Sep 21

JETwit’s JET Alum Movers & Shakers: Zaynab Nakhid, Kumamoto (4 years)

JETwit’s JET Alum Movers & Shakers is produced by Ryan Hata (Tottori-ken, 2014-2017), Margie Banin (Kochi-ken, 2005-2007), and Jim Walsh (Fukushima-ken, 2018-2020). Want to be featured next? Submit your information here.

Zaynab Nakhid, Kumamoto (4 years)

Participation in The Embassy of Japan T&T’s Japanese Speech Contest.

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(The photo is unrelated to the event since there are no pictures from the online event). This year the Embassy of Japan in Trinidad and Tobago held their 3rd annual Japanese Speech Contest. There were three categories: Beginners, Intermediate and Special- for former residents of Japan. Zay competed in the Special Category of the contest to motivate her former students to continue to enter the English Speech and Recitation contests at school. She won and hopes that this will inspire her students to keep working hard despite how nervous and embarrassed they might feel.

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Sep 17

Roundtable: Why Do We Study Anime and Manga?

The Japan Foundation, New York is launching a monthly online series delving into Japanese pop culture from academic and professional perspectives!

With the help of professors and creators all over the world, we will discuss various topics from anime, manga, video games, fashion, J-pop, and more. We hope that this series will be one of the platforms for you to learn more about what you love!

Join our first session with four of the leading experts who were instrumental in popularizing Anime and Manga Studies in U.S. academia. Come be a part of the panel discussion with Christopher BoltonWendy GoldbergN.C. Christopher Couch and Frenchy Lunning, as they discuss the deep and fascinating world of studying anime and manga. We will hear how their love of anime and manga led them down the path to advanced study.

The discussion will be followed by a live Q&A. If you have any questions about anime, manga, or a related field of study prior to the event, please feel free to post it on the Eventbrite page when you register. Live commentary will also be enabled on the YouTube stream, so you can participate in the live Q&A session.

This is a free event. Registrants will receive the link to the stream via email. Please register for the event here.

Sep 14

JETwit’s JET Alum Movers & Shakers: Brian Watson, Saitama-ken, 1988 to 1991 (and 1991 to 1994 at CLAIR)

JETwit’s JET Alum Movers & Shakers is produced by Ryan Hata (Tottori-ken, 2014-2017), Margie Banin (Kochi-ken, 2005-2007), and Jim Walsh (Fukushima-ken, 2018-2020). Want to be featured next? Submit your information here.

Brian Watson, Saitama-ken, 1988 to 1991 (and 1991 to 1994 at CLAIR)

Brian has spent the last 20 years pursuing a passion, originally nursed during his years in Japan, for photography. Specifically for macro floral photography. When you stop to look at flowers you see whole universes of beauty and complexity. As one of the photographers celebrating the wonders of public and private gardens in the Puget Sound area (at, his work is also available at his own website now,

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Brian is also forever indebted to his years in Japan because while there, he met the amazing man who became his husband. They will celebrate 27 years since their first date in Asakusa this November.

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Sep 13

Posted by Tom Baker

Warren Decker and Michael Frazier are two JET poets living in Japan who will each be hosting a workshop at the Oct. 10-11 Japan Writers Conference. This year’s conference is being held online, so you don’t need to be in Japan to attend. For details, see Official descriptions of the workshops appear below.

Warren Decker

Pterodactylic Pentagrameter: Working with Rhyme and Meter

Craft Workshop


In this workshop we will focus on poetry that incorporates rhyme and meter. As a participant, please bring 2-10 lines of rhymed and metered poetry for us to discuss. Please also be ready to share your unique techniques for finding the right meter and rhymes for your poetic lines.

Paradoxically, the confines of rhyme and meter can often serve to open unexpected creative doors. One who sets out to write about “fractals” may find “pterodactyls” swooping into their poem. Maintaining a regular pattern of stressed and unstressed beats might lead a poet—after many hours at the keyboard—feeling as though a supernatural rhythmic force is guiding them to choose the perfect words and in the perfect order. 

