Aug 22

By Jon Dao(Toyama-ken, 2009-12) for his podcast Discussions with Dao. Jon works as a speech coach andpersonal trainer.

 

 


Fresh off the plane (okay maybe more like a few weeks) from a 5 year stint in the JET Programme, here’s graphic designer Patrick Finn! Be sure to follow him on Instagram and Twitter.

The “Best Thing” being back (1:20)

Using Credit Cards Over There (4:10)

Music/Concerts in Japan (8:38)

Japan Apologists (15:20)

Why do the JET Program? (17:10)

What kept you going for 5 years? (20:10)

Is JET “worth it” for personal and professional development? (26:41)

“Just living alone and kind of having to start fresh, I could throw away any ties I had to people, right? Okay, I can finally be me. No one expects anything of me because they don’t know me. So I don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations. Be 100% me and build my reputation around that.”

Traveling “Outside” (31:17)

Silence on the Struggle (33:07)

 Get the Pension Refund (37:40)

Fan Question (40:32)

 

“If you find yourself doing things that you could’ve been doing where you came from, You shouldn’t be there. You’re making a mistake. You’re not making the most of your time, and you’re wasting someone else’s opportunity.”

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Jul 31

By Jon Dao(Toyama-ken, 2009-12). Jon works as a speech coach and personal trainer.


 

August is an exciting time for the JET community. For some, it’s the start of life as an ALT and CIR. For others, it marks the time to say goodbye to that trek and return home.

The decision to come home is a sigh of relief for some. I’ve heard many JETs say, “If this experience taught me anything, it’s that I never want to be that far away from family again.”

For me, it was a little harder to get adjusted.

But it’s not just the change of scenery that takes getting used to! What’s next for your career is something that isn’t covered enough.

Maybe you’ll go teach abroad in another country. Maybe you’ll apply to grad school. Maybe you’ll enjoy a year to “take it easy” and do some soul-searching. All of those are perfectly fine choices.

Back then, I’d disagree. I’d say that’s a waste of time. I would’ve said that’s just putting things on delay.

But no, all of those paths were much better than the one I took. After I became PA, I felt like I couldn’t just be an ALT anymore. I should be moving on to “bigger and better” things– something that I never clearly defined. And so I went back home without any real inkling of what to do next.

It became too easy to regret my decision.

I kept my sights set on the past which only made me more miserable. My day to day was just about existing, not living.

Finding a new job wasn’t easy– and this is something that deserves more attention.

For all the JETs who have their next gig lined up, that is great stuff.

For all the JETs who have no clue what’s in store next, I just want you to know you aren’t alone. There are many JETs in the same boat who don’t speak up enough about it. And when you don’t hear those kinds of stories, you might get even more frustrated with your situation.

But again, you are not alone.


Jun 29

Suzanne Kamata is a Finalist for the Half the World Global Literati Award

Author/advocate Suzanne Kamata’s (Tokushima, ’88-’90) unpublished memoir Squeaky Wheels: Travels with my Daughter by Plane, Train, Boat, Tuk-tuk, Metro and Wheelchair has been named a finalist for the initial  Half the World Global Literati Award.

Sponsored by Half the World Holdings, a woman-focused investment platform, this award intends to recognize an original story, screenplay, memoir, or novel featuring one or more female protagonists as the central character, and offering “a fresh perspective on the challenges and joys of women’s lives.”

According to research by Nicola Griffith, most major literary prizes over the past fifteen years have been awarded to works that did not have a woman at the heart of the story. This award will attempt to balance the equation. An international panel will determine the winner of the $US50,000 prize, however, anyone can vote for the People’s Choice Award until July 23. Here’s a link.

Here is a brief synopsis of Squeaky Wheels:

My thirteen-year-old daughter Lilia can’t walk, but she wants to travel the world. Born fourteen weeks premature, Lilia is deaf and affected by cerebral palsy. Her primary language is Japanese Sign Language, and she uses a wheelchair to get around. At the Tokushima School for the Deaf, Tokushima, Japan, which she has attended in one capacity or another since she was about two years old, she is on the special ed track, which doesn’t include English and social studies. Even so, she is wildly curious about other countries and interested in learning her mother’s native tongue. When she told me that she wanted to go to Paris, I vowed to find a way even though I didn’t have a full-time job. In SQUEAKY WHEELS, I write about my effort to open up the world at large to my daughter as her own world seems to be shrinking. As she becomes heavier and less portable in this country short of wheelchair ramps, her accessibility has decreased. However, we attempt to confront and overcome at least some of the challenges of traveling with a wheelchair. Among other things, I write about our mother-daughter trips to the art island of Naoshima in Japan’s inland sea where we sleep in a museum; to Paris – including our arguments about what to pack and what to wear, Lilia’s response to the art and food and sights of the city, accessibility to the Eiffel Tower; and to the United States where we explore the caves of Tennessee and the monuments of Washington, DC. At the same time, I struggle to overcome my fears for the future and revise my hopes and dreams for my daughter

