Volunteer Spotlight: Rachel Powell

April is almost over, but there’s still time for another volunteer spotlight! We’re featuring our newest volunteer, Rachel Powell, who has been a wonderful addition to the team. Rachel has jumped right into volunteering with FOA’s tabling activities and uses her artistic skill to assist with promotional materials. Get to know her below!

Volunteer Spotlight: Rachel Powell


Q: Tell us about yourself!

A: I am currently a Liberal Arts major at SMCC, and plan to continue to a Bachelor’s in Japanese at UNC in Chapel Hill. I first began college as a Film major at Emerson College in Boston, but after realizing film wasn’t for me, I spent a semester in the South of France painting and learning art history. While in France, I studied Van Gogh and learned of his love and inspiration from Japanese art (which I fell in love with!). Eventually, I realized I wanted to live and work as an English language teacher in Japan, which has led me to where I am now. I’ll be traveling to Japan for the first time this Summer, where I’ll be taking an intensive Japanese language course in Nara and making lots of deer friends!

Aside from academia, I love to cosplay, draw and paint, play video games, and snuggle up with my two kitties Kato and Jiji.

Q: How did you get involved with Friends of Aomori?

A: I first found out about Friends of Aomori through their VP Jeff Badger while at SMCC. I then went to the Bath Culture Day and the MAPS (Maine Aomori Printmaking Society) Exhibit at the Patten Free Library in March, where I met Friends members Briar, Elizabeth, and Hannah. I was so excited to learn about MAPS and Friends of Aomori that I asked if I could help volunteer!

Q: What kind of volunteer work do you enjoy doing for Friends of Aomori?

A: I’ve helped take down the MAPS exhibit in Bath, worked the Friends table at Maker’s Day in Portland, and am currently helping design a promotional postcard for the organization. Being a new volunteer, I’ve loved helping with anything I can, as well as meeting other volunteers and learning more about Japan.

Q: What has been your favorite moment from volunteering with Friends of Aomori?

A: I loved helping with the MAPS exhibit in Bath. Once I learned about the print exchange from Jeff, I knew I wanted to get involved. I love Japanese art, and being able to even help be a part of such a fantastic cultural exchange was so exciting for me. Plus I got to see every print up close!

Q: What makes volunteering important to you?

A: Volunteering has helped me get more involved with my community, and it’s been so fun to meet other people who love Japan and Japanese culture as much as I do. I’ve made so many great relationships and connections already in my short time with Friends, and I’ve been able to help with some very creative projects.

Volunteer Spotlight: Briar Pelletier

We’re livening up the week with another Volunteer Spotlight!

This Spotlight features Briar Pelletier, FOA’s Secretary and an avid volunteer. Briar began as an intern with FOA for the Maine-Aomori Printmaking Society (MAPS) exhibition here in Portland, Maine,  and continued to do so during her semester abroad at Hirosaki University in Aomori, Japan. She is a driving force here at FOA, so let’s learn some more about her:

Volunteer Spotlight: Briar Pelletier


Q: Tell us about yourself!

A: I am an Art History student from the University of Maine, but I currently live in Portland. If you REALLY want to get to know me, I have a cat, collect vinyl records, and I can’t pass up on a great vintage dress.

Q: How did you get involved with Friends of Aomori?

A: I answered an ad looking for an intern. The ad explained that a non-profit organization called “Friends of Aomori” was looking for an intern to help with various tasks that could pertain to their interests. I lived in Orono at the time and spoke with then-board members Patricia Parker and Thomas Bahun over the phone. I told them I was an art student studying cross-cultural perspectives in Japanese printmaking, and they were shocked to hear it: they then told me about the MAPS exhibition and what it was. It was kismet: I drove right down to Portland the next day to interview and they brought me on.

Q: What kind of volunteer work do you enjoy doing for Friends of Aomori?

A: When I signed on as an intern, I latched onto the MAPS project because I thought it was just this amazing concept. I helped design promotional materials and exhibition labeling and assisted with the show’s planning and installation at SPACE Gallery. After that, I left Maine to study and conduct research on cross-cultural artistic exchange in Aomori, Japan. When I came back, I joined the FOA Board and now help continue MAPS as a touring exhibition in Maine. I created the MAPS digital collection and also help with our website, social media, educational outreach, and recruitment. I love what we do!

