Get to Know Your Hiroshima Block

Hiroshima Block Map

To welcome the batch of incoming Hiroshima JETs, the new 2013-2014 Block Leaders have kindly written a little something introducing themselves and their regions. Take a look to learn more about all of the amazing things our Wide Island has to offer!

Hiroshima

ABOUT YOUR BLOCK LEADER

Name: Erin Frazier

Placement (city/town): Fuchu-cho (outskirts of Hiroshima city)

Years on JET: Starting my fourth

Something special about you a/o your favorite memory in Japan:

The most memorable experience I’ve had was running my first full marathon in Kobe. It was a life changing experience, which lead me to run Osaka last year and I will be running it again this year. Also being a part of a taiko group has really made my experience here because they have become my Japanese family.

Anything else you want mentioned: I work at Akifuchu Senior High School that has a crazy ESS club with 43 members this year. So if anyone needs help coming up with things to do with their club feel, free to ask.

ABOUT YOUR BLOCK

Your block: Hiroshima Block

Number of JETs in your block: I believe if everyone is getting replacements there are 22 of us

Festivals / special events / activities in your region: There are so many different things going on in the city it’s not even funny, but it is fun. Please take a peek at the guidebook for a full list of events, festivals, and activities. I will give you some of my favorites though. As far as festivals go I think the city has one of the best: Toka-san, or the yukata festival. This is a three-day event at the beginning of June where people parade around Hachobori in an array of colorful yukatas. If wearing them isn’t your thing, you can still go to take pictures, enjoy dancing, and pray for love at the shrine.

One of my favorite events is when a traveling Shakespeare group visits the women’s university every May. I know this may sound a bit la-di-da, but this is the only English theater the region gets all year and it’s free. Plus the cast does a bang-up job every time.

With activities you name, it we’ve got it. That’s one of the perks of living in the Hiroshima block. If you are looking for something special like underwater basket weaving, I’m sure we can find it…maybe. Places like the NTT culture center, the HIC, and even Green Arena have a bunch of different and new things to try.

Something that sets your block apart from the rest: Living in this block you will constantly hear people saying “you’re so lucky to live in the city or near the city,” and it’s true. We are lucky. We have easy access to western food, transportation, and a few more English speakers. Plus the inaka is just a quick bus ride away if you have the need. I may even dare to say that the Hiroshima Block is party central in the prefecture, but I will let you guys be the judge of that.

Anything else you want mentioned: We are going to be more active this year with get-togethers, hanami, dinners, and adventures so we can really have that true block feeling.

Kure
ABOUT YOUR BLOCK LEADER

Name: Ryan Fowler

Placement (city/town): Kure City

Years on JET: going on five years…  [@_@]

Something special about you a/o your favorite memory in Japan: Being in Japan has made too many experiences to even narrow them down to a top five, but the one I like to brag about the most is my cycling trip around Shikoku doing the 88 Temple Pilgrimage. Not only was it great exercise – cycling over 1000 kilometers in three weeks – but I got to see many uncharted (non-tourist) places of Japan. The easy-going people in rural Japan were even more hospitable than their reputation suggests, and the sights and food were amazing.

Anything else you want mentioned: I try to bathe once a day.

ABOUT YOUR BLOCK

Your block: The Kure block is the metro region of Kure City. Most ALTs live within central Kure, but some city ALTs live in the outskirts suburbs and islands. To my knowledge, all of the prefectural ALTs will continue to live in central Kure.

Number of JETs in your block: There are 19 ALTs: four prefectural and 15 city. For 2013-2014, there are two new prefectural ALTs and five new city ALTs.

Festivals / special events / activities in your region: There are all sorts of Japanese events in Kure, for example, there are harvest festivals in autumn and fireworks in summer. Special Kure-only events include: In early November, there’s the Kure Food Festival, with a variety of local and international cuisine. In February, there’s the Oyster Festival, where you can… eat oysters. In late April, Kure celebrates its naval roots with the Port Festival.

Something that sets your block apart from the rest: Do the other blocks claim to be the best drinkers? Well, they’re all wrong. Because of the nearby Japanese Naval Academy, there’s copious amounts of bars, drinking, and nights out. Also, with a little over 20 foreign English teachers in the compact area (including private teachers), there are a few different crews and someone you’re bound to be inseparable from.

Anything else you want mentioned: Bring a towel, for the baths.

