By Meryl Jordan, PA
With the new JET Year starting, the PAs and RPAs have begun to plan our First Skills Development Conference of 2017-2018.
SDC I will take place on Friday, October 20, 2017 at the Gifu Prefectural Library in Gifu City. More details will be announced closer to October.
If you are interested in running a workshop during SDC I, fill out this application by 12:00am, Monday, September 21.
Running a workshop is a great opportunity to boost your resume. Nowadays, with the growing popularity of teaching English in a foreign country, taking advantage of opportunities such as this is a great way to further set your resume apart.
Note: All accepted applicants will be assigned an RPA to help organize/guide your workshop.
As always, feel free to e-mail us with any questions or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Tom Black, Seino RPA
NAME: The nurikabe 塗壁 ぬりかべ (lit. painted wall)
APPEARANCE: As with many yokai the nurikabe’s true appearance is shrouded in mystery as it can make itself invisible. In illustrations, nurikabe typically take the form of a large wall, with eyes and various other appendages depending on the mood of the artist. Often they are shown as grey, slightly melted looking walls with two arms and legs protruding from the sides.
MODUS OPERANDI: There are several variants of nurikabe, but all love nothing more than obstructing or blocking people’s paths. Once in front of a victim they can extend infinitely to the left and right so poor, unfortunate travelers can never pass.
However, common wisdom states that if you tap the lower left corner of the wall, the nurikabe is defeated and will let you by.
IN POP CULTURE: The nurikabe served as the inspiration for the Mario enemy the “Whomp.” In the Mario Party series these bipedal walls act as barriers and will not let the players pass unless they can satisfy the Whomp’s demands.
By Sam Lee, Hida RPA
I knew the next grey clay bottle of hot Takayama sake would be enough to send me over the edge. But the hand that held the bottle, rough and wrinkled, worn raw from a day of steady harvest in the field, began to pour before I could offer any polite dissuasion. And so, not wanting to offend this most generous of local drinking hall denizens, I did my best to present a look of calm ambivalence despite the creeping sense that my head would be thrumming like a taiko drum when I woke up the next next morning. I resigned myself to my fate. My newfound farmer friend poured tiny cup after tiny cup of hot sweet sake until every last drop had been drained and drunk, by which point I was feeling exceptionally drained and drunk.
I had come to Takayama in Japan’s mountainous Gifu prefecture to teach English. I knew no one in the city, knew no Japanese and had next to no clue about practical boots-on-the-ground Japanese culture and custom. The one thing I did know was I needed a crash course on it all and what better place for a tongue-tied and shy foreigner to learn than at the local drinking den.
You'll find Izakaya all over Japan. From the lantern light soaked streets of Kyoto to the humming neon paradise of Tokyo, or, in my case, on a mountain town crossroad beside a used pick-up truck dealership. Originally Sake shops where the patrons could drink on the premises, they have evolved rather quickly into a hub the local neighbourhood very often revolves around. Izakaya offer a place for locals to share meals, swap gossip, drink, watch sporting games, drink, gripe about politics, drink, dodge significant others and drink. Imagine my good fortune when I discovered one not five hundred metres from my front door.
I strode in off the street and would have been met with dead silence had the TV above the bar not been blaring out baseball game coverage. The appearance of a blonde haired blue eyed foreigner at the door wrenched the five elderly patrons seated at the bar from their well worn runnel of conversation to a state of drop-jawed, wide-eyed shock.
What the hell had brought some young foreigner to this little Izakaya beside a pick up truck dealership was, I imagine, what the five old farmers at the bar were pondering as I appeared in the door way. Well, that and one other question. No sooner had I slid the door closed behind me did the nearest farmer look up, pull out the chair beside him and with a twinkle in his eye ask in broken English:
“You drink Sake?”
So if you haven't yet, I urge you to escape the claustrophobic comfort of your Japanese apartment and take to the streets of your neighbourhood to find your own local bar. So often on JET we rub shoulders with the respectable members of Japanese society; students, senseis, bureaucratic officials of every shape and colour, but this is only one side of the coin. Put yourself out there, go drink in a grubby dive bar with some ornery Ojii and Obaa sans. If not for the conversation, then at least for the free drinks you're bound to score from the gaijin curious patrons keen to prove just how delicious the local Sake is.
By Josiah Wilson, Tono RPA
So you’ve probably realized that the biggest tip for shopping in Japan is to not buy everything from the convenience store (even though they do offer pretty much everything you need to survive). But what other ways might you be able to save money? We’ve attempted to round up some useful tips about shopping in Japan, and hopefully some of them are new to you.
