The Rub

Hello people.

Thanks for being patient and for all your views so far. First of all, the project is going ahead but it’s not my project now, it is the school’s. I’m just running this blog to keep people informed. It also has the full support of several principals and my company. So, that’s a good start. I’m hoping to add lots of people, including some celebrity types to that too. Maybe I’m aiming big but I know some people who might be willing to support our little deal.

So, what’s wrong? Why this post?

Well, here’s the rub: Due to time constraints we are going to move the project until after the summer vacation. The reasons for this are mainly that it took longer than anticipated to gain everyone’s approval and we couldn’t move ahead with certain parts of the preparation without it. So we were a bit late. It was still possible but it would have been rushed, and that’s not how we want to do things. Secondly, my illustrator has been busy with another project and unable to complete the promo art work yet.

It’s led to some unexpected benefits though. I’m now free to concentrate on the first grade projects I’m also working on, but most of all, I can focus a couple more lessons of second grade on building their compositions skills. This will mean better entries for the book.

So there it is. The project is still going ahead but we’ll be a bit quiet until things really start rolling at the end of August. Until then, I’ll post little updates as they happen, and of course, you are welcome to contact us, make any enquiries, leave suggestions and spread the word to get some more support for us.

Thanks for being wonderful. My group of teens and teachers commend you for it. So until the big push, take care!



Hello again,

Sorry for the silence. For a while, I thought the project was dead, as my company did not want to risk doing it. However, my school are so enthusiastic that they are going to do the project themselves (freeing me and my company from any harmful implications of responsibility). I’ve been asked to continue documenting it’s progress so the project and the blog are alive again.

More very soon as we reshuffle a bit.

Almost out the gate

Today we went to the school’s principal to discuss the project with him. He seems very happy to pursue the idea. The talk was all in Japanese with only a few comments from me, but it seemed straight forward.

The principal here’s quite keen about the use of technology and such in school (he likes iPads for example) so I was confident he would take to it.

Now all that remains is to get my company’s permission. They seemed to only be concerned about my school’s willingness so I’m hoping it’s all okay. Stay tuned!

Testing times

Good morning!

Today is the first day of the mid term tests so the students and the school are busy. First grade are nervous because it is their first tests. Personally, I find exam time very boring. I have no lessons because everyone is busy with tests; I can’t speak to students because they aren’t allowed in the teachers room at this time or they are busy studying; worst of all, after some time with nothing to do, when the lessons start up again I also get a huge pile of marking to get through!

Anyway, as for the project, I’ve virtually finished the Kickstarter page. I’m just waiting on the final banner and logo from my illustrator, Marisa. Then we will be ready for our start date. I still haven’t heard from my company, so if necessary I will email them tomorrow to make sure it is ok to go ahead with the project.

Sorry for the quiet period but please pass on word of this project. We still need all the supporter we can get. Hopefully, I’ll get back to you soon with a more exciting update.




Good morning! It’s another fine week. Rainy season has been officially declared but it’s one of the clearest, sunniest days today. Typical eh?

Things are a bit quiet at the moment. We are busy sorting out boring legal stuff. We have to get permission of my company and confirm permission with the school to make sure everything is okay. Then we have to consider the copyrights for our material. So at some point we will have to ask students permission to publish their work. It’s funny because all this preparation has to be done ahead of time, but it will be for nothing if we don’t get permissions!

So fingers crossed!


I’m working quietly in the background, filling in details for our Kickstarter page. So progress is being made.

How was your weekend?



It’s Friday at last! I’ve been filming some clips for the project’s introduction video. It’s been fun going around the building and recording video of where the earthquake did damage.

Soon I will be making a FAQ section for this blog too. So if you have any questions now, would be a good time to contact me.

The big announcement is that currently, this project is going under scrutiny of my company. If they approve of it, this will be the last obstacle to overcome. Understandably, they are concerned about any complications that might arise if certain students’ parents don’t want their children exposed on the Internet in any way. This is a common reaction, but unnecessary.

So let me take this opportunity to make it absolutely clear that I have no intention of publishing any image of my students, and I will not even use their names in the book unless they give me permission. So please do not worry.

