February 2014

Congratulations! You have made it through the coldest month of the year and hopefully only lost non-essential digits to frostbite. Whether you have decided to remain in Japan for a further year or not, at least decision time is over. This is of course a valid reason to celebrate and the third semester is the optimum time to do so. After around six weeks of teaching the majority of us will be free to twiddle our thumbs at our desks, work on personal projects [I am relearning German after four years off. It’s not going terribly well so far], or take advantage of the off-season to do some travelling [Peach flights to Taipei and Hong Kong look particularly tempting. No I am not employed by Peach, but I should be.]


I personally love February. There are wintry adventures to be had all across Japan; from the spectacular Yuki Matsuri in Sapporo, to skiing in northern Hyogo and snow fun even on Mount Rokko. This month we can still justify double portions of everything (extra padding needed for insulation), wearing terribly coordinated outfits just for the extra layers and, of course, falling asleep under the kotatsu. And if you are longing to defrost once and for all, look no further than the gardens at Osaka castle, where the early blooming plum blossoms are giving us our first hopeful taste of spring.


February can also be an emotional month; Valentine’s Day is a contentious topic but who can complain of the home-made sweets doled out by adoring students? My advice is to save these treats for graduation day, when tears will inevitably be shed [definitely by them, probably by you] and a hug-in-a-chocolate will work wonders and cement your reputation as the best ALT ever!


To pass the time waiting for spring’s warmth, broaden your mind with this month’s issue of the Hyogo Times where we’ve got something for everyone. Winter travellers to Hokkaido should read our hunger-inducing food guide as well as about Asahikawa, an alternative to Sapporo. If you fancy something warmer then perhaps our lovely new writer Claire can persuade you to try island hopping in Okinawa. Staying local and feeling cultural? Check out our review of GEAR. In the Current Affairs section Abe-san is making waves in Africa and with his “Active Pacifism” policies. We also have regular features Kicchiri Kitchen, Just Ask Ava, the Kannon and another special edition WATN?, plus more!


Read away my friends!

Until next month,



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