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All Kinds of Goodbyes: Deciding Whether to Stay or to Go


Darling you gotta let me know,

Should I stay or should I go?”

-The Clash

Time froze as I stared at the recontracting paperwork lying in front of me. I was flanked by my BOE supervisor and Carolyn, a fellow ALT, who had only just confirmed that she was not recontracting. What was taking me so long? I had walked into the Board of Education with my mind already made. I had spent all of Christmas break discussing whether I should recontract, and why, and why not, with my loved ones (in Japan and back home). It felt like I had had the same conversation a million times. I was trying my utter best to ensure that I wasn’t  making a hasty or irrational choice. When there seemed to be nothing left unsaid, I was finally satisfied that the choice that made me happiest was to return home.

And yet as I stared at that document, along with my supervisor and Carolyn, doubt hit me like a tram. I couldn’t think of anything other than all the love I was agreeing to leave behind, and all that it would mean.

I was consenting to leave all of my wonderful friends here. The weekly Hamazushi dates, rounds of King’s Cup on the weekends, trips to Osaka, Hiroshima and Fukuoka sponsored by Strong Zero, enough inside jokes and group chats to last a lifetime. The friends who supported me during some of the darkest days in my life, showering me with constant understanding, care and support. I felt, and still feel, able to be vulnerable and close to them in a way I had never really been able to with a friend group. 

I was acknowledging that I would leave my beloved students, my kids who I cannot deny my affinity for. It meant I was now counting down the days that I got to spend with all of them. From the tiny 7 year olds who babble to me in the cutest, yet lightning fast, Japanese (that I can barely piece together most of the time) to my JHS students who compete with one another to see who can make me laugh the most.  Was I ready to know that the last time I’d most likely ever see them again would be in the 2nd week of September?

I was stepping down from my role as RA, a job I had wanted to do since day 1 . I enjoyed every single second of it, even when I almost destroyed my kitchen trying to make a traditional Thanksgiving turkey in an oven that was no bigger than a desktop computer, or when I almost lost my mind trying to get the Welcome Pack as perfect as possible (even though I knew no one cared about it more than me!).

I was waving goodbye to my bestest friend here at the time, who had proclaimed me his favorite person in Japan (among other things). How could I consent to leave, knowing that it meant that someday soon, he wouldn’t be just a short train ride away?

Observing the sky’s amalgamation of colors from my balcony; wearing a yukata to summer festivals; riding my bike pass endless rice fields; all the different kinds of coffee sold in the vending machines; the rows of mikan trees I see as I ride the train, specks of orange dancing by….I could speak for forever about the beauty Japan that has introduced to me, and of course, go on even longer about the people it has brought into my life. 

All these thoughts and so much more flooded my mind. But as I picked up the pen, I remembered what I had to do. I held my breath as I signed on the line to not recontract.

“Oh wait, we need to give a reason?” I asked Carolyn, my eyes widening as I noticed the small section allocated to explain why you weren’t recontracting. “I thought we just had to sign! I didn’t notice this part last year.”

         “Yeah, dude,” she replied, a look of understanding on her face. She also knew that there was not enough room on those mere three lines to adequately explain why we were choosing to go.  I scribbled a mediocre sentence and handed the paper back to my supervisor, who gave me a weak smile. I pushed any blue feelings away and did my best to give her back a toothy, content grin.

As heartbreaking as it will be to part with Japan and all it has taught me, to part with all of the people I’ve come to know and love, to part with all the experiences that I would not have gotten anywhere else, I knew that I had to begin making progress towards the next chapter in my life. Those experiences will become fond memories, those loved ones will hopefully remain in my life if they’re meant to remain, and I’ll be able to take all the lessons I’ve learned in Japan with me on a fresh journey. And so, I decided to make the first steps to begin to say all kinds of goodbyes.


Instead of just scrolling through LinkedIn and Instagram, dreaming of the day I’d get to begin working towards my career, I will have the actual chance to start! Deskwarming has given me the chance to research so many different things I possibly want to do: internships at Planned Parenthood and/or the Wildlife Conservation Society, applications for graduate school in Europe, networking for a future PhD, volunteering at an animal sanctuary….and so much more.

               Ultimately, I realized I won’t get to any of these goals by deskwarming. Yeah, it’s been nice to have had all those hours to make lists and dream boards of all my goals, but now I can finally put them into action. I will stop pinning ideas left and right on Pinterest, and in contrast I’ll be out there making my life happen. I am ready to further my knowledge and explore what other opportunities lie ahead.

I began to write this piece in February, and it has taken so long to finish because I was worried I would regret the decision to leave later. I have had a few months to sit and reflect on my choice, and I am relieved to say I feel better than ever about it. I’ve held those dear to me closer than ever (even if recently it’s just been limited to Zoom) and delighted in every experience as much as possible. Although at the present moment recent unfortunate events in the world have changed some of my plans for the near foreseeable future (and caused quite a bit of uncertainty), I’m still ecstatic about beginning a new adventure sooner than later.

