Many people reading this may already know you because of your work as the AJET Chairman, but you’ve also done quite a bit where you placed as a JET in Osaka prefecture. What got you started getting involved with helping other JETs and getting involved in Osaka?
My first two years working in Japan were, for the most part, a nightmare. I had what they call a “worst-case scenario” for living and working as a JET in Japan. Osaka public school students routinely score low out of all the prefectures on nation wide tests, and our city/municipality scored lowest in Osaka prefecture last year. Even though that’s the case, about 95% of the kids are still great kids, but 5% of the students is all it takes here to have a total breakdown of the system. Read More
Hello, my name is Benjamin Martin and I am a fourth year ALT in Kumejima-cho, Okinawa. Before transferring to Kumejima, I spent three years on Kitadaito, a small island 320km east of Okinawa with a population of 550 people. Living on Kitadaito was a unique experience, with a combination of mainland Japanese and Okinawan culture. While I was there, I learned about Okinawan and Japanese Sumo, photography, Japanese, and participated in many cultural and social events. Now, on the other side of Okinawa Prefecture, I have been exploring new activities, and new ways to interact with my students.
While I was on Kitadaito, most of my evenings were taken up with various local activities, but I still had a lot of free time. One winter break I sprained my ankle playing badminton and had to stop all the sports I had been doing, which was the major form of entertainment out there. I had recently finished two short plays for my students to perform during the Cultural Festival, but had never attempted anything more. Still, the lack of activity sparked old ideas.
Paul Yoo is a third year JET living in Yurihonjo, Akita. He laughingly calls himself ‘the 田舎 BABY’. He is the co-founder and director of volunteerAKITA, a grassroots charity organization that Akita JETs started up in response to the March 11th disaster in Tohoku.
“volunteerAKITA is a great mix of community members and ALTs in Akita prefecture. We are so fortunate to have such a great community up here in Akita! It’s AWESOME!”
“We in Akita were so fortunate compared to other areas in Tohoku, so it only made sense to use our time and resources to offer and bring aid to the folks out east, which is just a quick day trip away.”
The first big initiative launched by volunteerAKITA was The Fruit Tree Project. After their first trip to Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, in early April of 2011 they discovered that there was an urgent need for fresh fruit in the emergency shelters. The people living in the shelters usually just received rice and miso soup for every meal.
Ishikawa family home stay.
Tell us about yourself.
My name is Estelle Hebert and I’m a second year JET in Hiroshima City. Honestly speaking, before coming to Japan, my knowledge of Japanese culture and language was pretty much zero… I came here for new inspiration to make a documentary project after completing my Masters degree in Toronto, Canada. I had just wrapped up a 2-year documentary project, and I felt it was time for me to move on to a new place, a new environment, and new experiences. An ex-JET spoke to me about her experience in Japan, and soon after, I was on a jet plane heading to what I now consider one of the most extraordinary countries I’ve ever visited.
What project are you involved in? How did you get involved ?
Last July, I traveled to Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture simply to volunteer and provide post-tsunami relief efforts. Through couchsurfing.com, I met a fantastic girl named Chizu, who hosted me for my entire trip there. She had survived the tsunami, along with her family, and my home stay ended up being the best highlight of my entire year spent thus far in Japan.
Her legal name is Carol Ann Rhoads. However, now she introduces herself as Haruko Rhoads. She lives in Tondabayashi, Osaka, which she proudly describes as “home of the Perfect Liberty Fireworks Display, the biggest of Japan’s displays boasting 120,000 rockets fired, and Jinaimachi, which is a preserved Edo-style neighborhood known for being a religious sanctuary as well as home to a few successful sake breweries.” She is in her fifth and last year on JET.
Haruko loves the history of Japan, and the fact that you can experience it no more than a train or bus ride away. She has been to 22 of 47 prefectures, extending her feet as far northeast as Niigata and as far west as Nagasaki. Haruko’s current focus is the Edo Period (1603-1868) and the Bakumatsu Period, which ended the Edo Period and continued into the Meiji Restoration. She focuses mostly on revolutionary samurai such as Ryoma Sakamoto, and key characters from the domains of Tosa (Kochi), Choshu (Yamaguchi), and Satsuma (Nagasaki). “I share my enthusiasm by going to these places, learning the history, and then finally reporting on what I learned. I did have to strengthen my Japanese proficiency in order to get the information I needed from Japanese descriptions at museums.”
Jonathan Fish Fisher
Jonathan Fisher states clearly, right off the bat, that everyone calls him Fish. Until recently, he was the ALT Prefectural Advisor for Hiroshima Prefecture, working as an ALT at Kure Miyahara High School in Kure City and putting in a day and a half every week at the Hiroshima Prefectural Board of Education in Hiroshima City. Now, however, after three years in the JET Programme, he has returned to North America to pursue a graduate degree in Education Studies at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
Ava Rudachyk is a second-year ALT living on Iki Island in Nagasaki Prefecture. Originally hailing from Canada, she organized a home-stay between Canadian high school students from Kitsilano High School in British Columbia and Japanese families on Iki island. It was not the first time for such a project. In 2009, Rainer Mehl, a former JET participant and current high school teacher from Vancouver, Canada, sent a bulletin asking if any Nagasaki JETs would be willing to help host some Canadian students for four days that March. Ava’s predecessor, Yuka Otaka, jumped at the opportunity to host Rainer and his students. The students enjoyed themselves so much, Rainer decided to make the Iki home-stay an annual event.
