Feb 9

CLAIR Magazine “JET Plaza” series: Dr. Adam Komisarof (Saitama)

Each month, current and former JET participants are featured in the “JET Plaza” section of the CLAIR Forum magazine. The February 2014 edition includes an article by JET alumnus Dr. Adam Komisarof. Posted by Celine Castex (Chiba-ken, 2006-11), currently programme coordinator at CLAIR Tokyo.


Adam Komisarof (Saitama-ken, 1990-92), PhD, is a professor in Reitaku University’s Department of Economics and Business Administration.  In 2012-13, he served as a senior associate member of St. Antony’s College, Oxford University, and conducted research as a visiting academic at the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies.  As a bilingual intercultural trainer (Japanese and English), he has conducted workshops for thousands of participants in Japan, the United States, Southeast Asia, and Europe.  Dr. Komisarof has over 40 publications and has authored two books, On the Front Lines of Forging a Global Society: Japanese and American Coworkers in Japan (2011) and At Home Abroad: Westerners’ Views of Themselves in Japan (2012).

Dr. Adam Komisarof

“Overall, my life in Japan has been very satisfying, and if the JET Programme had not given me such a positive first experience here, I doubt that I ever would have settled in Japan and led the life I have. JET has opened my eyes to a new cultural, linguistic, and personal reality for which I am deeply grateful.”


A Life Trajectory Shaped by the JET Programme

My experience in the JET Programme made me who I am today—both as a professional and a human being. When I graduated from Brown University in 1990 and readied myself to journey to Japan, I never imagined that I would be still living here in my middle age, raising a family, and working as an academic who researches and teaches about how culture affects human experience, thought, and behavior. Yet here I am. Currently, I am a professor at Reitaku University, where I teach intercultural communication, English, and acculturation psychology. In my free time, I am also a corporate intercultural communication trainer and consultant. And with the exception of one year of my sabbatical at the University of Oxford, I have lived in Japan continuously since 1998 (in addition to two years on JET from 1990-1992).

So how did I get here? While at Brown, I studied education, so after graduation, I had two goals: to teach English and to do so in a culture that was completely different from my own. I spent the next two years working daily in the same high school in Saitama, a place which I called my “educational laboratory.” The English teachers encouraged me to design our lessons while giving advice and feedback. Consequently, I grew immensely as a teacher during those two years, as I could experiment with many educational philosophies and methods. I also developed close relationships with other teachers since they included me in many social events where we engaged in the revered Japanese custom of “nomunication.” Read More

Jan 26

JQ Magazine: MIT Professor Ian Condry Explores ‘The Soul of Anime’

"I think it’s a challenge coming back from JET. But the times and experiences we had will really pay off in the long run even if in the short term it’s hard to see how they will apply." (Courtesy of Web.mit.edu)

“I think it’s a challenge coming back from JET. But the times and experiences we had will really pay off in the long run even if in the short term it’s hard to see how they will apply.” (Courtesy of Web.mit.edu)


By Sheila Burt (Toyama-ken, 2010-12) for JQ magazine. Sheila is a Chicago-based journalist who blogs at www.sheilaburt.com.

Anime can easily be called a global phenomenon. In the past few decades, several anime TV series and movies have grown so successful that even people with little knowledge of Japanese culture can probably name at least one anime show or character. But how is something that is so labor intensive, costly and culturally quirky able to transcend oceans and inspire rabid fan bases?

A participant in the JETAA Regional Conference held at Harvard University earlier this month, cultural anthropologist Ian Condry (Miyagi-ken, 1988-89) explores this question in his new book, The Soul of Anime. An associate professor of comparative media studies at MIT since 2002, Condry researches cultural movements that go global, looking at how and why certain local phenomenon spread. The Soul of Anime is his second book, followed by Hip-Hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization (2006), about the inner world of Japanese hip-hop.

Although initially interested in the business model of anime, Condry changed the focus of his research after learning, rather surprisingly, that “No one gets rich making anime. And in fact, it’s a terrible business model.” Rather than looking at how anime sustains itself business-wise, Condry looks at the power of anime as a platform where, oftentimes, fans and other forms of “collaborative creativity” are at the heart of anime’s success. In order to illustrate this argument, Condry tells the story of Gundam, an anime series about giant robots that first aired in 1979. It was initially a ratings failure, but after fans created everything from encyclopedias to timelines about the show, it became a cult sensation, eventually becoming the longest-running anime series in Japanese history.

