The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme
The JET Programme is an exchange program administered by Japanese government entities to promote foreign language education and international exchange at the community level.
Most commonly, the program recruits college graduates who are interested in moving to and living in Japan to work for a local board of education as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher). Depending on the situation and needs, ALTs can work for anywhere from one, to more than 10 elementary, middle, or high schools. In addition to aiding Japanese teachers of English in teaching their class, ALTs help to add a direct source to the language and culture of their home country that students may otherwise not be exposed to. In exchange, ALTs are often invited to join local festivals and other traditional activities. ALTs make up approximately ninety percent of total JET participants.
Another opportunity through the JET Programme exists for individuals who may already possess a proficient grasp of the Japanese language (judged to be at least equivalent to Japanese Language Proficiency Test level N2 or N1). The position is called CIR (Coordinator of International Relations) and they can be appointed to work at one of a variety of locations including prefectural offices, city halls, international associations, boards of education or even art museums. Also, within any of those entities, there are a variety of departments that they could be asked to work at, depending on the situation and where they are most needed. These usually include international affairs divisions, multicultural divisions, or international tourism promotion divisions etc.
JET is a wonderful way for anyone who has at least a bachelor’s degree and is interested in living and working in Japan to do so.
Visit www.jetprogramme.org for more information on the JET Program and how to apply for it.
Before I became an ALT on the JET Programme, I had never traveled to Japan. Not having been to the country and only knowing about Japan from what I’d learned, I decided to take a leap of faith and try to live there for at least a year. I requested to live in Hyogo Prefecture because of its sister state relationship with Washington State. To my fortune, I was placed to live in Tamba, a medium-sized rural town in the center of Hyogo.
I had the wonderful opportunity of living in Tamba, a medium-sized town in the center of Hyogo Prefecture.
Alejandro Llamas, Hyogo ALT 201?-201?
When I studied abroad in college at Shimane Prefecture from 2010 to 2011, I happened to randomly run into a good friend from back home who was working as an ALT in Izumo through the JET program. I asked him a lot about the program and when he told me that he loved it and how it paid well, I became very interested in participating in the program in the future. However I wasn’t particularly interested in being an assistant English teacher.
Shortly after, I met a couple of other JET acquaintances of his who told me that they were CIRs, not ALTs. When I asked them what that was and what they did, they told me that it stood for Coordinator of International Relations and they usually worked at government offices and did tasks like Japanese translation and interpretation. This meant that they needed to already have a level of Japanese fluency. This certainly piqued my interest, as it was my goal to eventually end up in some kind of job that used my Japanese language ability.
I later applied for and was accepted into the program working as a CIR for Aichi prefecture and came to live in Nagoya with my wife and two kids. The experience was highly rewarding, giving me opportunities to not only translate official government documentation and interpret for meetings, but also write articles for local government publications, speak and give official announcements in English on a public radio show, and do English situational role playing to help train the Aichi prefectural police.
My time as a CIR was a wonderful experience and I enjoyed my time in Japan very much. It will be something that I will always cherish and carry with me throughout my life.
Braden Bennight, Aichi CIR ?-?
I learned about the JET Programme soon after I began studying Japanese in college. But it wasn't until my senior year when a former CIR gave a talk at our school that I learned about positions outside of teaching. Looking to combine my passions of business and Japanese language & culture, I applied for the CIR position and was subsequently placed in Toyooka City, Hyogo Prefecture.
I worked in the city's tourism office, where I marketed and promoted the area by coordinating with local businesses and overseas travel agencies. I also oversaw the English tourism website, and posted frequently on the website’s social media accounts. I had many interesting and fun opportunities through this experience, including organizing monitor tours and attending travel expositions.
I also had the chance to connect with the local and expatriate communities through joining a taiko club, participating in English conversation clubs, and more.
I would highly recommend considering the JET Programme if you are interested in connecting with Japan beyond a 2-week trip.