Several weeks ago at a rooftop event hosted by the Japan-America Society of Washington, D.C., I had the pleasure of talking with some new friends about my time on the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme — I even got to brush up on my Kansai-ben, a dialect spoken in western Japan, in the process. This led to a lot of reminiscing about the experience as the event wound down.

In fact, July 28, 2023, marks one decade since I myself boarded a one-way flight to Tokyo for the JET Programme orientation at the Keio Plaza Hotel. The day also coincides with the weekend departure of the first batch of American JET participants for the 2023-24 cycle.

I can remember that Tokyo orientation like it was yesterday. Our speaker surveyed the crowd and told us how some people in the room would stay in Japan forever, some would serve the full five years, and some would maybe stay for only one year — and that the majority of us would likely work in fields in which we would utilize the experience we were about to have in some way. I listened carefully, wondering which of those groups I would eventually belong to.