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 email@example.com
Ehime AJET Scholarship Committee
October 5th, 2016
Mikans and Money: The Ehime AJET Scholarship
I feel I am very lucky to come from the UK. I have always taken for granted how close I am to other European countries and the ample opportunities to travel and work abroad (not so much anymore — I’m still pissed off about the whole Brexit thing). Since my first journey outside of the UK at the age of 6 months, various family holidays, school trips, and travels with friends have taken me to approximately 20 countries around the world, and I have had the opportunity to encounter festivals, events, languages, cuisines, and cultures that I certainly would not have if I’d stayed home in my quiet corner of the English countryside.
I never realized how much I took this for granted until I came to Ehime, where a surprising number of people have never traveled outside the country, let alone to another continent. Students especially, with summer holidays that seem to consist of going to school six times a week for club activities, miss out on invaluable opportunities to experience people and places outside of Japan. We, as ALTs and CIRs, benefit in so many ways from being immersed in a culture different from our own, and the AJET scholarship allows us to give our students that same chance to experience the world.
Started in 2015 by former Matsuno JET Eriko Stronach, the scholarship provides one high school student in the prefecture the chance to study abroad during the summer. Applicants research and select their own programs from a list provided by the committee. This flexibility allows students to become fully involved with their study abroad experience from the outset — they can choose the details such as how long they wish to stay away (usually between 1-3 weeks), which English-speaking country they want to visit (Canada is currently top of the polls), and even things like the classes they take and whether to stay in dorms or with a host family. The scholarship fund’s yearly goal is 200,000 yen, and the committee holds a variety of fundraising events throughout the year in collaboration with Ehime AJET. Fundraisers include activities as varied as a Matsuyama Scavenger Hunt, a Hawaiian Luau in Uwajima, Girl Scout cookies sales, and pub quizzes. AJET has also been invited to open stands at local international events, providing opportunities to raise money for the scholarship fund as well as awareness for the cause. Without the support of these local organizations, like ICIEA in Imabari and Uwajima`s Hawaiian Festival, the scholarship would not be as successful as it is now.
The scholarship has been awarded to two students since its establishment. Both Akihito (2015) and Narumi (2016) travelled to Toronto for their chosen programs, and while they studied at different institutions and stayed in different areas of the city with different host families, their written reflections share many commonalities. They both, for example, experienced some trepidation prior to their first long-haul flight. They both had misgivings about their English proficiency and how they would be able to communicate in an English-speaking country. And they both admirably overcame their concerns and fears, actively participating in their classes and communicating with their host families and new friends from all over the world. They both also expressed a noticeable improvement in their listening skills, even after just a week. One of the highlights for Narumi was being able to help a family of tourists who were lost in the station.
For the scholarship recipients, studying abroad is an opportunity to explore more than just language and culture. As an aspiring engineer, Akihito found that the city of Toronto opened his eyes to new, innovative designs he had never seen before in Japan (he specifically mentions traffic lights and handrails. It’s always the little things that make an impression, right?!) The experience was more than a study abroad program; it became, in his words, “fuel that will drive my future.”
Posted in: The Mikan
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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