JET Streams – Winter 2023

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JET Streams


Issue #55 (Winter 2023)

Welcome to the Winter Edition of JET Streams!

Department of JET Programme Management, CLAIR

We at the Department of JET Programme Management have been enjoying this crisp and sunny Tokyo winter season.

In this edition, we are delighted to share greetings from the wonderful new JETAA president and vice-president, an article on the impressive JETAA UK annual Summer Matsuri event (with around 1800 attendees!), a former JET’s impressive involvement in connecting the JET and JETAA communities, and a touching story of a JET alumni who met his wife on JET in the 1990s, and whose daughter is now proudly continuing the tradition as a JET ALT!

As always, we hope you enjoy reading these stories as much as we did. If you, too, would like to share your story, please click here for directions on how to submit your own article to JET Streams! The deadline for submissions for the Spring Issue is 1 March 2024 (Friday).

Finally, please help us improve JET Streams!

To help us provide our readers with the best possible content, we invite you to participate in a brief 4 question survey. Your responses will play a pivotal role in elevating the overall quality of JET Streams. We look forward to hearing from you and appreciate your cooperation!
JET Streams Survey

Happy New Year and looking forward to your continued support in 2024!

JET Video Contest

Still accepting submissions!

JET Video Contest Logo

All JET Programme alumni as well as current participants are invited to submit self-made short movies with a length of up to 5 minutes relating to their experiences in Japan, as well as align with one of the following famous Japanese idioms.


(Ichigo Ichie)


‘Once-in-a-lifetime chance’ ‘Trying as hard as one can’ ‘The beauties of nature’

The application period will close on January 17th, 2024. The creators of exceptional videos will be invited on a trip to Tokyo for an award ceremony in early summer 2024, with their flight and accommodation paid for, and have the chance to receive a reward for their work.

Check the JET Programme website for more details!

This contest is backed by The Japan Foundation, The Cabinet Office (Cool Japan), and JNTO.

JET Video Contest Flyer

Silver Linings

Greetings from the new JETAA-I Chair and Vice-Chair!

Greetings fellow alumni!

We write to share encouraging news from the current JETAA-I team. We started this term with a world coming out of the pandemic, which we were all grateful for. The pandemic impacted all chapters and made things quite difficult. We faced challenges like the ever-changing restrictions on gathering, a dwindling number of returnees, and the lack of interest from new leaders. All these and more were thrust upon us all during the last few years, and we are still feeling the effects today. “So, where’s the encouragement you mentioned?”, you may be wondering.

Well, we would like to draw your attention to some of the diamonds in the rough we’ve found:

  • The impressive dedication of chapter leaders around the world. The pandemic forced some, if not all, of us to get creative with how we go about getting things done.
  • The integration of online meeting platforms to create hybrid opportunities. Virtual events enabled chapters to stay in touch during the isolating pandemic regulations and even with the return of in-person gatherings, there are certain activities that continue to be offered online.
  • Chapters who made a comeback and even thrived during that difficult time. For example, JETAA India had a revival of sorts with numerous virtual events and most recently co-organized a two-day cultural event at a university campus.
  • Since July, there have been four successful in-person National and Regional level conferences. The two North American conferences offered a hybrid component (Canada Conference and USA National Conference).
  • The emergence of new chapters and a new member of JETAA-I. Amidst declining numbers in many areas, new alumni chapters have emerged in Switzerland and Vietnam. We are also very excited to formally announce that JETAA Philippines submitted their membership application and have been voted in as our newest full JETAA-I member in October. Cheers to growth, cheers to them!

Picture of CLAIR Singapore
■ ASEAN & India Networking Meeting 2023 in Singapore – July 22-23 (Organized by CLAIR Singapore)
Source/Link: JETAA Singapore Facebook Page
Picture of JETAA Ottawa
■ Canada Conference 2023 in Ottawa – Aug 18-20 (Hosted by JETAA Ottawa)
Reception at the Ambassador’s residence
Picture of JETAA Norcal
■ National Conference 2023 in Monterey Bay – Sept 8-10 (Hosted by JETAA Northern California)
Conference delegates and new returnees at the MOFA reception
Photo Source: Consulate of Japan in San Francisco Facebook Page
Used with permission from the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco
Picture of JETAA Norcal
■ Group photo post reception at National Conference 2023 in Monterey Bay
Photo by: Peter W.
Picture of Oceana Conference
■ OCEANIA CONFERENCE 2023 in Melbourne – Oct 27-29 (Hosted by JETAA VIC/TAS/SA)
Delegates at the Welcome Reception
Picture of Oceana Conference
■ JETAA country representatives

