Japan is a country of repressed emotion. It’s one of those stereotypes that are actually accurate. Younger generations are working to change this by doing crazy things like hugging their partners and actually telling them that they love them, but there are some events to help older people express their feelings too. One of these events is the most inaka thing I can think of. It takes place in Tsumagoi, Gunma-ken and consists of…..walking up onto a platform and screaming at your partner (who is standing in or around the surrounding cabbage fields) about how much you love them. And isn’t that really what romance is all about?
Kyabe-chu is a play on the Japanese word for cabbage, kyabetsu (キャベツ), and the onomatopoeia for a kiss, chu (チュ). 2019 was the 14th annual Kyabe-chu event. Once a year, loving couples converge on a specific hill that’s quite literally in the middle of cabbage fields. The hill is called Aisai no Oka (愛妻の丘), which translates to “the beloved wife’s hill.” Which is just….awww (✿´ ꒳ ` )
The process of Kyabe-chu is simple. You (traditionally the loving husband but a few women go up too) sign up when you come to the hill. The announcer calls your name and asks you who you’re proclaiming your love for, then the crowd helpfully finds that person and shoves them to the front. You walk up onto the platform and observe the stunning panoramic scene of cabbages as far as the eye can see. Then you take a deep breath and….yell. It’s a building up kind of a yell. You start with some chat, like how long you’ve been married, or how you’re grateful for your wife’s telepathy skills to always know when you had a bad day at work and need a cold beer (this was actually what one guy said). Then you move up to the real scream: [Name of partner] 愛してるよううううう!!!!
The farmers of Tsumagoi also work to contribute to the feeling of love on Aisai no Oka by growing a field of cabbages in the shape of the heart. Kyabe-chu participants can take one of the heart cabbages home to….fill their souls with cabbage-y love?
Members of the project also supply the event with cabbage themed food, some more questionable than others. You have some normal things, like minestrone soup with cabbage, or sandwiches with cabbage.
Then there are….the questionable items. This year’s treats included a yogurt mousse with cabbage powder jelly, cabbage ice cream, and mini choux creams made with cabbage powder. Being the brave soul that I am, I decided it was my duty to sample some of these concoctions.
As you can see, I had some severe doubts about how brave I really was once I actually had the cabbage-y items in hand. I sampled the cabbage mousse and the cabbage ice cream. The cabbage mousse actually wasn’t bad. It was a sweet, thick yogurt with the cabbage jelly on top. I mostly just tasted the yogurt with a weird, vaguely vegetable-y aftertaste. The cabbage ice cream, on the other hand….it wasn’t great. The cream wasn’t vanilla, instead just plain and sweet with an odd aftertaste. That was manageable. The bad part was the cabbage flecks frozen into ice cream. Ugh. They were horrible. Never again -2/10.
I took the opportunity to be one of only 3 women who screamed out their love at Kyabe-chu, and the only one to be yelling at a spouse that wasn’t actually present. I told the story of how I had been married for only one month, and I was waiting on the visa process to be reunited with my husband, then I screamed out a bunch of stuff in English. Apparently the prefectural news station was in awe of my love story and came to interview me afterwards. They asked me if I thought my husband heard my scream of “I love you!” all the way in America and I said he had definitely heard it. And then they didn’t use any of my interview on the evening news. That’s just how it goes sometimes ¯\(ツ)/¯
EDIT: Gunma TV (GTV) piece about Kyabe-chu, for which my glorious interview was not included キャベツ畑の中心で「愛してるよ～！」 群馬・嬬恋村(19/09/08)
Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared in our guest’s blog, Linka Learns Things. Thanks Linka for sharing this great article!
Our annual championship, the legendary Gunma Games, had perhaps the highest levels of friendly rivalry ever seen due to an epic meme war started by Aidan Koch. Thanks to all the JETs, both old and new, for coming out to battle! With Seibu claiming the Golden Cabbage this year, check out our gallery to see how the action went down.
Big thank-you to Haydn Zimmer for the great photos!
This crucial lesson was learned by our group of fifteen fearless climbers as we all made our best attempt to conquer Mount Fuji in a revitalized GAJET event, spearheaded by Valerie and Alex. Thinking back on those two long August days, we’ve made a collection of thoughts on the highs on lows. Read on to get an insider’s look into the trials and tribulations of Fuji-san!