“If you look at media only in terms of the genius of the creators or the kind of business model that it fits into, then you miss the power of fans and the importance of the value they add to the products,” Condry explains. “That’s sort of what the book is about. I think now we’re starting to see that all over the place with Facebook, Wikipedia, and Twitter, all these kind of media platforms where the content is made by the users but then there’s this interaction between the users and the platform producers that make all the difference.”

Read More

Jan 16

CLAIR magazine “JET Plaza” series: Philippe Arseneau (Miyagi)

Each month, current and former JET participants are featured in the “JET Plaza” section of the CLAIR Forum magazine. The January 2014 edition includes an article by JET alumnus Philippe Arseneau. Posted by Celine Castex (Chiba-ken, 2006-11), currently programme coordinator at CLAIR Tokyo.


Arseneau Philippe

“In my experience, four factors made a difference in this awkward transition from Japan to Canada, from classroom to career, especially with regards to landing and holding a rewarding job: building a professional network; showing initiative; getting involved; and tailoring one’s job to one’s background and interests.”

Philippe Arseneau (Miyagi-ken, 1991-94) is from the Canadian Province of Québec and grew up in Montréal, the world’s second largest French-speaking city. Drawn to Japanese martial arts in his early age, Philippe developed an academic interest for Japan’s economic prowess while studying Labor Relations at the University of Montréal in the late 1980s. Changing his line of study to Anthropology, he specialized on Asian cultures and graduated with a Master’s degree after writing a thesis on “The Emergence of Initiation Rituals in Large Japanese Firms”.  The JET Programme came as a fitting opportunity to deepen his understanding of Japan, and in the summer 1991 he was sent to Miyagi Prefecture where he taught English for the first year in the rural community of Tajiri, the second in Sendai, and the third in Natori. Soon after returning to Montréal, he worked as a sales representative for Japan Airlines until 2013. He now is a Japan lecturer at the University of Sherbrooke.

From Classroom to Career

Having graduated from the JET Programme nearly 20 years ago, I was asked earlier this year to deliver a keynote speech before representatives of the Canadian JETAA on the transition, difficult for some, from Japanese classroom to career at home. This paper is a concise version of it.

First, here is some background: I am a Montreal-born Canadian, raised in French, who learned English at school but more intensely through a series of summer jobs as a river guide in Ontario where I met my wife. And a couple of bilingual kids later, I am now pushing 50. I hold a MSc in Cultural Anthropology, with a focus on Japan. Admittedly not a market-oriented diploma. Weeks after submitting my final thesis in late spring 1991, I left to work as an ALT (AET back then) in Miyagi Prefecture where I would stay three years. A new Emperor had been anointed two years earlier. The economic bubble was starting to deflate. Japan banks were still the wealthiest on earth, the nation’s gigantic trade surplus fueled anger abroad and had caused an image problem for years, to which the JET Programme was allegedly meant to provide a partial solution by exposing western graduates to its culture in the hopes they would eventually go home to spread the gospel of a new and open Japan.

Like most ALTs, I taught English, but occasionally French. I also edited a JET prefectural newsletter called “The Miyagi Drum”. Nurturing post-graduates dreams, I spout on a new Japan cultural thesis and applied for doctoral studies at various universities around the world, expecting a grant or some kind of academic interest. Unfortunately, I never got to see the project through because of a career choice. And that brings me to the main topic of this article: professional life after JET. No doubt, the JET Programme can contribute to shaping one’s career as it did mine, though it offers less to those whose professional ambition lies outside the business of education– which was back then and perhaps still today the case with most ALTs. For want of providing highly transferable work skills, the JET experience managed at least to arouse curiosity among potential Canadian employers, but did not clinch me a job in and of itself. In my experience, four factors made a difference in this awkward transition from Japan to Canada, from classroom to career, especially with regards to landing and holding a rewarding job: building a professional network; showing initiative; getting involved; and tailoring one’s job to one’s background and interests.

Read More

Jan 6



Let’s Talk Japan is a 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.

