The Department of JET Programme Management, CLAIR
Introducing the 2018 JET Furusato Vision Project!
In this initiative, eight JET Programme alumni will use the skills and experiences they have gained in their post-JET careers in order to direct projects in their ‘Home away from Home’ in Japan. The projects use each participant’s talents to promote tourism, economic relations, education, and cultural exchange at the local level in Japan.
For the Furusato Vision Project, CLAIR selected eight JET alumni from among over 40 proposals coming from around the world. CLAIR will continue to support the eight participants during the project by communicating with contracting organisations and related parties to plan and ensure the success of each project. This year’s projects focus on Eastern Japan, building off the successes of last year’s projects in Western Japan.
We at CLAIR are excited to see JET alumni continue to contribute to internationalization after JET, and open up new possibilities for contracting organisations to continue their relationships’ with JET alumni and create new potential for the JET Programme itself.
The 2018 JET Furusato Vision Project will be held in two groups between 25 October and 10 November. Projects will take place in Yamagata, Fukushima, Tochigi, Niigata, Fukui, Yamanashi, Shizuoka, and Aichi Prefectures. You can follow all of the projects on the official Furusato Vision Project Facebook page and Instagram account.
The Department of JET Programme Management, CLAIR
On 30-31 July, 6-7 August, and 20-21 August, this year’s group of new JET participants attended Post-Arrival Orientations at the Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo. After arriving in Japan, participants spent two days preparing for their new jobs and new lives as JET Programme ALTs, CIRs, and SEAs in local communities all across Japan.
CLAIR, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC), and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science, Sports and Technology (MEXT) held seminars and workshops relating to professional development and vital skills, adjusting to life in Japan, and making the most of the experience JET offers.
After two full days of orientation, representatives from host prefectures and designated cities accompanied the participants to their new homes, where they immediately got to work establishing bonds with local communities that will lead to unique experiences and lifelong friendships.
This year, approximately 2,100 new JET participants from 35 countries attended these three orientations. Nearly 2,000 ALTs, 130 CIRs, and six SEAs joined the Programme this summer, spreading out over 63 host prefectures and designated cities.
We would like to express our thanks to all of the JET alumni who helped prepare the new JET participants, whether by contributing to pre-departure orientation, answering questions on online forums, or any other forms of support.
We wish the new JET participants well on what will surely be the experience of a lifetime.
The Department of JET Programme Management, CLAIR
CLAIR is working with the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to encourage the recruitment and participation of JET Programme alumni in hosting the Tokyo 2020 games.
The Olympic Games will be held from 24 July to 9 August, 2020. The Paralympic Games will be held from 25 August to 6 September, 2020.
Volunteer applications will be accepted online at the Organising Committee’s homepage beginning in mid-September and lasting through early December. Through the online application, applicants will have a dedicated “my page” through which various information and preferences can be submitted.
Notification regarding invitations to volunteer will take place between February and July, 2019. After being invited to volunteer, applicants will participate in a one-day seminar and interview either in Japan or through online video communication services. Finally, before the games begin, each volunteer will participate in a one-day joint training session. For volunteers coming from overseas to participate, this training will be held shortly before the events. The Organising Committee has taken great measures to allow volunteers from overseas to participate without making multiple trips.
In order to participate, volunteers must be legally allowed to remain in Japan throughout the duration of their stay. Those entering on short-term or “tourist” visas are typically permitted to engage in volunteer activities. In addition, the standard minimum requirement is ten days of volunteering. Each day is eight hours including break time and down time. In some cases, volunteers may be assigned fewer than ten days.
Travel costs to and from Japan or the event locales will be borne by the individual, but commuting costs between lodging and event sites may be provided. In addition, food and drinks during shifts as well as uniforms will be provided.
Foreign volunteers including JET Programme participants and alumni will likely be able to contribute in receiving, guiding, and attending to visiting parties connected with the events. This may include assisting staff, athletes, and other related parties. It could also include assistance in preparation of facilities, language support, and media relations. Site and facility preparation will begin after April 1, 2020
For the many JET alumni who are considering volunteering for Tokyo 2020, make sure to stay up to date with the application page at the URL below. We hope to see you in Tokyo in two years’ time!
