Island Hopping: Transportation around Kagoshima Prefecture

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One thing that distinguishes Kagoshima from other prefectures is many islands that lie between the prefecture mainland and Okinawa. From north to south, the main islands are: Tanegashima, Yakushima, Amami Oshima, Kikaijima, Tokunoshima, and Okinoerabu. While you can get around the mainland on the trains, or travel across Kagoshima Bay on the ferry, getting to and from the many islands can be a daunting, confusing, and often expensive task, but island residents get a discount on most air or sea travel within the prefecture.

North Islands: Tanegashima and Yakushima

 

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      On the left: Yakushima       On the right: Tanegashima

Japan Air Commuter (JAC) flies direct between Tanegashima and Kagoshima Airport. There are two flights a day, and a round trip with the island discount costs about ¥14,000. Yakushima is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is also famous for inspiring the setting of Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke.  JAC also operates 3 direct flights per day to Yakushima

 

You can also get from Kagoshima to Tanegashima via three different ferry options: Cosmo, Toppy and Rocket, and Hibiscus. The latter two also go to Yakushima.

  • The Cosmo line ferry runs once a day between Kagoshima and Tanegashima and takes about 3.5 hours, costing about ¥6000 round trip with the islander discount.
  • Toppy and Rocket] is a high-speed jet foil ferry that runs several times daily between Kagoshima and Tanegashima, and also between Kagoshima and Yakushima. The trip lasts about 1.5 hours, and costs around ¥10,000 with the islander discount.
  • Finally, the Hibiscus Ferry runs once a day between Kagoshima and Yakushima, stopping at Tanegashima along the way. The Kagoshima-Tanegashima leg lasts 3.5 hours and the Tanegashima-Yakushima leg lasts 2 hours. The full trip from Kagoshima to Yakushima costs about ¥6000 round trip, or you can take either of the individual legs for less.

South Islands: Amami Oshima, Kikai, Tokunoshima, and Okinoerabu

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Amami Oshima is the biggest of the Kagoshima islands and also has the most travel options. There are 7 flights run by JAL to and from Kagoshima Airport daily. Direct flights are also available to and from Kikai, Tokunoshima, and Okinoerabu via JAC, though there are only 2-3 each day per island.  JAC also runs about 3 flights daily between each of the smaller islands (Kikai, Tokunoshima, and Okinoerabu) and Kagoshima Airport. A round trip ticket from any of the islands to Kagoshima airport will cost somewhere in the range of ¥25,000 with the islander discount, and a round-trip ticket from the smaller islands to Amami will cost about ¥10,000 with the islander discount.

For travel by sea, the Kagoshima ferry route travels between Kagoshima and Okinawa every day, stopping at Amami, Tokunoshima, and Okinoerabu along the way. There are also two additional routes, the Amami ferry route and the Kikai ferry route, that also stop at Kikai and a second port in southern Amami. Taking the ferry is about half as expensive as flying, but expect the trip to last at least 12 hours, most of it overnight.

While travelling between the islands and the mainland can be inconvenient, seeing the different cultures on each island allows you to experience the full range of what Kagoshima has to offer.

Maranda Li is a second year JET on Amami Oshima

In Case of Emergency

You’ve seen the news about Japan’s earthquakes. You know about the typhoons. And by now, you’ve probably heard that your neighbor is an extremely active volcano. All this information would cause anyone to be nervous. Lucky for you, we have some resources to ease your worried mind.

The Prefectural Website has compiled an extensive list of links on how to handle your next natural disaster. You can find that list HERE. Resources include

  • How to prepare an emergency kit
  • How to evacuate
  • What to do in an earthquake, typhoon, eruption or tsunami such as:

A Tip for Drivers – if you find yourself in a car during an earthquake:

  1. Pull over to the side of the road
  2. Turn off the engine, turn on the radio for updates
  3. Put on your emergency brake/hand brake
  4. Stay in the vehicle until shaking stops
  5. You can exit the car once the shaking stops

IF YOU FEEL UNSAFE IN THE WORKPLACE

The prefectural website also has a list of contacts to report any kind of workplace harassment. CLAIR also offers counseling for long-term issues. You can find those HERE.