However, any thing can happen, especially in Japan, so I’ll keep my fingers crossed until we get the all clear.

Perhaps I should have done this sooner in the process, but I didn’t anticipate them being so concerned.

Budgetary regards

Hello again!

It’s great weather here in Japan now, so I’m in a good mood today.


I’m also in a good mood because I worked out the budget for this project and it looks good for our success.

First of all, I did some research. As you know, I intend to use Kickstarter to help fund this project. I looked at projects on their site and to me, it seems that projects with targets under $2,000 do very well. I’m glad to report that our target will be under this total!

    The Math

I hated math at school so this took me a while. First of all, I looked at two different sites. To publish my novels, I used Lulu in the past. However, since I am in Japan and they don’t print in this country, shipping charges are extortionate! So a quick look at the numbers showed me that this would be an unreasonable option. It would make the Kickstarter target too high, and people don’t want to give us money just to post some books to ourselves.

So next I looked at Amazon’s Createspace and I learned two great things about shipping.

  • If we order from there, shipping is a mere fraction of the price with Lulu.
  • If we are patient we can get free shipping by ordering the book in bulk as a customer! That is, as long as the book is available in the store.
  • So, I think the first option is ideal, to satisfy our backers sooner rather than later, but the second is a viable option should our Kickstarter project fail.

        The Budget

    So taking all costs into account, here is how our budget looks.

    For this example, I have used an estimate of 300 books at 150 pages each, which should be enough to satisfy backers. Obviously, the more money we raise the more copies we will need and be able to order! In short, the more help we get, the better your rewards will be!

    (the first figure is in Japanese yen, the second is USD, what Kickstarter operates in)

    Printing is 300 / 4.00 per book (300 books is 95,000 / 1,200) (200 students, 100 backers)
    Global distribution fee 100 USD
    Shipping is 237/3.00 per book
    Illustration 15,800 yen / 200 USD
    Postcard gifts 30 each / .38 (200 =6000 / 76)
    My overtime 1000 ph / 8.00 p/h = 2 h a day for 2 months = 16 x 60 = 960
    Apologetic meal and present for neglecting girlfriend during project 4000 yen / 50 USD
    Kick starter amazon take 10% = yen or USD
    TOTAL = 3835 USD for a 300 book run with safety margins for printing and such

    This is high


    I want this to be a success so here is what I’m going to do.
    First of all I don’t want to be paid. That’s stupid (-960).
    Secondly, we can get free shipping if we are patient so if we pay for shipping, I’ll pay for it (-900)
    Thirdly, apart from copies of the book, I’ll pay for all incentives and rewards (-76)

    That makes the new total $1,899!

    Just in case there are changes or I have made mistakes let’s round that up to a nice neat number, with a bit of shopping psychology thrown in…

    So our Kickstarter target will be….

    Will you help us reach it? Do you think this is reasonable?


    How is everyone? It’s nice to see the site has had some visits since I made the original post. I hope to see it gather many mo visitors and regulars. Mind you, I haven’t started advertising it yet.

    Recently, I’ve been planning ahead for the main advertising drive. Anyone who has visited our Facebook page will know that, at present, there is only a rubbish stand in placeholder icon and a banner from an old photograph of students work that is vaguely related to the project.


    Don’t worry! That’s just there until my illustrator, Marisa Livingston, finishes the final image! Judging by her past work, it should be pretty awesome! I’ve worked with her several times now. She designed my book cover for my debut novel, for one thing and look how awesome that is!


    So, soon we’ll have a decent looking Facebook page and the Kickstarter page will look gorgeous too.

    Designing the icon

    I want as much of this project to be decided by, if not made by, the students themselves. However, it’s too early in the process for them to be informed and this needs to be done to gain followers, so I played with a few ideas myself.

    I knew I wanted to have at least one iconic high school student in it, and have it directly relate to either pop culture or a damaged Japan.

    I’ve also recently been influenced by Danny Choo’s ‘Moekana‘ images too. Danny Choo is an British-Japanese ambassador of Japanese culture and he does some great work to promote all things Japanese, especially anime and his own character, Mirai Suenaga. He also makes a TV show called ‘Culture Japan’. So go and look around his site. He’s got some great posts there.

