JET Streams – Spring 2023

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JET Streams


Issue #53 (Spring 2023)

Beyond JET
Welcome to the Spring Edition of JET Streams!

Department of JET Programme Management, CLAIR


Welcome to the Spring 2023 edition of JET Streams! We at the Department of JET Programme Management have been enjoying the warmer weather and the burgeoning blossom filling Tokyo’s parks in recent weeks.

In this edition, we hope you will enjoy an insightful interview with CLAIR’s Executive Advisor and former Ambassador to Ireland, Mr Kitano, who was appointed to his role at CLAIR in early 2023. We present reports from two important events, the JET Programme Career Fair and the JETAA-I International Meeting. We are happy to share with you information about a new tourism initiative uniting sake and international relations launched by the National Tax Agency of Japan. Lastly, we have a heartwarming editorial from a former JET Programme ALT, who conducted grass roots international exchange in his local Chiba community, with the help of his grandmother.

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 here for how to submit your article to JET Streams.

Former Ambassador to Ireland Joins CLAIR as Executive Advisor

Advancing Cross-cultural Exchange – In Conversation with Executive Advisor Mr. Mitsuru Kitano

We are delighted to introduce Executive Advisor Mr. Mitsuru Kitano, who joined CLAIR in early 2023. With his extensive experience in diplomacy, Executive Advisor Mr. Kitano will play an important role in supporting the running of the JET Programme, bridging the cultural and linguistic divide which can sometimes exist between Japanese society and JET Programme participants and alumni. With an overarching understanding of the JET Programme and the objectives of its stakeholders, Executive Advisors use their knowledge and global perspective to support the running of the JET Programme.

Executive Advisor Mr. Kitano spoke to the Department of JET Programme Management about his past career and his aspirations for his new role at CLAIR.

Excerpt from our Interview with Executive Advisor Mitsuru Kitano

“I was born in 1957, in Tokyo. After graduating university, I joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. I continued within the Ministry for 43 years in various roles, frequently travelling between Japan and foreign countries. Most recently, I had the great privilege of serving as Ambassador to Ireland for three years and four months, from 2019–2022. The COVID-19 Pandemic was ongoing for two years and eight months of that time, and my colleagues and I at the embassy worked tirelessly to continue the running of the JET Programme under very difficult circumstances. From 2005 to 2008, I worked as Minister for Public Affairs in the Embassy of Japan to the United States in Washington. During this time, the JET Programme also formed an important part of my work.

“I have many memories of the JET Programme from my time working in Ireland. Last year in 2022, I was happy to present the Director of Post-Primary Languages Ireland, Ms. Karen Ruddock, with the Commendation of the Foreign Minister of Japan for her outstanding promotion of Japanese language education in Ireland. Karen has made a great contribution to the advancement of Japanese language education in Ireland and herself is a former JET Programme participant. According to a study conducted by the Japan Foundation, Ireland had the highest number of Japanese learners in Western Europe per 100,000 members of the population as of 2018. This achievement was made possible in large part through the work of Ms. Ruddock and JET Programme alumni like her. Furthermore, in 2022, Higashikawa High School Band from Higashikawa, Hokkaido visited Ireland to participate in a series of musical events. This incredible exchange event was supported by the hard work of two Higashikawacho;CIRs; Maeve Febo from Ireland and Matthew Safroniuk from Canada.

“Today, the JET Programme is undeniably one of the most successful international exchange programs in the world, and I think that everyone involved in this excellent initiative should be exceedingly proud of their achievements. I believe that the JET Programme is significant in many ways. Firstly, the programme supports the provision of foreign language education in Japan. Secondly, the JET Programme helps local governments around Japan become more international through the act of hosting the JET Programme participants. Lastly, the programme serves to create alumni who can serve as a link between Japan and their home countries, even after their time on the programme has concluded.

“In diplomatic terms, exchange programs such as JET fall into the category of “public diplomacy,” the importance of which has been growing in recent years. Generally, diplomacy is undertaken government to government, involving a limited number of people. In contrast to this, public diplomacy broadens the target of its initiatives to include the general public of another country. Through various initiatives, public diplomacy aims to inspire a positive image of one’s home country, an awareness of its importance and an accurate understanding of it amongst the population of another country. Various initiatives such as advertisements, cultural events and knowledge exchange are conducted under this umbrella. In Japan’s case, creative media like manga and anime are helpful in raising Japan’s profile. Cross-cultural exchange programs are also very important in public diplomacy because they serve to develop people who understand both countries’ cultures. With over 75,000 alumni around the world, the JET Programme is an excellent example of public diplomacy in action.

