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Chicago Shimpo
New Batch of JET Participants Leave for Japan

137 to Join US-Japan Relationship

A total of 137 participants of the Japan Exchange and Teaching (“JET”) Program departed Chicago for Japan on July 22, set to engage in teaching English at local schools and cultivating international relationship in local communities.

The participants (“JETs”) are from the 10 states under the jurisdiction of the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago. According to Consul General Naoki Ito, this year’s number of participants from the region was larger than any other region in the U.S. and the second largest in the world after London.

Since 1987, the JET program has been inviting English native speakers from all over the world to teach and work in local governments in Japan. In the past 30 years, a total of 1,300 JETs from the Midwest region have completed the program and returned home.

A send-off reception was held on the day before the departure at the Japan Information Center located in the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago. During the ceremony, Ito praised the departing JETs, saying that all JET participants and alumni are great assets for the U.S.-Japan relations.

Ito also lauded JET alumnus Michael Maher King and his nonprofit organization Smile Kids Japan. While teaching English as an Assistant Language Teacher (“ALT”) in Fukui Prefecture, King came to know orphan students in his class and made a point to spend extra time with them after school.

He started Smile Kids Japan in 2009 with the aim of encouraging fellow JETs and the general public to volunteer at local orphanages. (

Ito said it was his honor to have Wesley Julian, another JET alumnus, at the reception. Julian was attending the graduation ceremony at the school he taught in Miyagi Prefecture when the Great East Japan Earthquake hit the area in March 2011. Since then, he has been going back to the area multiple times and produced a documentary film to record the people’s recovery effort. The film, “Tohoku Tomo,” has been shown in a multiple of cities across the U.S.

The JET Program has organized an alumni association, JET Alumni Association (“JETAA”), to maintain and strengthen the bond between the JETs and alumni, with approximately 55 regional chapters across the world. The JETAA Chicago Chapter provides its members with networking opportunities, assists in implementing the program, promotes the furtherance of the U.S.-Japan friendship, and offers Japan-related study/employment information.

Interview with JET Participants

Eric Revis, from Des Moines, Iowa, will teach English at a high school in Ogikubo, Tokyo.

Revis studied cross-cultural psychology and Japanese religion at college, where he has been a teaching assistant for a Japanese religion class. He said his Japanese culture professor recommended him for the JET program.

Revis is interested in finding out the religious aspects in Japanese life, specifically about folk religion in Japan. For example, he explained, in America, if you ask people whether or not they are religious, perhaps 90% would raise their hands yes. But the question wouldn’t translate the same way in Japan, and nobody will raise their hands, he predicted.

Lauren Steinke is from Chicago and scheduled to teach English at four schools (elementary and junior high) in the western-Japan city of Tottori.

Steinke began studying Japanese when she was in high school. She’s heard about the JET program while at high school, and later when she was a college student, she decided to apply for it. She said she plans to use “a lot of word games” in her teaching. “The game where the last letter of the word you list will have to be the beginning of a new word is called “shiritori” in Japanese. Such a game “is a lot of fun and a good way to learn English,” Steinke said. She is also looking forward to enjoying udon, her favorite Japanese food, in Japan.

Brianna Bennett, a Riverdale, Illinois native, is assigned to teach English at an elementary school and a junior high school in the city of Shinoyama, Hyogo Prefecture.

Bennett was first exposed to Japanese culture through a Japanese club in high school. There, she was introduced to Japanese cinema and anime, and her interest in Japan grew steadily. An anime fan, Bennett now thinks that the Japanese people are “really cool.”

One of her friends, who participated in the JET program last year, helped her with the program application process and coached her how to interact with students in Japan. “When I get there, I really want to be a good friend to the students,” Bennett said. “School is the safe and comfortable place for students, where they can feel confident to speak English. I hope they will like me and come to love to learn English.”

A total of 137 participants of the Japan Exchange and Teaching (“JET”) Program departed Chicago for Japan on July 22.

Eric Revis

Lauren Steinke

Brianna Bennett