近海る (Kin Kairu)

JET, Japan, Journalism and other J words

Three Months

“I need you to prepare to transcribe Trump’s victory speech,” the news director told me at roughly 10 p.m. on election night. Check marks filled my personal electoral map, while I watched the New York Times election prediction percentage do a complete flip. During the down times between state projections, I refreshed Twitter constantly for new calls. My other job, as the news director told me, was to simply wait and watch.

I was in the basement of the Hilton Midtown in New York City where the Trump victory event was held. As the night went on, and more states called in his favor, the cheers from upstairs seemed to shake the building. As I walked outside for a breather, the voices of protesters echoed through the avenues.

It has been three months since I came back to America. In many ways, my time in Japan is already starting to feel like a comatose dream. Partial memories replay in my mind which I can speak of with only a few, or perhaps only myself, really understanding. Not that the others around me don’t want to listen, but there’s only so much that one can speak of before the conversation becomes dull. Everyone else has their own life they wish to speak of as well, of course. In many ways, taking that temperature is still a skill I am trying to master.

Media center for the VP debate

Media center for the VP debate

My move back to America was extremely swift, giving only a few weeks between re-acclimating and throwing myself headfirst into the election. However I knew full well what going into a journalism job in late-August entailed. I prepped myself as much as I could, devouring articles and podcasts, and trying to learn from those elders around me how to handle my first electoral rodeo.

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The New J

National Press Building Entrance

National Press Building Entrance

As I arrive at the National Press Building, I meet my new boss in the lobby. Being so new to the city, he begins to teach me the ways of Washington DC addresses: Numbered streets go north/south, while lettered go east/west.

“There’s one catch though,” he added. “There is no J-street, which is a pretty well known joke within DC.”

I’ve made it my mission to find this narnia-esqe path.

—-

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while. Well, the skinny of it is this: I am back in America, and have a new job as an assistant producer for a major Japanese television network’s DC bureau. I still find it hard to believe that I have landed such a perfect split between what I went to school for, and my general interests.

Some of you may wonder why I didn’t write something about my departure from JET. While the easy excuse is that I simply had no time during the transition period, I also had a feeling that I didn’t have any parting words on the subject. My final speech post really encapsulated many of the things I learned over the years I was an ALT. Anything else I would have added would either be repeats or complaints, neither of them constructive.

At first I thought I would write about the influx of reverse-culture-shock I would succumb to once back in the states. But the reality is that, well, I haven’t come across anything so dramatic which would warrant such a post. Sure, there are definitely some things here and there (looking at you, sarcasm), but nothing to the point of writing a self-indulged think piece.

However, having a lack of writing topics at the moment does not mean this blog is in the grave. For one, I think there is still something to say along the lines of the general transition post-JET. Whether that be switching job cultures, working in such a culturally mixed office space, being involved with the alumni association, or training the newbies, I’m sure I will continue to write about JET related topics in the future. While I’m also figuring out how much I can disclose, I’m sure my adventures in DC politics under the umbrella of the Japanese press will bring out editorials as well.

My Junior Correspondents

My Junior Correspondents

I’ve already been quite busy, and heading into the political sphere during this election is nothing short of a “throwing-myself-in-the-fire-pit” like initiation. But I went through the same process at the Missouri School of Journalism, and I have confidence that I can handle the heat again. These fires are just much larger and stinkier.

So here’s to transitioning from one of my preferred J’s to the next. And once I find J-street I can add one more to the line up top.

My Farewell Speech / 私のお別れの挨拶

Author’s note: This was the speech I gave to both of my school’s on my last day at each one. This speech was given to both the students and staff.全部英日翻訳もあります。

“I’m going to tell you all a secret: When I came to Japan, my job was never to teach you English. That’s the truth. When hired by the JET Program, we’re told our job is not only to provide assistance in the English lessons, but also to add more internationalization into the classroom. I am among roughly 5,000 other English speaking people from all over the world who decided to apply and move to Japan. We all share that same goal.

今から秘密をお話しようと思います。私が日本に来た時に、私の仕事は英語を教えることではありませんでした。それは事実なのです。JET Programに入った時、英語を教えるだけではなく、教室に国際化をもたらしてほしいといわれました。私と5000人のALTの先生には共にそのミッションがあります。

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The Shikoku Pilgrimage, My Time on JET, and Uncanny Similarities

Shikoku 88 Temple Completion Certificate

Shikoku 88 Temple Completion Certificate

The circle has connected. I’ve finally completed it. After 1,200 kilometers, a book containing $264 worth of ink, and three years, I have finished the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage. I am not the first, and certainly not the last, but I can now say that I’m part of the club.

