(Version 3.3 June 30, 2003)
Introduction 1 Top 10 Tips 2 Who‟s Who and What‟s What 3 Glossary of Commonly Used Terms 3 Useful Web Sites 5 Recommended Reading 8 Japanese Lessons in NYC 10 Japanese Culture in the Area 10 Japanese Book & Media Stores in NY 11 Japanese Food & Gift Stores in NY 12 Shipping Things to Japan 13 Advice – What should new JETs do to prepare? 14 Advice – What is the best part about living in Japan? 15 Advice – What is the worst part about living in Japan? 18 Advice – What was the best item you packed? 19 Advice – What was the worst item you packed? 20 Advice – What did you wish you had packed? 21 Advice – What was the best omiyage you brought? 22 Advice – What was the worst omiyage you brought? 24 Advice – What was the best teaching supply you brought? 25 Advice – What teaching supplies did you find useless? 26 Advice – What is the best thing about your job? 26 Advice – What is the worst thing about your job? 28 Advice – Any other advice? 30
Welcome to the JET Program! I hope you all have a stress-free month getting
ready for your trip!
I know, I know, FAT CHANCE! But the CGJ staff, the good folks at the Japan
Local Government Center and JET alumni are doing their best to take off some
of the stress and help you all feel more confident about your adventure.
With volumes of materials written for the JET Program, guidebooks, phrase
books and 1000 other bits of information being thrown at you, you might wonder
what this collection of photocopied sheets brings to the party. This handbook
was prepared by New York alumni for people in this area and to provide some
first-hand, practical and casual advice for new JETs. Hopefully it will answer
some of your questions and more importantly let you know about some things
you might not have thought to ask about. I do apologize for the strong New York
City bias, especially since we serve all of NY State, as well as parts of
Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. If you know of good places outside
of NYC please let us know and we‟ll add them. In order to keep this clear, I‟ve
tried avoid Japanese words, when their use is necessary they are written in
italics and should all be explained in the glossary.
Since we are volunteers and do not work the Consulate, we have no information
about your departure, your contracts or your visas. That information will be
coming to you from the consulate. In the coming weeks you‟ll be getting a lot of
important materials from them so please read everything they mail to you.
Really. There‟s important stuff there.
Special thanks to the Japan Local Government Center, the Consulate and to the
dozens of alums who took time to write hints and tips.
Please send any questions, objections, suggestions or miscellaneous comments
to me at AlexanderMcLaren@hotmail.com
Please post any questions for the alums on our message board at:
TOP 10 TIPS!
Whew… this thing gets bigger every year. And none of the advice is bad, it‟s just
hard to sort through it all, especially when you don‟t know what will happen to
So here are my Top 10 Tips:
1. Read. Get a general guidebook for Japan and one book specific to your
own interests and read them both. Read everything the consulate sends
you, they‟ve been preparing people for years now and do a great job at it.
2. Question. Ask your predecessor and your new employer specific
questions about what clothes you‟ll need, prices, working conditions and
other details the general information cannot cover.
3. Look. Check websites for expatriates in Japan, listen to war stories from
ex-JETs because there will be problems and situations you might never
expect. Talking to people who have been in Japan prepares you for the
things you would never ask about.
4. That being said, know your limits. It‟s impossible to be ready for
EVERYTHING and the surprises and new experiences are one of the best
parts of living overseas. Don‟t kill yourself trying to prepare for every
5. Remember that Japan is a country and the Japanese are people, as
diverse as Americans or anyone else (despite the best efforts of their
school system ?). There are assholes and angels, xenophobes and
xenophiles and xenoindifferents. Remember that every generalization is
just that, don‟t expect them to be 100% true. 6. Learn Japanese, if you have the time, start now with classes or tutoring.
If not, start the day you arrive at your new job. Seriously, NOTHING will
improve your social, professional and personal life as much as becoming
(at least) conversational in Japanese.
