Where and When
I was lucky to have been placed in Ono, about an hour away by bus from Sannomiya, in Kobe. I had originally planned on staying in JET for about 2 years, but almost immediately after arriving, I knew I wanted to stay for five! Ono is considered rural for sure, but over the years it has been growing steadily. I was there when the schools had air conditioning units installed, when the Saty department store turned into an AEON, and when an actual hotel was built nearby!
I got to live in the same apartment building as six other JETs, and in my earlier years we hung out together a lot, playing video games, going to karaoke, having dinner parties, and going out to restaurants. There’s a particular yakiniku place in Ono called “Ikkyu,” which was our go-to place for special occasions, especially when it was time to say goodbye to departing ALTs. It became a tradition when I was on JET, and of course when it was my time to leave Ono, that’s where we went!
As a full-time elementary school ALT (one of the very few at the time), my greatest lessons were learned on the job. I didn’t have younger siblings or any experience with children, and when I applied to JET I wanted to be in high school because I felt like I would’ve been able to relate to them better. After five years of teaching children, I learned to exercise patience and discipline– sometimes having a homeroom teacher in the room didn’t always mean the class would be well-behaved, so I would have to take charge and it wasn’t always easy! I was surprised at the amount of praise my co-workers gave me on my lesson plans and execution. I thought they were just being kind, but after seeing how much my students enjoyed English class and how well they were learning, I realized that I had a talent for teaching. My experience with teaching language at a basic level has helped me after coming back to the US, as I am now teaching Japanese words to my two-year old niece using gestures and repetition.
Do more than you are asked to do, even if it seems unnecessary. Your effort is what’s important, and there is always something to be learned even if you feel like you could have gotten by doing “just enough.” At the very least, your co-workers and students will appreciate your work!
Regrets and Reflections
JET was one of the best experiences of my life, so I have no regrets! Teaching in Japan is a different experience for each person– some people love it and some people end up seeing it as a nightmare. It depends on the person and the working conditions. I loved it, so if there is anything I wish I could have done, it would be to continue teaching in Ono!
I’m currently taking a sabbatical from work– although I enjoyed teaching, it was very exhausting, and combined with living so far from the city, it didn’t leave me much time to enjoy my hobbies and better explore my passion, which is cosplay! I’ve been spending the past few months making costumes, attending conventions and taking mental notes about the cosplay community and the convention scene for a possible thesis. I will be applying for graduate school this fall, and hopefully attending school in Japan by the end of 2017. If that does not work out, I’d love to become a teacher in Japan again!
Where to Find Me
You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m also in the Hyogo AJET group; although I’m not really active there, feel free to look me up and send a message if you have any questions!