This year marks the 30th Anniversary of the JET Programme. Over its 30 year history, more than 60,000 participants from over 60 countries have participated in the JET Programme and, in addition to supporting the further development of the programme, made great contributions to the enrichment of foreign language education and internationalisation in the local communities of Japan. Join us in celebrating 30 amazing years of international exchange by participating in the following 30th Anniversary Projects: the JET Programme Video Contest and the JET Arigato Campaign.
①JET Programme Video Contest
In the JET Video Contest (Fall/Winter Edition) hosted by CLAIR last fiscal year, 50 videos were submitted from both current and former JET participants representing 28 different local authorities in Japan. We welcome you to take a look at the submissions at the contest’s homepage.
As a continuation of the contest, CLAIR is now accepting submissions for the Spring/Summer Edition of the Video Contest until 31 August 2016. It is our hope that by providing an opportunity for viewers around the world to see the charms of Japan’s local communities through the eyes of JET Programme participants, both current participants and alumni can contribute to the revitalisation of Japan’s local communities while also increasing awareness of the JET Programme.
The winners of the video contest will be announced and awarded with prizes at the JET Programme 30th Anniversary Ceremony to be held this autumn. Among the various prizes, submitters to the contest have the chance to win ￥100,000 in domestic travel tickets, in addition to other gifts and prizes.
Submission Period: 7 April 2016 – 31 August 2016
Voting Period: 1 June 2016 – 31 August 2016
For more details such as how to enter the contest, please check the contest’s website:
We look forward to your submissions!
Have you had exciting and unique experiences, met interesting people, and made new discoveries while on the JET Programme? Then you should consider participating in the JET Programme Arigato Campaign!
The JET Arigato Campaign is an opportunity for all people involved with the JET Programme, whether they be current JET Participants, JET alumni, or Japanese people that have connections with JET participants, to commemorate 30 years of the JET programme by exchanging and sharing messages of thanks to the people they have met through the JET Programme, or to the JET Programme itself.
As part of the campaign, we are currently accepting typed, voice, and video messages, as well as photos from participants’ time on JET. Please send us your message and say thank you to members of your former schools, your former local communities, or your fellow JET alumni. Members of your former “homes” in Japan are also welcome to participate!
Submission Period：18 May 2016 – 31 August 2016
For more information about how to submit your message, please see the JET Programme Homepage:
We are waiting for your submissions!
Rémy Millot, Former Yamato-cho ALT, 2010-2015
June 1, 2010. Four months had passed since my JET interview when I received an email asking me if I would accept an English ALT position in Yamato-cho, a city in Kumamoto Prefecture. Yamato-cho? Kumamoto? These names didn’t mean a great deal but a few clicks on Google Earth later, the names became pixels—mostly green. A sea of little green cubes, really. As a matter of fact, Yamato is composed of three villages that merged 11 years ago into a “city”, stretching over 545 km2 (4 times the size of Paris) at the heart of Kyushu.
While it might not have been love at first sight, Kumamoto and Yamato grew on me like I never thought they would. After a few months, I remembered people’s faces, their connections to my students and sometimes even their names. Chicken namban and river fish teishoku replaced bread and ratatouille as my staple foods. My students became my kids. The childless single man that arrived at Kumamoto airport had become a father of 300. I visited the local swimming pool 4 times a week and became the representative of Kamimashiki-gun at the Kumamoto prefecture-wide competition. Naked-men matsuri, regular matsuri, eikaiwa for the village, soon I felt deeply connected to a place I didn’t even know existed a few months before. My contract came to an end in July 2013. After 3 amazing years, it was time for me to go back to France.
Fast forward to now.
April 14, 2016. I am in Kobe, enjoying some time off after a round-the-world voyage with Peace Boat as a volunteer teacher. The news of the earthquake hits me as I get up. I spend the day alternating between TV and Facebook, making sure my friends are okay. From the looks of it, people are shaken up, but damage seems to be contained and the loss of life minimal.