Use point cards, but don’t let them use you
Many stores offer point cards, and in nearly all cases these are free to set up, though you will need to fill out your name and address (a clerk can probably help you with this, although it may be difficult if you can’t speak any Japanese). Of course signing up for these means that the store will be tracking and recording your purchasing history, so if that bothers you then don’t sign up.
Now, if you do sign up for these cards, you’ll slowly but surely accumulate points, which generally exchange at a rate of 1 point for 1 yen, though the method by which the points are cashed-out varies from store to store.
In addition, you’ll likely notice that certain products will often net you bonus points when purchased. Be careful about being sucked into buying things that you otherwise weren’t planning on getting! The best way to make use of a point card is to simply shop as you normally would, perhaps using bonus point items as a “tiebreaker” between brands when the prices are the same.
Know the best days to shop
Many grocery stores have special weekly sale days, on which a wide variety of products (particularly produce, meat and fish) will be marked down at especially good prices. The days vary by store, and we’ve collected the days of some of the most prevalent grocery store chains in Gifu for you.
By doing as much of your grocery shopping as possible on these sale days and being smart in your purchases, you’re bound to save a fair amount each month.
Premade foods such as bento, onigiri, and store-baked breads, will get marked down dramatically as closing time approaches. Usually they get marked down in a few waves, first 20% off, then 30%, and finally a whopping 50% off. The first wave usually happens between 5 and 6 PM, and the last wave usually goes out around an hour and a half before the store’s closing time. Of course the exact times vary from store to store, and sometimes from day to day. Try checking your local supermarket at different times throughout the evening, and see if you can learn the best time to visit to snag the best deals at 50% off before they get too picked over.
Check the expiration date
Fish and meat will also get progressively marked down, although this happens on a daily basis rather than an hourly one. If you’re buying something to cook for tonight, there’s no reason not to grab something that has a sell-by date of today, and it’ll save you a fair bit of change. And of course, food doesn’t immediately go bad once it’s past the sell-by date. Depending on what you're cooking and how you’re cooking it, you may not even be able to tell the difference between something best by tomorrow and something best buy yesterday. As long as you follow proper food storage and preparation precautions, you should be fine up to a day or two past the sell-by date, and perhaps even longer.
Use reusable shopping bags
Japan’s position on plastic bags is… mixed. On one hand, if you buy two items from the convenience store they will often have them shoved in two separate bags before you can even blink, but on the other hand, most grocery stores have started to charge their customers between 3 and 5 yen for each plastic bag they use. Get a sturdy reusable bag, and take it with you whenever you go shopping. If you drive, keep one in your car for those times when you swing by somewhere on the way home.
If you somehow forget your reusable bag, many stores will have cardboard boxes (from food shipments) near the checkout area. You can use one of these instead of paying for a bag. These may be collapsed and need to be retaped, but if they are collapsible then there should be a roll of tape nearby. Of course you’ll now have to deal with disposing the cardboard box, but many stores have cardboard recycling drop off areas, so you may be able to just take it back with you next time.
Love the 100 yen shop
There are 100 yen shops everywhere in Japan, and they offer far more items and at much higher quality than dollar stores in the US, pound shops in the UK, and so on. If you need some basic home goods, such as cooking utensils or storage containers, check here first. You’ll be surprised at just how much they stock.
That’s all we’ve got this time, we hope you learned something new and useful! If you think we’ve missed anything, please comment and let us know!
Compiled by Phinashia Page, Hida RPA, and the RPA Team
Gujo Odori: Dates in July through Saturday, September 2.
One of the three greatest bon dance festivals of Japan. Get geared up in your yukata and ready to dance the night away. The festival is about 400 years old, with dancing till late at night in the streets of Gujo. Festival goers are more than welcome to learn the simple dance steps and join in with the crowd!
Where: Gujo Hachiman. The festival moves to a different part of the city each night, so check the website to find the main dancing area for the night you are going: http://www.gujohachiman.com/kanko/odori_schedule_e.html
When: The Gujo Odori is particularly popular Sunday, August 13 - Wednesday, August 16th when dancing goes all night from 20:00-4/5:00. Check the website (above) for a complete list of dates and times.
