The Inawashiro Cheap Ski/Board Day 2014

The Inawashiro Cheap Ski/Board Day 2014

The Iski_day_640x479_nawashiro Cheap Ski/Board Day

Another yearly FuJET event, this fun day of skiing/boarding wearing either a) weird clothes or b) very few clothes at all, is a BLAST and also a good opportunity to do some good and raise money for charity.

On March 8, a large group of FuJETs and their friends overran Inawashiro Ski Resort for fun and charity. Oddly dressed foreigners converged on the central dining hall, grabbed their passes and hit the slopes (or hung around, playing games and raising money). Vikings, skeletons, LINE characters, the movie theatre “No more Eiga Dorobou” characters all hit the slopes and provided entertainment for the hapless Japanese people also there for the day.

Later in the day, some crazy FuJETs stripped down to their boxers and went for a nippy run down the slopes in the name of charity (also insanity, probably). After a long photo shoot, most of them put their clothes back on. Most. There are also reports that Jesse never took his off.

Why, you ask? Because we like to perpetuate the image that we are invincible and also willing to do anything, and more than a little crazy. But also, to raise money for charity. This year, the money raised went to help the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda. 5man (50 000yen) was collected by enthusiastic chariteers (donors were rewarded with Kris Mokes’ cute mini postcards!), and E4F (Eyes for Fukushima) also made 3man (30 000yen) in “I (akabeko) Fukushima” t-shirt (etc) sales, Great effort everyone!

The event will hopefully continue long into the future, so make sure you come along next year!

To the new FuJETs (Fukushima JETs)

So. You’re a new JET and you just got your offer. But it’s Fukushima…

Never fear! Once you have read this article (read the whole thing, now, no skimming) you will feel a lot better and will start counting the days until your plane leaves. Seriously.

Fukushima is an awesome place to work and live. I came here in July 2012 and I have loved every minute of it. Whether your post is in one of the cities (yes, there are cities in Fukushima) or in the inaka (country) I can pretty much guarantee you’ll love it here.

Reasons why you will love it here:

  • The people are super friendly. They are naturally friendly people and after the earthquake (I’ll get to that) they are even more appreciative that you didn’t run away because you heard the name “Fukushima”.
  • The other JETs are really friendly. My experience coming to Japan last year was made all the greater by my caring sempai JETs who helped me through the dos and don’ts and made me feel like I was lucky to be placed in Fukushima despite everything else I had heard.
  • Community! At Tokyo Orientation you won’t be in the largest group, but you will probably be in the loudest. And the awesomest. FuJET is one of the more active branches of AJET as far as getting together and doing stuff goes. We’re also really active on a national level, with FuJETs representing on the national AJET council.
  • You ever wanted to go to Hokkaido? Climb Mt. Fuji? Go bungy jumping? See sumo? We’ll hook you up! FuJET organises numerous outings and trips throughout the year so if you’re the type who likes to get out and DO stuff, Fukushima is the place to be.
  • Volunteering. If you want to get out there and help, unsurprisingly Tohoku is the place to be. There is still a lot to be done in the area and if you want to lend a hand there will be no shortage of opportunities. As well as that, FuJET has a section dedicated to volunteer activities and fundraising. Eyes 4 Fukushima is a charity made and run by FuJETs!

Of course, I should probably address the reasons why you’re worried.

  • Radiation. Big one, right? I’m not going to encourage complacency in this, and it is up to you to decide how you feel about this complex and controversial issue. But please, do your research. The news in many countries is very one-sided in the information it gives out so it pays to check all the theories. I can reassure you though we live very normal lives. Huge precautions are taken with radiation monitors positioned at every school and in many other public places. The food is constantly being tested and is safe to eat – none of us have turned green or grown any extra limbs! Also, if you look at the actual radiation counts, there is actually less background radiation in Fukushima than in many of the world’s major cities.
  • Earthquakes and tsunami. The most recent BIG one hit Tohoku, as I’m sure you are aware. But earthquakes and tsunami are not limited to Fukushima or even Tohoku. Japan sits on the edge of a tectonic plate (like the west coast of America or New Zealand) so earthquakes happen. Mostly they are small and harmless. The rule is to be prepared, and know that Japan has a good idea of how to deal with disasters when they arise.

Anyway, enough of that dark stuff. Fukushima rocks. The majority of FuJETs re-contract because people don’t want to leave! If you do have any questions, shoot someone an email (I’ll do – fjkerkham@gmail.com), check the forums, or join our Facebook page  (Fukushima ALTs). We’re all looking forward to meeting you!