    Anyway, after rejecting a few ideas like a high school student wearing an anime mask, the school mascot dressed up like an idol, I decided to go with a more traditional ‘ganbare!’ image: students cheering on with their mascot. ‘Ganbare’ is a phrase in Japanese that has many meanings, but it could be translated in this situation as ‘don’t give up!’, ‘keep trying’ or ‘fight on’. It shows students taking action which is the underlying purpose of this project.

    I hope the icon image will appear on the final book cover but I also want to see a multitude of pop culture characters fighting for attention too. Hopefully, most of them will be drawn by students.

    So what do you think? Any more ideas for the icon or book cover? I’m open to suggestions.

    Konnichi wa! Welcome to Our Project

    Hello, こんにちは,

    Welcome to the blog!

    My name is Matthew Rowe. I am the ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) or Native English teacher at Mukaiyama High school in Sendai, Miyagi, Japan.


    That’s me trying to look Japanese, but don’t let it put you off. I’m generally a decent guy.

    This blog will record the progress me and my students make in finishing our book project.

    What is the project?


    My 2nd grade students are going to write articles on parts of modern Japanese pop culture. They will write reviews of everything from movies to video games, comic books to music and illustrate the book too – because many of them are excellent artists! With their command of English they will express opinions and facts about some of Japan’s most famous characters and celebrities. There will be some you know and many you do not. So here is your chance to learn direct from the Japanese consumers they were designed for.

    Why am I doing this?


    My 2nd grade students have been learning to express opinions with reasons in English class. So, I wanted to have them write reviews in their first project of the school year (Japanese school year starts in April) as the next step up in their education.

    I know there are many people around the world who are interested in Japan and Japanese culture. However, in English, they often have to rely on advice and information from travelers or ex-pats. The problem with this is that it is always an outsider’s perspective. I’m sure fans of Japanese culture and those who are just curious would also benefit from insider information of Japanese people, but they can’t speak English well, right? Wrong!

    The Japanese are much more capable than they think. They just need to take the opportunity. Yes, they are often shy and so don’t take those chances, but it’s my job to give them opportunities and they can’t escape my class! Mwuahahahaha!


    Can you imagine how good it would feel to know you could contribute to and publish a book in a foreign language? It would be amazing, I’d imagine, because I’ve published some books in English and that felt pretty darn good. It would be an incredible boost to their confidence in their English ability and in general.

    Why are we doing this?


    As I am sure you are aware, last year, on March 11th, East Japan was hit by a massive earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. Our city of Sendai was one of the closest to the epicenter and suffered great damage. The school itself only had a few broken windows and the library started to fall down, and all the students and teachers were fine. However, everybody knows someone who lost their home, their family, friends or everything. Only 3 kilometers away entire neighborhoods were swept away, leaving only rubble behind.




    Over a year later, many people are still living in temporary housing, schools are damaged and without resources, businesses are failing and spirits are shaken. The disaster disappeared from the news after a few days, but the effects of it are still deeply felt across much of the country.

    By publishing this book and making it available for purchase around the world, we hope to raise awareness of the continued struggles here and to donate any profits directly to those people affected by the disaster, those who need it the most. Many charities collect donations and the majority of the money is lost in red tape procedures. However, thanks to connections in the local cable TV studio, I am able to bypass this step and give the money directly to the people.

    What can you do?

    On this blog, and the soon to open Kickstarter page, you can follow the progress of the project from its inception to the day of release and beyond!

    Most importantly though, this project will be funded by Kickstarter. In order for this project to work, we need more money. We hope to get enough backers to enable this idea to reach its full potential. The money will help to pay for:

      – Global distribution
      – Advertising
      – Professional illustrator
      – International shipping of the final product
      – A present and slap up meal for my girlfriend who will be much neglected during the period of this project’s execution

    So, if you are inclined, you could:

      – tell people about the project
      – pledge money to the kickstarter page
      – buy the book

    and most importantly,

      – help out the people of Tohoku, Japan.
    • Thank you for reading. I hope you will come back again and support us!

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    Fundraising ends!

    The EndDecember 1st, 2012
    Our big fund raiser is coming to an end... Here's when. Thank you for all the support! We all really appreciate it.

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