Devyn: It’s been my dream to climb Mt. Fuji (shrine to summit, along one of the old pilgrimage routes) since I read about it as a kid. It’s one of the things that got me really interested in Japan. Since I have arthritis in a bunch of my joints, and my mobility is likely to decrease with time…well, no time like the present, eh? Plus, GAJET organizing the event meant I had the opportunity to climb with many friends. 😀
Nate: I like hiking and climbing mountains.
Rachelle: I wanted to climb Mt. Fuji to challenge my mind and body’s perceived limits.
Valerie: The people asked for the return of the GAJET Fuji Hike, so we listened!
Jasmine: It had been on my Japan bucket list for a few years now. I always enjoyed looking at Mt. Fuji from afar, but I thought climbing it would be a memorable experience as well.
Jasmine: None whatsoever!
Valerie: Just novice hiking. I had climbed Haruna, Myogi, Arafune, and Kurofuyama, as well as other trails and hikes here and there.
Nate: I rock climb and hike a lot, but this was the most difficult hike I’ve done.
Devyn: I’m a moderately experienced hiker, having hiked stateside and in other parts of Japan and Southeast Asia. This is the tallest mountain I’ve ever climbed, though.
Valerie: Difficulty breathing at higher altitudes and hiking in the dark.
Ciara: The most difficult part was the final run between the ninth station and the top; the feeling that I was so close but also still so far.
Nate: I didn’t prepare well enough for how cold it would be at the top, and coming down was awful because I had no water and unlike going up there were no opportunities to buy more.
Rachelle: The most difficult part was going down the mountain on loose gravel. My whole body was screaming at me to quit but obviously that wasn’t an option.
Devyn: Descending was brutal, which most people don’t seem to mention in articles about climbing Fuji-san (probably with good reason). It might be TMI, but several of my toenails are still black from it.
Jasmine: Getting to the bottom lol
Nate: The sunrise. I started crying a bit. I felt weird for tearing up at the top but it felt really oddly profound and beautiful.
Ciara: The moment I began descending the mountain, the feeling that I was going home.
Devyn: Seeing the remnants of huts and signs explaining what used to stand there in the past along the lower portions of the trail; seeing the sun rise above the sea of clouds and reaching the summit; making unforgettable memories with some of my best friends here.
Valerie: I actually enjoyed scrambling up/over rocks. And the descent was great; it was warm and bright out.
Rachelle: Reaching the top with one of my favorite people; being able to look at them and say, ‘We did it!’
Ciara: When we reached the sixth station, and it dawned on us that it was almost all over, we ran to the fifth station. Where did all that energy come from?
Rachelle: None of the hand warmers we brought worked. Not a single one! It was an ice cold wait for the sunrise.
Devyn: Funny: Realizing that the Yoshida Trail 5th station and the place where the buses drop everyone off are two different 5th Stations (about 2 km apart) is hilarious in retrospect. Also, being warned by the owner of the bar beneath our hostel that I would: see no one along the trail until 5th station; likely get lost; and possibly be mauled by a bear—only to run into 50+ other hikers/trail runners/a group of scouts on a hiking trip on my way up to 5th station. (**Being aware of one’s surroundings while hiking and/or hiking with a buddy is important. The advice was appreciated, but likely more useful to people climbing outside of the high season.**) Weird: Thought it was real strange that I had cell service at the top! But it was cool to text people back home from the highest place in the country!
Valerie: Everyone laughed at me for bringing my Chromebook up Fuji, but I had to get work done for Gunma Orientation, and I was determined to have my cake and eat it too! The best part is that you can actually get service on Fuji, so I was able to hotspot from my phone and upload my files from the seventh station! 🤣🤣🤣 On the descent, at one point I was so sleepy I told my hiking partner that I had to stop to rest. We laid down on our backpacks on the gravelly red lava rock in the morning sun, and it was one of the best naps I’ve ever had.
Valerie: We saw fireworks happening below in one of the towns! From that altitude they looked so small! It was wild to see them from above like that.