In this episode, Nick speaks with Stacy Smith about the joys and challenges of working as a professional Japanese translator and interpreter.  Stacy worked as a Coordinator of International Relations (CIR) for the Japan Exchange Teaching (JET) Program in Kumamoto prefecture before eventually returning to the United States and turning her love of Japanese into a career.  When not on the road with work, Stacy lives in New York City.

Together they discuss how Stacy became interested in the Japanese language; how she went about deciding to become a professional translator & interpreter; the impact of technology; and tips for improving your own Japanese study habits

To learn more about Stacy,  check out her website as well as her blog posts for JETwit.  Also, here’s a great article about Japanese translation and interpretation.

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.


Jan 4

Via JETAA Ottawa. Posted by Gemma Villanueva (Fukushima 2008-11), the past editor for the JETAA Ottawa Newsletter.

The latest digital issue of the JETAA Ottawa Newsletter can be viewed here: http://us4.campaign-archive2.com/?u=4d0d4aa436ad87ff44921adec&id=80f9a73363

What’s in this issue?


Picture 1


Download past issues here:

Dec 7

JQ Magazine: JQ&A with Manga Translator Zack Davisson on Shigeru Mizuki


"All of JET is fond memories for me. I loved it. Kansai was the perfect area. Nara, Osaka, and Kyoto were all in easy reach so I had the best of everything. I lived in ancient and traditional Japan, but had wild and modern Japan nearby anytime I wanted. I did everything I could possibly do, went everywhere, tried everything—it changed my life." (Courtesy of Zack Davisson)

“All of JET is fond memories for me. I loved it. Kansai was the perfect area. Nara, Osaka, and Kyoto were all in easy reach so I had the best of everything. I lived in ancient and traditional Japan, but had wild and modern Japan nearby anytime I wanted. I did everything I could possibly do, went everywhere, tried everything—it changed my life.” (Courtesy of Zack Davisson)

By Julio Perez Jr. (Kyoto-shi, 2011-13) for JQ magazine. A bibliophile, writer, translator, and graduate from Columbia University, Julio is currently seeking opportunities with publications in New York. You can follow his enthusiasm for Japan, literature, and board gaming on Twitter @brittlejules.

A scholar, author and translator of Japanese folklore and ghost stories, Zack Davisson (Nara-ken, 2001-04; Osaka-shi, 2004-06) joined the JET Program in 2001 with some basic Japanese knowledge and a strong desire to learn much more. After spending five years on the program, he remained in Japan to acquire a master’s degree in Japanese studies while writing freelance and translating for Osaka University.

The theme of Japanese ghosts running through Davisson’s writing and translation dovetails the interests of manga legend Shigeru Mizuki, who is famous for the classic series GeGeGe no Kitaro. Mizuki is equally well known in Japan for his autobiographical works about his experiences as a soldier during World War II. A great fan of Mizuki, Davisson now contributes to publisher Drawn and Quarterly’s English adaptations of Kitaro and is the translator of the first volume of Mizuki’s historical manga Showa 1926-1939: A History of Japan, released last month in North America.

In this exclusive, expansive interview, Davisson discusses his time on JET, the significance of Mizuki’s supernatural and historical works, and the unique methods and madness of manga translation.

How did you first become interested in learning the Japanese language, and how long have you been studying it? For aspiring translators who are still studying, do you have any advice about textbooks, programs, or techniques?

I actually became interested when I was about 10 years old and my mother took me to see Seven Samurai at a local art theater. I was hooked pretty early—if I you look at my class pictures from that time I am wearing ridiculous Japan t-shirts. I took Japanese in high school when it was offered as a foreign language, but there were only four of us in the class, so it was cancelled—no one was interested in learning Japanese back then. This was the ’80s, so there was no “Cool Japan.” That pretty much ended my language studies for a while.

Decades later when I went on JET, I was useless language-wise. I thought I knew more Japanese than I did, but really just the set phrases and greetings. I was determined to leave JET functionally bilingual, so I just studied as hard as I could from day one, eventually getting my master’s degree in Japan.

