Dec 6

Jen Wang (Miyagi, 2008-09) is a lab tech in Dallas and a writer for the Japanese music sites, JRock247 and NekoPOP. Her love of cosplay and her junior high school students inspired the name for her own blog about Japan, Hibari-sensei’s Classroom.

Last August, I had the opportunity to be part of a great opportunity for cultural exchange. The skills I acquired came in handy, as North Texas hosted a delegation of over 150 Japanese visitors for the 2012 Japan-America Grassroots Summit. The Summit was inspired by the friendship between John Manjiro Nakahama and Captain William H. Whitfield, which would lead to official relations between the United States and Japan and a 171-year-old bond between the two families. The John Manjiro Whitfield Commemorative Center for International Exchange and the Japan-America Society of Dallas/Fort Worth worked together with fifteen cities (which included my hometown) to give the visitors an unforgettable experience.

Click here to read about my experience with the Summit.

Jul 20

Hibari-sensei: Coming Full Circle with Sister Cities and JET

Jen Wang (Miyagi, 2008-09) is a lab tech in Dallas and a staff writer for the Japanese music website Purple SKY.  Her love of cosplay and her junior high school students inspired the name for her own Japanese pop culture blog, Hibari-sensei’s Classroom.

This past March, I had a very rare opportunity: a couple of my former students were going to visit my hometown through the Sister Cities exchange program.  I had been waiting for this since I ended my JET career, and because the last two student trips were canceled, I was extremely excited.  Not only did I get to see how my students had grown and (hopefully) become more proficient in English, but the tables were now turned.  I got to show them my home and my life.  Without the Sister Cities program, I would have never become interested in being a JET and so I felt like in helping my family host a student, I had taken another step in my journey of cultural exchange.  It’s been an adventure going from exchange student to assistant English teacher to host sister.

My first trip to Japan (real trip and not an overnight layover) happened through the Southlake Sister Cities Youth Ambassador Program. Although 19 made me technically too old to be considered a “youth”, my parents managed to convince the organization to tag along with my brother and the other high schoolers. I was nervous because it would be the first time I’d be out of contact with my family for more than a couple of days. On top of that, my finger had gotten a horrible infection before the trip. It felt as though I was going to be on my own. That turned out to be not true at all.

My host family, as well as the individuals overseeing our trip, made me feel at home. I fell in love with Tome, which was large enough to have different things to do (like shop, learn kendo, listen to music at a pub) but small enough to experience the peaceful solitude of the countryside. One of the days I met an American woman who was an assistant English teacher. She encouraged the high schoolers who were eating lunch with us to speak English. I remembered that she came to Tome through the JET Programme, and I saw that as my ticket to return to Japan.

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Jun 26

23 students from Taylor Anderson’s high school to visit Ishinomaki as part of Japanese government sponsored exchange program

Thanks to Andy Anderson for sharing the information about this exchange.

Twenty-three students from Taylor Anderson’s high school, St. Catherine’s, will be visiting Japan, including Ishinomaki, as part of “The Kizuna Project.”  The Kizuna Project, sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is sending around  1,000 American high school students to Japan this summer for a 2-week trip including sightseeing, a homestay with a Japanese family, and volunteering in the Tohoku area. All expenses – transportation, lodging, food – are covered by the Japanese government.

The Kizuna Project is being coordinated by the Laurasian Institution in Seattle (where JET alum Megan Bernard works and is very involved in the project) as well as the Center for Global Partnership in Tokyo.

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