Ciara: I was the dirtiest I’ve ever been in my life when I returned to the fifth station.
Jasmine: I forgot what station it was, but one of the walking stick stampers engaged us in conversation and gave us a present. He was so kind!
Rachelle: Being so high above the clouds was thrilling, humbling, and beautiful. Yet, there was a hint of unease because some part of me felt there was no reason for a person to be up that high. I would do it again for the view though. That Mt. Fuji sunrise was something magical!
Ciara: Don’t do it, and if you do, buy a Fuji stick. And bring wet wipes!
Nate: Pack enough food and water for the climb down because there are no rest stops!
Rachelle: Read the advice forums and bring proper gear. Respect the fact that while Mt. Fuji is a tourist attraction it’s still a mountain and hiking it comes with risks. Be careful and have fun!
Jasmine: Please prepare for the cold at the top of the mountain! Bring gloves, hand warmers, a few layers of socks, etc. Also, I highly recommend getting a walking stick. It helped me out so much.
Valerie: Listen to your body if you aren’t feeling well or need to rest. If you can’t make it to the summit as happened to a few of us, it’s ok! The sunrise will still be beautiful, and you can try again another time, better prepared (as I hope to do next year!).
Devyn: BRING POLES AND A HEADLAMP. You’ll be glad to have them. Keep moving during the pre-dawn hours, otherwise you’ll freeze. Have fun and be safe! You’ll never forget this adventure!
As many of us can testify, being on JET is a transformative experience. Every day, we’re pushing ourselves, growing, learning—struggling and thriving by turns. For some of us, JET is a first foray into the “real world” post-graduation. For some of us, it’s our first time living alone, or living abroad, or both. These are huge changes, and they can be daunting. However, something that we all have in common is that we weather them the best we can, often with a little help from our friends.
When informing friends of my plans to move back stateside this summer, many asked if my time on JET lived up to my expectations.
Me: “You mean the expectations I had when flying halfway across the earth to teach in a country I’d never visited before? And knew no one living there?”
Them: “Well, when you put it that way…”
In certain ways, JET has been better than what I could have ever imagined—namely, the bonds I’ve formed with my students, coworkers, and friends. (I <3 our GUNMAFAM!) In others, I can honestly say that I’ve been pushed well past my breaking point. This year in particular has shown me that not every experience can, or should, be viewed through the rose-colored glasses so many of us expats tend to wear. Even at its darkest points, though, there have been people and things that are causing me to tear up as I write this, due to the bittersweet knowledge that my time here is rapidly coming to an end.
Since I don’t want to be the only one crying, do me a favor, okay? Think back. It’s 201X, and you’ve just found out that you’re going to Gunma. What were your goals before arriving? Have you since achieved them, and marked the occasion by coloring in the other eye of your daruma? Have you discovered new ones? Did you find something (or perhaps someone) that inspires you? Or done something so outside the realm of what you believed possible that your 201X-Gunma-Orientation-self would pause in shock and/or awe, thinking, “Really? That’s me?”
Case-in-point: Did I ever foresee myself becoming GAJET’s president? Absolutely…not. But contributing to a positive and supportive community has always been something I’ve gravitated towards, and this committee was one inroad to achieving that goal. Despite the challenges that accompany being a part of any volunteer organization, I can honestly say that GAJET has had a significant and lasting impact on me. Maybe the same can be said for some of you, as well. (Though perhaps in different ways—we’re not all trying to start NPOs post-JET, are we?)
Gunma, and the people here, have been my home for three indescribable years. Facing down the void of tomorrow’s possibilities can be terrifying, especially when the point you’re heading towards is so vastly different from where you saw yourself ending up when you first started out. That’s growth, though. It can be scary, or even painful at times. But, I know that no matter where that path leads, the experiences I’ve had here, and the people I’ve met along the way have shaped me into someone who can navigate it.
There will always be a crane-shaped mark on my heart from my years as a Gunma JET. When it comes time for you to leave, it is my sincerest hope that you feel the same.
Thanks to everyone who submitted an application for the 2019-2020 GAJET Committee. You can vote by clicking here. Voting will end by the end of Wednesday, June 12.
