Sep 11

Return On JET-vestment: “This is Fukushima” Calendar 2014 Fundraiser

Thanks to Ryan McDonald (Fukushima-ken, 2002-05) for sharing the below.  Another great example of Return On JET-vestment:

Last year, I and two other ex-JETs, created a calendar called This Is Fukushima. We paid for it ourselves and took donations from other ALTs in Fukushima. We made 2,500 copies and sent them around the world to the media, government officials, and even royalty. The goal was to show that Fukushima is more than a reactor. There is no Fukushima disaster, but there was a disaster in Fukushima. Too many people hear the word Fukushima and think it’s only a nuclear reactor.

This is Fukushima Calendar (2013)

This is Fukushima Calendar (2013)

This year the theme will be people and interesting places. We already have a few people in mind that have and are continuing to help Fukushima. We are also going to have more photos of some of our unique festivals. We want to print 4,000 this time and have a larger version with one month per page.

There’s no question as to whether or not we can do it. We did already and can do it again. The only question is can we raise enough money to make it bigger and better. Any money raised over the goal will go to printing more calendars.

If you would like to donate, please go to

You can also look at some photos of Fukushima at

  • Ryan McDonald (USA)- (Fukushima-ken, 2002-05)
  • Paul Sprigg (CA)– (Fukushima-ken, 2005–10)
  • Henare Akurangi (NZ) – (Fukushima-ken, 2007–11)

Aug 18

Maryland-based Ehime-ken JET alums Elayna Snider and Chelsea Reidy have put together an illustrated book of their “88 temple pilgrimage” by bicycle in Shikoku.  They now have a Kickstarter page to help them raise funds to publish it and a wonderful video that explains what this is all about.  Definitely worth a look.  It’s hard to do justice in my own words, so click the link and watch and read for yourself:  

Excerpts from the Kickstarter site:

There are 88 temples on Japan’s 88 temple pilgrimage. With two bicycles, a tent, notebooks and pens, plus a Rolleiflex, we will go to all of them. While we travel the 900-mile route, we’ll be collecting the materials needed to make 88 hand-bound versions of our illustrated book, Temple by Temple.

Elayna does the art, Chelsea does the words. A children’s book? It can be. A coffee table book? Sure. A book you have around and pick up from time to time? Yes! The idea and project did not come from any prescribed place of “Let’s make a kids book.” We are two people with varying ideas and skills and we combined them to make a book that describes the route, the temples, and this 1,200 year old pilgrimage which draws people of all different faiths and from all over the world.


Jul 24


Tara Hohenberger, who first fell in love with saké and the Japanese culinary world as an ALT in Nara (2001-2003) wrote to us about a film project she is helping produce.  The documentary The Birth of Saké profiles the production seasons and lives of the workers at Tedorigawa, a fifth-generation, family-owned sake brewery in Ishikawa, Japan. Tedorigawa has been producing some of the world’s top award winning sakés since 1870 and still utilizes very traditional brewing methods.

Tara is working on the project with filmmaker Erik Shirai, who was a cinematographer on The Travel Channel’s No Reservations’ with Anthony Bourdain.  The crew was first invited to the brewery in August of 2012 and was intrigued by the intense and relatively unknown process (even within Japan) of traditional saké making. Led by Brewmaster Teruyuki Yamamoto, the team of brewers is made up mostly of migrant farmers who grow rice in the summers and return to the brewery in late October to begin an intense six-month period of saké production. They will live under the same roof and eat three meals a day together. At the most intense time, when they brew the ultra-premium Daiginjyo variety they will barely have time to sleep.

cookedIn January 2013, they returned to Ishikawa and were granted permission to spend several weeks living amongst the workers at the brewery. It allowed them a rare window into a cast of vibrant and dynamic characters and fueled their interest in painting a deeper portrait of the people behind the product. Shirai’s film captures this little understood world with his signature lush visual aesthetics in the stillness of winter in northern Japan.

On July 9, they launched a Kickstarter campaign running through September 2, 2013, to complete the project. They hope to raise $50,000, which will allow a visit to film the Brewmaster in his hometown of Noto, Japan to illustrate the contrast of the intense life he leads inside the brewery for six months a year, with that of his land, his rice fields, his wife, children and his grandchildren. The film will also capture the critical moment when the workers return to the brewery to begin the production cycle again. Funding will also cover editing, musical composition, licensing, equipment rentals and other post-production costs.


You can view the trailer on The Birth of Saké’s Kickstarter page at

The filmmakers greatly appreciate your help in spreading the word about the film.  Follow them at + on Twitter: @iamwhatieatTV

Jul 6

JQ Magazine: Annual Japanese Summer Festival Heats Up Tampa

New JETs, JET alumni, and Consul Hayato Nakamura and family at Natsu Matsuri, Tampa, June 2013. (Amanda Bailey)

New JETs, JET alumni, and Consul Hayato Nakamura and family at Natsu Matsuri, Tampa, June 2013. (Amanda Bailey)


By Bahia Simons-Lane (Gunma-ken, 2005-07) for JQ magazine. Bahia is the president of the Florida JET Alumni Association.