“I came to keenly understand the importance of public diplomacy through my work in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. For this reason, I am happy that I am able to participate in the running of the JET Programme in my role as Executive Advisor at CLAIR. I hope that JET Programme participants will take all opportunities open to them while they are here, and that they will continue to maintain their interest in Japan following the conclusion of their time on the programme. The interpersonal connections which JET Programme participants create and maintain with Japanese citizens on the individual level reinforce stable and friendly international relations between countries on the international level. As such, I think that the JET Programme is a very important initiative.”

We at the Department of JET Programme Management would like to thank Executive Advisor Mr. Kitano for his comments and are looking forward to continuing the work of the JET Programme with his support.

JET Programme Career Fair

February 26 and March 4, 2023 in Tokyo and Osaka

We are happy to report that we held the first face to face JET Programme Career Fair for three years, in Tokyo on 26 February and in Osaka on March 4, 2023.

For the past three years, the JET Programme Career Fair has been held online. For this year’s Career Fair, JET Programme participants travelled from around Japan to meet with 69 companies in Tokyo and 31 in Osaka. Overall, companies held 450 individual meetings with JET Programme participants during the course of the two-day event.

Participants and companies met face to face for the first time in three years.■ Participants and companies met face to face for the first time in three years.

In past editions of online career fairs, participants stated that, while they were happy to be able to talk with companies during the restrictions necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, a return to face-to-face career fairs would allow them to leave more memorable impressions on recruiters. Likewise, companies had also expressed that they desired a return to in-person career fairs in order to get a better sense of the personality of participants. We were delighted to be able to respond to the needs of both JET Programme participants and participating companies by holding the JET Programme Career Fair in person this year.

Participants and companies met face to face for the first time in three years.
■ Participants listened to presentations and spoke one-to-one with company reps.

We will continue working hard to increase the number of JETs gaining employment at the JET Programme Career Fair following the conclusion of their time on the programme.

2022 JETAA International Meeting

A face-to-face meeting with JETAA representatives for the first time in three years


Participants joined from all around the world for a memorable Welcome Reception.
■ Participants joined from all around the world for a memorable Welcome Reception.

The 13th JETAA International Meeting (IM) was held in Odaiba, Tokyo from November 10 until November 12, 2022. The Conference was jointly hosted by JET Alumni Association International (JETAA-I), the three Japanese governmental ministries involved in the running of the JET Programme (MIC, MOFA, MEXT) and CLAIR. Its aim was to strengthen the ties between the JETAA chapters operating around the world, as well as to foster cooperation with AJET and other parties involved in running the JET Programme.

The 2022 IM counted 67 participants, including all members of JETAA-International, most of the JETAA country representatives, representatives from the two domestic JETAA chapters Tokyo and Western Japan, National AJET council members, as well as observers from government-associated organizations such as Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO), Japan External Trade (JETRO), Japan Foundation (JF) and Japan Overseas Educational Services (JOES). The conference venue was located on the artificial island of Odaiba in Tokyo Bay, on one of the top floors of Tokyo Big Site’s Time 24 Building, from which participants were able to enjoy spectacular views over the water.

An opinion exchange with representatives from Japanese government agencies provided a space for discussion.
■ An opinion exchange with representatives from Japanese government agencies provided a space for discussion.

During the IM, the JETAA country representatives had the opportunity to present the various activities of their country’s JETAA chapters and to engage in discussions with the other participants. There was also an opinion exchange with representatives from MIC, MOFA and MEXT and other organizations that focused on topics such as a proposed video contest, career support for JET participants and alumni, subsidies for JETAA chapter activities, as well as initiatives to strengthen ties between JET alumni and their former contracting organizations.

The JETAA International Meeting was held for the first time in three years.
■ The JETAA International Meeting was held for the first time in three years.

