This month we meet Scott Dixon from the USA who resided in Sasayama 2007 – 2010.
What did you do immediately after leaving JET?
Panicked. Then, after applying for just about every job possible, I stupidly booked a one-way ticket to New York and hoped for the best. Luckily, I landed a job within a week thanks to a job posting in a New York JET alumni association newsletter.
Did you experience the dreaded reverse culture shock upon returning home?
Mostly, I just missed my lifestyle in Japan (say goodbye to that sweet housing stipend!) and the relative stability that life as an ALT offers. Also, get prepared to realize all those stereotypes about your own country you denied during JET were based on truth. We Americans are so loud and we really do love our obnoxiously large portions of food.
Working as a reporter for the Kyodo News’ New York bureau. Officially, I’m on the economics desk, but I also cover a lot of breaking news and wherever I’m needed, like meeting iPad-using Orangutans in Toronto or touring eco-friendly crematories in Florida. I also do some freelance writing for the Japanese-interest news blog RocketNews24. Feel free to check out some of my past stories at:
Working for a Japanese news wire in the US must give you an interesting perspective on world issues. What do you think about how Japan is portrayed in international media?
I can only really speak to how Japan is portrayed in U.S. media, but a lot of coverage seems to focus on Japan being a “weird,” but polite and technologically advanced country. After the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, a lot of media here focused a huge amount of coverage on how survivors there very calmly lined up and waited patiently for disaster aid. A lot of issues that Japanese media cover intensely, like U.S. bases in Okinawa or East Asian tension over historical issues, get little to no airtime here.
Sometimes I feel like I still work in Japan when we have office enkais (complete with a nijikai at a local karaoke spot) or when omiyage appears in the break room. Plus, I can keep up my faltering Japanese skills by talking to coworkers and reading the pile of daily newspapers.
Moving from rural Sasayama to New York must have been quite a shock to the system, what were the biggest challenges/adjustments etc?
The biggest, most superficial, change for me was going from living by myself in a huge apartment surrounded by rice fields (and a very convenient 7-11) in Sasayama to barely being able to afford to rent a glorified closet in a three-room Manhattan apartment with two complete strangers.
How has the experience of living in Japan helped you?
Dealing with the sudden schedule changes, impromptu knife attack drills and completely unexplained office politics that made it “rude” to use a fan before 10AM…let’s just say I’ve learned to be flexible.
What do you miss about Japan?
Reliable public transportation, konbinis, public safety and consideration, hanami and oddly enough, kyushoku.
What is your favourite memory of Hyogo?
Either leading a bar full of Sasayama karaoke enthusiasts into a rousing rendition of Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart” or using the Gremlin for elementary schools classes by playing hot potato to the tune of Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time.”
Make the most of your local JET alumni association in your job hunt. Get in contact a couple months before heading home about networking opportunities. I’m lucky and our New York JETAA is huge, but JETs are everywhere and make a great connection when you’re getting settled back in your home country.
Questions: Charlotte Griffiths