Still alive, just really busy.

So, it’s been a little bit since I’ve posted and I’m crazy busy. I’m halfway through a blog about the process of being accepted to the Return to Tohoku Initiative put together by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Japanese Tourism Board. I’ll be leaving on September 21st. While you wait with bated breath, please enjoy the following articles and interviews I’ve done recently.

First up, Ottawa Citizen. I’ve learned, these sites don’t archive all of their stuff, so I’ll be reproducing entire articles below for future reference so that there aren’t dead links later on. Click the link if you want to go to the actual article.

Months of blogging leads to trip to Japan
Kanata teacher will help with disaster relief in the country he writes about

After months of blogging, tweeting and Facebook posting from Kanata after an earthquake and tsunami devastated parts of Japan, Brent Stirling is getting the chance to see it for himself.

Stirling is one of 20 alumni of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET) chosen to return to the quakeaffected regions where they taught, for nine or 10 days in September.

Stirling is the only Canadian chosen to participate in the program, which is being organized by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Japan Tourism Agency.

“I don’t know what I’m going to find or how it’s going to go, but I’m really excited to go back and see it,” Stirling said.

Stirling moved to Kanata in August of 2010, after teaching English in seven schools in Japan for four years.

When the earthquake and tsunami struck near Sendai on March 11, killing thousands of people and devastating the coast, he watched his Facebook news feed flood with conflicting reports and confusion from friends in Japan and abroad.

Stirling took to the Internet to help people sort fact from fiction. He contributed an account of his efforts to a book about social media responses to the quake, called 2: 46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake, and often referred to by its subtitle, #quakebook.

So when Stirling heard they were looking for JET alumni to meet their former students and colleagues, help with disaster relief and raise awareness about the situation on the ground six months later, he figured it was right up his alley.

Still, he said he didn’t let himself get his hopes up until he heard he had been accepted.

“I was pretty happy,” he said. “I really didn’t put that much stock in it because I didn’t think I was going to get it and I didn’t want to get hyped up about it.”

The details are still up in the air, but Stirling plans to leave Ottawa on Sept. 21 and return on Sept. 30. His itinerary is hectic, with Stirling hoping to visit an orphanage, a devastated kindergarten on the coast that was rebuilt by friends of his from the JET program and tourist sites for interviews with local media, all in addition to the schools he and his girlfriend used to teach at.

Even that schedule is calmer than the proposal he submitted with his application, Stirling said. He recently received permission to add an extra day to recover from jet lag.

“My original schedule had me doing four or five different things every day. That’s just a lot,” he said.

Stirling said he planned to use his time in the classrooms to tell students about the online work he’s been doing from Canada and ask them how the quake has affected their lives.

The grade 10 students he taught when he left will be in grade 12 when he arrives.

“I think they just want to bring back some foreigners that have had an impact in their own home countries,” Stirling said.

“Hopefully that will show the kids there’s a whole international community out there doing things to try and help out.”

Stirling said most of the schools he used to teach at are far from the coast and he’s been hearing things are mostly back to normal. However, he said he could also be surprised.

“I don’t think they’re going to be that decimated, but I’m not totally sure,” he said.

“Even now, the stuff that’s still coming out, as soon as you find stuff on one side that says ‘oh, this is horrible,’ you can find one that’s completely opposite.”

On Aug. 5, Stirling attended a ceremony for English teachers about to leave Ottawa to start the JET program. The Japanese ambassador mentioned him in a speech and shook his hand.

“That was pretty cool,” Stirling said. “Just a normal Friday.”

Love how she ended that without saying that I was saying it sarcastically… thank you Claire for making me sound douchetastic!

Next up, EMC Kanata. Title is completely incorrect as there was a girl from Toronto that was sent back to Sendai. I didn’t even tell this guy that I was the only one.

Kanata resident only Canadian among JET alumni returning to Japan

Posted Sep 1, 2011 By Phil Ambroziak

EMC News – When Kanata resident Brent Stirling returns to Japan next month, he’ll view the country much differently than he did during his first time there.

Stirling, who taught English in Fukushima City from 2006 to 2010 before coming back to Ottawa, was featured in the EMC earlier this year for his efforts to use social networking as a means of keeping friends and colleagues still living in Japan as up-to-date as possible following the massive earthquake and tsunami experienced in that country March 11. Now, Stirling is the only Canadian of 20 Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET) alumni selected to return to the earthquake-stricken locations where they taught. The trip, which will take place Sept. 21 to 29, is being organized by the Japan Tourism Agency and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“The Japanese government put out a call to all JET alumni who lived in the areas impacted by the disaster,” Stirling explained. “There were only 20 spots worldwide, so I had to complete a special application process.” Stirling’s application, which included newspaper reports about his post-earthquake online activities as well as a schedule of what he plans to do during his return visit, was submitted to the Japanese embassy in Ottawa and word was soon given that he’s been accepted as one of the 20 participants.

