Introducing Hyogo’s New PAs


Along with an influx of eager new ALTs, this JET year two charming new CIRs have arrived in our great prefecture. Let’s give a warm welcome to Joshua and Simon and find out just what those mysterious PAs actually do…


JoshuaJoshua Kaplan

“I’m one of the two new Hyogo Prefectural Advisors, hailing from the United States with interests in running, literature, cooking, history, language, and music ranging from hip-hop to samba, and k-pop to rock. I first became seriously interested in other cultures after taking a class on world religion during high school. This experience made me determined to learn at least one other language to a near-native level, and therein find out what qualities are common to all cultures.


I left the Chicago suburban area I had lived in for most of my life and set out for Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. There I choose to study the Japanese language for its “foreignness” (farther from English than European languages) and a vague preexisting interest in Japan. Starting with just a Japanese minor, I decided to switch to a more intensive course of Japanese language study, along with courses on Chinese and Japanese literature, history, and society.


For my third year of college, I enrolled and completed Middlebury College’s summer intensive Japanese language program, then studied abroad for one year at a university in Osaka called Kansai Gaidai. At Kansai Gaidai, I developed a taste for karaoke, junbungaku literature, Japanese beer and okonomiyaki.


I came back to the United States for my final year of college, working at my college’s Office of Overseas and Off-Campus Programs and completing my senior thesis (on Japanese activism in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident). That academic year, I focused on studying formal office and literary Japanese. I graduated with bright anticipation of becoming a Coordinator of International Relations (CIR) as part of the JET program.


I began that position as a new CIR employed by Hyogo Prefecture this August. One of my roles consists of being a Prefectural Advisor (along with my Australian counterpart, Simon Tyler). Together, we provide a layer of support for 200-plus ALTs in Hyogo at the prefectural level. We answer questions and concerns over email (hyogo.pa@gmail.com) and telephone (from 9am-4:45pm during the summer; Joshua Kaplan: 078-230-3280).


Also, I work at the Hyogo International Association (HIA) in central Kobe, a public organization that works toward a more cosmopolitan society (providing aid to foreign residents), international exchange (through exchange programs and sister city/region relationships), and a more capable workforce of global citizens (through training programs and support for foreign study abroad students).


I have three specific roles at HIA that I want to get ALTs involved with. One is international exchange events, through both HIA and local international associations, such as presentations about one’s home country and weekend homestays for JETs across Hyogo. The next role is promoting the language-learning resources (for Japanese as well as other languages) we offer such as a free lending-library and language classes. Finally, I write for the “Hyogo: Heart of Japan” blog about interesting places to visit across the prefecture. I hope that everyone can help me find spots off the beaten path around Hyogo, guiding me around or even just pointing me in the right direction. In any case, I look forward to meeting everyone through my reporting for the Heart of Japan blog, orientations, and AJET events!”


simonSimon Tyler

“My name is Simon Tyler, and I’m from Perth in Western Australia. As those of you who have already met me know, I have a physical disability (Cerebral Palsy) and use crutches to get around. Basically, if you see a disabled guy on a fancy pair of crutches somewhere in the Kansai region, odds are it’s me.


Although I was raised in Western Australia, I was originally born in Britain, and both my parents are British, so personality wise I’m a bit of a mix of both cultures.


I first visited Japan in 2005 and have been back too many times to count. I’ve mainly lived around the Kansai region, and studied at Kansai Gaidai for a year back in 2008. In total I’ve spent around 2 years living in Japan. This is my first time living in Hyogo and Kobe, but I’ve been here a few times before. So far I’m really liking Kobe, and all the Hyogo (and Kobe!) JETs/CIRs have been really awesome.


Before coming on JET, I worked for a few years as a systems administrator, and at various times have also worked in everything from finance, to travel, and even in the taxi industry as a radio operator (that really sucked). I really feel like my background has helped to prepare me for JET, because the CIR and PA positions are such diverse roles. Believe me when I say that when you’ve had to deal with a taxi driver being choked half to death at 10:00 on a Saturday night, nothing freaks you out any more.


Joining JET has been a really long journey for me. I originally wanted to come over as an ALT, but after starting to study Japanese seriously, I decided I wanted to push my language skills even further. I passed JLPT N1 last year, but I still feel I have a lot of room to grow, particularly in terms of business Japanese.


Studying contemporary Japanese society at university also made me aware of some of the issues that Japan is facing, particularly in regards to its aging society and (relatively small) foreign population. Although CIRs are obviously limited in what we can do, I strongly believe that providing opportunities to positively interact with foreigners – however small – makes a big difference to people’s attitudes. I personally try as hard as I can to strike a balance between cultural awareness and foreignness.

I’m really looking forward to meeting you all this year and working for you as your PA. Being in the prefectural government offices means it can be kinda hard to get out and see you guys, but we’re always here for you If you’re ever stuck, need help, or just want someone to listen. So far we’ve been contacted about everything from tax refunds to holiday leave and even (really badly) grazed knees.  I never thought I’d be asked to translate the directions on a bottle of antiseptic lotion…


Even if we can’t answer your question directly, we have access to a huge network of people who probably can. I should probably add that we aren’t the JET police, and we aren’t going to get you fired or in trouble. Anything you contact us with is strictly confidential. Please don’t ever hesitate to contact us if you, or anyone else you know, needs help.”

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