Finally, here is a quick list of emergency numbers to have on hand in case of the worst. They can also be found on the Prefectural Website:

  • Police (keisatsu / 警察) 110
  • Ambulance (kyuukyuusha / 救急車) 119
  • Fire (shoubousha / 消防車) 119
    • From green pay phones: Lift the receiver, push the red emergency button, and dial.
    • From grey pay phones: Lift the receiver and dial.

 

9 Ways to Enjoy and Appreciate Your Island Placement

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Kurasaki Beach
  1. Appreciate the uniqueness of Japanese island life. You probably didn’t ask to be placed on a remote island, right? There are very few island placements, and you got one of them! It’ll be all right. You get the special experience of living in a place that is so different from the Japan that everyone knows. And your backyard might be a beach.
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Tokunoshima Scuba Diving – Credit to Micah Mizukami

 

2. Pick up a water sport. You can snorkel, dive, surf, do SUP, or more than one! You may even make some local friends while out on the water, too.

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My first hula class

3. We are always on 島時間 down here. If you are stuck behind a truck full of sweet potatoes and end up being late for something, blame it on island time.

4. Join a local cultural activity in your community like shamisen, eisa, or hula. Dont feel too bad about missing out on all the fun culture events on the mainland. The islands have plenty of culture, too!

5. It is so exciting when you have the chance to go to the mainland. Going to _Uniqlo or Starbucks in Amu Plaza is all the more exciting when you have to take a plane or overnight ferry to get there!

 

 

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Islanders love Starbucks

6. Islander bonding. Even if you are on an island by yourself, you still have the other islanders who understand you.  And you can always hop on the ferry and visit another island for the weekend. Your Island card helps you save a little money on travel costs.

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Ready for Mangroves!

7. Island life is cheap. You will probably save a lot of money living down here. Unless you spend all your paycheck on island mangoes. Those are like 2000 yen for just one.

8. Island people are ridiculously nice. One time we asked for directions to a restaurant at a gas station on Okinoerabu, and the guy got in his car and had us follow him so he could show us the way.

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Bashayama Beach

9. When it’s summertime, you are living in a tropical paradise. Most tourists skip us and head right to Okinawa, so a crowded day at the beach can sometimes mean you are sharing the sand with 5 other people.

Enjoy!

 

Becca Simas is a 1st year ALT on Amami Oshima

Dressing for the Islands

First, wecome to all the new JETs! For those of you heading to the southern islands, i have some clothing tips for you.

From April until November the southern islands enjoy and struggle throug hot and humid weather, but as teachersw we are expected to dress in long pants/skirts and dress shirts (or polo shirts). For these reasons, try to find light and breathable clothing. During these months, intense rains can also occur so I recommend a light rain jacket.

However, from November to March the weather cools down. Because we are next to the ocean and houses are not insulated, 14 degrees celsius – or 50-60 degrees farenheit – feels cold. For these months you want clothing which is insulated: a light wind breaker is a good example. Uniqlo sells clothes perfect for both season sbut you will have to order online because we have no Uniqlo on the southern islands.

Hopefully this helps you with your preparations regarding which clothes to bring to the southern islands, and congratulations on coming to Kagoshima!

 

13330545_10154151123671192_558415697_nNathaniel Hayes is an ALT on Amami Oshima Island

Welcome to Kagoshima!

ようこそ鹿児島へ!Welcome to Kagoshima!

Kagoshima is the southernmost prefecture in Kyushu. It is home to a majestic volcano, Sakurajima, which is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. The volcano is located in Kagoshima Bay (also known as Kinko Bay). Sakurajima is famous for producing one of the world’s smallest oranges, the komikan, and the world’s largest radishes, the Sakurajima Daikon. Additionally, Kagoshima is full of nature, friendly people, and delicious food.