In the spring of 2010, the lack of interested students from Canada prevented the event from taking off, but this spring twenty eager Canadian students were more than ready to experience Iki Island’s rural life in March. However, after the earthquake and tsunami swept across northern Japan on March 11, the school board at Kitsilano High School cancelled the trip. The Canadian students then raised over 100,000 yen to go towards earthquake relief. The community members here were deeply moved!
Building houses in India
This month’s JET Effect features Laura Popp, a second year ALT in Nabari, Mie Prefecture. Laura writes two monthly 600-word articles about Japan, one for her hometown newspaper, the Owasso Reporter, in Owasso, Oklahoma, and one for her church newsletter, The Spirit, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The combined readership of the two newspapers is about 4,000 people.
As Laura says, “I began writing these articles in July 2009, just before I came on JET. I independently approached the managing editors of the Owasso Reporter and The Spirit and asked if they would be interested in articles about Japan. They enthusiastically accepted and to date I have written fifty pro bono articles. They highlight my adventures in Japan, various tourist attractions, festivals, Japanese cooking, culture, history, society, education, business, family and daily life, traditional and popular arts/entertainment, and include words and terms in the Japanese language.”
This month, JET Effect is talking to Tiffany Liang, a 2nd year CIR in Nobeoka CIty, Miyazaki prefecture. Tiffany is a JET with a wide variety of interests. ‘I guess through having lots of different hobbies, I have been able to make contact with a lot of different members of the local community and this has had a huge impact on the way I do my job as CIR.’
When Tiffany came to Japan, she decided to combine her passions with her community involvement. ‘I knew nobody, but I had several hobbies that I wanted to continue’ Tiffany explains, ‘since I had played badminton competitively back home in the UK, I joined several badminton clubs as soon as I arrived. Many of the friends that I made (through badminton) started attending my cooking classes and international exchange events’. By making the first step out into her community, Tiffany was able to inspire confidence in the people around her, encouraging them to join in her organised events.
Badminton wasn’t the only activity that Tiffany was involved in. She tells us ‘I also joined a weekly Gospel singing group, and we sing at events all around the prefecture…This has been a wonderful way to give back to the prefecture and the group also sang at my Christmas events’. Through mutual commitment, Tiffany can guarantee support for her own events.
This month, JET Effect is talking to a very unique JET. Wan Ahmad Nazaruddin Bin Wan Azizan, currently living in Fukiage-cho in Kagoshima Prefecture, is the only Malaysian JET currently on the JET Programme. JET Effect believes that Wan’s experience on the JET Programme can offer JETs a very different perspective on the role of the programme as a whole. We have featured many JETs from some of the well represented countries such as America, the UK, Canada and Australia and the activities that they have shared have been reproduced across Japan. Although Wan is representing his country alone, he has been involved in many brilliant cultural exchange events.
Wan explains ‘[The} exchange between Fukiage-cho and Malaysia started about 20 years ago. The first Malaysian CIR was employed in 2001. At that point, people in Fukiage-cho established the Fukiage-Malaysia Friendship Association. Seiko Shimozono is the president, and there are 40 members of the FMFA including me.’ The established group have organised many activities together to promote Malaysian culture. ‘FMFA is active in a Malaysian cooking class, the Malaysian Bizaar, and the Farewell Exchange Part for Malaysian students at the Kagoshima university.’ FMFA work together to support the Malaysian students not only through Elementary to Senior High School, but even after when they are at university level. It is often easy for JETs to focus particularly on their students whilst they are teaching them. It is great to be reminded by Wan and the FMFA that by creating a community for the students in Kagoshima, they are able to support them throughout the system, making great friends along the way!
This month is a special JET Effect. We will be focusing on some so far unsung heroes amongst the JET Community. In fact, AJET is remarkably proud of how the whole JET Community has come together and worked hard to raise money and donate, organise fundraising events and volunteer since the March 11th Earthquake and Tsunami. In the future, we hope to hear more stories from JETs who have got involved, there are too many of you to include in one article.
As this is a special JET Effect, AJET is not going to edit in any way, the original words of those JETs involved.
In January, JET Effect did something a little bit different by filling you in on Anthony’s karate experiences. We would like to continue this project by bringing you a new way to get involved with your local community, brought to you by Thom Gysler.
Thom is a 1st year ALT from Fukui prefecture and he had a particular adventure in mind when he came to Japan. ‘It was my dream to travel Japan by bicycle’ Thom informs us. ‘Taking trains or cars may be more convenient, but I feel you miss out on way too much.’
Thom is a member of the Balba Works cycling team and he trains and races in neighbouring town Tsuruga. ‘I started training with the Balba Works team about  months ago and I had my first race on November 14th’ Thom comments. ‘It was the fifth stage of the Tour Du Japon (actual spelling). My next race will be in Hiroshima during March’.
This month’s JET Effect is focused on an exciting Irish event – with some important information about embassy grants to consider.
Noirin de Barra comes from Tottori City in Tottori prefecture. She is a second year JET. When Noirin, 2nd year Tom McCormack (also from Tottori City) and 1st year Pamela Cherry (from Daiei) received an email from their embassy, they were very interested.