Summer is a time when those of us who lived in Japan begin to feel nostalgic for the matsuri of our adopted home. In spite of the heat, the summer festivals of Japan were perfect little Japanese moments—just thinking about them brings the taste of yakisoba and takoyaki to your tongue. Sadly, these memories are fleeting.

It’s right around this time of year that the annual Tampa Natsu Matsuri is scheduled, which is why for the past three years I have packed up my car in Miami and embarked on the four hour drive north to help out. Tampa’s Natsu Matsuri provides a chance for newly recruited JETs, JET alumni, friends of JET, and members of the Japanese community in Florida to get together and enjoy the traditional Japanese summer festival experience, while also sharing Japanese culture with Florida residents who may not know much about Japan.

As the brainchild of Florida JETAA’s Tampa regional representative John McGee (Nagano-ken, 2004-05), the festival launched in 2006. Now attracting hundreds of people, Tampa Natsu Matsuri grows annually, with more booths and attendees each year. For this summer’s event, which was held on June 15, I was very excited about our new location at Christ the King Catholic Church, which gives the festival more space to grow, and provides an outdoor area with covering and lights in case of inclement weather. The festival itself features Japanese games for kids, such as kingyo sukui (goldfish scoop), Japanese culture demonstrations, and sales of Japanese food and goods. The okonomiyaki is always a hit, and this year a few food trucks even joined us for the event.

The festival is usually held in June or July. If you’re in Tampa next summer, I hope you’ll come relive your memories of Japanese summers.

To participate in or receive emails about Tampa Natsu Matsui, please email For John McGee’s June 2012 JQ article about the history of the festival, click here.

Jul 2

 Eliot Honda (Ehime-ken, 2009-2012) has started a unique video series on Sister City Ties in which he interviews current and former JETs:


Jun 21

JET alum finds culinary success with Ramen Shop in Oakland, CA

Thanks to JETAA Northern California Vice-President Mark Frey (Kumamoto-ken, 2002-06) for sharing the following:

At our JETAA Northern California Oakland Ramen Nite tonight, I found out that Jerry (“JJ”) Jaksich, one of the owners/chefs of Ramen Shop, was a JET! (possibly Ebestsu, Hokkaido)

Ramen Shop is getting a ton of buzz in the Bay Area because three alumni of the legendary Chez Panisse started the restaurant. Wait times for table are often an hour. Here are some recent articles about Jerry and Ramen Shop:

Review/overview of Ramen Shop:

Interview with Jerry about his “ramen epiphany” experience in Japan:

A newsletter with an interview Jerry did with a local izakaya master in 2007, while on JET I assume (scroll down):

Blog about the Japanese noodle maker they use:

May 22

Hawaii JET alum seeks to interview Ehime JET alums via Skype

Eliot Honda: "With my year coming to a close, I wanted to create a set of videos that would not only explain what to expect as an ALT, but also what to expect as an Uwajima ALT. I had truly come to love this city, and I wanted to show off some of its beauty and history."

The below is a request from  Eliot Honda (Ehime-ken, 2009-2012) who is seeking to interview other Ehime JET alumni as part of a project aimed at re-establishing the Ehime Kenjinkai in Hawaii: 

My name is Eliot Honda, I am a former ALT in Uwajima city. I was there from 2009-2012, I had a blast and learned a lot about Uwajima, and Ehime in my three years. I found out that my home, Hawaii has deep ties to Ehime dating as far back as Japan’s first interaction with a Head of State. King Kalakaua and Date Munenari would meet during Kalakaua’s trip to Japan.

Since returning I’ve attempted to stay active in JET and in international exchange. My wife and I have been working to rebuild the Ehime Kenjinkai (Ehime Prefecture Club.) One of the things we talked about doing is a series of videos on the Ehime area. I wanted to add a bit of JET in there, since I’ve also become a board member of the JET Alumni Association in Hawaii. I wanted to do a screen cap of Skype/Facetime interviews and get former/present JETs to talk about the area in Ehime they lived in. A bit about the history, the landscape, the people, the attractions, and overall lifestyle of the area they live/lived in.

Ehime and JET hold a very special place in my heard, and Uwajima has become a 2nd home for me; a place I can always return to. (And not just because my wife is from there.) I have so many friends, and now family in Uwajima. This prefecture is rarely visited, but has a lot of beauty in it, and the JET Program is constantly on the chopping block, and I think people outside of the program miss the value of the program.