 


Mar 17

Life in Japan: How a 1 Year Stay Becomes a Decade

By Jon Dao (Toyama-ken, 2009-12) from his podcast Discussions with Dao. Jon works as a speech coach and personal trainer.


For the people who want to go to Japan, what’s your story? For the people who left, how’d you know you had enough? For the people who continue to stay, what’s your reason?

In this episode, Andy Morgan shares his ties to Japan. This is a great listen for anyone who’s planning to stay in the country after they finish JET. (Hint: learn the language!)

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Andy’s first appearance detailed more of his roots and Intermittent Fasting knowledge. If you enjoyed that, be sure to check out the varying degrees of fitness talk in his second appearance,third appearance, and fourth!  


Jan 16

Nathaniel Simmons (Nara-ken, 2007-2009) is currently a communication professor at Western Governors University and lives in Columbus, OH, USA. He teaches a variety of intercultural, interpersonal, and health communication courses. He has researched and published several scholarly articles regarding privacy management between foreign English teachers and Japanese co-workers in Japan and is currently working on turning his research into a book.

What is private in Japan?

If I tell my co-workers I have hemorrhoids, diarrhea, or need to go to the OBGYN will they tell everyone else?

These may not be questions JETs think about when they first go to Japan. It also may not be something JETs consider when they are ill and trying to gain medical care or just discussing information (i.e., relationship status) about themselves with their co-workers.

The reality is Japanese cultural conceptions of privacy might be different than many JETs’ expectations. Depending upon how individualist or collectivist your home country is will influence how privacy is interpreted, expected, and maintained. The concept of “what is private” or “privacy” differs cross-culturally, as do the ways in which privacy values are expressed.

Japan is no exception.

Japan has been largely classified as a collectivistic culture. As you know from your own experiences in Japan, the group matters more than the individual. In other words, in Japan the “we” wants and goals come before the “I” or “me” wants and goals. For collectivists, the very notion of privacy might be viewed as selfish due to an individual’s wants and goals taking precedent over the group’s desires.

Ever notice that privacy is in katakana, the Japanese syllabary used for foreign words? Puraibashi, or プライバシー, is taken directly from the English word for “privacy.” Since traditional Japanese language has no word for privacy, a unique cultural conception of privacy emerged. For example, the idea that one has “the right to be left alone” might signal a lack of cooperativeness with the group and an inability to work well with others. Additionally, controlling one’s privacy information might be perceived as an excess of mistrust. Even Japanese scholars have commented that gaijin might perceive the group interdependence of Japanese people as “suffocating.”

Japanese language use two distinct, yet interrelated meanings of Japanese privacy: shakai ( 社会), or “public,” and seken (世間), or “world/society.” Such terms stress the importance of relationships, interdependence, and group harmony. Shakai contributes to negative aspects of crimes being withheld from the media in order to protect victims and their families. If one was to “break shakai” it would involve speaking publically about private matters which might harm another’s reputation. Seken emphasizes human relations and allows Japanese people the ability to “understand” or at least “explain” what went wrong in a given situation. To the foreign eye, this might look intrusive, or like “gossip,” as one tries to understand one’s home life or culture to explain a tragic event.

As JETs operate on differing values of privacy, this might result in individuals feeling “violated” or “exposed.” Perceived privacy violations can lead to relationship withdrawal, isolation, and negative assumptions/stereotypes about one’s co-worker or Japan in general. Throughout my research, gaijin English teachers reported feeling that their co-workers invaded/violated their privacy expectations. In other words, if they told someone something, it was then told to someone else, who then told someone else…etc. You get the point. In my research, gaijin felt victimized when people knew things about them that they didn’t disclose (i.e., So and so sensei told me you went to the doctor and are on X medication), even if it was something positive (i.e., I heard your dental checkup went well!). My participants felt like “celebrities” because “everyone (i.e., Japanese people)” in their communities knew “everything” about them.