GeograpSatsunan_Islandshy 

The Prefecture consists of two major peninsulas (Satsuma and Osumi) and about 30 islands. Famous islands include Yakushima (a UNESCO Natural Heritage Site), Tanegashima (home of the Japan Space Program), and Amami Oshima.

Climate 

Kagoshima ranges from temperate to sub-tropical climate. Spring and Autumn are temperate, and there is a short winter. The rainy season in June leads to extremely hot and humid summers. Typhoon season runs from June to October. During winter, the temperature will drop to 0 degrees C (32 degrees F), while the summers reach over 32 degrees C (90 degrees F).

KAGOSHIMA SPECIALTIES

If there is one thing to know about Japan, it is the fact that the Japanese are proud of their regional food and products. Kagoshima is certainly no exception!

Cuisine

Food:     http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e4609.html

Kagoshima is famous for black pork, black beef, black chicken, black sugar…. Kagoshima loves its black foods! In Kagoshima, charcoal is often used in cuisine (It is said to cleanse the body of toxins), so you can find black ramen, as well as chicken sumiyaki. Besides the black cuisine, there is Torisashi (yes, raw chicken) and Satsuma Age (fried fish cake). For desert there is the famous Shirokuma (shaved ice, with sweet and condensed milk and fruit) which is decorated to look like a white bear.

Drinks:

Shochu:

If you ask Japanese people to state one fact about Kagoshima, it will be that “Everyone drinks Shochu.” Kagoshima has a specialty shochu that is made with Satsuma Sweet Potatoes. It is a strong liquor  similar to vodka. People often drink it on ice or mixed with water. You can buy it everywhere, and it is often the preferred drink at enkais.

Tea:

Along with shochu, Kagoshima Prefecture is one of the top prefectures that produces green tea. A famous tea is Chiran-cha which comes from Chiran City in Minami Kyushu. Instead of fields of rice, tea covers the countryside.

Crafts: 

There are many specialty crafts available here. Famous products include Satsuma cut glass, Oshima Tsumugi Fabric, and Satsumayaki (pottery). For more information on these products, please explore:

http://www.kagoshima-kankou.com/for/whattodo/craftitems.html

Welcome to Kagoshima! We hope that you will grow to love it as much as we do. This is a beautiful region of the country and we looking forward to seeing you soon. We hope your first few weeks go well and that you quickly become comfortable living here. If you have any questions do not hesitate to e-mail us at kagoshima@ajet.net!

きばいやんせい!(頑張って)

The KAJET Team

When I First Arrived: CULTURE SHOCK!

Originally posted by an anonymous contributor.

My first year on JET was similar to riding a roller coaster: It had many ups, downs, twists and turns. When I arrived in Japan, I was at the beginning of the ride. The coaster slowly eased up to the top of the first slope, the anticipation of what lie ahead was exciting and nerve wrecking.  Then it slid down from that first hill, and there was no going back. I had started the ride of my life.start roller coaster

Prior to coming to Japan, ALTs are warned of culture shock and given ideas for coping. You go to Japan with the notion that it will happen, but the effects of culture shock are rarely understood before they are felt. In the past I have struggled with anxiety. I knew before I left that it would be a challenge, but a challenge I was willing to try. I arrived in Japan with absolute elation for learning Japanese, meeting my students, and living in Japan. Even with this excitement, culture shock was looming around the curve. Towards the end of that first month I began to feel tired, under the weather, and down-spirited. I constantly worried about my health because I had heard horror stories of past JETs who had issues and needed hospitalization. Try as I may to have a positive attitude, I slowly slipped into a slump. I thought this was just being anxious, because I had never experienced culture shock before.