Happy Reiwa, Gunma! I’m Ciara from the UK, going into my third year as an Elementary School teacher in Yoshii-machi. I’m hoping to become your shiny, new President! I’ve had an incredible time being your Seibu Rep for the past year, getting to know as many of you as I could, and organising some pretty memorable events! (Thank you for all your support – it’s been an absolute blast). Our prefecture would be nothing without your participation and sense of community, which I hope to uphold during my time as P.
GAJET is an overwhelmingly active organisation, beyond anything I could have imagined before I arrived in Japan. My time as Seibu Rep has given me the opportunity to engage in many new aspects of country life, and expand my understanding of both Gunma and its residents. From kokeshi painting to camping, from fireworks to illuminations, I have spent this past year working my absolute hardest to bring our gigantic community closer. As President, I want to bring you even more events that bring us even closer together, as well as updating and expanding our online resources, and upholding the values of the cabbage patch.
I hope I can spend another year bringing you the best of the inaka!
Good morning and おはようございます, wonderful Gunma ALTs! My name is Edward No and I’m running for the position of GAJET president! I’m currently a Takasaki-shi ALT and am loving every minute of it. When I’m not teaching, you can find me doing calisthenics, going to church, or looking for delicious restaurants around Gunma. If I haven’t met you already, I’m looking forward to doing so at the next GAJET event!
What can I do for you:
Act as a resource for all your Gunma needs – whether you’re looking for a local Japanese-English exchange circle, just need someone to help you navigate making your first doctor’s appointment, or figure out how to send money home through furikomi – I’m here to help you out or find someone who can!
Plan and host community events for all Gunma ALTs – did you love GAJET events like Gunma Games, Canyons, I CAN, and many more? Look forward to loving these events again this year. With the combined efforts of the GAJET board and community, these events will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of your year. Additionally, if you have great ideas for community events, we can make it happen! From planning to logistics to execution, I’m here to make your ideas a reality.
Passionate about community building
Deeply engaged with the Gunma ALT community
Take pride in overcoming challenges through collaboration
Enjoy supporting and empowering others
Optimistic with a Can-Do attitude
Thank you for your time and consideration! Have a great day!
When I heard I was placed on JET in Gunma prefecture, I knew that Gunma was famous for a few things: konnyaku, cabbage and strong women, to name a few. However, one thing I was not aware of, but learnt immediately on arriving here, is how warm, friendly and supportive the JET community is here.
Growing up in the countryside in the UK, I recognise that the community plays a different and far more important role here, compared to that in the city. As an active and very sociable person, I would love the opportunity to have direct participation and influence on keeping our community strong and well connected, by serving as either Vice President or Seibu Rep.
As VP, I would actively support the work of the President in ensuring the smooth operation of the many social events and activities that run throughout the year, which are so important for keeping our community interlinked. As Seibu Rep, I would adopt a more grass roots approach to running events specifically for the Seibu area. Running some familiar events that have run in the past, and hopefully introducing some new events that cater to the wealth of resources we have in Gunma, and to your desires as to what you would like to see from GAJET this year. In particular, I would like to implement more events over the winter period, when I feel we, as a community, need each other the most.
I think I am suitable for these positions because my favourite activity is having fun, so let’s have fun and enjoy!!!!! TANOSHIMIMASHOU!!!!!!!!!!
I’m a soon-to-be third year ALT in Takasaki, and I was lucky to serve on GAJET as this past year’s secretary. I was inspired during my first year by the summer conference speaker, who encouraged us to make the most of our limited time on JET. When I thought about how I wanted to spend that time, I realized that what made me happiest was helping new ALTs and showing people Gunma’s endless gems. I made a personal vow that, during my remaining time here, I would do my best to give back to the loving community that had made this cabbage patch feel like home.
I would like to reapply for the position of secretary because I feel I served well in that capacity this past year. My strengths, which include strong organization, time management, and working well with others, allowed me to further GAGET’s goals of bringing people together and putting on great events for the community. I consistently performed my duties and enjoyed meeting many ALTs throughout Gunma from various events.