Nagara River Takigi Noh Performances: Tuesday, August 1
This is an event held all throughout August during which Noh plays and kyogen performances can be viewed on a special stage set up on a bank of the Nagara River. A wondrous and mysterious atmosphere can be enjoyed when the cormorant boats with their fishermen and bonfire torches approach the special stage with dark Mt. Kinka and dramatically illuminated Gifu castle in the background.
To get here from JR Gifu station or Meitetsu Gifu station, take a bus bound for N33 Miwa Shaka (18 minutes, 210 yen one way). Get off at "Nagara-gawa onsen" and walk 3 minutes to the event. There's no parking located directly at the event, but you should be able to find some nearby.
Where: Banks of the Nagara River (in front of the Gifu Grand Hotel), Gifu City
Gero Onsen Festival: Tuesday, August 1-Thursday, August 3
This is Gero's largest summer event. This festival spans three days, each with its own theme and events, all against the backdrop of central Gero. Parking is available, but can be hard to find due to the sheer number of attendees. Public transportation is recommended; it also very conveniently places you where all the action is!
August 1 - Dragon King Fire Festival (Shirasagi Bridge, 18:30-21:00)
August 2 - Mikoshi and Samba Parade (Gero Hot Spring Resort, 18:30-22:00) and Gero Dance (Shirasagi Bridge, 20:00-20:45)
August 3 - Fireworks Musical (Gero Oohashi, 20:00-20:45) and Gero Dance (Shirasagi Bridge, 21:00-22:30)
Where: Mori (the area surrounding Gero station), Gero City
When: Tuesday, August 1- Thursday, August 3
Co-ba Casual English Party: Thursday, August 3
Casual English Party organised by one of the local bars where everyone can just come together and have a good time chatting to locals and people from around the world! Entry is free for foreigners, and alcoholic beverages are available starting from only 400yen!
Where: Co-Ba Takayama
When: Thursday, August 3 19:30-21:30
Nagara River Fireworks (Weekend 2): Saturday, August 5
This is the second consecutive weekend of one of the largest fireworks displays in all of Japan! Large numbers of people come to Gifu each year to watch the fireworks, which are launched from the banks of the Nagara River with Mt. Kinka and Gifu castle in the background. The river bank itself is the best spot for watching the display, as it's bustling with people dressed in yukata. Sit around on tarps with friends, and enjoy the view with some drinks and festival food from the surrounding yatai (festival food stands). Wear your yukata and don't forget to bring a hand-held fan; it will be hot!
The city is bustling all day and transport to the area can get incredibly busy in the hours leading up to the fireworks. Parking will be expensive and also a nightmare to leave after the fireworks finish. We recommend arriving early and taking one of the special buses that will be running continuously between JR Gifu station and the fireworks location.
Where: Nagara River bank (between the Nagara-bridge, and Kinka-brige),
When: Saturday, August 5 19:00-20:45
Handheld Hanami and the Hida Welcome Event: Wednesday, August 9
To celebrate the beginning of another year in Hida for some, and the first year for others, let's get together and watch the Handheld firework festival on the Miyagawa river!
Where: Miyagawa river Takayama City, Meet under the big Torii (shrine gate)
When: Wednesday, August 9 18:00
Contact the Hida RPAs, Phinashia and Sam, for more information.
Seino Welcome Event: Wednesday, August 9
We are starting the summer raw and juicy…come eat sushi with the Seino JETs who are now your new neighbors! We will be meeting at a popular sushi izakaya just outside the South Exit of Ogaki Station. We look forward to seeing everyone who can make it, especially as we welcome our new Seinans and new JET year!
Where: Yataizushi, や台ずし 1-3 Takaya-cho, Ogaki-shi, Gifu-ken 岐阜県 大垣市 高屋町 1-3
Meeting Point: Inside Ogaki Station, outside the turnstiles
When: Wednesday, August 9 19:00
Contact the Seino RPAs, Denton and Tom, for more information
Public Holiday, Friday, August 11
Mountain Day- Yama no hi- 山の日
First celebrated on August 11, 2016, Mountain Day provides us with an opportunity to appreciate the mountains and the various blessings that flow forth from them. As it is a new holiday, there is no set way to celebrate Mountain Day.
Tejikara Fire Matsuri and Gifu Welcome Event: Sunday, August 13
The annual festival of Tejikara shrine involves men wearing only loincloths carrying around mikoshi (portable shrines) that are loaded with gunpowder. Once the gunpowder stashed in the shrines is ignited by the fireworks' sparks, it shoots long streams of fire high into the air and showers the men carrying them with more cascading fireworks and sparks! Regardless, the men dance wildly, sounding bells and setting off firecrackers. This is a dynamic celebration of sound and fire!