My only real advice for people is to go to Japan, and talk and read and practice as much as humanly possible. There is no substitute for immersion and experience. I always say I learned more Japanese at my local bar, the 100 Club, than I did doing my MA. Talk, talk, talk. Read, read, read. Use Japanese as a living language, don’t just study it as an abstract. And, of course, marry a Japanese person. That’s a huge advantage!

When and where were you posted for JET? Could you talk a bit about your time there and what you remember fondly?

I started JET in…I think 2001. Crazy to think it was more than 10 years ago, because it doesn’t feel that way. I was unusual in that I was a 5-year JET that worked in two prefectures. I did three years in Nara and then two years in Osaka. I don’t know if they still allow you to do that. I was one of the first in my prefecture to get that contract extension, and even then there were only two of us allowed to do it.

As for fond memories…all of JET is fond memories for me. I loved it. Kansai was the perfect area. Nara, Osaka, and Kyoto were all in easy reach so I had the best of everything. I lived in ancient and traditional Japan, but had wild and modern Japan nearby anytime I wanted. I did everything I could possibly do, went everywhere, tried everything—it changed my life. And my career; I got started in writing and translating doing articles for my prefectural newsletter, then moved on to publishing magazine articles for Kansai Time Out and Japanzine. And now I have my Shigeru Mizuki translations out and my book, Yurei: The Japanese Ghost, coming next year. I owe all that to JET and the people I met on JET.

In what ways did you become involved in your community?

I wasn’t a big community person, other than I threw myself into every matsuri I could. I was fascinated with Shinto festivals, especially the big, loud, and dangerous ones. Anything fueled with alcohol and adrenaline. I did the Okayama Hadaka Matsuri four times and brought the magic sticks out twice. I carried this massive mikoshi in a little village in Nara every year. In Osaka, I carried these giant, flaming torches in the Taimatsu Matsuri for my town. I loved the primal nature of these matsuri, the physicality and closeness to the gods—it’s something we’ve completely lost in the U.S. In our quest for safety and comfort we’ve lost something intangible. Something Joseph Campbell would have recognized and appreciated.

Other than that, I was a regular at a local bar, the 100 Club in Osaka. A different kind of community, but that was another life changer. I’m still friends with my pals from the 100 Club and we even got matching tattoos. Not quite as sweet as volunteering at the local children’s eikaiwa, but there it is.

Read More

Nov 27

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 October 2013. Posted by Celine Castex (Chiba-ken, 2006-11), currently programme coordinator at CLAIR Tokyo.


Originally from Australia, Nicholas Klar (Niigata-ken, Itoigawa-shi, 1995-97) wrote the book “My Mother is a Tractor” about his life as an ALT in Omi, Itoigawa, Niigata-ken. After JET he worked for many years as a college counsellor and History teacher in international schools before returning to Japan to live. He now runs a small business in the Japan Alps, “Explore the Heart of Japan” as well as a popular travel website (http://myoko-nagano.com).

Ghosts of the Blue SeaYAMADA

Remember that here all is enchantment, – that you have fallen under the spell of the dead, – that the lights and the colours and the voices must fade away at last into emptiness and silence. –Lafcadio Hearn

It was a stark winter’s day as usual in Niigata-ken, grey like sodden blanket. Not one that I had set out on seeking ghosts, but it suited the mood. As I changed trains in Naoetsu for Ōmi the old tempura stand I had been hoping for a snack at was still there, but today it was closed. It seems even the sturdy yukiguni could not stand the sort of weather that was being hurled at them this winter from across the Japan Sea. I settled into my seat, its soft orange covers familiar like an old friend, and waited for the delayed departure. I scrubbed the mist from the brown streaked windows with my hand as the motor idled and the minutes slipped by. Outside schoolboys in their traditional Prussian kit seem oblivious to the biting gusts of artic-like snow. Eventually with the sound of the station attendants whistle the doors snapped shut and the blue and white carriage groaned away from the platform.

As we crossed over the dark frigid waters of the Himegawa almost an hour later I grew excited. I hadn’t been back to the haunts of my old town for years. It was an unplanned visit and no-one really knew I was coming. I looked over for the local chugakko as the train passed by, obscured now by the construction of the new Hokuriku shinkansen. Framed behind those were the mountains I had loved so much. So many times I had taken my bike up into those North Alps making new discoveries, getting lost in the awesome beauty of its nature. Days of sunshine, days of rain. How I missed them. And the ghosts that inhabited them.