It’s very strange to think it’s over. The pilgrimage was always something that sort of hung over me; A conversation point friends and colleagues who would ask about it before long vacations. Now that feeling of “unfinished business” is gone, which in my lifetime having such business is still rare.

As I show my completion certificates to my friends, students, and coworkers, I’m happy they express their amazement and congratulations. They do seem genuinely happy for me. But when people ask “how was it?” I find myself at a loss. How can I really encapsulate everything that I experienced? Do those pieces of paper really project everything I learned along the way? Is there really any way I can truly express those lessons? In the end will anyone really care?

It was through this thinking I found an uncanny parallel between the pilgrimage, and my three years here on JET.

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The Informational Shikoku Pilgrimage Post: Kagawa Prefecture

In tune with some of my past posts regarding my pilgrimage hike, I’m going to have at least one here with the straight-to-the-point details about where I stayed, my recommendations, and relevant anecdotes. This will focus on the last section of the trail: Kagawa Prefecture.

Day 1: Temple 65 (Sankakuji)

The hour and a half ride express train ride from Tokushima station to Iyo-Mishima, the closest to Temple 65, costs roughly 6000 yen. Not bad considering the 10,000 yen ticket I had to pay to get to the area around Temple 40. The hike up to Sankakuji was fine, but the 19 km walk towards 66 afterwards took a lot longer than I expected. I would also not recommend doing both 65 and 66 in one day, as 66 is the highest mountain on the trail! You will be pooped. I stayed at a business hotel a couple of kilometers west of 66 in Miyoshi city. The area has plenty of convenience stores and other lodging as well, so I think going a little bit farther and backtracking the next day is worth it. The city is also fairly close to Bangai #15 if you are also visiting those.

Stay: Awa-Ikeda Business Hotel
Phone: 0883-72-1010
Price: ~4500 yen (no meals)
Type: Single bed
Impression: Alright place to stay, though my room smelled a little bit like smoke.

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“Love is Difficult for Nerds” vol. 1&2 and The Question of Balance

Carla: If you like her, you can’t keep lying to her about who you are!
Janitor: Hogwash! Lie forever, it’s the natural form of communication between men and women.
-Scrubs, Season 7 Episode 6: My Number One Doctor

Cover Vol 1Cover Vol 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How much do you disclose about yourself to a potential partner? To what extent, and how soon? Sure, it’s advisable to share a good amount of your interests, but what should or should not be held back at the beginning? There’s no real right answer to this, but living in a era where such a wide range of interests and hobbies exist, some of them are going to be lost on others. Perhaps it’s easier to find someone who already has a predisposition to your interests since they already understand the ins-and-outs of your particular like. It certainly makes for great common ground.

Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii, or “Love is Difficult for Nerds” as I’m personally translating it, is a massive seller among the respective audience here in Japan. Most recently the second volume outsold some major series when it came out at the end of March. With all the hype, the interesting title, and seeing the last two copies of each volume at the bookstore, I had to check it out. And it’s not hard to understand the popularity after reading: a slice-of-life rom-com with deep anime, manga, video game references and memes, posing some questions many of the readers are probably dealing with themselves.

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Shikoku Pilgrimage: Ehime

Quick note: you may be wondering why I mention the New Years holiday a lot in this post, even though I’m publishing it in late April. Not only did life catch up to me shortly after I finished walking the Ehime prefecture section of the trail, but I was also debating on how to actually write about my experience this time. Before I knew it, it had became April, and I am actually in the midst of preparing for walking the final section during Golden Week! So I came back to this post and decided to stop being an editorial wuss and just publish it. Most of what I’ve written below is exactly what I wrote back in January, with some added bits. I think I will go in more detail about the trip as a whole once I’ve finished it entirely.

As I write about the next section of the Shikoku trail, I find it harder and harder to elaborate on a day to day scale. Writing about the minute-to-minute details, from catching buses to walking hours, it all seems a bit…tedious; Information and tidbits that are, in the long run, unnecessary regarding the trip as a whole. While I am writing this quite after the fact, I can still remember all those minor details, but they become duller every time I scribe. Much like the photography I have been sharing, I slimmed it down to the best parts, and show what actually stood out to me as opposed to a reaction to every temple I went to. I figure I should probably try doing the same here.

