Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Author Spotlight: Natsuo Kirino

This is the first in a series which will go on to create our "Recommended Books" page. We'll start with one of my favourite modern authors:

Natsuo Kirino is a wonderfully bitter writer who produces daunting character studies of disturbed, claustrophobic personalities (as would be expected of someone living in Tokyo, I guess).

Monday, March 28, 2011

Ishinomaki City Volunteering

Peace Boat, an organisation based in Tokyo, has started a volunteer programme dishing out meals etc in Ishinomaki city. You can go there with them for up to a week, or help in Tokyo with fundraising etc. More info is on their volunteering website here.

Quake/Tsunami Update: Socks for Japan

A couple of people have asked for updates on this, so here's the situation as I understand it (please comment if you have any leads).

A lot of the things which were reportedly happening turned out to be not much more than rumours. Several local authorities have sent groups of volunteers to hand out water etc, but because of logistical problems they have been very small groups, with places being filled up within hours of becoming available. Your best bet is to make a friend in your local city office and get them to keep you updated.

When larger-scale things come around, I'll be sure to post. For now, there are several things you can do, as well as donating food, baby supplies and blankets (most cities have at least one drop-off point for this kind of thing). For example, we found a website dedicated to sending socks to the needy (there's apparently a massive shortage). You can read about that here: This site accepts donations from all over the world, so it's a great idea to contact places of work/schools in your home countries to get a programme started.

I know this can be a bit frustrating for those of us who want to do real hands-on helping, but it's incredibly important stuff.

Things To Do: Shiga Prefecture

Shiga houses Biwako, or Biwa Lake - a large and beautiful getaway very close to Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya and Gifu.

Here's a map with virtually everything worth doing in the prefecture.

Just like our other maps, this is a work in progress, so please let us know of any places you have been or know about which should be added. Thanks.

View Things to do in Shiga-ken ( in a larger map

Sunday, March 27, 2011

WS: Intro for New JHS Students

When your kids come up from elementary to JHS, you want to ease them in. I really don't know how well JHS teachers do that, but when I worked at both levels I came up with a simple idea for English.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Job Spotlight:

TOP is a recruitment consultant that specializes in Japanese-English bilingual job positions with (usually large) Japanese firms. They advertise positions both within Japan and across the U.S., and they have branches in Tokyo as well as 5 major U.S. cities. Their listings also include some English- or Japanese-language-only jobs.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Recycling in Japan: a Guide

It's a bit of a cliche to go on about Japan's efficiency, cleanliness or tendency to recycle obsessively. But if you live here then you've probably have a few headaches sorting your rubbish.

For that reason, AccessJ has put together a guide to help you find your recycling feet, a post to consider when determining living costs in Japan.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Japan Radiation Checker

Here's a map I found for checking the radiation levels across Japan.

A lot of people seem concerned, so here it is.

Save on Apartment Rent and Deposits

So, we talked a bit about the kinds of fees that factor into the property deposit on a new apartment in Japan. The general conclusion is that it is easy to burn through a lot of money setting yourself up. Here, we introduce some tips to help you save a few of those ichi-man yen notes from the fire.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Nuclear Event Explained (for kids)

The best explanation you'll see/hear about Fukushima power plant. I hope this calms some of you down, too.

WS: "Will you..." JHS 2nd Grade

This is another edition of the Teacher Bingo idea I used in my "Did you...", "Do you know how to..." and "Can you" sheets, and is another example of not being afraid to reuse ideas.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Nagano City's Hidden Chausuyama Dinosaur Park (and Zoo)

Right next to the zoo in Nagano is the greatest surprise find of my time in Japan: the dinosaur park! And best of all, it's free!

A great stop for all the family if you're visiting, and a fantastic remedy to the boring visa trip for those of you stationed in Nagano prefecture.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Donate for Free Through AccessJ

AccessJ will donate 100% of the revenue generated on this site to victims of the quake and those organisations helping them, as well as 100% of what we have earned so far this year (unfortunately not that much money).

We make money through out advertisements, so you can help just by clicking the adverts on the right-hand side of the screen. If you enter your details after clicking we will earn substantially more (up to 1 or 2 dollars a time), and it won't cost you anything.

Quake: Shimoina Donation Drive

A friend of mine sent me this today. I know a lot of people in Shimoina, so here's a donation guide for those people.

If you know of any other drives in your area/town, let me know so I can post it here

Quake: Foreigner Office Contact Details and Radioactivity Reports

A friend of mine sent this over from her consulate today. It's from the embassy, so it's going to be the most reliable information you can find right now.

There are two pdfs:

Contact information for local offices in Tohoku District (dealing with foreigners)
Official report on radiation levels (today's)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

More Navigating of Property Deposits

Several months ago, we outlined some of the major points of the monetary deposits you'll be likely to make when you rent an apartment in Japan. After some more first-hand experience on the matter, we have some more details to add, and in the next post, we'll share some money-saving strategies to use in your apartment hunt.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Earthquake Blood Drive Guidelines

Most Japanese cities will be holding blood drives. Beware, though, that the rules governing who can and cannot are very strict. The guy over at Mutantfrog Travel translated the Japanese Red Cross guidelines (pasted below).

