Chicago Shimpo
JET Returnees Speak about Experiences in Japan

Consul General of Ireland Says JET Experience is Similar to Diplomacy

• Seven JET returnees were welcomed by Consul General Naoki Ito at his residence on November 29 and talked about their experiences when they were teaching English in schools in Japan. As a special guest, the Consul General of Ireland in Chicago, who was a JET teacher about two decades ago, also spoke about his experiences.

• JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching Program) is hosted by Japan’s government and local governments and recruits people from countries where English is the native language. JET participants are deployed to local schools in Japan and teach English to school students or help promote international exchange activities at local institutions.

• The welcome reception was held not only for sharing returnees’ experiences, but also for promoting their participation to the JET Alumni Association, which has kept their relationship with Japan and offered many programs and events.
• In 2018, 1,700 new JET participants went to Japan including 159 JETs from 10 states, which were under the jurisdiction of Consulate General of Japan in Chicago. Currently JETAA has more than 62,000 alumni in the world including 1,300 alumni in the Midwest. Ella McCann, President of JETAA Chicago and some alumni members joined the reception and talked about their activities.

• Consul General Ito said, “Three strong JETAA chapters in the Midwest are in Chicago, Minnesota, and Kansas City. There are over a thousand alumni in the region who have continued to promote Japan by sharing knowledge of Japan with friends, families, co-workers, and neighbors. So it’s my sincere hope that those returnees will be a real asset to our Japan-US, Japan-Midwest partnership.”

• Each returnee spoke about an unforgettable memory and favorite Japanese food.
• Luke Bader taught at senior high schools in Mimasaka City, Okayama Prefecture. His fondest memory was a school festival at his home school. All the students welcomed him and were pulling him to every direction to visit their booths that they had worked on the past year. He said, “I’ll probably never forget them.” His favorite food was grilled guts (hormone-yaki).

Luke Bader

• Ruby Regina Benigno taught about 600 students at two high schools in Nishinomiya City, Hyogo Prefecture. Her finest memory was that of talking with school teachers, listening and talking about students’ hopes and dreams, and teaching in classes where the students wanted to become a teacher. Her favorite food was curry and rice which she didn’t like until she went to Japan.

• Catherine Hea Mei Huang taught at high schools in Machida City, Tokyo Prefecture. At a self-introducing occasion, she told that she was half Taiwanese and half Japanese. A student came up to her and said that she was the same, but she had never talked about it to other students. The two could communicate with each other in the Taiwanese language, and the student’s story was a little secret between the two during Huang’s stay in the school. Her favorite food was takoyaki.

Catherine Hea Mei Huang

• Samantha Lynn Johnson taught at Shoyo high school, a special needs school, and a school on a remote island that took nine hours each way by a ferry.
• Her unforgettable memory was visiting the island. It was a mixed school of elementary and junior high and had only nine students. She usually stayed a couple of days, and all of the people in the island welcomed her as a family member. She said that she wouldn’t forget about, “how everyone under a small island let me into life every time I went there.” Her favorite food was okonomiyaki.

Samantha Lynn Johnson

• Lindsay Pomazal taught at Hyuga high school in Miyazaki Prefecture for three years. She had been teaching at ordinary classes and a special class that focused on types of communicative English. On the last day of the special class, her mother, who had visited her before she left, joined the class. Pomazal said that generally American people didn’t know what JET program looked like, so her mother could see exactly what JET was and what JET teachers were doing. Her favorite food was yaki-imo, roasted sweet potatoes.

Lindsay Pomazal

• Andrew Principe taught at high schools in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture for four years.
• In the second year, he worked with one of the school’s English teachers and a JET alumnus from a school in Luxembourg, who was involved in boys and girls scouts in Luxembourg. So he brought about 200 teenagers from there, and Japanese high school students from across Japan gathered in Kanazawa as volunteers to guide the visitors. Principe said, “It was really exciting, a special experience for me.” His favorite food was sukiyaki.