I’ll still do the usual and give information regarding where I stayed and other minor points of interest for any future pilgrim. But this will absolutely be a more condensed version of a travelogue compared to my earlier stints.

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Newtypes

When I was tasked with helping a student adjust to their new upcoming life in America, I was a little confused on where to start. My fellow coworkers were just as uncertain, so I was basically given a blank slate as what to teach. I decided on lessons that would incorporate more complicated English, American history, and advice about moving to another country. When I began my first American History lesson, I asked her two questions.

“What do you know about American History?”

“Basically nothing,” she replied.

Ok, well, we got a lot of ground to cover…

“What do you think an American looks like?”

“Ummm, like a Native American?” she said with a bit of hesitation.

She always was a clever one.

I showed her a bit of a recent National Geographic piece that covers what “an American” might look like in the future. Simply, it’s hard to even define what an American looks like or “is” anymore with our population of rich backgrounds and cultures. I wanted to show her this because she too is a part of this change: A blonde haired, blue eyed Japanese-American citizen. Or in more modern Japanese slang, a “half.”

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“O MAI GAAA”: On Japanese-Altered English, Making Language Boring, and GRE Questions

Imagine you’re me for a moment: living in Japan for a few years, have a considerable amount of Japanese under your belt, and one day you find yourself at any given net cafe taking a four hour practice GRE test when this reading section question appears.

The Question

The Question

For those who, understandably, don’t feel like ruining their eyesight squinting at the small text, the left paragraph goes into detail about how Japanese commercials use foreign languages, from English to French and Italian, to heighten their sense of priority and significance. “The viewer usually does not understand [the foreign words], but the connotations of prestige associated with these languages are enough to warrant their use.”

The question reads as follows-“Which of the following would provide the best justification for the existence of English in Japanese commercials, despite the fact that most Japanese do not understand English?”

And from the variety of answer choices, the answer is #1-“To many Japanese, the mere voicing of an English word evokes a cosmopolitan splendor, thereby conferring sophistication onto whatever is being advertised.”

I would now like you to watch the following video which is a collection of Japanese commercials from early February of this year. Keep a mental track every time an English word/phrase (or what sounds like the Japanese pronunciation of an English word) is used or seen.

I think the important thing to remember here is that these commercials are not being targeted towards a foreign audience. These are made by Japanese people, for Japanese consumers. And yet, there was an exorbitant amount of English words/phrases interspersed within the ads.

Now, I fully understand the stance that most Japanese have learned or taken classes in English in some capacity, whether it is during their higher or lower education. I also have no doubt there are people on those advertising teams who do speak a fair amount of English. But can I just point out the ad featuring ninja-ladies and spouted “BE CONSIDERATE” and “CHANGE YOURSELF” was for boat racing?

And without the context that the Universal Studios Japan ad used “RE-BOOOOOOOOOOOOORN” to refer that the Jurassic Park ride was under construction and recently opened up, what the hell would that even mean to a) Japanese people who don’t know that word and b) people outside Japan who don’t know about the reopening?

Welcome to modern Japanese!

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Shikoku Pilgrimage: A Note on Kochi

I’m going to be writing up about my latest trip to Ehime, in which I did the third section of the Shikoku Pilgrimage. Obviously doing the math there, some may ask “Ok, but where’s Kochi then? Did you even go?”

Oh, I did!

By car!

Almost a year and a half ago…!

During Golden Week (a week holiday in Japan from late April to early May) in 2014, I drove along Kochi prefecture to complete the second section, known as the “Dojo of Religious Training.” If you’re wondering why I drove instead of walked, please take a look at the map below.

Shikoku Pilgrimage map

Shikoku Pilgrimage map

The end of the Tokushima prefecture section is Temple 23, and Kochi prefecture goes from temples 24-39.

Taking into account the space between 23->24, 36->37, 37->38, and 38->39, that’s a lot of distance!

If I’m going to be honest though, once I visited all of the Kochi temples, I didn’t like the car method as much. In short, I overestimated how far I would drive each day, which made my visits to each temple significantly shorter than if I walked. Having said that, I honestly don’t remember too much about each temple and don’t have a breadth of stories to pick from and write about. But I still wanted to give resources as far as where I stayed and my general impressions, as well as some key spots to visit along the way for any pilgrims-to-be.

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