Things in Japan are different from what I was previously used to. Students sleep in class, sick leave is hardly used, and ATMs have operating hours! Who knew a robot needed time off? I could not speak a lot of Japanese so I could not say the things I wanted to say and I became very frustrated. All these things plus the stresses of a new job and living in a foreign country chipped away at me.adult

It wasn’t until I started talking to other JETs that I recognized I was experiencing culture shock. It became clear that I was not the only one who was struggling- we all were. I have seen how other expats have struggled and some choose to isolate themselves. As much as you want to keep to yourself and stay in your apartment, you must do the opposite. Become more involved, join clubs, pick up a new hobby, stay active, and talk to people. If you are struggling with culture shock, anxiety or depression, please do not be afraid to receive help. You can talk to your friends and family, other JETs, or a counselor. Even if you are in a slump, remember- you have an amazing opportunity to explore and try new things. The life of an expat is not easy but the things you gain from the experience are worth the struggle.

Though I still struggle with culture shock I find that its’ effects are lessening. There are days I do feel completely stressed out, but I know I am coming to the top of the next slope of that roller coaster. The inclines are beginning to even out, the curves aren’t so steep, and I feel more content with where I am now.

As the holiday season comes closer, it is more important than ever to get involved and form a sense of community. Stay positive and be open to changes because one thing is for sure: when you get off this roller coaster you won’t be the same person as when you got on.

Here is my challenge for you: Get more involved from from this point forward. Make a marked effort to meet new people on the JET Programme, and in other places. Join an activity, find a hobby, check out extra curriculars at your schools. The worst they can do is say “no”, right?

For those who need assistance or want someone to talk to here areold ladies roller coastersome resources to check out. You can do this.

Enjoy the ride!

5 Tips for Grocery Shopping in Kagoshima

 

Ever felt (or think you may soon feel) completely bewildered by the Japanese supermarket? Start looking for soy sauce and realize you’re knee deep in the nori section with no memory of getting there? Well wander no more! Here are 5 tips for helping you navigate your grocery like the experienced obaachan we know you can be.

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1. Remember Sa, Shi, Su, Se, So
The most common ingredients found in Japanese cooking can be summed up by the 5 S syllables: Sa, Shi, Su, Se, So. With these ingredients on hand, you can conquer a wide range of Japanese dishes.

Sa: Sato, or sugar
Shi: Shio, or salt
Su: vinegar, particularly mirin (rice wine vinegar)
Se: Seiyu, or soy sauce
So: Miso

In most dishes, you add these ingredients in this order, because their taste is affected by heat and cooking time. Always start here!

2. Understand The Store Layout
Take a half hour with a friend in your area to wander around your local store, noting where go-to items are kept. Fresh fruits, veggies, meat, and dairy are laid out along the perimeter, with dry goods like rice in the inner isles. Make note of the fresh bento areas, clearance racks and where to stock up on essentials like soy sauce.

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3. Start Small: Make A List
This may seem self-explanatory, but it can be all too easy to pop into Nishimuta and walk out with 9 things whose names you can’t pronounce. The easiest way to avoid confusion in the store is to have a list of what you need. To start, look up some easy Japanese recipes like donburi, soba, or fried rice and work from there. Google Searches like “cake in a rice cooker” have literally changed my life in the inaka, and they can change yours too.

4. Ask for help
So you find the tomatoes, here’s the lettuce, but where are the damn potatoes again?

Hail down a nice and friendly Japanese worker with a simple
“______ wa doko desu ka?” (Where is…?)
Or a “______ wa arimasu ka?” (Do you have…?)

Pull up a picture on your phone for quick reference in times of need.

5. Use A Kanji App
Once you find the soy sauce, how will you know which is which?
To avoid much confusion, download a Japanese dictionary like JEDict with a kanji drawing option, so you can quickly reference unknown characters. Google Translate also has a fairly accurate picture to text option- just snap a photo and bam!

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Bonus Tip- Cheap Shopping: Keep an eye out for seasonally cheap items like mikans and biwa and watermelon. Most grocery stores discount their bentos and meat after 8pm on weekdays, and your area probably have additional sale days. Ask your coworkers where/when they shop for extra points.

For additional tips, including ingredient lists and allergy warnings, check out this Gaijinpot Beginners Guide to Japanese Supermarkets.

