Nathalie Ng, Former Shizuoka Prefecture ALT, 2010-2011, President of JETAA Singapore
On 7 November, I was very honoured to be able to attend the 30th Anniversary of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme in Tokyo’s Keio Plaza Hotel. For me, it was like I’d come full circle, and was back in the same place where I began my journey all those years ago.
Being back in Keio Plaza Hotel’s lobby brought back memories of how I’d first arrived in Tokyo all those years ago, with 23 other Singaporeans for the first day of our JET lives. This time, though, it was different – as an alumnus, I was here to witness how far the Programme has come in these 30 years. One thing hasn’t changed, though, as JET participants, we’re here to become bridges, bringing cultures from all over the world to Japan, and when we graduate from the Programme, we bring a part of Japan back with us.
Prior to this day, on 6 November, with the support of CLAIR, country representatives came together at the JETAA International Meeting and JET Global Forum to discuss the direction that we, as the alumni, can take for the betterment of the Programme, and how we can better support the growing network of current and former JET participants in the future.
For a young and rather small chapter like Singapore, it was a precious chance to understand the best practices that other chapters have, as well as to learn from other chapters how to tackle issues like engaging the older generation of alumni in our activities. Besides that, JETAA also managed to meet with MEXT, MIC, and MOFA to discuss the future of the Programme, and how alumni like ourselves are able to lend a hand for the Tokyo 2020 Games and the Rugby World Cup in 2019.
As country representatives, we were also given the chance to meet His and Her Royal Highnesses, the Crown Prince and Princess of the Chrysanthemum Throne. Warm and approachable, we spoke of the differences and similarities between Japan and Singapore, and how much I’d missed my little home in Sakuma. I was very appreciative of Their Highnesses’ continued support of the JET Programme, and how they took their time to speak to every representative.
As the celebrations on 7 November drew to a close with a reception in the ballroom, we were able to meet with many current JET participants who were in attendance, and their exuberance was infectious. It reminded me of why I went on the Programme all those years ago, and why I am a part of the alumni and a board member now in my local chapter. The desire to continue to better international relations between my home country and a country I’ve chosen to call my second home was once again rekindled, and being with many like-minded individuals has definitely given me new ideas on how to take my chapter further and better the cross-cultural relations between Japan and Singapore.
With a lookback on the past 30 years of the JET Programme, it is clear that the Programme has been doing well, achieving aims of intercultural exchanges, as well as bettering relations between our home countries and Japan. As alumni, we look forward to the next 30 years to come.
Ashlie O’Neil, Former Hyogo Prefecture ALT, 2013-2016
All members of JET Alumni Association International (JETAA-I) (consisting of the JETAA-I Chair, Vice-Chair, and JETAA country representatives) as well as select members of the National Association of JET (NAJET) and representatives of the three Japanese ministries that support the JET Programme (MIC, MOFA, and MEXT) and CLAIR gathered at the Hotel Sunroute Plaza in Shinjuku on 6 November, 2016, for two consecutive meetings: the JETAA International Meeting and the JET Global Forum.
The JETAA International Meeting was the recently reformed JETAA-I’s first opportunity to have all members meet each other in person. We were also pleased to welcome a separate JET alumnus representative from China to our meeting, as China does not have a formal JETAA chapter. Members of the group often communicate through various means such as email but due to geographical distance and time restrictions of the group it is difficult for members to physically meet beyond regional JETAA conferences held between neighboring countries.
The first order of business was to vote on JETAA-I membership application from JETAA Trinidad & Tobago, which passed unanimously, allowing JETAATT to become the 16th JETAA country member of JETAA-I. The main topic of the discussion that followed was the improvement of diversity amongst the participants of the JET Programme. This is a concern as some countries who already send less than a hundred participants a year have been seeing a decline in numbers.
Following the discussion, Eden Law, the JETAA-I Webmaster, made a presentation about our website, www.jetaainternational.org, and how JETAA-I can increase visibility online for JETs, alumni, and interested parties.
In response to the items discussed at the meeting, JETAA-I’s goals for the near future are to work more closely with CLAIR and AJET to promote the benefits of having JETs from a diverse range of countries to contracting organisations.
An international mug and omiyage exchange was also held as a friendly way for the members of JETAA-I to introduce their home countries to other members. Each Country Representative or Executive Member provided a mug and a local famous snack representative of their country. Seeing snacks and sweets from 17 countries gathered on one table was quite a sight to behold!
