The Lucky Island September 2015 Events

The Lucky Island September 2015 Events

Name: Hinoemata Kabuki

kabukiDate: Saturday, September 6, 2015

Area:  Minami Aizu

Time: Seating starts at 6pm, performance starts at 7pm

Price: 1,000 for day-trip people; free for those staying in hotels in the town

Address: 〒967-0521 福島県 南会津郡檜枝岐村 字居平

Details: Watch traditional Edo-period Kabuki that has been passed down by Hinoemata villagers for more than 260 years. It is held in an outdoor theater and will only be cancelled due to heavy rain. It is only accessible by car and a bit out of the way, but I am sure if you ask nicely, one of the Minami Aizu JETs will let you crash at their apartment!

English Website:


Name: Aizu Fruit and Flower Festival

Date: Sunday, September 13th

Area: Aizuwakamatsu

Time: 9am – 1pm

Address: Yasuragi Firefly Park

24 Miyanohigashi Kitaaizumachi Shimoarai  Aizuwakamatsu-shi, Fukushima-ken 965-0111

〒965-0111 福島県会津若松市北会津町下荒井宮ノ東24

Details: Although the name says it is a fruit and flower festival, it appears to be more like a farmers market. Kita Aizu is known for producing great agricultural foods, so if you are looking for some cheap, delicious fruits, vegetables and other produce, stop by!

Japanese Website:


Name: FuJET Canyoning Trip

Date: Friday, September 18th – Sunday, September 20th

Area: Gunma

Time: Friday evening – Sunday evening (depending on your pick up location)

Price: Check out the Facebook event for more details, but I guarantee it is worth the money!

Address: Gunma! You don’t have to worry about the address, our chartered bus will shuttle you there and back from a select number of stations (Fukushima, Koriyama and Aizuwakamatsu)

Details: Get your outdoorsy on with river rafting, paragliding or bungee jumping – after you are sent splashing down rivers and jumping off cliffs first, of course.  Check out the Facebook event for more details!

Facebook Event:


Name: Aizu Samurai Festival 2015

Date: Monday September 21st – Wednesday September 23rd

Area:  Aizuwakamatsu

Time: Lantern Parade: (Mon.) 6pm – 7pm; Obon Dance: (Mon. / Tues.) 7pm – 8:30pm; Drum and Fife Parade (Tues.) from 10am; Aizu Clan Parade (Wed.) 9:25am – 3pm

Address: near the castle and all around that area. It is hard to miss. The closest station is Nanukamachi Station. Aizuwakamatsu Station is the closest major station, but is a further walk to the castle. You can also catch a bus from the station to shinmei or the castle.

Details: Aizuwakamatsu is known as the Samurai City, and with good reason. Thick with history, Wakamatsu pulls out all of the stops every September 21-23 and takes you back to a time of the Shinsengumi, White Tiger Brigade, Niijima Yae…the time of Samurai. This is one of the BIG festivals that Fukushima is famous for! Some of the events to look forward to is the lantern parade (Mon.), Obon dance (Mon., Tues.), Drum and Fife Parade (Tues.) and the Aizu Clan Parade on Wednesday, which is the main event.


There should be a Facebook Event page sent out soon for more information!

Japanese Website:


Name: Abukuma Cave Autumn Festival

Date: Saturday, August 26th – Sunday, August 27th

Area:  Kenchuu Area

Time: 10am – 4pm

Address: Abukuma Dou (Cave)

Higashikamayama-1 Takinemachi Sugaya

Tamura, Fukushima Prefecture 963-3601

Details: Celebrate Autumn with some stage events and food! What makes this festival unique is that it is set up in front of Abukuma Cave, so you can do some cave exploring at the same time! Or you can do a little more serious spelunking in the nearby, less touristy Irimizu Cave (check out the article I wrote about it here!)

Japanese Website: The 2015 event is not posted on their website yet, so here is the 2014 one for reference!


