates, they’re free to roam wherever they want, dig holes, and frolic with other rabbits. They’re not overcrowded or outcompeted, and they always have access to fresh water. And animal-loving tourists (like me) will always be around to offer them carrots in exchange for a photo.
Posted in: The Mikan