A day passes. I wake up Sunday morning to the news that a bigger earthquake has hit Kumamoto. Most of the damage is centered in Mashiki. Kumamoto ? Mashiki ? Whilst I desperately try to convince myself it’s not happening, reality refuses to budge as the plasma screen shows the rubble and destruction of the buildings and roads I used to take. Seeing it all in ruins hurts. A lot. I endlessy search for more information. To the best of my knowledge, all my friends are okay. But you know what they say, that the world is connected by just 6 degrees of separation? In Kumamoto it’s really just one degree. Friends of friends have gone missing, got injured or had to leave their apartments. Fellow Kumamotoans stay in parks, sleep in cars.
So this is me, sitting on a comfortable sofa, a few hundred kilometers away from my second home. My second home is bleeding. I want to help. I need to help. But how? Donating money is a no-brainer. Contributing financially may be one thing, but being on the field to give a hand is another. After getting in touch with my friends at the Peace Boat volunteer center in Tokyo, it becomes clear that the first few weeks would be dedicated to assessing the situation and sending out pros, not volunteers. The organization “It’s Not Just Mud” is looking for people but these people would have to be fully autonomous, bringing their own equipment. I have nothing. I do have the money to buy these things but I don’t. The reason is because I’m scared. Regular programs are interrupted by announcements of aftershocks every 10 minutes and I’m afraid. After 2 weeks, I’m resolved to go help but there is footage of shelters missing food or water. I would not want to add to the evacuees’ burden and be another mouth to feed. It’s hard to grasp the reality of the situation through the filter of mainstream media. Dear Kumamoto friends, my every thoughts are with you. I would like to come help. Is it a good idea? The response to my question on Facebook is overwhelmingly positive. My friend Tohru, with whom I had been volunteering in Ishinomaki after the 3/11 tsunami with a team of fellow ALTs, offers me accommodation at his house. It’s decided. Air routes are re-opened. Ticket bought.
The first day at a volunteer center is often the most frustrating. That day in Mashiki was no exception. Registration took up to 1 hour and 30 minutes but at least I got to help. Countless willing volunteers were denied access to the center having reached capacity only 30 minutes after it had opened. My first day was spent with a team of 5 other volunteers cleaning up the path around a house so that its resident could access it. While giving back to the community always feels good, after the first day I had tons of energy left and felt like I could do more. From the second day onwards I joined a team of semi-pros. My being a semi-amateur, it was more challenging than not.
Traditional houses in Kyushu were designed to resist typhoons rather than earthquakes. The tiles are thicker and heavier to withstand strong winds. As a result, in Mashiki the first floors of most houses had collapsed under the weight of the roofs. Our mission was to retrieve important objects for the families that lived there: photo albums, shrines, personal items that would help the disaster-stricken people move forward.
Volunteering is hard. Sometimes it feels like we are nothing but ants trying to take down a forest. Cleaning up a house is a day’s worth of work for a team of 7. There are thousands and thousands of such houses. But it matters. Not only does it matter to the people we’re helping, but it brings out the best in us by increasing our sense of belonging to a community (be it Kumamoto, Japan, or humankind) and our understanding that disasters can hit any of us anytime, but there will always be fellow humans to help. Caring is the key. Even though they lost everything, the people affected by the earthquake always welcomed the volunteers with a smile and a million “arigatō gozaimasu“. Having been in Japan for 4 years, I had become used to taking “sumimasen” as a “thank you” and I had almost forgotten the power of a heartfelt “arigatō“. It’s like a power charger. Every time I heard it I was back to 100% and ready to take on the next challenge.
My next challenge came when I extended my stay for a second week to experience another aspect of disaster relief. I did volunteer interpreting for logisticians at International Medical Corps (an NGO). It allowed me to go visit shelters and evacuation centers, assess their needs and assist trained professionals in providing the evacuees with therapeutical massages, bringing them futons or making mattresses out of cardboard.