In this workshop, while looking at specific examples of rhyme and meter as exhibited in the participants’ samples, we will collectively attempt to recall the wonderful technical terminology describing syllabic meter (for example: “iambic pentameter,” and “dactylic tetrameter”), but also consider looser and more intuitive accentual poetic rhythms. 

Furthermore, we will discuss the incredible variation contained within the seemingly simple concept of “rhyme,” focusing on concrete examples to understand how and why certain rhymes work.

Warren Decker has published poetry, fiction and non-fiction in The Best American Poetry 2018, NOON, The Font, Frogpond, Modern Haiku, Acorn, The New Ohio Review, THINK, Sou’wester, Fifth Wednesday, and several other online and print journals. He also performs his poetry online and in front of live audiences in Osaka.

Michael Frazier
I AM MY FAMILY (a persona workshop)
Craft Workshop

This is a poetry workshop (open to writers of all genres) who are interested in writing about and through their family. We will use the persona form—writing in the voice of family members—to interrogate ourselves. Some poets we’ll look at include Natalie Diaz, Paul Tran, and Julian Randall.

No one can move forward without looking back at where they’ve come from. This is the principle that guides this workshop. Persona poetry is poetry in the voice of someone, or thing, other than ourselves: shiba inu, wild iris, Sailor Moon, Kanye West, or even your bed. We will use the persona to focus on and interrogate our own families and make meaning out of the relationships that have formed us. In order to embody the voices of our family (biological or chosen) we must practice radical empathy. While a persona is in the voice of someone else, my hope is that in the poems we will write, we will turn inwards and learn something new about ourselves. We will look at writers who wield the persona and voices of their family with urgency like Paul Tran, Yalie Kamara, Hiwot Adilow, K-Ming Chang, Natalie Diaz, and Eduardo C. Corral.

Michael Frazier is a poet in Kanazawa. He graduated from NYU, where he was the 2017 poet commencement speaker & co-champion of CUPSI. He’s performed at venues including Nuyorican Poets Café & Lincoln Center. On staff at The Adroit Journal, his poems appear in COUNTERCLOCK, Construction, Visible Poetry Project, among others.

Sep 9

By Jack McDonough, 2021 prospective JET

My family: John, Laurie, Gennie, myself, and Grace.

I remember sitting in the living room with my older sister, Gennie, excitedly waiting for our father to come home. He had mentioned that he would be stopping by blockbuster to get us a Disney movie: stories like Toy Story, Mulan, and The Lion King were among our favorites and we hoped he would bring us something similar. When he arrived, he presented a VHS tape of Kiki’s Delivery Service from Studio Ghibli. I recall being annoyed and questioned why he hadn’t brought us something Mickey Mouse. The cover of the VHS box depicted the titular Kiki on a broom and her feline companion, Jiji, by her side. “Just a girl and a cat?” I thought to myself. Even as I protested, my father assured me that I would like it and he played the tape. As my sister and I watched, my earlier frustration melted to elation as the story of Kiki becoming a witch and moving out on her own was filled with intensity and comedy. Our favorite was the snarky Jiji; we loved him so much that we even adopted a black cat and named it after the character. After finishing the film, I ran to my parents who were preparing dinner in the other room, and demanded that they rewind the tape and play it again. On our second viewing, my parents joined us and realized that Kiki’s story transcended age; they were surprised at the quality of the story and the emotion that they felt for its characters. We began to watch every Studio Ghibli movie we could get our hands on: Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky, and our favorite My Neighbor Totoro stick out in my mind as the most impactful.  As much as I loved Studio Ghibli, age slowly eroded my interest in the studio and I spent more time playing video games and eventually working when reaching high school.

When I was nearing graduation, my younger sister Grace, seven years my junior, expressed her passion for a show titled Attack on Titan. She explained how it was one of the best bits of media ever created and that it was what sparked her love for anime. She often emulated Gennie and I and watched the Studio Ghibli movies herself, albeit years after we had lostinterest. I remember brushing her off; “I don’t like anime. That stuff is weird. Only the weird kids at school like anime.” My past love for Studio Ghibli was buried too deep under my teenage angst to convince me that I should give anime a chance. I snubbed her and later left for university.