In the afternoon CLAIR hosted the Global Forum, which was an open opinion exchange with the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIC), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), and all participants from the morning International Meeting. It was very clear that all the parties involved had a high level of mutual respect for one another and are invested in future collaborative efforts, such as the return and re-imagining of the Satogaeri Project. One thing that struck members of JETAA-I was the willingness of the various ministry representatives to openly and freely discuss issues that are important to JET alumni. An example of this was when Mr. Okamoto, Chair of the Board of Directors of CLAIR, offered to promote the idea of diversifying JET participants at a meeting with leaders of various local authorities in Tokyo. Having direct and frank discussions allowed us to get the most out of the time allocated and we walked away at the end of the meeting feeling elated and optimistic about the future of JETAA-I and the alumni that we represent.
In the afternoon JETAA-I and AJET spoke with members representing organisations involved with the preparations for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympic Games, regarding the JET community’s cooperation with the Games. Finally, an Opinion Exchange between JETAA-I and AJET was held, allowing us the opportunity to discuss where alumni and current JETs can work collaboratively. NAJET and JETAA-I share the common goal of working hard to represent their constituents and enhance their lives by supplying resources, promoting information and creating opportunities for JETs and JET alumni. Possible ideas for the future included databases and information sharing, pre-departure preparation collaboration, AJET promotion of JETAA to leaving JETs with videos and messages, highlighting alumni achievements, and much more. The future of AJET and JETAA relations is looking bright and will no doubt help many of those in the JET community.
Overall, the biggest outcome of the meeting was the creation of a strong sense of community amongst JETAA-I members, which in turn means stronger connections amongst the worldwide JET network. We truly are fortunate to be a part of something much bigger than just our home countries and Japan. We are all part of a strong international network of more than 64,000 alumni across the globe. With the help of AJET, CLAIR, and the government organisations that support us, as well as all the external parties and individuals that support us, the JETAA-I and JET alumni are a strong and influential group of people who will continue to play an important role in globalisation.
Joohyun Kwo, Former Niseko Town CIR, 2012-2015
I was honored to announce the JET Declaration on behalf of JET alumni at the JET Programme 30th Anniversary Commemorative Ceremony. The JET Declaration is an expression of the feelings of all JET participants who want to cherish the connections they made through the Programme. It was written by JETAA members all over the world who communicated via e-mail and put thought into every line. I was very concerned about how best to convey this important message on the day. However, in the end I came to the conclusion that the only way to read it is with sincerity as sincerity will surely get through to the audience. I readied myself as much as I could but when the day finally arrived, I was nervous as the crowd was larger than I had anticipated. Due to this, I was so worried that I would forget the words that from the moment I stood at the podium I couldn’t look out into the audience. But even though I regret that I wasn’t able to give the speech as confidently as I would have liked, I believe that the message itself was delivered as intended.
One often hears JET Programme participants referred to as ‘the bridge between their home country and Japan’. However, I would like this milestone of 30 years to be the starting point for strengthening not only the relationship between Japan and the world, but also for bringing the JET network, which unifies participants all over the world, to a new level. We aim to form one global network of JET participants and deepen the bonds between us. The creation of the JET Declaration was the first step towards this. Using the experience of cooperating both online and offline which was gained through the JETAA International Meeting and the online channels, I hope to continue building the ‘JET Circle’ into the future.
Department of JET Programme Management, CLAIR Tokyo
To commemorate 30 years of international exchange through the JET Programme and build excitement for the Programme’s future, over 120 alumni, current JET participants, JETAA chapters, local government and school officials shared their stories of growth, comradery, and thanks to the JET Programme on social media in the ‘JET Arigato Campaign’.
A number of the stories and messages of thanks submitted to the campaign were compiled into videos and shown at the JET Programme 30th Anniversary Commemorative Ceremony on 7 November, 2016. You can check out the campaign’s videos here.
The messages submitted through the campaign were subsequently shared by the JET alumni network, reaching thousands of users on the web. Thanks to all the JET alumni who participated in the campaign and the JETAA chapters who either submitted or shared campaign messages!
CLAIR would like to continue the spirit of the campaign by encouraging alumni and current JET participants to share their own arigato messages on their Facebook or Twitter accounts, tagging CLAIR’s campaign using the @arigatojet tag, and making the post public. We might share your message on the official campaign page!
On behalf of all the 515 members of JETAA Western Australia, I would like to thank JET for providing us with a truly life-changing experience. We will never forget the wonderful people, rich culture and extraordinary country that we were able to visit. Years and even decades later JET continues to provide us with opportunities to develop new friendships and career opportunities while also keeping the memories alive. Arigato. -Will Perera, President of JETAA Western Australia #arigatojet
Laurence Inniss, Former Nagasaki Prefecture ALT, 2008-2013
The Trinidad and Tobago chapter of the JET Alumni Association was unofficially formed in 2013 to encourage former JET Participants hailing from our Twin Island Republic to support each other during the cultural, emotional and often times career transitions many of us often have to deal with. Our community was built organically and we have seen it grow each year.
