Philippines Community Service Trip 2015

Do you love travelling and giving back to others? National AJET is planning a spring break community service trip to the Philippines in March 2015. We have partnered with Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation (GK), a local Filipino NGO, to sponsor a 5-day, 4-night excursion in Metro Manila. Since its establishment in 2003, Gawad Kalinga has tirelessly worked to end poverty in the Philippines. Recently, they have been rebuilding the damage done by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

Would you like to take part in this journey to rebuild the Philippines? Volunteers will build homes and organize English activities for the local children. Aside from the community service, you’ll have plenty of time to visit places that rival even Hawaii’s famous tourist areas. Volunteers will also have the opportunity to spend 3 days in a premiere tourist destination. Take the jump into another island-hopping adventure! To join this heartwarming experience that you will never forget, contact our Director of Volunteering, Tka Tyne, by November 14th.

Important Information

  • Program Fee*: 12,000 Philippines Pesos, approximately 30,000 yen (includes airport pick-up & drop-off, transportation, build site, on-site accommodation w/ beneficiaries, meals during build/tour, 2 nights lay-over at hotel in Metro Manila- arrival & departure, and build/tour kit)
  • Maximum participants: 25
  • Project Dates: March 28th through April 1st, 2015
  • Rest Time: April 1st through April 4th, 2015
  • Fly back to Japan: April 5th, 2015
  • Flight to and from Philippines: Dependent on your departure location
  • Round-trip flight from Manila to rest site: Approximately 60,000 yen, but subject to change

*Program fee is subject to change based on exchange rate.

AJET Connect Magazine October 2014

The October AJET Connect is ready to download!

October 2014 AJET Connect

The changing of the seasons brings with it unique changes to food, fashion, and fun. Connect magazine is here to tell you everything you need to know about the fall! Join us this month as we talk about seasonal events, autumn wardrobes, fall foodstuffs, and cool-weather sports. You’ll also see the return of several ongoing features, such as In the News, VS, Ask Sempai, and Spotlight! October also brings back Connect Comics, with new comics from Marika Jackson, Christopher Chong, and Mary Cagle, creator of the popular webcomic Kiwi Blitz and current Miyagi JET!

October 2014 issue of AJET Connect (45MB PDF)

JET Alumni Involvement in Tourism/Economic Activities

National AJET is currently conducting surveys to assess touristic and economic aspects of the JET Programme. We hope to make the case for the value of the JET Programme to both Programme sponsors and third parties beyond education and internationalization; to this end, we will be asking for responses from not only current JETs, but also JET alumni.

For current JET participants, please respond to the survey here.

For JET alumni, please respond to the survey here.

The surveys will be open from September 26th to October 13th. All answers are collected anonymously. Please take the time to complete these surveys so that your AJET National Council may better serve your interests at the 2014 Winter Opinion Exchange meetings with the three Ministries and CLAIR this December.

Feel free to contact us at pr@ajet.net with any questions or feedback you may have. Your input is highly valued and we appreciate your time and assistance.

Professional Development Call: John Finucane

John Finucane

On September 30th, 2014, National AJET held its 4th professional development conference call.

During this call, we interviewed John Finucane, an alumni JET from Ireland who has successfully transitioned into the Japanese education industry as a homeroom English teacher at Chiba Kokusai, about his experience and how JET helped him prepare to enter the field.

A few of John’s accomplishments since JET include speaking at numerous conferences and seminars, establishing a professional organization of educators and peer-reviewed journal based in Saitama City, and self-publishing “A Teacher’s Handbook for Debate.”

If you have trouble listening above, click here to download the audio file.

Summertime Swimming in Kyushu

This piece is brought to us by Kumamoto’s prefectural magazine, The Yoka. This story (and a great piece on skateboarding, featured in the upcoming October issue of Connect) came from the Summer 2014 issue.

Contributed by Chris Ott, Kumamoto

Summer is here. And with summer comes the vivid rice fields and blue skies above green mountains. It is truly a beautiful season in Japan. But with summer also comes the heat! Kumamoto summer is notoriously hot and humid, and perspiration becomes a continual state of being. Air-conditioned stores become oasis-like havens from the sweltering afternoons, and tap water never seems cold enough. But there is a silver lining to this horrible heat: swimming in rivers. Having so many great rivers to swim in during the summer makes answering the all so frequent “Which season do you like best?” question difficult. Spring and fall seem obvious answers, but oh the summer swimming! In Kumamoto and Kyushu there are numerous swimming holes where one can go to quelch that summer heat and forget for a couple hours that it’s 36 degrees out with 70 percent humidity. And I am here to tell you about them. Below is a list of some of the great swimming holes on the island.

