JET Program Reflections #1–Arrival

Image from Tonoharu: Part One 

In an effort to add some more of that all-important “content” to my blog (without going to the effort of actually creating it) I’ve decided to post some slightly edited versions of the e-mails I sent out to people during my stint on the JET Program. I figured I’d post a new one every Tuesday until I run out of them; I have enough for probably two months or so. These Tuesday entries will be in addition to, not instead of, my weekly update of all-new material every Friday (Wow!).

So here’s the first one that I could find, written Mid-August 2003, shortly after my arrival to Japan:

After a flurry of activity my first few weeks here, things have settled down, almost TOO much, to be honest. School doesn’t start here until September 1st (about the same time as in the US then, I suppose) but in the meantime I am expected to be physically present at the Board of Education office at town hall every weekday from 8:30am to 4:15pm. Attendance and punctuality are important everywhere I suppose, but especially in Japan. So even though I arrive at work almost half an hour early every day because of the train schedule, I can’t leave even one minute early. It’s also important for me to sit in on the daily meeting, even though I can’t understand anything and as such obviously don’t participate in any way. I almost suspect that one’s physical presence is almost as important as one’s relative contributions.

So how do I fill my time? No one has actually told me what I’m supposed to be doing, just that I’m supposed to be here. Luckily, there’s really no end of things to do, from reading the mountains of books about my job that I received at the Tokyo orientation to studying Japanese. I also chat with my co-workers, and swap cultural notes and slang. I’ve recently began preparing my self-introduction, which I will be repeating to about 1200 students in blocks of 30-50 at a time. Apparently I’ll be doing it for about a month straight. I’m glad I still have a couple weeks left to continue in my preparations, but at the same time I’ll be glad when school starts and I can begin inspiring students with the sweetness of my personality, and gently guiding them away from their backward traditions and into Christian churches and McDonald’ses.

Beyond that, I’ve begun exploring my little town. Probably the most interesting place I’ve been to so far is a little sushi bar where sushi goes by you on a conveyor belt, and you just lift off what you want. Each plate contains 2 pieces of sushi, and costs 100 yen, or about 85 cents (in Minnesota sushi would generally run about four or five times as much). At the end of your meal they just count the number of plates you’ve accumulated and then charge you accordingly. Neat, huh?

Thrilling stuff, isn’t it? Check back next Tuesday for more. They get better, honest!

  • Luc

    I’ve submitted my JET application last year. I’m still waiting for a response from them so I really like your entries. Good luck in getting that scholarship! ^_^v

  • Darrell Clausen

    I bought a motorcycle, rented a house in Tonoharu and made friends with some University students who rented a dorm room from the same farmer as I. My world expanded as I started to learn Japanese, and my friendship with some of those I met in 1970 continue to this day. Many stories to tell – no one to tell them to. I was known by the name “Hungry” in those days.

  • Lars Martinson

    I hear you. I think part of the reason I decided to write a graphic novel based on my experiences in Japan is because people lost interest in hearing me talk about my life abroad before I lost interest in talking about it. I hoped that by relating the experience in a graphic novel that it would be more easy for people who hadn’t lived abroad to relate to the experience.