February 2010: JET Effect Spotlight

The Toyama International Charity Show

Rachel Chaffin, 5th year Toyama City, Toyama Prefecture ALT had always had an interest in singing and acting, as well as volunteer work. When she saw an announcement for a Charity Show in her first JET year, she thought it would be a perfect opportunity to get to know more people in her local international community whilst pursuing her interests.

Everyone was welcome to participate, and on average 30-40 people volunteered their talents both on stage and behind the scenes. ALTs, CIRs, local Japanese students and colleagues all worked together to make the productions a massive success.

Rachel was involved in the Toyama International Charity Show for 4 years, twice as an actress and then twice as writer/ director. The plays included Cinderella, Peter Pan, Snow White and Alice in Wonderland. The shows have raised money for charities on a local, national and international scale, from Second Harvest Japan to a school for the deaf. Just last year they raised 532,534 yen!! It has also brought members of the JET and international community together in a way that no other project has been able to. The cultural exchange goes far beyond a normal show, with non-native speakers using both Japanese and English. People from Toyama Prefecture have limited opportunities to experience native-spoken English, or non-native Japanese for that matter. In addition, many of the show’s themes and gags were based on foreign interpretations of aspects of Japan’s society and pop-culture, exposing the local Japanese community to the international community in a whole new way.

One member was quoted as saying: “being involved in last year’s Charity Show was a fun, rewarding experience. I felt like I was involved in something really wonderful, especially as we were raising money for good causes, and the people I got to know and work with became like a family to me. I loved it so much last year, that I am participating again this year!”

However, it was not always plain sailing. Rachel noted that the hardest part about the show was putting herself in a position of authority around her peers. She says: “gaining acceptance and trust whilst in that position is extremely difficult. It is necessary to be as accurate and clear in your directions/ instructions/ scheduling and planning as possible. People respond well to clearly laid-out plans/ directions. Vagueness in any shape or form will only undermine everything you’re trying to accomplish. Have concrete and clear goals and give clear directions with a solid goal in mind.”

“The Idol of Oz” will be performed in Toyama city on May 22, and two performances will take place on June 5 in Takaoka city, followed by an after party.  Admission is 1500 yen for adults, 500 yen for children and students.  For more information about venues and times, please check out www.toyamacharityshow.org.

To get in touch with Rachel or JET Effect for advice or more information, or to nominate a great project that deserves to be spotlighted in JET Effect, send an e-mail to and we will point you in the right direction.