To the right there was a slight glimpse of my former apartment block. Not mine anymore, not for many years. In fact I think it now lays empty, apart from maybe a ghost or two, as the town depopulates. Tall, grey, forbidding – once referred to by a friend as, “…classic 1950’s communist Romanian style architecture”. The memory of that remark brought a brief smile to my face. Yet, it is the only place I will ever live in that has a sea view at the front and the mountains at the back. Grand views of God’s great vista on tap.

When the doors clunked open at Ōmi eki it was if nothing had changed. The chimes rang the same they had all those years ago and the black asphalt platform lay several centimetres thick with windswept snow. It felt soft under my feet as I began my ascent up the cold cement stairs. Standing in his post was my first metaphorical ghost – Watanabe-san the station master in the same blue-clad uniform, looking not a whit older than when we had last met a few years ago. He didn’t recognise me of course, even though I had taught his daughter at Ōmi chugakko. During my stay many of the station attendants had greeted me by name each time I passed through the gate. The inside of the station was a time capsule still painted the same green, apart from a more modern poster here and there, populated by even more ghosts of my memories. Local oba-chan in the waiting room still sat chatting on wooden bench seats around the kerosene heater behind glass doors. The three old shuttered-up ticket windows still existed – a sad reminder from the more grandiose boom days of Ōmi. Perhaps they were stubbornly retained in the forlorn hope that those times may yet return once again. Read More

Nov 25

Each month, current and former JET participants are featured in the “JET Plaza” section of the CLAIR Forum magazine. The November 2013 edition includes an article by JET alumn Anthony Bianchi. Posted by Celine Castex (Chiba-ken, 2006-11), currently programme coordinator at CLAIR Tokyo.



“Once you are in the programme, you are in the programme for life. As an Italian kid from the streets of Brooklyn, I get that. Like they say, when you’re a JET you’re a JET all the way, from your first cup of tea to your last hanami.”

A native of Brooklyn, New York, Anthony Bianchi (Aichi-ken, Kiyosu City, 1989-91), graduated from New York University with a degree in film making. After working on a number of television programs in Hollywood, he joined the JET Programme and spent two years working as an ALT in rural Aichi. A few years later, after overcoming many difficulties, he started the Native English Teacher (NET) Program, a teachers programme tailored for Inuyama City. Feeling there was a wall between the citizens and the city hall, he decided to run for the office and was voted into the city council of Inuyama City, Aichi Prefecture in April 2003. Anthony is currently serving his third term.


JET Generations

As anyone who has done so knows, living and working overseas in a different culture has a profound effect on all sides.

I have written before about how being on the JET Programme changed my life. To make a long story short, I would definitely not be here in Inuyama doing what I am doing had I not been involved in JET. Sometimes it still amazes me how things worked out. I mean, sometimes while I am making an argument on the council floor about some very local issue I still think, “How in the world did I end up here?” Conversely, I wonder at times what I would be doing if I had not joined JET some 25 years ago. Definitely something very different and most likely not as rewarding.

But the JET experience is certainly not only about what you get out of it, as I mentioned at the top, it is about the effect it has on all sides. As time passes I realize more and more that being a JET alumnus is a living thing that goes on after your contractual duties end. I still meet people involved with the programme that leads to great relationships and opportunities. Especially opportunities to give others even a small glimpse into another culture like the one we had by being part of the JET Programme. I am always impressed by the willingness of JET alumni to give back. A couple of summers ago I was asked to be on a panel at a national conference in Washington DC. Of course, there again, I met many outstanding alumni who are doing great things to promote cultural exchange and understanding between Japan and their home country. But I also realized that there is something about meeting former JET participants that has a camaraderie that is different and,in many ways, surpasses any other alumni association that I have known. I include in this group also Japanese staff and officials who have worked on the programme.

I would like to talk about a recent example. Out of my office, we run an exchange program called B. Bridges. We are a volunteer exchange group in our tenth year of existence. The idea for the group was seeded at an event the Brooklyn Borough President,Marty Markowitz, held for me at Borough Hall after my first election in 2003. There I was reacquainted with the administration of Xaverian High School. On that same trip I visited the school before returning to Japan. During that visit we decided to hold some kind of exchange.

