Get Your Art/Writing Portfolio Reviewed by VIZ Originals at 2019 Pop Culture Conventions

VIZ Media reaches the next stage in the development of its VIZ Originals imprint. Aspiring artists and writers are invited to apply for portfolio reviews taking place at some of North America’s biggest pop culture shows. The VIZ Originals imprint will develop innovative, English-language creator-owned graphic novel content for a global market, and is committed […]

via VIZ Originals to Host Portfolio Reviews at Leading 2019 Pop Culture Conventions — Lesley’s Anime and Manga Corner

Black Nerds Expo 2019

Black Nerds Expo 2019

 

black-nerds-expo-logo-1

The Black Nerds Expo on Thursday, February 28 from 10:00AM to 2:00PM at MiraCosta College (1 Barnard Drive, Oceanside, CA 92056) is a space for attendees to explore and celebrate black comics, books, art, video games, and pop culture. This event is open to everyone! Register at http://blacknerdsexpo.eventbrite.com for free!

Here is what the expo will offer:

-Play games

-Meet people in the art, video game, and comic book industries

-Make new, local friends who like black pop culture

-Participate in opportunity drawings for active attendees

-Take Instagram-worthy photos at the photo booth

-Day-of point card to collect comics-related stickers and prizes

-Learn about upcoming projects and releases information in anime, manga, video games, media, and pop culture

FAQs

How much is it to attend the Black Nerds Expo?

It’s free! Just make sure to either pre-register or register on-site for entry.

Why is there a need for a black nerds event?

Could you name at least three black superheroes outside of Black Panther, Storm from the X-men, or Luke Cage? Could you name at least three black authors without searching on Google? Could you name at least one black artist outside of comics? Events such as the Black Nerds Expo is to make aware the existence of black pop culture that isn’t usually shown or celebrated in mainstream media.

 

If I’m a vendor, artist, or would like to table for the Black Nerds Expo, how can I make that happen?

Please email jbanks@miracosta.edu or complete an exhibitor application at https://goo.gl/forms/75SkViyzNwPSFptU2 to register a representative to participate in the Black Nerds Expo. There is limited space, so please contact Jd Banks as soon as possible.

 

How much is it to reserve a table?

It’s free! We don’t want tabling or exhibiting fees to be a barrier for exhibiting. Please contact Jd Banks at jbanks@miracosta.edu as soon as possible since space is limited.

 

If I can’t be there personally but I or my business would like to contribute, how do I do that?

Send any promotional materials (i.e. flyers, postcards, business cards, posters) to the following address by Thursday, February 14, 2019 to give them time to arrive:

ATTN: Jd Banks, Student Equity (MC: #10C)

MiraCosta College

1 Barnard Drive

Oceanside, CA 92056

 

Is it possible to sponsor something for this event?

Sure! We would like to do an opportunity drawing for attendees, so any swag items such as T-shirts, hats, buttons, wrist bands, DVDs, posters, cups, or figurines relating to black pop culture would be appreciated. In return, the Black Nerds Expo will cross-promote your brand on social media and other marketing materials. Please email Jd Banks at jbanks@miracosta.edu for information.

 

Are you providing any stipends or paying any fees for vendors, artists, or representatives to participate in the Black Nerds Expo?

No. Participants will only be provided a table, refreshments, and day-of logistical support.

 

What sort of things would be great to bring as a vendor, artist, or representative to the Black Nerds Expo?

If you are a comics vendor, comics and graphic novels concentrating on black superheroes such as Black Panther, Storm, Luke Cage, Black Lightning, Green Lantern, March, Miles Morales Spider-Man, Ironheart, Batwing, Cyborg, Mister Terrific, Vixen, Nubia, Rocket, XS, Tattooed Man, Afro Samurai, and more would be great.  Find a list of black superheroes at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_black_superheroes. Books from Toni Morrison, Ben Okri, Karyn Parsons, John Lewis, Alice Walker, Octavia Butler, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Michelle Obama and other black authors would also be great. Artwork can be fan-created artwork of current black superheroes and/or original artwork with black and African-American attendees in mind.

Black Nerds Expo Supporters

IDW Publishing

Right Stuf

Evoluzione Publishing

Black Sci-Fi

MiraCosta College

#BannedBooksWeek

diversity-banner-website-780x300-v1

#BannedBooksWeek: I Celebrate Diversity!

From September 25th to October 1st, authors, readers, publishers, and constitutional right advocates will celebrate books that have been banned for whatever reasons. This year, Banned Books Week is looking at diversity. Although diversity isn’t a new word, some may imagine diversity as a person of color. Diversity, however, includes people who are of different appearance, ethnicity, religion, gender and gender identity, age, physical and mental ability, sexual orientation, military status, and economic status.

The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom has shown that 52% of the books challenged or banned in the past 10 years were from diverse content (Association of American Publishers).

Without diversity, there wouldn’t be an anime industry since anime and manga come from Japan.

dragon-ball

Did you know that Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama is a banned book in the United States?

hadashi_no_gen_1969

Barefoot Gen by Keiji Nakazawa has been challenged–not quite banned but noticed–for its discrimination and violence.

There are other manga and graphic novels by Japanese creators who have faced or are currently facing censorship around the world. Can you think of any others?

My Mother Made Me Go to Japan

My Mother Made Me Go to Japan

If it weren’t for my mom, I wouldn’t had gone to Japan and became the person who I am today. At the ripe age of 13, I became interested in anime and manga, and in a year, I made going to Japan my dream. Before I had my chance to go to Japan, my mom bought me secondhand manga from yard sales and told me about events relating to Japan. When my school hosted exchange students from different countries, my mom allowed Yuki, a Japanese student from Hokkaido, to stay with us.

By the time I was in college, my mom and I already knew I wanted to go to Japan, but coming from a single-income household, it seemed so far away. One day, she burst into my room to put a newspaper clipping in my hand for a city program in Japan. It paid for a majority of the 2-week program. With my mother’s help, I was accepted into the program where I met some life-long friends and allies in Japan. If she hadn’t found that newspaper clipping and helped me with the application, I wouldn’t had gone to Japan (for cheap) the first time.

I learned of the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program during that time, and I made it my Plan A after college to join the program. Why not get someone else to pay me to go and teach English in Japan for at least one year?  The first program helped me get into the JET Program as it showed I was interested in Japan without any study abroad or Japanese classes on my transcript. After I received my interview date, my mom and aunt accompanied me to LA for the interview, the whole time saying, “Don’t worry. You’ll get in.” And they were right. I got offered a position in the program. The only thing that had me doubting the program was the up-front costs for lodging and bills. My mother told me, “You have a job waiting for you in Japan. Take it.” We both knew I couldn’t skip out on my dream of living, working, and later, learning Japanese just because of money. It didn’t stop me before, and from my mom’s own perspective, my dream outweighed poverty.

Without my mother, I don’t think I would’ve felt comfortable or strong enough to go to Japan. Sometimes I forget that my mom is human, not My Parental Unit or Super Mom. Over the years, I’ve seen my mother as someone who is funny, charismatic, and strong. She sought happiness for herself as well as her children, and she did the best she could as a single parent. The little things she provided to my brothers and I, whether it was homemade muffins or company to the store, she helped shape our futures.

By pushing me into programs to Japan amid the billion things she’s done for me, my mother has forever changed my future for the better.

 

How to Make Backgrounds in Manga

Jades-Escape-banner-backgrounds

How to Make Backgrounds for Manga

Just as in writing, backgrounds are important for every manga. It anchors the characters and settings in a specific time and space. Without them, readers have only dialogue to follow the story.

Drawing from scratch

Creating a background from scratch may be time consuming, but it is one of the most fulfilling parts of drawing. Once you’re done, you sigh and yell, “I did it!” The best way to create a background from scratch is to take a picture of the locations or buildings you want to use and draw it from that picture.

The reason why I don’t prefer drawing at the location is because many factors change as you’re looking between your drawing and the actual place. The sun and clouds move, shifting the shadows around, and people hover over your shoulder with indignant questions, peeling your gaze from your focal point. A picture will stay whatever you want that picture to be.