We would like to take a moment to acknowledge and express gratitude to CLAIR for jumping on board and providing support for JETAA-I initiatives like KenJETkai (KJK) and the JET Video Contest. Speaking of which, go check out your respective KJK group after you finish reading JET Streams. Then try your hand at film production and create a submission for the Video Contest! You don’t have to be a student of film but rather an individual who is passionate about their piece of Japan and willing. Alumni are eligible to participate and could win a trip to Japan!!! But we digress.

As for JETAA International, we have been working with our Webmaster and Board of Advisors to keep the fire of hope and productivity burning on our end. Every three to four months, we have been organizing regional virtual meetings with your Country Reps. These help us to stay in the know with what’s happening with your chapters etc. We are also in the process of creating and improving our internal tool kit (i.e. templates, record keeping, documenting procedures and other useful onboarding information- Yes, very exciting we know!).

We truly hope you all continue to do your best- be innovative, be inspired, and be encouraged by your fellow JET alumni and chapters to do great things!
If you have collaboration ideas between JETs and JETAA or amongst JETAA chapters, or questions about JETAA-I, please do reach out to us!

Laurence & Tai
On behalf of JETAA-I Core Team
P.S. But for real, make a video, submit, win, be a star! This is the way.

Laurence Inniss

About the Authors

Laurence Inniss, Chair
Former ALT
Nagasaki Prefecture

My name is Laurence Inniss and I was a JET in Nagasaki Prefecture for five years. During my time in Japan, I made friends from all over the world including Japan, while experiencing the various aspects of Japanese culture. Upon returning to my home country of Trinidad & Tobago, I co-founded the JETAA Trinidad & Tobago chapter. After more than a handful of years at the national leadership level, I decided to help at the international level by becoming Vice Chair and now Chair of JETAA-I.

Tai Lam

About the Authors

Tai Lam, Vice-Chair
Former ALT
Saga Prefecture

My name is Tai. I was an ALT in Saga Prefecture for two years. As I write this, I am wishing I could be in my JET hometown to enjoy this year’s Karatsu Kunchi. (Every year Nov 2nd to 4th, which if you have a chance, definitely check it out!) My deeper involvement in the JET alumni community began with the fulfillment of a childhood dream: paddling on a dragon boat team. After that, I joined the JETAABC’s (JETAA of British Columbia and Yukon) Board of Directors where I served in different capacities, including president. During the pandemic, I transitioned to Canada Rep for 2 terms before joining the international level as Vice Chair.

JETAA UK’s Summer Matsuri Has its Third Anniversary

Since its inception in 2021, the JETAA UK’s Summer Matsuri has been going from strength to strength with this year’s event attracting over 2000 people to the national event held over three locations all over the UK.

The event is growing in popularity every year
■ The event is growing in popularity every year

The ambitious project was devised by the JETAA UK committee in 2021 who wanted to find a way to encourage people to join in more in-person events after the pandemic. JETAA UK partnered with other non-profits such as the Japan Society North West to create an event on a large scale.

Summer matsuris are one of the most memorable events that JET participants enjoy whilst on placement in Japan. It is really fun and nostalgic to bring some of that magic and festival atmosphere to the UK. The largest of these events was held in the North West, in Tatton Park, a beautiful location with one of the UK’s oldest and most authentic Japanese gardens.

Kendo was one of the many cultural practices that was showcased at the event
■ Kendo was one of the many cultural practices that was showcased at the event

Sam Rosen, the lead on the North West branch of the multi-locational event had this to say:

“I would like once again to extend my heartfelt and sincere thanks to everyone who supported and participated in the Matsuri 2023 at Tatton Park back in the summer. The Matsuri this year was quite an undertaking, with many months of preparation and reams of paperwork to fill out in advance.

An amazing performance by the Tengu Taiko troupe
■ An amazing performance by the Tengu Taiko troupe

Around 1800 people passed through on the day and the Matsuri proved once again to be a fantastic opportunity to promote both Japan and Japanese Culture in the UK.

