Nov 15

JET alum Shaun Dakin mentioned in Huffington Post article about robo-calls

Shaun Dakin (Shimane-ken, 1989-91), founder of

D.C.-based JET alum Shaun Dakin (Shimane-ken, 1989-91), founder of which seeks to stop the use of robocalls in political campaigns, was mentioned in a recent Huffington Post article (“Impeach Obama Robocall Campaign Launched by Conservative Group“).

Here’s the link to the article:

Here’s a link to previous JETwit posts/articles about Shaun:

Aug 4


JET alum Karl Taro Greenfeld (Kanagawa-ken, 1988-89), author of Speed Tribes:  Days and Nights With Japan’s Next Generation), has a new book out titled Triburbia:  A Novel which was recently reviewed by the New York Times (“Bobos in Paradise“).  Here’s the link to the review:


Jul 28

Two JET-relevant articles

Thanks to JETAA USA Country Rep Melissa Chan for sharing the below:

“How the JET Program changed me” – Sheila Burt (Toyama JET)
Toyama ALT Sheila Burt wrote about how the JET Program changed her and her perspectives on life.

“Siblings visit Iwate city where US teacher perished in the 2011 tsunami”
Relatives of Montgomery Dickson, an American killed by the March 2011 tsunami, have visited the city where he was teaching in an effort to carry out his wishes to enhance English education.

Jul 5

Japan Times article on pre-JET Lesley Downer, writer, historian and journalist


Thanks to JET alum Aurelien Hancou for alerting JETwit to this recent Japan Times article about British writer, historian and journalist Lesley Downer, who participated in a forerunner to the JET Programme.

Sunday, July 1, 2012
CLOSE-UP: Lesley Downer

Author Lesley Downer’s romance with Japan is no fleeting affair


Special to The Japan Times

British writer, historian and journalist Lesley Downer has been visiting Japan and writing about it for nearly 35 years — beginning in 1978, when she was part of the first-ever intake of the English Teaching Recruitment Program, which evolved into the famous JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching Program) scheme. Read More

Jul 2

JETwit’s Steven Horowitz quoted in Japan Times article on the eikaiwa market in Japan

Thanks to key members of the JET alum community for providing me with the background info necessary to sound reasonably knowledgeable in my quotes in the below Japan Times article (“The curious case of the eroding eikaiwa salary“).  One of my sub-goals in the article was to try and counter any misinformation or misperceptions about JET that might pop up in the media.  The best quotes in that regard, I think, are at the end of the article:

“I think the quality of English teaching is often reduced and the privately contracted ALTs do not get to know or connect with the community in the same way that JET ALTs often do,” Horowitz says. “The result is that all the potential short-term and especially long-term benefits are not captured.”

While there over 50,000 former JETs living all around the world, with many of them maintaining a strong connection to Japan and helping to facilitate business between Japan and other countries, the JET Program has not escaped scrutiny as Japan struggles to balance its books and cut its huge government debt. The initiative came up for review by the Government Revitalization Unit in May 2010, with some panelists urging reform of the program and greater oversight of spending, although the panel didn’t go as far as to suggest a specific budget cut.

Despite this shot across the bows, Horowitz does not feel that the decline in English teacher salaries has had “much or any impact” on the original purpose for having ALTs such as JETs in Japanese schools, especially when the broader advantages for the country are considered.

“It’s not just about teaching English, but also about investing in its future by creating a long-term way to develop better relationships with the rest of the world,” Horowitz says.

Here’s the full article:

The curious case of the eroding eikaiwa salary

By PATRICK BUDMAR  Japan Times – July 3, 2012

Now fraught with job insecurity and low pay, there was a time when the work was steady and salaries were high for those who taught English in Japan.

One only has to contrast the birth of the eikaiwa (English conversation) business in the late ’80s, marked by the rise of private chain schools and the start of the JET Program in 1987, to the current state of the industry to see how it has contracted in size and scope.

While the English teaching industry in Japan has shown resilience by surviving recessions, financial crises and occasional bankruptcies, there is no denying it has seen better days.