Ryumon Taki / 竜門の滝

(Aso and Oguni ALTs are closest. Google coordinates: 33.275758,131.206666)

ryumon 1ryumon 2

Ryumon Taki with its waterfall, swimming hole, and natural water slides, is one the more spectacular places to swim at on the island. It has a little bit of everything. There is a huge, deep pool for swimming. There is great diving to be done from the rock cliff, which you can see in the left side of the photo, or from the waterfall (aaahhhh!). For those with a sturdy inner-tube, the slides are fun. And there is also a great place for barbecuing, which is out of the picture to the right. Ryumon Taki is located in Kokonoe Machi (九重町), which is just northeast of Kumamoto, in Oita. It’s about a 2 hour drive from Kumamoto city. In the nearby area there are onsens to soak in. There is even a luke warm one (Fukumotoya/福元屋) that is tucked into a cave on a river bank, perfect for the summer time. It’s a mixed bathing onsen, so it’s good for a group chat (girls and guys can wear towels in the water). Here is a picture taken from the jumping cliff near the top of the water slides. This picture was taken during an ALT event in early September.

Yougan Pool / 溶岩プール

(Aso ALTs are closest. Google coordinates: 32.894345,131.1007)

Upper Yougan pool

Yougan means lava in Japanese, and this is, yes, a “lava pool”. This gem of a swimming hole is located about halfway up the side of Mt. Aso. If there is such a thing as a purist when it comes to swimming holes, this place would be a purist’s dream. In addition to being beautiful and deep, it also has as pure of water as you can find because there is no human development or activity above the pool. This pool also doesn’t seem to be very well-known, so if you go, it is likely that you will be the only one there. Skinny dipping anyone??? The water is surprisingly not cold, and it’s possible to swim there up into October. There are two pools to enjoy (the above pic is the upper pool):

Upper Yougan poolLower Yougan pool
Upper and lower yougan pools
Kikuchi (菊池) swimming holes

(Kikuchi and Yamaga ALTs are closest. Google coordinates: 33.007872,130.881347)

Kikuchi swimming hole

If the summer temps are too much and you are aching to ache from some serious cold water, wanting to numb that persistent heat, then Kikuchi River is the place to go. Kikuchi River is popular not only for Kikuchi Gorge, but also for its swimming holes. Both of the places pictured here are fairly popular and are full of eager swimmers in the summer. The river is fairly (extremely?) cold, and after swimming in the water a while you’ll completely forget about the heat that earlier drove you to contemplate whether the ice pack would do more good under your armpit or down the pants.

Oono keikoku / 大野渓谷

(Hitoyoshi ALTs are closest. Google Coordinates: 32.14762,130.782277)

Oono Kiekoku

For those of you living in the Hitoyoshi area, this pool is nice for a quick dip. The water is deep here, so you can enjoy jumping from the rocks. It’s also likely that you will have the place to yourself. There are some downsides to this place though: it’s in a narrow gorge with a lot of tree cover, so you don’t get much direct sunlight outside of midday; and there is no beach, only rocks to sit on. It’s also a bit of a hike down to the river on the trail. It’s still fantastically beautifully though. This place could have been in The Beach.

Mother Nature Campground

(Kikuchi and Yamaga ALTs are closest. Google coordinates 33.090553,130.821802)

Mother Nature Campground

I probably frequent this swimming hole the most, even though it is the least picturesque of all the spots mentioned here. Perhaps it’s the waterslide, which is really fun, even though it’s short. This swimming hole is man-made, but it uses mountain river water from a nearby river. For those people who like swimming spots with amenities, there are toilets, drinking fountains, vending machines, and a small campground store that usually has some snacks, like chips or ice cream. There is an access fee of 200 yen. This place also has bungalows and would be a really good place to organize a JET event.

And just down the road from here there is Yatani Gorge (矢谷 渓谷). It is always packed during the summer with people enjoying the river scene. There is an unusual water hole to dive into, and natural water slides for taking some of the color out of the rear of your swim shorts or bathing suits.

Shiraiwato Park (白岩戸公園)

(Yatsushiro and Misato ALTs are closest. 32.560269,130.802321)

Shiraiwato Park

This swimming area has a decent river bar to lounge on, and a rock to jump off of. The park area is also good for picnicking and tossing the Frisbee. Just downstream from the park there is a short hike that goes up to a long foot bridge that crosses the river.

Shirataki Park (白滝公園)

(Yatsushiro, Hitoyoshi, and Misato ALTs are closest. 32.444197,130.778074)

Shirataki ParkShirataki Park

This is a really picturesque place to take a dip. The swimming area isn’t particularly deep, so no diving, but the river is quite the site, running through a stunning gorge with rock formations rising high above it. There is also a cave from which issues spring water. You can just see the cave in the center of the picture.