I studied Accounting and Economics all the way up until University where I changed my studies to computers but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a good equation. I enjoy numbers and balancing them at the end so I’ll make sure things stay balanced. I was the Treasurer at Auckland Universities Pokémon Club as well which gives me at least a base line of knowledge. I hope that with this experience I can learn to cooperate with other people more professionally and manage myself better too. Also, some extra sparkles for my resume would be good. Thank you for your consideration.
Salutations, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Chris Sept and I would be honored to serve you either as your Chubu representative or your Secretary.
I have been a member of this community for close to 3 years and have been enjoying the benefits of wonderful people, events, and connections and it is time I used a bit of my experience to give back to JETs both veteran and rookie.
A fastidious writer and lover of learning new things, I have often taken on the role in any given setting to be the one who either leads discussions or takes notes. Growing up, I had a mind that tended to wander, which I am assured aids in creative thinking. After coming to Japan, I have trained myself to remain grounded through asking questions and writing everything down. Plus, I have found that taking a genuine interest in what people have to say is the best way to build trust and work constructively with other people. Given that GAJET is all about working together for the benefit of the community, I am ready to lend my helping hand and any other applicable appendage.
Prior to coming to Japan, I worked in a tech company that handled the infrastructure and projects of several high-profile clients, handling assets in the tens of thousands. I understand the importance of strict deadlines, competent delegation and clear communication. I also used to work in radio as a voice-over artist and promotions coordinator. This gig trained my impressive vocal skills and gave me first-hand experience of running large-scale events and appeasing crowds. I have used these skills to great benefit in my school work and I would like to bring them to bear for the benefit of my fellow ALTs.
There are big shoes to fill in the coming year and I am eager to get started. I look forward to being your resource for all the fun events we have in store.
I would love to be a part of the GAJET committee for 2019 – 2020 as a way to give back to a group who gave me so much in my first year! GAJETs hard work and effort has been a key part of why I’ve enjoyed this past year in the cabbage patch.
I would love to be able to rep you all as web master for the coming year! Through this position I want to ensure that the GAJET committee has effective web presence to inform you all lovely ALTs about what is happening here in Gunma. And working with the Editor to showcase the articles of what you’ve been up to.
In terms of experience I have I studied information systems and management in university. I would love to be able to web design skills and navigation optimization into practice. And to learn new things on the way. Previously I have built and managed a website for a youth organization (http://www.youthvoicecanterbury.org.nz/). I am a lover of a sleek and easily navigable website!
If you haven’t already met me before, hello! I am Alice Ridley a 23-year-old from Christchurch, New Zealand. I am passionate about communities and connecting people together. In my life in NZ I was an eager member of the social enterprise community and involved myself in changing making around youth policy and environment. Fun fact about me; I used to host a weekly sustainable living radio show on an alternative radio channel. In present day Japan I am currently volunteering for Peaceboat as on ground personnel and as the community editor for CONNECT magazine.
I am a reliable and motivated individual who loves crossing things off to do lists. Constantly trying to think of new ways of how we (GAJET committee) can do things better and what is needed by our “customers” aka you. If you choose me for web master 2019-2020 I hope to make you proud! Churrr.
Howdy! My name’s Paige Adrian and I live in the Haruna area of Takasaki. I’m going into my second year as an ALT and can’t wait to dedicate more time to this beautiful place I get to call home.
I’m interested in running for the Editor or Webmaster position, since I’m constantly on my laptop while secretly making it look like I actually go outside. My time in Japan has been an absolute blast thanks to Gunma’s fantastic community spirit, which is why I want to join GAJET and keep the good vibes going! Although the fun events are a main focus, our internet resources can be just as important for JETs, which is why I’m eager to contribute both online and off.
As a jack-of-all-trades I have previous amateur experience in writing/editing, photography/videography, and graphic design/illustration. I’ve also been on top of tech ever since my first high school job, where I taught elementary schoolers how to make dinosaur PowerPoints at the library. If elected, I’m hoping to make our online presence even more comprehensive by increasing our website resources, making information accessible and inclusive, and creating connections by showcasing our Gunma adventures on social media!
Thanks a bunch for your consideration. Let’s share some great times this year and make it A E S T H E T I C !