These two weeks in my adopted home prefecture were an intense period of real human connection. I reconnected with old friends and made new ones among the evacuees and the volunteers who had come from all over Japan to help, sometimes driving 15 hours to do so. I was physically exhausted at times but the whole experience was incredibly rewarding. Kumamoto is hurt but an army of kind souls is at work to heal it. It will take time but we will do it. Makenbai, Kumamoto!
Brian Barbour, Former Myokokogen ALT, 1998-2001
It was my experience through the JET Programme in Japan that served as the foundation for my career in refugee protection. It may be hard to see the connection, or the path that leads a person from one place to another, and from teacher to refugee lawyer; but in 1998 I found myself under 3 meters of snow on Myoko Mountain learning to teach, learning cultural sensitivity and understanding. And today, I find myself in Tokyo, sitting across the table from a refugee man, woman, or child whose life is on the line.
From 1998-2001, I was the luckiest of all of the JETs. I was welcomed to Myokokogen in Niigata prefecture where I found a junior high school with its own ski jump; hot springs; delicious sake; and the best part of any experience is always the people. My students were fun and talented, the townspeople were friendly and interested, my local bar was a great place to make friends and learn Japanese, and my fellow JETs throughout the prefecture were active and supportive.
I was given a lot of responsibility as a teacher, including assisting Uchida-sensei as assistant band director, and I therefore learned a lot about how to teach. The Town had a sister-city in Zermatt, Switzerland, and I was often invited to assist with that relationship, so I learned about inter-cultural relations. I was the only foreign resident, so I learned a lot of Japanese.
It was the JET from my neighboring village, David, who inspired me to go to Nepal, my first job after JET. He had been in the Peace Corps in Nepal and had designed fish farms for a Nepali family that ran a school. He recommended me as a teacher and I was hired as an English and Japanese teacher at a Nepali boarding school just outside Kathmandu. I spent 2 years in Nepal, and that is where I was first confronted with refugee issues.
There were already many refugees in Nepal, particularly from Tibet and Bhutan. But I arrived just after the Royal Family had been assassinated, and it was the height of the civil war. Many Nepali people were also being forced to flee the country and seek asylum as refugees. There were days when the Maoists would demand “donations” from our school, demand to speak to classes to recruit child soldiers, or demand a national strike of the schools. I witnessed the fear and frustration that these experiences would provoke, there were times that I felt that fear myself. The experience in Myoko set my career in motion, and the experience in Nepal had a profound impact on my life.
The idea of law school had never actually crossed my mind before Nepal. I am an idealist. I believe in idealism. If we cannot even imagine a better world then we have no chance of achieving one. Before Nepal, I would probably have thought that law school was no place for an idealist, but in Nepal I met human rights lawyers, staff of the United Nations and NGOs, and I read the autobiography of Gandhi (also a lawyer). Some would say I was naïve, but it helped me to stay true to my ‘calling’ throughout 3 years of law school where I focused on human rights law and refugee law and policy.
My first job after law school brought me back to Asia. My qualifications as a lawyer coupled with my experience in Japan and Nepal made me uniquely qualified for certain positions. Although most people are more likely to associate refugees with Africa or the Middle-East, the truth is that there are more refugees in Asia than in any other region of the world. Despite the magnitude and complexity of the refugee situation in Asia, very few countries in Asia have any law or policy dealing with refugee protection. So it is a massive issue that is not generally being addressed. In that context, countries like Japan are very important. Japan actually has signed the Refugee Convention and does have refugee law. There are many problems with Japan’s system, but if we can establish an Asia-specific model for refugee reception, refugee protection, and integration that works here in Japan, then it will have a profound impact on the rest of the region and the world. To work on refugee protection in Asia now is to be at the front lines; to be a part of laying the groundwork of what will become Asia’s framework for refugee protection.