Critics of my participants’ stories have said “Well, they should know it will be different from their home country.” It is easy to say “expect things to be different.” To what extent should this responsibility be shared? No recruiting organizations discuss privacy in their trainings. Perhaps privacy is something so engrained in one’s culture that it is perceived to be “common sense?” Perhaps that “common sense” is where the most difficulties exist when what one “commonly” thinks doesn’t work.

Regardless, this is a collective issue that requires further dialogue and research to better understand how to cultivate meaningful relationships. Several of my participants chose to cut their contracts short or to not renew because of their interpersonal privacy experiences.

That’s costly – it costs financially and personally.

This blog post is an adaptation of the scholarly article: Simmons, N. (2012). The tales of gaijin: Health privacy perspectives of foreign English teachers in Japan. Kaleidoscope: A Graduate Journal of Qualitative Communication Research, 11, 17-38. Retrieved from http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/kaleidoscope/vol11/iss1/3/


Nov 19

************

What do people do after JET? Here’s one great example.

On November 16, JETAA DC held the latest in their JET Talks series with a talk by JET alum George Rose (Fukushima-ken, 1989-91), former interpreter for Hideki Irabu and current Director of Pacific Rim Operations for the New York Yankees, not to mention former JETAA NY President.

Here’s a video of the talk. (Thanks to JETAA DC Vice-President Joy Young for passing this on!) Many great anecdotes including one about interpreting for Hideki Matsui on the Regis and Kathy Show. Plus, did you know that George played a role in helping the Yankees sign Masahiro Tanaka? Watch and enjoy!


Nov 3

jetaaoc2015

The JETAA Oceania Regional Conference took place in Christchurch, New Zealand this year, over the weekend of Oct 16th-18th. JETAA Oceania is a meeting of chapters from two countries, Australia (5) and New Zealand (3), as well as the respective country representatives. Australia’s Country Representative, Eden Law (ALT Fukushima 2010-2011) reports on the proceedings of the 2015 JETAA Oceania Conference.

As far as I know, the JETAA Oceania Regional Conference is unique in the JETAA world, where two countries share an annual convention – not surprising, considering the geographical proximity and historically close relations (buddies and often times frenemies) of Australia and New Zealand. This year’s theme is “Staying Connected” – to past and present JETs and JET community, local Japanese organisations and cultural groups, sister city initiatives and of course, with other chapters. Because it’s such a core issue to many chapters, we had a lot to say, discuss and share – opinions, ideas and examples that have work and didn’t. Some ideas:

  • Maintaining connections with new JETs by following up after a month to see how they are going. If you have a newsletter, ask for article contributions (e.g. “Best experience”, “Most surprising aspect”, “What I should have packed”). These can also be used as material for the next pre-departure orientation.
  • Have a committee retreat – have a mini conference by going away to a nice country location to discuss ideas, plan schedule etc.
  • Provide some kind of charity work opportunity to give a sense of purpose and satisfaction
  • Market JET Programme as a way to gain transitional skills (e.g. being bilingual means you can see things from different viewpoints)
  • Sell JET as a professional development program
  • For a fun fundraising idea, have a trivia night where answers/clues can be bought for a small fee. Cheat for charity!

This conference also marks my presentation debut as a shiny, newly minted country representative, which was also the same for my New Zealand equivalent, Raewyn MacGregor. Our presentations were about what we’d do as CRs, considering that the role tended to be re-invented to suit each new candidate’s needs and personality. Apart from trying to reduce the wheel-reinvention aspect by keeping records and procedure documentation, we will also aim to focus on community and communication. To that end, I put forward a proposal to have regular, scheduled Google Hangouts for Oceania to keep in touch and continue the flow of dialogue, ideas and support for each other (and if possible, get some participants from outside Oceania to join in!). We will also look at ways of supporting recent returnees, whether in the form of support, mentorship or career opportunities.

We also discussed the Satogaeri Project and the Tokyo November conference, where Satogaeri representatives from several countries (and AJET) will meet and discuss several ideas, such as next year’s 30th Anniversary celebratory plans, and, most interestingly of all, the possible revival of JETAA International (JETAAI). This chapter had gone dormant for the last few years since losing funding during austerity measures implemented by previous governments. For some of you out there, you may be aware of (or have participating in) the short bursts of email communications regarding this chapter. From the documentation presented by CLAIR at the conference, it’s now clear why this was occuring, as JETAAI’s revival looks fairly certain, with proposed committee members election to be held (presumably with those present). There are other further surprising items on the agenda regarding country representatives, so I’ll await the post-conference report with interest.