Not surprisingly, many people now refer to the ’80s as the “golden age” of English teaching in Japan, and Steven Horowitz, a member of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Alumni Association (JETAA) New York Board of Directors and JETAA USA Fund Committee, is among them. Read More

May 13

Video: JETAA NY featured in Fujisankei TV story on Japan Day Central Park


Click the link below to see the Fujisankei TV video (in Japanese) about JETAA NY’s preparation for Japan Day Central Park.  The video includes quotes from JETAA NY President Monica Yuki and Vice-President Kendall Murano among others.


Apr 30

Prime Minister Noda meets with Taylor Anderson’s parents

JapanToday has a “Picture of the Day” (plus explanation text) of Prime Minister Noda meeting with Jeanne and Andy Anderson, parents of Taylor Anderson.

Mar 29

Taylor Anderson honored at MLB opening day game in Tokyo

Major League Baseball honored Taylor Anderson and several other tsunami relief heroes at it’s opening day game between the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s held in Tokyo on March 28. Taylor’s parents, Andy and Jean, were in attendance, and Andy threw out the first pitch.

Here’s a really nice article from the Major League Baseball website:  Tsunami Relief Heroes Honored at Opener(Well worth reading for a variety of reasons including the stories about the other heroes. Below is a quote.)

Anderson didn’t know if he could summon the strength to get the ball to home plate, so he looked down at that pink phone.

“I had Taylor’s cell phone and her straps … because they remind me of her, and when I think about her, I feel stronger, so I was able to get the ball in there,” Anderson said. “That’s what I thought about: Taylor.”

Here’s are links to two photos of Andy Anderson throwing out the first pitch: and

Here’s a link to an article on the Nikkan Sports website (in Japanese):


Mar 22

Via the JETAA USA website:

The Anderson Family, who has done so much to further Taylor’s vision of bridging the US and Japan, participated in a memorial service at Taylor’s alma mater, Randolph Macon College. The memorial was covered by both NHK World and the local CBS news station in Virginia. Ambassador Fujisaki was also in attendance as a speaker for the event.

To see the media coverage click below:

Additionally, here are some links to coverage gathered by a friend of the Andersons and forwarded by Andy:

  • Article on the Randolph-Macon college website about the event.
  • March 8, 2012:  WCVE-FM (NPR) local NPR correspondent Dan Rosenthal interviewed national NPR correspondent Yuki Noguchi for a preview of the Taylor Anderson/Japan Foundation lecture.  You can listen to the interview by clicking anniversary.
  • March 13, 2012:  The Asahi Shimbun (Japanese newspaper) sent a reporter to the lecture and also covered a pre-lecture news conference held by R-MC.  You can read the article by clicking on Asahi Shimbun.
  • March 12, 2012:  NHK World Japanese Television sent a reporter to campus several times to interview the Andersons (Taylor’s parents) as well as the March 11 lecture. You can watch the story by clicking on NHK.  Note:  This story is only available for viewing through this weekend.

March 12, 2012:  Here is a look at some local coverage:

Mar 16

International Educator magazine article remembers Monty and Taylor

Thanks to JETAA Music City’s Terry Vo (Kumamoto-ken, 2007-09) and JETAA Northern California’s Peter Weber (Saitama-ken, 2004-07) (both of whom work as JET Coordinators at their local Consulates) for sharing this excellent International Educator magazine article (Overcoming Chaos“)about the various ways the Tohoku disaster affected a variety of international education programs, including the JET Program.  The writer does a nice job of capturing the spirit and essence of Monty Dickson and Taylor Anderson towards the end of the article, and what we lost when we lost them.

Here’s the link to the article (PDF):

Notably, the article also quotes JET alum Kate Maruyama who is the Japan programs manager for CET Academic Programs in Washington, D.C.  And it indicates that Ashley Mar, the UC Santa Barbara biology student who happened to be studying abroad at Tohoku Biology University on 3/11 and was required to return to the U.S. despite her desire to stay, is now applying for the JET Program.

Mar 14

Return on JET-vestment: Fukushima JET alums help bring Fukushima youth taiko group to DC for Cherry Blossom Festival

The Fukushima Taiko Drummers meet U.S. Ambassador to Japan, John V. Roos, before they head to D.C. in April.