Ashlie O’Neill, Former Hyogo Prefecture ALT, 2013 – 2016
G’day from Sydney, Australia! I’m Ashlie O’Neill.
I was a JET from 2013-2016 in Akashi City, Hyogo-Ken. You may know Akashi as it is famous for its octopus and Akashi-yaki. Akashi-yaki are a delicious version of tako-yaki, served in a clear dashi soup. If you have never tried Akashi-yaki, I highly recommend it.
While on JET, I was involved with AJET on the prefectural and national level. I got to know a lot about how active and amazing the JET Alumni are around the world while serving as the Director of Alumni Relations and Resources for National AJET. Since returning to Oz, I have been working as the Vice-Chair of JETAA-I, and this year I felt I was ready to step up as the Chair. I was lucky enough to be voted in, so here I am.
I am excited about all the great stuff that we have in the works this year. One that may interest JET Programme alumni is the establishment of the KenJetKai Facebook pages. These pages, dedicated to certain prefectures, have been created to link current JETs, alumni and the community all in one place. We hope this will encourage a stronger bond and information sharing between all those who are interested in staying connected to their second homes in Japan.
If you are interested in getting more involved in JETAA or chatting more about JETAA-I or the KenJetKai project, please check out our JETAA-I website or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rose Tanasugarn, Former Gotsu City and Hamada City ALT, Shimane Prefecture, 1990-1993 and 2003-2006
Greetings, fellow alumni! I’m Rose Tanasugarn. My hometown is Los Angeles, CA, but I have lived in Kobe since 2008. I jokingly call myself a “JET lifer” as I have been a JET in Shimane twice (1990-1993 and 2003-2006) and have gained a wide range of alumni experiences, namely as a JETAA Western Japan chapter officer and as a Furusato Vision Project participant last fall.
I look forward to supporting chapters around the globe, especially newer ones in Southeast Asia. I also hope to create a virtual chapter for alumni who live in regions with little or no alumni presence.
I encourage you all to get involved with your local JETAA chapter and look forward to your input and ideas as JETAA-I continues to rebuild and gain momentum. Yoroshiku!
What are KenJETkai?
KenJETkai are basically kenjinkai for people with a connection to the JET Programme. They are Facebook groups that you can join, with one KenJETkai for each prefecture in Japan.
There are numerous Facebook groups for JET alumni and many are based on prefecture affiliation. The difference is that KenJETkai are open to current and former JETs as well as other stakeholders in the Programme. KenJETkai hope to supplement rather than supplant the groups already out there, and are interested in connecting with them wherever possible.
So, Why KenJETkai?
If you’re going to Japan, they put you in touch with the JETs who’ve gone before you.
If you’re going to leave Japan, they allow you to network with alumni who can help you transition to life after JET.
If you’ve left Japan, they keep you connected with your prefecture and the JETs who are carrying on your work there.
If you are in Japan, they give you access to the global network of alumni who know and love your prefecture and can help support your efforts to increase understanding and awareness about it.
KenJETkai provide a forum to connect the members of the JET community, participants, and stakeholders, so their shared experiences and relationships can continue to strengthen, deepen, and become mutually enriching.
That’s why we hope you’ll join us and KenJETkai too!
Click here to see the brochure.
Nichelle Mitchell, Former Matsuyama City ALT, Ehime Prefecture, 2009-2014
Whenever I introduce myself to someone new, the question of where I’m from invariably comes up. Very few people know about Trinidad and Tobago (T&T), far less its actual geographical location and so it is often my duty to inform them about my homeland. I’ve been away from Trinidad and Tobago for 9 years and the last time that I visited was over 6 years ago. However, I stay in close contact with my loved ones and I keep abreast of the news at home.
In Osaka there is a plethora of individuals from a variety of different countries and as it so happened I was introduced to a Japanese man who made it a priority to seek out and speak to as many persons from different countries as he could. I was the first person he’d ever met from Trinidad and Tobago and he was intrigued to learn as much as he could about my country of origin; so much so that he invited me to speak at his volunteer organization called the ‘Centennial Wisemen’s Club.’