Andrew Principe

• Jakub Sierzputowski taught at Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture for two years. His most impressive memory was attending various festivals. After a new year’s day, Donto Festival was held, and naked young men including him marched in the city for two hours in the frozen temperature of minus three degrees in Celsius.
• Other impressive festivals were “Kizuna Matsuri,” which celebrated spirits of resurgence and togetherness after the great disaster of March 11, 2011. The festivals were held in six Prefectures in Tohoku area. Kizuna festivals were, “something I never forget,” he said. The most amazing, though not favorite food was “inago”, cooked insects.

Jakub Sierzputowski

Consul General Naoki Ito welcomes JET returnees at his official residence with community members.

• Special guest, Consul General Brian O’Brien of Ireland taught at schools in Izu peninsula, Shizuoka Prefecture for two years from 2001 to 2003. One of his numerous memories was that he taught dance every weekend because he used to teach it in his home country. His dance class became very popular in the school, and one of the school teachers said, “I would never forget wonderful Scottish dance.” His favorite food was sushi and sashimi. He used chopsticks for the first time in Japan.

Consul General Brian O’Brien of Ireland

• CG O’Brien answered Shimpo’s interview and spoke about JET life and impacts.
• Around 2000, he was studying in U.K. and applied JET from U.K., but he said that he always represented Ireland.
• He was always fascinated by Japan, so he seized an opportunity when it came to him. “Now I’ve been to about 70 countries in the world, but Japan has been one of the most different countries I’ve ever been to, and in the most positive way such a wonderful place,” he said.
• The first year in Japan, he taught at Tagata agricultural high school, so the students’ English level was not so high, but they talked to him more than he did to them. “They were so much fun,” he said.
• The second year, he worked in an educational training facility, the Comprehensive Education Center, where many educators gathered across Japan and overseas including JET teachers. “It was amazing opportunities for me to meet a lot of people from the world,” he said. About 17 or 18 years from his days in Japan, he still has close relationships with the people whom he met through JET.

• He loved onsen, hot springs, and could see the Mount Fuji in the clear morning. Actually he climbed the mountain twice.
• Shimpo asked him if JET experiences helped his career, and O’Brien said, “Absolutely, absolutely.” As a diplomat, he meets many people from different countries. When he talks about his stay in Japan, many people request that he talk more about it.
• Diplomats have to be adaptable, have to learn about new consulates, to know what is going on, “so I still draw skills that I picked up in Japan, in terms of how you get to try to understand the place. It’s similar to diplomacy. You have to learn about your host country, understand culture that I learned from an apprenticeship in Japan for two years,” he said.

• JETAA Chicago’s alumni Lauren Worth was a JET teacher from 2006 to 2008 in Fukushima Prefecture. She returned to the U.S. and worked in University of Wisconsin, Madison, but after Fukushima was hit by the great disaster, she returned there and spent two years from 2013 to 2015.
• Currently she is Study Abroad Program Manager at Northwestern University. She encouraged the returnees by saying that if they wanted to work in the education field, their experiences were very advantageous for them such as studying abroad, living and working abroad, and establishing and maintaining the ability to have effective relationships and communications with individuals from culturally diverse backgrounds.
• She added that amid the rise of nationalism, racism, and anti-Semitism, the education field would help share the benefit of global perspective. “Global engagement promotes peace throughout the world. The more we engage in each other, the more we understand each other,” Worth said.



Former JET Teacher Launches Japanese Food Package Business

• Lilian Hanako Rowlatt, who was a JET teacher and taught at high schools in Kashiwazaki City, Niigata Prefecture, recently launched a health-conscious Japanese food business “Kokoro Care Packages” with Aki Sugiyama in Tokyo. Rowlatt currently resides in Los Angeles.
• During her work as a JET teacher, she enjoyed invitations from community people. One of the families in the City invited her to a tea ceremony. She loved going to onsen, hot springs, eating fresh 100-yen sushi (a dollar sushi), and drinking a cup of coffee at a café.
• Rowlatt’s mother is Japanese, so she was familiar with Japanese food. Kokoro Care Packages are assorted Japanese food packages with two types. One is a monthly package which is sent to you every month if you subscribe to it. Another is the seasonal package, which is shipped to you quarterly on a subscription basis. Every package is directly sent from Japan. More information is available in the ad below.