Q: What has been your favorite moment from volunteering with Friends of Aomori?

A: Meeting some of the Aomori artists featured in MAPS, who visited Maine during our first MAPS reception, was really exciting and solidified the scope and consequent reach of the exchange for me.

Q: What makes volunteering important to you?

A: Volunteering for something you believe in is truly invigorating. I never see my volunteer work for the art exchange as a chore and being a part of something that brings my local community together with a global connection helps not only me, but those connected by it.

Volunteer Spotlight: Jeff Badger

This week’s Volunteer Spotlight features Jeff Badger, FOA’s Vice President and creator of our international print exchange, Maine-Aomori Printmaking Society! We are gearing up our second installment of the MAPS project with twenty brand new prints to be exhibited in Yarmouth, Eastport, and York, and we couldn’t do it without Jeff! Get to know a little more about our VP here:

Volunteer Spotlight: Jeff Badger


Q: Tell us about yourself!

A: I am an artist, educator, and independent curator living in Cape Elizabeth with my wife and two children. I am the Co-Chair of the Fine Arts department at Southern Maine Community College where I teach studio art classes and serve as the Coordinator of the Global Studies Center. I currently serve as the Vice President of Friends of Aomori.

Q: How did you get involved with Friends of Aomori?

A: I became involved with Friends of Aomori through my experience creating international art exhibitions. In the past, I have organized projects that have facilitated the sharing of artwork between artists in Maine and artists in Greece, Spain, and Japan through my independent business Tetra Projects. From this experience, I was introduced by board member Ann Thomson to the Friends, and became involved primarily with the cultural exchange aspect of the group.

Q: What kind of volunteer work do you enjoy doing for Friends of Aomori?

A: My focus has been spearheading MAPS – the Maine-Aomori Printmaking Society – and all of the organizational elements the project entails. As I have moved into a leadership role, I’ve become more invested in the mission of Friends of Aomori, and more involved in the broader direction of the group. Presenting art exhibitions and working with artists and the public is my favorite aspect of working with Friends.

Q: What has been your favorite moment from volunteering with Friends of Aomori?

A: In March of 2016 we were able to welcome five artists from Aomori for a residency program in Portland. Hosting and spending a week with these artists while showing them around the city was wonderful, and the warm welcome and support we received from a varied group of local organizations and businesses made me very proud of our community.

Q: What makes volunteering important to you?

A: Quite simply, I believe that cultural exchange leads to a more peaceful world.

Towada-Hachimantai National Park

With spring fast approaching both Maine and Aomori, it seems appropriate to look at an aspect of Aomori’s culture that resembles that of the State of Maine. Maine is renowned for its vibrant natural environment  and abundance of outdoor activities – especially in its national and state parks, which are enjoyed by both locals and visiting tourists.

So, how about Aomori’s natural environment and outdoor culture?

In the interior of the Tohoku region and spreading across the Prefectures of Aomori, Akita, and Iwate, resides Towada-Hachimantai National Park. The park is split up into two separate areas: the Northern area known as Towada-Hakkoda (which is within both Aomori and Akita), and the Southern area known as Hachimantai (which is within both Akita and Iwate). Each area – North and South – has equally stunning scenery and a variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking trails, rustic hot springs, tourist boat rides, snowshoe hiking, winter/spring skiing, camping, and nature tours.


Natural Features: Mount Hokkada, Lake Towada, Oirase-Keiryu (mountain stream & gorge), The Hakkoda Branch of the Tohoku University Botanical Garden, volcanic land formations

Wild Habitats for: Asiatic Black Bears, Golden Eagles, and the Japanese Serow (resembles a deer, but is a member of the cow family)


Natural Features: Mount Hachimantai, a highland marsh/Hachiman pond, Mt. Iwate, Mt. Akita-Komagatake, Mt. Yake-Yama, the Hachimantai Aspite line (corridor of snow – so winter only!), Juhyo (frost-covered trees – so winter only!), volcanic land formations

Wild Habitats for: Golden Eagles, the Japanese Serow (resembles a deer, but is a member of the cow family), Forest Green Tree Frog (species unique to Japan), and a variety of alpine plants

Like the woodlands of Maine, Towada-Hachimantai National Park is admired for it’s ability to appeal to the visitor regardless of the season. Whether it be Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter, people are drawn to these mountains, lakes, and woods in order to experience the power and beauty of nature.


