NEW YORK – Japan’s consul general in New York provided a warm send-off Friday for the area’s new recruits to the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme as the government project for globalization enters its 30th year.
“The JET Programme is a major asset to both Japan and the United States,” Ambassador Reiichiro Takahashi said to 80 new participants on the eve of their departure for Japan, highlighting the cross-cultural relationships built in the program as “fundamental to the great friendship between our two nations.”
Takahashi wished the recruits “vibrant and memorable” experiences on the program and expressed hope that the time in a new culture will “enrich (their) lives personally.”
JET Programme participants work from one to five years for municipal governments throughout Japan, serving mostly as assistant language teachers, with a smaller number of coordinators for international relations and advisers for sports exchanges.
“Japan has contributed to my development and given me a bigger view of the world, so I hope to bring some of that to the students I teach,” said new JET Charles Frederick, who will teach in junior high and elementary school classrooms in Gunma Prefecture.
Frederick started learning Japanese in his New York state high school, went on to study in the Kansai region and completed a two-month internship in Tokyo during law school. He hopes to build on his JET experience to pursue a career in Japan in the educational or legal fields.
Although prior study of the language is not required to participate in JET, many applicants take an interest in the program after starting to learn Japanese or encountering the culture.
“Since I studied Japanese, it’s only natural that I explore cultural relations with Japan, strengthen my ties with the country and learn a lot more about its culture,” said Britney Harris, a 2013 graduate bound for Tottori Prefecture.
Harris, who cited interest in pursuing international relations or foreign service work, expressed gratitude for the opportunity. “I’ll be up all night packing,” she said with a laugh. “But I’m sure once I finish packing, I’ll just feel elated and excited to be going and doing what I’ve always wanted to do.”
The JET Programme started in 1987 with 848 participants from four countries and expanded significantly in a bid to internationalize Japan’s classrooms. Originally placed in junior high and high schools, JET teachers were also introduced into Japanese elementary schools in 2002.
Currently there are 4,800 participants in the program, including new recruits and those extending their contracts, representing over 40 countries.