I graciously accepted because here was an amazing opportunity to not only share information but also to broaden the cultural horizons of a group of individuals who were genuinely interested in my homeland. I reached out to the President of my local chapter of the JET Alumni Association; Mr. Laurence Inniss, so that I could not only speak about Trinidad and Tobago but also provide tangible keepsakes and information in the form of tourism brochures, pamphlets and pins. Not only did he provide me with such materials but he ensured that it was transported from T&T to Japan via DHL so that I would have them in time for my talk.
On April 18, 2018 at the Osaka Granvia Hotel between the hours of 6.30 pm to 8.30pm, I then conducted an hour-long presentation and Q&A session on my island nation Trinidad and Tobago. I was set up with a projector and sound system so that I could incorporate music into my presentation. Seeing as this would be the first time for the participants to learn about Trinidad and Tobago, I made it a priority to incorporate visuals, music and historical information into my PowerPoint presentation. I felt it important to ensure that everything I spoke about could be backed up by high quality pictures and video material created by the National Tourism Board of Trinidad and Tobago. Music of our Soca Ambassador Machel Montano was also included thanks to the many HD videos available on YouTube.
The participants were fascinated by the blend of cultures and ethnic groups which exist in Trinidad and Tobago. Very few countries in the world have the religious harmony that T&T enjoys and the participants were surprised that the country has practitioners of Catholicism, Islam and Hinduism to name a few, living side by side. Another area of fascination was the abundance of wildlife and natural beauty in both of the islands. The music of Calypso and Soca was of course the biggest hit of the evening. One can always trust Machel Montano to provide splendor and artistry through songs that stimulate the senses and lend themselves to an irresistible urge to tap one’s feet.
It is nigh impossible to speak about Trinidad and Tobago and not mention the food culture of the islands. The participants were astounded by the descriptions and pictures of Doubles, Pelau, Bake and Shark, Corn Soup and Black Pudding to name a few. It was honestly quite thrilling to be able to wax poetic on foods that are quite normal for me and yet so exotic to someone learning about them for the first time.
Carnival of course is the best way to close a presentation on Trinidad and Tobago with the explosion of colour, themes and artistic design best represented through creators such as Peter Minshall and Brian Mac Farlane and through band representations such as Harts, Tribe, and Trini Revellers to name a few. I quite emphatically made sure to underscore the differences between Trinidad’s Carnival and that of Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival presentations.
At the end of my presentation I fielded a few questions and a few stand outs were the questions regarding the language spoken in T&T. There was surprise that English is our official language. Another was the fact that as a colony we’d had so many cultural contributors via the Spanish, French and English.
As I prepared both for my presentation and for this article, it struck me more than ever the importance of being representative. As a foreign resident in Japan I am ultimately an ambassador and an emissary for Trinidad and Tobago. Even now, as more of us leave our home shores in search of a better life, we are still a part of a unique nation and thus we must never forget where we came from. Moreover, had it not been for the JET Programme I may have never found myself in such a position as both historian and storyteller.
I am a proud English Teacher in Japan but more than that I am a proud Trini.
Sharleen Estampador-Hughson, Former Tsubata Town ALT, Ishikawa Prefecture, 2006-2009
In the past month my PhD study on the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme has highlighted the unexplored link between soft power and nostalgia and has been featured in the Japan Times via Kyodo News and in the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan’s Acumen magazine. I was a guest speaker at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) Japan Research Centre seminar series and have recently had the opportunity to be interviewed by the Japanese Prime Minister’s office for their “We Are Tomodachi” publication.
I was one of the first co-organisers, along with Dr. Peter Matanle (Director of Research & Innovation at SEAS), and was supported by Sarah Parsons (Managing Director of Japan in Perspective) and Keith Kelly (Japan Local Government Centre, London) for the first JET Academic Special Interest Group Event at the University of Sheffield’s School of East Asian Studies, sponsored by JETAA UK in 2016. This event brought together 20 JET alumni from universities across the UK, Ireland, Germany and The Netherlands from various academic backgrounds to network and establish collaborative opportunities. In 2017, the event continued at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, convened by Dr. Simon Kaner, Director of the Centre for Japanese Studies and head of the Centre for Archaeology and Heritage at the Sainsbury Institute. Mr. Kenji Saegusa from CLAIR’s headquarters in Tokyo attended the event along with officials from the Japanese Embassy in London, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the Japan Foundation. A Facebook group formed from these events can be found under the heading ‘JETAA UK Academic Special Interest Group’.
