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Congratulations to our Halloween Costume Contest winners, as chosen by the people! Our Round One event was a blast and we hope to see you all again next Halloween! Thanks to all who came out and participated in the contest.

Drum roll please! The winners are…

Cutest Costume – Valerie

The most adorable sunflower ever!

Scariest Costume – Chris

Giving us chills as a Resident Evil monk.

Most Creative Costume – Christopher

Chris killed it as a low-budget Sub Zero!

Best Couple/Group Costume – Kei and Sylvia

We were wowed by this Nier: Automata pair!

Best Overall Costume – TIED between Austin and Forrest

If you didn’t get a chance to enter in the costume contest, have no fear because GAJET’s 2019 Fall Photo Contest is starting now!

The theme this year is “Changes” – whether it’s the autumn leaves, the earlier sunsets, the changes you’ve seen if you arrived this summer, or the changes you’re appreciating as recontracting season approaches. 👀

Get your cameras ready to capture those 🎶ch-ch-changes🎶 – they pass by as quickly as the leaves!

Please send all your submissions to [email protected] with the subject “Fall Photo Contest” by Saturday, November 30th! Please include your full name and a caption, and remember that the photo must be taken in glorious Gunma! 🐴

The winner will receive a ¥2000 Amazon gift card, and have their photo featured as the cover on our Facebook group and website, gunmajet.net. The winner will be chosen by vote on Facebook. 🌟 Good luck on your photo adventures!

Gallery: Canyons 2019

October 11, 2019 | GAJET Events, Gallery, JET Life | No Comments

As expected, our annual trip to Canyons provided full-throttle action, with the pictures to prove it!

Along with the Canyons shenanigans, we had a successful summit of Mount Tanigawadake.

Don’t worry if you were a bit scared. Just dab on the haters!

See you next year!

Romance in a Cabbage Field

October 2, 2019 | Blog, Japan life | No Comments

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?

Scream out to your wife from your heart in a cabbage field!

Kyabe-chu

14th Kyabe-chu Write-up (Japanese)

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!!!!

Thank you to the people at Tsuma Tabi for capturing my yell!

Heart Cabbage Field Project

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?

Tsumagoi Heart Cabbage Field Project

Heart Cabbage Field from 2018

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.  

Did you hear me?

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!

“Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” — Ed Viesturs

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!

Our intrepid crew, ready to head off from the fifth station. Photo credit: Jasmine Jenkins

 

Why did you want to climb Mount Fuji?

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.

Valerie leads the charge on the ascent. Photo Credit: Noa Abbey

What kind of experience did you have before attempting the hike?

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.

Devyn and Alex take in the scene. Photo credit: Junie Chin

What was the most difficult part of the trip?

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.

Views from our mountain hut! Photo credit: Junie Chin

What was your favorite part?

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!’

The line to the top. Hiking Fuji during Obon is no joke! Photo credit: Jasmine Jenkins

Any funny or weird moments?

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.

That sunrise makes it all worth it! Photo credit: Valerie Landers

Tell us about something especially interesting or memorable that you noticed.

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!

Above the clouds and on top of the world! Photo credit: Jasmine Jenkins

Do you have any advice for future Fuji hikers?

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!

Three Years a JET

June 21, 2019 | Blog, JET Life | 1 Comment

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?”

The 2018-2019 GAJET team

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.