7. On to the practical stuff…don’t overpack, there is little you can‟t get in
Japan and nearly all of that can be gotten by buying on-line.
8. Bring a laptop or buy a computer in Japan. The internet has changed
everything about going overseas. Unless you‟re deliberately seeking a
total immersion experience, a computer is vital. Even if you don‟t want e-
mail and the web, it‟s still a vital teaching tool. 9. Subscribe to a magazine or two you like. Regular news from home and
reading material make life a lot better. Plus you don‟t have to pack them! 10. And finally, don’t panic. Thousands of people have done the JET
Program and enjoyed it. Only a statistically insignificant number have
been sacrificed to the Volcano Gods ?
WHO’S WHO AND WHAT’S WHAT
Administration of the program is pretty complicated here‟s a quick guide to who does what:
Consulates & CLAIR Contracting Institution/ Embassies An umbrella group, Host Institution Your Recruit & prepare JETs places JETs at schools actual employer. Usually in the US. Get you on around Japan, runs a school or board of the plane. The New York Tokyo Orientation. Sets education. Responsible consulate is also called general terms for JET for your contract, day-to-the CGJ (Consulate contracts, takes day duties and housing. General of Japan) complaints. Pays your salary. Ministry of Education JETAA AJET Sets curriculum and JET Alumni Association, Association of Japan standards in Japanese the organization for JETs Exchange and Teaching, schools, oversees the who have returned. the organization for JETs JET Program. Runs NY orientation. in Japan.
So, Consulates and Embassies recruit and interview applicants and then prepare
new JETs for their departure. CLAIR places them at different institutions and
handles problems that cannot be solved at the local level. Contracting
Institutions handle the details of your job, housing, vacation etc. The key point is
JETs work for a school or board of ed, not for the JET program or one of the
ministries. Since contracting institutions are responsible for things like working
conditions, living conditions and vacations, the answers to questions about them
really depends on your school.
GLOSSARY OF COMMONLY USED TERMS
AJET: Association of the Japan Exchange & Teaching program. AJET is an
organization that JETs join while in Japan. They have support groups, interest
groups and tons of up-to-date information on everything from churches to
computers to skiing. www.ajetonline.org
ALT: Pronounced “A-L-T.” not alt. Stands for Assistant Language Teacher.
Some people use AET, Assistant English Teacher.
CIR: Pronounced “C-I-R.” not „sir‟, this means Coordinator for International
Relations. CIRs work in local government offices and have a functional
command of the Japanese language before arriving in Japan.
CLAIR: CLAIR is the “Council for Local Authorities on International Relations”
(nice acronym). CLAIR is the umbrella organization that coordinates with
Consulates and Embassies in 39 countries, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the
Ministry of Education and local schools.
CONTRACTING INSTITUTION: This is your employer, the institution with which
you are signing a contract. Your contracting institution will be a Prefectural
Board of Education, a City or Town Board of Education, or one of 12 selected
contracting cities, such as Yokohama, Sendai, or Osaka. JETs do not work for
the Japanese government, CLAIR or the JET Program, they work for their
INAKA: Japanese for „countryside‟ or „rural‟. Used by JETs to refer to working in
a small town or a village.
JETAA: The JET Alumni Association. JET AA is an independent organization
for former JETs around the world. The organization is not part of the JET
Program, but works with CLAIR, the Embassies, and Consulates. JET Alums
usually volunteer to run orientation and departure programs. www.jet.org
KANJI: Kanji is literally „Chinese letters‟. Modern Japanese uses about 2000 pictographic characters from Chinese. Learning kanji is often called the most difficult part of learning Japanese (but you can do it! Really!).
KATAKANA: A Japanese phonetic alphabet used for onomatopoeia, emphasis
and (most commonly) for words derived from English (or other languages). Many
things introduced to Japan since WWII have katakana names like pasokon (personal computer), sutekki (steak) and gorufu (golf).