                                                                                                                                Bennett Pérez

             Beni is a second year ALT in Ozu, originally from New York City. She enjoys spending a lot of time with friends and family, but most of all with animals. She didn’t admit it in the article, but she’ll probably miss Lawson above everything else when she leaves Japan. <

ALT Spring Showcase (Series 1)

About a week ago the Mikan blog reached out to Shikoku ALTs in an effort to accumulate photo submissions of personal art, creative projects for work or pleasure, or anything for that matter. Here are some awesome submissions from ALTs around Shikoku. If you are interested in submitting your photos or interesting work showcasing how you are spending your time during the current pandemic please email Joshua Hill, to share with ALTs far and wide.

Sakura in the time of Koro-chan

by Christian Dane, Matsuyama

So with the lurking COVID-19 (or as I like to affectionately call it, Koro-chan) sweeping the nation and by extension, the world, many of us ALTs (at least in the land of Mikans) are still reporting to work at our base schools. 

For me this means I don’t get the chance to visit my schools in the serene mountains. In an environment which usually recalibrates my mind just being surrounded by nature. However, with Koro-chan taking over, I now have to trek to my base school in the suburbs everyday and desk warm. First season of desk warming. Yikes. 

Anyways, there’s a point to this. Thankfully, nature has given me something to anticipate everyday with the blooming of Sakura trees. So, first season of desk warming but also first season or experiencing the beauty of Sakura. Nice balance, I guess you can say. 

With that being said, I actually found my alternative to recalibrate my mind in the midst of Koro-chan. By taking a little detour on my way home from school, I get a cool ride through a park lined with Sakura trees along the Ishite River. And although it may take me a bit longer than my regular shorter trek back home, it’s definitely a great temporary distraction from the pandemonium that’s taking place around me.

Seiyo City costal Rock formation

by Shou Yuan, Ozu

“My main activity lately has been drawing and painting everyday. It keeps my mind challenged and entertained. This is a quick watercolor painting I did of the rock formations in the costal area of Seiyo city”.


by Joshua Hill, Matsuyama

AJET TTRPG (Table top role playing games) Conference 2020 Ada Smith

In the heat of the battle!
In the heat of the battle!

“Your party is camped out at the edge of the Forest of Doom and night is falling. Suddenly, you all hear something coming through the forest. Not on the well trodden road just off to the right of your camp, but crashing through the underbrush as though running from someone, or something. As you ready your weapons and spells, you see a small dwarven man break his way through the tree line. Some of you recognize his scarred and bent armor, stocky features, and magnificent beard. This is Lieutenant Bigleg, second in command to General Gilibran of the dwarven army. He manages to tell your party that the great warhammer of Gilibran has been shattered into two, and the pieces are lost in the Forest of Doom. He gives you the task of finding the pieces and returning them to the city of Stonebridge before the rising troll army can crush the now demoralized dwarven forces. His last words are cut off as he falls forward, poisoned arrows protruding from his back. Your party now sees three trollkin, the enemy Bigleg was fleeing from, readying their weapons for an attack.

What do you do?”

Team setting up characters for game play.
Team setting up character sheet.

This was the general premise that was set for the first annual Table-Top Role Playing Game conference in Matsuyama, Ehime. The rented room was filled with seven groups of three players and one GM (game master) each. The event was organized by the AJET Event Coordinators Kate Flake and myself, Ada Smith. When picking a game and a theme, we wanted something that would be accessible and enjoyed by veterans of TTRPGs and first time players alike. Dungeon World, a fantasy game similar to the infamous Dungeons and Dragons, was an obvious choice. One of our favorites, the system focuses less on battle strategies and leveling up, and more on collaboratively telling a narrative. Though each group had the same basic premise; find the hammer pieces and return them to the dwarven army, as well as the same list of monsters, everything else was left up to the GMs and, more importantly, the players.

The event was open to the island of Shikoku, but due to timing and size restrictions, only people from Ehime attended. Players traveled from the far reaches of the prefecture, though, and the different groups were a mix of people from every region. The purpose of the event was to bring people interested in interactive games together, and hopefully foster new friendships and future campaigns. “I really enjoyed how we were one large group made of smaller groups….it felt like there were more opportunities to interact with people because of the smaller groups making up the tables,” said Michael Havarty, a GM for the event, “Then we could come together as a larger group and share our experiences.”

The event ran for about five hours, and we encouraged participants to bring their own drinks and food (though most parties seemed to sustain themselves from coffee and corn soup from the vending machines outside the room). The first hour of the event, after introductions were made and expectations were set, was dedicated to world building and character creation. Statistics for charisma, strength, dexterity, and wisdom were divvied up, and flavor such as religion, alignment, weapon of choice and appearance were written down and shared. Then the GM asked the players some simple questions to guide their game; what rumors have you heard of the evil in the forest? What treasure lies there? What is so special about this hammer of Gilibran’s? This free form storytelling is what allows each game to have it’s own individual outcomes and narratives, despite starting with the same basic premise. It’s also thrilling for players to feel like they have some control over the story. The excitement and recognition on a players face as they realize that the monster they described way back at the start of the game is what they will be facing off with in the final battle has always been one of my favorite parts of running these games.