I helped to start a new refugee legal aid organization in Hong Kong. While there, I had the opportunity to partner a number of times, with the organization where I now work, the Japan Association for Refugees (“JAR”). 15 years after I left the JET Programme, I find myself back in Japan doing what I feel most passionate about, fighting for refugee rights and struggling to save as many refugee lives as we can. Meanwhile, my experience with the JET program has provided me with invaluable insight into Japan work culture and society, while giving me first-hand knowledge of the challenges of integration for those of us who are from another country living in Japan.
JAR’s founders were Japanese human rights activists who saw that there were refugees here in Japan and no one was doing anything to help. When JAR was founded there was only one staff. Today JAR has around 25 staff providing protection and assistance to refugees in Japan, and supporting refugee work regionally and globally. Civil society is currently leading the way for refugee protection in Asia in the absence of State responsibility, and Japan civil society is an active part of that movement.
I recall that when I applied for the JET Programme, I was interviewed at the Japan Consulate in Chicago. I was selected, and before departing for Japan, I remember that we had pre-departure orientation in Chicago. We flew to Tokyo and had post-arrival orientation there. We had prefectural orientation in Niigata, and I was met at the train station by Kojima “Jo,” a representative of Myoko’s Board of Education. I was taken to my apartment and shown how to use my washing machine and rice cooker, how to throw out the garbage, and I was even given a hotline phone number that I could call and speak in English if I felt homesick. I was taken out for a welcome dinner at the Ishida-kan Myoko Hotel who became my second family, and I was given such a warm greeting that I could not help but have the warmest feelings towards my new home. There were thousands of others who arrived in Japan at the same time I did. It occurs to me that if Japan decided to, it could welcome refugees to Japan the way that I was welcomed into Japan by the JET Programme. If it did, we would quickly see that Japan has the most effective and impactful refugee reception system in the world. Japan can be a leader in this field if it decides to. It has not yet done so, but the potential is there for Japan to not only save lives, but to welcome refugees into Japanese society in a way that celebrates Japan’s cultural identity and shares it with a growing multi-cultural global community. It already has the best resettlement, reception, and integration program in the world: it is called “the JET Programme”.
by Raewyn MacGregor – JETAA New Zealand Country Representative
On Saturday, 14 May 2016, representatives of Japan Exchange and Teaching Alumni Association (JETAA) New Zealand chapters, Auckland, Wellington and South Island met with officials from CLAIR Sydney and representatives of the board of Sister Cities New Zealand and the Sister Cities New Zealand Youth sub-committee.
This year celebrates 30 years since the establishment of the JET Programme. The Japanese Government created an initiative to support local municipalities and educational institutions in Japan, the JET Programme. One of its missions is to foster grassroots internationalisation. By hosting nationals from other, mainly English speaking countries, to live and work in Japan, Japanese people can experience other cultures. Equally, by living and working in Japan, a JET participant can learn about Japan, expand their horizons and have a more in depth cultural understanding achieved through firsthand experience. In this way JET and sister cities programmes have a lot in common.
This year, Sister Cities New Zealand (SCNZ) is also celebrating a milestone: its 35th anniversary. The Sister Cities programme was developed after World War II in an attempt to foster connections and create peace at a global level through personal interactions and understanding of the world’s diverse cultures. By building people-to-people relationships, friendship ties would be made across the world.
Director of CLAIR Sydney, Katsunori Kamibo, and his staff, Motohiro Suzuki and Toshiya Komatsu, visited Wellington to meet with me, the JETAA Country Representative, and JETAA Presidents and committee members from Auckland (Amelia Sirimanne – President and Jo McCarthy – committee member), Wellington (Michael Roberts – President and Natalie Liverant – Vice President) and South Island (Ryan Smith – President and Caroline Pope – Past President). We discussed JETAA activities planned for the 30th Anniversary and sister cities relationships. Then we met with SCNZ. Sister Cities New Zealand representatives included Hiromi Morris – President, Mayor Ray Wallace of Lower Hutt – Vice President, Bing Ying Lou – Youth Director, Linton Rathgen – Director (and past president of JETAA Auckland), Aaron Liew and Lewis Gibson – youth sub-committee (also JETAA members).