Isuzugawa(五十鈴川)

(Misato, Yamato, Aso, and Hitoyoshi ATLs are closest. 32.510811,131.552341)

Isuzugawa

For any Americans (I can’t speak for other nationalities) that are looking for an American river experience, then this swimming hole is the one for you. The river is fairly wide, the water is warm, there is a jumping rock, a there is even a big sandy beach for barbequing (the beach isn’t shown in the photo, it’s to the right). This is one of the best river spots for a big group outing, river barbequing and merriment, and free camping. And there is an added bonus: in the river there are Dr. Fish like you see in onsen lobbies, so you can sit back in the warm water and let finish nibble on you.

This is one place where you really need to bring sunscreen because your whole day will be a pleasant rotation between sitting on a warm (or scalding hot) sunny beach and floating in warm, slow water. This place is located in northeastern Miyazaki and is about a 2 hour drive from Kumamoto city.

Honjou River(本床川)

(Hitoyoshi ALTs are closest. 32.029085,131.170132)

Honjou RiverHonjou River

This place has the most potential to be an amazing Japanese sightseeing experience that you’ll want to write to your friends and family about. It’s located in southwestern Miyazaki and is about a 2 hour drive from the Kumamoto city.

I’m just going lay out what this place has to offer in bullet format.

  • A scenic 1~2 km stretch of river running along Japan’s largest remaining virgin forest. It’s perfect for inner tubing, though it is necessary to get out and walk in a couple of places. There is a trail that runs along the river making access possible. The trail also makes for a nice hike.
  • One of Japan’s top 100 cold water springs is located along this stretch of river, so you can get out an quench your thirst on some sweet 名水 (meisui: delicious water)
  • There is a HUGE campground area (pictured below) that is in the middle of nowhere. The campground isn’t even labeled on many maps, and I’m not sure if many people know about it. It’s the perfect place to break out the boom box and do some lively camping. The campground has a nice restroom, though no drinking water.
  • Across the river, there is an even larger flat area that used to be a homestead or something many many years ago, and it would be a great place for noisier camping, sports, picnicking and sunbathing.
  • There is a trail leading from the camping area across the river to a very rural and beautiful shrine in the mountains that is surrounded by an old peach orchard that must be more than a hundred years old. I wonder if anyone still picks the peaches, as there is no road to the shrine or orchard, and there are no houses for many a kilometer.
  • The 2nd longest suspension foot bridge in Japan is a couple kilometers down from the camp area. It used to be the longest one, but now the longest one is in the Kuju area.
  • Just past the foot bridge is a restaurant that serves amazing deer and wild bore meat that is caught locally. You can even have deer sashimi there – it’s good!
  • About 10 kilometers upstream from the campground is a place called Sukimurando, where for 8000 yen (per person) you can rent out a whole traditional Japanese thatched roof house, and wear a yukata around and feel like you are back in the Edo period. The 8000 yen also includes an out-of-this-world traditional Japanese dinner and breakfast. There is a nearby onsen, too (ticket included in the 8000 yen). The onsen is one of the only onsens in Kyushu that has a hot rock sauna that you can actually poor water over the rocks yourself. The rocks were imported from a Scandinavian country.
  • Here is the website for Sukimurando: http://www.sukimuland.jp/tomaru/tomaru.html

This river and camping area would be a great place to organize a JET camping – inner tubing – hiking – bbqing – frisbee playing – merry making – sightseeing event.

Caution

Last, I have some words of advice and caution. The rainy season runs well into July, so during the end of July and early August rivers can be running a bit high. Make sure to be careful and not go swimming in any swift rivers. Also, rice paddies are drained sometime in late summer, so try not to drink the river water then.

If you have any questions about any of these spots, send me an email at christopherott@hotmail.com.

Happy swimming!

AJET Connect Magazine September 2014

The September AJET Connect is ready to download!

September 2014 AJET Connect

The September issue marks a new year for Connect after our Tokyo Orientation special edition. We return to great stories and photos of the community in Japan. We’ve also tuned up the design for easy reading on your computer, smartphone, or any mobile device. Open it up for a look through Japan’s days of fashion past, summer’s important news, comparisons of Japan and America’s New Wave movement, tips for cooking in a Japanese kitchen, sports tournaments throughout the country, and an all new Spotlight section chock-full of awesome people. We’re always on the lookout for great insights and experiences to share with the community, and we’re always listening to your comments and questions. Give us a clip, click the comment button, or find us on Facebook and Twitter.

September 2014 issue of AJET Connect (40MB PDF)

Become an Urban Explorer: Guide to Haikyo

Contributed by S. Elizabeth Thomas

Haikyo, meaning ruins or abandoned buildings in Japanese, is synonymous with urban exploration. It’s the exciting subculture of discovering and photographing overgrown temples, failed amusement parks and dilapidated schools. This unconventional hobby is especially popular in Japan. Intrepid haikyo-seekers never know what they’ll find.