If you’re interested in doing an interview (which will eventually go on YouTube) and also helping to show the beauty of Ehime and just how helpful the JET Program can be for international exchange, please email me.

Thank You,

Eliot Honda

Email: [at]

Here are some previous JETwit posts with Eliot’s videos about JET and Ehime.  And here is a JQ Magazine “Life After JET” interview with him.

May 15


Let’s Talk Japan is a twice monthly, interview format podcast covering a wide range of Japan-related topics.  Host Nick Harling (Mie-ken, 2001-03) lived in Japan from 2001 until 2005, including two great years as a JET Program participant in Mie-Ken.  He practices law in Washington, D.C., and lives with his wife who patiently listens to him talk about Japan . . . a lot.

Dear JETs and JET Alumni,

One of the main reasons I started the Let’s Talk Japan podcast was to highlight the positive impact JETs and JET alumni have on their local communities in Japan.  In Episode 10, I interviewed Meredith Smith, Media and Public Relations Director for Smile Kids Japan, a volunteer organization founded by JETs in Fukui Prefecture which encourages visits to orphanages in Japan.  Through its website and volunteer leadership, Smile Kids Japan helps facilitate such visits by serving as a resource for best practices.  This organization is doing amazing work, and I hope this episode helps raise its profile both in Japan and abroad.small dot





If you have not already done so, be sure to “Like” the podcast on Facebook, and follow the podcast on Twitter @letstalkjapan.  Additionally, please consider leaving a positive rating and/or review in iTunes.

May 5

Let’s Talk Japan Podcast: Episode 9, Podcasting About Japan

Let’s Talk Japan is a twice monthly, interview format podcast covering a wide range of Japan-related topics.  Host Nick Harling (Mie-ken, 2001-03) lived in Japan from 2001 until 2005, including two great years as a JET Program participant in Mie-Ken.  He practices law in Washington, D.C., and lives with his wife who patiently listens to him talk about Japan . . . a lot.

Dear JET Alums,

Do you find yourself going through withdrawal while having to wait two whole weeks for the next episode of the Let’s Talk Japan podcast?  If so, check out Episode 9, where I review other great Japan-related podcasts you might want to start listening to.  Categories covered include: Life in Japan, Japanese Language Study, Sports, History, Food, Current Events, etc.



If you have not already done so, be sure to “Like” the podcast on Facebook, and follow the podcast on Twitter @letstalkjapan.  Additionally, please consider leaving a positive rating and/or review in iTunes.

Apr 6

For the JET who has everything: The Tokyo History Over Time Puzzle

Originally posted to the Pacific Northwest JETAA Facebook group by Sabrina Holliday Carlin:

“For the JET who has everything…$40 at Snapdoodle Toys in Kenmore!””


Mar 27

Wesley Julian (Miyagi-ken, 2008-10) is now in Japan with a small film crew making a video that will share the story of JET alums and others who have made and continue to make a difference in Tohoku, Japan.  Below is a video update from Wesley regarding his Tohoku Tomo project:

Tohoku Tomo Update from Philip Holbrook on Vimeo.

Mar 22

JET alum Lucia Brea interviewed by NY Public Library Blog about JET Program

The New York Public Library Blog recently interviewed JET alum Lucia Brea (Fukui-ken) about her experience on the JET Program:


Think Japan is all Manga, Sushi, and Pocky Sticks?

by Rabecca Hoffman, Kingsbridge Library

March 21, 2013

Harajuku? Geisha? Robots? Awesome! Japanese culture has been an obsession of mine for a while now, as well as for the teenagers at my branch, so when we recently had the opportunity to invite Lucia Brea, Fukui Friendship Ambassador, to stop by and talk to the Kingsbridge Library’s Teen Advisory Group, I jumped at the opportunity. Lucia spent four years in Japan through the JET Program teaching English to students of all ages in the Fukui Prefecture, and I was able to sit down with her after her visit to ask her a few questions about her experience:

What is the JET program, and would you recommend it for other people? Are there other ways to go about living in Japan as a foreigner?

The JET Programme stands for Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme, now in its 26th year, which aims to promote grass-roots international exchange between Japan and other countries. I would highly recommend it to anyone who has a passion for developing strong relationships with communities and the drive to live in Japan for an extended period of time. It is an opportunity to experience Japan and continue to enhance relationships between Japan and their home country like I did at the New York Public Library. There are many other ways to live in Japan as a foreigner, the JET Programme is one of the best…

CLICK HERE to read the full article on the New York Public Library site.