Happy Meal Hunting!

What Your First Day in Kagoshima Might Feel Like

The following is a post from a South African JET living in Kawanabe.

From Tokyo:

The morning we were set to depart for Kagoshima prefecture, I was super early. Almost uncomfortably so. Going from “Africa time” to “Japanese time” had me overcompensating. ..

To Kagoshima:

Upon arrival at Kagoshima Airport I was greeted by Yonemitsu-sensei (my supervisor) and Hosotaki-sensei.  They took me for lunch at a classic Japanese restaurant.  I was thrilled when the menu was physically big to accommodate a picture of every meal they served. I got to point and ask questions rather than go with a luck of the draw. I had udon noodles, for the first time, in a broth with nori and a soft poached egg.  The udon noodles are a lot slicker than the soba noodles, which the teachers had (I should have taken it as a sign) and I feel like it was taking me ages to eat but they were patient and seemed glad that I was using chopsticks.

Little Kawanabe is about an hour and a half from the airport.

To Kawanabe:

On the road to Kawanabe, I was mostly conversation staring – one of my more regular activities here that I hope will (relatively) soon fade to actual conversation participation or at least understanding – but I was also just staring out of the window.  The landscape here is gorgeous. You can’t believe that there are regular towns in this sort of setting. The types that aren’t providing employees for fishing farms and mountain lodges. It is just hills and trees and rivers.

And farms. They farm tea and sweet potato.  Kagoshima-ken (Prefecture) is actually the second highest producer of tea in the country and is growing in popularity due to many different tea plant cultivators producing a wide range of different flavours.

I learned their other crop is sweet potato. Kagoshima-ken is in fact the highest producer of sweet potato in the country! They also decided that they cannot possible eat all of this sweet potato and they make a liquor out of them called Shochu. A must-try they say.

To Work…

It was straight on to the school where I was shown to my desk in the staff room. The staff room is nothing like the lounge-like getaways that teachers have back home but is rather an open plan office that seems to breed ultra efficiency.  (One of the panellists at Tokyo Orientation said that this is a facade and that there are some watching YouTube videos… Stepping in here, I am not convinced…)

To Errands..

Later, we bustled back to the car and were off to order an inkan.  Here, you very rarely sign anything but you rather use a stamp of your name. Just about nothing can be done without it. Even if you do sign for whatever reason, you still need to stamp. Since they will only be ready the next day, the only thing to be done today is to register me at the City Office with my residence card.  Standard bureaucracy. But there was this glasses box, you know, in case you forgot your glasses at home and need to fill in a form! Because, shame, the population is getting old… Died from the adorableness…

Next they took me on a little ride around my little town.  We stopped at AZ Store – a megastore that is opened 24 hours a day.  Think about baking Makro (Walmart) and Pick n Pay Hyper (Costco) into a cake and then icing it with Builder’s Warehouse (Lowes) and sprinkling it with SupaQuick (auto-shop)… Although not mind-boggling massive, it is pretty comprehensive.

And Back Again.

Back to school for some time-passing Japanese study and then off for dinner with the department.

There are 5 teachers – 3 male and  2 female – and they seem very easy to get along with.

Because my flat was being cleaned, I couldn’t move in immediately so I was sleeping at Hiraoka-sensei’s – one of the female teachers – house for 2 nights.

Most the teachers at my school actually in live in Kagoshima-Shi (City) and commute in everyday.  On a good day, this takes about 40 minutes – Mostly due to winding roads and a highway speed limit of 80km/h (town is 40 km/h – this is going to take some getting used to…)  Hiraoka-sensei lives in a quaint neighbourhood with a park in the middle and neat gardens, the epitome of Japanese suburbia.

To Bed!

We watched a little bit of TV – news, a cooking show and baseball (possibly my first outside of a movie!). I learnt that Kyushu has just one baseball team – while the general trend is that each prefecture has a team – and we are the Softbank Hawks.

Sleeping in a home environment did me wonders!