宮崎の太陽のタマゴ (The Sun's Egg in Miyazaki)

Over the years, Japan has built a reputation as a nation that produces quality goods and services. It's pursuit of perfection and extreme attention to detail are second to none. Within the country, each prefecture also holds its own reputation for producing certain goods that are specific to that region. For example, Hokkaido is known for its milk, Chiba for its peanuts, and Nagoya for Toyota automobiles. This past weekend, I was presented with an amazing opportunity to visit farmers in Miyazaki to learn about their famous mangos known as 太陽のタマゴ (Taiyo no Tamago), which translates to "the sun's egg". With only a few days notice, I bought my ticket and was on my way to see the fabled fruit!

To provide some background on Miyazaki and their famous Taiyo no Tamago: 

  • Miyazaki is located in Kyushu, the southern part of Japan and known for its exceptionally good food, tropical weather, and Hawaii-like atmosphere.
  • Mangos grow especially well here during the hot summers.
  • The "Taiyo no Tamago" branding was created by JA, an association similar to the USDA.
  • To gain the  "Taiyo no Tamago" branding a mango must meet specific guidelines such as:
    • Weight
    • Color
    • Size
    • Sugar concentration
  • The record price for a pair of Taiyo no Tamago was recently set at $4000, which a department store bought at auction and resold for an undisclosed amount.

Being interested in agriculture and having started a small farm at my home in Hawaii, I was extremely excited to learn about how the mangos were made and even more excited to connect with the local farmers in Miyazaki. 

After landing at Miyazaki airport I took the train to a nearby station to meet up with a woman named Reiko. We had been introduced to each other by a friend who heard about my interest in Japanese agriculture. Reiko started her own online business that connected Tokyo customers to fresh ingredients produced in Miyazaki. Her customers would put in an order and the produce would travel from Miyazaki to a warehouse in Shibuya, which would then be delivered to their homes, sometimes in the same day! Reiko kindly agreed to show me around Miyazaki and introduce me to the local farmers. Although we had just met a week earlier, she planned an entire day of visits to different farms and distributors. Since we would be returning to Tokyo the same day (crazy!), we had little time and lots to do!

We started with breakfast at a restaurant that uses organically produced flour in their pancakes and hastily made our way to the first farm. It was a high-quality farm that produced melons and lychee which typically sell for $100+/melon and $5+/lychee. At almost the size of my palm, I have never seen this size of lychee before! The owner didn't disclose too much about the process (protecting their hard earned trade secrets), but we were fortunate enough to try some of the luxurious lychees straight from the tree and boy were they sweet!

From there we went on to the mango farm. The owner was a younger man who had taken over for his father. He was extremely knowledgeable in various types of crops and growing methods and explained them in great detail as we walked around his farm. Towards the end, we came up to a few large greenhouses which I could not see into from the outside, but I had a feeling they were something special. As he opened the doors we were greeted with the sweet smell of mangos and rows of perfectly pruned mango trees. Each tree had rows of wires in which the mangos would hang from and each mango was wrapped in a net that allowed it to fully ripen without falling to the ground. I have never seen such perfectly maintained mango trees and immediately understood why these were so acclaimed (and expensive) in Japan. The amount of time, effort, and care that is invested into these mangos is undoubtedly the reason for their perfect shape, impeccable color, and intoxicating aroma. 

At the end of the tour, we were gifted with one of his prized mangos. Reiko and I looked at each other with wide eyes and couldn't wait to try it! We decided that it would be best to wait until we got back to Tokyo and enjoy it after it had been chilled for a while. With that we bid farewell to our wonderful guide and his farm, but not before telling him to visit me in Hawaii, and that I would love to collaborate with him in the future. His smile said it all and I know that I will be seeing him someday soon. Hopefully, to return the favor, but more so to create a strong bridge between Japan and Hawaii through our passion for farming.

At the airport, I was approached by an older woman who was selling the "Taiyo no Tamago". Thinking about everything I had learned, all the hard work that the farmers put into making it, and wanting to produce these in Hawaii, I bit the bullet and purchased one. I feel that if one wants to sell a product, they must be able to understand it from the consumer's point of view. At $50, it was the most I've ever spent on any fruit, but when shared with friends, it was well worth it!

Today's Kotowaza:

"笑う門には福来る"

"Warau kado ni wa fuku kitaru"

A positive mind attracts positive results.