JETAA DC members Michelle Spezzacatena (Fukushima-ken, Kawamata-cho, 2002-05) and Darryl Wharton-Rigby (Fukushima-ken, Kawamata-cho, 2005-07) were both teachers in the town of Kawamata in Fukushima Prefecture. Michelle was there from 2002-2005 and overlapped one week with Darryl, who was there from 2005-2007. Thanks to the magic of Facebook they were able to keep in contact throughout the years. After the earthquake and subsequent nuclear disaster, Darryl and Michelle were talking about how they could help their Japanese hometown. The idea of bringing the taiko group to DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival was born out of those discussions. (Editor’s note:  In addition to Michelle’s work on this project, she also serves on the JETAA USA Fund Committee and previously served as JETAA DC President.)

In Michelle’s words:  “We brought the idea to the Japan America Society in DC who immediately fell in love with it too. Thanks to the generous financial support of the US Japan council, the project was fully funded. We have been working with Anna Cable (USJC), Ambassador Malott (JASW), JET alum Marc Hitzig (JASW), Shigeko Bork (former Kawamata resident now living in DC) and Masako Mori (Diet member from Fukushima) on the project. Darryl and I are the co-coordinators and have been doing most of the heavy lifting. We are also officially part of the TOMODACHI Initiative.”

Fukushima JET alums Michelle Spezzacatena (2002-05) and Darryl Wharton-Rigby (2005-07)

“The students will be here from April 7-17 and they have a jam packed schedule. We will be doing a homestay program, they will be performing at numerous locations including the National Cherry Blossom Parade/Sakura Matsuri/Kennedy Center, we will be sightseeing and hopefully we’ll be doing a meet and greet with the new Orioles player, Wada-san and a Orioles/Yankees game day performance at Orioles Park. Darryl and I are excited to be with them the entire time they’ll be in the US.”

Michelle notes that CNNGo just published the first major article about the trip. A very exciting start!

CNNGo:  “Fukushima Taiko drummers Japan’s newest stateside export:  Evacuee youth group gets its show on the road for April D.C. cherry blossom festival”

Michelle adds:  “NHK Japan is also working on a piece on Darryl and I in the context of what JETs are doing to help Japan after the earthquake. They have been following us around to different events and will be for another two weeks. The piece will run on NHK Japan’s News9 broadcase during the first week of April when the anchor is doing the show live from DC. They will also try to do an English version to show on NHK World.”


Below is a press release about the taiko group’s upcoming performance at the National Cherry Blossom Festival.


CONTACT: Michelle Spezzacatena-


Read More

Mar 11

“American View” interview with JETwit publisher Steven Horowitz on JET involvement in Japan’s recovery efforts

Update 03.13.12: Realized I neglected to mention in the interview The MUD Project, an ongoing Tohoku relief effort organized by JET alum Colin Rennie (CIR Yamagata-ken, 2007-10).

Update 03.12.12: Here’s the interview translated into Japanese 

American View,” a quarterly magazine published by the Press Office of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, recently interviewed JETwit publisher Steven Horowitz (Aichi-ken, 1992-94) about the role of JETs and JET alumni in connection with Japan’s recovery efforts following the 3/11 disaster.

American JETs Rally for Japan in Myriad Ways

Here’s an excerpt:

American View: What is unique about disaster relief activities by JET program participants and alumni?

Steven Horowitz: The connection we have to the affected areas and to each other. And the language skills and ability to communicate directly with people in the communities. When you work for the school system, you really get connected to the community. You understand how things work, how kids evolve into adults. You’re part of the community. As a result, JETs are able to identify needs and then reach out to a global community to help fill them in unique ways. I think JETs and JET alumni in some ways were better able to identify needs on the ground than some of the larger, more removed relief organizations, and especially with regard to education-related needs.