“We had over 100 participants and volunteers this year, including representatives and volunteers from the JETAA UK Northwest chapter, the Japan Society North West, Tatton Park, the Garden Society of Japan, the Honorary Consul of Japan’s office, the Embassy of Japan in the UK and the North West England Japanese Companies Association without whose generous support and cooperation, the event would certainly not have been possible.”

Local businesses sold Japanese food and drinks, and entertainment was provided by the ever-popular taiko drummers, koto and enka performances, iaido and aikido demonstrations, there were origami and shodo tables, tanzaku, Japanese toys and games, talks on Japanese kimono and tours of the Japanese garden.

“We were blessed with excellent weather for the event, and despite some heavy clouds and a few spots of light drizzle at times, the rain held off. There is no doubt that in addition to everyone’s hard work and dedication, the good weather also helped to make it a tremendous success.”

This year the Scotland branch of JETAA UK also participated in the event, holding their event in the stunningly beautiful Japanese Garden at Cowden Castle, a hidden gem in the Highlands. The location has been featured on television as a must go to destination.

Thankfully the weather held up for the Scotland meet up
■ Thankfully the weather held up for the Scotland meet up

Scotland Chair Zel had this to say about the event.

“It went terrific! Long overdue in Scotland. The effort made by volunteers and participants was simply amazing!”

It would seem that the JETAA UK Summer Matsuri is here to stay and is only going to get bigger and better as the years go by. Should you find yourself in the UK next summer, check the JETAA UK website to see when the 2024 Matsuri will be held.


About the Author

Jess Blincowe
Former ALT
Yamaguchi Prefecture

Jess has been involved with JETAA since 2020, joining the international committee in 2022. She had her JET placement in Yamaguchi from 2016-2018 where she worked as an ALT in middle and high schools. Since returning to the UK, Jess has been strengthening her international relations skills by completing her masters in 2020 and attending the JETAA International Meeting in November of last year. In her spare time, she likes to read and has been enjoying the ‘coffee shop’ novels by Toshikazu Kawaguchi.

Reconnecting in the Age of the New Pandemic

Forging Ties between MEF, JETAA, and AJET

The COVID-19 pandemic affected the JET community in many ways, especially with Japan’s stringent border control measures. Current JETs have not able to form close bonds with their communities due to cancellation of school events and cultural festivals. The pandemic’s isolation has had a trickle-down effect in JET-related organizations, in that AJET has fewer national officers and block representatives. Likewise, alumni chapters around the world are often challenged to find new volunteers to take up leadership roles.

Not being able to travel freely in and out of Japan was mentally challenging at times, so my personal outlet during the pandemic was volunteer activities. For almost two years, I served on a Monbukagakusho English Fellow (MEF) reunion planning committee with then-US Consul General Osaka-Kobe Richard Mei and his fellow MEF alumni Tim Cook, Kathy (McLoughlin) Yamane, Nancy Baldwin, and Austin Moore. Originally scheduled for March 2021, the reunion was postponed a number of times due to the continued border restrictions, but working together, we managed to grow the MEF Facebook group to 144 members, and hosted Zoom gatherings in the interim. We were thrilled to finally welcome 40 alumni and guests to the reunion in November 2022.

■ November 2022 – Mombusho English Fellow Reunion Lunch Hosted at US Consul General Richard Mei’s Residence

My involvement with the MEF reunion was a way to thank the dai sempai for making it possible for the JET Programme to come into existence. It was also a way to show appreciation to Consul General Mei for all of his JET outreach activities in prefectures within his jurisdiction during his tenure in Kansai. He made time to meet current JETs and alumni during visits to Himeji Castle, Shimane, Tokushima, Ehime, and Ishikawa, and I helped spread the word via AJET social media groups. In August 2022, he was also the guest of honor at the JET Alumni Association Western Japan networking lunch in Kobe, the first in-person event the chapter held since the pandemic began. JET Program Coordinators and managers from CLAIR attended, as well as AJET national officers. MEF alumni Austin Moore was hired by CLAIR after he finished MEF to recruit the first JETs and shared some stories with the luncheon attendees.