On a final note, it became clear that the common ingredient running through all successful ideas was networking – building and maintaining relationships which can be tapped into for opportunities. This does require work and commitment – as is the case with anything worthwhile. You can’t go at it half-arsed if you intend to make things a success, after all. Special thanks go to our great chapter hosts, New Zealand’s JETAA South Island, lead by president Caroline Pope (and NZ’s Satogaeri representative) who ran a very efficient and tight ship, which our visiting CLAIR official from Tokyo even remarked on, as being better organised than recent conferences that he had attended. High praise indeed!

The conference site is still up in the meantime. Check out all the pics and posts on Twitter and Facebook by searching for #jetaaoc.


Sep 5

JET alum Richard Fontaine featured in NY Times article on foreign policy of Republican candidates

Fontaine

JET alum Richard Fontaine (1997-98), President at the Center for New American Security, outside advisor to Jeb Bush, and former security advisor to Sen. John McCain

A great article on the foreign policy advisors to several Republican candidates, including JET alum Richard Fontaine–outsider foreign policy advisor to Jeb Bush and former security advisor to Sen. John McCain–who is featured and quoted extensively in the article.

“Between Iraq and a Hawk Base”

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/06/magazine/between-iraq-and-a-hawk-base.html?_r=0


Jul 20

1500px_OiraseStream_Hu

Posted by Eden Law, 2010-2011 ALT Fukushima-ken, President of JETAANSW.

As part of the drive to promote tourism to Japan (not to mention combining a long-held passion and dream), ex-JET Julius Pang introduced a Tohoku photography tour to showcase the beauty of Japan in autumn, in an area that sadly has become known for other things in recent years. Americans are especially well-suited to taking advantage of this tour package, considering how strong the US dollar is against the Australian (yes, Julius’s Australia-based company, Incredible Photo Tours, welcomes overseas clients), travel will be especially cheap, with accommodation, transport and food taken care of.

Starting from Tokyo, the tour goes to various places throughout Tohoku such as Zao Onsen, Sendai, Hiraizumi, Akita, Bandai, Aizu-Wakamatsu, Nikko, Naruko Gorge, Shirakami Sanchi, Hirosaki, Nyuto Onsen and Lake Towada. With the advantage of the inside knowledge of an ex-JET, and the expertise of a tour guide who has won awards for his photography, it’s a great tour package to consider for your next trip to Japan. Julius also has other tours, such as the Japan Classic Autumn tour, that does the classic route of Tokyo, Hakone, Himeji, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Okayama, Takamatsu, Mt Koya and Osaka.

For more information, check out the Tohoku Autumn Tour, or the Classic Autumn Tour at Incredible Photo Tours.


Jan 22

Life After JET: Going Your Own Way

Julius Pang
Striking out on your own, especially in pursuing a long-held dream, is always going to be a terrifying and highly stressful experience. Julius Pang (Fukuoka-ken, 2004-2007, ALT) made that journey this year when he launched his own company (Incredible Photo Tours), a travel company focused on (the taking of, and teaching of) photography. He is a multi-award winning photographer and world traveller, either shooting in exotic locales or being backstage at a conference made up of international heads of state. Obviously he’s been somewhat busy after JET, so I (Eden Law, Fukushima-ken, 2010-2011 ALT) had a chat with Julius about how he got to where he is.

Congratulations on your new company – how did the idea for this come about?

Thanks Eden! The idea for my company has come about because I wanted to combine 3 things I’ve really enjoyed doing in my work life: photography, travel, and teaching photography. I’ve been aware of photo tours being run by various photographers and companies for several years and even considered doing one myself several years ago. I think in the back of my head I always wanted to lead photo tours every time I visited a new country or region over the past 12 years.

In Nov 2013 I visited India and I encountered at least 2 photo workshops being run at the Pushkar Camel Fair, and I asked myself why wasn’t I doing that? From there, I decided I wanted to make my idea work. I had the photography skills and travel experience, I just needed the business skills to put everything together.

From Mar-Jun 2014, I undertook a major scouting trip to Japan and also visited Vietnam. During this trip I revisited many places in Japan I had been to and new ones in order to devise tour itineraries. I went to Vietnam to complete my coverage of the major SE Asian countries and also do some location scouting. Interestingly enough, when I was in Japan I encountered a Chinese photo tour group at Kawaguchiko!

When I returned to Perth in June 2014 after my scouting trip, I began planning my photo tour company. I’m so pleased it’s now up and running!

Starting up a new company must have been a complicated process – what sort of hurdles did you encounter?

