Enjoy Reunion with Japanese Culture
• Many JET alumni and their friends enjoyed a reunion with Japanese culture at the 12th annual New Year’s Shinnenkai on January 17. The event was hosted by the JET Alumni Association (JETAA) of Chicago and the Consulate General of Japan at Chicago, and held at the Japan Information Center in the Consulate General’s office.
• JET is the acronym of the program called “the Japan
Exchange and Teaching”, where native English speakers teach English to
Japanese students or work with local institutions. It provides Japanese
students opportunities to communicate with native speakers while JET participants
have opportunities to experience life in Japan.
• After a welcoming address by Wesley Julian, JETAA Chicago
President, the attendees enjoyed food and drinks including their favorite
sushi. On the stage, many kinds of entertainments were presented.
• Evan Chears was interested in going to Japan since
he was child because his uncle was very much interested in Japanese martial
art and culture in general. In addition, his cousin was part Japanese.
In his college, his friends were interested in participating in the JET
program, so he applied for it with them. Consequently, he was only one
who was qualified as JET teacher.
• Before he was about to enter a classroom, a Japanese teacher advised him saying, “The students are very shy.” He had predicted it and prepared many masks of Japanese and American celebrities. When he pulled out the masks at a classroom and asked the students, “Who is this?” nobody said anything. The classroom was very silent. Then he started to use his skills with photography and computer graphics and made many interactive powerpoints to get the students more involved with learning English.
• Mito is famous with natto, which is fermented soy beans with a stale smell, but one of the favorite items for breakfast in Japan. Chears politely said, “I liked it more than I thought, but I’m still not in love with it.” He once encountered natto ice cream in an izakaya (tavern) and said, “It was craziest thing I’d ever tasted.”
• During a summer break, he traveled around Japan, and one of the most impressive places was Hiroshima. He said, “Seeing all kinds of devastation exhibited in the Peace Museum, you really are able to understand how severe it was during at that time, but walking around Hiroshima was now beautiful.” He also said, “It was really interesting how that area was able to recover. It would be the spirit of Japanese people which enabled them to overcome these hardships. It was really moving.”
• Chears returned to Chicago at the end of August, 2014.
The most impressive event happened to him just before he left Japan. He
was interviewed by the TV crew of the popular program, “Why are you here
in Japan,” and they decided to follow him for weeks.
• Shannon Copp participated in JET program from 2006 to 2008. She previously studied Japanese and Japanese Buddhism in college, so she was very much interested in going to Japan. She said, “Reading about Japan and living in Japan was very different. I wanted to see real life in Japan, not just in pages in a book.” She requested Shiga Prefecture where Enryakuji was located while she was applying to JET. The temple is well known for accommodating warrior monks when Kyoto was the capital of Japan.
• She taught English at a middle high school in Echigawa
Cho, in Shiga, where about 350 students were excited to learn from her.
She tried to make them more and more excited.
• She often rode a bike and visited temples. Only a 10-minute
ride from one temple brought her to another temple. She said that Ishiyama
dera was her favorite place in the world.
• When she arrived at Tokyo from Chicago, she accidentally
ordered Gyudon (a bowl of rice with cuts of beef) and natto as her first
meal in Japan. She said, “It was a learning experience.”
• After returning to the U.S., she had a hard time.
“It was difficult to come back because on JET, you make close friendships,
ones which were so close. You come to the U.S., where everyone speaks
English. It’s more difficult to go from having such very close friends
to having not so close friends. So, it was very difficult to make a transition.”
The attendees play Japanese card game called "karuta."
The attendees enjoy punding mochi.
The attendees practice Japanese calligraphy at JET alumni New Year's Shinnenkai.
JET alumnus Evan Chears
JET alumnus Shannon Copp