Name: Raramyu Yosakoi Dance Festival

Date: Sunday, September 27th

Area:  Iwaki

Time: 10:30am – 4:30pm

Address: Iwaki Station, South and West entrance areas.

Details: Enjoy the yosakoi festival dance that is popular all over Japan and the world! There will be over 20 teams participating from all over the prefecture!

Japanese Website:


Name: Furudono Sumo

Date: Saturday, September 12th

Area:  Iwaki

Time: 11am – 5pm

Address:  37.091872,140.598579

Details: Get your Sumo on. Literally. Who wants to just watch sumo when you can actually be a sumo? Or watch your friends body slam each other in nothing more than a loincloth? How about winning some prizes? Come over to Iwaki and enjoy a day in the mountains with other Japanese spectators and participants. It is a lot of fun, lots of drinking (spectators, we recommend you bring some! Participants, you will probably get more than you want.), and all around a good experience. Unfortunately the wrestlers are male only, but women, you can admire some farmer tans and more skin than you probably wanted to see from your male friends. Also – this IS a traditional Japanese event (not a tourist trap) that we have been graciously invited to, so please be respectful of the rules and the Japanese people participating / spectating at the event.


Facebook Event:


‘This is Fukushima’ Calendar Project Now Accepting Submissions for 2016!

‘This is Fukushima’ Calendar Project Now Accepting Submissions for 2016!

thisisfukushima_coverAnnouncing the opening of photo submissions for the 2016 edition of the annual ‘This is Fukushima’ calendar! The deadline for photo submissions this year will be: Saturday, October 31st. You can read up about the ‘This is Fukushima’ calendar project at their website, facebook page, twitter. This is Fukushima has been nationally recognised in various newspapers and magazines across the world for their hard work in sharing the Lucky Island’s beautiful landscapes with too many people who hear ‘Fukushima’ and think ‘Disaster’.

Message from ‘This is Fukushima’ Calendar project co-founder, Paul Sprigg:

‘Last year, while producing the current calendar, we learned of some misinformation regarding this project. As such, we felt that it would be prudent to clarify a few matters prior to beginning production this year:

The annual This is Fukushima wall calendar is a non-profit project. Its purpose is to help improve Fukushima’s public image across Japan and the rest of the world in the wake of the March 11, 2011 triple-disaster. When completed, the calendars are distributed across Japan and several countries internationally… FREE OF COST. Any fundraising that we manage each year goes entirely towards production and distribution costs. […] We do it each year because Fukushima has given so much to many of us. We see this project as a way to give something back.

Over the years we have produced this calendar, we have been thankful for all of the support received from all those who help make this project possible. All contributions to the calendar are important. Perhaps most of all are the photos. After all, without your photos there can be no calendar.’



  • 300dpi, minimum 4000 x 3000 px
  • Horizontal orientation is preferred but not required
  • Got a good shot on your phone? Send it in! It can still be used!

Photo submissions can be sent via Email to:
Any photos that are selected for use in the 2016 calendar will be printed with your photo credit. You will also receive a few complimentary calendars when they’re produced.

The photo content can be varied, but try to keep with the idea of Interesting People & Places of Fukushima. (If the image shows the faces of people, please get permission from them before submitting!) Try to show something in your images that someone who has never been to our prefecture will find interesting. Ideally, images that would encourage people to travel here. Fukushima is NOT a radioactive wasteland, and the calendar project is meant to show that to the world.


Adventures in Dining by Laurie Burrow

Adventures in Dining by Laurie Burrow
Laurie Burrow: vegetarian expert!
Laurie Burrow: vegetarian expert!