The JETAA 2022 International Meeting was one of the first in-person events which we have been able to hold following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. Fortunately, all invited participants from overseas were able to come to Tokyo and participate in the IM, making this a truly memorable event. One highlight of the conference was the official welcome reception held in the evening of 11 November at the Grand Nikko Tokyo Daiba Hotel. During the reception, members of the organisations involved in running the JET Programme were able to chat freely with JETAA country representatives and the AJET national council, assisted by interpreters. This gathering clearly showed the importance of face-to-face exchange. The lively discussions that continued throughout the evening made this the 13th JETAA IM very fruitful conference that will without a doubt contribute to the further prosperity of the JET Programme and the deepening of international exchange.

“Cheers!” Understanding Japanese Culture Through Sake Tourism

The National Tax Agency of Japan Targets JETs and Former JETs in a New Initiative

JET Programme participants are experts in intercultural communication and cross-cultural understanding. As such, regional and national organisations often seek out the opinions and perspectives of current and former Programme participants. Between January and April 2023, free tours of sake breweries in 16 different prefectures were offered to ALTs living in Japan.

Sake Tour participants gathered outside Harushika Brewery.
■ Sake Tour participants gathered outside Harushika Brewery.

One of said tours was held by the Osaka Regional Taxation Bureau in cooperation with Nara Prefecture on 21 January, 2023. Japanese sake or rice wine breweries often have long and fascinating histories. Established in 1884, Imanishi Seibei Shōten Co. Ltd, is renowned for its brand “Harushika” as well as maintaining the traditional method of brewing sake in Nara, known as “Nanto Morohaku.” Today, Harushika sake is exported to more than ten countries around the world.

Participants were able to try five different types of sake.
■ Participants were able to try five different types of sake.

Participants at the sake event where able to try five different types of sake, all made using the traditional sake brewing techniques of Nara Prefecture. Madison, an ALT from Nara, commented, “I really enjoyed it. I think it would be a great experience for other foreigners living in Japan, too.”

Participants could see how sake is made.
■ Participants could see how sake is made.

The event also included a nigirizumi experience, during which participants were able to mend and mold ink paste infused with incense with their bare hands. This tactile experience, which is unique to Nara Prefecture and has over 1000 years of history, was enjoyed by participants and made a memorable end to this event.

If you would like to learn more about sake breweries or sake, please watch the following video (courtesy of the National Institute of Sake Research).

Tours for ALTs featuring local sake breweries and other cultural attractions around Japan will be held once more between January and April in 2024.

Crossing Cultures

From The Cornfields of Michigan to the Rice Fields of Chiba -A Grandmother‘s Adventure

Grassroots internationalization” is a term that was largely unfamiliar to me before my appointment on the JET Program. However, I quickly learned what a major role it plays in the internationalization of local communities in Japan and beyond.

I began my journey on JET in 2018 as a fresh college graduate. I had a passion for children and teaching, and as such, I was absolutely ecstatic about being placed at not one, but two elementary schools as an ALT. I was thrilled that my hundreds of hours volunteering at Spring camps and tutoring young children was finally going to be utilized in the classroom. Therefore, you can imagine how shocked I was when I was told that I would also be leading a local English class at a community center, with the average age range of the students being around 60 to 80 years old.

Parties with the Community Center Class!
■ Parties with the Community Center Class!

At the community center, I was placed in charge of the beginner level class, which consisted mostly of local retirees who studied English for their own personal enjoyment. I, a twenty-two year old with no real classroom experience, was suddenly in charge of planning, creating the curriculum and materials, and leading a weekly two-hour class alone. I was terrified. However, the overwhelming kindness and understanding that my students showed me quickly put me at ease and alleviated my fears. Before I knew it, my weekly community center class had become the highlight of my week, and I found myself constantly excited about planning engaging lessons and genuinely having a good time with my community center students every week.

My lessons initially included a large amount of English grammar and linguistical elements. However, due to my student’s strong interest in foreign cultures, I decided to dedicate the bulk of my lessons to teaching my students about culture and life in my home country, America. They were overjoyed at hearing personal stories from my childhood, seeing photos of my childhood home and neighborhood, and learning about my family. Coincidentally, I have a grandmother who is the exact same age as the majority of my students. Although my grandmother and I live in different countries with a hefty time difference, we maintain a very close relationship and frequently find the time to call and update each other on our lives.

A handmade kimono gifted to me from a student!
■ A handmade kimono gifted to me from a student!

