My New Site:

If you’ve somehow managed to end up on this site, thanks for stopping by. I long ago stopped updating it, but I am still here in Japan on my final official year of JET. I created a new site, which is the spiritual successor to this blog at: 


Please check it out! I aim for it to be the best JET blog on the internet.

Thanks again for dropping by!

I`m Still Alive

Yup and still kicking around in Japan. I`ve all but decided to recontract for a third year too!

I make no excuses for the dearth of updates or blog posts. However for some reason lately, I`ve been getting a lot of hits on both this blog and my youtube channel. So I`ve started feeling even more bad about my laziness lately.

I`ll get some updates going. No promises to break this time, and I hope that will keep the pressure to write something off. At least you guys know I`m still alive and thinking about my blog!

Check out the new GunmaJET website

So this year, I`ve gotten involved in the Gunma JET association. We`ve been working on planning a lot of upcoming events for the current and incoming JETs this year. One of the new things we`ve got going is a freshly revamped and completely redesigned website. I think it`s a great read for any one who is interested in JET and would like another perspective from my own. It`s also sure to be a fantastic resource for all the incoming JETs, many of whom will likely be placed in Gunma. So check it out.

Here is the website:


There is a lot of stuff planned for the website, so keep checking back on it. The archives are awesome too, with lots of excellent material written up by many of the local JETs.

Congratulations to the new 2011 JET Programme Shortlisters!

Congratulations to all those JETs who were shortlisted and those alternates who have been upgraded. It may or may not have hit you yet, but soon you will realize what an amazing adventure you have in store for you. So goodluck with your preparations and I hope your placement requests work out well.

I`m also incredibly happy because two of my close friends who are on the alternate list have now been upgraded. If you yourself are still on the waiting list, then don`t give up hope. I believe that in general, the number of alternates is roughly equal to the number of people they expect to drop out, so you still have a good chance of getting in. In anycase, goodluck, and I wish you the best during the wait.

I`ve also got more good news on my end. If you`re a new JET and are reading my blog, you might be interested to know that I`m going to be attending Tokyo Orientation B in August. What`s more, I`m going to be conducting one of the seminar presentations. I will probably be doing the “Troubleshooting in the Classroom” seminar, so make sure to sign up for it as I`ll be doing my best to make it as informative as possible. If anyone has any ideas about what they`d like me to talk about, drop a comment down below!

I`m really looking forward to meeting you guys in August, and in the near future, I`m planning a bunch of articles that I hope will help your preparation. Again, if you have some ideas about what you`d like to know about, then don`t be a stranger and make sure to leave a comment.

Rockabillies in Tokyo

Japan has a well deserved reputation for eclectic fashions and subcultures. One of the places where this is most apparent is in Yoyogi Park in Harajuki, Tokyo.  Harajuku is the stomping grounds of many groups such as the Cosplayers, Lolitas, Goths, Goth Lolitas, and Takenoko-zoku, a.k.a. bamboo shoot kids, a.k.a. the Rockabillies.  Today, this last group will be the focus of this post, although rest assured, I will be going back to Tokyo soon to document the other, equally fascinating tribes.

The rockabillies are truly one of the most interesting subcultures that I have ever glimpsed or come across. Dressed like a bunch of extras from a Japanese production of “Grease”, they buck pretty much every norm of mainstream Japanese culture there is. Loud, proud, and completely unconventional, they are decked out in a 50`s style look of leather jackets and pants, dark denim, and massive hair held together by litres of hair gel.

They show up every weekend, usually Sundays at Harajuku park to hang out, drink beer, blast Elvis music and have what can only be described as a Grease Lightning meets breakdancing dance off.

According to my research on the internet, these guys, The takenoko-zoku, ie. The Rockabillies, are a subculture/style that sprung up sometime during the `70s and `80s. By the mid 90`s, for some reason, the local authorities decided that the Takeno-zoku were a menace to Japanese society and started to drive away the rock-n-rollers en masse. Perhaps they were becoming too rowdy?