Have you ever had people ask you where you get your “power,” from?  Do you frequently get looks from locals that seem to imply that you might be out of your mind?  Have you ever heard the comment, “What do you even eat!?” Have you ever gone to a local festival to discover that your dining options are limited to French Fries and soft cream?  If so, then you might be a vegetarian living in Japan!  While it can often seem daunting, there are definitely ways to continue to have a vegetarian and vegan lifestyle in Japan.  Not only is there a community of people just like you, but there is hope of being quite successful with a vegetarian lifestyle!

Challenges Veggies Face

At times, the challenges to being vegetarian in Japan can seem daunting.  I wouldn’t recommend that anyone try to transition into vegetarianism in Japan.  One must be on guard for the pitfalls many vegetarians face.  These challenges can be especially prevalent when dining out; however, if you know what to look out for, one can successfully overcome restaurant adversity!

Surprise Meat

ALTs with a good command of the Japanese language have a definite advantage over vegetarians who are just beginning to study Japanese.  However, even with superior Japanese language skills, one must be ever-vigilant for what I like to call “surprise meat!”  My husband and I have often encountered situations where the descriptions on the menu do not include all of the ingredients.  Several times, we’ve felt pretty confident that our meal will be meat-free only to be surprised with bacon or some other unforeseen meat! I like to think that the chef is trying to “hook us up” with bonus food. Regardless of the chef’s motives for these extra ingredients, I recommend checking with the wait staff to make sure that certain items are not included in the dish even if the menu doesn’t list meat in the description.

To avoid this scenario, I recommend learning some handy Japanese to help talk to wait staff.  Some helpful vocabulary to learn are:

niku meat 
yasai  野菜 = vegetables
tamago or 玉子= egg
katsuobushi  鰹節 = bonito flakes
sakana 魚 = fish
shiifuudo シーフード =  seafood
牛乳 milk
dashi 出汁 = dashi (fish and kelp soup stock)

It is also helpful to learn the kanji for these items too.  Not only will this help with ordering in restaurants, but when going to the super market as well.

You can use some simple phrases to help with restaurant ordering.  Some examples are:

(niku/sakana/katsuobushi/dashi) nashi de onegaishimasu.
Without (meat/fish/bonito flakes/dashi) please.

…do you have?

Watashi wa beijitarian/ zettai-saishoku-shugisha desu.
I am vegetarian/vegan.
[Note: veganism is not widespread in Japan, so servers may not be familiar with the term, even in Japanese.]

Watashi wa________o taberaremasen.
I cannot eat_________.


This is another ingredient that often pops up even in the most unexpected dish.  Many vegetarians simply choose to be more flexible on this point due to the frequency that dashi is used in Japanese cooking.  However, some do not have this option, nor should you have to eat dashi if you chose not to.  Just realize that dashi and bonito flakes are used pretty frequently, so it is important to be able to ask whether or not these things will be in your food and ask for them to be left out.  Sometimes, the server at the restaurant will look extremely confused as if their head might explode and some restaurant items are super difficult to modify for whatever reason.  So, it is helpful to choose a “plan B,” and even a “plan C,” when dining out.

The “perks” to being vegetarian in Japan

While it is not easy to be a vegetarian in Japan, there are some definite positives you might encounter.  First of all, tofu is much cheaper compared to many places around the world.  I know in the U.S. tofu was about the equivalent to 300 yen or so a package.  Here it is often under 100 yen!  There are many delicious tofu restaurants in Japan and really yummy tofu treats you can find all over the country.  Similarly, you can find an abundance of soy milk options in Japan, along with soy yogurt that is pretty tasty!  Many a veggie will also be excited to find delicious, fresh, local vegetables at the local super markets.  I think the veggies here are much healthier looking and better tasting compared to what I found at the big-name super markets back in America.  Also, if you get to travel around Japan, you might get to visit temples and experience shojin ryori or Zen Buddhist food that is highly recommended by many vegetarians!

Restaurant Recommendations

While the hardest part to being a veggie in Japan has to do with dining out, there are also some very exciting places in Fukushima where you can fill up with ease! I would like to recommend a few great places that I have visited.