JET Study Tour: Iwaki

JET Study Tour: Iwaki

The JET Study Tour to Iwaki took place on November 16th to 17th, and it was a very worthwhile experience. Although I have lived in Iwaki for over a year now, it made the severity of the disaster and the power and resilience of the Iwaki people so much more real for me.

Our first stop on Saturday morning was the Fukushima Agricultural Technology Centre in Koriyama, where we learned about how meat, rice, fruit and vegetables are tested for radiation in Fukushima, as well as about research into new strains of rice, fruit and vegetables. Hearing our guide’s talk and seeing the facilities reinforced my belief in the safety of Fukushima produce – it’s perhaps even safer than some of the food back home! Did you know that the permitted radiation reading for food in Japan is ten times stricter than those of the EU and the USA?

Our first stop in Iwaki was Tomato Land. Tomatoes are less affected by harmful rumours as they are grown in glasshouses, so sales have apparently returned to normal. And the tomatoes – delicious! We were given a bag and told to fill both them and our stomachs. I took them at their word!!

The shopping street in Hisanohama was a real eye-opener for me. I had visited the devastated area before, but I had never spoken to anyone about their experience for fear of seeming tactless. At the shopping street, I heard first-hand of how one lady ran from the tsunami. It is amazing to me to hear the stories of these people, and see how their resilience is so great that, when people began returning but had no place to shop, these shopkeepers set up temporary stores in front of the local school. Their desire to keep going despite their experiences was really inspiring. If ever you have the chance, go and visit these people – you won’t be the same.

On the second day, we visited the Organic Cotton Project in Onahama. This project leases abandoned farmland to grow brown cotton, a crop that is relatively unaffected by rumours. The project has created jobs for displaced people, and the profits go to charity projects. They hope in the future to make cotton a thriving industry in Fukushima. At the project, we experienced cotton picking and got the chance to make cute little dolls using raw cotton which are usually made by housewives living in temporary housing. It was a lot of fun!
At the Kisen Kamaboko Factory, we learned about the efforts of the small company to revitalise their business after the disaster. There, they regard the disaster as an opportunity to realise and correct problems that were not visible before, and to make unique products to draw visitors to Fukushima.

Shiramizu Amidado, a designated National Treasure and Historic Site, provided a picturesque ending to the tour. Apparently we had great timing as locals told us the autumn colours were at their very best.
Overall, a great tour was enjoyed by all. Now, I have greater knowledge of my city and the efforts of people living here. I can’t properly express my feelings of gratitude, appreciation and amazement, except to say how proud I am to live here, in Iwaki, in Fukushima. がんばっぺ、福島!

For more articles and information on Fukushima, head tofukushimalive.blogspot.jp!

Fuku Book Club’s 3rd Meeting

Fuku Book Club’s 3rd Meeting

The Fuku Book Club had its 3rd meeting on Sunday, September 8th at Don Jalepenos in Koriyama.  For two hours members ate Mexican food and discussed Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde, not to be confused with 50 Shades of Grey, an entirely different book! The book club is open to anyone who wishes to attend and generally hovers around 12-15 members in attendance, with many people who rotate in and out month-to-month.

fforde

This past months selection, Shades of Grey, seemed to be the most popular selection yet, receiving unanimous enjoyment among the members.  A lively discussion of the novel then took place.  Though it was less controversial as a selection, the book had many interesting ideas and themes that the members discussed.

Members take turns choosing five potential book candidates and then putting it to the club for discussion and voting before a novel is finally decided upon.  This past month’s novel was selected by Danielle Markewicz.

If you are interested in joining future meetings, feel free to reach out to its hosts, Mark Noizumi or Danielle Markewicz, for further information.

<Facebook event page>

 

Iwaki Odori 2013

On August 8th, the culmination to the Iwaki Tanabata Festival, the Iwaki Odori, was held in Taira. Last year, I watched the groups dance in the loop wishing I could join in – this year I got my wish.

The Iwaki International Association dances every year and so this time I joined in. About a week ahead we had a practice evening where we learnt the moves which I was very glad of (they make look simple but they’re a real challenge for the uncoordinated!).

On the day, we met up and changed into our costumes – I (akabeko) Fukushima T-shirts with Hawaiian shirts over the top (you may be wondering about the Hawaiian shirt – it’s actually the uniform for city officials in Iwaki as Iwaki has strong ties to Hawaii). After another quick practice on the sidewalk, we headed to the dance. We would dance for forty minutes, with a short break in the middle. It was great fun! but of course really tiring in the summer heat. People cheered encouragement from the sidelines, and many of my students and ex-students yelled out my name when they saw me! A brilliant experience – if you ever get the chance to join in in any events like this, make sure to raise your hand!