Oscar Boyd sums up a year working for Fukuoka Now:
Finding Fukuoka Now
Late one September evening in 2014, I emerged from Fukuoka Airport’s International Terminal half blind with jetlag, disorientated by billboards advertising Meiji Milk and inappropriate-looking hair straighteners. I was lost, thrust by the engines of a Boeing 727 into a culture as alien as any and a city whose name no two foreigners seemed to pronounce the same way twice.
The following morning arrived with a healthy dose of September sun, and for the first time I could properly see the city that I’d be living in: its stunning coastal architecture, bustling downtown centre, and a five-storey maze of lanes and avenues that connect Michelin starred restaurants to obscure sweet shops and indie fashion houses.
The realisation that I was in a fully functioning city as nice as any came with another, I was still lost. So I turned to my new friend, Google JP, and asked with no subtlety, “What should I do in Fukuoka?” “Hey Oscar, I’ve found 1.2 million results in 0.28 secon…” replied Google. Overwhelmed, I shut my laptop.
I looked around, hoping for a sign that could help me, anything that would stretch my bubble of understanding to beyond the 7/11 across the road. My eyes flicked upwards towards the ring of mountains that bordered the city and I realised that up was up, no matter what language it was signposted in, and I had my first glimmer of hope. “Hey Google,” I called, “tell me about Hiking in Fukuoka.” Page one, hit one: Hiking in Fukuoka – A Guide by Fukuoka Now.
For the next few weeks, Fukuoka Now guided me through the city and its surroundings and I found its articles both useful and intimate, written by foreigners for foreigners. The mountains kept their draw, and I soon set myself the challenge of trying to summit all the mountains I could see from my bedroom window. The first I chose were the ones written about on Fukuoka Now, the beautiful Homan-zan in Dazaifu and its neighbouring peak Sangunsan. Quickly, however, the guides ran out and I began to venture out into the wilderness unguided. Some mountains I found untracked, and had to beat my way through bamboo thickets to the top. Still more had wonderful tracks up them – both well maintained and challenging – yet had no English guides written for them. I began writing up guides to my hikes and submitted them to Nick Szasz, Fukuoka Now’s Editor/Canadian-in-chief, and soon had my first guides published.
After testing my writing mettle with a few hiking guides, Nick invited me into the office to discuss some other article ideas. I was sent into the field to interview the organisers of Fukuoka’s first LGBT Parade, a group of students from the University of Fukuoka. This article was followed up with a report on the parade itself, a glorious exhibition of activism that stood in stark contrast with Japan’s prevailing attitude of silence towards LGBT issues. http://fukuoka-now.com/en/feature/rainbowparade2014/
Following the parade I continued writing reports for both the web and the magazine, a selection of which are below:
Kodo: One Earth Tour http://fukuoka-now.com/en/event/kodo-one-earth-tour-2014-eternity/
The internationally celebrated Kodo Taiko Orchestra returned to Fukuoka in October 2014 to tour their newly released show: Eternity. Performing in front of a sold out theatre, the group combined mastery of the taiko drum with beautiful choreography and costumes in an exposition of the theme ‘mankind’s glimpse of eternity in nature’.
Color Me Rad http://fukuoka-now.com/en/2014/11/color-me-rad-comes-to-fukuoka/
On Nov 22, 2014, under a clear blue sky, 8,500 runners gathered for Fukuoka’s first Color Me Rad event in Uminonakamichi Seaside Park. Color Me Rad’s idea is simple: a 3km run, powdered paint, music and crowds of jubilant people. The result: a Jackson Pollock piece on steroids, a heaving mass of color and smiles – mine just one them.
Itoshima Winter Adventure http://fukuoka-now.com/en/feature/itoshima-adventure-winter-edition/
The beautiful coastal region of Itoshima became our playground for the day as we explored its best beaches, cafes, waterfalls and galleries in a new Mercedes lent to us for the day by Budget-Rent-a-Car.
Sake in Fukuoka http://fukuoka-now.com/en/feature/sake-guide/
Kyushu is better known for its production of shochu than its nihonshu (sake). Yet sake production is on the rise throughout the prefecture and Fukuoka is building up a reputation as a producer of high quality sake. Two factory tours and an extensive sake tasting event later, and I was as close to an expert as I’ll ever be.
Diary of a Kyushu Woofer – http://fukuoka-now.com/en/2015/04/woofing-kyushu/
I spent a week living and working on a farm in Hita City, Oita Pref, to experience Kyushu’s growing WWOOFing movement.
Fukuoka Hawks at the Yahuoku! Dome http://fukuoka-now.com/en/feature/enjoying-softbank-hawks-baseball-at-fukuokas-yahuoku-dome/
I journeyed to the Dome to catch my first glimpse of the Hawks in action and managed to meet and interview two of the team’s superstar relief pitchers on the hallowed pitch.
The 31st Kashima Gatalympics http://fukuoka-now.com/en/2015/06/the-31st-kashima-gatalympics/
For one day only, the mudflats of Kashima are turned into a giant assault course, with a variety of events throughout the day which are all, in some way, tied to the mud. From giant rope swings and cycling races, to skipping stones and sumo wrestling, there is something for everyone.
Belgian Beer Weekend Fukuoka 2015 http://fukuoka-now.com/en/2015/05/belgian-beer-weekend-fukuoka-2015/
Zen Buddhism Classes for Beginners http://fukuoka-now.com/en/2015/02/zen-buddhism-classes/
Editing, Content Management and PR
While writing reports, I also took on editing work, proofed articles and helped Japanese members of staff with English translation work. The multilingual working environment of Fukuoka Now is one of the company’s most interesting aspects and, though it provides opportunities and challenges in equal measure, is a fantastic experience for anyone who sees a career in an international working environment.
Editing work quickly progressed to content management, creating articles for the web and learning about coding and the back end of the Fukuoka Now website. As a primarily web based media organisation, Fukuoka Now’s social media strategy is incredibly important, and PR work included drafting posts for the company’s FaceBook page, summarising the latest articles, news stories and up and coming events in Fukuoka.
The Insider’s View
As a reader, Fukuoka Now changed Fukuoka from a city that can seem daunting and inaccessible into one that is accessible and homely. As a writer and researcher, Fukuoka Now took that experience one step further, giving me an insider’s view to the city. Fukuoka Now is Fukuoka’s main English language media outlet, and it therefore has unrivalled access to the city, a perk that is given to its writers and researchers. From dining on freshly picked oysters in Itoshima to sitting in the dugout with the stars of the Fukuoka Hawks baseball team, Fukuoka Now gave me opportunities that were unique and exciting. I can only recommend getting involved.
Interested in interning for Fukuoka Now? Apply here!