サーフデー鎌倉 (Surf Day in Kamakura)

As Japan works its way into summer, the beaches begin to come alive. The surfers dust off their boards and train their bodies back into shape for the upcoming typhoon swells.

As an avid ocean lover, I was itching to get back into the water and jumped at the opportunity when Chiako, a local Keio student, offered to take me. Water temperatures are delayed by about 2 - 3 months, so although it was hot outside, the water was still very cold. You definitely still need a full wetsuit to stay warm. Luckily, Chiako had everything prepared and all that was needed were positive vibes and good company. 

We arrived in Kamakura around 10 am, got ready, and were in the water by 11 am. The sky was blue, the sun was strong, and the waves....were non-existent. Normally, this would have been a little disheartening, but I was so happy to be in the water and with such good people that I couldn't help but smile and enjoy the time we spent waiting for waves.

I definitely hope that Chiako comes to Hawaii someday so I can return the favor and show her how the surf is in Hawaii! 
 

Today's Kotowaza is:

"冬は必ず春になる"

Winter will eventually become spring.
Or in this case, summer! 
Endure hardships, for there will come a time when they become happiness.

 Keio University's Official surf team! Left to right: Kanji, myself, Chiako

Keio University's Official surf team!
Left to right: Kanji, myself, Chiako

 The best sunsets are found where the sky meets the ocean.

The best sunsets are found where the sky meets the ocean.

海の一日 (A Day at the Beach)

The weather in Japan can change drastically over short periods of time. One day it will be cold enough for you to see your breath at night and the next it can get so hot that the moment you step outside you will be drenched in sweat!

This past weekend was one of those hot days that remind you how formidable the sun can be. It also happened to be the same week as the Greenroom Festival in Yokohama, a once-a-year event that celebrates music, art, and surf lifestyle/culture in Japan. It is held in the historic Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse and featured musicians, artists, and film directors from all over the world, whom all share the same passion for the ocean and its preservation. 

One of my favorite bands, SOJA, was playing on Saturday and I desperately wanted to see them. Unfortunately, the tickets were sold out and I was just about ready to throw in the towel, but a local friend sent rays of hope my way when he said that his friend owned a food booth at the event. In return for volunteering at the booth, I would be granted entry to the event for the whole day and a break to watch SOJA play on the main stage! Talk about blessings! I immediately accepted his kind offer and was off to the Greenroom!

The sun was blazing, the sky was blue, and the people were in high spirits. All of the pieces were in place for an amazing day. As I headed towards the booth, a small feeling of anxiety stirred in my empty stomach (I woke up too late to eat breakfast!). Was my Japanese good enough to work at an event with so many people? It was loud, crowded, and extremely busy, but also the perfect chance to challenge myself, and I was up for it!

We started with a pre-event team meeting in which the manager broke down the menu, prices, and operation. Everything was in Japanese, but I was able to get the basic idea. In what seemed like an instant, customers started pouring in and ordering cold beverages, otsumami (light snacks), and bentos. There was almost no time to react, but even less time to stay idle. It was time to boogie. I called on my experience working part-time at a Japanese restaurant in Hawaii and started bringing customers in, taking orders, and handing out their food. My anxiety quickly turned into a rush of excitement and before I knew it, SOJA was about to start. The manager gave me a "Ok, go for it!" nod and I hastily made my way to the main stage. There it was....the moment I had been waiting for and it was an amazing performance. 

As SOJA stepped off stage, I went back to our booth to find it busier than ever! It was time to get back to work. After a few hours we were completely sold out and it was time to head home. 

Thank you so much to Kaneyo Shokudo for allowing me to work alongside your wonderful staff and experience the amazing Greenroom Event. It was definitely a day to remember!

 

Today's Kotowaza is:

”類は友を呼ぶ”

Birds of a feather flock together.
Literally, we attract those whom are like ourselves.

 Main stage at twilight.

Main stage at twilight.

 Lost in music.

Lost in music.

 Back to work!

Back to work!

奇跡の一本 (The Miracle Tree)

One of the best parts of being a scholar is the opportunity we have to give back to the community. This past weekend I was invited to volunteer for a bottled water donation for the residents of the Iwate Prefecture, the area that took the brunt of the tsunami in March 2011. 

I needed to be at Tokyo Station by 6:30 A.M., take a 3-hour bullet-train, and then a 2-hour bus ride to get to the donation site. It was a long journey, but my fatigue was quickly replaced by a surreal feeling of unrest as we passed by the remains of the Iwate coastline. Six years after the tsunami hit the area is still being rebuilt. One by one, construction trucks hauled dirt to new building sites and you could still see the remains of builds destroyed by the tsunami. 