Turning out a picture

With a picture of a location, you can also create unique backgrounds. Ai Yazawa turns images into shadows with almost pixelated points.

Ai Yazawa Paradise Kiss manga background example

Notice the background in Ai Yazawa’s Paradise Kiss and NaNa. It’s her trademark. (From Pinterest)

You can also turn pictures Into vectors in Adobe Illustrator or Manga Pro. To vectorize an image in Illustrator, select to “Trace”.

Using stock pictures

If drawing or vectorizing pictures are too much, you can buy Deleter background booklets or get free stock manga backgrounds on DeviantArt or Pinterest.

Deleter and Manga University both have books with backgrounds you can print onto adhesive sheets and apply like screentones or digitally place them in your manga using layers. They’re good for hard-to-find pictures such as Japanese classrooms, common streets, and convenience stores. The books aren’t free. They price anywhere from $2.50 to $12.00 online.

deleter traditional scenery collectionManga University Background Collection 2

Here are a few generous artists:

Manga Backgrounds by Humon

TakataRikuzen’s Free Manga Backgrounds

Loganna’s Manga Cityscape

If you want to be a well-rounded artist, my advice is to learn how to do perspective drawings. Even if you plan on becoming a traditional artist (drawing, painting, sculpting), learning perspective will only be a tool.

10 Things to Learn After Living in Japan for 5 Years

JadesEscape-10ThingstoLearn

10 Things to Learn after Living in Japan

It’s easy to learn a little bit about a foreign country in a year. In 5 years, any foreign resident will discover the ins and outs of their new home country. For me, I’ve learned about Japanese people, culture, and lifestyles that most foreigners won’t see in a year or two of residence.

10. You’ll be thoroughly surprised by the lack of technology Japan uses on a daily basis. The image of Japan usually includes robots on the streets, high-end luxury cars with races on straightaways, and girls in school uniforms carrying swords in their bags. Um, no, that’s a stereotype. In actuality, Japan maintains close ties with tradition–meaning that some of Japanese technology is lacking. When I wanted a copier to number my pages, my co-worker said, “Sorry. Here are these stamps.” As I sat stamping each page with what I thought were obsolete number stamps, I asked myself if all copiers in teaching places were like this. They were, and I learned to number the pages on my computer first. (I used the same copiers in business offices with the same functions in the States.)

9. You will be asked the same questions from the start of your journey to the very end. When I arrived in Okinawa, everyone asked me typical questions. “Where are you from? What is your favorite food? Do you have a boyfriend?” Along with the questions came the same remarks. “Your Japanese is good. You’re good at using chopsticks.” For fellow expats in Japan, don’t take it personal. They’re icebreakers. Segue the questions into questions about them and see where it takes you.

8. You will always have to show extra paperwork because you’re a foreigner. I don’t know how many times my husband and I had to bring unnecessary copies, documents, and forms to the bank, police station, immigration office, and the airport because people wanted to give us a hard time. My husband had it worse because he looked like a tall white man, so Japanese men thought he had a Japanese wife or girlfriend, which happens a lot when foreign males go to Japan. I solved that issue by making a binder with all the important documents and copies. It also doubled as an emergency binder. In the event of a fire or tsunami, grab the binder!

7. Whether you’re black, white, or purple, you’re in the same boat as every other foreigner. Japan is a homogenous country–you’ll mostly see and hear Japanese. The control freaks who arrive will want to immediately fit into Japanese society. No matter how well you speak, read, write, or think Japanese, Japanese people won’t fully accept you. Even half-Japanese people aren’t fully accepted (check Miss Japan). Though that seems like a dire way of looking at Japan and its people, it’s close to how privileged people in any other country treat the unprivileged populace.

6. You’ll learn how to check your attitude, anger, pessimism, arrogance, and ego if you really want to fit into Japanese society. Japanese people are very humble. You’ll find that as time goes on, Japanese people are reluctant to boast about their differences or what makes each one of them unique.

5. You’ll learn Japanese, but unless you study and maintain what you’ve learned, you’ll just be functional in spoken Japanese. You can learn Japanese without studying after listening and speaking to people for several years. Still, many expats don’t learn and maintain written Japanese without study.

4. You’ll see that options in everything is limited…except in green teas, ramen brands, and seaweed wrappers. After learning that the aisles in San-A are different from your former grocery haunts, food and marketplaces are equally unique in serving a mostly-Japanese populace.

3. You’ll notice that the Japanese lifestyle is really minimal and uncomplicated. When I returned to American life, I was surprised by how everything and everyone were fast, fast, fast, and when something was slow, it was too slow. Commuters behind me would groan at any human delays at the ancient MetroLink ticketing machines.

2. You’ll see how humans are unwilling–and even visibly scared–of change or difference. April in Japan usually meant a changeover in staff, a new school year in a new school, an assurance that you as a human had moved to the next stage in your life. I’ve noticed in between Japan and the States that people like their habits no matter how rigid or unhealthy they are to their lives. It could be eating habits, going outside the city, changing how something is done–people are afraid of change. The lesson to be learned in today’s world is that everything is always changing, always looking to grab you by the ankle and pull you under. Accepting change will keep you and other skeptical Japanese folks from drowning.

1. You’ll notice the real strength of women. Before coming to Japan, I thought that the country boasted unhappy, naive women who reluctantly accepted their roles as mothers and housewives. After watching, talking, and befriending many Japanese women, I realized that these women didn’t only define their lives as mothers and housewives. They were also teachers, workers, budget-balancers, hobbyists, cooks, cleaners, and disciplinarians. No matter how much work came their way because of their jobs or families, they could still smile and laugh and play without much worry or complaint. My problem was looking through the eyes of an American woman who wasn’t expected to do all those things. When I was put in the same positions (outside of motherhood), I couldn’t understand how other women did everything like clockwork while most men looked on. I found myself frowning at the men, especially retiring men who didn’t have any other discernible skills than work. As I looked at the women in my life and in my husband’s life, I noticed that women who worked, balanced and paid bills, cooked, cleaned, and cared and listened to their rambling, ungrateful children were the strong ones.

How I Lost over 40 Pounds in Japan

JE-howIlostover40pounds

How I Lost Weight in Japan

It’s the same question from family members, friends, and former co-workers after they see a skinnier me:”How did you lose weight?”

In 2010, I was 138 pounds, still within my BMI for a 63-inch woman.

Jade in May 2010 at 138

May 2010

After I got married (December 2010), I gained around 36 pounds.

Jade in August 2011 at over 140

August 2011

Every summer between 2011 and 2014, I yo-yoed between diets and exercise programs. Once winter came, I’d make excuses. “It’s too cold to exercise. I want to eat something hot and heavy. I can start tomorrow.” In the summer of 2014, I hit 2 big roadblocks. My doctor told me I was cruising the line to high blood pressure. The second roadblock came as a surprise to me: I injured my knee, leaving me on crutches for 3 painful weeks (but I still had to drive, grocery shop, cook and clean).

Weight Gain and Weight Loss isn’t about Food or Exercise

At that point, I couldn’t let excuses get in my way. I had to dig deeper than diet and exercise to lose the weight. I looked at why I ate the things I ate and what triggered my snack and chocolate binges.

The first thing that derailed all of my diet or exercise programs was my sweet tooth. Since my childhood, I hid cookies, ate the sweetest ice creams, and regularly chewed gums. I usually ate sweets when I was physically hungry or thirsty. Many times, I mistook hunger for thirst. I started asking myself before I looked for sweets, “Am I actually hungry or thirsty or bored?”

I also had to change my mindset. There really is no shortcut to long-lasting weight management. It’s really a lifestyle change. If I changed my eating habits, I asked myself, “Can I eat like for a whole year?” If I changed my workout regiment, I asked myself, “Can I workout like this for a whole year?” If I answered “no” to these, I would change my diet and exercises to something I could maintain for at least a year. It was about making new healthy habits.

On top of looking at my cravings, I had to recall what didn’t work for me (but they might work for others).