問 現役・元JET参加者による復興支援活動にはどのような特徴がありますか。

答 被災地との絆やJET参加者同志のつながり、そして地元の人たちと直接意思を疎通できる日本語能力があります。学校制度の中で働けば地域社会と真のつながりができます。物事の仕組みや子どもが大人になっていく過程を理解するようになります。地域社会の一員となるのです。ですからJET参加者たちは、地域のニーズを見極めた上で国際社会に働きかけ、独自のやり方でそうしたニーズを満たす支援ができます。現場から遠く離れた大規模な支援団体よりも現役・元JET参加者たちの方が、いろいろな点で現場のニーズ、特に教育関係のニーズに関してより確実に把握できると思います。

*CLICK HERE to read the full interview in English 

*CLICK HERE for the Japanese version 

Mar 10


The below interview appeared in PhilanTopic, the Philanthropy News & Digest blog which is part of The Foundation Center. It’s a really terrific explanation of the situation in Japan from a philanthropy/fundraising/non-profit perspective by Jim Gannon (Ehime-ken, 1992-94), Executive Director of the Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE/USA), who has become one of the experts in this field. 

March 09, 2012

James Gannon (Ehime-ken, 1992-94)

One Year Later: Rebuilding After the Great Tōhoku Earthquake

James Gannon is executive director of the Japan Center for International Exchange/USA, which works to strengthen U.S.-Japan cooperation across a range of fields. Recently, Laura Cronin, a regular contributor to PhilanTopic, spoke with Gannon about the progress of rebuilding efforts in the quake- and tsunami-affected Tohoku region of the country.

Philanthropy News Digest: The earthquake and tsunami affected a four hundred-mile region along the northeastern coast of Japan — an area roughly comparable to the BosWash corridor in the United States. What are conditions in the region like now, a year later? And how have people in the affected region, and the country at large, been changed as a result of the disaster?

James Gannon: Even now, some communities are still disposing of rubble, while things appear almost normal in other, less-hard-hit areas. Compared to the scenes of utter devastation we saw a year ago, there has been extraordinary progress. But if you spend any time in these communities, you realize the depth of the wounds. More than three hundred thousand people are still without homes, and that is weakening traditional community ties. Many of the jobs in the fishing industry, agriculture, and small business have not returned, resulting in high unemployment and all the social problems it brings.

Meanwhile, women who lost family members, men who are ashamed that they can no longer support their families, and children traumatized by the disaster are grappling with mental health issues. The stoicism of the people in the Tōhoku region is stunning — even by Japanese standards — but most acknowledge that the road to recovery will be long.

On the other hand,

CLICK HERE to read the full interview on the PhilanTopic blog.

Mar 4

Loss of a JET: Michael Matts

I was saddened to see in the March 3, 2012 issue of the JETAA Southern California Newsletter that Osaka JET Michael Hennessy Matts recently died.  Here’s the text:

“JETAASC regrets to inform you of the death of Michael Hennessy Matts, an ALT serving in Osaka. A memorial service was held for Matts in Tucson on February 25th. Please follow the link for his full obituary and ways to help his family after his tragic death.”

From the obituary (

Michael Hennessey Matts

  |   Visit Guest Book

Michael Hennessey Matts Tragically on February 4, 2012 in Osaka, Japan at the age of 23. Remarkable son of Noreen and Richard; beloved brother of Megan. After attending Waseda University in Tokyo in 2009 – 2010 and graduating from the University of Arizona in May, 2011 with degrees in East Asian Studies and Economics, Michael returned to Japan to teach in July, 2011. He died in the country he loved. Michael’s grandma, uncles, Tom and Jim, aunts Susan, Lou and Marcia, his eight cousins and his godparents, Nancy and George, believe Michael hung the moon. His friends and colleagues agree. Michael: you are our hero. We love you and we will miss your beautiful presence for all of our lives. A Memorial Mass will be held at the Saint Thomas More Newman Center at 1615 E. Second Street on the University of Arizona campus on Saturday, February 25, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. A reception to celebrate Michael’s life will follow at the Arizona Inn, 2200 E. Elm Street at 11:30 a.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona where Michael volunteered. Please go to for directions to the Newman Center and for alternative parking suggestions.

Please feel free to share thoughts in the comments section of this post or in the Guest Book for the obituary.


Feb 2

JET alum Rob Cornilles loses election for Congressional seat in Oregon

We came close, but JET alum Rob Cornilles has lost the special election in Oregon’s 1st district to Suzanne Bonamici.  The election was necessary after previous Congressman Democrate David Wu had to resign last year due to allegations of sexual impropriety.  Cornilles also made a good showing but lost to Wu in the last election.

Ganbatte Rob!

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