Fern Brereton reports on a year of contributing to Fukuoka Now.
I have had the incredible privilege of living and studying in Fukuoka over the past year. I can safely say it’s one of my favorite cities in the world, with an incredible landscape of mountains and sea, amazing culture and food, a real boom in independent, innovative businesses, and wonderfully kind and generous people.
Whilst the majority of my time has been spent studying on a language program connected to my alma mater, I’ve relished opportunities to explore what the city has to offer. Fukuoka Now, the well-loved events and news publication, has been at the centre of these adventures on multiple occasions.
I first heard about the publication back in England from a friend on the same language program in 2016. It sounded amazing and I was immediately keen to get involved. Experience in writing with a chance to explore the best that Fukuoka has to offer? Yes please!
My first assignments revolved around some personal interests, notably the chance to report on the inaugural Fukuoka Coffee Festival in November 2016. With a booming community and long history of coffee craftsmanship in the city, it was a delight to meet some of the ambitious people driving the growth of the Fukuoka coffee scene.
Another personal interest, dessert foods, also facilitated a gig modelling (read: devouring) some purple pancakes at the restaurant Eggs ‘n’ Things for a special Halloween feature. This was a great experience, not only for the food, but as an opportunity to see a professional photo shoot set up and execution, as well as the client liaison involved in this seasonal promotion for the Daimyo branch of this famous Hawaiian chain.
My obvious talent for food consumption lead to a later assignment modelling kakigori for the printed magazine and an online report. This well-loved Japanese shaved ice dish is a summer classic and it was very interesting to taste a variety of styles from four very different stores. Again, the process was a good learning experience in the areas of photography direction and selection, as well as interviewing and text editing.
After weathering a chilly winter, the spring break, or haruyasumi, brought the once in a lifetime chance to explore Oita Prefecture on a personal guided tour. The opportunity arose through a large travel company as they needed a market research monitor for a new tourist itinerary. I was also asked to produce a report on this proposed route for Fukuoka Now. This breath-taking three day trip was a whirlwind tour of the culture, food, and natural beauty of the region. Particular highlights included a stunning night’s stay in an onsen ryokan (a traditional Japanese spa inn), exploring the scorched plains of Aso-Kuju National Park, and visiting the historic Onda pottery village. What an amazing opportunity to dive into the heritage of one of Kyushu’s most treasured regions! I also learnt a lot about the logistics of travel photography, factual interviewing techniques, and note taking in the process of writing this report.
In April I had the pleasure of producing a report on the up and coming tea business Ikkyu, which was established by a group of ex-pat Swiss, French, and Italian business professionals. Working alongside Fukuoka Now publisher Nick, I attended a business strategy presentation and interviewed co-founder Stephane Camus. This whole event and the production of the subsequent article and interview was a fantastic exercise in transcription, bilingual communications, and photo direction.
Later in the year I also had the pleasure of co-MCing the annual Fukuoka Canada Day party hosted by Fukuoka Now, now in its 17th year. Dressed as classic literary figure Anne of Green Gables, it was such fun to interact with the crowd, enjoy authentic Canadian food and drink, and celebrate the 150th anniversary of this beautiful country. Having conducted research for a literary quiz and worked on my Canadian accent a bit, I led an audience of over 1,000 guests with enthusiasm and confidence across the seven hour event. Hopefully my report will encourage people to join the fun again next year; it’s such a great event and is open to everyone, not just Canadians!
At the end of my language program I took the opportunity to intern full time with the magazine for a month. During this four-week period I had the chance to enjoy a Hakata Bay harbour cruise on the Mariera, check out some of Fukuoka’s squash facilities, and interview an American writer from the rural area of Munakata just east of the city. The Mariera experience was a fun chance to review this renovated tourist attraction and enjoy incredible sights of the city whilst practising photography and experiential writing.
Reporting on squash courts in Fukuoka touched on another passion of mine, sports, and was a valuable experience conducting an interview in Japanese and learning more about photo editing and online publishing.
American academic Anne Crescini’s book Japanese for Real Life was also a fascinating publication to review as something written by a foreigner for other foreigners wrestling with culture shock and linguistic disconnection in everyday contexts. Interviewing Anne and her Japanese co-author for the report was an excellent chance to learn about recording technology, as well as hone my writing and editing skills.
I also utilised my research skills and clipped writing technique to produce the biography information for artists performing at the Isla de Salsa and Sunset Live festivals later this summer. I’m so sad to be missing these incredible events as I’ll already be back in the UK, but definitely recommend grabbing discounted tickets through Fukuoka Now and catching these awesome music festivals!
During my internship I also got to chat live on the radio during Fukuoka Now publisher Nick’s weekly Love FM slot! We went into the station’s central Tenjin studio and spoke on air about upcoming events around the city and the joys of humidity, fireworks, and sunflowers in the Fukuoka summer.
Alongside these assignments, the internship generally allowed me to cultivate skills in editing, proofreading, publishing, and style consistency. I worked seven-hour days in the Tenjin-based office, contributing to morning meetings and producing material for tight deadlines. Working as part of an international team was a fantastic experience, and the fast-paced environment was enjoyably challenging. The opportunity to experience a full cycle of the printed magazine’s publication, including all the related design, content development, and advertising management, was a fantastic learning experience. I also produced a review of the magazine’s social media strategy, which was a really interesting analytics and data-driven project incorporating personal insight and creativity.
The opportunity to work with Fukuoka Now has nothing but enhanced my time in Japan and it been a wonderful publication through which to develop various professional skills. The experiences the magazine has facilitated have been incredible, and the commitment for contribution has always fitted perfectly around other appointments and interests. To anyone looking to get involved, I would highly recommend it; who knows where it could take you!
Interested in interning at Fukuoka Now? Apply here!