Game master leading players through challenges and the game world.

Dungeon World still uses dice, but not the iconic 20-sided die used for D&D. For most of the moves and decision making, only two six sided die (like you would find in a Monopoly set) are required. By leaving moves up to chance, surprising things can happen, like convincing an enemy to join your party, or an unexpected heroic moment changing the tide of battle.The simplicity of the characters, moves, and the open style of the gaming system means that the rules themselves are relatively easy to explain and quick to grasp. Many people came to this event as first time players, and they had no problems picking up the mechanics along side the veterans of the game. It was heartening to see people explore and connect through this event, and I met many people who I hope will be encouraged to come out to future events. I was pleasantly surprised by the turn out, and I hope it bodes well for other gaming events we may plan. One event goer even said that it was the best attended AJET event that they had been to, and they’ve been here for five years!

The Chronicles of EIKEN

By Andrew Fischer

Nearly every ALT across Ehime ought to be familiar with the EIKEN, or Jitsuyō Eigo Ginō Kentei (Test in Practical English Proficiency).

The EIKEN is similar to the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). The differences, besides the fact that the EIKEN tests English-language skills, not Japanese-language ones, are as follows: the EIKEN offers more levels (seven), is offered three times a year, can be taken at some schools, and includes writing and speaking sections.

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Not Just for Native Speakers: Taking the Kanji Kentei

By Casey Waller

Casey art

When people study Japanese as a second language, the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) is often seen as a main goal to achieve. An exam that is often overlooked is the Kanji Kentei (漢字検定). This exam is aimed at native Japanese speakers and primary school, middle school and high school students take this exam to see how their kanji knowledge is progressing. The JLPT does not test Japanese learners on their writing abilities, so the Kanji Kentei makes up for a knowledge gap that the JLPT leaves out. So, I believe that this exam is also beneficial for Japanese learners and not just native speakers.

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“So Leh we make ah memory…

do sometin’
That new tuh meh,
Make sometin’ that we could share,
Post it up inside ah here…”

                                                                               Machel Montano Ft. Tarrus Riley, 2016

By Apphia Pereira


Memory yuh say? So said, so done. Several in fact!

As I embarked on a journey into a world of drastically different cultures, I was ready and enthralled with my upcoming prospects.

My name is Apphia Pereira, some call me Phee or Pheefi, and I come from the beautiful Twin Island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Coming to Japan has always been a G.O.A.L of mine and honestly, the timing, though at one point I may have thought was too late, is one that I can now appreciate. I applied after a really difficult year and I did not get any of my three choices but I also ticked the no preference box because I did not particularly care where I was placed. I was just looking for adventure and fulfillment. I honestly didn’t mind experiencing what the rural life had to offer.

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Experiencing Hojo: The Hojo Festival

By Justin Woodard

I was not really sure what to expect from the three-day Hojo festival. Leading up to the event I was told there would be fights, broken mikoshi, and a parade. Naturally, I was having a hard time imagining how all of this would fit together into one festival, especially one in Hojo. After all, when I arrived in Hojo for the first time, it gave me the impression of being a quiet, small town, similar to the one in the United States I grew up in. The only way to find out for sure how everything would come together was to go to the festival and witness everything for myself.

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The Joys of this Earth: The Otomouma Horse Festival

By Kathryn Shea


Four year old me had many ideas about what I wanted for the future. Some included wanting to be a paleontologist or astronaut, discovering new species of the saurian or alien kind. Others were as mundane as wanting to be an ice cream truck driver because I liked the music. That was before I discovered how creepy that tinny music could be. Yikes.

One of the dreams that stuck around for longer (than my two week dream of selling ice cream, for example) was being a horse rider. Didn’t matter if it was as a rodeo rider, rancher, racer or jumper. I just wanted to ride horses. My aunt let me ride her horse a few times and my grandparents bought me cowgirl outfits when we went to see rodeo rides. My friends encouraged this by taking me riding for their birthday parties. Even if actually owning a horse or taking riding lessons wasn’t possible, I took every chance I could get to interact with horses.

So you can imagine how excited I got when I was told that there would a horse festival in Kikuma on October 20th.

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From One Island to Another

By Christian Jalim

Hey everyone! I’m Christian and I am from the small country of Trinidad and Tobago (/ˈtrɪnɪdæd … təˈbeɪɡoʊ/). For those who don’t know, it’s actually a country in the Caribbean archipelago that comprises of two main islands, Trinidad… and… you guessed it… Tobago. I hail from the larger sister island, Trinidad but from a very small, rural village called Manzanilla (a name of Spanish origins but the pronunciation has been anglicized). Trinidad and Tobago is fairly known in the Western hemisphere, however, halfway across the world in Japan, especially in a Prefecture such as Ehime, my country is barely known to the locals, or so it may seem.

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