The main hurdle would have been my getting over my own self-doubt and ignoring the opinion of various naysayers. It’s difficult enough making a living from photography particularly if you don’t do wedding photography (as in my case), let alone moving into a specialised area like travel photography and also moving into the tourism industry at the same time. When you then have people who chime in with their opinion about how your idea isn’t going to work or questioning if the business is realistic, this really chips away at your confidence. I’ve learnt it’s so much better to listen to very successful business people and entrepreneurs who can look at your idea objectively and provide critical feedback based on their own experiences. These kind of people also have a great energy you can feed off and be inspired by.

I was fortunate enough to come across a government programme called the New Enterprise Initiative Scheme (NEIS) which provides business training and financial support for people build new businesses. The NEIS provider I am with have been instrumental in helping me learn new business skills, implementing a solid business plan, addressing OHS and legal issues, mentoring, and most of all, develop my self-belief and confidence as they’ve helped many small businesses get off the ground and sustain themselves. They encouraged my idea but tempered it with a good dose of the realities of doing business.

I strongly believed in my idea and the feasibility of it but I felt that I needed to establish myself as a travel photographer first; I wanted to know where my work stood at a professional level. I began entering various prominent photography competitions from 2013 but it’s only been the past year when I won several awards that I knew I had the photography credentials. The problem was then learning new business skills – being on the NEIS programme has enabled me to learn those key business skills and bring my idea to life with Incredible Photo Tours.

So the process has been very involved but extremely rewarding at the same time.

How did you JET experience help or influence you when you went about setting up your company?

I decided to visit Japan in 2003 from late January to late February to take a long-desired first solo travel experience as an adult (this was my substitute for a gap year break), and also to visit two friends who were on the JET Programme and in rural placements.

I wanted to see typical touristy Japan as well as the unseen Japan out in the sticks. I also chose to visit during winter as I wanted to see snow for the first time (I ended up being obsessed with it – visiting the Sapporo Snow Festival and learning snowboarding from a random group of friendly Japanese uni students!), and because the timing worked with my uni summer break.

When I got back from that trip, I had to complete my final year of Design studies, but I applied for the JET Programme straight away when the applications came out that year. Then it was a long wait until I found out I got into the interview round and thankfully enough I did well and got onto the JET Programme.

I promote Japan as my company’s main international photo tour destination so while I hadn’t thought of the idea for my photo tour company until after I left the JET Programme, my JET experience is now proving really important to distinguish myself from other companies. For example, the JET Programme has provided me with extensive local knowledge, cultural understanding, Japanese language skills, local friends and contacts.

In addition, my involvement with JETAA ever since returning from Japan has continued to strengthen my expertise and connection with Japan. The JETAA community is amazing and I’m really lucky to be able to have met and become friends with so many great people through JETAAWA and the other Oceania chapters.

So you were finishing up on university before JET, much like a lot of people. Was it difficult to get back into the workforce after JET?

In my case it wasn’t too bad. It took me 4 months to get back into full-time work once I got back. I looked on Seek and applied to several companies for a job as a web designer. The only company that asked me to come in for an interview was the Royal Automobile Club of WA (RAC WA).

During the interview I was asked about my work experience. I was honest in saying I didn’t have much of a portfolio of web and graphic design work given I had just spent three years teaching. The main portfolio piece I had was the Fukuoka JET website. While I was on JET I volunteered my time to work with the Fukuoka JET chapter committee and was their webmaster. I redesigned the Fukuoka JET website and stayed in the role for 2 years until I left JET. I was able to discuss this bit of work, my website management experience, and experience in using a Content Management System (CMS) in my job interview.

So the job interview went reasonably smoothly but I was still surprised when they called me back to formally offer me the job. When that happened I was really thankful that I had gotten myself more involved in work and activities outside of teaching while on JET. That one website for Fukuoka JET was critical in me getting that first job after JET. I also think that the soft skills I gained working as a teacher really helped in terms of my presentation and expression of ideas, not only in the interview, but with my job too.

I subsequently stayed in that job for 3 years, becoming a Senior Web Designer, then embarked on a change of career to become a professional photographer. I still did some further work with RAC on a contract basis and feel very fortunate to have worked with them.

Hope for everyone! Any other advice?

What can be drawn from my experience is that it’s important for JETs to keep busy outside of their teaching work life and consider the bigger picture of life after JET while they are still on JET. You have plenty of time while on JET to develop your other skills or knowledge outside of teaching, and this is really important to compensate for the lack of real world work experience (unless you are becoming a teacher) once you get back home. Being on the JET Programme helps you to develop key soft skills which any employer values, while the ability to understand and work within a Japanese working environment means you can handle office politics in a Western environment.