Consul General Mei shared some thoughts about JET volunteerism: “Our experiences in Japan, early in our careers, have been formative and have influenced the rest of our lives. That includes the things we did in Japan when we were often called upon to be a part of some activity or to volunteer to help with an afterschool event. That spirit of helping and giving back is a touchstone of our collective MEF-JET experiences and I’m pleased that so many alumni have continued to help and volunteer, particularly in difficult times.”

■ August 2022 – JETAA Western Japan Networking Lunch in Appreciation of US Consul General Richard Mei

Not everything about the pandemic has been negative. The Japan America Society of Kobe continued hosting its high school English recitation contest via Zoom, and I was able to forge a connection with the Japan America Society of the State of Washington (JASSW) through fellow JET alumna Karin Zaugg Black, former Kobe CIR and past president of JASSW, who provided a recorded message to the finalists of the recitation. As AJET National President Spencer Stevens says, “Rebuilding relationships in the post-pandemic landscape demands a keen sense of adaptation. We may have lost connections due to the JET Programme’s generational gap, but we draw inspiration from businesses that weathered the storm. To succeed, we must adapt to the changing environment and embrace innovation.”

I am currently working with Spencer to connect current JETs with various organizations that are exploring ways to make tourism more appealing to international visitors. It has been exciting to see the immediate response from JETs in Hyogo when Michael McKinley, AJET’s Block 6 Representative (Hyogo, Kyoto, and Shiga) posted a message about a project to help English-speaking Japanese tour guides. There is also a project in Usa, Oita that is seeking monitors for an interactive farm stay. It would be wonderful to help JETs get involved with their communities and possibly open the door to post-JET career opportunities, as well as to generate interest in becoming active with AJET and JETAA.


About the Author

Rose Tanasugarn
Former ALT
Hamada, Shimane Prefecture

Rose was one of the first alumni to return to JET, serving in Hamada, Shimane (2003-2006) after her initial stint in Gotsu, Shimane (1990-1993). A longtime JETAA Western Japan officer, she currently serves as Japan Country Representative for JETAA International.

A Family Affair

Arriving at Tokyo Narita one late humid evening in early August 1989, scores of bleary-eyed ALTs from Canada boarded buses to the downtown hotel which would be home for the next week. Hailing from Ottawa, I was one of the lucky few chosen for this still reasonably new exchange programme established to bridge language and cultural differences between Japan and the wider world beyond its shores.

■ Darroch and Lisa in August, 1990

At the conclusion of the orientation conference, my fellow Kagawa ALTs and I headed off by plane to Takamatsu. A life-altering adventure had begun. I was assigned to Sakaide where I would assist JTEs at eleven junior schools, nine in Sakaide and two in the neighboring city of Marugame. Five schools were located on small islands situated below the newly constructed Seto Ohashi Bridge. Our group of ALTs was close knit, with about 20 or so across the prefecture. We met often on weekends socially or to travel the region. One ALT from Louisiana caught my attention. Lisa had arrived the year before. We would spend time off together visiting other schools and groups that lay outside our official JET duties. Over that fall, we became close and within a six-month period beginning late winter, we started dating, got engaged (at a Blue Grass festival in Tokushima) and then married as I celebrated completion of a full year in Kagawa. Our time as junior high ALTs would come to an end the following summer, our varied experiences producing a deep affection for the country and the people who had warmly received us.

After an extended honeymoon bound homeward, we landed back in Ottawa, stayed briefly, then moved onto Toronto, where we resumed our teaching careers at private language schools. Almost seven years and two daughters later, we moved again, this time to New Orleans. Lisa continued with education, while I entered the maritime industry. Though content with my job, contact with ship crews helped me realize that I missed interaction with international students. In 2003 I returned to teaching, doing so in a local community college’s academic ESL program. Our two daughters grew, and, as they did, we included them as much as we could in our lives within the local international community.

In the summer of 2016, Lisa accepted an administrative position at a college in Northern Michigan, and she and our youngest daughter, Elizabeth Dana, headed north. I followed a year later after retiring. Kate, our eldest, entrenched in her own Crescent City life remained behind. As Dana’s college studies in international relations neared completion, and not knowing what her next step would be, we suggested that she apply for the JET Programme. In the spring of 2020, just two months away from graduating, Dana arrived at our new home in Texas as the pandemic roared across the globe and college campuses here quickly emptied; the wait for a response from JET only compounded the anxiety already settling in during this global health crisis.

