“People tell me slow my roll, I’m screamin’ out ‘Fuck that!’ Imma do just what I want, lookin’ ahead, no turnin’ back.” – Kid Cudi
I guess this period of time straight out of JET–no job, no school–was the first time I’d been truly free as an adult. The only responsibilities I had are the ones I made for myself and chose to recognize. They consisted of my family, my health, educating myself, and eventually getting a job. Other than that, my life felt open, uncomplicated. I felt like a recently emptied house, all the windows wide open. Life passed through me, unhindered.
This is the first installation in a series intended to chronicle my first six months as a JET alum. My goal is to present a condensed, honest, and uninhibited account of my life post-JET.
“You must do the things you think you cannot do.” -Eleanor Roosevelt
I sat against the wall at O’Hare Airport, my phone plugged into an outlet far away from the others. It was July 27, 2013. I called my father, crying. “I can’t do this.” I felt that Japan was a huge mistake. My heart was racing. My idea of life in Japan at that point was that I would go out into a shallow world, not being able to feel it, nor it me. I would hear and see, experience things. But I would be stuck in a surreal, kawaii hell.
As someone who has come from a very rural part of the US where plant-life can be found no matter how deep into a city one goes, the lack of grass and yards in Japan was a cause of some minor culture shock. Dirt-only parks and the playgrounds at my schools only added to this. It is almost as if Japanese urban planning is a thorough rejection of nature, even in small towns like Iyo.
If you spend enough time in Japan, you will surely begin to notice the stone bead bracelets that many people seem to own or that are sold in a variety of shops, from second-hand stores to matsuri stalls. There is even a store called M’s Power Stone Shop (パワーストーン専門店エムズ) in the Ōkaidō (大街道) shopping district of Matsuyama. What significance do these little beads hold that they have become so popular? Is it just fashion? If you look more closely, you will see that these bracelets are a sign of a larger spiritual movement bubbling under the surface of Japan.
At the start of fall, dark blue puts my mind at ease
–Iyo kasuri – Natsume Soseki 夏目礎石
The famous author and poet Natsume Soseki dedicated one of his renowned haiku to the calming beauty of dark blue Iyo kasuri, a fabric export carrying the name of Iyo Province, modern day Ehime Prefecture. But what is Iyo kasuri exactly?
This year is the 150th anniversary of two of Matsuyama’s most celebrated literary icons, Natsume Soseki and Masaoka Shiki. Masaoka Shiki was an inspirational human being, for those of you who aren’t familiar with his work, a visit to the Shiki museum in Matsuyama is a must. Shiki achieved many things within his short life, despite being plagued with tuberculosis for the majority of this. Not only did he help to revive the art form of haiku and tanka, he also acted as a war correspondent during the First-Sino Japanese War and coined most Japanese baseball terminology. In honor of Masaoka Shiki’s 150th anniversary, the Mikan presents to you a haiku extravaganza featuring poetry from ALTs across Ehime prefecture. Also featured are photos by Michael Haverty, depicting the impact of both Shiki and Soseki on present day Matsuyama.
Anyone in Ehime knows that there is no shortage of nature here, and no shortage of things to find off the beaten path. From the big to the small, the famous and the unknown, after spending the greater part of the last year performing jinja-meguri (神社巡り, “shrine pilgrimage”) I’m proud to announce what I consider to be the top ten shrines in all of the Chuyo region.
The Shimanami Kaido is undoubtedly one of Ehime Prefecture’s primary attractions. Not just for cyclists, but for any tourist visiting the area. The series of bridges spanning across six islands in the Seto Inland Sea make for a stunning experience by car, but arguably even more so by bike. By cycling the route, you are taken off the expressway and down into the islands themselves. You experience firsthand the beauty of the tree covered mountains and bluffs, the winding local roads through the islands small towns and villages. Continue reading →