近海る (Kin Kairu)

JET, Japan, Journalism and other J words

Archive for the category “JET Program”

The New J

National Press Building Entrance

National Press Building Entrance

As I arrive at the National Press Building, I meet my new boss in the lobby. Being so new to the city, he begins to teach me the ways of Washington DC addresses: Numbered streets go north/south, while lettered go east/west.

“There’s one catch though,” he added. “There is no J-street, which is a pretty well known joke within DC.”

I’ve made it my mission to find this narnia-esqe path.


You may have noticed that I haven’t posted in a while. Well, the skinny of it is this: I am back in America, and have a new job as an assistant producer for a major Japanese television network’s DC bureau. I still find it hard to believe that I have landed such a perfect split between what I went to school for, and my general interests.

Some of you may wonder why I didn’t write something about my departure from JET. While the easy excuse is that I simply had no time during the transition period, I also had a feeling that I didn’t have any parting words on the subject. My final speech post really encapsulated many of the things I learned over the years I was an ALT. Anything else I would have added would either be repeats or complaints, neither of them constructive.

At first I thought I would write about the influx of reverse-culture-shock I would succumb to once back in the states. But the reality is that, well, I haven’t come across anything so dramatic which would warrant such a post. Sure, there are definitely some things here and there (looking at you, sarcasm), but nothing to the point of writing a self-indulged think piece.

However, having a lack of writing topics at the moment does not mean this blog is in the grave. For one, I think there is still something to say along the lines of the general transition post-JET. Whether that be switching job cultures, working in such a culturally mixed office space, being involved with the alumni association, or training the newbies, I’m sure I will continue to write about JET related topics in the future. While I’m also figuring out how much I can disclose, I’m sure my adventures in DC politics under the umbrella of the Japanese press will bring out editorials as well.

My Junior Correspondents

My Junior Correspondents

I’ve already been quite busy, and heading into the political sphere during this election is nothing short of a “throwing-myself-in-the-fire-pit” like initiation. But I went through the same process at the Missouri School of Journalism, and I have confidence that I can handle the heat again. These fires are just much larger and stinkier.

So here’s to transitioning from one of my preferred J’s to the next. And once I find J-street I can add one more to the line up top.


My Farewell Speech / 私のお別れの挨拶

Author’s note: This was the speech I gave to both of my school’s on my last day at each one. This speech was given to both the students and staff.全部英日翻訳もあります。

“I’m going to tell you all a secret: When I came to Japan, my job was never to teach you English. That’s the truth. When hired by the JET Program, we’re told our job is not only to provide assistance in the English lessons, but also to add more internationalization into the classroom. I am among roughly 5,000 other English speaking people from all over the world who decided to apply and move to Japan. We all share that same goal.

今から秘密をお話しようと思います。私が日本に来た時に、私の仕事は英語を教えることではありませんでした。それは事実なのです。JET Programに入った時、英語を教えるだけではなく、教室に国際化をもたらしてほしいといわれました。私と5000人のALTの先生には共にそのミッションがあります。

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When I was tasked with helping a student adjust to their new upcoming life in America, I was a little confused on where to start. My fellow coworkers were just as uncertain, so I was basically given a blank slate as what to teach. I decided on lessons that would incorporate more complicated English, American history, and advice about moving to another country. When I began my first American History lesson, I asked her two questions.

“What do you know about American History?”

“Basically nothing,” she replied.

Ok, well, we got a lot of ground to cover…

“What do you think an American looks like?”

“Ummm, like a Native American?” she said with a bit of hesitation.

She always was a clever one.

I showed her a bit of a recent National Geographic piece that covers what “an American” might look like in the future. Simply, it’s hard to even define what an American looks like or “is” anymore with our population of rich backgrounds and cultures. I wanted to show her this because she too is a part of this change: A blonde haired, blue eyed Japanese-American citizen. Or in more modern Japanese slang, a “half.”

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The Power of a Droplet

Solid confession: I have never enjoyed math. I have never been good at it, and those unfortunate to have seen me try to split a bill know that all too well. I barely slid out of high school and college with the most basic requirements for graduation, and I remember the semesters where I never had to take a math class again. It was fantastic! While there are certainly other subjects which involve math that I have an interest in, my overall feeling of the subject is still one of disgust.