The beautiful

haikyo1

The surreal

haikyo3

The terrifying

haikyo2

Japan is a hidden haikyo wonderland, just waiting to be uncovered. When the economy bust in the 1980s, many love hotels, attractions and homes were deserted. But Japan accumulates old buildings for many reasons. Buying new homes in Japan is more popular than renovating older ones. The tax system makes it difficult to demolish aging buildings, so property owners to leave them to rot. Even if property owners want to renovate the older structures, strict housing regulations can create impossible barriers. Not that this is a bad thing for the urban explorers.
Haikyo may be endangered if new government regulations make their way into law. Grab your camera and sense of adventure; start exploring the hidden side of Japan while you can.

What if you go into a Haikyo and find… your name?

What if you go into a Haikyo and find… your name?

This calling card was found on the floor of the Queen’s Chateau by one of the local haikyo explorers. It happens to have my name on it.

My Experience

I was first introduced to haikyo by chance. Down the street from a party I attended was one of the most famous haikyo in Ibaraki: the Queen Chateau love hotel. It was a water brothel in the late 80s. It was closed for hiring illegal foreign workers. The Chateau – like many haikyo – has a kind of haunting beauty. We gazed at it from across the street at the massive, grinning queen of hearts. I was hooked.

Queen Chateau – by Susan Thomas

Queen Chateau – by Susan Thomas

Where can I find haikyo?

Finding a good haikyo spot isn’t easy. Sometimes you get lucky and stumble upon one. If you are serious about the hobby, you might want to invest in the haikyo-goers bible, 廃墟本 (Haikyo-hon): The Ruins Book series. These books list the best haikyo spots in Japan complete with maps. They are only available in Japanese, so dust off your Japanese dictionary.

Looking online can be a frustrating experience. There are an endless number of haikyo photography sites in English. This is a good starting point. These sites rarely give you any useful information for finding the haikyo stunningly displayed their photos. At best, you’ll get a city name. At worst, you’ll see your haikyo dreams crash and burn while your pleas for assistance go unanswered. Veterans fear the spots will be overrun with casual thrill-seekers. Lots of tourists mean more graffiti, pocketed souvenirs, stolen furniture and chained up doors. Also, these photographers don’t want their hard sought-after photos to become ubiquitous on the web.

You’ll have more luck poking around the Japanese haikyo forums. Japanese urban explorers seem to be more willing to share information. A lot of the Japanese sites even have maps and addresses.

It’s not a challenge if the information is handed to you. Think of it like a treasure hunt. The Goonies wouldn’t have been very exciting if One-Eyed Jack had painted a giant arrow on the side of the cliff by the beach. You have to work for your abandoned pirate ships, gold and water slides.

Other local haikyo: abandoned wedding hall- Although in the middle of nowhere, you can see how the wedding hall was once a fashionable place. Now it’s just a memory.
wedding hall1

Japanese Stigmas: Ghost and Curses

“Oh, I would never go there” is the answer I get from most Japanese people when I mention urban exploration. Why? Ghosts roam in abandoned places. Japan is an interesting mix of the technologically advanced and traditional. Potential ghosts are a real, modern-day fear. One of my Japanese friends is a scientist. He claims to not believe in ghosts, yet he would never venture into abandoned temples or forgotten hospitals. Why? It’s just in case, in case he’s wrong.

Once one of my haikyo-explorer friends took a few charms from an abandoned temple. He proudly showed his Japanese girlfriend, who proceeded to yell at him. She claimed he’d be cursed if he kept the charms. This was a real fear for her. He ended up throwing the charms away to make her happy. This is apparently a good way to subvert on-coming curses. A little superstitious? Maybe, but remember The Grudge took place in an abandoned house. If wandering obake is your fear, you might need a different hobby.

Haikyo temple hidden in the hills - Closed down due to scam operations, it has an otherworldly  feel.

Haikyo temple hidden in the hills – Closed down due to scam operations, it has an otherworldly feel.

Mortuary Tablets at the Scam Temple in the Hills-picture by a local urban explorer  Mortuary Tablets at the Scam Temple in the Hills-picture by a local urban explorer

Mortuary Tablets at the Scam Temple in the Hills-picture by a local urban explorer.

Tips and Needed supplies

When exploring a haikyo, you should bring a camera with a good flash, lantern, flashlight, fedora/whip combo (only if you want) and good shoes. Wear a Japanese medical mask if you’re worried about asbestos or mold. Some explorers use dust masks or respirators. Old, rugged clothing is best. Dark-colored clothing is especially useful if you need to hide from disapproving neighbors. Always bring a friend and a fully-charged cell phone.