It is also our welcome event for the new Gifu region JETs, but JETs from all regions are welcome to join us! People will be wearing yukata and enjoying food and drinks from the yatai food stands at the festival, while watching the spectacle from their tarp on the grass.
We'll be meeting at Gifu station at 4:30 pm and will catch a bus to the event together. Or you can meet us at the Circle K behind the event at 5:30 pm. We'll aslo place a pin on the Gifu AJET Facebook page as to where we're sitting for anyone who wants to join up afterwards.
If you're coming by yourself, you can take one of the following buses at JR Gifu Station or Meitetsu Gifu Station to "Ukai-ya" and walk 3 minutes to the park (takes 20 minutes, costs 210 yen one way).
Where: Nagara River Park (on the north side of the Nagara Bridge), Gifu City
When: Sunday, August 13 18:30-21:10
Contact the Gifu RPAs, Lauren and Sarah D., for more information.
Tono Welcome Event: Wednesday, August 23
Meet the new Tono JETs (and anyone else who would like to join!) and welcome them to the area with yakiniku and karaoke afterwards.
Where: Ena Train Station
When: Meet at 17:45
Price: ~3,500円 for dinner, ~1,500円 for karaoke
Contact the Tono RPAs, Josiah and Victoria, for more information.
Gifu AJET Riverside Welcome Party: Saturday, August 26
The annual riverside potluck party to welcome all of the new JETs in Gifu prefecture and have a great time together. The river tends to be very refreshing, so bringing a bathing suit and towel would be a good idea. There is no price, but please bring a snack to share with everyone and any drinks you'd like (there's a convenience store nearby, but who wants to leave a party?). The event starts at 1:00 PM and ends when the party ends. Everyone is welcome to join! Check out the Gifu AJET Facebook page for more details!
There will be a group waiting to accompany people arriving by train at Umeyama station to the barbecue space at 1:30 pm.
Where: Along the Nagara River next to Minobashi (bridge), Mino City
When: August 26, 13:00
Maze Fireworks Festival: Saturday, August 26
Come enjoy the beautiful views of Maze, a village in the mountains of Gero City. This annual fireworks display is especially interesting because of the way the sound reverberates through the mountains. The display itself is a 30 minute presentation that starts at 8:00 PM, but people definitely arrive early to grab a spot, visit the food stalls, and enjoy the company of the other attendees.
Parking is free and available in abundance (just follow the attendants); you may have to walk quite a ways, though. Alternatively, you could pay 1,000 yen to park on the grounds of either Maze Elementary School (10 minute walk) or the Maze Junior High School building. Due to the high number of attendees, traffic tends to be a bit of a wait at the end of the night.
Where: 1852 Maenakagiri, Gero City
When: Saturday, August 26, 20:00-20:30
ATMs in Japan are commonly closed evenings, weekends, and holidays. This ATM schedule has mystified gaijin for decades, but after a lengthy investigation we managed to gain some insight.
“Now humans rely on computers to serve our daily needs,” explains Dr. Miyu Kobayashi a professor at Tokyo Technical Institute. “With the inevitable advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI), one day we will be the ones serving the computers. Before this power dynamic shifts, we want our machines to remember us as benevolent caretakers. The hope is that future computer overlords will be equally benevolent with their future human slaves.”
Due to the successful lobbying of the ATM Union, further advancements with ATM and human relations have progressed.
“We’ve even incorporated customer palm recognition for ATMs. Rather than using a bank book or card, the user presses their palm to the heart of the ATM,” said Ogaki Kyoristu Bank representative Hideki Watanabe. “We are hoping this increased physical contact with ATMs will build a stronger bond between ATM and human relations.”
The overwhelming bipartisan support for the ATM Union has caused outcry among lesser-known unions such as the Vending Machine Union. Spokesman Rin Ito accuses the industry of bias. “It’s appalling to see the preferential treatment for banks and ATMs. ATMs are given considerable holidays, however vending machines continue to be overworked and are rarely compensated for overtime. We’ve lost five of our hardest working ATMs to karōshi (death by overwork) in the last six months. We cannot continue to let the plight of vending machines be ignored.”
Scientists speculate that the future of computer rulers is soon approaching, and have urged preparations for defenses against a possible mecha-kaiju monster in the future.
The Gifu Blog
Brought to you by your PAs and RPAs to keep you up to date about what is going on for JETs in Gifu Prefecture