 Saijo

ABOUT YOUR BLOCK LEADER

Name:  Patrick Murphy

Placement (city/town):  Osakikamijima-cho

Years on JET:  3rd year

Something special about you a/o your favorite memory in Japan:  Six years ago I spent a year and three months living in Matsue-shi, Shimane-ken teaching at an English conversation school. While there I had an hour lunch break every day and I would spend it on the coast of the nearby Lake Shinji. Within this lake there is a little island just off the coast named Yomegashima. Every single day, rain or shine, I would sit and stare at this island while I ate my lunch, marveling at the glistening water and this mysterious little island that lay amongst all of the shimmering blue. Being from the Sonoran Desert in the southwestern U.S., this view was very different from anything I had ever experienced in my life, and it changed me over this period of 15 months. During my stay in Matsue I married a Japanese girl and I made a lot of new friends and family. Prior to moving back to the U.S. with my wife, I said goodbye to all of these new found friends and family. While I had been anticipating that I would get emotional during these farewells, I actually didn’t feel sad when I said my goodbyes. However, there was one more friend that I still had yet to say farewell. When I went to Lake Shinji to say goodbye to this lake and the little island of Yomegashima, I burst into tears. I sobbed uncontrollably for a good five minutes while my wife patiently waited for me a short distance away. I was overcome with emotions as I recollected the hundreds of hours that I had spent at this lake and as I realized just how much my life had changed without me knowing it. The memory from this day is a very powerful one, and I will never forget it as long as I live.

When you travel in a foreign country you will probably have a favorite place. You might even spend a decent amount of time at this place and create some nice memories. However, when you live in a foreign country you are able to establish roots there, and the memories you will create will be far deeper and more meaningful than any gained from a brief visit. I wish everyone a pleasant stay while you are in Japan. The memories you create here will last a lifetime.

ABOUT YOUR BLOCK

Your block:  Saijo/Higashi-Hiroshima

Number of JETs in your block:  12

Festivals / special events / activities in your region:  One weekend in October, Saijo becomes the top destination for people all around Hiroshima ken, including JETs. The Sake Festival has all of your typical festival food, games and atmosphere, but we have one extra and very important attraction, sake!  About 900 different kinds of sake are represented from different prefectures. You can buy tickets from a konbini or buy them on the day, though the former is cheaper. Your ticket gets you a sake cup and entrance to the sake garden (from 14:00-20:30). Then you can just drink and drink and drink…until the sake runs out.

The main campus of Hiroshima University is located in Higashi-Hiroshima, so Saijo has a “university town” type of feel. Due to the large number of foreign exchange students, Saijo has a lot of resources available for foreigners. Not too far from Saijo Station you will find the Sun Square building, where the English speaking staff that will be happy to help you and give you information about the city, local events, and free Japanese classes.

Saijo has several department stores including Youme Town and Fuji Gran where you can fulfill all of your shopping needs. Also, at the bookstore in Youme Town you will be able to find a decent selection of novels in English, and at the movie theater in Fuji Gran you will be able to watch all of the latest movies, both international and domestic. For those who like to be active, located around the city you will find several hills and little mountains that have some good trails for hiking, and within the city are a few gyms and sports clubs.

If you’d like to travel around the prefecture or around the Higashi-Hiroshima block, Saijo Station has a large bus terminal that goes basically anywhere. Our block extends all the way down to the Seto Inland Sea, so I recommend traveling south and exploring the islands!  From Akitsu and Takehara you can catch a ferry to the island of Osakikamijima which is known for the Kinoe Onsen as well as the spectacular views from the top of Mt. Kannomine. From Tadanoumi you can take a ferry to Okunoshima, a.k.a. the “Rabbit Island,” which is home to hundreds of rabbits that roam freely around the island. During WWII this island was used as a chemical warfare production site, and it is said that the rabbits were used as test subjects for poison gas until the war ended at which point they were all released. The history of the island might be a little unpleasant, but now you can just enjoy the company of lots and lots of cute little rabbits!

Something that sets your block apart from the rest:  Umm… We’re #1? Oh yeah, and we have two different train stations in Saijo that are in two different locations: Saijo Station (regular trains) and Higashi-Hiroshima Station (shinkansen). Usually it is easier to just take a local train from Saijo Station to Mihara or Hiroshima if you plan on taking the shinkansen to travel around Japan, but the Higashi-Hiroshima Station is also there if you need it!

Bihoku

ABOUT YOUR BLOCK LEADER

Name: Zach Nichols

Placement (city/town): Shobara City

Years on JET: 4

Something special about you a/o your favorite memory in Japan: With so many to choose from this is a tough question. On the night of the last day of my first year in Japan I set to climb Mount Fuji starting at 9PM. The climb took 6 hours, and from the peak of Mount Fuji I watched the sunrise dawn on the first day of my second year in Japan.  One of the best anniversaries I’ve ever had.

Anything else you want mentioned: I love meeting new people so please say “hi.” I am always looking for new adventures and love traveling. Lately I have been reading a lot, largely philosophy, ethics, and science fiction.

ABOUT YOUR BLOCK

Your block: Bihoku Block

Number of JETs in your block: Around 7

Festivals / special events / activities in your region: Yoitoko Matsuri: the last weekend in August. KyuRyo Koen Illumination: A special display of light-made designs throughout the national park in December.

