Take the JET Programme Alumni survey – 21 July to 31 August 2021
The Department of JET Programme Management is running a survey for former JET participants. The purpose of this survey is to gain a fuller understanding of former JET participants’ lives after leaving the programme and the ways in which CLAIR can support them. The survey will run between 21 July (Wed) and 31 August (Tues) 2021. The survey can be accessed online and will take about 15 minutes to complete.
The survey provides the opportunity to declare interest in taking part as a speaker or discussion panellist in the trainings and seminars which CLAIR regularly runs for current JET participants. The experience of former JET participants and their perspectives on building a career after participating in the programme can be very illuminating for current JET Programme participants. Furthermore, many seminars and training sessions run by CLAIR have moved online in the past year, lowering the hurdle for participation by former JET Programme participants from around the world. It is also possible to share your thoughts on the JET Programme itself and offer suggestions for its improvement.
★Access the JET Alumni Survey here and from the QR code below between 21 July (Wed) and 31 August (Tues) 2021
Department of JET Programme Management, CLAIR
Participating in the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme can be a somewhat other-worldly experience – we leave our family and friends behind and depart to the other side of the globe, where we proceed to have a variety of interesting adventures and new experiences. Many of these experiences profoundly alter our perceptions of life. We see that much of what we considered ‘normal’ is in-fact simply accepted convention in our own cultural milieu. This shift in perspective and the experiences gained on the programme can be hard to describe to friends and family back home. Perhaps for this reason, leaving the JET Programme and adapting to life beyond the programme can be a lonely and daunting experience.
Thankfully, there are several ways to smooth the transition to life after participating in the programme. The Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR) and other organisations provide resources to help JET participants maintain strong connections with their contracting organisations, CLAIR, Japan and the broader JET community. This article will offer an overview of these resources. Hopefully, some of them will be interesting and useful to you in maintaining your connections with Japan and the JET community into the future.
Sharing Contact Details with CLAIR
While CLAIR does offer JET participants finishing their time on the programme the chance to share their contact details with CLAIR, these details can change over time. If your email address or other contact details change, please update us with your new details by emailing email@example.com. Having accurate contact details allows us to contact you about relevant events or publications from CLAIR or our sister organisations, and to connect you with your former contracting organisation in the event that they need to reach out to former JET participants. It also allows you to keep receiving JET Streams, the online magazine for former JET participants released by CLAIR, published several times throughout the year. Find out more about what information we would like to be updated with, here.
The online magazine for former JET participants, JET Streams publishes stories of life on the JET Programme and the impact which that experience has continued to have even after time on the programme has finished. CLAIR, JETAA International (JETAA-I) and JETAA chapters around the world also publish information on their activities through JET Streams.
Submissions from former JET Programme participants include personal essays, articles, photography and helpful advice on themes such as job-hunting and capitalising on the JET experience. Any former JET Programme participant can write for JET Streams, and we welcome variety in the submissions. Staff at the Department of JET Programme Management will provide editorial advice and translate your submission. See the guidelines for submission and read articles by former participants stretching back to 1991, here.
The deadline to submit for the winter edition of JET Streams is 4 October (Monday).
JET Alumni Associations (JETAA) are an extensive network of chapters and subchapters established and run by former JET Programme participants around the world on a volunteer basis. They provide a way to keep in touch with the ever-expanding JET community in your local area and get involved with social events. In acknowledgement of the important role that many chapters play in grassroots international exchange between Japan and the rest of the world, these groups may also receive support from CLAIR and other relevant organisations, in order to assist putting on events for their community.
Contact is maintained with members through social media and mailing lists. To search for a JETAA chapter near you, please see the list of chapters here.
Relaunched in 2016, JET Alumni Association International (JETAA-I) exists to support the JETAA chapters and individual alumni around the world by supporting and promoting alumni activities. JETAA-I also acts as a point of contact for other organisations hoping to contact former JETs. Their website includes a ‘News and Events’ section, where information about upcoming events run by JETAA chapters around the world can be found. JETAA-I also holds an international meeting in Tokyo periodically, where its board members and executive committee meet with CLAIR and the three ministries which run the JET Programme, to conduct information exchange and further the interests of JETAA chapters around the world and the legacy of the JET Programme.
KenJETkai is a grassroots initiative by JETAA-I to connect former JET participants with their former host prefectures. The project aims to provide an avenue for cross-cultural connections to be maintained, as well as a focus for activities run in partnership with former JET Programme participants.
KenJETkai groups are run through Facebook. More information about KenJETkai can be found here, including how to search for a KenJETkai group representing your former host prefecture.
The Japan Local Government Center Newsletter
CLAIR’s New York office publishes the Japan Local Government Center Newsletter, a semi-annual newsletter focusing on the activities of JETAA, local government in Japan and America, sister city partnerships and other facets of international relations. With a back catalogue of newsletters stretching back to 2002, the newsletter offers a good way to gain insight into the working of local government in Japan and abroad, as well as the role which JET Programme participants play in international exchange.