Three years into undergrad, I found an internship in D.C. and lived with three other college kids who found similar opportunities. After about a week in, everyone was getting comfortable and Ty, one of my roommates, turned to me and said, “have you ever seen the show Attack on Titan?”I was perplexed: a seemingly “normal guy” was asking me about anime. I responded saying that I’ve heard of it but I haven’t seen it. Ty insisted that we watch it and we finished all three seasons in a matter of days. I called Grace and told her how wrong I was about the show and anime; I felt foolish for writing off an entire genre, one that I had previous affection for, and being an all-around jerk. Watching Japanese animation has become a pastime in our household, and while anime is certainly cool, its real value is that it allows me a chance to become closer to my sisters and my parents. Grace is an artist and she regularly draws the characters we watch every week in her sketchpad; she just recently opened an Etsy shop to share her renditions of anime characters with other fans in the community. Gennie and I recently exposed our dad to Attack on Titan and even our animation-averse mother who teared-up watching Your Name. None of that would have happened without watching a movie about a young witch in a purple dress who moves to the big city with her snippety cat.

A drawing of Kiki and Jiji by my sister, Grace

Sep 8

JETwit’s JET Alum Movers & Shakers: Joe Palermo, Gunma-ken, 1982-1983 (2 years)

JETwit’s JET Alum Movers & Shakers is produced by Ryan Hata (Tottori-ken, 2014-2017), Margie Banin (Kochi-ken, 2005-2007), and Jim Walsh (Fukushima-ken, 2018-2020). Want to be featured next? Submit your information here.

Joe Palermo, Gunma-ken, 1982-1983 (2 years)

Joe Palermo has published a book called “No Pianos, Pets or Foreigners! My Life in Japan in the 80s”. He originally went to Japan as a Mombusho English Fellow (Pre-JET) and lived in Numata City, Gunma for two years, followed by three years in Sakado, Saitama and three years in Narimasu, Tokyo. This book spans across his eight year stay and contains stories which are often humorous, though more serious topics are also featured.

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After his two year role as an MEF, Joe joined a Japanese company in their export department for three years. Following this, he joined the Nielsen company as a local hire, which turned into a career of 25 years where he worked in several senior global roles (VP, Marketing, VP, Sales, etc.). He capped his career with a seven year stint at Information Resources, Inc. (IRI) in Chicago, where he established several global services. He is now semi-retired and living in the Chicagoland area.

Public Contact Information:

Sep 6

Japan Writers Conference: Todd Jay Leonard discusses the EFL textbook market

Posted by Tom Baker

Textbook author Todd Jay is one of the JET alumni writers who will be giving presentations at the 2020 Japan Writers Conference. Due to the coronavirus, this year’s event is being held online, so you can Zoom in from wherever you are. For details, see Here’s the official description of his presentation:

Todd Jay Leonard
Publishing in the EFL Market in Japan: Four Perspectives on How to Make your Proposal Count
Short lecture with Q & A

This presentation will outline the current publishing market in Japan for EFL/ESL textbooks by reviewing the various points of views of the publishing industry. The presenter has published extensively within the ESL/EFL market in Japan and will offer helpful advice to budding authors who wish to pursue projects geared to Japan’s domestic market.

Most likely, every language teacher in Japan has (at some point during his/her tenure) contemplated writing a textbook to fill a void in the market…in that constant search for the perfect, all encompassing textbook.

In today’s competitive publishing world, getting the proverbial “foot in the door” can seem daunting and nearly impossible. What are publishers looking for in the current market? What appeals to editors who ultimately decide which titles go to production and which ones do not? What are the salespeople on the front lines hearing from their market base? What must an author do in order to get his/her book published?

This presentation focuses on these very questions, offering inside insights from all the various points of view that must be considered when writing a proposal to publish a textbook–the publisher, the editor, the salesperson, and the author. Professor Leonard explains the realities within the publishing industry and addresses some common myths associated with EFL publishing.

Todd Jay Leonard has been actively involved in book publishing for thirty years. He is the author of 22 books. He has published books with a number of different Japanese publishing companies. He lives, writes, and teaches on the southern island of Kyushu, where he is a university professor at University of Teacher Education Fukuoka. He has also published extensively in academic journals, magazines, and newspapers on cross-cultural, historical, and Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) themes.