Sister Cities New Zealand surprised both JETAA and CLAIR by presenting them with certificates of appreciation for their activities supporting people-to-people relationships between New Zealand and Japan. This was a surprise to JETAA because we just see this as part of our mission as JETAA members; for many JETs and JET Alumni we’re living the Sister Cities mission without even realising it. It was an honour to be recognised by SCNZ and we hope to continue discussions on this crucial topic into the future.
Many JET participants are placed in one of New Zealand’s 41 sister cities in Japan and provide vital bridges for Japan to learn about New Zealand culture. Before the other six JETAA members, who had lived in sister cities, made their remarks, I noted in my opening remarks that even though the prefecture I lived in did not have any New Zealand sister cities, I felt that it was my duty as an envoy to Toyama to be such a bridge. Then, the JETAA members discussed their experiences in Japan as a New Zealander who might not be from their town’s sister city but could still provide some small insight about what life is like in New Zealand while living there.
At the meeting we discussed how we can work together, what SCNZ can do for JETAA, and what JETAA can do for SCNZ.
How could we collaborate to enhance people-to-people relationships and support sister city relationships in New Zealand? How could we work together to help JET alumni resettle in New Zealand when they leave Japan?
Two main ideas were put forward:
- SCNZ can, through its membership, help JET alumni find jobs in local government
- JETAA can help SCNZ build/rebuild sister city relationships by providing a pool of volunteers who already understand Japanese culture.
JET alumni already have knowledge of Japan and/or New Zealand’s sister cities in Japan and are often excited to share that knowledge when they get back. Some alumni seek jobs in international relations but struggle to find them immediately when they return, yet many local governments need their expertise but do not know how to find them. We hope it will be easier now for JET alumni to find jobs through local governments or be able to help with sister city relationships in a purely volunteer capacity.
We also discussed how we can get more New Zealand JET participants placed in sister cities in Japan. We decided that sister cities could be promoted up front when people apply for the JET Programme.
Civic sister cities groups in New Zealand have a lot of JET alumni involved as volunteers. This provides the alumni with opportunities to stay involved with Japan-New Zealand exchange activities when they return home, especially if there is no JETAA chapter nearby. JETAA thanked SCNZ for this opportunity for JET Alumni that are not able to join a JETAA chapter.
After the meeting we continued the relationship building between SCNZ, CLAIR and JETAA with a dinner.
SCNZ and JETAA have very different purposes but share common interests of people-to-people connections and grassroots internationalisation. Both sides hope that this will be the start of a close and fruitful relationship. Thanks CLAIR for bringing us together.
by Joohyun Kwon, former Niseko Town CIR, 2012-2015
As the JET Programme welcomes its 30th Anniversary, the Republic of Korea celebrates its 24th year as a participating country in the JET Programme, and JETAA South Korea (formerly known as the Hanuri association) its 21st year since foundation.
Over its 21 years, the South Korea chapter of JETAA has been active in supporting the JET Programme in three fields: encouraging exchange between participants, promoting the JET Programme in Korea, and contributing to the international exchange activities of Korea and Japan.
Promoting Exchange Between Korean JETs
Currently, there are 60 Korean JET Programme participants in Japan. This number is neither very large nor very small, so Korean JET Programme participants tend to be a close-knit and active community from the time they are in Japan. In order to maintain these connections between Korean JET participants even after they have returned to Korea, JETAA Korea holds two annual events: the JETAA General Assembly and the JETAA Reunion. We currently also host a Career-Up Exchange Meeting where JETAA Korea members can network with officials from CLAIR Seoul, the Japanese Embassy in South Korea, and various Japanese companies doing business in Korea.
