Japan’s ministry of education announced earlier this week that it would again increase funding for its bread baking programs run out of the department of home economics, making it the most well-funded school culinary program in Japan and more funded than any baking program run by its neighbors to the west, China and South Korea. The funding comes on the heels of a recent third-party review of Japan’s baking education which concluded that the Japanese student graduating from high school are less competent at baking than other students in east Asia and thus unable to compete in the growing demand for baking internationally. Now, instead of baking education beginning upon entrance into middle school, this decision starts baking classes two years earlier, or fifth grade in elementary. Eventually it seeks to by 2020 have children as young as third grade measuring flour and singing “Do You Know the Muffin Man?”
Last summer I had the opportunity to be invited to an all-expenses-paid trip to the coast of Ainan to test a promotion by their tourist board. The trip promised a boat ride out to a nearby island, some underwater sightseeing, and a class held by a local artisan. All I needed to bring was a swimsuit, ¥1,000 for lunch, and a willingness to smile in the group photos.
I honestly did not think that the trip would happen. It had already been postponed once, due to it being ‘a little windy,’ and the weekend of the postponement date was approaching in lock step with not one, but two typhoons. Luckily, I did not schedule anything for that day except a Netflix marathon, so when the call came through that it was time to pack my bags and head down to Ehime’s southernmost town, I was eager to do so.
On March 2nd, Ehime AJET hosted their annual Murder Mystery Dinner. I’m a first year ALT, so this was the first event of its kind that I could go to. I’m a sucker for true crime, thrillers, and mysteries so I had always wanted to attend a murder mystery event of some kind and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I booked a spot immediately and was happy to see that several of my friends had, too.
I remember when I first came to Japan and
heard stories of wild and crazy things that would happen to JETs; unexpected
adventures that would happen or strange gifts that they were given just for the
fact that they were one of the sole representatives of a different nation in
their town. They were the kinds of stories that were hard to believe because
they sounded so extreme, so they must be rare or non-existent.
My name is Lee Anne Ledwell and, as I’m sure most of you are aware, I was the Ehime AJET President from 2018-2019. Together with the current president, Laura Beardslee, we were able to rejuvenate Ehime AJET into the blossoming organization you know today. I wanted to take the time to write out this article explaining everything that has happened with Ehime AJET from its resurrection to what our council has accomplished this year to where I hope future councils will lead us.
For a cloudy day in January, it is strikingly warm in Matsuyama city. Matsuyama is the largest city on Shikoku, Japan’s smallest main island. Usually the coldest month of the year, Matsuyama is today enjoying a very mild 14 degrees C.
The warmer winter days are only one sign of the increasing grasp of climate change in south Japan. Regional typhoon patterns are also changing, and the combination of rising temperatures and increasing typhoon damage poses new threats to the region.
For this article, I tried to thing of an interesting perspective I could provide here. In the past, I’ve talked with some first year Primary or Junior High ALTs who didn’t know much about the Senior High School (SHS) system. I figured I might be able to help out by giving everyone an idea about how SHS work, and what teaching at a SHS is like, at least in my experience.
I woke up this Christmas Eve with a new anticipation. Instead of performing the traditional caroling and cookie decorating with my family, back in America, I would be traveling to Matsuyama Castle as a Samurai.
On an empty train station platform in rural Japan, there is a poster pasted on the wall with a message in imposing red letters: “Stop Karoshi!” Karoshi is a phrase meaning ‘death by overworking’, and the concept has become so normalised that it has entered the Japanese lexicon. The phenomenon, despite efforts to counter it, appears set to stay.
At first glance, the Japanese government appears to be working hard to battle the nation’s unhealthy working hours, but its current approach is at best superficial and at worst a purposeful avoidance of the problem.