Potential Dangers

Haikyo isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s risky, and that’s part of the charm. A lot of potential problems will be solved if you get permission to enter the ruin first. Otherwise, it’s trespassing. If you need to pry open a door or window to enter, it is breaking and entering. Taking an item, abandoned or not, from the building could be considered theft. You may find rotten floors, damaged infrastructure, broken glass and protruding nails. To add to the list, you may encounter asbestos, mold, unwelcoming squatters, unhappy neighbors, police, potential curses and more. It might be tempting to go at night, but, for safety reasons, late afternoon or early evening is better. Don’t go to a haikyo when it’s raining. Rain is absorbed into the wood and weakens the infrastructure. If you don’t have permission to enter, you can always take pictures from a public area, like the street or sidewalk. You can still appreciate an interesting haikyo from afar.

Haikyo Protocol

The urban explorer motto is “take only pictures and leave only footprints.” The more people pick away at the sites, the less will be left for future explorers. Finding a shell of a once great abandoned love hotel would be discouraging for anyone. So, it might be tempting draw all over the walls or steal that cup you found in the cabinet. Try to resist. A haikyo is relic, a forgotten window into Japan’s past. As you explore this unconventional historic site, try to have a little respect. If you don’t respect the building, respect the potential retribution from the ghosts in residence.

Tokyo Orientation 2014 issue now online!

Tokyo Orientation 2014 issue now online!

UPDATE: Fukushima AJET’s meeting time for their Group A & Group B welcome dinners has been changed to 8:30, and not 9:00 as printed in this issue.

Tokyo Orientation 2014 AJET Connect This issue, created special for the incoming JETs set to arrive this summer, is full of information about getting settled in and involved in Japan. Even if you’ve already been here for years, there’s still great tips for adjusting to the summer, becoming a great ALT, coping with homesickness, volunteering, and more. You can finally see the results of May’s mobile phone poll, as well! Also want to check out our brand new design, created specifically to look better on your screen and be more readable. Whether this is your first Connect, or you’ve been with us for a few years, there’s a lot of new and exciting things going on here. Give it a read!

Tokyo Orientation 2014 issue now online! (30MB PDF)

Departing JETs! A heartfelt message from Pam Kavalam, the vice president of JETAA New York

Dear Departing JETs,

Otsukare on completing your time on JET: the amazing experiences you’ve had these past one to five years will provide wonderful memories — and friends — for a lifetime! However, remember that your life as a JET doesn’t end when you leave Japan. You now join the ranks of 60,000 JET alumni and dozens of active JETAA chapters and subchapters around the world.

During the four months I spent job searching after I returned home to New Jersey, JETAA New York helped keep me busy. I did informational interviews with JET alumni in my field, wrote for JETwit, proofread articles for JQ Magazine, helped organize and attend events, and attended the JETAANY Career Forum and Welcome Back Reception. It also helped me build an incredible social and professional network that I still have today.

As you prepare for the journey home (or to someplace new), make sure to sign up for the JETAA chapter for your new destination. Soon enough, you could find yourself enjoying a sunset boat cruise in New York, volunteering at the Sister Cities International Conference in San Francisco, doing the Sumo Run in London, tasting sake in Minneapolis, or traveling to beautiful Tiritree Matangi Island in Auckland.

Here is a list of the JETAA chapters around the world and how to sign up via their website and Facebook: http://ajet.net/jetaa-chapters.

Gambatte and have a safe trip to your next adventure!

Pam Kavalam
vicepresident@jetaany.org
Shiga-ken ALT, 2007-2009
Vice President, JETAA New York

Moving (again!) in Japan

1505125_10152339700288205_942248436573476449_nYou already know how to pack, and you’ve probably moved before in your life, but what’s it like in Japan? What all do you need to do? We recently heard from Hannah Brown, a first-year JET in Oita prefecture who is currently in the process of moving apartments. She offered to share her experiences in the process, as well as some advice.

DISCLAIMER: Moving is not possible for some JETs and other employees in Japan due to contract stipulations. If you’re interested in moving, please get in touch with your supervisors first to discuss the possibility. You may be responsible for maintaining your provided apartment in addition to a new apartment, or not allowed to move at all.

So you’ve come to Japan, settled down into your new apartment and made a cozy little place for yourself. You’re happy there for a while, but then something happens: the space gets too small, you realize you want a lower rent or to live in a different area, or you decide to move in with a friend. In my case, all of the above happened to be true. This meant that I got to experience the absolute pleasure of moving from one apartment to another, just eight months after having moved into my first apartment in Japan. As my friend and I planned our move, we realized there were more steps to consider and more actions to take than we had previously thought. Luckily for you, I’ve been taking notes along the way. Here are the most important steps and tips to consider during your move according to my experience.