The most significant of the guidelines is that people from the UK probably cannot donate, due to our history of BSE.

Here's the full text:

Quake: Power Outage Area Map

Group3 - Yellow - 6:20~10:00
Group4 - Red - 9:20~13:00
Group5 - Blue - 12:20~16:00
Group1 - Green - 15:20~19:00
Group2 - Orange - 18:20~22:00

A Yahoo maps version (Japanese) has also been made.

View power outage area map in a larger map. Courtesy of Sawa Shima via Facebook.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Quake Assistance: Baby Supplies

Understandably, one of the things in high demand in quake affected areas is baby goods.

Our local hospitals are collecting and sending supplies of baby milk (脱脂粉乳), diapers etc. Check with yours if they're running something similar.

Quake Assistance: Volunteer Translator

The Japan Association of Translators is collating a list of those willing to lend translating assistance during the crisis. If you can speak more than one language (you may still be needed if one of them isn't Japanese), please email them your name, address, as many contact details as you can provide (skype, phone etc), tell them what you're able to do and how (via-phone, in person etc).

Here's their list.
E-mail your details to

Earthquake Relief Update

Although national hands-on volunteer programs are yet to start, you can help at this stage in the limited capacity of making a donation. A lot of people have been advising giving to your nation's Red Cross, which is a good idea. Here's the American page, the English page, Australia, New Zealand, and Google is forwarding donations to the Japanese Red Cross here.

You can also donate through Yahoo Japan, and this site has a list of Japanese language charities taking donations for this cause. Time published an article called "Six Ways You Can Help Victims in Japan"

You can see the Japanese Red Cross' relief efforts on their website, and details of giving blood on their Japanese page.

For those living in Japan, as things start to settle down and the rehousing begins there will be a significant need for new or used appliances/home goods. When large-scale collections start we'll post more information.

Up-to-date reports on current quakes and aftershocks are best found on the Japanese MET Agency website.

Google's quake page offers a people finder, transportation news, etc.

A guide has been issued in numerous languages to help you cope with this or future quakes or aftershocks.

Buying a House in Japan: Foreclosed Properties 裁判競売

You may know that it's possible to buy foreclosed properties. That is, property seized from the owner due to non-payment of the mortgage etc.

You can do this in Japan, too (called saibankeibai 裁判競売). Two websites which lists such opportunities are (English) and (Japanese).

If you're looking to buy a house in Japan then this is a great alternative to the regular method.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

WS: Year End Quiz for 1st and 2nd Grade JHS

These are based off the New Crown textbooks, but you can easily transfer the idea to your own book.

They are pretty self-explanatory, so take a look.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Earthquake Aftermath Cleanup

I'm sure by now the whole world is aware of the terrible earthquake we had yesterday.

As soon as it is possible, I will be travelling to the worst affected areas to help in the clean-up operation.

As soon I get information on when these operations will begin, where needs volunteers the most, and what you can do to get involved, I will post it here.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Importing/Exporting Your Pet/Livestock from or to Japan

I've seen a lot of questions along these lines over the last couple of years - someone wants to bring their Darling Chihuahua to Japan/take home their pig.

Often the advice is "don't do it - it's far too complicated."

In actual fact, although you do need to be organised (several months in advance), the process itself isn't especially difficult.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Accommodation: Budget Hotels

Budget accommodation options aren't limited merely to Youth Hostels, sleeping in Internet cafes, sleeping on a stranger's sofa, squeezing into a capsule hotel or finding a love hotel. You can also find yourself a decent bed for the night at some of Japan's budget hotels.

The price can be very reasonable, as can the quality if you pick carefully. Here's a guide to finding good deals.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Highway Tolls Cheaper for 2011

Starting in April, 2011, highway drivers in Japan can rejoice. The Ministry of Transport* announced last month its new toll policy for use of the country's national superhighway system (高速道路). Pretty much everything, unless you are a professional trucker, gets cheaper.
*(that is, "The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism")

Let's take a look how:

Sunday, March 06, 2011

WS: Do You Know How To...? JHS 3rd G

This is taught in Junior High towards the very end of 3rd grade.

This sheet is very similar to my first grade Did You..? sheet, in that students have to guess if you know how to do something or not, and then play bingo with their answers vs the truth (correct answer = one filled bingo square).

Friday, March 04, 2011

Cherry Blossom Blooming Calendar

Japan-Guide has a useful big-city page on this, but here is a more detailed schedule for this year's sakura blooming which was found in a similar format on the March AJET eBulleten:

Full bloom dates are approximate:

Thursday, March 03, 2011

PT: Weird J Cars

Photo Tuesday makes a triumphant return on Thursday! Here are a couple of bizarre cars I saw this week.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

J Cellphone Novels

Over the past several years, the cellphone novel has taken off as a new storytelling genre in Japan. The stories are lauded as a way to keep kids reading and at the same time criticized as piles of incomplete sentences built with simplistic vocabulary.

...which means they're perfect for students of Japanese!