We arrived at the donation site a little before noon and a group of about 13 volunteers quickly unloaded over 1000 boxes of bottled water. After unloading the boxes, we started going door to door offering the water to residents who are currently living in temporary homes because they lost their original homes to the tsunami. The reason why we delivered bottled water is because the (temporarily) repaired water lines are currently above ground which causes the water to have an unpleasant smell during the day, and residents don't believe the water is safe for drinking. The residents greeted us with warm smiles and kindly accepted the water.  It felt great helping this devasted community and we even got our exercise in for the day!

After we finished delivering the water, our coordinator took us to the coastline that was hit hardest on that fateful day. A single tree withstood the impact that devasted the Iwate coastline. This tree was one of 70,000 planted 350 years ago by two men who foresaw the dangers of a tsunami in this area. Little did they know that this tree would become the symbol of hope and courage that the people of Iwate would look towards as they rebuilt their shattered lives one step at a time.

A BIG mahalo to the Freeman Foundation, Honjo Foundation, the University of Hawaii, and the Shidler College of Business for providing me with the opportunity to embark on this journey and help this amazing community of people. A truly life-changing experience that will never be forgotten.

 

Today will be the start of a new addition to my blog posts. Every post will be concluded with a traditional Japanese proverb known as "kotowaza" that fits the underlying theme of each post. Today's kotowaza is:

 ”七転び八起き”
"Fall 7 times, stand up 8 times"
 The "Miracle Pine" was the only tree of 70,000 to withstand the Tohoku tsunami, now stands as a symbol of hope for all of Japan as the country rebuilds itself.

The "Miracle Pine" was the only tree of 70,000 to withstand the Tohoku tsunami, now stands as a symbol of hope for all of Japan as the country rebuilds itself.

最初の一週間 (The Fist Week)

This past week marked the beginning of the spring semester at Keio University. It has been an amazing journey so far and things are only getting better.

Unlike most American universities, students at Keio sign up for classes in the beginning of the semester. This makes for a pretty busy first week because everyone is trying to arrange their schedule at the same time. In comparison to the states, Keio's registration system allows for greater flexibility, but also makes it difficult to plan your schedule in advance. I found it particularly challenging because the many of the classes listed in Shidler's Course Equivalencies  were only offered in the Fall semester. All of the classes needed to transfer back to back to my home university (University of Hawaii at Manoa, Shidler College of Business), but many of them either overlapped with each other or were not being offered in the Spring semester (this changes every semester and is hard to avoid, so don't panic when it happens. ) 

Another big difference is that classes (in Japan) meet once a week as compared to two or three times per week in the states. This is great in terms of convenience, but it also means that you have to study most of the material on your own. For some this is a great option and for others it may not be. It depends on your own style of learning. Personally, I enjoy meeting multiple times throughout the week because it gives the students more opportunities to interact with each other and the professor. I believe that maximizing the time spent on in-class interaction is beneficial to both the students and the professor. 

On another note, this year has been especially cold in Japan, and the sakura have blossomed a little later than usual. It is really an amazing sight to see! This past weekend there were so many people celebrating the arrival of spring!

 

慶應の寮に引っ越し (Moving into the Keio Dorms)

Living in Tokyo was a great experience. There is always something to explore and although the city is small, the number of districts make it an endless concrete jungle begging to be explored.

On the 23rd I moved into the Keio University Dorms located in Yokohama. My room is very small with no frills, but it definitely gets the job done. I have my own refrigerator and bathroom, so those who want privacy need not worry!

One thing I don't understand is why International Students are sent to Yokohama while the campus is in Tokyo. My dormitory is over an hour away from campus! That means over two hours/day just going to and coming back from school. I am sure there is a reason (maybe rent in Tokyo is too expensive?), but two hours a day amounts to 40 hrs/month and more than 1 week of time spent just getting to and from my destination. Thinking about the long-run, I may have been better off staying in my Tokyo apartment. 

Alternatively, the new opportunities associated with living in an international dormitory are endless! New friends from all over the world, a new town to explore, and really cheap food (because most of the town is for college students and everyone knows we don't have any money)!

慣れてきました (Getting used to it)

Sometimes the reality of living in Japan eludes me. It may be due to the high level of Japanese culture embedded into life in Hawaii, but I often feel as if the distance between both cultures is much smaller than I had originally believed. 