Our support also extends to prospective JET participants who are often excited and eager to learn about and apply to the JET Programme. Before becoming an official chapter, we held several JET events. These included panel discussions in conjunction with The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, hanami picnics for new JET participants and welcome back dinners for returning JET participants. Upon seeing our dedication towards formulating our own alumni association, and planning our own events, the Japanese Embassy decided to offer their support and interest in us as a resource. One way they went about this was to invite us, the local JETAA, to be represented on the interview panel for the new applicants.
After Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Trinidad and Tobago in 2014, we were pleasantly surprised to notice a marked increase in accepted JET participants from Trinidad and Tobago. We saw this as a great step in the right direction as other countries have seen a decline in accepted JET participants. We are grateful!
Our Facebook page is forever buzzing with activity. Whether it’s persons sharing their experiences dealing with reverse culture shock, information about job opportunities, stories of our endless cravings for ramen or takoyaki or even bidding farewell to a few of our alumni members as they return to Japan, there’s always something happening. The topic that constantly remains on our fingertips though is the love we have for Japan, the country that we all once called home. Currently, our committee has been working on ideas on how to promote the JET Programme and Japanese culture in T&T on a bigger scale.
Our commitment towards building an alumni community, led to the formation of an official JET alumni committee. In an effort to internationally solidify our small cosmopolitan island presence as part of the JET Alumni community, we subsequently applied for membership in JETAA International. On 6 November, 2016, we achieved that goal, becoming the 16th member of JETAA-I.
Nathalie Ng, Former Shizuoka Prefecture ALT, 2010-2011, President of JETAA Singapore
The SJ50 Matsuri took place from 28 to 30 October this year, with a large procession happening along a section of Orchard Road, on the 29 October. Planning for the Matsuri took a better part of 6 months, starting in April 2016.
JETAA Singapore was proud to be able to join CLAIR at the travel fair organised by JNTO at Ngee Ann City Basement 2 for two days of amazing festivities. As part of our activities to promote Japanese culture, we organised a yukata taiken (yukata experience), as well as a taiko performance by our very own members.
We also had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Okamoto, Chairman of the Board of Directors of CLAIR, as he flew from Tokyo just for this event. CLAIR has been very supportive of JETAA Singapore’s activities, and many of our members felt very encouraged by Mr. Okamoto’s presence.
During the Matsuri, we also worked at promoting the JET Programme by talking to members of the public about our lives on the Programme as ALTs and CIRs. Many interested would-be JET applicants approached us to find out more. Amongst the most popular questions were, ‘Is it hard to adjust to life in Japan?’ and ‘Can we decide where we will be posted to?’. As it coincided with the application period, we felt that this was a good platform for us to showcase the Programme.
Our taiko performance was on 29th October, Saturday, 1:30pm, on the main stage outside Ngee Ann City. About seven JETAA Singapore members, together with their friends, performed a dramatic taiko sequence on stage. The group had been practicing relentlessly for three months before the performance, and were excited about their first-ever performance. They started out from a taiko experience programme we ran a year ago, and then from there, formed a class consisting of taiko enthusiasts. Since then, the class has been working hard to better their skills, and we jumped at the opportunity to have them perform for the first time in public at the SJ50 Matsuri.
As part of our yukata taiken, members of the public came to the booth to be dressed in yukata, and got to take some photos in front of a backdrop featuring some famous Japanese scenic spots. This was extremely well-received, and every session saw about 50 participants at the booth. Over the two days, we had 4 sessions, and many of the participants also asked about the backdrops for the photos, and said they felt inspired to visit Japan to see the real thing. This was born from our annual yukata workshop, organised in conjunction with the Japan Creative Center, which has been extremely well-received by both the public and our members.
The SJ50 Matsuri culminated in a parade with Awa Odori dancers along Orchard Road. JETAA Singapore also participated, along with the CLAIR contingent, and members of the public were invited to join us in the second round of the parade. It was a good opportunity for JETAA Singapore to get up close and personal with members of the public, and a good chance for us to showcase both the Programme, as well as the culture that we’d picked up in Japan during our stint there.
*The SJ50 Matsuri was an event conducted in 2016 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Singapore – Japan diplomatic relations.
Daniel Lowe, Former Chiba Prefecture ALT, 2011-2013, President of JETAA New England
Greeting from New England! Fall has been an exciting season for us, which we kicked off on Sunday, September 11th with our Welcome Back Social for returning JET participants. About 20 JET alumni attended, many of whom have stayed involved with the chapter. It was also a fantastic chance for recent returnees to receive job searching advice from their sempai.