For more information on Towada-Hachimantai National Park and it’s different areas, please check out the links below!







(All photo’s belong to the Ministry of the Environment: Government of Japan: http://www.env.go.jp/en/nature/nps/park/towada/point/index.html)

Volunteer Spotlight: Sam Barrett

Our featured volunteer this week is Sam Barrett! Sam came to us as a volunteer while studying Business at the University of Southern Maine and went on to study abroad in Japan. He is a great example of the young talent Friends of Aomori is proud to have helping out! Check out his Q&A below.

Volunteer Spotlight: Sam Barrett



Q: Tell us about yourself!

A: My name is Sam Barrett and I have lived in Southern Maine my whole life. I recently graduated from the University of Southern Maine with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration. However, I am currently pursuing teaching as a career, with a focus on English as a second language. My goal right now is to travel to different countries and teach English. My first planned stop is in Japan. I have always had an interest in Japan ever since I was a child fantasizing about being a samurai or riding on the Bullet Train. During my teen years that interest never disappeared, but it dimmed slightly. However, during my college years I began watching a show called Begin Japanology on YouTube. This show got me really interested In Japan again. After watching, I started learning the language and eventually ended up studying abroad in Japan for 6 months.

Q: How did you get involved with Friends of Aomori?

A: I started helping out Friends of Aomori in late 2015 thanks to a connection with my University’s International Office. I only helped out in a few events before I left the country and went to Japan myself.

Q: What kind of volunteer work do you do for Friends of Aomori?

A: Simply put, I am helper. While I might not have an active part in the planning process for events, I have had many chances to speak with individuals on the board and offered advice here and there. The biggest event I helped with was the initial set up of the print gallery in Portland. During the event I acted as a guard for the hand-crafted Neputa that we set-up occasionally. I also ran an information booth at a cultural event on the University of Southern Maine campus.

Q: What was your favorite moment from volunteering?

A: Considering I only did very little, I think that my favorite moment was when we set up the entire gallery for the big print reveal. We had to paint the area and hang all the prints. Working with everyone and being able to admire the art before everyone else was pretty fun. During this time we retrieved and set up the Neputa as well which I enjoyed. So basically everything with the Print exchange event was fun, because I liked guarding the Neputa as well. Wearing a Yukata for the first time and keeping the Neputa safe was cool.

Q: What will you take with you from Friends of Aomori?

A: First would be the people and experiences. Everyone working with FoA definitely has a passion for Japan and they do what they can to facilitate cross-cultural understanding. It may sound like a lesson that should be learned when you’re younger, but the lesson that volunteering is just a group of like-minded people do something for the benefit of others and themselves. I think that lesson is very evident with the work-ethic and passion of everyone involved in this group.

Volunteer Spotlight: Margery Clark

This week’s addition to our Volunteer Spotlight focuses on Margery Clark, FOA’s devoted Treasurer! We love Marge over here at FOA: she does so much for our organization. She may look familiar to you if you’ve been to one of our exhibitions or fundraising events!

Volunteer Spotlight: Margery Clark


Q: Tell us about yourself!

A: My husband and I have traveled to Japan numerous times over the past sixteen years to spend time with our son and his family. We have traveled within Japan to Tokyo, Karuizawa, Nikko, Yokohama, Kyoto and Hiroshima. I have grown fond of Japan, its people and culture. We also have a daughter who is in graduate school. My husband and I retired to Maine in 2011. My career for over thirty years was in public education, as a teacher and principal. Currently, I volunteer weekly in a local grade one classroom, serve on various committees at our church, belong to two monthly book groups, spend time outdoors gardening, hiking and walking the nearby beaches, take classes at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at USM and enjoy the Portland Symphony Orchestra, Portland Museum of Art, Portland Stage, Good Theater and art exhibitions, including MAPS (Maine Aomori Printmaking Society).

Q: How did you get involved with Friends of Aomori?

A: While taking a OLLI class at USM about Japan, I learned about Friends of Aomori from the instructors: Drs. Richard and Patricia Parker.

Q: What kind of volunteer work do you enjoy doing for Friends of Aomori?

When I joined the Board in 2015, I also became the treasurer. I enjoy overseeing our organization’s finances and keeping the Board members informed. I have been involved in several fundraising events, which allow us to support the many aspects of our state-prefecture relationship: cultural and educational exchanges and economic ties.

Q: What has been your favorite moment from volunteering with Friends of Aomori?

A: At our first KOYO celebration in October 2016, many supporters came and participated in the silent auction and raffle. It was grand to meet so many fine people with connections to the beautiful country of Japan.

Q: What makes volunteering important to you?

A: My son, his Japanese wife and our two grandchildren reside in Japan. My volunteer work on behalf of Friends of Aomori makes me feel closer to them all, despite the miles which separate us.

Looking Beyond Scallops and Apples

The Aomori Prefecture is well known for it’s abundant and delicious supply of scallops and apples – but what about the rest of its cuisine? Aomori is well known throughout Japan for it’s variety of healthy and authentic recipes as well as its fresh, local produce. Let’s explore five unique dishes that Aomori has to offer the hungry traveler!

1) Cha-gayu made with Kusa-cha


In this dish, Cha-Gayu (literally translated as tea-porridge) is made with a particular type of tea known as  Kusa-cha, or grass-tea. This dish is a specialty of the town of Noheji, which is located at the Shimokita peninsula in the Aomori prefecture. Cha-gayu made with Kusa-cha is liked for its roasted, savory smell which is enhanced by a slightly sweet taste with hints of dashi stock.

2) Iso-ramen


This type of ramen originates from the Tanesashi coast in Hachinohe, Aomori and consists of a steamy combination of fresh seafood and simply salt for seasoning. Oftentimes Iso-ramen will have a wide variety of seafood in its recipe – from uni (sea urchin), to hoya (sea squirts), and perhaps even some awabi (abalone). When these ingredients are put together they form a rich, yet simplistic, dish.

3)Senbei-Jiru made with Nanbu-Senbei crackers


Another culinary specialty of the Hachinohe region is Senbei-Jiru, a vegetable soup that is made with special Nanbu-Senbei crackers. These crackers – which are a delightful snack on their own – are broken into pieces and then submerged into the soup where they soak up its flavor. Surprisingly, even after being soaked in the hot broth these crackers don’t fall apart! 

4) Ichigo-ni


This dish is an Aomori staple, and while it is typically made for special occasions, it can be found throughout the prefecture year-round. Ichigo-ni is a seafood soup that is made from uni (sea urchin) and awabi (abalone) that are mixed with soy sauce and salt. Its name translates to “boiled  strawberries” and while there are no strawberries to be found in this recipe, it is believed to have gotten its name from the way that the floating uni resemble the wild strawberries of Aomori.

5) Igamenchi


Our last dish on this list is called Igamenchi and is made out of squid tentacles and fins that are mixed with some vegetables and then deep fried. This dish is a favorite amongst Izakaya (Japanese pub) visitors, particularly in Hirosaki city where the dish originated, and is a perfect addition to drinks.


For more information on these foods as well as other delicacies from the Aomori Prefecture, please visit these references:







Volunteer Spotlight: Elizabeth Bull

We’re continuing our Volunteer Spotlight feature throughout April in honor of Volunteer Appreciation Month! This feature highlights Elizabeth, who has not only volunteered with us but now serves as our Communications Intern this Spring!


1) Tell us about yourself!

I am currently a senior undergrad at the University of Southern Maine and am double-majoring in Communication and Sculpture. I have always had a love for international cultures, particularly those that offer different perspectives, histories, values, and traditions to the West. Since I was a kid, Japan has had a special place in my heart. While I have studied in South Korea for a semester, I have only spent a 10 day sojourn in Tokyo, so I hope to make it back to Japan someday soon and really get to see the country!
2) How did you get involved with Friends of Aomori?
I became involved with FOA around two years back when I bonded with the then-president Patricia Parker – who had lived and taught in S. Korea – after I had just returned from my own excursions. I expressed my interests in volunteering with FOA in one of our conversations, and there you have it, I’ve been volunteering since!
3) What kind of volunteer work did you do for FOA?
So far most of my volunteer time has gone to helping with the put-up and take-down of the MAPS exhibits, but I just recently participated in the 2017 Japan Culture Day in Bath – helping people try on yukata (while learning myself how to wear one properly!) and generally assisting in the proceedings.
4) What was your favorite moment from volunteering?
I think my favorite moment in volunteering so far was the opening day of the first MAPS exhibit last year at the Space Gallery in Portland. I was a neputa guard (making sure no one ran into them) and it was really something to see the gallery filled to capacity, with all the visitors – young and old – enjoying the exhibit that the volunteers, board members, and artists had put so much time and effort into. Definitely a night to remember.
5) What will you take with you from volunteering with FOA?
To be honest, there are a whole host of things that volunteering with FOA has given me, but  I suppose the largest take-away is the knowledge I have gained about the Maine-Aomori Sister-State relationship and how I have been able to educate people about it as well. Other than that, I think the community of volunteers is truly something special; there’s so much camaraderie and positive energy that it makes all of the time worth while!

100 Years of Cherry Blossoms


While the state of Maine seems to still be stuck in the midst of Winter, Spring Festivities in the Aomori Prefecture are approaching – the most notable being that 2017 will be the 100th year of the Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival!

Hirosaki City is located in the Aomori Prefecture and is home to Hirosaki Park and the famously picturesque Hirosaki Castle. The Cherry Blossom Festival in Hirosaki Park has been voted one of the best in the country and is held every year between late April and early May when the park’s approximately 2,600 cherry blossom trees are in full bloom. The festival offers a wide range of activities for visitors, from boat rides along the west moat, to picnics on the park grounds, and to the festival stalls full of seasonal food; with so much to do it’s easy to see why this festival draws over two million people per year!

For more information on the Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Festival, please visit the following:




Volunteer Spotlight: Hannah Hooke

April is Volunteer Appreciation Month! Friends of Aomori would be nothing without its dedicated team of volunteers!

This month, we are featuring Volunteer Spotlights on the creative and hard-working people who help make our programs a reality. We asked them to answer some questions for us to tell our visitors more about the work they do!

Volunteer Spotlight: Hannah Hooke

Photo courtesy of the Bowdoin Japanese Program.

Q: Tell us about yourself!

A: My name is Hannah Hooke, and I’m a student of Studio Art and Art History at the University of Maine. I concentrate in Printmaking, and I most enjoy woodcut prints. I have studied abroad in Japan, and am especially enamored with its the rich artistic traditions. I hope to study in Japan again in graduate school.

Q: How did you get involved with Friends of Aomori?

A: I got involved with Friends of Aomori as a result of meeting Briar Pelletier, who was interning for Friends of Aomori, while studying abroad in Japan. Due to our mutual love of art, we became fast friends and she graciously shared this opportunity with me.

Q: What kind of volunteer work did you do for Friends of Aomori?

A: I participated in Bath-Tsugaru Culture Day, where I ran a relief printmaking demonstration geared toward cultivating an understanding of relief printmaking for all ages, with Japanese context, and examples of tools and methods used in Japan.

Q: What has been your favorite moment from volunteering?

A: During my time volunteering, I most enjoyed getting to interact with others also interested in Japan, and to talk about printmaking with people who may have otherwise not had an opportunity to get such an intimate overview of printmaking techniques, tools, and possibilities!

What will you take with you from volunteering with FOA?

For me, I feel that this was a really a great chance to become familiar with a wonderful organization, that I feel is doing the important work of cultivating cross-cultural awareness and companionship. I am also grateful to have had an opportunity to share the art of printmaking with others, especially children in hopes that they may grow up interested in and aware of the way creative endeavors can connect people locally and cross-culturally.