In short, the more you put in, the more you get out of the JET Programme.

Julius Pang is all over the internet. You can check out his company Incredible Photo Tours. Anyone can sign up for a spot with Incredible Photo tours even if they don’t live in Australia, which not only runs international trips but also locally in Western Australia.


Jan 9

Life After JET: Setting Up Shop in Japan

Benjamin Stock (Hyogo-ken 2005-2007) is International Development Manager at Access Corporation, a Hyogo-based study abroad agency. He and his wife, Rebecca Stock (Hyogo-ken 2011-2013), run Fresh Stock, a Japanese stationery web shop, from their home in Kobe.

After living in Japan for over six years, I’m excited to announce a long-time desire of mine has finally become a reality: my wife and I recently launched a web shop. Our business is called Fresh Stock, and we opened with a small selection of modern, made-in-Japan stationery products. Stationery is our starting point, but we are planning to eventually carry all sorts of modern, made-in-Japan items. Please read on to learn about the behind the scenes process of launching a side business in Japan.Jetwit FS

The first thing we had to do was make sure our business would be legal. I learned that my ‘Specialist In Humanities/International Services’ visa does not technically allow one to run a side business without receiving the very long-winded ‘Permission to Engage in Activity other than that Permitted under the Status of Residence Previously Granted.’ My wife has a dependent visa and had already received this permission, so we decided the business would be hers on paper. As a dependent, she can receive a fixed amount of monthly income without needing to pay income taxes, so her income from the shop should be tax free until things really take off. Selling products to overseas customers also negates the need to charge consumption tax. If the business does start generating significant income, the next step would be to consider registering it as a sole proprietorship (個人事業) at our local tax office. We sought many opinions, including contacting JETRO, the Japan External Trade Organization, and the consensus was to just try things out for a while before going through the trouble of registering. he main benefit is being able to write off business expenses, which will not benefit us until the shop’s sales exceeds my wife’s income tax exemption.

Contacting Japanese stationery companies was quite an adventure. The emails that I sent (written in Japanese) were mostly ignored, but I generally received good service after following up on the phone. All the large companies I contacted said selling their products to overseas customers would come in conflict with their overseas subsidiaries. I tried to explain how I was only interested in their Japan-limited products, but unsurprising, the lowly customer service reps I spoke to didn’t have the power to change company policy.

The older, smaller companies were happy to sell product to us with few stipulations. The medium-sized companies were willing to work with us, bu
t some had a vetting process. A few wanted to see our website (I scrambled to create some mockups since it wasn’t ready at the time), and a couple that were in Kansai wanted to meet in person before we could do business. In the end, there were some disappointments, but we got enough of the brands we had wanted to come up with our starting product lineup.

We chose to use the popular website platform Weebly to create our shop. It offered most of the features we needed for the cheapest price. We’re also dabbling on the Amazon Sellers Market, but that’s mostly to get more exposure for our brand. There are other obvious options like eBay and Etsy, which we may pursue in the future.

No matter how you choose to sell, having decent product photographs is a must. Many of our brands, the ones with good photography, prohibit their retailers from using their photos. Knowing that I would have to photograph a substantial portion of our products, I just decided to do all of them for the sake of continuity. Taking suitable pictures required a halfway decent camera, a cheap, pop-up photo box, and some basic photo-editing skills. Overall, I’m happy with the results of my photos, but it took three to four times longer than I expected. If you put in enough time you could surprise yourself, but you might also do just as well to outsource this work.

Getting a web shop off the ground can actually be done fairly cheaply but will definitely be a huge investment in time. We already have a long list of stationery products we want to add and a lot of ideas about non-stationery products and where things will go next. For now, we need to get the word out, and we have mostly been working on getting some Facebook followers. I hope you check out our site and check back from time to time to see our blog, where I plan to write stories about life in Japan in addition to shop news.

www.freshstockjapan.com


Dec 20

Nathaniel Simmons (Nara-ken, 2007-2009) is currently a communication faculty member at Western Governors University and lives in Columbus, OH, USA. He teaches a variety of intercultural, interpersonal, and health communication courses. He has researched and published several scholarly articles regarding privacy management between foreign English teachers and Japanese co-workers in Japan.

I admit it.

I was “one of those” JETs who lucked out and ended up as an ALT knowing next to nothing about Japan.

No language skills.  Very little cultural knowledge.