It was at the Welcome Back event where we learned that many of our members are interested in Japanese calligraphy. Thanks to that feedback, on November 13th, working with Showa Boston Institute (the study abroad campus of Showa Women’s University in Tokyo), we founded a monthly calligraphy club. As part of our agreement, Showa funds art supplies, space, and dinner, while NEJETAA contributes by welcoming their Japanese college students to join and practice English, who in turn help us with the calligraphy. About 10 people attended our first meeting and we will meet again on December 11th.
At the November 18th – 20th Boston Career Forum, in an attempt to gather visiting JET alumni, we held a social on 19 November for exchanging job search ideas. We were especially excited to have two JET alumni join who drove all the way from Toronto!
Looking ahead, January 27th – 29th, NEJETAA will host our JET Programme 30th Anniversary Ski Trip. The deadline for this year’s trip has already passed, but even if you are not joining us this time, we will hold another ski trip in 2018. Most participants are from NEJETAA, JETAANY, and Ottawa, but it would be amazing to have participants from even further away!
Dustin Henrich, Former Nose Town ALT, 2012-2015, President of JETAA Heartland
When the Tohoku earthquake hit in March 2011, many JET alumni around the world wanted to help. I’m sure all of us wanted to go back and help with any relief effort. The JET Alumni Association in the United States got together and asked each chapter to host an event to raise money.
We found out about Taylor Anderson, the JET who was an ALT in Ishinomaki and passed away in the tsunami. She was so dedicated to her students and her community in Japan. When we heard a charity had been made in honor of her, the Heartland JET Alumni Association (HJETAA) got together to come up with the idea to start a film festival.
Each year in Kansas City, Missouri, HJETAA hosts a film festival in the downtown area for the public. We select two animations and two live-action movies to promote Japanese culture and the JET Programme. We work with local artists and the Kansas City Art Institute to promote this enriching event. Each year we’ve grown and last year we raised over $1,000 for the Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund with two sold out shows! This upcoming year, we hope to have four sold out movies! If you’re interested in learning more about how to host a Japanese film festival in your area, please visit our website and contact us for more information.
John Mackey, Former Toyama Prefecture ALT, 2006-2011, Treasurer of JETAA Heartland
I learned one of my most important lessons on the JET Programme after transferring to my city’s largest junior high school. I’d always been at relatively small schools, so when I heard I’d be teaching at a school with eight classes per grade, I worried a lot about how I’d be able to connect with students.
The first weeks were a little rough, but not long after I started, one student really changed my attitude towards going there. Her name was Asuka and she would wait for me in the genkan every morning. She greeted me with a beaming smile and welcoming demeanor, so I couldn’t help but start each day on a positive note.
I looked forward to Asuka’s genki greeting throughout my year there. Thanks to her, I learned that there will always be a friendly face waiting for you no matter how big the crowd. Even today I remember her smile and think back on it when I’m having a rough day. I’m thankful for meeting Asuka and everything she taught me about how to be genki.
Michael Zniliero, Former Hyogo Prefecture ALT, 2007-2011, President of JETAA Canberra
On the evening of 11 November 2016, one of the biggest events to ever hit JETAA Canberra was about to begin. It was the 30 year anniversary of the JET Programme, and all Australian and New Zealand chapters were sending representatives to Canberra to exchange ideas, strengthen the work of JETAA chapters and contribute to the future of the JET Programme.
Starting the week with a reception at the Japanese Ambassador’s Residence, the attendees went on to address a wide range of practical and strategic issues including recruitment, expanding membership, and language exchange over the two day conference. Country representatives reported on the outcomes of the JETAA International Meeting and JET Global Forum held in Tokyo the week before and put forward proposals to revise the processes for electing country representatives. There was also some discussion of the opportunities and challenges associated with establishing a more integrated global network of JET alumni. In addition, special guests Yoshihide Miwa from the Embassy of Japan and Samuel Beever, Director of the Department of Foreign Affair and Trade Japan section provided valuable insights on the policy frameworks and imperatives which support the JET Programme’s ongoing role in bilateral relations between Japan and Australia and New Zealand respectively.
The conference was also a valuable opportunity for participants to socialise, network and enjoy themselves. Attendees showed off their creative side by making a number of entertaining JET promotional videos and enjoyed a sightseeing tour of Canberra during which one member, Keith Parker, dazzled everyone with his live commentary and trivia. Another member, Darryl Pearce, snuck in a surprise blues performance titled ‘The Lonesome Small Town AET Blues’ filled with lyrics and jokes about Darryl’s time on JET back in the day when ALTs were known as AETs.
In all, the Oceania Conference accomplished its goal of bringing the JETAA community together to reflect, plan and look forward towards the next 30 years of the JET Programme. I really hope all guests enjoyed their time in Canberra and could take home fresh ideas on how to improve their local chapters and the JET Programme overall.
A big thank you to everyone who contributed towards making this event a great success!