These didn’t work for me:

  • Keeping a food diary or journal.
  • Counting calories every day.
  • Completely cutting out carbs (i.e. rice, breads, sugars).
  • Doing circuit training.
  • Having a workout buddy.

I changed my work and home lifestyles to lose weight by:

water-bottles

Staying hydrated throughout the day. Most Japanese people reach for teas at the workplace, so when I didn’t have water, I opted for green tea or jasmine tea freely offered in the office. I downed a glass of water before and after my morning workouts and meals to keep my hunger at bay and keep my body and skin hydrated.

different donuts on white background

Image Source: I Hate Diet

Getting rid of all packaged sweets at my desk and home. In most Japanese offices, there are tables I label “the free snack table”. Anything that gets placed on those tables are free for the taking. The only way to not eat them was to avoid the table. I didn’t completely eliminate sweets. At first, I limited my number of sweets until I felt OK replacing them with fruits and homemade oatmeal bars.

Bringing bananas, smoothies, and small salads to work in case I wanted a snack. Instead of reaching for something on the free snack table, I grabbed something I brought. It was easier, and if I didn’t eat it, it would spoil. Did I mention I hate wasting food?

polka-dot-japanese-bento-lunch-box-for-kids-plastic-sushi-lunchbox-food-container-food-box-microwave

Image source: AliExpress

Using Japanese lunchboxes to package all my meals. Most Japanese lunchboxes hold 48.6 fluid ounces (5.7″x 8.1″ x 1.9″ at Daiso) compared to the American reusable lunchboxes, which carry 221.6 fluid ounces (8″x 5″ x 10″ at the Dollar Tree). With smaller lunchboxes and containers, I tricked my brain into believing that I was eating enough.

JPomelettepan

Image source: Gent Daily

Using tamagoyaki, or Japanese omelette, pans. Because it stayed non-sticky for a long time, I didn’t use much oil. I limited my daily egg intake to one egg a day while the omelette pan made that one scrambled egg look bigger and cuter in my Japanese lunchboxes.

Studying the Japanese art of making bento. The best lunchboxes are balanced in not just food but color. The reds in tomatoes should balance the greens from broccoli and spinach. White, brown, and yellow complete the lunch, making it visually stimulating (you eat with your eyes before your mouth) and healthy. (I recommend The Just Bento Cookbook: Everyday Lunches To Go by Makiko Itoh for first timers.)

breaktime

Image source: Annienygma

Taking breaks and finding time to breathe. When I lived in Japan, I saw many people walking and chatting with their co-workers. At work, people talked to each other and traded snacks and drank coffee as the clock ticked away working hours. Doing these things, I realized later, helped decrease stress from daily life.

With all of these things, I learned to control my hunger and sweet tooth.

Refining My Food and Willpower

In April 2015, I still looked big even though I had dropped to 148 pounds. I had done 2 months of running 1.2-mile (2 km) hills 3 times a week, making my legs muscular and thick.

weightloss_march-april2015

April 2015

By this point, I had stopped eating cheese, chicken, pork, and beef. From other failed diets, I learned that I couldn’t do without fish and eggs. It was hard visiting my family in the Philippines because everything had sugar or meat alongside several cups of rice per meal. Everyone kept asking, “Did you eat?” then turned around and commented on how fat I was. Later on, my mom told me I was “brave” for not eating certain Filipino foods.

Becoming pescatarian made me answer to myself, not to others who felt I was being a spoiled brat for refusing food or those who felt inferior because I had declined society’s meat-eating culture. I didn’t feel trapped because I had eliminated certain foods from my diet. I had more energy for my last days in Japan, and the box of clothes that didn’t fit were suddenly too big for my new body.

Exercise and Research: The Last 20%

As daunting as exercise seems, for me, exercise meant attacking the fat on my stomach, legs, and face. Since I was young, I consider exercise as a tool to accomplish a goal like winning a game, relieving stress, or, in this case, losing weight. I did Billy Blanks’s and Jillian Michaels’s workouts on YouTube, and when I got an Xbox 360, I did Nike+. I have to admit I didn’t like running when I started, but since I saw it as a tool towards my target weight and my therapy through some personal baggage, I ended up enjoying my runs 3 times a week.

The other thing I hadn’t done in the past diets was research. Every day was an opportunity to improve my body, health, and overall well being just by Googling questions. “What are some snacks under 150 calories? What are some vegan recipes for bread? How do I make spaghetti sauce from scratch?” I even started reading the back labels of any packaged foods I bought at the store. This is one thing that I’ve found Japanese folks–and folks in general–are afraid to do: ask! I had to go against that grain and find some answers.

Along with my research, questions, and my degree in sports medicine, I created a workout regiment that I could do anywhere. When I injured my knee from running, I was forced to re-think my exercise program. I have bad knees because I tore my ACL, so designing a knee-sensitive workout was crucial to losing the last 10 pounds. I started doing 10- to 20-minute workouts concentrating on my upper body, abs, and thighs using free YouTube channels like Blogiplates (abs and thighs), POPSUGAR Fitness (full-body workouts), and FitnessBlender (full-body workouts). At nighttime or days between more strenuous workouts, I did yoga and pilates. I picked the mornings to work out because it jump-started my metabolism for the rest of the day.

De-stressing and Getting Enough Sleep

The hardest part of weight loss (and keeping it off) was stress. It affects every aspect of life from sleep cycles and quality to diets and concentration. I would crave sweets when I didn’t get 7 hours of sleep. Even when I caught 8 hours of sleeps, I felt trapped in a cycle that included cleaning, cooking, and babying despite my 9-hour workday, class prep at home, and helping my husband alleviate his asthma troubles. To combat the stress of last-minute lesson plans and meals, I kept a schedule for everything so I would have meals ready for the next day, allocate time at work and home for studies (I was taking Japanese), and stick to an exercise regiment. When my husband’s work contract ended (he worked outside of JET), he returned to the U.S., honestly reducing my stress by half–half the meals, half the driving, half the worries.

Creating a routine also helped deal with stress. It’s something I noticed Japanese have down to a tee and has benefits for weight losers. Also, I didn’t have to think hard about what I was supposed to be doing at certain parts of the day. I woke up at 6AM, exercised at 6:15AM before showering, fixed lunch and ate breakfast at 7AM, and went to work at 8AM. At 11AM, I had a mid-morning snack, and at 1:15PM, I had lunch. I usually at dinner around 5:30 or 6PM, and if I was really hungry, I ate a mid-evening snack at around 7:30PM. 8:30PM meant dance time (yes, I scheduled a time to dance and enjoy my favorite tunes). After dance time came food prep for the next day, cutting veggies, thawing fruits for smoothies, or looking up vegan meals on Allrecipes. If I still felt hungry, I ate low-fat yogurt or a small bowl of granola with low-fat milk. By 10:30PM, I was in bed in my exercise clothes for the next day.

There were also things I didn’t do that Japanese people did such as:

Drinking. I’m not fond of beer or alcohol, but in Japan, drinking is part of the landscape. It hinders fat loss because of its caloric content and its by-products makes our bodies focus on burning those by-products, not stored fat or carbs among other things. Plus, I think it’s expensive compared to the little benefits my body gets out of it (saving money = less stress).

Eating ramen or soba. It’s not that I don’t like noodles–they’re my true loves after my mom’s cooking and pizza–but even a cup of ramen is unhealthy. I traded 100-yen soba for homemade carrot noodles and spinach fettuccine spaghetti.

Using already-made ingredients. Again, I’m not saying Japanese folks don’t use fresh ingredients (that’s more of an American accusation). It’s just that it’s easy to make meals when there are curry blocks, bottled sauces, and canned soups to speed up the cooking process. In getting healthier, I used as little canned and bottled products as possible, adopting something close to a Paleo diet. Even salt and sugar, which were constant reminders of my road to high blood pressure, I traded for lemons and honey.

Eating (white) rice. As most Asian countries eat rice for meal staples, I knew that eating less rice would make me an outsider, even in my culture. In the Philippines, everyone consumed large plates of rice every meal. In Japan, school lunches included big bowls of white rice.  By reducing my rice intake to 2 cups a week, I allowed my body to use the stored fat as fuel.

