近海る (Kin Kairu)

JET, Japan, Journalism and other J words

Archive for the tag “Japan”

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 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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Kumano Kodo Kohechi Pilgrimage Part 1

Without any inclination, one of the older ladies came behind both of us and started giving massages. As my face winced with both pain and relief, someone else shouted, in a friendly manner, “You’re hurting him!” “Geez, you’re back is tense!” the lady said to me as she dug deeper into my shoulder blades. When she was finished, she gave me a hardy slap on the back. “Be careful out there, sonny!”

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I walked and completed another pilgrimage recently. Luckily, it was a lot shorter than my previous stints in Shikoku. For four days I walked along the Kumano Kodo Kohechi, a trail with over 1,000 years of history. Monks and aristocrats alike would use the path to travel between Koya-san, the Shingon Buddhism headquarters, and Hongu-Taisha, the grand Shinto shrine in the southern part of Wakayama.

Kumano Trails Map

Kumano Trails Map. We walked the green trail.

While it is far more normal to walk the trail from Koya-san to Hongu-Taisha, my friend and I decided we wanted to save the best for last and started the trail from the grand shrine in the south. While many people found this unusual, having a nice temple stay and a whole day at Koya-san was quite worth it in the end.

Because I don’t want this trip to span over months of writing, I am going to condense it down into a photo essay style and show the highlights of the trail. Anyone looking for a nice, enjoyable, but somewhat challenging hike with an exuberant amount of history should really check it out.

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Sticks and Dicks

The wave comes again, like it had many times before. The pain on my feet, arms, and chest returns as bodies all around me squish my own, and I try to find open pockets to relieve the crunch. But you learn very quickly to become one with the flow, for if you don’t recreate the balance the only outcome is defeat. I push back with all that I can to make sure the people at the other end won’t be able to advance so easily, as they try to force themselves in the center of the madness.

The monk standing above us occasionally pulls out a ladle to throw water on us, and holds out his hands to give periodic signs as a countdown for the main event.

50 minutes.

30 minutes.

10 minutes.

5 minutes.

Then everything turns pitch black. The yelling gets louder. The sticks are dropped. The fight begins.

Such was the Okayama Naked Man Festival.

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“But we got to play”: Haikyu!! and the Dynamics of Japanese School Sports

Recently, I’ve been pretty into watching an anime called Haikyu!!. The story follows the lovable scamp named Hinata: a dude who loves volleyball and wants to become the star on his high school team. He’s joined by the cast of Kurasuno High, who are all just about the sport of “NICE KILL!”s and “ONE MORE POINT!”s.

I’m still trying to nail down what exactly it is about Haikyu!! that has me so invested. Maybe it’s the characters who bounce off each other so well. Maybe it’s how the rules and tactics are thoroughly explained, even though I only know about the sport on a surface level, but perhaps it’s just the pure enthusiasm that spews out of all the players. It’s probably just all of these things, but honestly it’s the first sports themed show I’ve really gotten into.

However, I think a large part of what makes Haikyu!! succeed is how honest it is about the Japanese school sports system. Now, I cannot comment if any other shows have addressed the same issues, but Haikyu!! is one of the most realistic (no dinosaur extinction final moves here) sports shows I’ve seen. In that way, I think I connect with it a little more, which is what I would like to talk about today.

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Spring Cleaning

Late post, I know, but I didn’t feel comfortable finishing this until events last night.

Amongst the surprise I get that, yes, Americans also have a traditional spring cleanup ritual, I’ve been in a flurry of cleaning between my two schools. Sure, in my middle school days we just had to clean out our lockers, but here the daily “10 minute cleaning time” is extended to “a couple hours cleaning time.”

But the Japanese office system also likes cleaning up their roster, transferring members to other sectors or locations. In the case with my Board of Education, that could mean getting a new supervisor. The more common change is teachers switching schools within a district. It’s usually guaranteed they’ll still be in the same area, but it is possible for a teacher to be transferred from one side of the island to another, as is the case with one of the teachers I work with.

While none of the Japanese Teachers of English I work with are leaving this year, two teachers that I have gotten closer with are: the two Judo instructors.

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Japan News Roundup Jan 27-Feb 5

Let’s take a little break from the temple talk and discuss some other things I have a particular interest in: East Asian politics/current events and Journalism.

Hell, the later is part of the header!

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Doin’ It Right

We all need a little inspiration from somewhere.
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PREMIUM SUPER-DRY LIQUID BREAD

Being a beer drinker in Japan sucks.

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