Jul 8

News agency Kyodo News has recently been publishing monthly articles written by JET alumni who were appointed in rural areas of Japan, as part of promotion for the JET Programme. Below is the English version of the column from June 2013. Posted by Celine Castex (Chiba-ken, 2006-11), currently programme coordinator at CLAIR Tokyo.



“The four years I spent in Japan were some of the most significant years of my life; years I would not trade for anything in this world.”

Nadya Dee (Kagoshima-ken, Hioki-shi, 2007-11) is a writer, editor and blogger born and raised in the city of Kingston, Jamaica. With a Bachelors degree in English Literature from The University of the West Indies, she joined the JET Programme in 2007 and spent four years living and teaching English in Kagoshima, Japan. She currently works as an independent copywriter and her professional website can be found at http://nadyadee.wordpress.com. As a writer, she intends to write books and collections of short stories which explore the evolution of human consciousness. Through her international experiences she hopes to create written works that speak to the heart and soul of all mankind. 


Ichi go Ichi e 一期一会: A Once in a Lifetime Opportunity


Before going to Japan in 2007, I knew nothing about Kyushu let alone Kagoshima. I searched the internet but could only find a little information about the place that I was going to live for a year. I learnt about the active volcano Sakurajima and the “Last True Samurai” Saigo Takamori but I never expected to have such an amazing experience and I never thought that, half way across the world, I would find my second home.

I joined the JET Programme to broaden my international experience with the intention of spending just one year. I left my homeland, Jamaica, and went to Japan as an Assistant Language Teacher to teach English as an alternate form of communication. I went as an ambassador, to increase global awareness and foster a positive relationship between Japan and Jamaica; two countries so far apart but with such similarities. While living in the town of Ijuin, in a city called Hioki on the Satsuma Peninsula in Kagoshima Prefecture, I taught Bob Marley songs, learnt Kagoshima-ben, played taiko, danced in a mud festival, wrote haiku and made great friends who I now consider a part of my extended family.

As a Prefectural ALT I taught at a technical high school, an agricultural high school, a special needs school and two different high schools in and around Hioki and Ichiki-Kushikino City. My responsibilities included lesson planning, team-teaching in Oral Communication classes, motivating students to practice English, editing essays and compositions, helping students to prepare for skit and speech competitions, providing pronunciation and interview preparation support as well as promoting international awareness within Japanese society. I always ensured that all my students learnt about Jamaican food, music and culture in my self-introduction classes.

After a year of adjusting to life in Japan I got the rare opportunity to perform taiko with the ‘Fukiage Seishou Daiko Group’ in four festivals throughout the rural area of Hioki City. In the following years I went on to teach reggae dances to my Japanese friends and we also performed in various shows and matsuri in and around Kagoshima City.

By year two my Japanese language ability had increased to a level where I was capable of holding conversations in basic Japanese as well as expressing my thoughts and asking and answering basic questions, which was a lot more than when I first arrived. This was partially due to the intensive language course I did in Fukuoka during my first summer. In an effort to further improve my proficiency I decided to stay in Kagoshima my second summer and go to Yuurinkan, a Japanese language school in the city where I did a 3 week long intensive course. There, I tried Japanese calligraphy and wrote haiku for the very first time. Lucky for me, the owner of the school loved haiku and he helped me to understand the structure and the meaning behind it. By the end of the course I had written six haiku about my own experiences since coming to Japan, which he then published in his monthly haiku magazine called ‘Tenjitsu’.

In the following year I also had the opportunity to write a Japanese article about Kingston and the importance and impact of reggae music. This experience helped me to gain more confidence in my ability to communicate in Japanese and propelled me to create deeper and more meaningful relationships with the Japanese people around me. Eventually, after months of studying I took level N3 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test and passed with flying colours.

In 2011, I made the difficult decision to leave my second home and return to my first. I had collected four years of irreplaceable memories and life-long friends and was finding it hard to let go. Then in the midst of my packing and reminiscing a great tragedy struck the island of Japan. On March 11, 2011 entire livelihoods and existences were wiped from the face of the earth, carried out to sea, surrendered to the infinite power of nature. I received multiple phone calls and messages inquiring about my safety. The international media painted a bleak picture of the entire experience. Video clips of trucks being carried off by tsunami waves could be seen on television screens across the globe. However, behind the veil of media sensationalism was another story. A story of survival that to this day leaves me in awe of the Japanese spirit; the spirit of bushido. There was an air of courage and perseverance which could only be attributed to the virtues which are intrinsic to the Japanese people; virtues of love, sympathy and benevolence.

In the few months before my departure, I had the opportunity of spending my final birthday in Japan on the World Heritage Site Yakushima. Yakushima is the site of the world’s oldest and most magical cedar trees. While there I got the chance to reflect on the years I had spent in Kagoshima. The lessons I learnt, the people I met, the barriers I broke. I remain eternally grateful for the unique opportunity afforded to me by being a part of the JET Programme. Not only did I get a chance to teach English but I also got the chance to blossom into my true self.

Since returning home in 2011 I have become an active member of the Jamaican JET Alumni Association as their Public Relations Officer. The JJETAA’s mission is to maintain a strong link between Jamaica and Japan by sharing the experiences of the members and broadening the awareness of Japanese culture in Jamaica. This year our activities included a 海の日 Beach Clean Up event where we helped new JETs become accustomed to separating their garbage so that they could better adjust to life in Japan. Before the end of the year we will also be hosting a high school poster competition with the theme “Jamaica and Japan: Islands of Natural Beauty.”

My entire experience on the JET Programme can be summarized in four simple words: 一期一会. The four years I spent in Japan were some of the most significant years of my life; years I would not trade for anything in this world. Next year, I am planning to write a book which describes my transformational experience while living in Japan. The book will be called Rebirth [生まれ変われ] and will be my way of thanking Japan for giving me such a once in a lifetime opportunity.


one comment so far...

  • Kidsy Said on July 9th, 2013 at 11:35 am:

    I love this article and I am very proud of your accomplishments!

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