Total Lost, Lots Gained

weightloss_sept2015

September 2015

When I returned to the States in August 2015, I weighed 119 pounds, a total of 55 pounds lost in a year. Between the end of March 2015 to August 2015, I lost 29 pounds by changing my exercise regiments and diet every 6 weeks, cooking most of my meals using fresh ingredients, drinking lots of water, and de-stressing my life.

 

My Challenge to You

If you want to change how you look or feel, start a new healthy mindful habit. The hardest things to do are only difficult from the outside, but once you get a taste for more energy and a healthier body, you’ll find yourself in a better club.

Kickstart your resolutions by changing just one meal or adopting one of the things that worked for me. Who knows? Maybe you’ll see a new you within the next month.

Jade’s Escape from Japan: Returning to American Life

returning_to_american_life

Returning to American Life

Similar to an earlier post, Jade’s Escape from Japan, settling into American life has been a little rough, but there are slivers of silvers sparkling from their edges.

No Stomachaches, Just Stomach Gains. My body’s adjusted to the over-saturated American diet, even gaining 10 pounds in the first 2 weeks. Once I eliminated Del Taco’s bean burritos from my diet and signed up for a gym membership, I lost 5 pounds, putting me only 6 pounds heavier than when I first came back. Even with vegetarian and vegan options at stores and restaurants, I’m still struggling with maintaining my weight. On top of that, I get pressured by my husband and his family’s habits to ditch my diet. “You’re too skinny now,” my husband tells me, but these ideas won’t deter me from declining chicken dishes and sausage links. I worked really hard to get to where I am, and I don’t want all that effort to vanish just because I’m back in my home country. Sometimes I’m fighting a whole culture of fat, sickness, and laziness.

The silver lining: While living with meat-eaters who don’t care about their health or waistlines challenges my willpower, I know I’m improving my life not just now but in the long run. Plus, I’m now at my high school weight, which was my resolution this year.

The Multicultural “Gaijin-ism”. The word gaijin hasn’t disappeared from my brain whenever I see a non-Asian person, but the reaction of seeing different colored people has. My ears perk up at different Lyft drivers’ accents, and when I ask them where they’re from, I learn their stories, their motivations, their needs and wants in life. Whether it’s through broken Spanish or simple English, I’m excited to meet people from all around the world and learn something new.

The silver lining: I can study any language, and there will be people who I can speak with.

The Unemployed and Dependent Adult. Here’s the truth: finding a job after living in a foreign country is dismal, especially in California. Many companies and hiring managers don’t accept working abroad as anything but an experience abroad, leaving one big resume gap for returnees. On top of that, the job-hunting game has changed. If you were a capable player before, you’ll find yourself being benched at every tournament. It’s discouraging, especially when other former expats tell you that you’re not going to get a decent job for at least a year, so hunker down and be patient.

The silver lining: My work ethic and outlook are different, thanks to Japan. Before returning, I updated my resumes and CVs. I’ve maximized my online persona by linking my LinkedIn to my personal website that has my logo from my resume. Also thanks to Japan and my own interests, reading books such as Jay Conrad Levinson’s Guerrilla Marketing for Job Hunters 3.0 and Richard N. Bolles’s The Job-Hunter’s Survival Guide have been indispensable for people in my position.

The Unhomely Home. Since I’m living with my in-laws, things are completely different–and sometimes, nonsensical–compared to what I’m used to. I just have to get used to it, right? In the meantime, I’m similar to the guy who never moves out of his mom’s basement.

The silver lining: I learned patience in Japan. Why not use it? Plus, I don’t have to pay for the basement.

No Fear = New Connections. I thought when I returned to California, I wouldn’t need to use Japanese. In the most random places–Kohl’s in San Diego, Kapsoul in LA, the Amtrak between Union Station and downtown San Diego–I’ve met Japanese people, and I’ve been happy to flex my Japanese tongue. I’m not afraid to jump between English and Japanese when I meet these people. They’re immigrants or second-generation Japanese people, nikkei, making lives for themselves in the States. Aside from meeting Japanese folks, I find I’m not afraid to speak to anyone and everyone. The man who wants my number, the bum looking for an extra dollar, the Cuban Lyft driver, I’m not scared to say what I want. Japan has taught me to appreciate the ability to be heard.

The silver lining: I don’t feel as Japan-sick as I did when I first landed in LAX.

Jade’s Escape from Japan: Creasing Happi Coats

jadesescapefromjapan-happi

Creasing Happi Coats

Blue, red, and white happi coats moved through the crowd with “festival ” splashed across their backs and brown printed belts cinching their waists. The bodies inside them sweated and smelled, and the heads perched on the shoulders and necks held smiling faces, yakisoba in their mouths, bandannas around their foreheads. As people walked through Naha City awaiting the start of the big tug of war, their happi coats showed that the festival atmosphere started at home. When the rope, which stretched for three blocks through Naha’s 58 street, was pulled by Okinawans and Americans and cut into strips as good luck charms, the happi coats, the festival bearers, came off at home. Once laundered and pressed, the happi coats must be folded.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I folded happi coats after an event in Los Angeles. One fold here, a flip there, but the creases were the most important part. I wanted to fold them to be stacked the same length and size. When I tried to fold a happi coat without using its preset crease–“let the coat fall over at the crease”–I was inferred, not so much told since that would be too forward, to follow the folding method as everyone else had done before. The precedence was more important than the practical and stackable look of those coats, the same crease blindly to set a path than the person who wore or folded them.

Creases are made when a fabric submits to an iron, and the iron can make creases anywhere the person handling it feels. Why do some people hold the iron or fold past the creases to make a new pattern? Why not make changes instead of submitting to the creases everyone else has made?

While happi coats on bodies are uniforms for festivals and tugs of wars, their creases are traps for those who don’t want to be uniform.

How to Teach English for Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs)

howtoteachenglish

How to Teach English for Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs)

In Japan, native English speakers are seen as effective English teachers, but in most cases, new Assistant Language Teachers, or ALTs, find that being a native speaker doesn’t automatically qualify them as English teachers. Just as teachers in English-speaking countries need to earn a degree or certificate to teach English as a Foreign Language, or EFL, ALTs also need to know how to teach English.

Still, ALTs in Japan will not spend over $200 or 120 hours of EFL training on becoming better teachers. Even murky pedagogy books and online texts are daunting for ALTs looking for the quick fix. Good thing that there’s this little guide for curious (and uncertified) ALTs.

What are my students’ language levels?

“My kids are junior high school students, so they’re intermediate level.” Any seasoned, certificate-holding teacher would shake their heads at that statement. In any language, students are put into different levels of English by how much English they know, not their grade levels. Many of my senior high school students were beginners even after 6 years of English study.

How do you determine the language level of your students? If you’ve already done a few classes but you’re still uncertain about your students’ language abilities, look at the list below, keeping in mind some of your students’ mistakes and problems in English.

  1. Beginners level: If learners were blank slates with a few illegible words scrawled across the surface, these slates would be beginners. They have zero to little English knowledge.
  2. Elementary level: These learners can make sentences on their slates, but only on really easy things such as nouns (i.e. cat, dog, baseball) and simple verbs (i.e. play, walk, run).
  3. Low/pre-intermediate level: Students at this level can say what’s on their slates and understand what’s on the slate sometimes, but they need an eraser in their hand at all times. Even with basic sentence structures, they will make lots of mistakes.
  4. Intermediate level: These learners can say and understand what’s on the slate sometimes, even if there are some more in-depth ideas. Still, they need the eraser, but they aren’t as dependent on it. They can make sentences on their own such as “I can speak English fluently.”)
  5. Upper intermediate level: Students here can communicate what’s on the slate without looking at it, but there are a few mistakes that need to be fixed. They are able to say, “I saw teacher at McDonald’s yesterday,” though they will forget the “the” or “my” before “teacher”.
  6. Advanced level: Learners don’t need a slate or an easy-to-grab eraser anymore. They are fluent enough to speak and/or write in English without making many errors (“Unit 1: Teachers and Learners” 7).

