Where Are They Now? Simon Shone (Itami 2010-2012)

A new regular feature, Where are they now? interviews Hyogo JET alumni to find out what they are up to post JET.

Our first interviewee is the charming Simon Shone of New Zealand origin who spent two years based in Itami from August 2010 to 2012 and is now living in London.

HT: What did you do immediately after leaving JET?
Simon: I went back to NZ for one month to see family and friends before embarking on a two month trip of the UK and USA. Whiskey tours, seeing NZ/JET friends who had also finished their contracts at the same time or during my 2 year tenure, volunteering in the US Elections… I covered a lot of ground! It was a knackering but amazing experience. Then back to NZ for the summer, to work, and sort out the next move in 2013.

HT: Did you experience the dreaded reverse culture shock?
S: Fair to say that I did. Everyone is warned, and to some degree even expects it, but it is very subjective. I had made some very good friends during my two years, not to mention how Japan gets ‘under ones skin’… Going from a decent salary to unemployment (thank you airport arrival card!!) was a bit of a funny, albeit it semi-serious, welcome to the real world. I was fortunate enough in that my parents had moved house and city whilst I was in Japan, so my ‘home’ environment was different to when I last visited NZ. Also, I had already made some decent travel plans (booked the flights at least) so I had that to look forward to and organise.
I could imagine that the last thing anyone should do upon their arrival is… not much. I guess it depends how long you’ve been away, the degree of contact you’ve had with friends and family since you’ve been in Japan, and also whether you still have friends who are remaining in Nihon.
From forgetting what my own currency was worth whilst in the supermarket, to the homesickness pangs that stirred when I realised that back in Japan the new term had started, whilst here I was in a decidedly ‘un-Japanese’ environment.
What are you doing now?
S: I currently live in London, where I have applied to join the British Army. I have just completed a TEFL course, and work as a Teaching Assistant at a primary School, focusing on a couple of Autistic spectrum students. Throw in some part-time bar work at a busy station sports bar, and you have me! I’m enjoying London, and the neighbour-esque quality of Europe. Most of my friends from high school live here too, so it’s rather jolly. For those that know me, don’t get me started on the football: brilliant.

HT: How has the experience of living in Japan helped you?
S: Work experience, multi-cultural networks, travel, friends… I actually have friends all over the world. It’s phenomenal. Japan was out of my comfort zone. The experience of having to learn the language, adjust to customs and subtle/obvious clashes of work ethic and social etiquette helped me in my working capacity, giving me new transferable skills which could be applied in almost any/every setting.

HT: What did you hope to gain from doing JET? Did you?
S: JET/Japan was my solution to ‘I’ve graduated and now I want to do something totally different’. It proved to be a superb solution.
For me JET was an opportunity to leave home (NZ), live and work overseas, and do something which was outside my comfort zone, so to speak. I really just wanted to do and experience something different. It’s a testament to the programme that I still keep in touch and have visited Japan and my friends from JET since I left the programme.

HT: What do you miss about Japan?
S: Thanks to Facebook I’ll likely always get pangs of ‘homesickness’… photos of enkais, beer gardens (oh! The beer gardens!), food and the like.
I enjoyed the cultural differences. They were at times frustrating, but it is all very much part of the charm. I found it helped me to appreciate my own ‘home’ in a different way. I am lucky enough to have many good friends and some extended family who will always give me a reason to visit Japan again. There was also a great sense of camaraderie between English teachers; sharing classroom stories after a week of lessons was always bound to draw a laugh.
I do particularly miss the food. Nothing quite like a freshly made sushi or okonomiyaki, or the takoyaki cart outside my station selling freshly made dumplings to late-returning commuters!

HT: What is your favourite memory of Hyogo?
S: There are so many… whilst not strictly ‘Hyogo’, reaching the summit of Mt Fuji was definitely a highlight. Watching the Hanshin Tigers play was always a brilliant evening; the atmosphere, hilarity, costumes and pure entertainment. And karaoke nights that nearly always turned into mornings. Taking my parents into school to visit students and teachers was also quite a highlight.

HT: Do you have any advice for ALTs moving home?
S: Make the most of your new and (hopefully) international social network of friends. Make the effort to keep in contact and when feasible, travel to see them. I made it a point to do that, and I can’t tell you how valuable it was to me to see some of my close JET friends, whom I’d seen not more than 2 months previously at a local izakaya in Japan, now in their home towns and communities. It was like seeing a new, wonderful side of them and their families.
If you find that you’re pining for Japan after returning home, then plan a trip back…

And another thing: Onesies…You are never too cool.

Similar Posts