OMIYAGE: Obligatory gifts for superiors and fellow teachers. A headache for all
new JETs but it‟s expected and makes a good impression.
PREFECTURE or KEN: Japan‟s 47 prefectures are similar to US states (unless
you‟re a poli sci student in which case it is nothing like a US state). In Japanese,
the suffix “-Ken” (or more rarely Fu) is added to the name of the prefecture. I.E.
Toyama-Ken, Okinawa-Ken. High schools are usually run by Kens while junior highs are usually run by local governments.
ROMAJI: The Japanese word for Roman letters, A, B, C, D…
USEFUL WEB SITES
Following are some web sites that will help you become better acquainted with
Japanese culture and life in Japan. Some of the sites, such as JR Rail and JR
Bus Kanto, will be very useful once you are in Japan, as well. NOTE: The
following sites are a starting point for learning more about Japan and the JET
Program. We do not necessarily endorse the sites listed.
JET Related AJET
Association of Japan Exchange and Teaching, the club for JETs by JETs. Has
several interest groups such as hiking, computers, ethnic clubs, religious clubs, a
good way to stay connected in Japan.
The „underground‟ uncensored JET site. Their message boards are a good
source of first-hand information (and whining).
Official JET Program site
JET Alumni Association
Find an alumni chapter in your region.
JET Set Japan
„Serving the Jet Community‟ – Includes a section on coming to Japan including preparation, packing, finances, language and culture etc.
NY’s Consulate General Japan www.cgj.org
News, events and information about Japan.
NY’s JET Alumni Association www.jetaany.org
Find our latest events and ask questions.
Life in Japan
www.citibank.co.jp/en/index.html Citibank has a great service where you can take money out of it in the US, Japan
or other countries. As far I know Citi is also the only bank that will grant a
foreigner a yen credit card (so you don‟t have to send money home every
Everything Japanese In NY
A guide to Japanese food, shops and culture in NY. Includes a Japanese trivia
ISPs in Japan
thelist.internet.com/countrycode/81/ J Guide
Stanford University‟s Guide to Japan Information Resources. Also has
information about Internet Service Providers in Japan.
Links and advice for life in Japan.
Japan Information Network
More links and advice for life in Japan.
The Japan Society
New York institution that offers language classes, Japanese art exhibits, movies
and other cultural programs.
Japan Times Online
English language newspaper.
Japan Travel Guide/Japan Living Guide
Links and advice for life in Japan.
The BEST guide books and travel site on Earth!
www.japan-guide.com/list/e1002.html Information on each of the 47 prefectures.
Prefectural AJET Sites
Check out what JETs are doing in your prefecture (not all prefectures have sites,
if you find one not on this list let me know)
Aichi www.geocities.com/aichiajet/index.html Ehime www.geocities.com/ehimeajet/ Fukui www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Flats/9798/index.html
Hyogo www.geocities.com/hyogoajet/ Ibaraki ibarakijets.org/
Miyagi members.tripod.com/MiyagiAJET/ Miyazaki www.geocities.com/miyazakiajet/ Niigata www.geocities.com/myniigatacom/home.htm
Oita www.geocities.com/myniigatacom/home.htm Saga hamp.hampshire.edu/~pdwF94/ajet.html Saitama www.way.to/jet@saitama Sendai www2.sendai-c.ed.jp/~educom/ Tochigi edochan.com/teaching/
Tokyo with Kids
The interactive online community for English speaking parents in Tokyo and all of
www.us-japan.org U.S.-Japan Links is a of the 38 Japan-America and Japan Societies across the
United States. The goal is to improve communications between the Societies,
their memberships, and the public at large and provide general information about
Dave's ESL Café
www.eslcafe.com One of the best sites for teaching English. Excellent resources for teachers
www.eltnews.com A great site for English teachers in Japan with tons of education related news
International pen-pals, key pals and other projects
Internet TESL Journal
Filled with articles and tips for teachers
Japan Association of Language Teaching, the professional organization for
teachers in Japan with resources and good teaching links
www.powells.com Ships books free internationally as long as you place an order of $50 or more. It
is really easy to place a $50 order, especially if you go in together with friends. It
is sea mail though, so it will take about 2 months.
