Art and Tradition: FuJETs Practicing Japanese Culture — Kyudo

Art and Tradition: FuJETs Practicing Japanese Culture — Kyudo
kyudo_headerThis is the first in a series of articles exploring Fukushima JETs who practice traditional Japanese arts as a hobby.

Kyudo – The Art of Japanese Archery

Kyudo is one of the many Japanese martial arts. It can be deceptively similar to Western archery, but kyudo has its own unique rules and traditions that make it seem closer to tea ceremony than to archery. The footwork, the way the bow is held, and even the way the archer approaches the firing line is predetermined. It is more important to have this process done correctly than it is to hit the target accurately!

“There are particular ways to enter and exit the shooting hall,” says Tiffany Kwok, a second-year ALT in Tanagura. “The shooting sequence also depends on the occasion: exam, competition, ceremonial demonstration, etc.”

These traditions are not continued simply for tradition’s sake. The Japanese longbow, unlike a Western bow, is held not in the middle of the bow, but about two-thirds down. If held incorrectly, the archer can injure themselves, as third-year Aizuwakamatsu ALT Russell Aquino explains.

3rd year Aizuwakamatsu ALT Russell Aquino
3rd year Aizuwakamatsu ALT Russell Aquino

“Many things can go wrong when you shoot. I’ve had – and still occasionally get – a fair number of cuts and bruises on my inner arm to prove that.”

But practicing kyudo is a great way to learn more about Japanese culture. Tiffany explained that many of the terms used in kyudo have their roots in Japanese Buddhism. And as kyudo was originally a martial art practiced by the samurai, its tradition is steeped in the Japanese way of thinking.

“When you practice kyudo, I would say that it’s impossible not to get a sense of the spirit that led to its development as an art,” Russell says. Of course, even as a traditional art, it is practiced by modern Japanese.

Tiffany Kwok, 2nd year ALT
2nd Year Tanagura ALT, Tiffany Kwok

Tiffany says, “I’ve also heard A LOT of oyaji gags during practice – that’s probably just at my dojo, but it counts as Japanese culture, right?”

If you’re interested in starting kyudo, dojos are often looking for new members. Ask your coworkers where the local dojos are. They will often hold workshops for beginners. Also, many junior high and senior high schools have kyudo clubs which practice after school. Ask the teacher in charge if it’s alright for you to drop in! Russell has this advice for kyudo beginners,

“Be prepared to commit time to it. It takes a while to get even the basics of it, but once you do, there are few things as satisfying as hearing the twang of your bow and the sound of your arrow hitting the target.”

Special thanks to Tiffany Kwok and Russell Aquino for their interviews.

April 2014 Photo Contest–‘Hanami’

April 2014 Photo Contest–‘Hanami’

The theme for next month’s photo contest is, “TAUE” or “rice planting.” May is the season for planting rice fields, and Fukushima has many of those. It is said that rice fields are the mirror of the sky, so go out and capture the feel of the countryside!

Each entrant can submit up to three photos. Be sure to include your name and where you took the photos with your submission. Please submit them here or send them to by TUESDAY, MAY 27th. No late submissions accepted. I look forward to seeing your photos!

A Message from the 2013-2014 FuJET Council

A Message from the 2013-2014 FuJET Council

Hello everyone!

As our term comes to an end, we would like to take a minute to look back on what we achieved during the 2013~2014 year as your FuJET leaders.

What we achieved:
– Added two new events to the FuJET event calendar (Bandai and Oze climbs)
– For the first time, doubled the maximum number of people for our Canyoning trip (from 24 people to 48)
– Created a newsletter (The Lucky Island)
– Updated and maintained our news site (
– Created a Fukushima wiki (
– Started a FuJET facebook page
– Held council meetings and posted the minutes on our news site
– Started a FuJET library
– We improved sales from previous years of the kanji guide at Tokyo Orientation to raise 223, 060 yen and donated those funds to Eyes 4 Fukushima (E4F)
– Raised 30, 000 yen for Jimmy’s School in Cambodia
– Raised 50, 000 yen for the Philippine Red Cross
– Created a 37 page comprehensive guide on what to expect for the next council leaders

What we didn’t achieve:
– Creating the positions of Ministers of Fun. We posted about the position, but unfortunately no one expressed interest

We feel that during our term, we managed to achieve much of what we set out to do. We made events more transparent, held council meetings, created new events and created new ways of getting information out to the public. It’s been a roller coaster year full of ups and downs, but hopefully FuJET will continue to grow in the upcoming years. It’s been a pleasure serving as your FuJET Co-Presidents, and we wish the next FuJET Council the best of luck for the upcoming year.


Thanks for the memories FuJET!

Erika Ehren and Joshua Tweedy
FuJET Co-presidents 2013~2014

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!