Department of JET Programme Management, CLAIR
Welcome to the 2022 Summer edition of JET Streams! After the rainy season ended in early July, we at the Department of JET Programme Management have been enjoying the bright-blue skies over Tokyo.
This summer, we have one article by JETAA Jamaica celebrating their 20th anniversary – a tremendous achievement of which CLAIR is very proud. We would like to extend our congratulations to all those at JETAA Jamaica and we wish you another successful 20 years of activity. We hope you will enjoy many parties under the poui tree to come!
We also have an article from a long-time JETAA community member who talks about the importance of offering support to new JETs during quarantine following their arrival in Japan. Lastly, a former JET talks about her Tanabata wish for a kinder world.
As always, we hope that you will find these articles informative and interesting. We always welcome new writers for JET Streams. If you, too, would like to share your experiences, please see below for how to submit your article to JET Streams. For now, as we approach the Obon holidays here in Japan we at the Department of JET Programme Management wish you a happy summer and hope that you are keeping cool, wherever you may be.
Terrike Brown, ALT in Nagasaki (2011~2015)
The year 2002 marked the birth of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme Alumni Association of Jamaica (JETAA Jamaica). Despite the chapter’s small size, JETAA Jamaica continues to make a meaningful impact locally and on the world stage. The latter was made evident when the Association successfully hosted the JETAA International Meeting in Jamaica in 2009, which was quite a feat. During these 20 years, the resilience of the alumni or distinguished “JETsetters” has remained unwavering, as we continue to champion the cause of the Jamaica-Japan connection. As such, we take great pride in recognizing our 20th Anniversary in 2022.
JETAA Jamaica has boasted a sterling record in maintaining its activism through various social interventions, school outreach and strategic collaborations with affiliates and other non-governmental organizations. The connection with members, friends and the wider Jamaican community is preserved through monthly meetings, an annual newsletter and the execution of a yearly calendar of exciting activities. We have engaged in flagship events including:
- Essay and Poster Competitions that enhance cross-cultural awareness in our schools about Japan.
- Picnic by the Poui, a Jamaican rendition of hanami, where we get together for food, laughter and a celebration of friendship.
- Beach Cleanup that exercises our social responsibility through environmental protection and awareness.
- School Visits that assist with the promotion of the JET Programme and Japanese language and culture.
At the end of each calendar year, members and friends of the Association get together for a time of reflection and camaraderie as we recreate an authentic bonenkai experience.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic had presented the Association with setbacks and little to no in-person interactions, we were able to pivot by embracing new initiatives. For example, JETAA Jamaica spearheaded a series of personal and professional development virtual seminars, which have become a regular staple of knowledge enrichment and empowerment for our members. Fortunately, with a steady return to normalcy, the Association has once again delighted in responsibly for face-to-face engagements. For example, in March 2022, our JETsetters carried out school visits that inspired curiosity and hope among our students:
- The Dunoon Park Technical High School Japanese language and culture workshop.
- JETAA Jamaica in partnership with the Japan International Cooperation Agency Alumni Association of Jamaica (JAAJ) executed a community outreach project to assist with the refurbishment of the Paradise Street Basic School.
The longevity of JETAA Jamaica is a testament to the hard work and support of its membership, without whom this significant milestone of 20 years of existence would not have been possible. As we look forward to 20 more years of fostering awareness and cultural exchange between Jamaica and Japan, we will pause to commemorate our 20th Anniversary. As such, this 2022-2023 calendar year promises to be an exciting period abuzz with activities, befitting of our commitment to keeping the Jamaica-Japan connection alive. Congratulations JETAA Jamaica on achieving 20 years!!!!!!!!!!
Eden Law, ALT in Fukushima (2010-2011)
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented new challenges to chapters in carrying out their activities and maintaining community. However, the alumni have always been resourceful in responding to challenges.
For example, alumni chapters have provided support to new JETs who had to experience hotel quarantine upon arriving in Japan. Being stuck indoors, JETs were unable to explore and enjoy their first weeks in Japan the way past JETs have done. They may have spent time catching up with friends and family online, researching their JET placements, creating work resources or doing preparatory work given by their contracting organisation or CLAIR.
Scheduled events by JETAA gave JETs something to look forward to, and help ease the sense of isolation, boredom and loneliness. The positive future consequences are also obvious, as these activities will build relationships and lay the groundwork for future active alumni.
The online interactions organised by alumni chapters are informal and social. Some sessions became extended versions of pre-departure orientations, where JETs took the opportunity to ask questions and get ideas from alumni on living and working. Other sessions were group game nights using platforms such as Discord or Jackbox. Singapore organised a virtual meet-and-greet with the Embassy of Singapore in Tokyo and the Ambassador.
Alumni groups also made themselves available on social chat apps like LINE, Telegram or Whatsapp. Other chapters used a senpai-kouhai buddy system to provide mental and social support.
These activities have been met with positive support and feedback. Sven Traschewski (Country Representative for German JETAA) said, ‘We had a great time and the new JETs already felt like being part of the network of alums. To include new JETs in the chapter once they have been selected for the program has been an approach which we have been pursuing from the beginning. We left it “open end” and after about 1 ½ hours the first people had to leave while some stayed for about 2 hours. I believe everyone enjoyed this gathering – especially as it was different from all the “technical” information sessions they need to attend before the start of their time as JETs.’
