Your Bucket List: How Do I Get to Japan?

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“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!

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Not Like Anime or Manga: 10 Realistic Ideas for Your Japanese School Festival

School festivals are central to all manga and anime centering around Japanese schools as well as Japanese society.

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Everyone participates in the school festivals, even the foreign English teachers like myself. Last year, I was faced with the school festival, and though I wanted to do something as typical as a cafe, rules kept the maid outfits at bay. “There are only two places where food can be made, and they’ve already been claimed,” a teacher told me with a sympathetic smile. “You’ll have to come up with some other idea for the English Club.”

Great. I guess my anime dreams of doing a maid cafe couldn’t come true. Ideas, I thought, I need ideas. Of course, my students couldn’t come up with anything. You’ll find that unless you offer Japanese kids ideas, you won’t come up with anything concrete.

For those of you in the same situation, here’s a list of ideas you can do with a small club (3 to 5 members) or more.

1. Cake Walk (Musical Chairs + Raffle): Use Daiso vinyl tape and make footprints or circles on the floor into one big circle. Put numbers in each circle. Participants will stand on the circles, and when the music starts, they will walk to each circle. When the music stops, a number will be called. The participant on the called number will win a cake or a prize. For more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cakewalk_(carnival_game) 

2. Costume Booth (Halloween + Photography): Get a lot of costumes and props. Designate someone who will print pictures and put them in cellophane holders. Participants will pick what costumes they want and the theme of their photograph.

3. Skit: Pick a Western-origin or English-language skit such as Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, or Harry Potter. Adjust the script, pick the actors, and perform the skit on stage.

4. Names in Cursive: For more artistic people, participants will get their names written in pretty cursive. If you’re into graffiti, do names in graffiti.

5. Dance: Do a traditional dance from a different country (i.e. Philippine’s tinikling or binasuan or Mexico’s folklorico).

6. Western bazaar: Get lots of new knickknacks (stickers, posters, bilingual books, toys, stuffed animals, bracelets, snacks, etc.). Set up a booth or room with the items all tagged with prices. Get a register or cash box and put someone responsible for it.

7. English wanage (Ring Toss): Make rings and stands out of cardboard and tape. (I would use Daiso colored tape to make the rings and stands more interesting, seeing that cardboard is pretty ugly.) Use vinyl tape as a distance marker. Give participants the rings and prizes after they’ve gotten the rings on the stands successfully. For an English-involved ring toss, put pictures on the stands. Show the participants an English word. They will throw the ring onto the matching picture of the English word.

8. Basket Toss: Make balls out of tape and set up cardboard boxes. For an English-involved basket toss, put pictures on the boxes. Tell the participant an English word, and they will throw the ball into the matching picture. You can also do this with teachers’ pictures and tell the participants a teacher’s profile (where they’re from, the subject they teach, the homeroom they’re in charge of).

9. Western Cafe: Pick any theme for your cafe (find ideas at CelebrationsatHomeBlog.com). Get refreshments (cupcakes, brownies, muffins, breads), drinks, utensils, table clothes, napkins, and props that fit the theme. Set up nice tables and have the club members be waiters (make shifts!). Customers will come and order food and drinks from an all-English menu. The waiters will take the orders in English as best as they can. For the non-food option, still set up the cafe the same way but make a separate table with different candies, knickknacks, and lots of gift wrapping materials (ribbons, wrapping paper, tape, scissors, cellophane bags, hole punches, and stickers). Customers will look at a menu of themes and make a gift for their friends, parents, or lovers. The waiters will only clean up after the customers and offer suggestions to them.

10. Movie: Make a movie with the club before the school festival (summer vacation is the best time to do this if your festival is later on in the year). Sit down with the club, write the script, schedule times to film, practice all the scenes, film, edit, and add Japanese subtitles.

11. English Scavenger Hunt: Give attendees a scavenger hunt paper with tasks such as “Find three married teachers” (3人の結婚したの教師を探してください). If they complete the task, they get a stamp on their paper. They can show their stamps at one location (if you have no room, use a kiosk or table-top cart) and get prizes. If you’re looking for examples of this kind of activity, it has been done at the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in Okinawa for their annual festivals (おきなわ国際協力・交流フェスティバル[English][Japanese] ).

If you’re having trouble coming up with school festival ideas for your English club or the English Speaking Society, just think of a fundraiser or carnival event and try that.

Free Screentones Giveaway Winner! 2014

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In honor of Jade’s Escape’s most popular post, “Screentones for Manga Artists Outside of Japan”, I held a giveaway to win free screentones straight from Japan.

The winner of this contest is… SYS, an Indonesian manga artist of Sang Sayur (The Edibles). She not only claims several packs of screentones but an Attack on Titan puccho, or soft chew, candy (only in Japan) and a few other treats that’re only in Japan.  candyattackontitan

 

Want to win stuff straight from Japan? Look for the next contest announcement in Jade’s Escape’s posts!

Japan: Land of Interesting Chocolates

Every month, there’s always new chocolate appearing on my desk. Gotta love Japan, Land of the Omiyage!

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FEBRUARY – A librarian I talk to every week gave me this cat chocolate as a トモチョコ (tomochoko), or friend’s chocolate, which is becoming more common between women on Valentine’s Day. In Japan, Valentine’s Day is a day where girls give boys chocolate and sweets. No, it’s not a day to subject Japanese women to being, well, subjected. On March 14, boys “return” the chocolate and sweets that was given to them by the girls. As Japanese girls become women, they still do this tradition, but I’ve noticed how every year, the women get more disgruntled with giving ギリチョコ (girichoko), or obligation chocolates. I suppose this friend’s chocolate is a way of saying, “Valentine’s Day isn’t just for guys.”

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MARCH – This one came from my student who went to Tokyo as part of her school trip. Every year, Japanese students (usually second years or eleventh graders) visit different parts of Japan. I understand going to different parts of the country, but its really hard for poor students. They usually pay anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000 to make this week-long trip. My student went to the Skytree, the new tower in Tokyo (not to be confused with Tokyo Tower).

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APRIL – This $5 chocolate is one I bought for myself at Lawson’s (one of many convenience store chains in Japan). It features characters from my favorite recent anime, Attack on Titan (新劇の狂人, Shingeki no Kyoujin).

#2 of 33 Art Projects in a Year

#2: The Ryukyu Star Winter 2014 Cover

I’m the visual editor for an online magazine for Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET Programme) teachers in Okinawa. I’ve decided to completely change the design of the magazine to make it more efficient as a magazine. To commemorate this change, I took the skills I learned on Photoshop and used it to color this mediocre inking of a horse.

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This horse was drawn without any preliminary sketches. I wanted to keep it fun and a little messy by just going at it with a Copic multiliner pen.

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Next was tracing it in Illustrator and ignoring the whites.Image

I transferred the image to Photoshop and used many layers underneath the vector to color it.

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Since I was using InDesign for designing the layout of the magazine, I decided to put the final product in InDesign. I always get the cover sizes wrong, so it’s just easier and cleaner.

You Can Make a Piñata in Japan!

I don’t like balloons. I loathe them. So what was I to do when websites kept saying, “Hey, you have to use a balloon”? Find another balloon-phobic soul with piñata-making skills on a budget!

I made my piñata, a beautiful and large Frankenstein head, with cardboard, tape, hot glue gun glue, and origami paper. If you go to Daiso, it’s around $5 of material. It’s the labor that sells a Halloween piñata for $17 (Oriental Trading). Took me a day to make!
For a step-by-step guide to make a cheap piñata, please go to http://keephomesimple.blogspot.jp/2013/02/how-to-make-homemade-pinata-for-under-5.html.