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The newest JET program participants have arrived in Tokyo and showed their eagerness to make a mark in schools and local-government offices nationwide, at the start of a three-day orientation program Monday.

The Japan Exchange and Teaching group, consisting of assistant-language teachers, coordinators for international relations and sports-exchange advisers, now totals 5,687 representatives from 35 countries.

“The road to internationalization is a bumpy road,” warned the opening ceremony’s keynote speaker Katsutoshi Ohta, senior managing director of the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations.

The orientation, being held at a Tokyo hotel, is scheduled to cover everything from teaching methods and how to exchange business cards to cooking without an oven.

The biggest challenge facing new JET participants is finding a place in the Japanese community while maintaining one’s own cultural identity, said Heidi Merriman, a second-year assistant language teacher from Canada. “It’s important to maintain that balance because a major purpose of the JET program is to provide exposure to foreigners (for the Japanese), so that the rest of the world does not seem so far away,” she said after the opening ceremony.

Despite the warnings, many newcomers are already raving to renew their yearlong contracts for a second year.

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