Graffiti Your ♥ Out this Friday at Apre

Don’t forget the Ishikawa AJET Valentine event,  Graffiti Your ♥ Out, this Friday at APRE. If you preordered a T-Shirt they’ll be waiting for you once you get in the door. If you didn’t preorder your shirt, feel free to bring your own! Permanent markers will be available for drawing on everyone’s T-shirts.

Cover is ¥500 and all drinks are ¥500.

What: Graffiti Your ♥ Out
When: Friday, Feb. 10 9:00 p.m.
Where: APRE in Katamachi
Huh? We’ll be drawing on people’s clothes because it’s fun.

See you all there!

The Shiramine Snowman Festival on Jan. 27 and Feb. 3

Snowmen at the Shiramine Snowman Festival are illuminated by candlelight at night. The process used to keep the snowmen from melting is a town secret.

The annual Shiramine Snowman Festival will be held again on Jan. 27 and Feb. 3. This festival features hundreds of snowmen constructed by the townspeople that are illuminated at night using a special lighting method that is a well-kept town secret. This is a great way to escape the Ishikawa winter blues because no one can possibly be sad when surrounded by hundreds of adorable snowmen. The festival lasts from 3 – 9 p.m.

It’s easiest to get to the festival if you have a car. If you live near Kanazawa or Hakusan, you can make it to the festival with plenty of time if you leave right after work. A Google Map of Shiramine can be found here for those wanting directions. For those interested in attending the Jan. 27 festival, there will be a free shuttle bus from the parking lots to Kuwajima. If you don’t have a car there are shuttle buses leaving from Kanazawa Station at 3 p.m. on both days. A round-trip ticket is ¥2000. Also, see the jump below for an English tour with limited availability.

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Hokuriku the happiest region in Japan, study finds

The three Hokuriku prefectures took the top three spots in a study by Hosei University in Tokyo trying to pinpoint the happiest prefectures.

Fukui came in first place followed by Toyama and Ishikawa coming in second and third respectively. The study used 40 socioeconomic indicators such as crime rate and welfare services to determine a numerical “happiness scale” which was measured in all the prefectures. One of the things that propelled Fukui to the top spot was its low crime and accident rate as well as an excellent preschool system.

So what’s the unhappiest prefecture in Japan? Osaka! The study cited Osaka’s high crime rate as a main reason it ranked so low on the list. So what do you think Ishikawa dwellers? Are we living in one of the happiest places in Japan?

Read the article (Japanese only)

Ishikawa’s Must-See Fall Spots

The fall scenery at Natadera Temple in Komatsu.

Fall is here and Japan – never wanting to miss an opportunity to admire nature – is getting ready for the changing of the leaves. Going to a great 紅葉 spot is THE fall outing. So grab some friends, get a car (most of these locations are only accessible via car), make sure your camera has a fully charged battery and get to admiring those leaves.

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Unblock international websites with a VPN

Say good-bye to these restricted messages with a VPN.

I don’t know how many hours the JET community has spent lamenting the loss of access to sites such as Hulu and Pandora due to international copyright restrictions. Since many foreign shows do not have broadcasting licenses in Japan, expats in Japan can’t access sites where they are streamed legally online. While many JETs have felt the temptation to use other measures to keep current with their favorite TV shows and media from back home, I strongly suggest looking into a little-known legal tech fix to get access to those sites back: the VPN.

A VPN – or virtual private network – is an encrypted network you can set up with a client and is often used to protect your personal data to unauthorized parties online. Using a foreign VPN client will mask your IP address with a non-Japanese IP address, enabling you to access sites that may have international restrictions (Pandora, NBC, Hulu, Netflix just to name a few). Also, your personal information is encrypted, protecting your online activity and personal data.

The VPN client that I’ve used for the past year is Hotspot Shield – available for both Mac and PC this client has given me access to restricted sites back home. Fair warning: Accessing Hotspot Shield will use a fair amount of bandwidth so a high-speed internet connection is necessary. Even so, I recommend closing out any other applications that may be using internet bandwidth (chat clients etc.) when using a VPN client. If you want to shop around and look at other clients, I recommend going through a trusted site such as CNET to circumvent the risk of viruses or worms.

