May 9

Kyodo News “JET Alumni” Series: Eliot Honda (Ehime)

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 April 2014. Posted by Celine Castex (Chiba-ken, 2006-11), currently programme coordinator at CLAIR Tokyo.


Eliot Honda (Ehime-ken, Uwajima-shi, 2009-12) was born and raised in Honolulu, HI, and moved to San Francisco where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Academy of Art University. After graduation he spent nine years in the TV/Multimedia industry mainly working with clients on commercials, corporate videos, and news. He left San Francisco in 2009 for the JET Programme, and stayed in Ehime for the next three years. He used his multimedia skills to work on sister city relationship programs between Honolulu and Uwajima. After the JET Programme, he returned to Hawaii and joined his mother’s business in real estate, and still do multimedia work on the side.

"Without JET I would have never gone to Uwajima and I would have never fallen in love with this city and its people"

“Without JET I would have never gone to Uwajima and I would have never fallen in love with this city and its people”

Uwajima, my second home


It was the little things that made my time in Japan incredible. Waking up to the smell of the ocean, the sound of my shoes squeaking against the tiled floors of Johoku Junior High School, the taste of fresh fried jakoten and my favorite thing, seeing my students smile.

There’s no single moment that can sum up how incredible my time on the JET Programme was, but my wedding party comes pretty close.  Over 200 of our friends and co-workers showed up to celebrate my marriage to a wonderful woman from Uwajima.  It was probably the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.  It wasn’t just because it was my wedding, it was because in the 3 years I had lived in Uwajima, Ehime I had found a home, a community, and a new love. I fell in love with a city that I had never been to, and I had fallen in love with the people of Uwajima.

This is a small city whose money doesn’t come from tourism, and doesn’t have the flash and awe of Tokyo, but it has heart like I’ve never seen in all my life. From mountain to ocean you can find beauty all around you, and the warmest people I have ever met. I had several encounters with elderly men and women who I had asked for assistance and soon found myself engaged in a twenty-minute conversation.  The words “I’m from Hawaii” spawned a whole new conversation.  There were moments in which I had to recall what it was I was looking for simply because we had been talking for so long.

There were moments when I would have to take a breath and ask myself: “Is this really happening?  Am I really here?”  Every day in Uwajima, whether a good day or a bad day, was a gift.  Not only to be in Japan, but just to be a part of the growth of the students, and the community.  There were three Hawaii ALTs in Uwajima and all of us acted as that bridge between Hawaii and Uwajima and were more than happy to share our culture with the students.  I think my favorite time with my students was the free-time between classes and during sports activities.  They would ask me many questions about Hawaii and America, and they’d share their culture with me. It always warmed my heart to see their eyes light up when I’d talk about my hometown. I tried to give these students as much of myself as I could, but they gave me so much more.

I never understood the true meaning of the “Aloha Spirit” till I came to Uwajima. Its people taught me what it means to care for others and give with an open heart. From the first day of arriving into Uwajima till the day I flew back to Honolulu I felt welcomed and accepted. My experience there gave me something I never expected to get: it gave me a new home.  I will never be able to thank the people of Uwajima for the kindness they have shown me.  They opened their hearts to a strange boy from Hawaii, and gave me some of the greatest memories of my life.

Since returning home to Honolulu, I have been involved with every sister city event or activity between Uwajima and Honolulu, and have joined the Ehime Kenjin Kai. I want nothing more than to have the people of Uwajima feel the same love and compassion I’ve felt during my time in Japan.  I want them to come to Hawaii and feel like it is home.  I have never felt like this ever, I’ve never been so in love with a city and its people that I cry to just the thought of how much they have given me. I’ve never been brought to tears by a single song, because it reminds me of my students singing their hearts out during graduation. JET has completely altered my life, and I am so thankful for the opportunity I was given.  Without JET I would have never gone to Uwajima and I would have never fallen in love with this city and its people.  Uwajima will forever have a special place in my heart, and will always be home to me.

Comments are closed.

Page Rank