“I guess they are looking for different perspectives on what is going on there,” he said. “It was a pretty quick turnaround – I prepared the application in early July and heard through the grapevine that I’d been accepted. It was about a week after filing the application that I learned officially that I would be going back to Japan.” During his stay in Japan, Stirling hopes to connect with some of his friends who are involved in a charity called Hearts for Haragama (which raises funds for relief efforts in Soma, Fukushima) and to possibly volunteer some of his time to help their cause.

“I’m also going to visit five high schools,” he added.

Earlier this year, Stirling contributed an account of his online activities to the book 2: 46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake, or more simply, Quakebook. He said he has ordered bilingual copies of Quakebook that he plans to leave at all five of the schools he visits.

The magnitude 9.0 earthquake was the most powerful known earthquake to have hit Japan, and one of the five most powerful earthquakes in the world overall since modern record-keeping began in 1900.

The quake triggered extremely destructive tsunami waves of up to 40.5 metres and, in addition to loss of life and destruction of infrastructure, the tsunami also caused a number of nuclear accidents (primarily level 7 meltdowns) at three reactors in the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant complex.

“You still hear a lot of conflicting information about how things are over there so many months after the disaster,” he added.

“Sometimes you will see or hear about something that is absolutely crazy, and then on the flipside you’ll find another article that reports the exact opposite.

Things are getting back to normal, but at the same time kids are not playing outside as much because of fear of radiation and more and more people tend to use Geiger counters in their everyday lives now.” “Each day I will set aside an hour to write something,” he said.

“I’m just so excited to be going back.” “It should be an interesting experience to say the least.”

Here’s another interesting tidbit about the title…I don’t live in Kanata anymore. I live in Gatineau, Quebec. YIKES!

I also did an interview with a CBC Radio show called Ottawa Morning. This made me realize, I cannot listen to my own voice for interviews. Haven’t found a way to save this audio to my computer yet. So, you’ll have to do some link clicking.

And last but not least, I got some love from the Japanese Embassy in Canada as well.

Brent Stirling’s Participation in the Invitation Programme for JET Alumni to Disaster Stricken Areas in Tohoku

OTTAWA ON – The Embassy of Japan is pleased to provide the following information about Brent Stirling’s Participation in the Invitation Programme for JET Alumni to Disaster Stricken Areas in Tohoku.

Brent Stirling, a former JET participant from 2006 to 2010 and JET Alumni Association (JETAA) Ottawa member, has been one of the few selected worldwide and one of the two Canadians chosen to revisit his school in Fukushima. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and Japan Tourism Agency jointly organized the Invitation Programme for JET Alumni to Disaster Stricken Areas in Tohoku in hopes for JET Alumni to send a positive message about the area’s recovery from the recent disasters on March 11, 2011 while stimulating interest and tourism in Japan and for the JET Programme.

Brent thoroughly enjoyed the four years he spent teaching English at various schools in Fukushima prefecture. One of the seven schools he visited was Nihonmatsu Adachi senior high school which he is scheduled to visit on his return trip this September.

During his time in Japan, Brent was involved in the JET community as the Vice-President of the Fukushima Association for JET Programme Participants (AJET) from 2007 to 2008 and was the Kenpoku (a central northern section of Fukushima) Area Support Leader from 2008 to 2009. He also helped welcome and prepare new JETs at the Fukushima Orientations in 2007 and 2008. Since his return to Canada, he has joined the JETAA Ottawa Executive Committee as the Social Media Coordinator. Brent currently works for Match Marketing Group and has a writing portofolio at He also maintains a blog at In addition to his own website, his freelance writing for Quakebook and, all reflect on his concern and commitment to Japan especially after the disasters struck Tohoku.

The Embassy of Japan would like to wholeheartedly wish him a safe and fulfilling visit to Fukushima and hope that he will share all his memories and experiences upon his return through various social media.


For more information, please contact:

Jung-Suk Ryu, Press Liaison
Embassy of Japan
(613) 241-8541 ext 126

Hope that gets you through.



One thought on “Still alive, just really busy.

  1. Pingback: - Return to Tohoku: Round-up 09.13.11

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