Getting Both Feet Wet: Experiences inside The JET Program Edited by David
Chandler & David Kootnikoff
JETs and Japanese teachers write about their successes and failures. Not
widely available in the US, contact email@example.com, or Kinokunya Book
Importing Diversity David L. McConnell
History of the JET Program and its effects.
Japanese Higher Education As Myth. By Brian J. McVeigh Sharp critique of English education in Japan including the JET program.
Learning to Bow: Inside the Heart of Japan by Bruce Feiler The story of a rural JET in the late 1980s.
Life in Japan
Being A Broad in Japan: Everything a Western woman needs to survive and
thrive. By Caroline Pover
A guide specifically for women, excellent reviews!
Culture Shock Japan by Rex Shelley
Guide to communication and doing business in Japan as well as travel tips.
Japanese Patterns of Behavior by Takie Sugiyama Lebra
The best introduction to the dynamics of Japanese interpersonal relations. It is
Lonely Planet Japan by Chris Rowthorn et al
The best damn guidebook around! Lonely Planet also publishes a Japanese
phrase book, food book, and specific guides to Tokyo and Kyoto
Japanese Schooling: Patterns of Socialization, Equality and Political Control by
Good academic view of Japanese education.
Teaching English in Japan by Jerry O‟Sullivan A practical guide to teaching.
Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching by Diane Larsen-Freeman Excellent guide to teaching methods and learning theory, provides an essential
foundation for any teacher.
Trancending Stereotypes: Discovering Japanese Culture and Education edited
by Barbara Finkelstein
Collection of essays and studies about Japanese education, a great introduction
to the environment you will be working in.
Berlitz Basic Japanese Workbook
Good Japanese text.
Japanese for Busy People
Another good one.
Making Out in Japanese by Todd and Erika Geers
The original guide to Japanese slang, a mainstay on (male) JETs bookshelves.
Martin's Pocket Dictionary : Eng-Jap/Jap-Eng by Samuel Martin
Great pocket dictionary, compact but comprehensive, only flaw, no kanji!
NTC‟s New Japanese=English Character Dictionary edited by Jack Halpern Best darn Kanji dictionary around.
Outragous Japanese: Slang Curses & Epithets by Jack Steward Another slang guide.
Novels, History Humor, Etc
Audry Hepburn's Neck: A Novel by Alan Brown
Interestingly, the perspective of a young Japanese boy... growing up in Japan.
The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. By Ruth Benedict.
A recognized classic of cultural anthropology, this book explores the political,
religious, and economic life of Japan from the seventh century through the mid-
twentieth, as well as personal family life.
Dave Barry Does Japan by Dave Barry
Hilarious and true to life! I made everyone who visited me read it and we all
Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture by Mark Shilling
Fantastic introduction to Japanese movies, music, TV and more.
Lost Japan, Dogs and Demons – Alex Kerr
Two great books about the creation of modern Japan and the cost to Japanese
culture and beauty by a long-time expatriot. Very insightful.
Polite Lies: On Being A Woman Caught Between Cultures, Shizuko's Daughter both by Kyoko Mori
Mori is a Japanese who has lived 1/2 her life in America. Her books are fiction
based heavily on non-fiction and incredibly perceptive. She complains about the
Japanese much like the foreigners do. What a comfort.
Samurai William: The Englishman Who Opened Japan, by Giles Milton Based on historical events, the account of an English sailor stranded in Japan in
1611 who became a member of the Shogun‟s court And you thought you had it tough.
Shogun by James Clavell
Classic novel of Englishman in feudal Japan
36 Views of Mount Fuji: On Finding Myself In Japan. By Cathy N. Davidson Excellent variety. Most flavorful.