What was the best item you packed

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What was the best item you packed ...

    Pre-Departure Handbook


    (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 well add them. In order to keep this clear, Ive

    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 youll 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.


Alexander McLaren

Please send any questions, objections, suggestions or miscellaneous comments

    to me at

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

    possible situation.

    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 dont 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 ?



    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.


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.

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

    Contracting Institution.

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.

    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: Japans 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…



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).

    JET Program(me)

    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

    News, events and information about Japan.

    NY’s JET Alumni Association

    Find our latest events and ask questions.

    Life in Japan

Citibank Japan 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 J Guide


    Stanford University‟s Guide to Japan Information Resources. Also has

    information about Internet Service Providers in Japan.

    Japan Guide

    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.

    Lonely Planet

    The BEST guide books and travel site on Earth!

    Prefectures 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 Ehime Fukui


    Hyogo Ibaraki



    Miyagi Miyazaki Niigata

    Oita Saga Saitama Sendai Tochigi


    Tokyo with Kids

    The interactive online community for English speaking parents in Tokyo and all of


    U.S.-Japan Links

     6 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 One of the best sites for teaching English. Excellent resources for teachers

    ELTNews Homepage A great site for English teachers in Japan with tons of education related news

    and reviews.


    International pen-pals, key pals and other projects

    Internet TESL Journal

    Filled with articles and tips for teachers

    JALT Japan

    Japan Association of Language Teaching, the professional organization for

    teachers in Japan with resources and good teaching links

    Powells 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.



    JET related

    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, or Kinokunya Book

    Store 212-765-7766

    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

    truly indispensable.

    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

    Teaching English

    Japanese Schooling: Patterns of Socialization, Equality and Political Control by

    James Shields

    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.

    Learning Japanese

    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

    loved it.

    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.


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