Readers: Have you ever used a VPN? What clients do you recommend? Let us know in the comments!

Melanie is a 3rd-year ALT in Kahoku. She has been enjoying her favorite shows back home legally thanks to VPNs.

Ishikawa’s Shunran-no-Sato finalist for BBC World Challenge

All across rural Japan, many young Japanese are leaving their hometowns to pursue life in the more metropolitan areas. This has left the older farming generations wondering how to get young people to return to the farm. Up in the Noto Peninsula, Shunran-no-Sato (春蘭の里) has found a way to get younger people to return to the farms via eco-tourism. This endeavor has made them a finalist for the BBC World Challenge Project.

Villagers converted their own homes into guesthouses for travelers who come to the village to take part in traditional agricultural activities. Each guesthouse offers different activities from fishing to picking wild vegetables in the mountains to jam making. The owners and other people in the town act as guides for the guests and help younger generations return to their agricultural roots.

Click HERE to vote for the project. Voting is open until Nov. 11.

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2011 Senmaida Light Up this Saturday

Photo Courtesy of the Senmaida Light Up Website

The annual Senmaida (thousand rice fields) Light Up (Senmaida Aze no Mantoue 千 枚田あぜの万燈) is this Saturday, Oct. 8. This is one of Ishikawa’s most popular light-up and the closing event of Noto’s festival season. Senmaida, a collection of 2000 rice paddies farmed by locals interested in growing their own rice, will be lit up with thousands of candles. The rice paddies are cultivated on a slope on the coast of the Sea of Japan just outside Wajima city. This is one of the most beautful sights in Ishikawa.

17:00 UNESCO World Heritage Site Ceremony
17:30 Taiko drum performance
17:50 Opening ceremony, lighting of candles
18:30 Gojinjou Taiko Performance
19:10 Musical performance by Quintet CIRC
19:50 Musical performance by やなわらばー
21:00 Closing

By car
千枚田ポケットパーク 928-0256石川県輪島市白米町ハ−99
Senmaida Pocket Park 928-0256 Ishikawa-ken Wajima-shi Shiroyone HA-99

Public Transit
From Kanazawa

Take the Hokutetsu Bus(北鉄バス)Kanazawa-Wajima (金沢・ 島). The last return bus leaves at 18:05 from Wajima Station, so plan to spend the night in Wajima.

From Wajima

Buses depart at 16:00 from three locations and go to Senmaida. The last buses back depart at 21:00. One-way: 200 yen.

  • Michi no Eki Wajima (道の駅輪島); 3 buses; 20 minutes
  • Marine Town (マリーンタウン); 3 buses; 15 minutes
  • Sosogi Furusato Learning Center (曽々木ふるさと体験実習館); 2 buses; 20 minutes

More Information

Senmaida Light Up Official Website (Japanese only)

How To Dress: After October 1

October is here and that means one thing: Your work attire must change. In Japan, how you dress for work relates more to the date than to the current weather conditions. After October 1, no matter how warm it still may be outside, long sleeves and pants are the appropriate dress attire. Since temperatures and the humidity may still be high during this time, I recommend dressing in short sleeves, but bringing a light jacket or cardigan that you can take off throughout the day.

While you may technically be able to wear short sleeves on your own, be prepared for teachers to ask you 「寒くない?」(Aren’t you cold?). I’ve never been able to pinpoint whether this is actual concern or some sort of code indicating that my attire was inappropriate, I suspect it’s a little of both. Save yourself the trouble and cover up those arms. Ladies, if you’re going to wear skirts, make sure you wear panty hose or tights. Don’t be discouraged, the weather will cool down soon enough and you’ll be able to enjoy all your awesome new UNIQLO sweaters.

Fun fact: Did you know that your school’s hallways aren’t heated? Good luck and stay warm on your way to class!

Other items to bring to work for colder winter months:

  • a lap blanket for your desk
  • hand warmers and body warmers that you can stick to your body
  • scarves

Melanie is a third year ALT from the United States who knows that a short-sleeve sweater still is not acceptable work attire in October.