Doin’ It Right
We all need a little inspiration from somewhere.
To say the least, I got a lot long before I applied for JET. I remember doing research on the program long before I was even eligible to apply, just to get even the simplest idea of what JET entailed. Even outside the ALT realm, I’ve accumulated a mass of blogs, websites, books, and articles that helped me carve my path for living and working in Japan. Having said that, for anyone wanting to come to here, for work or pleasure, there is no shortage of people talking about the country. Yes, I know the overwhelming irony of saying this as I too am throwing my hat into the Mt. Everest of a pile. However, there are plenty of people I believe have rightfully earned their credit, and whose videos and articles have been highly influential to me. This is in no particular order, but the following are some folks who have really helped to where I am now and what I hope to be.
1) My Argonauts I frequented Myargonauts’ youtube page back when I was an avid youtube watcher (remember subscribing to people? OH THE DAYS), so I haven’t watched much of his newer stuff in years. What I remember specifically is his great series of videos about applying to the JET, interview tips and what the job is actually like. I don’t believe he’s part of the program anymore, but if you’re willing to dig through years of video, I think he has some great advice about the program.
2) Gaijin Chronicles/Gaijin Smash Back when I was a early undergrad, Azrael’s blogs about his adventures on JET was one of the first inspirations for me to apply, but he also helped me form my ideas of this ideal blog. Azrael wrote for seven years, starting off with the program, and continued to post as he ventured outside of the English-teaching job sector, including talking about his marriage and the trials of having a child in Japan. Unfortunately the last update was from January 2012, so I don’t have high hopes for any upcoming articles. Much like Myargonaunts, there’s quite a bit of material to go through, but his humor and insight makes reading it all more than a pleasure.
3) This Japanese Life From another former JET who just recently got out of the gig, This Japanese Life is by far my favorite feature-article blog about Japan. Eryk Salvaggio writes about a particular Japanese theme each week (branching out to other countries sometimes, as well) using personal anecdotes, concrete research and reporting, ranging from topics of keeping friendships, smoking and the “apologizing” culture of Japan. He has one particular article about loneliness in Japan that has really stuck with me and, quite honestly, I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. Even though he’s not in Japan anymore, it appears that he’s still going to write about country, but relating it to being a continued ExPat in England. Salyaggio is one of the writers who I both love and hate: I fully appreciate the articles he writes, but the fact he was able to do so in such a concentrated and elegant way leads me to think I wouldn’t be able to write it any better. He’s also from the journalism realm, so big props to him. Which leads to my final mention.
4) Tokyo Vice When I was thinking about who to write about for this list, I actually had a hard time remembering how I came to know each of the personalities. Sure, I could say without a doubt who they are, but remembering the exact details is a blur. This isn’t the case with Tokyo Vice. I specifically recall, back when I was cultivating my plans and dreams of becoming an international reporter, seeing Jake Adelstein show up on The Daily Show, NPR, and various podcasts to talk about his biography. An American reporter, from Missouri no less, who moved to Japan and had a successful journalism career? He was essentially someone who had already done what I wanted to do, long before I had even heard about him. Tokyo Vice was honestly the first book I can say I tore apart. Adelstein’s experience is intriguing enough, but he has such an interesting and gripping writing style that I really haven’t been captured by a book like it before. The list of journalism rules he was told early in his career is also solid advice for anyone across the journalism spectrum (note about the link: while the post is a reinterpretation of the rules to a spiritual level, it was the only source I could find that actually had them). I have since gathered a list of other Japan-based journalists whom I admire, but Adelstein was the first, and Tokyo Vice has a special place in my heart. There is an interview where Adelstein says, “There’s a word in Japanese, hanmen kyoshi, which means, more or less, ‘the teacher who teaches by his bad example.’ At times, I’m an excellent hanmen kyoshi in the book,” and, at the end of it, mentions we shouldn’t view him as a hero. I should say that well, I don’t. But I still look up to him as inspiration for the absolute drive one needs for the journalism business, and as a reminder we all still have plenty of things to learn in this life about ourselves and others. I know, with the utmost certainty, that I still do.