Having said that, I was one of the “bad students” in the math classes. Not that I caused trouble per se, but rather that I never really studied, never really applied myself, but also never really made any progress even when I did have to buckle down. Now I often wonder how much of a bother I was to the teachers: having that kid who actively hated your class with the bonus of never seeming to “get it.” Granted, they probably don’t remember me at this point, but I’ve thought about it retroactively.

Now being on the other side I see plenty of my past self in my students.

While I am here to help, between the bureaucratic beasts that loom around, societal aspects that are far larger than me, and questioning the willingness of the students themselves, I find myself frequently asking the all too familiar questions: Am I really needed? Am I making a difference? What would or would not change if I wasn’t here? I could go all day as to the arguments on both sides of these questions, but talking in hypotheticals can get a little moot at points.

One time when I was talking to a veteran ALT friend, and he began with a metaphor that I think best solidifies this quandary. Something along the lines of a “is the cup half-full or half-empty?” kind of thing. And that is to ask “How much do you believe in the power of the droplet?”

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Linguistically on the Job

I had my first dream fully in Japanese the other day. Not to say this is a first: I’ve had plenty of dreams in the past that involved the other language. But this was the first time I had a dream almost completely in Japanese. Yes, I know dreams are just one of the things people should never talk about, so I won’t bore you with the details. I will say the dream had me speaking some pretty fast and wild Japanese, with words and phrases saved only for the dramatic. Out of what I remember, at least.

Most likely this happened because I’ve been actively studying and hearing the Japanese language every day for the last two years. I like to believe I’ve come far in my Japanese studies, but I still have a while to go. However, there are many times right when I’m about to practice I run into an all too familiar situation:

What happens when the other person you’re speaking to only wants to speak English?

Not only an issue in Japan

Not only an issue in Japan


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Life on Pause

Not too long ago, I found myself in a discussion about the impermanence of the JET Program job. This should not come as a shock for anyone with JET experience, as it’s bound to come up as a conversation point. For a job that only just recently allowed a five year stay instead of three, the topic of “what’s next?” is bound to emerge at some point.

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I’ve always wanted to share work from other JETs on this site, but have never really nailed down the right way to do so. However, I found a really good post for a first-round of sorts.

Alex is a friend of mine and has a lot more experience in teaching English as a second language than I do. There was a discussion a while ago among some other JETs about the difference between two sentences and which one made more “sense.” It got pretty heated, to say the least, and Alex was (literally) the only one to take a stance against the majority opinion.

It can be really easy as an ALT to think that your natural way of speaking is more “correct,” and I think Alex really nails down why that viewpoint is dangerous. After the initial discussion, I became more hesitant as to what I teach as “correct” because I am anything but an expert, as much as I think so sometimes.

I’ll let Alex take it from here, though. I would highly recommend the read: http://alexjamesbarrett.com/2014/09/29/prescriptive-grammar-fueling-a-culture-of-native-speaker-elitism/

(For the record, in the original discussion I was a staunch supporter of sentence A)

Why the Sports Day is the Best and Worst Introduction to the Japanese School System

It’s pretty staggering to think how different my two years of Sports Day experiences have been. Although I didn’t even talk about it last year, I can definitely say something had changed, and I viewed the festival with a much different lens this year than I did the first time.

The Sports Day is, in short, a school-wide competition: Relay Races, Tug of War, a complicated game of chicken that involves hats and many other events are held for the kids to duke it out. Sometimes it’s different years competing, other times it’s different classes within a grade competing against each other. Luckily, even the teachers are able to join in sometimes! But in the end it’s all for the love of athletics, competition and team building.

Well, kind of.

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Expectravaganza Part 1: School Days

“I find my life is a lot easier the lower I keep my expectations.”
― Bill Watterson

Despite my call to literally distrust everything you read about living abroad, there is still incredible value in sharing day-to-day experiences. To think otherwise goes against the whole point of writing something like this. In that vein, I thought it might be interesting to share some of the thoughts and expectations I had before coming here, and what really ended up happening. Again, while these very well may only be applicable to my situation, my pre and post arrival thoughts may still be something to discuss and think about. In this part, I’ll specifically deal with my job, workplace and school culture, of sorts. So, shall we?

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A Year and Stuff

I have a much different tone of this same post in another draft folder. In that post, I don more of a suit and tie, and speak like a best man at someone’s wedding: make fun of yourself, the ones you love and the future that’s yet untold.

However, I’ve never been a best man and honestly I’ve never been great at the whole “wedding” thing, so reading it now is a little odd.

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