Aug 4

The latest video project by current JET Eliot Honda (Ehime-ken, Uwajima-shi), who previously created four videos about his JET town of Uwajima-shi:

“So here’s a preview show of a YouTube series I’ve been working on called Sister City Ties. It will show the sister city relationship between Honolulu and Uwajima.”

Jul 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the full article:

The curious case of the eroding eikaiwa salary

By PATRICK BUDMAR  Japan Times – July 3, 2012

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

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

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

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

Jun 26

Here’s a link to the latest issue of CLAIR Forum (Vol. 273), featuring an article on the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Other notable articles include:

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.

Jun 23

Via JETAA Hawaii.  Go to their site for photos and video:

“This past weekend (June 8-10), the Pan-Pacific Festival took place in Hawaii, which involved a range of events, even including a parade through Kalakaua Avenue with groups from all over the Pacific Rim.

Joining the festivities was Mayor Matsui and some of his delegates all the way from Hiroshima.  Through the Japan Local Government Center (JLGC – CLAIR) in New York, JETAA Hawaii had the opportunity to assist the Mayor in some of his tourism promotion activities.

At the first event (June 9, Saturday), JET alumni Keith Sakuda, Kristine Wada, and Darryl Toma joined Mayor Matsui at Ala Moana Center Stage to give a presentation on Hiroshima and promote some of its famous and not-so-famous attractions that include the Peace Park Memorial and Museum, Atomic Bomb Dome, Miyajima, Okonomiyaki, Momiji Manju, Mazda Stadium (baseball), as well as some of the upcoming events such as the 2013 Hiroshima Confectionary Expo (April 9 – May 12, 2013) and Hiroshima Flower Expo.  Following their presentation, a Kagura dance group performed on stage.

At the second event following the presentation at Ala Moana Center Stage, Keith, Kristine, and Darryl joined up with fellow JET alumni David Tokuda, Christine Toyama, and Reid Yamada to have lunch with Mayor Matsui and some of his tourism promotion delegates.  Discussion topics varied, including JET alumni experiences, teaching methods, impressions of Hiroshima, and suggestions for improving tourism promotion for Hiroshima.

The next day (June 10, Sunday), JET alumni David Tokuda and Darryl Toma joined the Mayor and his delegation, along with a representative from the JLGC, to promote tourism to Hiroshima in Waikiki.  Passerbyers filled out questionnaires about Hiroshima, received free information packets that included origami, and had chances to win a variety of prizes from Hiroshima that included brushes, beads, and various pottery.

Overall, the JET alumni that participated had a great time assisting Mayor Matsui and his delegation with their activities and look forward to future opportunities to assist them, as well as the JLGC.

A big thanks goes out to Mayor Matsui from Hiroshima City for giving JETAA Hawaii this opportunity.  We would also like to thank Mayor Matsui’s delegation for their great support throughout each event.  In addition, we would like to thank Naomi-san and everyone from JLGC in New York for her great support in coordinating everything.  Last but not least, thank you very much to Lisa from the Honolulu Japan Consulate for assisting in coordination and of course, all of the JET alumni who participated in these events.

We will look forward to the next time we can meet!”

Jun 17

Darryl Wharton-Rigby (Fukushima-ken, Kawamata-cho, 2005-07) has set up a Kickstarter fund to support his documentary project about Fukushima, “Don Doko Don: The Yamakiya Taiko Drum Club Project.”  Darryl was also organized a project earlier this year, together with former JETAA DC President Michelle Spezzacatena (Fukushima-ken, Kawamata-cho, 2002-05) that brought the Kawamata taiko group to D.C. for the Cherry Blossom Festival.

Here’s a little info about the project from the Kickstarter page:

Don Doko Don: The Yamakiya Taiko Club Story follows an award winning Japanese Taiko Drum Troop – comprised entirely of kids, teens and 20-year-olds – living in Yamakiya, a small town near the failed Fukushima nuclear power plant.  The group is forced to flee their homes and beloved mountain community after the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster wreaked devastation on them.


Living as refugees and scattered around the countryside outside and within the radiation zone, the brave Taiko troop struggles to stay together and practice; trying to keep alive the spirit of their community – and the hope of returning home one day. And then, after facing daily adversity and at their lowest point, they get invited to Washington D.C. to be the honored performer in D.C.’s 100th Cherry Blossom Festival; headlining a climatic performance at the Kennedy Center!



Jun 15

“The Inaka” project: A place for JETs to share their Inaka gems with the rest of the world


JETwit would like to strongly encourage JETs and JET alumni to post pictures and other information to the website The Inaka (  The project is a very cool concept in and of itself.  However, it is also potentially a great example of the kind of local Return On JET-vestment that demonstrates the long-term value of the JET Programme to prefectures and towns that hire JETs.  Read the invitation and explanation below by The Inaka creator Chris Allison (Oita-ken).  

Hi my name is Chris Allison, and I have been living in Oita Prefecture for the past three years as an ALT.  Over the past few years I`ve noticed several problems with Japanese travel sights.

  1. They focus on the prefecture`s best rather than showing sights specific to individual towns and cities.
  2. They have a focus on text and description rather than pictures.
  3. Difficult to find and then navigate through.
  4. Lack of English.

This made it very difficult for me as a first year with no Japanese to find and travel to local sights.

I was constantly wishing that there would be some kind of picture oriented guide to show what was special about each town.  Whether it is a tourist sight, a restaurant, an onsen, or a festival, each and every town has something that makes it worth going and seeing.  Unfortunately, only the JETs in that town know what that town has to offer.  Up until now, that information was essentially disappeared once the ALT returned home.

That`s why I made The Inaka, so that foreigners living in Japan had a place to share their Inaka gems with the rest of the world, in an easy to navigate, picture oriented, English written Inaka travel site.

With The Inaka, we can store our pictures and information about our towns for future generations of ALTs to come.  The benefit does not end there though.  We will hopefully be bringing tourism to Japan`s less traveled to areas by bringing awareness to the beauty that can be found in The Inaka.  We have the power to connect people, whether travelers from outside the country or in, with the beauty that can only be found in Japan`s countryside.  In doing this we can connect these people with restaurants and onsen that we recommend, and help build up local businesses.  We have an excellent opportunity to give back to a country that has given us so much.

However, the site will not be very useful unless it is filled with information and pictures about everyone`s towns.  The Inaka needs your help.  The upload process takes less than 5 minutes and could not be easier.  Currently, Oita prefecture has the most filled in, so take a look to see what your prefecture could look like once it has more uploaded to it.

Thank you, I cannot wait to see what you have in your side of The Inaka.

Chris Allison

Jun 13

Tottori JET Anthony Lieven has been creating new videos each month as part of a project that introduces his JET town of Misasa to the world.  With Anthony’s permission, here is his latest video:

“Hello everyone ! Here is my new video ! For this third monthly video (June) I filmed friends while they where enjoying Misasa ! We had a lot of fun !”

Jun 10

Below is a promotional video for the book For Fukui’s Sake:  Two Year’s In Rural Japan by JET alum Sam Baldwin (Fukui-ken, 2004-06) (who also created the video).  The video does a great job of capturing the images and essence Fukui through Sam’s eyes.  Read more about Sam in the book review Tim Martin (Fukui-ken, 2006-08) did for JQ magazine

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