We hope that these initiatives will help you maintain your connection with Japan and the JET Programme, inspiring you to get involved and share your experiences with others in the JET community.
★Access the JET Alumni Survey here between 21 July (Wed) and 31 August (Tues) 2021
★Check the guidelines for JET Streams submissions and send us yours by 4 October 2021
Kevin Yuan, Former Mie Prefecture CIR, 2018–2020
While on my first ever visit to Japan in July 2013, I found myself staring out the window of a moving bus, hoping the novel sights of the Tokyo cityscape would turn the tide of battle against jet lag in my favor. As the scenery zoomed past, my gaze landed on a colorful logo above a symbol I recognized immediately—the Olympic rings. To me, the Olympics had at one point been cause for celebration. I had fond memories marveling at the superhuman feats at the Beijing and London Games on TV, so out of amusement, I whipped out my camera and snapped a photo before the scene vanished from view.
Weeks later, Tokyo won its bid to host the 2020 Summer Games, and after a brief moment musing about possibly being in Japan to experience them in person, I went on with my life. At the time, I had no way of knowing the JET Program would turn that daydream into reality, and make my connection with the Olympics something unforgettable.
Fast forward to August 2018. I stepped off the train at Matsusaka Station feeling a mix of apprehension and optimism, prepared for my first day as a municipal CIR in Mie Prefecture. My placement, Taki, was a rural town with a population of around 14,000, a far cry from the bustling city life I had grown accustomed to after spending four years between Washington, D.C. and Tokyo. But through my work interacting with residents of all ages, from energetic nursery school students to the inquisitive elderly, I grew to appreciate the warmth of the community, which made Taki feel like a second home.
As I continued on into my second year, I stayed on the lookout for ways to get involved with the upcoming Olympics. One day, a co-worker announced that applications had opened to run in the Olympic torch relay, which was scheduled to cross all 47 prefectures of Japan leading up to the Games. I leapt on the opportunity to apply, and to my surprise, in December 2019, I received a call informing me that I had been chosen to represent my town as a torchbearer.
The chance to take part in the Olympics in a role beyond that of a spectator or volunteer felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for someone with mediocre athletic abilities like myself. As a Chinese American working in Japan, I was ecstatic to play a part in promoting the core Olympic vision of “Diversity and Inclusion,” not only as an extension of my work as a CIR encouraging international exchange and appreciation of diversity in the local community, but also as a way to contribute to a broader message of uniting people across borders and cultures. With April 2020 in my sights, I was determined to start the new decade hitting the ground running.
And, well, things didn’t quite pan out as anticipated.
With the Olympics postponed and many of my work activities canceled, my time in Taki ended with a whimper. I soon relocated to Tokyo, satisfied overall with my contributions over my two years as a CIR, yet disappointed that the pandemic had severely limited my opportunities in the final few months to build on the community connections I had developed. But I would soon get the chance to return to the area as a torchbearer. By the time the torch relay commenced in Fukushima, a downward trend in new infections and the lifting of the state of emergency had somewhat allayed my fears of traveling back to Mie, and so, in April 2021, just as when I had first arrived on JET, I stepped off the train at Matsusaka Station feeling a mix of apprehension and optimism.
When I walked around the morning of the relay, the area was eerily quiet. Like many rural areas of Japan, the Taki-Matsusaka region was confronting the issue of an aging, declining population, which seemed to have left the city center a shadow of its former self. I wondered how many spectators would show up on account of the pandemic, but as the start time drew near, crowds lined the sidewalks along the torch route, breathing life into the aging city. As I was on standby at my designated starting point, the excitement in the air felt palpable.
With my former supervisor, a few friends, and a contingent of spectators quietly cheering me on, I ran proudly with the Olympic torch in hand. The torch itself, which had felt so unwieldy at first, quickly became as light as a feather. As the flame burned in the face of a gentle breeze, so too burned a flame of hope within me, one that (however briefly) cast away the anxieties that had lingered over me for much of the previous year.
As I would later find out through the newspaper, the day had brought joy and hope to some community residents, who felt energized by the excitement around the relay. I am honored to have had the opportunity to run, and I hope that I was able to bring smiles, if even at least to one person, to the community that had so warmly welcomed me during my time on JET. Although the 200 meters went by in the blink of an eye, the memory of playing a small role in the Olympics and furthering the message of the torch relay that “hope lights our way” will be one that I will never forget.
About the Author
Kevin Yuan is a Programme Coordinator in the Department of JET Programme Management at CLAIR. He spent two years working as a CIR in Taki Town, Mie from 2018–2020. Originally from Virginia, USA, he graduated from Georgetown University in 2018 with a double major in Japanese and Economics. He is also active as a professional Japanese to English translator, and enjoys reading and playing piano in his free time. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kyuanjp/.