Sep 6

Japan Writers Conference: Suzanne Kamata speaks on writing about characters with disabilities

Posted by Tom Baker

Prolific author Suzanne Kamata is one of several JET alumni writers who will be giving presentations at the 2020 Japan Writers Conference. Due to the coronavirus, this year’s event is being held online, so you can Zoom in from wherever you are. For details, see Here’s the official description of Suzanne’s presentation:

Suzanne Kamata
Wheelchair User or Wheelchair-bound?: Writing About Disability
Short Lecture with Q&A
Fiction, Nonfiction

In this session, I will discuss positive and problematic representations of persons with disabilities in literature, including my own work, with a view to developing better awareness.

With the approach of the 2021 Tokyo Paralympics (hopefully), people with disabilities in Japan have been given more attention than perhaps ever before. English textbooks for Japanese children now frequently include stories about or representations of people with disabilities. Worldwide, initiatives such as #weneeddiversebooks and the call for #ownvoices have led to an increase of  books featuring characters with disabilities. That said, some of these representations, and the way that they are discussed remain problematic. When do stories about disability become “inspiration porn”? What kind of language should we use when discussing disability? Who has the right to tell these stories? In this session, I will address these questions, using examples from recently published Japanese textbooks and literature featuring children in Japan and other countries, including my own work.

Suzanne Kamata is the award-winning author or editor of twelve published books including Love You to Pieces: Creative Writers on Raising a Child with Special Needs (Beacon Press, 2008), Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible (GemmaMedia, 2013), A Girls’ Guide to the Islands (Gemma Open Door, 2017), Squeaky Wheels: Travels with My Daughter by Train, Plane, Metro, Tuk-tuk and Wheelchair (Wyatt-Mackenzie Publishing, 2019), and Indigo Girl (GemmaMedia, 2019). She is an Associate Professor at Naruto University of Education.

Sep 1

JETwit’s JET Alum Movers & Shakers is produced by Ryan Hata (Tottori-ken, 2014-2017), Margie Banin (Kochi-ken, 2005-2007), and Jim Walsh (Fukushima-ken, 2018-2020). Want to be featured next? Submit your information here.

Jessica Brown, Oita-ken, 2000-2003

After returning to the UK from Japan in 2005 Jess made a promise to herself to maintain, if not improve, her intermediate Japanese language ability. Once settled in Scotland, she attended multiple Japanese courses and one-off lessons in search of what she had experienced when living in Japan. She craved immersion. Unable to find what she was looking for, Jess set up the Japanese language environment that she missed, an immersive Japanese conversation community. Nihongo Connection, started in 2014, now boasts 6 online conversation clubs per week with Japanese speakers based around the world. Jess also runs regular online courses to take Japanese language beginners from listening to chatting with other Japanese speakers in weeks.

More Information:
Just because you can’t find what you are looking for doesn’t mean it will never exist! If you want something badly enough you can create it yourself! What have you always wanted to do but you have been putting off? What has been stopping you? What can you do today to make a start to make it happen for you?

Public Contact Information:
Nihongo Connection on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter

Aug 28

Professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03) presents WIT Life, a periodic series about aspects of Japanese culture such as film, food and language. Stacy starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she offers some interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

In recent days the Japanese news has been buzzing with news of PM Abe’s frequent hospital visits, and he officially resigned his post during today’s press conference. In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, Abe determined that stepping down due to a flareup of ulcerative collitis was the prudent choice. Intense speculation is taking place as to who within the LDP will be named as his successor, to serve out the remainder of his term through next September. Abe holds the record as Japan’s longest serving PM.

If this news brings you to tears consider crying therapy (涙活 or ruikatsu), which I’ve previously introduced in this column. There are a slew of Japanese words that have been coined with the kanji for “activity” as a suffix (活 or katsu). Some examples are trying to get pregnant (妊活 or ninkatsu), job searching (就活 or shuukatsu), and planning for one’s death (終活 or shuukatsu. Incidentally, this has the same pronunciation as the previous one so be careful!). Ruikatsu is the subject of the NYT featured op-doc Tears Teacher. Clocking in at less than 11 minutes, this short film is definitely worth a watch. Enjoy and stay safe out there!

