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Kagoshima Prefecture: Dormant on the Surface, Active Below


Who are you and where are from? What year are you on JET? Where do you teach and what level?

Hello! My name is Shane Allen. Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I came to rural Kagoshima by way of the neon lit Las Vegas, Nevada. I am currently here on my second year teaching in Higashikushira-cho, a small town populated with around 7,000 people. I teach at one junior high school, two elementary schools and one kindergarten. I also attend a day care once a month.


Why did you apply for the JET program?

shane and studentsI’ve always had an interest in working/traveling in Japan since I started taking Japanese classes back in high school. My Japanese teacher fueled this desire by giving me two opportunities to travel to Japan, one being volunteer work with a camp called the USA Summer Camp and the other living with a host family for two months. I applied and was accepted to both, choosing the host family route as my first experience. I met an ALT during that time at Touchiku High School in Kitakyushu. Her love for what she was doing there and the warm vibe of the classroom sparked an interest in coming overseas to teach at some point in my life. Two summers after volunteering at the USA Summer Camp I ended up applying, but getting rejected for the JET Program. This didn’t stop my drive however, and I eventually applied for a position with Amity Eikaiwa, in which I spent a year working in Nagoya. This was a fantastic experience and I had an amazing time working with a variety of really cool students. It was even more interesting to watch students with no desire to be there gain more interest in learning a foreign language. Seeing their growth was an amazing feeling. I eventually ended my contract and after saying goodbyes to students, it hit me from the interactions with some parents that I became a big part of their lives. I gained a sense of wanting to connect cultures even further and I knew that this could be accomplished through the educational system.

After two years of working in Las Vegas as a graphic designer, I decided to come back out to Japan and apply for JET again. I really wanted to taste what it was like to work within the public school system. Similar to how my teacher inspired me, I wanted to work with kids and make their learning experience a bit more interesting. I eventually was accepted and have been working here ever since.


How did you end up in Kagoshima? Was it a preference of yours?

Kagoshima was actually the last place I thought I would end up. Since I lived in Nagoya prior and had an ultimate love for the Kansai region, I applied for places within the region such as Kyoto and Aichi. I had also put down Fukuoka due to my first experience in Japan. They must have read into Kyushu being my first experience and decided to put me there. Or maybe it was some divine test of character to take the Las Vegas kid and put him in the most rural section of Japan. I’m so rural, that the first thing I researched when I came was the closest Starbucks location. I love my White Mochas, but they are about an hour and a half drive away followed by a 15 minute ferry ride.


What has been your favorite memory in Kagoshima so far?

I’d say the best memory is just how hospitable the people have been here so far. It reminds me of my hometown Milwaukee. One time a stranger randomly knocked on my door and offered to take me on a trip to Cape Sata, the southernmost point of Japan, the next day. I was a bit hesitant at first, but felt a bit of relief finding out that he slightly knew the person who lived there before me. I took the trip with him and his wife, got to experience an onsen which is famous here, and later went back to their place to feast on the most classic tastes of Kagoshima, such as kuro-buta (Berkshire Pork), tori-sashimi (raw chicken meat), along with potatoes and other foods. Kagoshima is the land of good eats and hot springs, two things that keep the place satisfying.

Tree Tug Of WarBut there are too many great moments to be had. So many chances to get involved in cultural festivals, such as pulling a tree back and forth while being offered copious amounts of imo shochu (the Kagoshima classic “sake,” made from potato) to marching around house to house performing a local stick dance, again being offered copious amounts of shochu.

Oh yeah, I also live next to an active volcano. It’s pretty interesting to grow up shoveling snow off your car to later dusting off ash instead.


Is there a “best” time to visit Kagoshima?

The best time would have to be between summer and autumn. You can find many festivals going on during this time, such as firework displays and local events. A town called Nejime has a yearly boat race, where rowers compete against each other during the morning in boats shaped like dragons. There are also a few great beaches to visit, with the most tropical of views such as the one in Makurazaki.

What are your “Must Do’s” for visiting JETs?


  1. The islands – Kagoshima boasts many islands, two of which are nationally famous such as Amami Oshima, Yakushima, and Tanegashima. Yakushima is a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its lush natural life, which inspired the forest setting in the Hayao Miyazaki’s film Princess Mononoke. Amami Oshima is surrounded with a beautiful ocean scene, and also inhabited with endangered animals and plants. Tanegashima has some pretty good waves for surfing, and serves as a launch pad for the JAXA Space Center
  2. Ibusuki Onsen – Kagoshima is famous for onsens, and Ibsuki Onsen has both a hot water onsen and a famous “sand-bath” called sunamushi. During the sunamushi experience, you don a yukata and relax fully covered in sand for 15 minutes. It’s pretty trippy yet leaves you feeling refreshed.
  3. Kinko Bay Tour from Sakurajima Port – One of the best ways to spend a summer night. Jump aboard a ferry which takes you by the scenic volcano, Sakurajima. You might be fortunate enough to see dolphins swimming in the water! Bring a bento and a few drinks and enjoy the tour, which comes complete with a few on-board events like a quiz game. The best part is watching the fireworks show finale light up from the ocean.
  4. Sunamushi OnsenKirshima Day Trip – Kirishima is filled with a variety of hot springs, ranging from a unisex onsen in a hotel resort, to a mud bath type onsen and many more. There is also the famous Kirshima Shrine, which has an amazing view of forests and the ocean. This Shrine was also another pit stop of the famous samurai Ryoma Sakamoto, during his honeymoon trip. There are also a few hidden gems such as the Forest of Kirishima Art.
  5. Kagoshima City – There is plenty to do around the city, from local community building events to delicious eateries. Find yourself in the Tenmonkan district, a shopping center which infuses the rustic feel of Meiji Japan with the modern. Also experience the many sites dedicated to Saigo Takamori – one of the most influential samurais of Japan as well as being the Prefecture’s pride.


Waterfall in OsumiWhat do you feel is unique to Kagoshima, something JETs can’t find anywhere else?

The people are true to omotenashi “hospitality.” Out of the many cities I’ve been to in Japan, I have never felt so welcomed until coming to Kagoshima. I’ve been invited to participate in many local events and have been welcomed into a variety of homes to enjoy Kagoshima style cooking. Everyone makes you feel at home!



Shane Allen

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