Finding a place

You have a few options for this. You can ask your supervisor to help you look (my supervisor was a pro at moving, so she was the best resource I could have asked for), you can use online real estate agent websites, or you can go to a real estate agent directly. Many cities will have multiple agencies who all offer different selections, so going to a few may not be a bad idea. I lost count after four…

Tip: If you are going to go to a real estate agent, be prepared to pay a hefty fee. When I finally chose a place, the final fee included the agent’s fee as well, which was a third the price of our key money! Real estate agents are very helpful, but if you want to save a few yen and do some exploring of your own, searching online is also a great resource.

Guarantors

Once you’ve found a place, you’ll need to do all the necessary paperwork, which includes a guarantor form. What is a guarantor? Called ‘hoshounin’ (保証人) in Japanese, a guarantor is a person who vouches for you in a loan or contract. In essence, they’re co-signing the apartment for you. If you skip a payment or run out on the apartment, your guarantor will cover the expenses. This means you need to find someone you trust, and who would be willing to co-sign for you. My supervisor and vice principal both offered to sign for me, so if you have that close of a relationship or are comfortable asking, they are good options.

Tip: Most places will ask for a guarantor, so be prepared with one BEFORE you find your place. There’s nothing worse than finding the perfect place and then having to hunt down a person to guarantee you. So start asking as soon as you start looking!

Key Money

This is lost money. Wave it goodbye and don’t look back, because it is very unlikely you will see any of it ever again. The key money for my place was 150,000 yen. As I gaped at this figure, trying to figure out what in the world my landlord was trying to pull, my supervisor helpfully asked if I would like an explanation of why it was so high. Nodding numbly, I listened. First you have to replace the tatami mats (about 50,000 yen), then there’s the cleaning and repainting (sayonara 30,000 yen), first month’s rent (50,000 yen invested into the place), and a safety deposit (a fabled 20,000 yen that may come back later). Thankfully my roommate and I were splitting the cost so it didn’t hurt us too much, but if you’re moving alone or in general, keep the key money cost in mind before you move in.

Before moving out

What did you have to do again? Internet, utilities, mail? What are you forgetting? How do you turn on the gas and water again? This is the hectic part of your move—an uphill battle with time and responsibilities. Push past it and you’ll reach the blissful flat area above where you can relax a little and enjoy the slow unpacking stage.

Once you’ve finalized that you’re moving, you should tell your landlord (if you haven’t already) that you’ll be moving. Give them a specific date that you’ll be out by (two weeks is a good timeframe), and ask some important questions: Does my rent cover the month before or the month behind? Are there any extra expenses I should pay for before leaving? When should I turn in the key? If you have tatami, ask about any special conditions pertaining to its replacement: is that your problem, or the next person’s?

Next on your list is to forward all mail to your new address and change your mailing address. This requires going to city hall, usually during the work day since those are the only hours they’re available. The process was relatively quick for me; however, every situation is different. I was moving during spring break and had an understanding vice principal, so I didn’t have to take time off, but that won’t always be the case. You should ask your supervisor to go with you if you aren’t confident in your Japanese skills (or if you’d just like some support).

At city hall you can also change your official address. For this you will need your gaijin registration card and your inkan. Always take your inkan when filing important paperwork since you never know when you’ll need it.

Utilities

Changing utilities is surprisingly quick and easy to do. You can start and stop electricity and water at any time simply by calling the companies and making appointments to do so. No one needs to be home, and you’ll receive the bill for the utilities used after your last bill. Turning on the gas, however, requires someone to be home. Keep this in mind.

Also, watch out! If you don’t have automatic withdrawal for your utilities, the bill will be sent to your home address. Whether that’s your old or new one is hard to say, so keep an eye on both and check them frequently.

Internet is the same as electricity, except that depending on when you are calling (if it’s a busy time of year) you may have to wait two weeks or more from the time you call to set up internet at your new place. Thankfully you don’t have to be there when they shut it off or turn it on, unless you have wireless. In that case you may have to present. Check with the provider when signing up.

Presents

Cultural note! When you leave your old apartment and move into your new one, there’s an important step you must make. This is hikkoshi no aisatsu (moving greeting) and the buying of soshina or aisatsushin. Just like omiyage is the giving of a present after a trip and giri-choco is obligation chocolate, soshina is the obligatory “bribe” gift for your new neighbors and landlord, and a “thank you” gift for your old landlord and former neighbors (if you’re close to them). A small tin of chocolate, cookies, or senbei will work for the neighbors, and a larger one for your past and future landlords. Of course buy special gifts according to how close you are to people, and whether they helped you at one point or another.