You can also gauge students through questions to Japanese teachers by showing them English sentences and asking, “Can the students make these sentences on their own?” A sympathetic “no” or a gleeful “yes” will help you identify your students’ language level.

After you find your students’ language level, you can uncover worksheets and activities that better fit your students and your lesson plans. Some EFL websites such as iSLCollective.com and ESL Games World.com use these language levels to separate worksheets and games with the same target grammar.

How do I plan a lesson?

Whether you’re writing down a plan (which you should for later reference) or you’re thinking it, lesson planning is a crucial part of teaching in any subject. In EFL, it is the brain of English class—without it, you, your co-teacher, and your students will be wondering what everyone is doing in class.

In planning an EFL lesson, there are teaching patterns to make the class flow smoothly from learning and practicing to producing the target English. First, there are 3 stages for teaching EFL. The first stage is the Engage Stage, which is an introduction of the target English through skits, clips, items, role-plays or pictures. For example, you and your co-teacher may perform a skit for introduction phrases such as “Where are you from?” This stage is a way to get students interested in the target English and expose them to how the actual English can be used in real time. If the students are learning grammar, utilize the Engage Stage to do quick games that practice words they will use later.

The second stage is the Study Stage where the target English is formally taught. JET Program ALTs won’t be responsible for this area as stated in the JET Program Handbook, but private ALTs and elementary school ALTs will face this task regardless of their contracts. In teaching English grammar, build off of the Engage Stage words or games. For example, if students know nouns (i.e. cat) and simple verbs (i.e. jump), they can learn auxiliary verbs (i.e. The cat can jump). This is also the best place to predict students’ mistakes (i.e. The cat can jumping). Make sure to point out the differences between an incorrect sentence and a correct sentence.

The final stage is the Activate Stage, which is for practicing and producing the target English. Here is where students should interview or use the target with each other. In most cases, this is also where students produce the target, so it is very important to clearly explain the activity, do examples, and ask Instruction Check Questions, or ICQ’s (“Do you understand?” is not a good ICQ. Use, “What’s step one?”) (Burns).  Teachers monitor students and their English during the activity. In this stage, if students are making the same mistakes, you should inform your co-teacher about this as they’ll be likely to make these same mistakes in the future.

Using the Engage-Study-Activate format, or sometimes called the Present-Practice-Produce teaching sequence (J. Richards 54), is the most basic way of lesson planning in EFL. There are other teaching patterns, but many Japanese English teachers are familiar with this format, and some may prefer this method.

Does my plan go over the time limit?

Now that you’ve identified your students’ language levels and learned the different stages in EFL, time will be your greatest enemy. “How do I teach everything I want on this grammar in 50 minutes?” Look at your lesson plan and write how long each stage and activity will take in minutes. Take care to include the time to explain, demonstrate, and question each stage or activity.

For example, if you are going to play a spelling game where students race to write an English word correctly, an explanation (“We will play a spelling game. It’s a race.”) and a demonstration (“Mr. Tanaka is Team 1. I am Team 2.”) should take 3 minutes while the example round with students and the real gameplay will take around 8 minutes. Total time for activity is 12 minutes. “Wait, that’s supposed to be 11 minutes.” Always plan an extra minute or two for what I call transition time. Between each stage and activity, there needs to be a little prep time. If students are told to wait for too long, they will drift off, and you and co-teacher will have to try your hardest just to coax them back. On the opposite end of the spectrum, playing a game or doing an activity for too long will bore students. Shoot for 10- to 15-minute activities.

The Study Stage usually takes around 20 minutes, depending on the teacher, so during that lengthy time, walk around and help students. But if you’re an elementary school ALT, you’re more than likely to be the main teacher because the homeroom teachers don’t speak English. Still, the timing applies to these cases—give the repetitive and pictorial Study Stage no more than 20 minutes. No matter what happens in class, be flexible with the time. If you rush or pack too much information in the Study Stage, your students’ brains might explode, making the entire 50 minutes completely useless.

Once you’ve got your lesson plan done, it should look like this:

# Phase Timing Procedure
1 Engage

(Start with words. Students usually know these.)

8 – 10 minutes Translation Race: Teachers will say a word. One person from each line (team) will put their team’s number on the translated word. (Example: Jd says, “playing” and students must race and put their number on the word “している”).
2 2 minutes Give worksheet to students. Students will write the words from dictionary form (“run”) to progressive tense (“running”).
3 Study

(Target grammar with words students know.)

8 minutes Hideaki will explain the grammar and students will fill in the blanks on their worksheets. Jd walks around and helps students. Hideaki will also explain the question form using present progressive tense.
4 7 minutes Criss Cross: All students will stand up. Teachers will say a sentence using the grammar (Example: Jd says, “I am playing piano” and a student will answer, “私はピアノをしています”). The student who can translate the sentence can sit down.
5 Activate

(Activity using target grammar and words.)

20 minutes Sugoroku: Jd and Hideaki will explain the activity using gestures and pictures. Students will play rock-paper-scissors (じゃんけん). Winner will ask a question using the grammar point (Example: “Who is flying?”). Loser will find the character and answer, “Anpanman is flying.” The loser will sign the winner’s box. Now the winner can move to the next box.
(When students finish early or when most students are finished with Sugoroku) Funny Animals: Students will take 2 pictures with animals doing human things. They will glue the animals to their paper and make 2 English and Japanese sentences from the pictures.
Leeway Time: 3 minutes

After 3 years of teaching 7 junior high schools and 2 senior high schools, I’ve learned that how long students are sitting is very important. If students sit still for more than 10 minutes, they start to daydream, talk, or the worst, sleep during the class. The best way to combat the sleepy nature in sitting schoolchildren is to make them stand or do mini games during the Study Stage. Sometimes, I do Criss Cross (立ってよこ, or tatte yoko) after the Study Stage to give slower students a chance to catch up and to gauge how well the students on a whole have learned the target English. This and other mini games get the students to their feet as well, breaking the monotony of the lecture teaching style.

After finding the students’ language levels, picking the activities for your lesson plans, and timing each stage, you must ask yourself one more thing: do the games and activities use teacher-to-student interactions or are they student-to-student interactions? In EFL, student-to-student interactions are required—no matter how “shy” or quiet your students seem, they must talk or work with each other using the target English. Interviews, rock-paper-scissors games, and interactive BINGO worksheets will get your students moving around and practicing what they just learned.

Your final lesson plan should look like the following:

PROCEDURE
# Phase Timing Interaction Teacher Procedure
1 Engage

(Start with words. Students usually know these.)

8 – 10 minutes Teacher-Student ALT and Mr. Tanaka Translation Race: Teachers will say a word. One person from each line (team) will put their team’s number on the translated word. (Example: Jd says, “playing” and students must race and put their number on the word “している”).
2 2 minutes Teacher- Student ALT and Mr. Tanaka Give worksheet to students. Students will write the words from dictionary form (“run”) to progressive tense (“running”).
3 Study 1

(Target grammar with words students know.)

8 minutes Teacher-Student Mr. Tanaka Hideaki will explain the grammar and students will fill in the blanks on their worksheets. Jd walks around and helps students who aren’t writing.
4 5 minutes Teacher-Student ALT (and Mr. Tanaka, if needed) Criss Cross: All students will stand up. Teachers will say a sentence using the grammar (Example: Jd says, “I am playing piano” and a student will answer, “私はピアノをしています”). The student who can translate the sentence can sit down.
5 Activate 1

(Activity using target grammar and words.)

10 minutes Student-Student ALT and Mr. Tanaka Sugoroku: Jd and Hideaki will explain the activity using gestures and pictures. Students will play rock-paper-scissors (じゃんけん). Winner will ask a question using the grammar point (Example: “Who is flying?”). Loser will find the character and answer, then sign in the box. Now the winner can move forward.
6 Study 2

(Correcting any mistakes.)