One BIG difference between Japanese and Hawaiian culture is punctuality. Everything in Japan is on schedule and being on time means showing up 10 minutes early. It is safe to say that "Hawaiian time" is definitely not an option if you want to be successful while living in Japan. Another example is Tokyo's mass transit system. The trains are almost always on time and if there is even a 1-minute delay people will start to worry. It's easy to see why a small country like Japan is able to achieve high levels of productivity. They move as if there isn't a minute to waste and quite honestly, there really isn't!

 

20170220_155606.jpg

到着 (Arrival)

  • Departed Hawaii on Feb 15th at 2:00 PM
  • Arrived in Tokyo on Feb 16th at 7:00 PM

It's been a long time coming and the day has finally arrived! Touched down in Tokyo and was fortunate to have a friend pick me up from the airport. I was worried about taking my luggage on the train, but everything worked out perfectly!

Going through immigration was straight forward, but I had to wait a while for my student visa to be printed. Unfortunately, I ended up being the LAST person to be helped, but nothing was going to ruin my excitement! 

I arrived at my apartment around 10:00 PM and met my two roommates. One is an extremely intelligent Harvard graduate from Haiti and the other is a Japanese native who can speak perfect English. Needless to say, they are both excellent people and I am very grateful for this blessing. (HUGE mahalo to Nicole Oka for introducing me to these great people!)

Classes start in April so I have a lot of time to get situated and explore the country. I don't have a list of places to go, but instead prefer to write the story one day at a time. Right now I'm waiting for a friend to pick me up and take me snowboarding in Nagano. This is going to be the first of many adventures in Japan!


P.S. For those who aren't able to get picked up from the airport, I STRONGLY recommend using the takyubin (shipping) service. There are multiple counters located in both Narita and Haneda airports and will make your first night in Japan a lot easier. Just remember to pack 1 or 2 days worth of clothes because it will take some time for your bags to arrive.  

 

そろそろ出発 (Leaving soon)

It's almost time to leave for Japan! Last week, my visa was ready for pick-up and my plane ticket was booked the next day. I'll arrive before the semester starts (Japan starts in March) to get situated and explore all the country has to offer. Because I am arriving early, there was some work to do in finding a place to stay before school at Keio starts. Luckily, a previous Freeman Scholar and excellent friend (thanks Nikki!) introduced me to someone who was willing to rent me a room for one month. In the heart of Tokyo and dangerously close to the well-known Tsukiji Fish market, I must say that this is definitely a blessing. 

It's time to start packing, buying omiyage (gifts), and getting some surf in while I have the chance!

Now a totally unrelated (but awesome) photo of a homemade lilikoi chiffon pie made with fruits fresh from my farm. Enjoy :]

 Perks of having a farm = Fresh fruits for fresh pies!

Perks of having a farm = Fresh fruits for fresh pies!

待ってる時には (In Times of Waiting)

This is the longest winter break ever! Because the Japanese school calendar is different from UH Manoa, I have a good amount of time to prepare for the semester abroad. All of my classmates have gone back to school and it feels nice to be able to spend time at home getting things done.

Although it is easy to sit around and relax, I am taking advantage of my free time by participating in community service events and starting a small farm at my parents home. It's a great way to stay productive while giving back to the community!

Last week, my father drove us out to Frankies Nursery in Waimanalo and we each picked out a few fruit trees to plant before I leave to Japan. Pops bought two varieties of mango while my Mother went for two guava trees. I ended up buying three trees (sorry Dad!) A grapefruit, lava orange, and banana tree.  I can't wait to plant them!

 

Slider1.jpg

自己紹介 + 感謝する(Intro + Mahalo)

Aloha,

This is the beginning of a new adventure. In September of 2016, I was nominated to attend Keio University as a part of the University of Hawaii's Student Exchange Program (MIX). The following month I was fortunate to be presented with the Freeman Foundation Scholarship, a $5,900 one-time travel award that enables students to broaden their horizons by studying abroad in Asia.

My name is Matthew Yoshioka, a 3rd generation local Japanese student born and raised in Hawaii. This will be a documentation of my journey abroad which begins here in Hawaii as I prepare for departure. I plan to leave in February 2017 and will return in August of the same year.

Thank you to the Freeman Foundation and the University of Hawaii for providing this amazing opportunity to study abroad and experience new and diverse cultures. I am truly grateful for these blessings and will strive to reciprocate this kindness in every way possible.

Mahalo,
Matthew Yoshioka