In any case, in the vacuum that was caused by the near extinction of the Takeno-zoku, many other, equally eclectic but more timid groups such as the goths, lolitas, cosplayers, etc ad infinitum popped up to fill in the void.

However, every Sunday, the last remnants of the Takenoko-zoku, now endearingly referred to as the Rockabillies, and many in their middle age, congregate together on one of the corners of Yoyogi Park to participate in their ritualized traditions of drinking Asahi beer and dancing to 50`s classics.

On a related note, one thing I find fascinating about Japanese subcultures is the paradox that their respective members find themselves in.  As a collectivist society, Japanese culture is all about being part of a group. Naturally, the biggest group is society at large, which is why most people are not big on expressing their individuality and instead prefer to comform to the social norms. As is oft repeated, “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down”. However, many people decide that they have no desire to be a part of mainstream Japanese subculture, and so in the hopes of expressing their own individuality, turn to one of the many subcultures of different prominence in Japan.

The irony ofcourse is that when substituting one group for another, Japanese people fully conform to the norms, standards, and social rules of their new, chosen subcultures. In searching for a new identity to call their own, they instead inadvertently become caricatures of their group.

It could be said that the same is true for subcultures anywhere around the world, and this is true, but it`s just my observation that in Japan particularly, those people that choose to be a part of subcultures outside of mainstream culture tend to conform even more strongly to the norms of their particular group of choice.

Anyways, these guys were quite interesting, and I was lucky to get a chance to film them since apparently, they sometimes don`t take too kindly to obnoxiously persistent amateur filmmakers like myself. I hope you enjoyed the video, dear readers.

Sakura Blossoms and Hanami in Japan

One of the most longstanding and recognizable symbols of Japan is the humble cherry blossom tree, or Sakura.

Every year, the Sakura trees blossom into magnificent totems of dark wood contrasted by a dazzling array of pink flowering cherries. These flowers are known as sakura, or sakura blossom.

However, the sakuras bloom for only a very short period of time. In the Tokyo region, they typically blossom at the end of March and reach their full bloom within a week and a half. By the third week, all but a scant few petals remain on the trees as the rest billow in the wind and scatter along the ground.

Thus, they are revered throughout Japan for not only their beauty, but for the enduring metaphor of the ephemeral nature of life that they represent.

This concept is known as `mono no aware`, lit. the pathos of things, and can be thought of as the Japanese term used to describe impermanence. However the nuance of the concept has a more poetic connotation – it is the idea that in the transience of all things, there exists a gentle sadness in its eventual passing and it is in this awareness of impermanence that heightens the appreciation of its beauty. Interestingly, this is a notion that is reflected throughout both historical and contemporary Japanese culture.

Personally, I find this to be a beautiful way of looking at the world. Too often, we get caught up in the responsibilities, obligations and troubles of daily life. We constantly find ourselves thinking about the future and looking forward to the next big thing, never bothering to slow down and just enjoy the moment. If you think about it, the present is all we have. I mean, you hear that a lot but really THINK about it. Each moment is always, forevermore cascading seamlessly into the next. There is only an ever unfolding “now” and the only way to really and truly live is to live in the moment and appreciate it.

The Japanese are pretty good at understanding this, or rather, at least once a year when the feeling is especially poignant during Cherry Blossom season. Every year around this time, people hold Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing parties. Friends, coworkers, and families put out tarps on the floor and hold picnics to view the cherry blossoms and enjoy each other`s company with food and drink.

This year, a bunch of the Gunma JETs and ALTs gathered together for a Hanami at Takasaki Park.  Although this year there was a notable decrease in Hanami parties due to the events of March 11, many people, us included, decided that the best way to show solidarity for Japan was to appreciate the cherry blossoms and reflect on the fleeting nature of life together.

After the hanami, I went for a drive with my friend Jeevy (red car). We drove down the worn down streets of old Japan and as the cherry blossom petals fell over the road, and whisked about in the air around us, we decided to stop for a few pictures.

As i write this, the cherry blossoms are almost gone. Although I`m sad to see them go, I know that they wouldn`t be as beautiful if they never left.

At least we`ve got pictures to look at until next year.