Getting into a Master’s Program in Japan

Under the MEXT scholarship, I studied Gender and Media at the University of Tokyo from 2011 to 2014. Here’s how I got in.

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A Clover Story

There was a time in my life that whenever I felt bad, I would go looking for clovers. It became a habit around five years ago, when I’d just moved from Manila and noticed that clovers were more abundant in Tokyo. I have always loved the magical stories people weave in everyday objects, so naturally, I felt drawn to the idea of searching for a four-leaf clover.

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#TōhokudeYokatta: How Japanese Netizens Transformed a Politician’s Blunder into an Inspiring Message

On April 25th, Tuesday, during a presentation on the March 2011 disaster, a callous remark slipped out of then minister of reconstruction Masahiro Imamura. Revisiting the numbers that represent the damage the disaster had made, Imamura casually pointed out that, “It was a good thing that the disaster hit Tohoku,” as the damages would have been incalculable had it struck anywhere near the capital.

Needless to say, the remark was not well-received. When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took the stage later that night, he began with an apology, stating that Imamura had uttered inappropriate words during his presentation that hurt the feelings of the disaster’s survivors. It was too late to do damage control however, as Imamura’s words had made its way to Twitter, and enraged comments have popped up under the hashtag “TōhokudeYokatta.” (#東北でよかった; Good thing it was Tōhoku)

People called for Imamura’s resignation and by Wednesday night, the minister caved into submission. In the timeline of news stories, this would have been the end—a transgression has been made and accordingly sanctioned, balance has been restored, and people can now move on to the next story.

Except that the hashtag didn’t disappear after that. Once the bearer of bad news and angry messages, #TōhokudeYokatta became a badge of honor, with Twitter users reappropriating Imamura’s words to highlight what’s good about Tohoku. From gorgeous scenery to local cuisine, Twitter was filled with overflowing appreciation for the region. Continue reading

Romanticizing Motherhood: Horikita Maki and the Ritualistic Retirement of Female Actresses in Japan

Top Image Source: Excite

On Tuesday, February 28th, I turned my TV on per my usual morning routine. I checked the clock on the upper left screen to make sure I wasn’t running late as the morning wide show I usually watch filled my otherwise quiet room with cheery, mostly insignificant chatter.

As the show moved from one segment to another, a familiar face appeared on my screen: actress Horikita Maki, through her agency, has faxed a handwritten letter to all media outlets announcing her retirement from the entertainment industry. In the letter, she details that she has decided to step away from the industry she has worked in for 14 years to focus on building a home. This was followed by a recollection of events in the past two years, primarily her marriage and childbirth. As the VTR ended and the camera zoomed back to the live studio, the hosts of the show sang praises for the actress, heralding once again the indisputable virtue of motherhood, before they quickly went to the next segment. Continue reading

Mental Health Counseling in Japan: A Horror Story

This isn’t the kind of video I usually make. I usually opt for something more fun or humorous. But we need to talk about mental health. And when you live in a country with a high suicide rate, it’s not really a laughing matter.

This video is about a terrible experience I had with an American counselor in Tokyo. It still baffles me how this person is allowed to practice to this day, given that his behavior is offensive and questionably legal.

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The Perks and Pitfalls of Being a Foreign Talent in the Japanese Entertainment Industry: An Interview with Noemi Krapecz

Written by Mizhelle
Photo by Jun Matsuoka

I first met Noemi four years ago. She had just arrived in Japan from Hungary and was living in a cramped guesthouse with three or four other foreigners, one of whom was my best friend. My best friend, being the whirlwind that she is, had left Japan with a lot of luggage behind and had asked us to send it to Australia where she had just moved back to. Luckily, Noemi agreed to help me send them.

My first impression of Noemi was that she was a kind and sweet girl. She had shoulder-length, straight blonde hair then, and I complimented her for it. She thanked me but was a little bit flustered, saying that it wasn’t really all that beautiful at the moment. In between carrying heavy boxes to the nearest post office, she told me she was looking for a job in Japan, and that she wanted to model. I didn’t really know much about getting a job in the Japanese entertainment industry then, so I couldn’t offer any good advice. When we finished sending the last of my best friend’s boxes, I wished her luck. Little did I know that it was the start of a long friendship.

Today, she sits in front of me with an air of confidence, dressed in vibrant colors, her now long hair styled in soft curls. Since meeting Noemi four years ago, she has appeared in various music videos, variety shows, and TV dramas, with an upcoming movie to boot. Many of the foreigners I’ve met in Japan have tried their luck in the entertainment industry, but among the people I know, she is the only one who’s had continuous success. I was very thus very curious to know her story, and luckily she indulged me. Continue reading