Yes, I did my homework once I knew I was going to Japan, but even that was “too little, too late.”  The cultural books I read a month prior to departure ended up lying to me, as once I arrived everything I read was thrown out the window.  Nothing quite captured or described the nuanced life I was about to live in rural Nara-ken.

So how did someone like me survive for two years in rural Japan?  I hurriedly found Read More


Nov 18

Life After JET: The creation of MoshiMosh

moshimosh2Lucy Gibson (Fukuoka, 2007-10) is a co-founder of MoshiMosh, an exciting new language exchange website. Lucy and her husband Kenzo live and run MoshiMosh in London, UK. Any spare time they have, outside of juggling work, study, and entrepreneurial ventures, is spent spoiling their dog Maggie, playing taiko, volunteering, and getting out and about in London.The Creation of MoshiMosh

JET Alumni pop up in the most unexpected of places. In 2010, my husband Kenzo started work in a London-based NGO providing health services to developing countries in Africa and Asia. Though the
work and the organization had nothing at all to do with Japan, he soon discov  ered that the colleague sitting next to him had spent three years on JET and, by complete coincidence, so had his new boss, and a friend in another department.

lucytaiko

Lucy taking taiko to the streets of London

Little did he realize that the JET coincidences were far from over. Within a few months of having returned to London, he would attend a charity karaoke event, organized by, yes you guessed it, another JET. At this lovely and slightly raucous ‘charioke’ event, he would meet me – a Kiwi girl newly arrived in London, his soon-to-be-wife and another ex-JET.

Although JETs come in all shapes and sizes, and from all walks of life, what links JETs together is Read More


Nov 4

Life After JET: Of Legal Discourse and Family Ties

Re-published after its first appearance from the JETAA NSW site: Our next Life After JET alumni is Shino Hamada (CIR Fukuoka-shi 2006-2011), a legal practitioner for a Sydney-based subsidiary for a major Japanese trading firm, whose life experiences show that you should always grab opportunities as they come by.

There is a tiny coastal town in the Southern part of Nagasaki Prefecture called Kazusa-machi. Besides a few holiday makers who visit its somewhat white sandy beaches in the summer, Kazusa-machi is usually a town which people merely drive through on their way from Nagasaki City to Shimabara City or vice versa. I was born there and spent the first eight years of my life running around on the beach behind our house with my three older siblings and speaking in the thickest Nagasaki dialect, until my hippie parents decided to uproot the whole family to live in New Zealand.

We continued to speak Japanese at home in West Auckland for four years, until my parents divorced and mum left us and returned to Japan. In order for us to overcome this incident, my dad forbade us to speak Japanese to each other and ordered us to discard everything that was Japanese, including our beloved Doraemon comic books and anything that reminded us of mum. My dad often spoke of his negative feelings towards Japan which rubbed off on me to the extent that I refused to speak Japanese at all for the next six years.

Still, Japan was always in the back of my mind and I was always a tiny bit curious about it. I also had not seen mum since she left us, so when I finished high school, I decided that I might as well go live with her in Nagasaki for a year. I arrived in Japan with a very low expectation and an extremely rusty tongue for the language, but what I found there was something beautiful, what I can only describe as ‘comfortable’ and I quickly fell in love with the culture and the people. I worked at a local supermarket fulltime and also taught English to primary school children in the evenings and weekends and loved every minute of it. At the supermarket, there would be regular customers who would always come and happily chat with me about their grandchildren or their pet dog and give me pumpkins from their garden. At the English school, the kids were always happy to see me and eager to learn.

Once the year was over, I returned to New Zealand to start university and decided to study Linguistics and Language Teaching. In my second year, a friend suggested that a Bachelor Arts would merely make me employable at McDonalds, which I gullibly believed and decided that I would study law to complement my Bachelor of Arts. In my last year, I decided to apply for the JET Programme as a CIR so that I could spend a couple of years living near mum and gain some experience working in a Japanese office. I did not really intend on becoming a lawyer after I graduated, but since I had eight months between the end of university and my departure for Japan on the JET Programme, I thought I might as well complete my professional legal studies course and I became admitted as a lawyer in New Zealand a couple of month before I left for Fukuoka.

In Fukuoka, I worked for the International Affairs Department in the city hall along with two CIR’s from non-English speaking countries. At first, people were curious about my background but they soon accepted that I was just a New Zealander who happens to look Japanese and speaks Japanese with an odd mix of a Nagasaki – New Zealand accent. My duties included translating and proofreading documents, interpreting for visitors from abroad, acting as a liaison between Fukuoka and a few of our sister cities, conducting monthly lectures for volunteer interpreters, judging speech contests, and conducting job interviews in English. I loved my job and I loved Fukuoka even more, to the extent that my initial intention to stay a maximum of two years was quickly disregarded and I ended up staying the JET maximum of five years.

