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As you’re all probably aware by now, Kumamoto and the surrounding prefectures suffered a series of large earthquakes over the weekend. There have been fatalities, wide spread power and water outages, and collapsed homes.

Technically the shaking from the larger quakes reached all the way out here to San’in region, but I never felt anything. I did, however, take a trip to Kyuushuu a couple weeks ago and had a great time going around Kumamoto and the surrounding areas, and I was very impressed with the Kumamoto Castle series of stone walls, which are now severely damaged. I had a lot of nice little interactions with the people in the city–the people selling snacks, the people I took pictures for under the cherry blossoms and then who wanted to take photos with me, the people who enthusiastically welcomed to me to Japan (and I didn’t have the heart to tell an especially enthusiastic man that I live in Japan), the people who cheerfully gave me directions, the lady who chatted with me on the bus and told me about the local dialect, and even the security guard who greeted me the three times I passed by him. It makes me really sad to know what those people are all going through now.

Drawing Shimanekko giving Kumamoto’s famous mascot Kumamon a hug isn’t going to do much, but it seemed like a good idea when it came to me late Saturday night. Sometimes you have to do something to keep from feeling helpless to help anyone.

Speaking of taking vacation, after getting back from Kyuushuu I’ve been really busy at work, and I don’t have many entries scheduled in advanced right now… ^^; I’m going to take a break from new entries for two or three weeks, and I’ll try to round up some new content after I’m not so drowned in work. I just have to hold out for Golden Week, and then at least there will be peonies at Yuushien again!

Cherry blossom season is evanescent, and enjoy them though I did, I took no new photos this year. Thankfully they look about the same every year, the only thing that changes is the way you perceive them.

San'in Monogatari

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Mizuki Shigeru, who until recently had been the oldest actively serialized mangaka in Japan, passed away in Tokyo this morning at the age of 93. He was an inspiration and will be missed. Please see an old entry of mine below for more about his background and highly, highly interesting life.

San'in Monogatari

I can’t tell you how many mostly-disembodied eyeballs are found in gift shops around the San’in region. They’re popularity is all thanks to the influence Mizuki Shigeru has had on popular conceptions of youkai, a somewhat frightening, somewhat endearing cast of Japanese goblins and ghouls. He is most famous as the manga-ka who wrote GeGeGe no Kitarou (introduced in this entry last Halloween), but he would introduce himself first as a world explorer and folklore researcher. Wherever I go looking for youkai information, I always find his name in the works referenced! As beloved as his comics are and as much as you see them everywhere around here, his life has been very unique and merits special introduction.

The manga-ka/explorer/folklorist himself, either surprised by his fame or surprised by… well… who knows what.

Mizuki Shigeru (whose real name is Murai Shigeru) was born in 1922 in the…

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Two great opportunities for students of Japanese as a foreign language!
1) A chance to flex your language abilities
2) A chance to win a trip to Japan!

Winners are required to go to Nagasaki during their stay to visit Wasabi headquarters, but hey, the San’in region is in western Japan too. Nudge-nudge, wink-wink, hint-hint.

Fun fact: I was in the audience for that speech they have as an example, as that speech contest was hosted here in Matsue last year. There were a lot of good speeches that day; the winning one about Chinese children being raised by their grandparents was really cute.

What can I do with a B.A. in Japanese Studies?

Wasabi Japanese Speech Contest

In commemoration of Wasabi’s launch, a new Japanese language learning tool that will spice up your studies with specially designed lessons for speaking practice with native speakers, we have decided to conduct Wasabi Japanese Speech Contest on the Internet. If you win, you will receive a ROUND-TRIP TICKET TO JAPAN!

It is our hope that you will become more interested in Japanese culture and be motivated to learn Japanese. That’s why we have created this opportunity not only for Wasabi users, but also for EVERY JAPANESE LEARNER. All you need to do is make a video of your speech, upload it to YouTube, and send us the URL. We would be more than delighted if a lot of learners participate in this contest all over the world.

For eligibility requirements and speech details, please visit:

http://www.wasabi-jpn.com/wasabi-japanese-speech-contest/

Deadline: August 15, 2015

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Reblogging because I am so excited to see these trees bloom again soon! Visitors to Matsue around mid-May, make sure you take note of these trees when visiting the castle. They’re one of my favorites.

San'in Monogatari

Surely we should be done with snow by now, right? What is this stuff!?

It’s mid-may around Matsue Castle, as spring is practically running to summer now. First there were plum blossoms, then came camellia, then cherry blossoms, then azalea and peonies, and now it appears something else is waking up in the warm weather.

But this is a rather unusually fleecy tree. What could it be? That’s what many people wanted to know back when it was introduced to Japan, leading to its common name, nanjyamonjya (or nanjamonja by more common romanization), which I’ve chosen to translate as “what-the-tree-is-this” to try to capture the tone of this questioning name. They are rather rare, with Matsue Castle being one of only eight spots around Japan that have them. Its proper name is hitotsubatago (Chinese fringe tree), but nanjyamonjya is much more fun.

I overheard a conversation…

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I still have yet to make it to the Tohoku region and comment on what the state of recovery is like, nor can I ever compare it to what it was like beforehand, but there are still reminders throughout Japan of the earthquake and tsunami.

My favorite is one I have no photo of, but see quite often. Along the north banks of Lake Shinji on the road to western Matsue and to Izumo, there is a very large sign that spans the length of several fishing boats that says “You can do it, Tohoku.”

がんばれ、東北。

Thanks to a shared connection through writer Lafcadio Hearn, water cities Matsue and New Orleans began a Friendship City Relationship in March, 1994. To celebrate the 20th anniversary, a delegation and ceremony was held here in Matsue last October, followed by Little Mardi Gras in Matsue, which is what it sounds like. This event–with a special focus on including children in the local community–takes place in October, so you can get your Mardi Gras fix in Japan between Carnival seasons.

I am busy right now with a group from Matsue on an exchange program in New Orleans thanks to the Japan Society of New Orleans and a TOMODACHI Exchange grant from the TOMODACHI Initiative. Click here and here to see the play-by-play on that exchange on Facebook, and in the meantime on this blog, enjoy a few photos from last year’s Little Mardi Gras in Matsue!


The school bands and bands throughout the community, in addition to their impressive performance in the parade, also played at Karakoro Square, Karakoro Art Studio, and a little further north towards the Shimance Civic Center. The music lingered through the streets hours after the parade had ended.

Regular entries will resume shortly!

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