10 minutes Teacher-Student ALT and Mr. Tanaka Funny Animals: Students will take 2 pictures with animals doing human things. They will glue the animals to their paper and make 2 English and Japanese sentences from the pictures.
7 Activate 2

(Producing

target grammar)

5 minutes Student ALT and Mr. Tanaka Original Sentence: Students will draw their own picture and write their own sentence in English and Japanese.
Total time: 50 minutes

As mentioned before, the goal of this lesson, as is for all EFL lessons, is for students to produce an original sentence using the target English. But they can’t jump into it—think skydiving without a parachute. They’ll surely crash into a sea of jumbled English. Instead of ending the lesson at the first Activate Stage, insert another Study Stage between the first Activate Stage and the second Activate Stage, easing students into their original sentences with several references to the target English.

In this lesson, I gave each student small pictures of animals doing human-like things (i.e. squirrels with cameras, monkeys studying, cats eating hamburgers), and they made sentences from what they saw in the pictures. Once the teachers and I checked their funny animal sentences, we tell them to make their own sentences. At this point, students have gone from memorized verbs and nouns to a full sentence using those terms. Using different games and activities, they gained confidence in producing the target English in an original sentence.

Now that there is a simplified guide for teaching EFL, ALTs without EFL training or certification will have no excuses in making more effective and memorable lessons in Japan.

Sources

  • Burns, Lucas. How to Teach English (ESL): The ultimate guide to teaching English as a Second Language. Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 2014. Ebook.
  • Clump, A. 2007. Examining the Role of Assistant Language Teachers on the JET Programme within the Context of Nihonjinron and Kokusaika: Perspectives from ALTs. Masters Thesis, McGill University, Montreal. 40-41, 50,75 p. PDF file.
  • Houghton, Stephanie Ann and Damian J. Rivers. Native-Speakerism in Japan: Intergroup Dynamics in Foreign Language Education. Vol.151. Bristol: Multilingual Matters,2013. 168. Print.
  • International TEFL and TESOL Training. Unit 1: Teachers and Learners. 2011. PDF file.
  • Richards, Jack C. and Theodore S. Rodgers. Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014. 54. Print.

Jade’s Escape from Japan: Last Night in Okinawa

jadesescapefromjapan-lastnight

Last Night in Okinawa

Japanese businessmen with too many drinks and skewed neckties watch me walk up a block of squat business plazas and timeworn bars, most with red lanterns swinging in their wooden doorways. This is Naha City, the capitol of Okinawa, three hours by plane from Japan’s famous capitol, three decades behind what people would call Japan when Tokyo comes into a conversation. Even the powerlines, which have no intention of migrating underground, provide background noise to the drunken businessmen and the beckoning shop owners in this expensive drinking sector of Naha. The men enter and exit their doors, some stumbling with tomato faces and smiles into waiting taxis.

This is my last night in Okinawa, and I walk next to my best friend, a Japanese soccer player who became my first friend in Okinawa five years ago. We were both teachers, me in the loose sense as an Assistant Language Teacher and him as my coordinator who spoke fluent English with a New Zealand flare. Though he left English teaching a few months later, we remained brother and sister in the islander sense, and whenever we saw each other’s family members at the mall, we were meeting another relative, an extended vein from our friendship.

Now, even after five years, I notice Japanese men trying to pry me from my place next to him—seeing a tall Japanese man in a casual shirt and chinos next to a black woman walking in this area is rare, unless this American and hondoujin are lost. This is our area, our yen is better here. Your yen is better over there where you turned off International Street. At those guys, I make eye contact, and they quickly turn their eyes elsewhere. Wherever yen was going to be spent, tonight was my night to let someone else do the spending. I, as a returnee to the States, was not allowed to dirty my own farewell party with my own cash.

My friend leads me to a wooden, four-story business building that looks as tan and old as the other buildings we passed. We go up a flight of wooden stairs and duck under a curtain to enter what my friend calls “my brother’s work”. The shop, a small but clean sushi bar, boasts three tatami areas with traditional floor tables and zabuton, or colorful Japanese cushions. Wooden doors, wooden pillars, and wooden countertops provide the aesthetics rather than hanging paintings or woodblock prints. My friend and I sit at the counter, and from an open doorway with a white curtain, his brother emerges in a white sushi chefs outfit. It is my first time to see him in four years, but through my friend, I always know where he is working. He is shorter than my friend by a head, but his small eyes and humor resemble my friend’s. Before they exchange a handshake, he looks surprised to see me. “Long time no see,” he says with a shy smile. Unlike his brother, he is reserved and gracious in his demeanor.

But it’s my friend who teaches me about the life of being a sushi chef. “Being a sushi chef,” he tells me after we have wiped our hands and cheered over a glass of chuuhai, “takes a lot of training. When we were kids, my brother was always shaping rice with his hands.” Only the best traditional sushi, which consists of a select cut of fish, a dab of wasabi, and a thumb-sized amount of formed rice, could lead sushi chefs into stardom in the industry. “Every day, chefs have to make $500 to $700 a night for the shop owners. Once they make a certain amount of money for the owners, the chefs can move on to owning their businesses.” He is proud of his younger brother, watching him deliberate over the rows of sliced fish in front of us, and in a way, I hold that same pride for this young chef.

The sushi looks different than the usual sushi I used to eat from the market or in a restaurant chain like Hamazushi. The fish are colorful and thick, hearty even, but easy to chew while the hint of wasabi lacks the sharpness of typical sushi, emphasizing the flavors of the fish and the shaped rice as a tasty unit. As I chew the second sushi, I suddenly realize why I feel as if I had skipped something: I did not dip it in soy sauce. It is completely unneeded.

My friend’s brother places sushi after sushi in front of us, lapsing into English for the fishes’ names and joking in Japanese with my friend. We get another drink, and it starts to wash away my senses. I laugh a little too hard, smile a little too much, eat the delicious handcrafted sushi a little too fast. I want to remember the warm feeling that both the chuuhai and Okinawa had given me for five years. People here are warm, and even those with cold interiors have no choice but to obey Japanese etiquette. When Okinawan people speak to me, it feels as if I’ve come home after a long absence, and they’re gently easing me into what I forgotten. Five years ago, I was surprised by this feeling, and every year, I renewed my contract to get closer to it, something akin to my Filipino home in the States. Other colleagues remarked their envy when I admitted I hardly felt homesick in years.

Between the second drinks and red snapper sushi, three Japanese people sit at the bar next to me. Immediately, one of the drunk women says, “You look like a famous singer.” For a while, everyone’s stumped. It’s when our last sushi arrives that the lady announces, “Diana Ross!” For the remaining twenty minutes there, she and her two friends address me as the former Supreme vocalist until my friend bids his brother goodnight and pays the bill.

“Goodbye, Diana Ross!” the three drunk birds say before we disappear down the stairs and into the warm summer streets. Now less business suits haunt the plaza doorways, and the taxis line the curbs. This is their time to strip drunken workers of their last yen. We avoid them and walk to a close-by Family Mart to get some cheap alcohol. At 2 o’clock in the morning, the clerk looks at us with an eyebrow quirked above his glasses. “There might by a typhoon tomorrow,” it says, but his thin lips only utter, “259 yen.”

When we get outside, the wind has picked up, flinging lose plastic bags and what little trash adorn the entire city towards the south. My friend and I cheer and drink our alcohol. As the night grows cooler and windier, our conversation—his kids, my husband, our jobs, five years of being an American sister and a Japanese Okinawan brother—turns into something warmer and sadder. Tonight, I think, let’s drink and eat before it gets too sad. As the lights in some stores dim and metallic doors slide over their shops, my friend and I stand up and smile at each other.

My last night allows me to return to a pair of eyes that can see Okinawa’s beautiful islands, see its people in their chinos and suits, and appreciate looking at all of them together in one place.

Jade’s Escape from Japan

escape-from-japan

Jade’s Escape from Japan

So I went to Japan 5 years ago to escape the American recession and lifestyle as well as my mother and live out my dream of working in Japan. Now that my 5 years are up and I’m back in the States, life should be better…But there are tons of things people didn’t warn me about when it came to re-adjusting to my home country.