Kia Ora, or ‘hello’ in Kiwi. I’m Kitty. I’m a first-year Junior High school JET from New Zealand, living in Kanra-machi (I know, I hadn’t heard of it either). Despite the trepidation I felt when I received my placement, I’ve had an amazing time over the past year exploring Gunma. I’ve particularly enjoyed participating in an array of GAJET events, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to contribute to the community I now call home.
I come from a film and theatre background, and spent my time before JET screenwriting and designing shows for the Hamilton Operatic Society. It’s been exciting to see the growth of the GAJET website this past year, showcasing some amazing events happening all over our lovely prefecture. As an aspiring member of GAJET, I would strive to continue the great work of our current editor, and present even more quality content from all of you in our community.
Gunma is an incredibly diverse prefecture with so much to offer. From Oze to Ueno-mura, there is an unbelievable amount of things to do. So much so, that it can be difficult to keep up with what’s going on. To help discover the best cherry blossom spots, restaurants, festivals, and fun, I want to use the GAJET website as a platform to host the knowledge of our community for everyone.
Hello again!!!! After having an absolute blast serving on the 2018-2019 GAJET committee as Vice President, I’m ready and hype for Round 2! In the upcoming year I hope to serve as a representative for the Seibu region. This year’s reps have done a spectacular job, going above and beyond to provide a variety of top-notch activities for Seibu et al, and I’m excited to follow in their footsteps. They’ve raised the bar, so let’s reach it and more!
This will be my fourth year living and working in Tomioka. A good portion of these first three years has been spent adventuring around Gunma, getting to know some of its best spots. And if there’s one thing I love, it’s introducing others to the Gunma goodness surrounding us! As a regional representative I will organize hikes, movie nights, food trips and field trips, so we can get to know the Seibu region and our JET family better. My aim is to create opportunities for Gunma JETs to make and grow connections that will help them find success and joy in their Gunma life.
When it comes to building up our fantastic Gunma JET community, my mottos are “The more the merrier” and “Where there’s a will, there’s a way”. If Gunma’s awesome activities are made more accessible, more can join in the fun! As in this past year, as a regional representative I will work to make Gunma more accessible to fellow JETs in language and transportation, so that we can enjoy the best of Gunma!
Hello! I’m Linka, a (soon to be) 2nd year elementary ALT in Higashiagatsuma-machi. I live with my very patient fiancé Nick in the middle of a rice paddy. I love photography, hiking, traveling, and finding every flavor of soft cream possible.
In my year of living in the Agatsuma region, I’ve fallen in love with the area and our community here. I want to be able to share that love with incoming JETs and help to bring those in the Tone/Agatsuma region closer together (even though we’re usually pretty far apart). I have spent almost every weekend in the past year out exploring glorious Gunma; from festivals to hiking to flowers to onsen. I know I can come up with some great ways to share those experiences with everyone in this region. The Tone/Agatsuma region is a beautiful and under-visited area. One of my goals if I were to be elected as representative would be to bring more Gunma JETs here to experience what the region has to offer.
Above all, I have passion for this area and for the Gunma JET community. I want to help support our community and bring us all closer together. Thank you!
I am interested in GAJET because of its ability to bring people from all over Gunma together. Community is very important to me, and I want to make a warm and welcoming one for all Gunma ALTs, present and future. Cultivating a strong community here will make us all feel at home, and we could all use that in some way or another. After all, we are all here together as foreigners.
I have extensive experience throughout Boy Scouts, University Student Government, and Fraternity Operations that I know will make me an invaluable member of the GAJET team. I planned and executed an Eagle Scout Project in 2014, helmed my Residence Hall Council as President, planning activities that brought residents of the hall together to enjoy each other’s company, and I held multiple E-Boare Positions within my Fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi, where I swear through many different event from committee meetings to Senior Sendoffs and Alumni Gatherings. These experiences have taught me a lot about what it takes to make an event go well, and I am eager to bring my knowledge into GAJET.
If I should be privileged enough to become the Tobu Representative, I will do everything in my power to make Tobu and Gunma as a whole as welcoming as I can. Gunma has become my home, and I want it to be all of yours as well.
Good luck to all the candidates. We are looking forward to GAJET’s continued success in the 2019-2020 contract year!