Aug 24

JETwit’s JET Alum Movers & Shakers: Gregory Beck, Hiroshima-ken, 2006-2011

JETwit’s JET Alum Movers & Shakers is produced by Ryan Hata (Tottori-ken, 2014-2017), Margie Banin (Kochi-ken, 2005-2007), and Jim Walsh (Fukushima-ken, 2018-2020). Want to be featured next? Submit your information here.

Gregory Beck, Hiroshima-ken, 2006-2011

New saké education and consulting website and business.

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While on JET, most of us gained some secondary expertise on Japanese alcohol, but few would argue they were as diligent in this area as Greg. After drinking hundreds of saké at Hiroshima’s annual Saké Matsuri and eventually returning to the restaurant industry, Greg became a saké and shochu specialist at Mutual Trading Company, a certified Saké Sommelier, and Saké Program manager and consultant at various Izakaya around Los Angeles County. Greg has recently settled in Long Beach and founded, an online resource, blog, and consultation business, with a focus on food pairings, using Saké to elevate any culinary experience, and hopes to have a brick-and-mortar retail location by as early as next year.

Public Contact Information:

Aug 17

JETwit’s JET Alum Movers & Shakers: James McKnight, Gunma-ken, 2001-2004

JETwit’s JET Alum Movers & Shakers is produced by Ryan Hata (Tottori-ken, 2014-2017), Margie Banin (Kochi-ken, 2005-2007), and Jim Walsh (Fukushima-ken, 2018-2020). Want to be featured next? Submit your information here.

James McKnight, Gunma-ken, 2001-2004

James McKnight wrote Yellow & Black Fever: Life, Love and Baseball in the Land of the Rising Sun, a memoir of the first three years (2001-2004) out of twelve total that he lived in Japan. Mainly about life as an ALT in a small town, James writes about struggling to fit in, traveling around Japan-Asia, and about a group of Japanese pro baseball fans that took him under their wing and accepted him not as a gaijin, but as an equal. Current and former JETs might enjoy reading James’ memoir as he is certain many of the struggles and successes he experienced are similar to the ones they experienced. This memoir may well bring back good memories for former JETs, and for current JETs it might shed light on what life was like as a JET nearly 20 years ago. As James’ baseball friends lived in Osaka, he had a 500 km journey in order to see them and watch Hanshin Tigers games together. However, he says it well worth it as inside a baseball stadium he could escape the troubles of his everyday life. James’ book is available on and also on Amazon in other countries, including the UK, Canada, Australia, France, and Japan.

More Info:
James is currently working as an Adult Education – Workforce Instructor on a Native American Reservation in Tucson, Arizona, USA, and has found that working on the reservation is almost like being a foreigner in Japan again. He began teaching in 2001 as a JET, worked two years as Gunma Prefectural ALT Advisor in the Board of Education Office (2004-06), then became licensed as a Foreign Instructor in order to teach full-time at Chuo Secondary School, an English Immersion School in Takasaki, Gunma (2006-2013). James taught there for 6 1/2 years and learned exactly how hard it is to be a full-time middle school/high school teacher in Japan. He found it very challenging, but adapted to the long work hours and enjoyed teaching the students and learning from his co-workers.

James returned to the U.S. in 2013, and is certified to teach high school social studies, adult education, and career – technical education. He would be glad to help anyone interested in learning about full-time teaching in Japan or teaching in Arizona as well. Prior to becoming a teacher, James worked as a sports journalist and public relations professional for 11 years. A graduate of the University of Arizona – Class of 1990 with a B.A. in Journalism, James has also earned a Masters in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix and a Post-Baccalaureate Degree in Secondary Education from Pima College.

