The 2014 Uchinada Beach Party: Information Galore

The end of summer approaches!  Well… it may not be the end of summer weather (sorry, folks – still another month or more of that) but the summer as defined by the Gregorian Calendar is certainly drawing to a close.

"You're welcome!" -Guy who never lived in Japan.

“You’re welcome!” -Guy who never lived in Japan.

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The 2014 AJET Primer

The results from the election are in, and it’s time to meet your new 2014 Ishikawa AJET Council!  The newly elected members of the Council are already planning and implementing ideas to make 2014 a great year for us Ishikawa JETS.

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Smartphone Apps for Living in Japan

Everyone told you to get a smartphone for your Ishikawa JET tenure, but whether you’re running iOS or Android, your phone is only as useful as the apps you put on it.  Here are some recommendations to get you started or to make your life a little easier.

For Both Android and iPhone

Yurekuru Call (EN and JP, free).  An earthquake warning app. Uses your location and your phone’s notification system to give you up to a minute’s warning before an earthquake is projected to hit your area. Highly recommended–it may be the only English language warning you get.

Japan Goggles  (EN, free). This nifty app uses your smartphone camera to recognize and translate kanji words. It might take a moment for the app to recognize the right kanji compound, but it’s still incredibly helpful.

iConnect (EN, free) Published by AJET, this app is a converter, phrasebook, directory, and national event guide all in one! If you miss the JET Diary, this app is for you.

Ishikawa Travel Guide (EN, Free). Uses Google Maps to show you nearby sights throughout Ishikawa. Unfortunately, the gourmet list is lacking, but the list of sightseeing spots and activities is comprehensive. Good for exploring a new part of the prefecture!

北鉄バスビュワー Hokutetsu Bus Viewer (JP, free). Japanese language bus route-finder and schedule for buses all around the prefecture. Allows you to bookmark your favorite bus routes. It can also use your current location to find nearby bus stops.

乗換案内 by Jorudan (Free, JP). Japanese only. A nationwide train route finder and schedule. Recognizes romaji place name input.  Includes a Live feature that notes train delays. The paid version, 乗換案内プラス (norikae-annai plus), is 630 yen in both stores and allows you to save routes.

EnjoyLearning Japan Map Puzzle (Free, JP).  Want to get 上手 (jouzu) at Japanese geography and prefecture names? This drag and drop prefecture map game will help. It includes hiragana readings of the prefecture names, too.

Platform-specific apps are after the jump!

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Sending Nengajō Overseas

If you’re planning to send winter holiday greetings this year, how about sending your friends and family back home a nengajō, a Japanese new year’s card? Nengajō can be purchased anywhere from conbini to department stores, and you can even make your own. If you are planning to send them via international airmail, the Japan Post has some guidelines to ensure that your greetings get to their destination in a timely manner.

The carbon-offset nengajô from Japan Post.

Read on for detailed instructions on writing and addressing the perfect nengajō.

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.

How To Dress: Undokai

Ahh the Undokai. One of my favorite times of year. September and early October are when many schools have their annual sports festivals. These festivals promote exercise, teamwork and school pride for the students. Upperclassmen will spend hours outside of the normal school day preparing for the undokai and trying to make it the best for the younger students.

As with all things in Japan there are some interesting fashion rules that occur the weeks prior to and on the day of the sports festival, which is another reason why I love undokai so much.

The week or so leading up to your undokai will usually involve some sort of training and various meetings between teachers and students during the school day. Since the teachers may be helping students prepare and train for the games they will be dressed a bit more casually than usual. Clothes such as cargo or track pants and basic T-shirts or sports gear are acceptable to wear during this time. If you aren’t sure if there will be some kind of training that day, wear your normal work clothes, but bring a bag with clothes to change into if you see other teachers in a casual manner.

Also, don’t be surprised if you have a lot of classes canceled this week. If you find yourself with a lot of free time, try to go watch the training for the games. It’s a great excuse to get out of the staff room and talk with some of your students.

On the day of the sports festival, the look you want is sporty casual. If you have a full track suit, you can wear that. Throughout September the weather is extremely hot and humid so dress in light, breathable clothes. There are usually a couple games where students face off between parents and teachers, so dress ready to participate in some activities such as relay races or tug of war.

Try not to wear clothes that are too tight or revealing. This is an event with lots of parents and VIPs in attendance and they may not appreciate your cleavage-enhancing tank top or junk-highlighting bike shorts. (Also, this is an event for children, who are you trying to impress, really?)

Other things to keep on your must-bring list include:

  • Sunglasses
  • Water bottle
  • Towel
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen

Melanie is a third-year JET living in Ishikawa. She wore a denim skirt and tank top to her first undokai.

Master Cooking in Japan with The Ishikawa JET Kitchen

NOTE: As of October 2013, the Ishikawa JET Kitchen Cookbook is temporarily unavailable.  Sorry for the inconvenience!


Are all the new foods you’re finding at the supermarket a bit overwhelming? Have you been wracking your brain trying to convert your favorite chocolate chip recipe to your metric measuring cups? Are you sick of not knowing which flour you need for what kind of cooking?

Cooking in Japan can be a challenge, but now it just got a little bit easier with The Ishikawa JET Kitchen, an interactive digital cookbook from Ishikawa AJET. This cookbook is the brainchild of former Anamizu CIR Leah Zoller. With the help of a dedicated group of recipe contributors and testers, the penultimate cookbook that every JET should own. Whether you’re new to cooking, or a culinary whiz you will benefit from the wide range of traditional Japanese and homegrown recipes from Ishikawa JETs around the world.

Recipes for people with dietary restrictions have been tagged for easy searching – so whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, lactose intolerant, or keep gluten-free you can find what recipe will work for you in no time.

For only ¥1000 you can get over your fear of the supermarket and use your kitchen like a pro. All proceeds from The Ishikawa JET Kitchen will go to Second Harvest charity. If you like the cookbook, make sure to tell your friends, family and coworkers!

To get the Cookbook, please transfer your payment of ¥1000 to the Ishikawa AJET account:
Bank name 北國銀行(ほっこくぎんこう)
Branch name 宇野気支店(うのけしてん)
Acct number 381962
Acct name エージェットイシカワシブ
Please send an email with the subject line “Cookbook Payment” to ishikawaajet[at] with your name as it appears on your bank book. We’ll email your copy of the cookbook once payment is confirmed.

Please not that a direct “buy now” option is no longer available.