For many of those who have been through the JET programme, it has led to personal appreciation and an understanding of Japanese culture and society. Unique individual experiences and memories of seasonal matsuris, friendships made, and the schools where we taught are significant not only for our personal growth but for cultural diplomacy. Our memories become powerful in their sentiment where nostalgia leads to engagement with Japan over a lifetime. Nostalgia can be found in both memories of the past and dreams of the future. Newly hired JET minds imagine what their new life will be like in their new home and for those that have finished, they reflect on their time on the Programme. The study I conducted found nostalgia to be invaluable for soft power diplomacy where past memories and experiences become powerful conduits.
Joseph Nye, who coined the term soft power in the early 1990s, says that cultural exchanges employ attractive power, or soft power to lure peoples, societies and governments to co-opt ideas and policies. This approach is subtle, and works well through people-to-people exchange, where the idea of Japan is spread through stories, going into Japan-related careers and consuming related goods. Revisions of our memories on the Programme are useful when they are repackaged into sentimental collections and are beneficial at a personal level for supporting self-esteem and self-worth and for supporting Japan’s interests abroad.
For my research I interviewed 24 JETs from between the 1980s and 2010s in the ALT role, since ALTs represent 90% of the Programme. Former Assistant English Teachers from the British Teaching Programme and Monbusho English Fellows scheme were also considered in the study. These individuals all had varying unique experiences but remarkably went through similar stages. Adapting to their communities proved to be valuable as they confronted uncomfortable experiences that arose as they became more aware of differences between themselves and their host culture. Some of these encounters involved issues in the workplace and standing out as the token foreigner. Yet, even with these issues surfacing, they became valuable for overcoming hardship and for coming to terms with their adopted homes. Some of them ended up staying in Japan and became comfortable with Japanese language and culture, while others left transformed by the engagement. Experiences that change our patterns of thinking and require a major shift in routine, such as that of an overseas exchange are impactful. The JET experience can be reformulated to become an even more positive phase of our individual histories, even with running into unpleasant encounters. Over time the stint on JET becomes something positive and cherished.
Nostalgia is also about loss; recovering the past through remembering spring cherry blossoms, mushi atsui days, and the smell of tatami mats colours our memories. These once everyday, ordinary events become infused with a sense of melancholy. JETs have been intimately entwined and supported living and working in Japanese communities, their developed knowledge connects them to the country after the experience. However these individuals interpreted their time on the Programme, their experiences are valuable for understanding how they are part of the soft power process via nostalgia that became a tether tying the participants to Japan.
Living in another society and culture different from our own can result in gratitude for who we are and for the journey. JET gave us the opportunity to see another world from an outsider’s perspective, with the ability to learn about ourselves just as much as we did about Japan. JET was an impressionable time for many of us and is the reason we have the tendency to keep Japan present in our lives.
Joanne Tomooka, Former Oita Prefecture ALT, 1996-1999
Like so many others, I came to Japan straight out of university in New Zealand, on the JET Programme, with the goal of staying for one year to make some money to pay off my student loans while experiencing a different culture. It’s 22 years later, and I am still here.
After three years on the JET scheme, I married a local man and continued teaching privately at kindergartens and eikaiwa schools while raising two children. Living in the countryside and being a reasonably good teacher, I was in high demand. We also started taking in groups of junior high school students for homestay experiences as a part of Green Tourism.
I worked hard, juggled the different demands of my family and made a reasonable income, but never actually enjoyed it. I felt like my skills were badly wasted, but I could see no other way to work in the countryside of Oita prefecture.
Then, three and a half years ago, I was hospitalized for seven weeks with an autoimmune disease. As horrible as it was, I am now so grateful for this time in my life. The disease was brought on mainly through stress and was a great chance to look at what was really important to me in life. I promptly gave up all my teaching jobs and began to focus on a side business of making cookies, jam, and granola, which I had already been developing and selling through a number of different outlets.
