Japan’s JET Programme marks 30th anniversary

Kyodo

Alumni and current participants in the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme vowed Monday to continue to act as bridges between Japanese and overseas communities as they gathered to mark the 30th anniversary of the government project.

“As more and more Japanese companies look to expand their reach globally and adopt an international approach, it is more important than ever that JETs do their best to prepare their students and colleagues for a more multicultural Japan,” a JET declaration announced at the commemorative ceremony read.

“In view of the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the 2019 Rugby World Cup, we pledge to support the Japanese government in its pursuit to host and promote successful international events,” it read.

Under the JET Programme, participants invited by the government work from one to five years for municipal governments in locations nationwide, where they serve mostly as assistant language teachers. A smaller number work as coordinators for international relations or as sports exchange advisers.

The project is part of Japan’s efforts to promote international grass-roots exchanges in local communities across the nation.

At the ceremony, which was also attended by Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida thanked former JET participants for continuing to “share their love for and knowledge of Japanese culture” with the world. Kishida promised continued efforts to “promote the JET Programme so that knowledge of Japan overseas will be deepened.”

Kishida introduced in his speech a project by former JETs where they filmed and screened a documentary about areas in the Tohoku region, which was devastated by the earthquake and tsunami catastrophe in March 2011.

Among the victims of the calamity were Taylor Anderson, 24, and Montgomery Dickson, 26, both U.S. nationals who worked as JET English teachers in disaster-hit Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, respectively.

The JET Programme started in 1987 with 848 participants from four countries. Currently there are roughly 5,000 active participants from 40 countries in the program, including new recruits and those extending their contracts.

Some 65,000 people from 65 countries have participated, the organizer said, calling it one of the biggest exchange programs in the world.

Of the participants in 2016, 57 percent were from the United States, followed by 10 percent from Canada and 8 percent from Britain.