These outreach programs aren’t confined to the period of hotel quarantine. There is potential and scope to build and maintain momentum established, for the whole time JETs are on the Programme. Lineng Tee (Country Representative for Singapore) said, ‘We’re planning to check in with them again in a couple of months since winter in Japan can be a little tough without central heating and being on your own during the holiday season. Maybe share a meal and drinks over Zoom.’
As difficult and isolating as the pandemic has been, it has also presented unique opportunities for outreach by alumni to JETs. Technology for remote networking and social connections has helped build community where it is most needed. They provide valuable lessons and insights into how alumni chapters around the world continue to provide support for JET communities, adapting to the needs of the situation.
Thanks to the following JETAA Country Representatives for helping with this article: Tai Lam (Canada), Kendra Sim (New Zealand), Lineng Tee (Singapore) and Sven Traschewski (German JETAA).
Ottilia Tanaka – Bio , CIR in Yamaguchi (2015~2017) and Tokyo (2017~2020)
In July of 2017, my legs trembled with exhaustion as I climbed the final steps up to Hōfu Tenmangū Shrine. The vermillion gate was a splendid sight, festooned with glittering paper streamers for the Tanabata star festival. Over two days, I had walked approximately 55km across Yamaguchi Prefecture from my placement in Hagi City, to Hōfu Tenmangū Shrine. This route, known as ‘Hagi Ōkan’, was created in the 17th Century for the lords of Hagi to use when travelling to Edo (Tokyo). It winds through woodlands, along roads and past the ruins of old tea houses.
While I was happy to have arrived at my goal, this feeling was eclipsed by a desire to simply sit and not move another muscle. I bought an ice cream, looked out over Hōfu City and listened to the gentle rustlings of the wind in the brightly coloured decorations. The Tanabata star festival celebrates the yearly meeting of the gods Orihime and Hikoboshi, given form as the stars Vega and Altair. During Tanabata, it is customary to write wishes for the future on paper streamers. The two-day hike in mid-summer had been draining, but as I gazed at the gently fluttering paper decorations, I felt a sense of optimism. Since it was Tanabata, I closed my eyes, and made a wish. It must have been granted, because the following month I, like the feudal lords of times past, travelled to Tokyo to begin the second incarnation of my life on JET.
|I became the first CIR at two very different placements; Hagi City in Yamaguchi Prefecture and Tokyo Convention and Visitors Bureau (TCVB).
When we join JET, we never know exactly what we will get. I became the first CIR at two very different placements. I spent two years in Hagi, a beautiful and historical castle town in Yamaguchi Prefecture, and three years at the fast-paced business events office for the Tokyo Metropolitan Area, Tokyo Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (TCVB). Both placements were keen to attract visitors from abroad – for Hagi, its World Heritage Site registration in 2015 made it a hot destination for foreign tourists. For TCVB, attracting business events has a ripple effect on the economy of Tokyo, as well as keeping Tokyo on the map as an academic and cultural hub. Both placements were invested in meeting people from other cultures and ensuring them a memorable visit by connecting them with local residents and their culture.
|In Hagi and Tokyo, my work was interesting and varied.
My work on JET was extremely varied, including translating the first ever book for English speakers about the Hagi World Heritage sites for Hagi Museum, and representing Tokyo as a business events destination at international trade fairs for TCVB. This work allowed me to gain insight into how my placements wanted to portray themselves to people from other countries. Both placements also taught me about cross-cultural communication and the importance of sensitive translation. They opened my eyes to the fact that in our roles as JETs, we are cultural ambassadors. Considering the breadth of work of the average JET, we have the chance to meet a huge number of people over the course of our times in Japan. How we talk about our home countries and our respective cultures helps to overcome (or possibly cement) the unconscious biases that the people we meet may have about foreign people and countries.
The need for communication and exchange with people from different backgrounds and cultures has never been greater. International exchange can help us to raise our acceptance of other cultures and ways of living, give us perspective on our own cultures and their peculiarities and overcome our atavistic tendencies towards nativism and isolationism. When I left Hagi, I maintained my connection to the city by becoming a Hagi Frontier Ambassador. This role means that I and other former JETs from Hagi can be called on to participate in events and are kept informed about what is happening in our favourite castle town. Since then, I have participated in two events held by Hagi in Tokyo, as volunteer staff. While for some, our connection to Japan may end with our JET contract, I believe that most of us find ways to stay connected with the people we met and our experiences during JET. This time in our lives undoubtedly changes us as people and influences our world view for years to come.
For Tanabata this year, my son’s nursery celebrated the occasion with considerable creative flare, by making paper cut-outs of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi using the babies’ chubby footprints. We wrote our son’s Tanabata wish for him on a strip of coloured paper. On his behalf, we wished that he would be able to play happily with his friends at nursery – something we thought would be the top of his agenda as a 10-month-old. My wish for the future is along the same lines. I wish that, in our changing and unstable world, we as humanity will be able to ‘play nicely’ together – to actively overcome our differences and celebrate our commonalities. Much like JET, this requires hard work, self-awareness and challenging ingrained biases and stereotypes. As former JETs, we can use our unique perspective (and excellent communication skills) to facilitate cross-cultural understanding. I believe that our roles as cultural ambassadors continue long after our placements end, and we have a responsibility to strive for a stable global society where difference is respected, and intolerance is unacceptable.
So, what is your Tanabata wish?
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 3 October 2022 (Monday).