Sales steadily increased, and I was hearing lovely stories about the people who were enjoying the cookies, but I still felt a little disconnected from the process as I wasn’t selling directly to customers. So, in November last year, I took the plunge and converted our cottage into a small shop called, “Kiora Cottage”, where I now sell my own baked goods as well as handmade items made by long term residents from all over the world, who are living all over Japan.
The name “Kiora” is a combination of two words — “Kia Ora”, meaning “welcome” in Maori and “Kiyoraka”, which means “pure” or “natural”. Like the combination of the words, I hope the cottage is a place where visitors can feel a sense of New Zealand in a natural, pure environment. I am currently only open three days a week, but am absolutely loving this new stage of my life.
The main aim of the shop is not to make lots of money. I am very fortunate that my husband has a good job, so I don’t feel too pressured to focus only on the financial side of things. My aim is to make connections with people and help others to make new connections through the shop. One way of making these connections is by asking people to run different workshops through the cottage. Customers are brought together in small groups with a common goal, such as seasonal medicinal cooking, and come away with not only new skills, but new friends. Another is by connecting different suppliers to help come up with new and original goods. Kiora Cottage is already becoming a place where locals come for a chat, and where customers feel free to talk with other customers and exchange information.
When people leave the shop, I hope they feel they have had a mini-overseas trip without having to leave Japan. I hope they feel a little inspired to try something new. I would also love to inspire other people who are in a similar situation to me to be brave and break away from teaching English. Please don’t get me wrong; I am not trying to rubbish teaching. It is just that it’s not for everyone and there are other options for those of us who are living in Japan and are not enjoying the teaching world.
Starting a new business is not easy. I have the support of the majority of my local community, but the attitude of a few in my immediate area sometimes make me want to just give up. When I first put signs up I got permission from all the land owners involved, but there was still a complaint put in by one of my stubborn, old neighbours. At first I was disheartened, but in the end I know he is just so opposed to anything new and that it is best to smile and nod at him and not take it to heart. You will never get the support of the entire community — 95% is good enough for me! I am still by no means a “successful business”. It takes time. It takes connections. It takes a lot of trial and error. It takes hard work. Without the support of others, it is not possible. But if it is something you enjoy, it is also so rewarding.
If anyone is interested in starting anything similar, I would be more than happy to let you in on any of the things I have learnt on my journey. I have made many mistakes, but I feel that I have made something that is unique and that will evolve slowly over time. Hopefully Kiora Cottage will still be the place where “International craft and flavor comes to rural Japan” for many years to come!
What is everyone buying at Kiora Cottage?!
- Cookies! (recipe below) I currently make 8 different kinds, the most popular of which is White Chocolate & Pecan. Compared to Japanese cookies, mine are packed with flavour and at 300 yen for a packet of 7-9 (depending on the variety) they are great as a treat for yourself or as a small gift for others.
- Locally Grown Tea. I am lucky enough to be able to stock tea which is grown right here in my town and processed by hand by a wonderful young couple. Prices range from 300 to 500 yen depending on the blend. You can also enjoy a nice cup of tea with cookies at the shop.
- Handmade items from amazing long term residents all over Japan. E-tegami, pottery, jewelry, crocheted items, children’s bags, bento bags, children’s clothing… everyone has their favorite thing to look at each time they come. The quality of the goods is fantastic and the different approach Westerners take to handmade items is always a lovely surprise to Japanese customers.
Click here for one of Kiora Cottage’s cookie recipes.
Two tips for getting off the teaching English track and pursuing your passion:
- Work out exactly what is important to you in life. Are you enjoying what you are currently doing? Is it impacting negatively on your family or your health? Can you financially afford to say no to teaching at this stage of your life?
If the answers to the above questions are ‘no’, ‘yes’ and ‘yes’, then perhaps it is time to take the plunge and try something new. Work out what it is that makes you happy, what skills you have and how they could be used to make a new business.
- Get help. Ask questions. Check out the market. Sometimes we have amazing ideas that we really want to just run with, but I really encourage you to take your time and get help from a business consultant (there are some amazing women here in Japan doing this) just to bring you back down to earth for a while and head you in the right direction. Starting small while you are still teaching is a great way to go. Just try as many new things as you can. Some will work and some won’t — and they are not always the ones you think are going to work! Go for it!
This article originally appeared in the April 2018 edition of Connect Magazine.