Something that sets your block apart from the rest: The nature. Pristine mountains and rivers.  Hiking and cycling are very popular here. Probably most of all are the people.  Everyone says hello to me even if we are just passing on the street. People here are so kind. They are always giving me vegetables and other gifts.

Anything else you want mentioned: Coming from Rochester, NY I was a little bit surprised by how rural the environment here was from my hometown.  It’s okay to be surprised by your new scenery, but always keep an eye out for things to do and ways to get involved! This region tends to be sparsely populated so things can be more of a challenge to get to, but the existing public transportation can be relatively convenient for the time schedule savvy individual.

MiharaOnomichi

ABOUT YOUR BLOCK LEADER

Name: Sean Hofman

Placement (city/town): Mihara, Itozaki

Years on JET: 2

Something special about you a/o your favorite memory in Japan:  There are too many great memories to choose from over the years. But if I had to choose, I’d say road tripping to the Beer Festival followed by camping in Tottori was a pretty solid highlight of my time here. Also, snowboarding in glorious Hokkaido is definitely at the top of that list.

Anything else you want mentioned: I’m from San Diego, California. I’m going on my third year and I’m still enjoying the hell out of my time here.

ABOUT YOUR BLOCK

Your block: Onomichi/Mihara

Number of JETs in your block: 17 JETs, (12 of which will be new)

Festivals / special events / activities in your region: There are plenty of festivals to experience in both towns throughout the year. In Onomichi, you can go to the Betchya Festival in November, the Onomichi Port Festival in April, and the Onomichi Sumiyoshi Fireworks Festival in the first week of August. In Mihara, you can watch the Mihara JETs dance in the Yassa Festival in August. You can also check out the Shimeiichi Festival in February. Onomichi is also the starting point of the famous Shimanami Kaido, which is a beautiful 80 km bike route that stretches across 6 islands all the way to Shikoku.

Something that sets your block apart from the rest: What sets our block apart from the rest is definitely the location. Both of our towns are located right on the beautiful Seto Inland Sea and are conveniently located in between the two biggest cities in the prefecture, Hiroshima City and Fukuyama. It’s easy to get anywhere in the prefecture from our block. It’s also easy to get to anywhere in Japan because of our two shinkansen stations. Mihara and Onomichi are beautiful towns that have just about everything you need and more to live here.

Anything else you want mentioned: I’m looking forward to meeting all of you this summer! There’s gonna be a pretty large new crew here in our block. I’m definitely getting excited for all you. It’s gonna be an amazing experience.

 Fukuyama

ABOUT YOUR BLOCK LEADER

Name: Dustin Reimer

Placement (city/town): Fukuyama City

Years on JET: 2 under my belt going on 3

Something special about you a/o your favorite memory in Japan: I suppose what sets me apart from most other JETs in Hiroshima is that I came to Japan with my wife, and at the time two young boys. We have recently added a baby girl to that mix. Seeing my family integrate into life in Japan, seeing my boys learn Japanese far quicker than I ever will, and being able to share this experience with them has been simultaneously scary, frustrating, amazing and wonderful.

Anything else you want mentioned: I really like cycling and recommend the Shimanami Kaido cycling route to anyone in the area. It is the premier cycling route in Japan and I have completed it numerous times. I am always looking for new places to cycle or a cycling partner if anyone is interested.

ABOUT YOUR BLOCK

Your block: Fukuyama

Number of JETs in your block: As of this August we will have 11 JETs contracted to the city of Fukuyama and another 8 contracted to various high schools in the area.

Festivals / special events / activities in your region:

There are many festivals in the Fukuyama region. An entire list can be found at www.fukuyama-kanko.com/english/event/  However since the list is fairly extensive I’ll the ones you probably shouldn’t miss if you find yourself in Fukuyama.

  • Sea Bream fishing in Tomonoura: This begins in the end of April and usually runs for about a month.
  • The Fukuyama Rose Festival: This is the kick off festival of the summer season.
  • Bentenjima Fireworks Festival: Fireworks are launched off the coast of Tomonoura.
  • Fukuyama Summer Festival: If Bentenjima is the start of the fireworks season in Fukuyama, the Ashida River Fireworks are the grand finale. Not to be missed.

Something that sets your block apart from the rest: Hiroshima Prefecture is roughly divided into two main regions, the Aki region in the west and the Bingo region in the east. Fukuyama is in the Bingo region, and as a result the local dialect here is known as Bingo ben. This unto itself might not be so noteworthy since most areas in Japan have their own local dialect. However, Bingo ben was used in the old Yakuza movies because of its rough sound. So even though we don’t have a larger Yakuza presence than anywhere else, our local dialect is synonymous with gangster culture in Japan because of that role.

Anything else you want mentioned: Fukuyama is sometimes known as the gateway to the inaka or countryside here in Hiroshima. So while we don’t have all the amenities of the big city, we do have the essentials while still maintaining a laid back country atmosphere. You should come visit. Most of us are really nice.

 

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