Aug 8

JETs in the News: Sankei Shimbun profiles Fukushima JET, quotes JETAANY President

The following article recently appeared in Japanese in the Sankei Shimbun.  Very special thanks to CLAIR NY’s Matt Gillam for providing a quick and functional summary/translation upon request.  Scroll further down for the Japanese version.

“Fostering Japan Evangelist”

Article by Hajime Matsuura

Sankei Shimbun, August 7, 2013

On his way home the other day, Jaime Vogenitz, originally from Philadelphia, had an experience unthinkable in the US.  A woman with two children waved to him, gave him some deep-fried foods, and told him to have them for dinner.  “I was deeply moved. She must have known I am teaching here,” he said.  He arrived in Minamisoma (Fukushima Prefecture) last year in July and is teaching in the elementary school there.

He teaches 3 or 4 classes a day, about 500 or 600 kids altogether, and tries to find ways to make learning English fun for them. During his free time he also sits in on the kids’ Japanese language (kokugo) classes to improve his own Japanese ability.

Vogenitz is in Japan on the JET Program, which is a joint undertaking between local authorities and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other agencies. It brings Assistant Language Teachers, Coordinators for International Relations, & Sports Exchange Advisors from mainly English-speaking countries to Japan. Around 90 percent of these are language teachers like Vogenitz, and about half of those are from the US.

There was a blank space in heavily damaged Minamisoma after 3.11, but last year Vogenitz overcame stiff 1-in-5 odds to be accepted into the Program and became the first person to fill the recreated position.

Even though Minamisoma is so close to the Fukushima No. 1 Reactor and the situation there is known even in America, Vogenitz was happy to be able to be able to come here.  Having studied Japanese himself he says he “wanted to share the joy of learning a new language with kids in the affected areas.”

Just last month, on July 26th, a send-off party was held at the Ambassador’s Residence in New York for the 95 new JETs who would leave New York the next morning for Japan.  There was a mixture of anxiety and expectation, but everyone shared the same feeling of wanting to “become ‘cultural ambassadors’ after returning to the States to introduce your knowledge of and great experiences in Japan to people here in the US” (Monica Yuki, JETAANY President).

Begun in 1987, the JET Program has brought over 55,000 people to Japan.  About half the participants from the US have joined alumni associations there after returning home, which serve as “places for people who love Japan to get together”, and where they serve as interviewers for new JET applicants.  And while there was a lot of fundraising and volunteer activity in the US after 3.11, many JET alumni were out in front leading these efforts.

This network is also “a market to cultivate supporters of the US-Japan relationship.”  JET alumni who return to the States help form the backbone of society, and are active in a wide variety of fields from foreign officers and academics to journalists, and some have even run for Congress.  They conceal the potential to become the wellspring of Japan’s soft power.

The JET Program’s continued existence was in danger from the DPJ government’s ‘jigyo shiwake’ review process.  But putting aside evaluations of its management, the review failed to recognize the Program’s “return on investment” and “cost-benefit analysis” in terms of foreign relations and cultural exchange value.

Vogenitz says, “I am grateful to have such meaningful work,” and he hopes to study management after he returns to the States. In the meantime, his father, who supported his going to Minamisoma, is planning to visit him there next summer.


「日本伝道師」育てる外国青年の招致事業 ソフトパワーの源泉に

2013.8.7 16:02














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