October 2008: JET Effect Spotlight

With one of the highest concentrations of JET (Japanese Exchange and Teaching) participants in Hokkaido, the Iwamizawa JETs, along with their families and friends, organised the Iwamizawa International Mini-Festival. This event, in its 2nd year, fosters awareness of Iwamizawa’s cultural diversity and is a logical extension of the JET program’s aim for local internationalisation. Last year, in 2007, our first ever Iwamizawa International Mini-Festival was organized by local JETs. Last year’s event drew a crowd of over 200 people. Far out-numbering the expected 100 we had catered for.

This year’s event had grown even bigger. We had ten regional displays representing countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Korea, Lebanon, Romania, Russia, Canada, America, and of course Japan. Each display included an activity or game unique to that region`s culture. After trying all the activities, participants got their passports stamped and received a small reward prize. Overall more than 15 JETs, their families and friends assisted in staging the event.

Alongside the regional booths we offered foods and beverages from foreign countries. The foods included tacos, apple pies, sausage sizzles, and muffins, to mention just a few, all washed down with flavoured soft drinks and juices, or for the ‘bigger kids’ exotic beers.

This year`s turnout was even more overwhelming with more than 300 people in attendance.

Last year we received funding from our local Hokkaido AJET (HAJET) chapter, though we actually returned that with an interest of 5000yen. This year saw sponsorship again from HAJET, which we once again returned with an amazing surplus of 22 000 yen contributing towards HAJET’s English Exchange Homestay programme.

This International Mini Festival was such a great event to organize – the JET volunteers attended fortnightly meetings starting 3 months prior to the event. Roles and job descriptions were outlined, along with tasks delegated. Its success lies with the willingness of all the volunteers who wanted to give something back to their local community. We learnt a lot from the inaugural festival in 2007, and even more from June 2008`s festival. We`re hoping this festival will be hosted by JETs every year and as such have set up a data base of information collected over the 2 years of operation for others who wish to host a similar event.