Mar 19

Hey current JETs! Let your JTEs know about this training opportunity in the US

Update:  The program is also being promoted on the National Federation of Prefectural English Teachers’ Organizations website (

From JET alum Daniel Stone (Saitama-ken, Kawaguchi-shi, 2004-07), who seeks helps from current JETs in reaching Japanese Teachers of English in Japan: 

I’m working on a project for a non-profit in Columbus, OH. This pilot project is to bring Japanese Teachers of English to Columbus to train for two weeks this summer. While we have the support of the Japanese Consulate in Detroit, Michigan who has used their channels of distribution to advertise this program in Japan, we are looking to increase our marketing by conducting a grassroots effort and ask for your help.

To learn more about this project, please visit the Columbus International Program website: We ask that you share this information with your former JTE team teaching partners, board of education contracting agencies any anybody else who might be interested in participating in this program.

Deadline to apply is May 1st, 2013.

If anyone has any questions, I can be contacted at

If there is anything I can help you with, please let me know.

Daniel Stone
AET Kawaguchi City, Saitama 2004-07

Mar 17

JET alum Nick Harling starts “Let’s Talk Japan” podcasts

A great idea just started by former JETAA DC Vice-President Nick Harling (Mie-ken, 2001-03):

Dear JET Alumni,

I want to let you know about a new project that I recently started in an effort to engage my long-held interest in Japan – The Let’s Talk Japan Podcast.

Up until last spring, I volunteered as Vice-President of the JET Alumni Association in Washington, DC, and through that experience I met many people with interesting Japan-related jobs and life experiences.  After two years in that capacity, it was time to move on to something new, and last fall I decided that that something would be a podcast.

My first episode appeared in iTunes on January 1st of this year.  Topics covered so far have include the JET Program application process, the mission of the Sister Cities International and Kizuna Across Cultures organizations, and discussions with an atomic bomb survivor and an expert on Japanese baseball.  Whenever possible, I will also highlight the contributions JET alumni are making in their home countries.

If you are interested in checking it out, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.  If you like the podcast, feel free to leave a positive rating.  You can also interact with the podcast at, through Facebook, or on Twitter @letstalkjapan.

I hope you enjoy the podcast, and I welcome your feedback.

Nick Harling

Mie-Ken 2001-03


Recent posts from Let’s Talk Japan Podcast:

002 The JET Program Application Process

003 Sister Cities International

005 Kizuna Across Cultures

006 Banzai Babe Ruth Author Robert K. Fitts


Mar 2

JQ Magazine: JQ&A with JUSTE Program Participant Saiko Goto

"In Minamisanriku, the local government wanted to keep the shiyakusho (city hall) as a memorial for the tsunami, but people who lost family there disagreed. Finally, the building was demolished recently. It reminded us of sad stories and memories of people who escaped to the city hall during the tsunami."

“In Minamisanriku, the local government wanted to keep the shiyakusho (city hall) as a memorial for the tsunami, but people who lost family there disagreed. Finally, the building was demolished recently. It reminded us of sad stories and memories of people who escaped to city hall during the tsunami.” (Courtesy of Saiko Goto)

By Fernando Rojas (Fukui-ken, 2008-10) for JQ magazine. A resident of Teaneck, New Jersey, Fernando was JHS ALT in Fukui prefecture, home of the echizen-gani, a city named Obama, the Fukuisaurus, and nuclear power plants. While in Japan, he picked up shuji (Japanese calligraphy) as his hobby and continues to practice today. He is currently a fellowships associate for the Social Science Research Council’s Abe Fellowship Program in Brooklyn and co-representative for the JETAA New Jersey subchapter.

Hailing from Tome City in Miyagi Prefecture, Saiko Goto was a recent JUSTE Program participant at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Informally called the “Reverse JET Program,” the Japan–U.S. Training and Exchange Program for Language Teachers allows Japanese Teachers of English (JTEs) from all over Japan to take courses in ESL teaching at U.S. universities.

Goto received her teaching license from Gunma Prefecture Women’s University, where she majored in English. She currently teaches at Sakuma Junior High School and has taught English for eight years. Before returning to Japan in January, Goto spoke with JQ about JUSTE and the ongoing impact of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami on her school.

How are teachers selected to participate in the JUSTE program?

Teachers are selected according to their prefectures. In some prefectures, teachers have to apply for the program. In other prefectures, teachers are picked by the board of education. In my case, I was recommended by my principal to the Tome City Board of Education and selected by the Miyagi Prefecture Board of Education.

Have you found the JUSTE program beneficial? In what ways has the program helped you?

Being on JUSTE has been very beneficial. I have met and talked with many people from different countries, as well as learned a lot from them through English. I have also thought more about my teaching and the importance of learning English. The program has also helped me to create more effective activities. I made many activities with other JUSTE members and we will use them in my classes.

Would you recommend the program to other JTEs in Japan?

Definitely. By participating in the program, you can have many chances for meeting people and learn a lot. I visited a former ALT during the winter vacation and experienced life in Arkansas with her and her family. I also became friends with other JUSTE participants. We will share our list of activities with each other online and keep in touch.

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