At the returners’ conference in Tokyo in my fifth year, I still had not yet decided what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be after Fukuoka. I had vaguely toyed with the idea of combining my Japanese language skills with law in Japan previously, but when I spoke with a recruiter in my fourth year on JET, he advised that there are no opportunities for an inexperienced lawyer in Tokyo and that I should return to New Zealand and practice law for at least a couple of years before exploring the legal market in Tokyo. Nevertheless, by chance, I met a legal recruiter at the returners’ conference career fair, who heard of my law qualifications and my experience in a Japanese office and arranged an interview for the next day with the Tokyo office of a British law firm who was looking for a bilingual paralegal. I thought it would be a good practice job interview and thought I might as well try it. I went to an internet café that night and abruptly typed up my CV both in English and Japanese and I was lucky enough to be hired as a paralegal with a possibility of being promoted to a lawyer down the line.

I moved to Tokyo a couple of weeks after I bid farewell to my sweet home for five years and to my coworkers at the city hall who had become my beloved extended family. Once in Tokyo, I worked the hardest I had ever worked in my life, logged in long hours and hardly refused any work that came my way. The five year gap between my law degree and this job was somewhat filled by my experience working in a Japanese office and my understanding of the Japanese business culture which I shared with the foreign lawyers in the office. An Australian partner at my firm liked my work, took me under his wing and I had the privilege to be one of the core team members for a major acquisition of a multinational coal joint venture. It was a laborious few months and at times it felt as though I hardly slept, but the sense of satisfaction I felt once it was over was well worth it. I decided then that I quite liked law, continued to work hard and I was made an associate lawyer a year after I joined the firm.

However, after a year as an associate lawyer, I started to become restless in Tokyo. I had been in Japan for seven years at that point and was ready for something new. I also felt that I had been immersed in the Japanese culture for a bit too long and even starting to forget some English words. Luckily, the Australian partner who pushed me to become a lawyer had returned to Sydney and was keen for me to join him in Sydney and had an interesting secondment opportunity at the Australian subsidiary of a major Japanese trading house.

I joined the Sydney office a year ago, and have ever since been seconded to the infrastructure team of the Japanese trading house where I like to think I am maximising my Japanese language skills, understanding of Japanese business culture and my legal knowledge. I assist the company on its investments in infrastructure public-private partnerships in Australia from the pre-bid consortium discussion stage through to the actual bid or financial close, as well as identifying and analysing new opportunities for our counterparts in the Tokyo head office.

I do not think anyone is ever sure if the path they have taken is the right one, but if I had not had an open, ‘might as well’ attitude towards learning more about Japan after high school, studying law, obtaining my legal qualifications, staying five years in Fukuoka immersing myself in the Japanese office culture, taking the opportunity to interview at the Tokyo office of my law firm and taking the secondment opportunity in Sydney, I would never have experienced all the things I was able to experience, been able to come to terms with my bicultural upbringing or found a way to combine all my skills.

If you are a returning JET and you do not yet know what you want to do or where you want to be and an opportunity which slightly piques your interest pops up your way, why not shrug your shoulders and think ‘might as well’? It might take you down a route you had never dreamt of, but which may end up being one of the right paths for you.


Oct 17

Job: Travel Agent – InsideJapan Tours (Nagoya)

Posted by Eden Law (Fukushima-ken 2010-2011), member of JETAA NSW and just a totally awesome rad guy. Click here to join the JETwit Jobs Google Group and receive job listings even sooner by email.

[Excerpt from InsideTours Job page – click here to read for more details! The company is made up of ex-JETs, so it’s perfect!]

Passionate about Japan? Want to help people from around the world experience quite how amazing Japan is? A job with Inside Japan Tours could be just what you are looking for.

InsideJapan Tours is part of InsideAsia Tours Ltd a small team of dedicated people all with a passion for travel that ‘gets beneath the surface’. Our offices are located in the UK, Japan and the US with a team of 34 full time staff ensuring we provide the very best experience for every one of our thousands of clients annually.

Current Vacancies
We are currently recruiting for Japan Specialist Travel Consultants in our UK, Japan and US branches. Our sister brand, InsideVietnam Tours, is recruiting for Southeast Asia Specialist Travel Consultants.


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