The Constant Stomachaches. In Japan, I became a vegetarian (from July 2014), and since my husband returned to the U.S. first, I could adjust my diet every month to a lifestyle teetering on veganism. I eliminated most salts, refined sugars, and fats from my food by planning, measuring, and cooking every meal, and in 4 months, I lost around 33 pounds (15 kg). The return to America cost me dearly–in a week, I gained 10 pounds (4.5 kg). Everything I eat, even without meat, makes my stomach flip upside down. And it doesn’t help that my husband isn’t considerate of my new eating lifestyle because he isn’t vegetarian. Maybe part of my stomachaches are from stress.

The Wonderful “Gaijin-ism”. Where I lived in Japan, there were few gaijin, or foreigners. When I did see a foreigner, my first thought was, “Gaijin!” That’s how few and rare foreigners are in Japan save for the heavily-populated cities. Back in the U.S., I had to stop myself from being surprised by “foreigners”. Everyone, including myself, aren’t foreigners, so I’m in the middle of re-training my brain to think, “People!”

The Unemployed and Dependent Adult. I had a job and an apartment in Japan for 5 years. Now I’ve got job history and a former apartment that’s already passed to my successor, but no employment or space of my own. I have to depend on my husband’s family before I can look to getting a place, and the job hunt for something I actually want–a position in the writing industry–still makes me ask for help from my in-laws. I’m suddenly a dependent, and it makes me feel small and unreliable. I thought being in Japan would make me more independent, but in returning to America, I find myself in a worse situation than before I left the country.

The Unhomely Home. I got no warning about coming home when you’re not really home. The U.S. doesn’t feel familiar to me anymore. I look at the people and the stores and the houses, and I just think, “I want to go home.” My Okinawan apartment and the places I frequented there pops up in my head, and suddenly I’m finding home to be a far away place in my memories. Part of this foreign feeling comes from my immediate family leaving California. I can’t see my mom or brothers, and it really makes me sad. With the ensuing stomachaches and uncomfortable lifestyle, I just want something familiar, something normal, and that was my family. When I want to eat my mom’s soup because I have stomach pains or I want to laugh with my brothers, I can’t.

The Lost Relationship(s). What kills me is the one thing I’ve left behind: missing someone. I made many friends in Okinawa, and even though I’ve said in past posts that Japanese people are hard to accept foreigners, the friends I made accepted enough of me to let me into beautiful and loving relationships. I just knew that when I got on the plane, I’d never know if I’d see them again. Sure, there’s email, but it’s not the same as facing them at a table in Mr. Donuts or Spicy Kitchen and saying, “How’s it going?” Craving someone’s words or smiles or stories makes me feel as if I’ve lost something really precious in my life.

Your Bucket List: How Do I Get to Japan?

howtogetojapan

“How do I get to Japan?”

Aside from stowing away in a friend’s suitcase for Tokyo, getting to Japan is easy. It depends on your desire. Do you want to work, play, study, or tour?

If you’re looking to play in Japan or tour the sights, you could do it the old-fashioned way and buy a plane ticket. You’ll be shelling out around $1,000 for a round-trip ticket–a definite hole in some shallow pockets. The other way to get to Japan is by joining your city’s sister cities program. “My city has a sister city?” Most cities, even the small ones, have a sister city in a different country. I came to Japan for nearly half the cost because the City of Chula Vista did a summer sister city exchange program in Odawara. If you go this route, you’ll be a representative, which means you’ll have some obligations to fulfill before seeing sights. As a representative, you’ll get to see places and things that you wouldn’t see if you were just a tourist.

Bottom line: Try to go to Japan on someone else’s bill.

If you want to study in Japan, there are various programs to try. The first one to try is your own school. Many high schools and universities have a short-stay (two weeks to three months) exchange program or a long-stay (eight months to one year) exchange program. In universities with strong international programs, you could arrange to study for a year in a coordinating Japanese university paying the same tuition for your regular university. Aside from the universities, some places in Japan offer a chance for foreigners to come to Japan simply for studying manga techniques or the Japanese language. These programs, however, are usually limited space and short-stay programs, but they still give you a glimpse into Japanese culture. There are a few programs in schools intended for job placement in Japan, such as Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University. You can also check out my post on manga classes offered to foreigners.

Bottom line: Use the easiest route first and learn some Japanese.

If you want to work in Japan, you’ll have to do one of two things: come to Japan and find work within three months or apply through a program in your home country and get the job before coming to Japan. The latter is easier to do because programs like the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (J.E.T. Programme) and the Interact Network provide some assistance in getting your visa and plane tickets and helping you settle into your new home in Japan. Coming directly to Japan and looking for work on a visitor’s permit is more stressful because of the time restrictions. If you arrive after April, you miss the hiring season, lowering the chances of finding a job. If you arrive between January and April, the chances of finding a job is higher since most work contracts end in April.

Bottom line: Apply before coming Japan or arrive before April for the hiring season.

If you want to “accomplish your dreams”, remember that dreams require work. Most young people want to be a manga artist. As Jamie Lano of Jamieism.com suggested, read Bakuman. It’s not as glamorous as most people might think, but if you’re willing to shed some sweat and tears–and maybe blood–you’ll find yourself gaining wholesome experiences.

Bottom line: Look before you leap, and work for your dreams.

頑張ってください!Good luck!

Devil Pocky for Pocky Day 2014

Japan has many food holidays on specific numbers such as Strawberry Day (January 5th), or ichi go, which means “strawberry”, and  Veggie Day (August 31st), or ya sa i, which means “vegetable” in Japanese.  One food holiday that uses dates with a special meaning is November 11th’s Pocky Day. November 11th, which is 11-11, looks like a pack of the chocolate-coated biscuit sticks. Glico and their amazing marketing team put together a commercial just for this sticky snack.

This year’s commercial idol is Gantz live action star and ARASHI boy bander Kazunari Ninomiya. In the commercials, he plays a “demon of sorrow” while holding his precious Pocky.

I love how Kazunari screams, “Help me!” at the end of this commercial. Dude, you’re a demon. Even you’re sad, stop tearing up my neighborhood!

Anyways, how can you celebrate this fun and simple holiday? You can buy Pocky or try the Pocky Game Challenge.

#7 of 33 Art Projects: Summer Cover of the Ryukyu Star

“How do digital artists take drawings from pencil to fully-colored images?” I’m always wondering this. In every digital art project, I’m looking for a breakthrough, and even if I flip through magazines and tutorials on the subject, the best way to learn is to practice.

This was the first image I colored without converting the inks to vectors. I deleted the negative space, going in as far as pixel by pixel, and darkened the inks with some level adjustments.

rs-cover-bw

I created a separate layer and colored it as the base color.Maybe it’s just habit from painting, but putting down a bright base color makes the other colors brighter, especially if the colors are placed using around 80 percent opacity. In this project, I used a bright orange-yellow that would lend itself to dark and light colors.

rs-summer-cover-baseI made different layers for each color, usually starting with the medium color followed by the dark colors and highlights.

rs-cover-color2

 

rs-cover-color3

 

rs-cover-color4

rs-cover-colorfinish

rs-summe2014r-cover

What do you do to digitally color images? I really like to get constructive feedback and how I can improve my art!

6 Dead Frankensteins in the Manga World

frankenstein_header

My story began with a search inside the famous Google, its grey strip begging me to ask my question, to give it a task. I did so with two words: “Frankenstein manga.” What was to follow only betrayed my expectations. I found fewer than 10 titles–only 6 titles–that involved the moody fictional character, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, and the monster he created now called Frankenstein. From these 6 measly titles, I thought half of them would be in English being that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was in English, and so, many Western readers would also enjoy them in their origins’ native language. To my dismay, all 6 Frankenstein titles were unlicensed manga. “How could I ever wish to write about these without guiding readers to scanlations and pirated websites?” Of course, I found no answer waiting at my fingertips.