Other paperwork to file

Fill out the change of address form with CLAIR

If you’re moving in with a roommate, make sure you decide whose fridge and washing machine you’re going to keep. Find out who the unwanted ones belong to (your school, BOE etc.) and make arrangements for them to be moved.

If you’re registered under any governmental sites such as the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), make sure to change your address so they can reach you in case of an emergency.

If you are a US citizen, you will need to file an 8288 form with the IRS before you file taxes. This lets them know that you have changed addresses. For other nationalities, check with your federal government for their particular requirements.

Summary

  1. Find a place. Choose whether to use a real estate agent or not.
  2. Find a guarantor. File necessary paperwork
  3. Pay key money
  4. Notify old landlord
  5. Change mailing address and forward all mail
  6. Change official address
  7. Stop utilities and internet at the old apartment, start at the new.
  8. Hand out presents to old landlord and neighbors, as well as new ones.
  9. Change address with governmental sites, CLAIR, and IRS/Tax agencies.

Congrats! Now that you’ve somehow managed to move all your things to your new place, all you have to do is unpack! Treat yourself and those brave souls who helped you move with some relaxation and a good meal. You all deserve it.

Hannah Brown is a first-year JET living in Oita prefecture. Passionate about food and cultures, she spends most of her time investigating both through cooking and searching for delicious food spots where she can chat with the people in her community. When not in the kitchen or talking with others, you can find her hiking and exploring her area… Which she will resume doing once she’s fully unpacked!

Announcing the 2014-2015 Connect magazine team

Connect magazine is happy to announce its new team for the year. These men and women will be working hard to bring you useful, interesting content to help connect you to Japan and the community no matter where you are.

First off, our heartfelt thanks to everyone who took the time to reply and respond to the call for a new Connect team. It’s great to know how many of you want to be involved, and hearing all of your ideas and feedback was truly inspiring. This year, we received over 50 applications for 10 positions (20 of which were for Travel). Please know that, even if you were not selected to serve on the main Connect team this year, we appreciated and read everything you wrote, and hope that you will continue to support and contribute to Connect magazine throughout the year (and apply next year as well)!

Now, let us introduce the team that will be working to produce quality issues of Connect every month this year. You’ll notice a new structure of 4 main sections with small teams of editors working together. We hope that this will streamline Connect and raise the bar even higher on the content we bring you.

NEWS & EVENTS

Erika Klein — News Editor
Lacey Lee — Events Editor

ARTS & CULTURE

Verity Townsend — Culture Editor
Colin O’Neill — Entertainment Editor
Tom Legge — Travel Editor
Simon Griffin — Travel Editor

LIFESTYLE

Nick Powers — Food Editor
Hiroshi Fukushima — Sports Editor
Erica Grainger — Fashion Editor

COMMUNITY

Nathan Berne — Volunteering Editor
Vicki Clark — Public Relations (community & social media)
Michelle Castro — Public Relations (AJET & JETAA liaison)

PRODUCTION STAFF

Patrick Finn — Head Designer
Sterling Diesel — Assistant Designer
Hannah Killoh — Assistant Designer
Ola Weber — Copy Editor

Please join us in congratulating them all and wishing them well on what’s set to be a busy, busy year. We all hope that you, the community, will continue to send in your stories, tips, reviews, photos, comics, poems, and anything else from you head and heart to share. We’ll see you in July for our special Tokyo Orientation edition.

AJET Connect Magazine May 2014

The May AJET Connect is ready to download!

May 2014 AJET Connect

It’s only fitting that our last issue of Connect magazine before the summer break was our biggest and most challenging. In addition to all the new things we tried out, we wound up making this issue twice as the Computer Gods swallowed the first draft forever. We’re sorry for the wait, but we certainly think it’s worth it!

Check out the May issue for features on arcades, museums, KitKats, sake, baseball, geocaching, Korean hanami, charity yoga, men in tight spandex, pop culture trends, and more! We also talk about how you can work with Connect next year, or how you can give us your feedback from the comfort of your own keyboard. Please enjoy this last issue, and we’ll see you again in August!

May 2014 issue of AJET Connect (43MB PDF)

AJET Connect magazine applications (deadline extended)

Enjoy reading Connect magazine? Want to get involved? Applications for the 2014-2015 Connect team are open until June 1st at midnight!

Connect is a professional-level publication with contacts throughout Japan and readership throughout the world. Connect has been in the hands of embassies and government groups, and is a great way to gain work experience in the field of publications during your time in Japan.

You do not need to be a JET participant to be part of the team, but understand that this is an AJET-sponsored publication and that we will cover AJET-related matters in addition to lifestyle pieces and stories. You do need to currently be in Japan and plan to be in Japan until April/May of next year. If you have any questions about how Connect runs, what sort of responsibilities the positions entail, how much time you need to commit, or anything at all, you can contact me at connect.editor@ajet.net.