Read More

Nov 16
Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund founder Andy Anderson (center)  with members of the JET Alumni Association of New York at Columbia University, Oct. 30, 2013. (Courtesy of JETAA New York)

Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund founder Andy Anderson (center) with members of the JET Alumni Association of New York at Columbia University, Oct. 30, 2013. (Courtesy of JETAA New York)



By C-M Daeley (Saga-ken, 2008-2011) for JQ magazine. C-M is a poet, rap lyricist, and travel enthusiast currently working as an English teacher in Tokyo. For a look at some of his other writing, poetry and lyrics, check out his blog at http://spikedaeley.wordpress.com.

With today’s 24-hour global news cycle, it is sometimes difficult to keep even the most severe events in public memory. The Great East Japan Earthquake that struck on March 11, 2011 has not received much recent coverage in global news, but the issues faced by those still rebuilding remain monumental. Fortunately, there has been significant international aid from a number of sources, one of which is the JETAA USA Earthquake Relief Fund. This grant has raised almost USD $90,000 and has been used to provide seed funding to assist grassroots programs in areas severely impacted by the earthquake.

Due to the complex nature of fund allocation, this article will focus mainly on projects and programs directly supported through JETAA funds. However, it is significant to note that the Earthquake Relief Fund was only one of several avenues used to bring aid to the region and that, to date, roughly $500,000 has been raised through JET-affiliated groups and organizations worldwide. Jim Gannon (Ehime-Ken, 1992-94), current executive director at the Japan Center for International Exchange in New York, and Jessyca Livingston (Hokkaido, 2003-06), one of the three JETAA USA Country Representatives serving during the immediate aftermath and current JET Program coordinator at the Consulate-General of Japan in Denver, spoke about some of the initiatives the Earthquake Relief Fund has helped support.

“It is very difficult to give a concise yet comprehensive picture of what the JETAA funds have done,” Gannon explained. “The best way to describe it is that they have played a catalytic role in supporting some key projects in the early stage that have been supported by a range of others in more generous fashion once they proved their merits. JETAA cannot take full credit for all of the successes, but it did play an important role in getting things moving.” He also noted, “The real heroes are these incredible people from Tohoku who have championed these projects, the inspirational young people who have relocated to Tohoku to help operate them, and those who have been shuttling back and forth from Tokyo and elsewhere to help formulate and drive these initiatives.”

After a national discussion and several rounds of voting in each of JETAA USA’s 19 chapters, a final decision was made about how the fund should be allocated. “In the end, it was very obvious that chapters found it important to support education-related efforts in those areas most affected,” Livingston said.

Read More

Oct 16

CLAIR Magazine “JET Plaza” series: Suzanne McMillan (Ehime)

Each month, current and former JET participants are featured in the “JET Plaza” section of the CLAIR Forum magazine. The October 2013 edition includes an article by JET alumn Suzanne McMillan. Posted by Celine Castex (Chiba-ken, 2006-11), currently programme coordinator at CLAIR Tokyo.


Suzanne MacMillan

“Working in the media and recruitment space requires a high level of networking ability and the confidence to quickly reach out and engage with new people. My time spent in Japan provided me with this skill set along with resilience and the ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances.”

Originally from Northern Ireland, Suzanne McMillan (Ehime-ken, 1998-2001) holds an MA in History from Aberdeen University in Scotland. Her media career began in the UK when she joined the BBC initially as Researcher and later as an Assistant Producer. She has held the positions of Chairperson within the JETAA NI Chapter and NI Country Representative within JETAA International. Suzanne is currently a Project Manager and BDM Executive at Webpublication in Sydney, Australia where she coordinates digital publishing projects.

The Time of my Life

Nervously twiddling my thumbs, I sat before the interview panel and hoped that my answers would bring me a step closer to my long awaited place on the JET Programme. What had brought me to this point in my life? Well, as a child a favorite uncle had told me many tales of his exotic life in Japan and passed onto me the gift of a hand towel imprinted with a map of Shikoku. This tattered piece of history proudly hung on the wall of my university dorm room and later traveled with me on my flight to Tokyo Orientation; beginning my new life in Japan.

