Editor’s note: Welcome to the first edition of Backtrack, a hopefully interesting project I’m pursuing as the newly re-elected Mikan editor! This year presents a few challenges to the blog. Firstly, we have a much smaller group of JETs to draw from than usual, even including the incoming JETs currently stuck in limbo. Secondly, these same JETs are restricted in what they have been doing in the last year or so. There haven’t been any festivals or large JET gatherings to write about. Although there are stories to be told about being a JET during covid, I think it’s fair to say that it will be a little easier to write those articles when we are completely out of the pandemic, and have some more perspective.Continue reading
By Bennett Pérez
Darling you gotta let me know,
Should I stay or should I go?”
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.Continue reading
Edited by Joshua Hill
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, firstname.lastname@example.org to share with ALTs far and wide.
Sakura in the time of Koro-chan
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.Continue reading
“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?”
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.
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!
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.Continue reading
By Niall Magee
Last weekend I was invited to go on a tour of Uchiko to help promote it as a tourist destination. As a disclaimer, all expenses were paid for by the city, except for dinner at the German restaurant and the washi products I bought.
By Casey Waller
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.Continue reading
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.Continue reading
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.Continue reading
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.Continue reading