“How could these manga creators do this to me, to other faithful followers?” I complained, but a thought struck me as devastatingly as lightning. Manga creators simply make the stories, not publish and translate them into other languages. Editors, letterers, and translators only followed their duties. So who, if anyone, could be to blame for allowing these 6 titles to remain on the lab table, only to be viewed by 125 million Japanese speakers when there are 360 million English speakers? Surely readers can’t be to blame. Complaints aside, I felt that manga lovers were done a great injustice when titles that have been poked, prodded, and even robbed by many go unnoticed by manga publishers.

I am certain many people have looked for Franken Fran, Embalming: Another Tale of Frankenstein, Noblesse, Frankenstein, Mondlicht: Tsuki no Tsubasa, and Wagatomo Frankenstein in the darker realms of the internet. Even I, an advocate of licensed manga and a resident within the Japanese language, have ventured there for such reasons. But I must say, when sub-par titles about vampires, werewolves, demons, and zombies are tramping through English bookshelves while these little bolts of genius float in obscurity, it makes me ponder, “Can I not go forward and talk about these unlicensed manga?”

“‘Live, and be happy, and make others so,'” Justine Mortiz in a dying whisper.

The first of the Frankenstein children to stay in Japan’s lab is Wagatomo Frankenstein. Born in 1972 in Shueisha, Wagatomo Frankenstein is an elusive child. Even in the smokiest alleys of the cyber world, its real story is hidden from English speakers, thus we move to its  siblings.

wagatomo

Wagatomo Frankenstein‘s sisters, Franken Fran (fathered by Kigitsu Katsuhisa) and Mondlicht: Tsuki no Tsubasa (fathered by Juichi Iogi), are still housed under Akita Shoten’s label, but they have gained a cult outside their imprisonments. Franken Fran uses a female version of Frankenstein to grant the wishes of hapless humans in rather unwishful, Pet Shop of Horrors ways. The junior of the sisters, Mondlicht: Tsuki no Tsubasa, bears little resemblance to Mark Shelley’s Frankenstein–it’s simply a battle waged between lonesome vampires and Dr. Frankenstein’s monsters who take the form of pretty schoolgirls.

*As of 4/29/2015, Franken Fran has been licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment and is slated for release in February 2016 in omnibus editions. Thank you, Leslie!

frankenfran

Along with Franken Fran and Mondlicht, three brothers have joined the Frankenstein manga family. Similar to most human families, the eldest brother takes its name from the father: Frankenstein. Despite being younger than Wagatomo Frankenstein, Junji Ito’s creation is the closest to their mother’s children, Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his monster’s awakening. The second brother, Embalming: Another Tale of Frankenstein, comes from the 2007 Jump SQ generation, born from Rurouni Kenshin creator, Nobuhiro Watsuki. If Dr. Frankenstein truly lived and he assembled his grotesque monsters, Embalming shows how these undead beings run amuck in Europe 150 years after Dr. Frankenstein’s original creation.

Embalming_main

I must say, though the baby of the brothers is a Korean webcomic, it mimics its elder siblings, right down to the typical high school premise. Noblesse from Son Jae-Ho has Frankenstein, a devoted scientist who follows a vampire lord, operating a prestigious academy. Though this Frankenstein offspring has his scientist father’s brain, its history is completely warped. He has made himself into a monster and granted himself immortality in completely following his master’s wishes.

However much I seem to know about these 6 titles, I have yet to read their copies within legitimate terms. I had hoped that several publishers would need these titles in English to appease the cults who follow them. With my confession now in front of the whole world, I can find solace. I and these manga creators have re-told Mary Shelley’s story. I hope English manga publishers would like to hear them.

This Week at Jade’s Escape: Godzilla, Big Hero 6 Manga

Godzilla

I watched the new Godzilla movie.

It gets Razzie of the Year in my book.

  • Unused talent: Ken Watanabe and Bryan Cranston do not work together. It’s not even a Bryan Cranston movie.
  • One-dimensional actor takes the boring lead: Aaron Taylor-Johnson keeps looking at the camera, adding to his unconvincing role as Bryan Cranston’s military son.
  • Too many kids: This is not a family movie! When did throwing kids into the mix equal “human element”? True Lies, Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, and Back to the Future had kids in them, but they actually served some role other than “Let’s make this a family movie.”
  • Gun/nuclear-happy Americans: I would have to say that this pro-military movie portrays Americans’ top specialty–using their guns first and coming up with sound answers later.
  • Horrible villain monsters: In the Godzilla franchise, there are tons of interesting and badass monsters to choose from. I would’ve gone with King Shisa (I’m impartial to the Okinawan shisa) or King Gydra (the Hydra).

    godzillavillains

    Picture from the best Godzilla books ever in Japan, ゴジラ人間 series, printed in 1984 by Shogakukan Publishing.

  • Friendly Godzilla: When was Godzilla on our side? OK, so he crushed a few buildings, but he’s nothing like the Godzilla from the past franchise.
  • Movie should’ve ended in the beginning: If you’re a foreign who gets arrested in Japan, unless you’re married to a Japanese person, you’ll get deported, not sent back to your apartment. Godzilla would’ve easily ended in the first 20 minutes of the movie.
  • Japanese people don’t speak English: Sorry, English teachers, but I know this as an English teacher here in Japan. Few Japanese people speak English, especially fluent English, and most freak out when they see a foreigner, even if it’s in a convenience store.
  • Japanese people don’t take orders from Americans: How many foreign executives have you seen in Japan?

I started watching the 1998 Godzilla: The Series TV show just to wash the taste out of my mouth.

 

Big Hero 6 Manga

This is a first: before Disney’s Big Hero 6 release, Disney is releasing the manga for free through Amazon.co.jp, Boollive!, and Yahoo! Bookstores etc. from August 20th (limited time only). You can read the manga in Japanese here.

Women’s Equality in Japan

womens-equality-day-august-26

Happy Women’s Equality Day!

Women’s equality in Japan has come a way–not so long, not so short–but Japanese women are still seen as servants in and outside of Japan.

You can see the inequality by how many women are in various areas of Japanese life. In politics, less than 30 percent of the Diet has female politicians, and only 2 out of 18 people on Prime Minister Abe’s cabinet are women. In business, only 1 percent of senior executives are women and the gender wage gap is around 28 percent. Even in daily life, women’s inequality is visible.

Living in Japan, I’ve seen many Japanese women who work full-time and still make 3 meals a day for their children and husbands as well as care for the elderly. Some people could say that lunch, cleaning, and familial duties are signs of love for women.  “OK, carry this human for 9 months, give birth, clean up, wake up, and raise that child into adulthood, make meals for the child and husband for 30 years, and work the same hours for only 72 percent of the pay.” Does that sound like love? It sounds like servitude. I’m not saying that women shouldn’t cook, clean, or take care of their families. I’m saying that there are other able-bodied persons in a family who can share the duties. Besides, learning how to cook, clean, and take care of others are skills every person should have to live–everybody eats.

Outside of Japan, the stereotype is Japanese women are subservient. When it comes down to Japanese women marrying non-Japanese men, that stereotype is untrue. Why do you think most single, average-looking foreign men who come to Japan marry beautiful Japanese wives? Many Japanese girls and women think foreign men will cook, clean, and take care of the family. Where this idea came from I’m not sure (my money’s on Hollywood). Even my students say to me, “I want to marry a foreigner.” The funny things is the illusion of subservient Japanese women helps Japanese women marry foreigners. Once the curtain falls away, most foreign men realize that Japanese women aren’t as mousy as they thought.

I may be against the way Japanese women are seen, but I greatly respect Japanese women. They raise their families, take care of their bodies, and help each other when help is needed. Even though I don’t have kids, as a married woman, I’m suddenly part of a community of women who trade recipes, talk about their problems, and go walking together. These women are responsible for fostering children’s imaginations while filling their tummies with nutritious foods. It’s better than some women who substitute healthy cooking with cheap blood-clotting burgers, have 3 to 5 children from different fathers, and can’t take care of their physical, mental, emotional, or financial well being. In this way, irresponsible women have a long way to go.

womens-equality-day-august-26