For the next three years, life as an ALT provided so many memorable experiences. I shared stories with teachers, students and fellow JET participants; discussing UK sports, changing political events in Northern Ireland and the different approaches to education and family life. Local neighbors became my friends and my knowledge of Japanese history grew with any tale they would tell of their past. The world seemed a smaller place and I realized the impact of JET; cultural exchange that reaches a deeper level and enables lifelong friendships that are priceless.

Even now memories of JET spring to mind during everyday tasks; the particularly cold winter when the supervisor at my BOE bought all JET participants a puffer jacket to keep warm, ensuring that we could all be spotted at a distance of 100 meters waddling with the extra bulk. Warmth feels my heart when I recall the kindly teacher who delivered boxes of mandarin oranges to your front door if you happened to be sick. I have never been able to hold a mandarin since without seeing his caring face. And yes, I hold myself fully responsible for many Japanese adults who I taught when they were kindergarten age and who now having an Irish lilt to their accent after repeating key English words after me several times over. Read More

Oct 15

Life After JET: It’s Hip to be Square

Recently posted on JETAA NSW site by  Eden Law (Fukushima-ken, 2010-11):

The JET Programme has lead to many opportunities and careers, sometimes rather unexpectedly. Our Life After JET articles by former JETs gives an insight about their lives after the programme, and how it has shaped their careers and paths. We hope that it will prove useful as an insight for potential applicants into what we as ex-JETs got from our experience, and maybe provide some nostalgic memories for others. Please feel free to contact us if you want to write about your own experience!

Kenneth Pinyopusarerk, who hails from Canberra, Australia, was a 2003-2006 CIR who worked in Saigawa (now Miyako), Fukuoka-ken. A man with a lifelong passion for two things: Japanese culture and computer games, he managed to combine the both and land a dream job at Square Enix in Tokyo where he currently works today. The only downside to his job is having to turn down countless requests from friends for “A Realm Reborn”, the latest in the Final Fantasy franchise.

Twenty years ago, on a crisp Sunday morning in Canberra, I had a life-changing encounter. I was strolling through the local Trash & Treasure when I stumbled upon a pre-loved cartridge of Final Fantasy II*, lying upon a splintery foldout table. Drawn by some unknown force, I paid the $40 asking price—a small fortune for a 14-year-old in 1994—without so much as an attempt to haggle. Thus began my enduring love affair with the video game developer Squaresoft, now known as Square Enix. Had my pimply teenage self been told that he would one day work for this company, he would have scoffed and promptly resumed playing whatever game it was he was obsessed with at the time.

Since childhood, I’ve had an affinity with Japanese culture. I attribute this to Read More

Oct 7
daneeta at dome 43

“My JET programme experience and my seven years in Japan have had a profound influence on me. It changed me into a more peaceful, communal person.”

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 September 2013. Posted by Celine Castex (Chiba-ken, 2006-11), currently programme coordinator at CLAIR Tokyo.


Daneeta Loretta Jackson (Fukuoka-ken, Buzen-shi, 1993-95) was born and raised in the backwaters of Southeast Louisiana. She was educated at public school where she discovered her love for storytelling. She holds a B.A. in English from Loyola University of the South, an M.A. in English from George Mason University, and an M.A. in the Art and Technique of Filmmaking from the London Film School. Her hobbies are international travel, watching movies, anything having to do with dogs, and sleeping. She works as a writer and filmmaker and is a Creative Producer at the ElekTrik Zoo, an arts partnership she co-founded with her husband, Patrick Jackson. She joined the JET programme in 1993 because she wanted adventure. It had a profound affect on her and changed the course of her life.


I was a JET Programme participant from 1993 to 1995 in Buzen-shi, Fukuoka-ken. I never expected to go to Japan. I never dreamed about it when I was a child like so many of my counterparts did. I don’t mean to sound flippant, but the JET Programme for me was a kind of accident. It is too long of a story to recount here. In short, my husband applied for the both of us. He requested a rural post in Fukuoka-ken because a boy from his Japanese baseball team in California was from Fukuoka. When he got word we had been accepted, he told me we were going to Japan. I had about two months to prepare.

