My journey began when I arrived
in Tokyo and met the rest of my fellow JET participants. There
were quite a few of us, maybe a couple thousand, from all over
the English-speaking world. While we were in Tokyo for only
a short period, for orientation, I was awestruck by the ever-moving,
never-sleeping life of the city. This was not for me though.
I’m an island child, and I need the sun and the ocean.
Luckily, I was placed in an area more suitable.
I am living in Okinawa prefecture on an island called Miyako-jima,
smaller than O‘ahu and much more rural. The population
is about 50,000. There is little entertainment on the island,
but what it lacks in the man-made attractions it gains in natural
beauty. It is a first-class diving destination with lots of fish
and beautiful reefs.
Visitors flock to the island year round but not to the extent
that it becomes a Waikiki Beach. The weather is quite warm, similar
to Hawai‘i’s, but with differences in weather patterns.
The people of Miyako-jima are just about the most hospitable
I have ever met. Since arriving a couple months ago, I feel I
have almost reached celebrity status due to the number of people
I now know. I guess that’s an advantage of living on a
I work for the Miyako-jima Education Office, which is like
the board of education office on O‘ahu, only smaller. I am
sent to several different schools throughout the Hirara City
area. Hirara City is the largest metropolis on Miyako-jima. I
actually go to 11 different schools, some of which require short
plane or ferry rides.
I spend less than a week at each school and will visit each
school about six times during my contract year. Though there’s
no time to get settled into to any particular school, my work
takes me all over Miyako-jima, and I meet a lot of people, more
than any other JET on the island.
Lesson planning is easy and a lot of fun. As a JET, I am there
to assist in the teaching of English. It is usually not my responsibility
to teach the class myself, though at times that does happen.
I usually discuss with the English teacher a day or two in advance
what will be covered in the class. I make recommendations on
what we should do. Sometimes I develop worksheets, make up games,
print out lyrics for various songs, and do whatever else the
I usually have the time to finish my work at school, so I have
free time at home. It is by no means an overly demanding job,
and it does not require any experience. I have no experience
in teaching, and yet I am doing this job. I spend a couple hours
a day at school making my lesson plan, and I have anywhere from
two-to-four classes a day. I find it fun thinking up new ways
to teach the kids English. It is very fulfilling.
Outside of school, I live a laid-back life either swimming
or fishing. Nightlife is great also, with restaurants, bars,
karaokes. I spend a lot of time with the other JETs and foreigners
living on the island.
I’ve met other HPU grads, such as
Sean McGonagle, class of ’99, and I’ve been making
a lot of new friends. We spend a lot of time helping each other
in language studies.
My Japanese is still bad, so I’ll take all the help I
So, my life at the moment is a new way of life yet not so different
from the one I left behind in Hawai‘i. Many new friends,
new sights, and new experiences have made things very enjoyable
for me, and my “local” lifestyle has appealed to
many of the residents I spend time with. It is mutually beneficial
and this helps create great relationships that I feel will
become long-lasting bonds with people whom I will never forget.
So I recommend the program. It is a great opportunity to do
something unusual once out of college, without risking a career
into one. It’s a chance to spend a year or so deciding
what you want to do for the rest of your life while experiencing
how wonderful the country of Japan is.
Editor’s note: There
are several JET programs. Japanese language ability is not
Successful applicants receive $32,000 annual salary, round-trip
airfare, health insurance, and other benefits. Application
deadline is Dec. 1. Students can obtain application forms
and more information through HPU’s International Studies
office, 544-1171, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.