If you’re interested, please send me an email with the following by Sunday, June 1st:

  • Your name
  • Your prefecture
  • Position or section interested in (if section editor, up to three sections, ranked in order of preference)
  • Years you’ve been in Japan
  • Current profession
  • Approximate free hours per week
  • Non-detailed list of current time commitments
  • Relevant experience
  • Attached writing sample (document or link, if you don’t have anything on hand, write something new and interesting)
  • Favorite or interesting quote from any source

I will follow up with all interested applicants and ask a few more questions to help make my decision.

We are looking for the following new team members for the 2014-2015 year, starting in June.


SECTION EDITORS – ALL SECTIONS

Culture, Entertainment, Food, Travel, Fashion, Events, Volunteering, and Sports

A section editor’s primary responsibility is to source articles for Connect. You’ll work directly with members of the community to provide interesting and engaging content to keep the publication fresh and relevant. Each month you’ll be responsible for 5-6 pages of content for the section, and for editing what you receive (if you do not have experience editing, no worries, we can teach you!). You’ll also be responsible for writing a monthly one-page editorial on any topic of your choosing, as well as a monthly “about me” blurb and summary of your section. Section editors spend a lot of time emailing back and forth with contributors and the head editor to refine articles and plan for upcoming issues. You may apply for multiple sections in a single email, but limit it to three, in order of preference. To be considered, you must:

  • Be committed to and skilled at completing things on a deadline
  • Be quick and responsive with emails
  • Be good at finding people to write content every month, or seeking outside content to cross-publish
  • Preferably be plugged into and knowledgeable on the Japan side of things for the section you want to write for
  • Be willing to find great content beyond the normal Japanese magazine standards
  • Be open and honest (yet polite and professional) with the head editor and team about the work being done and how it can be improved
  • Have a few hours free per week in which to work on finding content and editing that content
  • Have a basic familiarity with word processors and cloud-based collaboration programs like Google Drive and Dropbox

PUBLIC RELATIONS MANAGER

Started last year, this position is very open in terms of responsibility and scope. The overarching goal of the PR manager is to promote Connect within the community and beyond. The PR manager works to get Connect articles in the hands of people who aren’t subscribed to eConnect News. We want to publish our content on Japan-related blogs and websites, and the PR manager works with these outside groups and sites to accomplish this. They also work with the head editor to discuss and plan ways to expand the reach of Connect in terms of new features and ways to connect with the readership. To be considered, you must:

  • Be highly independent and motivated
  • Have clear goals for Connect from the outset, and commit to pursuing them
  • Be skilled in networking and keeping up professional contacts
  • Be committed to keeping up with lots of Japan-related blogs and sites in order to promote Connect there
  • Find articles of interest to cross-publish in Connect magazine in order to create cooperative publishing relationships with outside sources
  • Read through Connect’s articles on a monthly basis to determine which are good candidates to share outside

CONTEST AND COMMUNITY MANAGER

New for this upcoming year, this is a good entry position for Connect for people with only a little bit of free time who still want to be part of the team. The Contest and Community Manager receives and organizes contest submissions for Connect’s cover photo contest and haiku page. These two features have been a mainstay of Connect since its beginnings, and they’re an important part of our community. The Contest and Community manager takes each month’s submissions, assembles them, and presents them to the head editor for voting and layout preparation. They also make sure all submissions have a title and name, and are up to the standards set by Connect in terms of image quality and usage rights. To be considered, you must:

  • Have an interest in working with Connect
  • Have a good editorial eye for detail
  • Have good organizational skills
  • Be able to work on a deadline
  • Be willing to promote the photo contest and haiku page in the community and find new contributors

ASSISTANT DESIGNERS

Also created last year to help with the enormous task of designing Connect’s visual elements and layout, the assistant designers work with the head designer to create Connect’s actual pages. The head designer handles the majority of the work, but assistant designers can be expected to clean up images, tweak layout, fix typos, adjust colors, and create original graphic elements (such as the recently included contributor map and sakura map). To be considered, you must:

  • Be creative, with a sense of style that works well with Connect’s visual identity
  • Have your own copy of Adobe design programs including Illustrator and inDesign
  • Have a familiarity with the above programs
  • Be “on-call” to provide assistance to the head designer when needed (the bulk of design work is done between the 15th and the end of the month)
  • Be able to work quickly and within given parameters
  • Take instruction well, while also suggesting your own ideas

I’m also pleased to announce that I’ll be serving as Connect’s head editor for another year. We’ve done a lot of good work, but I still have a lot planned, so I’m very happy to have another year to work with you all to make this magazine something great. Thanks, as always, for your support and contributions, and I look forward to seeing applications from you.

All the best,
Steven