Late spring 2020, Dana had been chosen for JET and would be headed to Niigata Prefecture, scheduled to leave that August. With borders closed, however, her departure date moved to that fall, then early winter, 2021, then spring, then summer. Finally, word came that mid- November 2021 was it. From Michigan, Dana flew to Tokyo, where two weeks of quarantine and an orientation program done in isolation did little to dampen her desire for this new chapter in her life. Dana arrived in Niigata where she was whisked off to Murakami. Teaching at one junior high school three days a week and two elementary schools the other two days a week, Dana has happily carried on a family tradition. Nearly three years on, she has never looked back!

■ Dana, Darroch, Lisa on Shinkansen

Lisa and I began eagerly planning our triumphant return to Japan for the fall of 2022. A health crisis briefly shelved that idea. Last May we threw caution to the wind and bought our tickets! In September 2023, we landed at Tokyo Haneda after a thirty-two-year absence. We then headed to Niigata where we met up with Dana. Niigata, somewhat different from the geography of Shikoku, was a mountainous change from our very flat existence in Southeast Texas. The highlight of our trip, though, were two mornings spent with Dana’s third year junior high students. Dana’s JTE had asked if he could use Lisa and I in some way to bring ‘real’ English home to his students. They came up with a city tour for us whereby student groups would have to choose the places to visit and research them, the two classes not able to repeat sites except for one, the city museum. As we entered the staff room, memories of our own time as ALTs came flooding back.

That first morning, we learned about the school and then headed into town where we were shown family shops, purveyors of noodles and tea and sake and salmon; crafts such as tatami production, shoyu making and fields full of rice were also highlighted, many of these businesses around for hundreds of years. Our day culminated with a climb to the ruins of Murakami’s castle. The next day, the second group of students brought us to more of the city’s shops and historic sites, including the touted salmon museum, sights the likes of which not likely seen if left to our own planning.

■ Anzenji Shrine Murakami

Being with the students over the course of these two days was uplifting, transporting us back to our time in Kagawa. The students had not changed; their enthusiasm outside the classroom was palpable and the effort they made to show us ‘their’ city was impressive. All were quite rightfully proud of what Murakami had to offer, and their informal interactions with Lisa and I enhanced these personal tours. As former JETs and life-long educators, we stepped easily back into our roles as language instigators and the students responded courageously, their ease amongst us proof positive that after 35 years, this cultural exchange was working.

E. Darroch Watson

About the Author

E. Darroch Watson
Former ALT
Kagawa Prefecture

E. Darroch Watson, originally from Ottawa, Canada, was an ALT in Kagawa Prefecture, from 1989 to 1991. In 1990, Darroch married Lisa M. Keller of Reserve, Louisiana, a Kagawa JET as well, who was on the program from 1988 to 1991. Following their departure from Japan, they resided in Toronto, Canada until 1998, during which time they continued with ESL education and had two daughters. Moving to Louisiana, Darroch and Lisa continued careers in education – Darroch taking a brief detour in the maritime industry, with Darroch returning to academic ESL at the community college level before retiring from a twenty-year career in ESL instruction in 2017, a career that got its start on JET. Having moved on from the classroom several years ago, Lisa is now Vice President of Institutional Advancement at a community college where they now reside, southeast of Houston, Texas. Their youngest daughter, Elizabeth Dana, followed her parents onto JET and is currently in her third year as an ALT in Murakami City, Niigata Prefecture.

Write for JET Streams

Department of JET Programme Management, CLAIR

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 here.

The deadline to submit for the JET Streams 2024 Spring Edition is 1 March 2024 (Fri).

We look forward to reading your submissions! Wishing you all a cheery holiday season, and a happy New Year.

JET Streams Survey

Department of JET Programme Management, CLAIR

Please give us your feedback! (Former JET participants only)

To enhance JET Streams and customize article content to better suit the preferences of our JET alumni, we invite you to participate in a brief survey. Comprising of just four questions, your responses will help us elevate the overall quality of JET Streams. Your insights matter, and we look forward to hearing from you.

JET Streams Survey

Thank you for your cooperation!

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