In addition to JETAA South Korea’s focus on strengthening relationships between alumni, we also place great importance on forming relationships with current JET participants. Thus, JETAA South Korea attends the welcome reception for new JET participants held at the Japanese Embassy each year to give advice to the new participants and develop the Korean JET network.
Promotion of the JET Programme in Korea
The JET Programme plays an important role in the exchange between South Korea and Japan. In order for more Koreans to know about the programme, JETAA South Korea makes great efforts to publicise the programme and its activities. The JET Programme Information Sessions are part of these efforts. Each year, in both Seoul and Busan, these Information Sessions are held for aspiring JET Programme participants. Alumni from JETAA South Korea explain how to prepare for the JET interview, describe the typical work that Korean JET participants do, and talk about career options after the JET Programme.
In addition to providing information to aspiring JETs, we also engage in publicity activities directed at the general Korean population. In 2015, JETAA South Korea exhibited photos of the activities of JET Programme participants and worked to publicise the JET Programme at a booth at the Korea-Japan Exchange Festival. This was an opportunity to showcase the ways in which the JET community is working to support the amicable relationships between South Korea and Japan. Many festival-goers also visited the booth with the desire to participate in the Programme, so an information session was also held at the booth.
Korea-Japan Cultural Exchange
At the time of its start, the founding members of JETAA Korea were united in the desire to continue supporting exchange between Korea and Japan even after leaving the Programme and returning to Korea. Thinking about what we can do as an organisation to support such exchange, JETAA Korea cooperated with CLAIR Seoul and the Japanese Embassy in Korea to hold the “Korea-Japan Exchange Speech Contest.” In this contest, Koreans give speeches in Japanese while Japanese participants give speeches in Korean. Typically, participants introduce each other’s culture and relate various episodes of things that happened in each other’s country for the sake of deepening our understanding of each other’s culture. Through this contest, Korean JET alumni can get involved in activities where they act as bridges between Korea and Japan with “JET” at the focal point.
In this manner, JETAA Korea strives to support the bonds of friendship between JET participants through sustainable alumni activities.
by Luke Happle, former Miyagi Prefecture CIR, 2009-2013
On 13 March, the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations and Sendai City, with support from the Reconstruction Agency and Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima Prefectures, held an event to commemorate five years since the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.
Focussing on the experiences of JET Programme participants in Tohoku affected by the disaster, this event at Sendai Mediatheque was well attended by local residents of various nationalities.
The event featured a panel discussion of three JET alumni who were in Tohoku at the time of the disaster, and one former JET Programme supervisor. Under the expert moderating of Date FM radio personality Keiko Itabashi, the panellists spoke of their experiences during the disaster. Amanda Wayama spoke of her efforts to confirm the safety of local JET participants. Kevin Hsien told the audience how following the incident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, he decided to remain in the area to help his neighbours and JET Programme colleagues. Marshall Ikeda, who was based in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture, talked about how he lived in an emergency shelter for two weeks, and taught English to children there. The panellists spoke confidently and eloquently about their often challenging experiences. They are a testament to the competent, motivated talent that the JET Programme brings to Japan, and the profoundly strong bonds that form among participants and their communities.
Following the panel discussion, there was a showing of Live Your Dream: The Taylor Anderson Story. Taylor Anderson and Monty Dickson were JET Programme participants that lost their lives in the March 2011 tsunami. The documentary details Taylor’s inspirational life and how she pursued her ambition to live and work in Japan. Taylor’s brother Jeffrey, who has followed in his sister’s footsteps to become a JET participant in Nara Prefecture, was in attendance and shared his thoughts about his sister’s legacy. The audience were deeply affected by the showing and Jeffrey’s comments, and even the moderator was moved to tears.
This event provided a much needed opportunity for reflection, and a chance to remember those who lost their lives in the March 2011 disasters.