I often found myself speaking about my grandmother in class, sharing her background, and even asking for her perspective on cultural questions that my students had which I was unable to answer. Due to this, my grandmother became somewhat of a popular character in my class. As I would ask my grandmother questions that my students had and tell her about all the fun activities we did in the community center class, her interest in my students’ backgrounds and lifestyles likewise began to grow. Not only were my students curious about the life and backstory of my grandmother, but my grandmother became equally invested in the lives of my students as well. My grandmother has always had a passion for traveling and cross-cultural exchange, however she had never expanded her sights to Asia, until then.

In March 2019, my grandmother made the 14-hour journey from the cornfields of Michigan, U.S.A, to the rice fields of Chiba, Japan. Cramming my two years of experience in Japan into my grandmother’s two week trip was no easy task, but I did all I could to ensure that she got to enjoy not only the touristy aspects of Japan, but also real life in the Japanese countryside. My local community was more cooperative than I ever could have imagined. I took her to my elementary schools, where she ate lunch and played tag with the 2nd graders. I took her to middle school where she taught the students about Michigan, and most importantly, I took her to meet my community center students.

They welcomed my grandmother with not only open arms, but with gifts, letters, and songs. While they were thrilled to hear my grandmother speak about me, her life in America, and her impressions of Japan, they were equally excited about sharing their own culture with my grandmother. With some students dressed in kimonos, they sung her Japanese folk songs, took us to a traditional Japanese restaurant, and taught her about their own culture and the Japanese way of life, all in the English that they had studied so hard in my class. The night finished off with an emotional, teary-eyed speech from my grandmother, expressing her gratitude to my students for not only making her trip to Japan so special, but also for all the love and care the students had shown me. She made it clear that, originally, she had been filled with a great deal of worry at the thought of her beloved twenty-two year old grandson living alone in a foreign country. However, thanks to all the support I was receiving from my “second set of grandparents”, she was finally able to feel relief, and make peace with the fact that I was indeed not alone in Japan.

She described the experience to me in her own words.

“I was pretty nervous to be traveling out of my country all by myself, especially because I didn’t know a single word of Japanese. However, it was an easy trip. If I needed something and the person I was talking to didn’t understand English, they were always eager to find someone that could understand me.
I was lucky enough to be there during a festival at one of the shrines. We visited many temples and I learned a lot about their worship habits. We rode on buses and trains, which was all new to me as in America we usually only travel by car or plane. I visited the schools he worked at, and it was a very enlightening experience. The children seemed very dedicated to learning and their time was very structured. The schools I saw were very clean and orderly, unlike some schools in America.
I was also privileged enough to meet Quinton’s community center class. They were very pleasant. They were also very eager to learn English and understand my way of living. They took us to a lovely luncheon where I was able to sample many Japanese dishes. Most of it was very good, but a few things I had to slip onto Quinton’s plate!
I was able to visit Kyoto, Tokyo, and Chiba. All had very different cultures and were beautiful. I am very much hoping to return at some point. I made some very wonderful friends. In particular, the English teacher at Quinton’s school was very helpful and really took me under his wing. Also, I was very happy to meet the people at the community center class, and very gracious they helped me experience Japanese culture.”

Grandma finally meets the Community Center Class!
■ Grandma finally meets the Community Center Class!

This meeting was truly an unforgettable experience for not only my grandmother and my students, but for me as well. Acting as the bridge between two cultures is an incredible experience, and I feel so thankful that I was able to connect people who may lead different lifestyles but share the commonality of open-mindedness and a willingness to learn about new cultures. To this day, my grandmother is still in contact with a number of my former students; exchanging handwritten letters, holiday cards, and more. My misjudgment on the true importance of grassroots internationalization is a thing of the past, and while my time on the JET Program may be done, I am determined to spread awareness of how impactful grassroots internationalization can be. My grandmother still speaks of the hospitality and kindness she received in Japan, and I encourage everyone to be the reason for someone to go back to their home country and talk fondly about the amazing people they met on their trip to yours.

About the Author

Quinton Moorhead was born and raised in rural Michigan in the United States of America. Wanting to get out and explore the world, he studied international relations in university, and came to Japan on the JET Programme in 2018 as an ALT. After 4 amazing years in Oamishirasato City in Chiba prefecture, he set his sights on Tokyo. He currently supports the JET Programme in his role as a Programme Coordinator at CLAIR, and spends his free time studying and exploring Tokyo.

Quinton Moorhead

Copyright 2015 by the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR)