Author: Linka Wade

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About the School Snack Box

September 13, 2018 | Blog, Japan life, JET Life | No Comments

I’m going to make a guess about your school. Whether it’s elementary, junior high, or high school, I bet there’s some little table or room where everyone gathers to eat some snacks or drink tea. A lot of times, I think ALTs (including myself!) are intimidated by the group of teachers hanging out at the snack table and tend to just stay at their desks instead. But that snack table is actually your gateway into their social network and more natural communication! So, go and be brave, go and break through the barrier to that shining snack table of light! But…there’s one little politeness sticky point here.

Is it okay to indulge in the snacks?

I certainly can’t speak for everyone’s experience, but I can tell you about my own. For the first few weeks at school, I would only eat/drink something when someone brought it to me. For example, I wouldn’t go make myself a cup of tea. Of course, if one of the teachers brought me a cup, I would be happy to drink it. The only guidance I received on the communal snack box was when I was presented with a saved-up mountain of summer omiyage and told that if I didn’t want anything, it was okay to just put it in the box. As time went on and I grew braver; I started to serve myself tea or coffee. But I still stayed away from the snacks. The promised land still seemed to be hidden behind a veil of confusing politeness.

Eventually, as she grew more comfortable with me, the school secretary told me that everyone in the office usually donates 500 yen for her to buy snacks and coffee for everyone to share. I immediately felt embarrassed, like I had been being very rude by treating myself to their things without chipping in – but then I realized that she was actually offering me a way to be more in tune with the rest of the teachers. Great! This is my way in! About two hours later, I trotted up to her desk with a bunch of 100 yen coins and handed them over. She was actually really surprised and immediately assured me that I could drink and eat anything I wanted, as much as I wanted. She made sure to emphasize this point by going to the snack box, grabbing a handful of candies, and depositing them on my desk. Remember that the gossip grapevine can be your friend! Shortly afterwards, the school nurse, my JTE, and the head teacher all approached me to say thanks for chipping in.

The moral of the story is…don’t do what I did. You literally have a person there (your JTE) who can answer all your questions about office politeness. I would have been spared a lot of anxiety if I had just asked “hey, is it okay for me to eat snacks from the box?” If they say yes, go ahead! If they tell you what the deal is, then just follow their instructions. My advice: if no one asks you to chip in at all, bring something in to contribute occasionally. Even just a bag of senbei or hard candy from the grocery store. Your efforts will definitely be noticed and appreciated. If you’re uncomfortable in the teacher’s room, your life at school will probably be a bit sucky. So, ask the questions, do your part, and eat the snacks!


Linka Wade is a first year elementary school JET in Higashiagatsuma. She enjoys learning how to cook Japanese food, travelling, and researching tidbits of Japanese cultural history and linguistics. You can find her research (told in only somewhat decent jokes) and adventure updates on www.linkalearnsthings.wordpress.com

Although Gunma is safe from most largescale natural disasters, it’s good to be prepared for the worst-case scenario. In addition to preparing an emergency kit and knowing emergency contact numbers, it’s helpful to know the closest shelter to both your home and workplace. Your workplace may even be a shelter!

There is a very convenient map of designated shelters on Yahoo!, but the guide is all in Japanese. English instructions have been written below for your convenience.

Evacuation Site Map

https://crisis.yahoo.co.jp/map/

If you don’t know where you are, leave the box blank and it can search based on your current location.

If you want to search for another area, either type in 群馬県 + your municipality into the municipality box (市区町村) and click the green search button, or search by clicking on a Prefecture listed below. (See 群馬)

The default setting will show you all or you can click on Type of Disaster (災害の種類 saigai no shurui) to see shelters for each type of disaster.

Disaster Symbols

  • 地震 (jishin): earthquake
  • 津波 (tsunami): tsunami
  • 洪水 (kouzui): flood
  • 土砂災害 (dosha saigai): landslide
  • 内水氾濫※ (naisui hanran): inland flood*
  • 高潮 (kouchou): tidal wave
  • 火災 (kasai): fire
  • 火山噴火 (kazan funka): volcanic eruption

*In cases of heavy rain, sewers and other drains overflow and buildings and roads can flood.

Using the map

The default search will give you a list of shelters for all types of disasters, but you can refine your search if you want. If you click on a shelter, it will tell you the location, address, and types of disasters you can go there for. (You can see that there are pretty much no shelters in Gunma for tsunamis or tidal waves because we don’t get them here.)

Here, you can see that you can go to Maebashi Park (前橋公園 maebashi kouen) in case of an earthquake or landslide.

There will also be a list of the 10 nearest shelters from the middle of the map.

And that’s all! I recommend also bookmarking this page on your phone so you can use it wherever you go in Japan. It might save you in case of a natural disaster!

Note: There is also an app available in Japanese, but you will need a Yahoo! account to use it.

You can see additional information and resources (incl. an emergency pocket guide for JETs) on the CLAIR website: http://jetprogramme.org/en/emergency-support/

Tobu Repeats at 2018 Gunma Games

September 2, 2018 | Blog, GAJET Events, JET Life | No Comments

When the dust settled, it was the team in green who hoisted the coveted Golden Cabbage; the second consecutive year in which the Tobu region would win the late-summer classic.

ALTs from all across Gunma traveled to Takasaki as the Gunma Games returned for its sixth iteration on September 1. As always, the event attracted a large crowd of both new and returning JETs. Throughout the day, competitors from the five regions of Gunma competed in a series of events in which – keeping on topic with Gunma – involved A LOT of cabbages.

Competitors jump, tossed, and stomped their way through the day’s eight events before the Tobu team took home the trophy. Events included the cabbage toss, cabbage bowling,  Gunma trivia, and the ever-popular Ultimate Cabbage.

Often considered the first major GAJET event of the new JET-year, the Gunma Games is a great chance for everyone to gather and make new friends . Despite the competitive energy in the air, camaraderie and friendship stood out to be the real main events of the day.

Relive the action by checking out the photos here (Facebook album)

 

Looking for a way to meet new people in Gunma while having fun and competing? Say no more! It’s almost time for the sixth annual Gunma Games!

Never heard of the Gunma Games? The Gunma Games is usually the first large GAJET event after the new JETs arrive in Gunma. Come on out and represent your region in this Olympic-style sporting event! Events can range from trivia, paper crane folding, relay-race, and of course the ever-popular Ultimate Cabbage!

Athletes and non-athletes alike are welcome to participate. Regardless of your abilities, you’ll be sure to have a fun time.

The Gunma Games will be held on September 1st at Takasaki Ishihara Green Space. Please arrive by 11:30 as the opening ceremonies will commence at noon.

The Gunma Games wouldn’t be complete without the following Welcome Beer Garden. There’s no better way to end off a day in the sun than with drinking with your fellow competitors. Everyone is welcome to join us as the Takasaki Takashiyama Rooftop Beer Garden after the festivities.

Please sign up via the google document (click here), and remember to wear your region appropriate color to the event (PS. Speak to your regional representative if you don’t know what color you are)!

Time: Gunma Games (11:30 – 16:00) and Welcome Beer Garden (17:00 – 21:00)

Fee: Gunma Games (free) and Welcome Beer Garden (3,000 for males and 2,600 for females)

For more information, please check out the Facebook event or contact a GAJET member.

Home is Gunma

July 31, 2018 | Blog, JET Life | No Comments

For leaving JETs, summer is often a time for closure. They come from all over the world, but for a brief moment – whether it be one year or five – they all shared the bond of calling Gunma home. Although these JETs will be moving on to new adventures, it’s certain that their time in Gunma will be unforgettable.

As they prepare to depart, GAJET caught up with some leaving JETs to reflect on their time in Gunma.

“It was a blank slate. I didn’t know what to expect,” recalls Teresa Coture (second year, Fujioka) when asked about her first impression of Gunma, “My placement turned out to be pretty rural, but I was happy about it, because I’m not much of a city person.”

Alissa Balge (third year, Fujioka) admits she was initially worried about moving to Gunma because she believed there would not be a lot of things to do in Gunma. “But [my impression of Gunma] changed since. It’s beautiful here, and great if you love onsen!”

Nature is just one of many reasons for why JETs love Gunma.

Aside from Gunma’s abundance of nature, scenery, and hot-springs. Leaving JET are quick to speak about the amazing people they’ve met in Gunma.

“I really like the community here. The people are nice, and are open to talking with you,” says Anne Kanamori (second year, Kiryu) when asked about what she will remember the most about her time in Gunma. “Any events which were organized by GAJET, or JOMO JET, or any kind of international community was impressionable.”

“I’ll remember lots of times from school, talking and having fun with students and singing with the teacher’s rock band, and my community naginata club, and travels with friends,” reflects Abby Ryder-Huth (second year, Takasaki). “Most of all, I will miss my friends and teachers and students, the communities here that I love.”

“There is such a large community of ALTs here to support you and help you out,” adds Josh Frankle (third year, Kiryu). “My most memorable moments came from the GAJET events. In particular, Gunma Games and the Canyons adventure trips. I made a lot of friends and memories during those events.”

Sayounara, senpais!

While these amazing JETs are busy preparing for their post-JET lives, they were also happy to offer an array of advice for the next generation of Gunma JETs.

“Make friends. Find people you like to be around. Create a support network early,” suggests Will Emerson (second year, Takasaki). “It can be tough being alone, especially in the winter. Make sure you have friends you can consistently see on a regular basis, and that will keep your spirits high.”

“Go to the events as much as you can,” mentions Kelli-Ann Kobaysahi (first year, Kiryu). “Even in Gunma there is so much to see – and that’s really great. GAJET allows us to see a lot of Gunma through their events.”

“Japan is an experience, and it might not always meet your expectations – and a lot of the times, it won’t,” says Kristin Wilson (4th year, Takasaki). “But in the end, I think you’ll be happy that you did it.”

Although each departing JET has had their own unique experiences, it was clear that they all experienced the true nature of Gunma. Breathtaking scenery, an amazing ALT community, and perhaps most importantly – a place they were able to call home.

And to all the new JETs arriving in Gunma this summer…

Welcome to the family!


Gavin Au-Yeung is the 2018-2019 editor for GAJET. Thanks to Devyn Couch, Valerie Sanders, and Edward Portillo for conducting interviews. And a special thanks to all the JETs who will be leaving Gunma this summer. Otsukaresama!

Head to the seventh floor food court at Takasaki’s OPA mall on any given Wednesday evening, and you will likely see groups of young people seated at tables and cheerfully chatting. It may seem innocuous at first glance, but upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent that they are not regular mall-goers.

Take a closer look and you’ll further notice that each group is comprised of two foreigners and two Japanese locals. Placed on each table, an orange piece of laminated paper with a picture of Gunma’s beloved mascot, Gunma-Chan.

Written above the picture: GJEE.

To get a clear picture, we need to rewind the calendar six months.

The story begins on a chilly February evening. A small group of Gunma JETs are gathered in a living room. Seated by a kotatsu, the group begins to discuss their plans for organizing Gunma’s newest language exchange; something which would eventually become a grassroots movement.

“I’ve spoken to a lot of ALTs in Gunma and many have a genuine desire to learn Japanese,” says Andrew Qiu, a first year JET living in Takasaki. “However, the problem is that ALTs don’t have anyone to practice with.”

Simply put, GJEE (abbreviated from Gunma Japanese English Exchange, but often pronounced as G.G.) is a weekly event where Japanese locals and expats come together with a common goal of learning a new language.

Participants sign up online in order to RSVP for the next event. Events are held every Wednesday and language learners arrive at the food court by 7 PM. Turnout usually ranges from 16 to 20 participants.

Paying attention to the English and Japanese abilities of each member, everyone is carefully placed into prearranged groups; the idea is to get a good balance as to avoid stagnant conversation.

The magic begins when everyone is seated.

The process is simple for the hour-long event: the first half hour is dedicated to English conversation, and the latter half is carried out in Japanese.

Of course, creating a language exchange from scratch is no easy task. But the process has been extremely rewarding for the GJEE team.

In the earlier days, Andrew would find himself personally reaching out to friends – both English speakers and Japanese locals – in order to garner enough participants. At one point, Andrew and GJEE co-founder Jeef Chandra (first year JET, Takasaki), pitched the language exchange to local university students during a lecture. Now, with more than 70 members, the signup spots practically fill themselves up.

Initially reserved, many newcomers may be scared to speak in a language besides their native tongue. However, there is always something about GJEE events which captivate even the most withdrawn participants.

For the novice language learners, making mistakes could be a terrifying experience. However, that fear is easily remedied with a warm smile; that’s all it takes to break through any language barrier.

A culture of friendship is perpetuated at GJEE. Don’t be afraid to stumble across unfamiliar vocabulary, mispronounce words, or even use incorrect grammar. No one will judge you, and everyone will be thrilled to see you make an honest attempt.

Aside from language learning, GJEE serves another important function. As a group consisting of both locals and expats, GJEE is in a unique position to create lifelong friendships which traverse cultural gaps.

“I would argue the cultural exchange which happens during GJEE meetups is equally, if not more, important than the actual learning of languages,” says Jeef. “Sure, GJEE participants are learning a new language, but it goes a lot further than that.”

For many participants, GJEE is more than a place to learn languages. It’s an opportunity for members to exchange ideas and learn more about the world.

JETs are in a unique opportunity to affect globalization. It’s more than simply working in Japan. It’s about showing the goodness in people, and it’s about being an ambassador for a global community.

This may seem like an immense task, but in reality, it’s as simple as starting a friendly conversation.


Both Andrew and Jeef will be leaving Gunma and the JET Programme come August. However, GJEE will continue its goal towards bridging people and communities. For more information, and to get involved with GJEE, please email [email protected]

Gavin Au-Yeung is a first year JET in Isesaki. He is also one of the co-founders of GJEE.

Overcoming the Desk Warming Blues

July 23, 2018 | Blog, Guides, Japan life | No Comments

While classes may have stopped during the summer vacation, JETs are still required to go to work. Of course, many of us will use vacation days during this time.

On the other hand, there are also many JETs who will find themselves confined to their desks during this time. It doesn’t matter if you’re entering your fifth year on JET or if you just got off the plane, desk warming can be one of the most boring things about the job.

The summer stretch at your desk may feel like an eternity, but let’s talk about some ways you can make the days go by faster.

With the right attitude, your desk warming days can feel like a breeze 😉

1: Explore your school: 

New JETs. You’ve just be thrown into a new environment, and you probably have a lot of questions about your new school. Important questions like, “where is the toilet?” can be easily answered by wandering through hallways. While your school campus may initially look like a maze, summer vacation will give you a good chance to freely explore the building.

Additionally, you can also organize your desk. This will be your workspace for the year, so roll up your sleeves and get cleaning. Maybe your predecessor left you a lot of useful materials (read: junk). Figure out what you need and what can be thrown out.

 

2: Prepare lessons:

New JETs will most likely be expected to prepare an introductory lesson about themselves and their home country. Use this time to plan what you will do with this lesson – a fun quiz or a PowerPoint presentation full of pictures are sure to be successful. You haven’t actually met your students yet, so don’t worry too much about lesson planning. Use the first few weeks of classes to gauge their abilities.

For continuing JETS, definitely use this time to plan ahead. The best case scenario is planning for the entire upcoming school term. At the same time, remember that schedules can abruptly change.

For those of you lucky enough to have a designated English classroom, take some time to rearrange desks and decorate the room before your students arrive.

 

3: Learn something:

Most of us will have Internet access on our workplace computers. However, every good website (i.e. YouTube) is likely to be blocked. Fortunately, there are still other things you can do online. Use this free period of time to study something you have always wanted to learn. Perhaps you’ve always been interested in picking up photography; well here’s your chance! There are many free online resources which can help you learn new skills or explore new hobbies; just be sure not to disturb your co-workers. If you’re lost for ideas, studying Japanese is always a safe bet!

Alternatively, you can always bring a good book or e-reader.

 

4: Visit clubs:

Although classes are halted during summer vacation, many junior and senior high school students still spend their summer days at school. Club activities, especially sports, are practiced religiously in Japan. Many clubs may try to take advantage of the prolonged break from classes to practice every day. If possible, try to talk with club supervisors to see if you can watch or participate in club activities. Furthermore, interacting with your students outside of class is a great way to build rapport.

 

5: Plan your next trip:

You may be trapped at your desk now, but at least you still have weekends off! If you’re new to Gunma, definitely check out some local spots. There are tons to explore in our own backyard, so get pumped and get planning.

Start making that bucket list!

 

6: Write for GAJET:

Every Situation Is Different. 

A phrase we’ve heard countless times, and a phrase which continues to hold truth. Each of us are bound to have our own unique stories and experiences. Why not use the summer vacation to write down some of your thoughts. GAJET is always looking for new content so please get in touch with us!

 

7: Enjoy it while you can:

You may be bored out of your mind now. But remember, summer vacation will come to an end. Relax and have some tea. Maybe eat out for lunch. Enjoy these tranquil times, because your overly-genki students will be bombarding you soon enough!


Have other ideas? Leave a comment below!

Gavin Au-Yeung is entering his second year as a senior high school JET in Isesaki. He will be celebrating his one-year anniversary with the JET Programme by desk warming. 

Welcome to Gunma! You’ve just arrived in Japan (more specifically, Gunma), and have spent the past few days trying to get acclimated to your new home. Perhaps you’ve been fighting the sweltering heat, navigating the soy-sauce aisle at your local grocery store, and facing off against other daily challenges which would not be a problem back in your home country.

Regardless of how your new adventures in Gunma have been, it’s definitely time for a proper welcome for the new JETs. GAJET is hosting a Welcome Party on Friday, August 17. Hosted by your lovely GAJET Seibu Reps, the party is aimed towards new JETs living in Gunma’s Seibu region (Takasaki, Kanra, Tomioka, Shimonita, Kanna, Uenomura, Nanmoku, Annaka, and Fujioka). Of course, everyone – new, old, and non-Seibu JETs – is welcome to come!

The party will be hosted at Gru Cafe and Restaurant in Takasaki City, and festivities will be from 6 PM to 9 PM. The cost for the event will be ¥2,700 per person, and will cover two drinks (alcoholic or non-alcoholic) as well as a buffet-style pasta menu. Registration is mandatory via Google Documents (click here). Please confirm your attendence by August 13th (those who cancel after this date will still be charged). For more information, please visit the Facebook event page or contact your Seibu Reps.

With summer in full swing, we are once again approaching matsuri (festival) season. Within Gunma, the Takasaki matsuri is always a popular attration. This year, the festival will fall on August 4th and 5th. There’s no better way to enjoy the festival than with your fellow JETs. So let’s put on our yukatas, grab some delicious street food, and enjoy the fireworks!

If you would like to experience this event with your fellow JETs, please come out on August 4th to Takasaki Park (specific meeting spot TBD). Takasaki matsuri is usually a busy event; taking public transit is the recommended method of transportation. The park is just a 15 minute walk from Takasaki Station. GAJET will be gathering at Takasaki City Hall and heading towards the park at 6 PM. The fireworks are set to begin around 7:40 PM.

For more information, please contact your Seibu Reps or check out the Facebook event page.

Hope to see you there!

More Information:

Takasaki matsuri (Japanese website) and English information (under “Takasaki Festival”)

GAJET Event Survey

July 3, 2018 | News and Announcements | No Comments

Attention Gunma ALTs!

If you’ve attended GAJET events last year or are interested in attending any of our future events, we would love to hear from you! We’re asking for your opinion so that we can improve our service to you.

Enjoyed a particular event last year? Let us know!

Have an awesome idea for a new event? Let us know!

You’ve got questions, comments, and concerns? Let us know!

We want your opinion, so please fill out our survey (click here). It only takes a few minutes, and you’ll be helping improve the Gunma ALT community.

Thank you!