1. Raghupati, Aizu Wakamatsu (インディアンレストランラグパティ)[Map]

This is a picture of a veggie dish at Raghupati!  Yum!
This is a picture of a veggie dish at Raghupati! Yum!

This Indian food restaurant is super tasty and has a section of the menu dedicated specifically to vegetarian main dishes.  If you are vegan, you might still want to make sure whether or not eggs are included though, but I recommend it for a relaxing dinner out!  Though, in my experience, almost any Indian food restaurant has several vegetarian dishes on the menu, so find your favorite Indian food place and enjoy!

2. Don Jalapenos, Koriyama (ドンハラペーニョ) [Map]

I can’t say enough about this wonderful restaurant!  The owner is super accommodating to vegetarians.  I recommend liking Don Jalapenos on Facebook and when you plan to visit Koriyama, just send him a message to make a reservation.  He prefers that you let him know that you are a veggie ahead of time so that he can make sure to have the ingredients on hand to make you a delicious meal!  Of course, I recommend this place for your non-veggie friends too because it is really delicious!

3. Hero’s Diner [Map] and Comaya (コマヤ) [Map], Inawashiro

The Susan Burger at Hero’s Diner.
The Susan Burger at Hero’s Diner.

We were pleasantly surprised to learn about these two culinary gems in Inawashiro from a local vegan.  Located conveniently near JCN, the Japan Cat Network, you can fill up on a yummy vegetarian burger at Hero’s for lunch or dinner and stop by for soy desserts at Comaya.  While Hero’s is known for super-massive, meaty burgers with homemade buns, the staff is used to many vegetarian foreigners visiting their restaurant and will happily accommodate for vegetarian diners.  They will substitute the meat patty with their awesome onion rings if you ask.  Or, you can simply ask for a Susan Burger, and they will fix you right up!  They also have delicious fries and larger sized drinks!

Comaya is just down the street practically right across the street from JCN.  They have delicious desserts such as soy cheese cake, soy pancakes, soy ice cream, and delicious coffee drinks!  I recommend both of the restaurants not only for the delicious food, but both vendors are active supporters of Japan Cat Network!

4. Discover Your Favorite!

I recommend exploring your town to find other good places where you can get really wonderful vegetarian meals.  You might be surprised how many places you can find!  Many of the restaurant staff will be happy to accommodate if you just ask.  Of course, it is relatively easy to find vegetarian options at Italian restaurants, pizza places, okonomiyaki restaurants, and even more traditional restaurants can fill vegetarian bellies with just a little bit of communication with staff and reading skills! While you might sometimes meet with disappointment, I think with the right attitude, not only will you get to experience culinary adventures, but you will find many delicious treasures as well!

Veggie Resources

Here are some resources to help you on your veggie adventures!

  • Veg Jet-Face Book group specifically design to support vegetarian and vegan JETs.  They have a ton of resources and links to help you with daily life, super market shopping, dining out, and travel suggestions.
  • Cook Pad-A recipe site written by local people translated into English that uses ingredients you can find in Japan.  They have a vegetarian section and a section using specific vegetables.
  • YummlyWhile not specific to Japan, you can find many delicious recipes by ingredient.
  • Never Ending Voyage-a blog that talks about surviving in Japan as a vegetarian.  There are some really delicious looking food pictures from their exploits along with suggestions for dining out and travel.
  • OiSix-vegetable box delivery site
  • Tengu Natural Foods-website that specializes in natural foods and vegetarian foods.

A Quick Recipe for Basic Japanese Sauce

This sauce recipe was recommended by my husband, Aaron.  It is really good used with pan-friend veggies or tofu and rice!

Equal parts of the following items:

  • Sugar
  • Mirin
  • Sake
  • Soy sauce

Simply mix together and enjoy!

Stonewall Japan by Cat Dinh

Stonewall Japan by Cat Dinh
Aizu Fruitcakes protecting Tsuruga Castle!
Aizu Fruitcakes protecting Tsuruga Castle!

Stonewall Japan, formerly Stonewall AJET, is a special interest group for JETs who identify as LGBTQ, as well as their allies. Stonewall AJET grew to be a support network and safe zone not only for JETs, but also for other foreigners living in Japan as well as Japanese LGBTQ, hence the change to Stonewall Japan.

Fukushima is a part of Block 1, the largest out of all the other blocks in Japan, which includes all the prefectures in Tohoku, as well as Hokkaido. Although talk about LGBTQs might seem hush-hush in Tohoku, there does exist queer-owned bars, although it does take some searching to and initiative to find them! Luckily, some of us are on it, and have added a few places to the Stonewall Wiki, for anyone interested. Also, every year, we try to hold an annual event to bring Block 1 members together. Last year, we had an enkai, and a ski and snowboard weekend in Bandai-machi, where we played games, watched movies, and slid the slopes!

だれを好きになるのかな? I wonder who we will love?
I wonder who we will love?

Stonewall Japan likes to share positive LGBTQ stories, so I’d like to share a couple local stories from Aizu-Wakamatsu, a city known for its stubbornness and tradition, with you. Depending on what publication your junior high nurse’s office subscribes to, you might find a poster that explains to kids that having feelings for a person of the same gender, both, or neither at all, which is perfectly normal. I’ve been told this poster exists in some junior highs here. Also, at my high school, one student, who is biologically female, but identifies as male, is allowed to wear a boy’s uniform, as well as joining the boy’s soccer team. This student is going through his own individual counseling, but the space that the school allows him to express himself is truly impressive!

Of course, not all stories are positive, so if you are looking for help in ways to handle LGBTQ discriminating situations, or a safe zone to cope with something that’s been done or said, check out the website at for resources, or get yourself onto our mailing list! We also have a Facebook group specifically for Tohoku and Hokkaido members for more area-focused activities and support. It is a secret closed group to protect members’ privacy, so please email Cat, the Block 1 leader for Tohoku (, with your email address to receive an invite!

JET Leaver’s Survey Results

The leavers have spoken! We asked some of our dearly departing JETs some questions about their experience in Fukushima, and they have delivered! Here is what they had to say:

1. Describe your fuku-perience in one word. (Yes, only one. We’re mean.):

“Inconceivable!” –Pavel Koulaev, first-year JET in Fukushima City

“Revelationary” –Max Holtz, first-year JET in Kawamata

“Galvanising” –Suzanne Fish, first-year JET in Nihonmatsu

“Humbling” –Natalie Donohue, second-year JET in Soma and Minamisoma

“Maturing” –David Tacoronte, second-year JET in Minamisoma

“Unexpected” –Tony Villa, first year JET in Shinchi

“Amazing” –Naomi Sloan, second-year JET in Iwaki

“Enduring” –Ashley Berry, third-year JET in Shirakawa

2. What do you wish you had known before coming to Fukushima?

“I wish I had known how easy it is to get things via Amazon in Japan. I also wish I had known how a fish oven worked.” –Pavel Koulaev

“Japanese. In my town you won’t survive without it, so the more you can speak the better off you will be. I also wish I had known more about the specifics of my job so that I could have adapted faster.” –Max Holtz

“Exactly how hot and cold it gets. My clothes from England needed a lot heat tech as an under layer during the winter!” –Suzanne Fish

“There is no central heating, so it gets really really cold indoors during winter –literally freezing sometimes!” –Natalie Donohue

“I wish I had known about the transport situation. I would have gotten a car much earlier.” –David Tacoronte

“Having zero knowledge of Japanese in a small town like mine. If it can’t be a language, then I’d say how radiation is really not a factor and I didn’t have to worry about it!”–Tony Villa

“The first thing you should buy when it starts getting chilly is an electric blanket.” –Naomi Sloan

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