JET Alumni, Friends Celebrate New Year’s Tradition
• Under the JET, selected native English speakers visit local communities in Japan each year to teach English at elementary, junior high and senior high schools, and assist the local government in their international activities. The program was initiated by the Japanese government in 1987, aiming to improve foreign language teaching in Japan and promote international understanding.
• Ella McCann, President of the JET Alumni Association of Chicago, welcomed Consul General Naoki Ito, who attended the Shinnenkai for the first time as Consul General of Japan in Chicago. She also called for support from JETs for an event of “Japan Bowl” where students compete with each other by using their knowledge about Japanese language and culture. Japan Bowl is organized by the Japan America Society of Chicago and will take place on March 10 (Saturday) at the North Central College in Naperville. More information about the event is available at http://www.jaschicago.org/events/illinois-japan-bowl-2/
• In his opening remarks, Consul General Ito said, “Last
year, the JET Program celebrated its 30th anniversary. For three decades,
JETs and JET alumni have been a real asset for our Japan-US relationship.”
• The Shinnenkai started with aikido demonstration by Stephen Toyoda of the Aikido Association of America and his students, followed by the booth activities featuring traditional Japanese New Year’s games and food. Attendees enjoyed trying hands-on experience in calligraphy, origami, rice-ball making (onigiri), kimono dress-up and games of the karuta and fukuwarai. The party was closed with a fukubukuro (grab baga) raffle.
Interview with JETs
• Julianne Medrano went to Japan in 2011 as a JET teacher
and taught English for three years in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture
and continue to teach two more years in Kure City, Hiroshima Prefecture.
She majored in Japanese studies at the DePaul University and studied at
the Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka for one year during her college
• In Shimonoseki, Medrano taught students in three high schools. “I was delightful to see the students, who loved to learn English, especially, a student worked really hard to become an English teacher,” she said.
• At first, Chicagoan Medrano was surprised to see unfamiliar landscapes of Shimonoseki which was surrounded by mountains and an ocean with no building. It was a little scary for her to ride a bike on the dark streets and pretty hard to go up a slope to her residence, “But I really enjoyed living there because everyone was very kind to me,” she said.
• In Kure City, Medrano taught at elementary schools
and junior high schools. She said that the fifth grade students were the
best because they eagerly wanted to learn English from her. English study
begins at fifth grade in Japan.
• During her five-year stay in Japan, she became fond of udon noodles with kitsune, deep-fried bean curd. Inari sushi was also her favorite. “I prefer Japanese food to American. I love Japanese language and Japan, so everything was fun including challenging things,” she said.
• Medrano returned to Chicago in the summer of 2016 and
passed N1 level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. N1 level is
the most difficult one.
• Most students in the high school went to the workforce
every day after the school hours, and a small number of students entered
college. That meant that many of them studied English for their examinations.
• “I just had a good time with the students. Hopefully, they remember me a little bit. Meeting people from different cultures really makes you interested in learning outside of your home. So that’s why, it was one of the reasons that JET is great,” he said.
• Growing up in a suburb of Chicago, Coronado didn’t like fish, but he found Japanese curry and rice. He loved it and ate it almost every day. Now he misses it.
• Coronado liked living in Japan and teaching students
in Japan; however, he thought that becoming a teacher was not his lifetime
job. He returned to Chicago to challenge something else in 2008.
• Amanda M. McClintock
taught English in Hamaoka Cho, Shizuoka Prefecture from 2001 to 2004.
• In Hamaoka Cho, McClintock taught juniors and seniors in a high school, and the students were excited to have a teacher, who really came from America. She gave stickers to her students, then they showed karuta game by using the stickers. Later they made an English karuta game and loved to play it again and again.
• McClintock felt very comfortable living and teaching
there, but she faced a culture shock one day.
• She was living in Kakegawa Cho, close to her school,
and she joined many festivals where she made many friends outside of the
school. They helped her Japanese study.
• When McClintock returned to near Detroit in 2004, she
soon found a job as a translator and interpreter to help Japanese families
in Detroit. Because of many car manufacturing and related companies, there
were many Japanese families in there. She helped those Japanese to get
driver’s license and attend parent-teacher conferences at their children’s
school. During those activities, she strongly felt the need for English
education to Japanese mothers and children, so she began to teach English.
Karuta game offered by JETs and volunteers
Consul General enjoys challenging onigiri making.
Ella McCann, President of the JET Alumni Association of Chicago
Julianne Medrano gives an attendee guidance to draw "kakizome".
Amanda M. McClintock
A Ninja Panel for photo
Aikido demonstration by the Aikido Association of America