Public Contact Information:
James can be reached at He can also be found on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Aug 11

JETwit’s JET Alum Movers & Shakers: JETwit’s JET Alum Movers & Shakers: Valerie Hwang, Hyogo-ken, 2009-2012

JETwit’s JET Alum Movers & Shakers is produced by Ryan Hata (Tottori-ken, 2014-2017), Margie Banin (Kochi-ken, 2005-2007), and Jim Walsh (Fukushima-ken, 2018-2020). Want to be featured next? Submit your information here.

Valerie Hwang, Hyogo-ken, 2009-2012

Founded Intrepid Ayurveda – Ayurvedic Health Counseling business and website.

After years of post-JET soul-searching, adventuring, and creative endeavors, Valerie has launched her career in Ayurvedic medicine as a Health Counselor Intern at the California College of Ayurveda. Her mission is to provide guidance through the ancient wisdom of Ayurveda so that her clients have the path and tools to live their lives to the very fullest.

Public Contact Information:
Website —
Email —

Aug 8

USJETAA Webinars

The School of International Training (SIT) Graduate Institute Scholarship Information Session

Session 1 (Aug 11, 2020 at 5:30 PM Pacific Time / 8:30 PM Eastern Time):
Session 2 (Aug 13, 2020 at 6:00 AM Pacific Time / 9:00 AM Eastern Time):

Are you interested in attending graduate school? The School of International Training (SIT) Graduate Institute has partnered with the USJETAA to offer a scholarship to JET alumni interested in pursuing a master’s degree program at SIT. SIT will commit to providing 30% tuition scholarships for eligible JET alumni. Please join us to learn more about the mater’s programs and scholarship available to JET alumni. JET alumni who have completed their MA at SIT have been invited to join us for this presentation.

SIT offers master’s degree programs in part-time, low-residency and full-time, face-to-face, global formats in the following subjects:

Master of Arts in Climate Change and Global Sustainability
Master of Arts in Development Practice
Master of Arts in Diplomacy & International Relations
Master of Arts in Global Health Policy, Administration & Management
Master of Arts in Humanitarian Assistance and Crisis Management
Master of Arts in Intercultural Service, Leadership & Management (Online with brief residencies in Vermont)
Master of Arts in International Education (Global, Online with brief residencies in Vermont)
Master of Arts in Peace and Justice Leadership (Online with brief residencies in Vermont and abroad)
Master of Arts in Sustainable Development (Online with brief residencies in Vermont and abroad)
Master of Arts in TESOL (Online with brief residencies in Vermont)

Japanese Jobs for JETs

Aug 20, 2020 08:00 PM EDT:

The JET experience is a life-changing one, and when you return home, you may feel confused and/or stressed about the job search, specifically for jobs that allow you to use your Japanese. Join this seminar if you’re still on or already done with the JET Program, and learn some key tips about job searching.

Anne Hooghart (Shiga, 1990-1991) is an instructor, consultant, and parent of bilingual kids. Anne maintains a personal and professional focus on fostering interest in the Japanese language and culture.

Kasia Lynch is the Founder of Ikigai Connections. Kasia aims to be a kakehashi (bridge) between job seekers who want to utilize their Japanese language and/or cultural skills, and the global companies that need them.

Faye Valtadoros (Kagawa, 1998-2000) is a 6-12 grade Japanese teacher. Faye strives to open her students’ eyes to all the amazing things about the Japanese language and culture while talking about her JET days and what she learned while living in Japan.

Aug 6

Obon Classics: Special Lecture & Performance Event

The Japan Foundation will present a special lecture with Isaku Kageyama, Sumie Kaneko, and David Wells on some of the traditional Japanese musical instruments used for the Bon Odori, a summertime folk dance festival which is the highlight of a centuries-old Buddhist custom called Obon. This lecture will be focusing on the history of Japanese music, and will also cover the histories of taikoshamisen, koto, and fue.   

There will be demonstrations of traditional performances by the guest artists, and the various instruments will be played together at the end to showcase how they sound together to create Obon festival music.  

Live chat will be enabled on the YouTube stream, so guests can ask questions, and participate in the Q&A session during the stream.  

I would appreciate it if you could share this free event with your friends in the taiko community.   

Date and time: Saturday, August 15, 5pm EDT  

Facebook event page:

YouTube link:  


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