Before I knew it, I was on a plane to Tokyo in July of 1993. The first few days were a whirlwind. The orientation in Tokyo and the jet lag made it seem like I was in some sort of dream. I had no idea what awaited me in the countryside, I couldn’t speak much Japanese, and everything seems so strange… so different from my native Louisiana. Read More

Oct 1

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThanks to Taylor’s father Andy Anderson for sharing the below update:

Toho-Towa Company, LTD  (Godzilla, etc.) is promoting Taylor’s film throughout Japan with City halls, other NPO’s, Boards of Education, JETs, etc.   JETs are good candidates to organize screenings as part of their community relations work.  Towa has posted information about this at www.youtube.com/watch?v=cjUvhwX-jDQ.

Part of the proceeds from screenings will go to the Taylor Anderson Memorial Fund which is being set up as a Japanese NPO.    Ambassador Fujisaki has agreed to be on the board and is helping us recruit other board members.  We’re working on a new website for the fund as well.  Towa would also like to have someone (such as JETs, former JETs, those associated with Taylor’s fund)  speak at each screening.

Towa will launch this effort  at the Yamagata film festival on 10/12/2013 www.yidff.jp/2013/program/13p7-e.html (Regge and some Taylor fund people will be there) and in Tokyo October 15th for potential screening hosts. Screening dates will start to be known about that time and we’ll keep them updated on www.thetaylorandersonstory.com and www.facebook.com/LiveYourDreamTheTaylorAndersonStory.

Sep 24

Percival Constantine at the Japan Writers Conference

Percival Constantine (Kagoshima 2008-2013) is a writer for GaijinPot and the Pulp Ark Award nominated author of several New Pulp novellas, including “The Myth Hunter” and “Love & Bullets.” He is also an editor at Pro Se Productions and resides in Kagoshima. At the Japan Writers Conference this year, he’s going to give a presentation titled “Self-Publishing: The Pros and Cons of Bypassing Traditional Publishing.” Here’s the official description.

percivalconstantine1With the advent of new technology such as print-on-demand services and ebooks, the market has opened for authors who wish to go it alone and publish their books without the use of an agent or publisher. There are both positives and negatives to this approach.
In the past, if one wished to publish a book, it required finding an agent and the agent locating a publisher for the product. Thanks to print-on-demand and ebook publishing, self-publishing has become easier than ever for aspiring authors. There are both positive and negative aspects to this. On the plus side, there is no need to write a number of query letters and send out submissions to agents or for the long wait before a book ends up on the market, as well as an increased share of the royalties. On the downside, the self-published author is responsible for all aspects of the production process, from editing the manuscript, laying out the book, creating a cover, and promotion. And though there is a larger share of royalties, the amount of copies sold can be far fewer. This presentation will examine the pros and cons of self-publishing.

To learn more about the Nov. 2-3 Japan Writers Conference, visit the official website HERE.
To learn more about Percival, visit his site HERE.

Sep 20

thisJapaneselifeThanks to AJET Chair Kay Makishi for the heads up on Fukuoka JET alum Eryk Salvaggio who writes the blog “This Japanese Life” and recently published a book by the same name.  You can read more about Eryk in this Japan Times interview with him from 2012.

About the book:  http://thisjapaneselife.org/this-japanese-life-the-book/

Most books about Japan can tell you how to use chopsticks or say “konnichiwa.” Few tackle the real stress of life in a radically different culture.

The author, a three-year resident and the writer and researcher behind one of the best Japan blogs, tackles the thousand tiny uncertainties of life abroad with honesty and wit.

Perfect for anyone about to leave home for Japan or elsewhere, This Japanese Life will deepen any reader’s understanding of Japanese culture as it’s fused into a method of dealing with the hardships of working and living there.

About Eryk:

Eryk Salvaggio was an American newspaper editor in Bangor, Maine before teaching English in Japan with the JET Program. He lived in Fukuoka City from 2010-2013, writing a blog, This Japanese Life, about Japanese culture and the tiny anxieties of being an expatriate.

The site was named one of the best Japan Blogs by Tofugu and was spotlighted by The Japan Times. Salvaggio has written for McSweeney’s, The Japan Times, Tofugu and Kulturaustausch.

His work as a visual artist has been covered in The New York Times and elsewhere.

He currently lives in London.


Page Rank