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]
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.
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.
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.
Greetings! My name is Devyn Couch, and I’m your friendly neighborhood GAJET president this year. Originally hailing from one of New Jersey’s many shore towns, I’m now entering my third year as a JHS JET in Tamamura. Before moving to Japan, I spent several amazing years teaching both general and special education at the elementary school level, so the jump to junior high was admittedly a little scary! However, I wouldn’t trade the connections I’ve made with my students and coworkers here for anything.
In my free time, you’ll often find me throwing myself headfirst into the many amazing events and beautiful natural spots that our humble cabbage patch has to offer (have you seen these mountains!?), pursuing various creative endeavors, and volunteering with different organizations in order to give back to the prefecture I now call home. One of the best things about Gunma is how friendly and supportive the community here is, so if you ever have any questions, need help with anything, or just want to say “hi”, please don’t hesitate!
Valerie Landers, Vice-President
Hi everyone! My name is Valerie. I grew up in Prince George’s County, Maryland, in the Washington, DC area. Now I live in Tomioka and I’m going into my third year as a senior high school ALT. Linguistics and languages are my jam! I’m basically a tropical houseplant, thriving in the sun and warm temps Fahrenheit and Celsius. I enjoy jigsaw puzzles and the occasional novice hike. My favorite Gunma adventures include fireworks, gardens, cafes, and mountains. My mission is to show the world how awesome Gunma is, and make it more accessible to my fellow Gunma JETs. Welcome to Gunma!!!!
Luke McDaneld, Treasurer
Hello everyone, my name is Luke McDaneld. Originally from Lawrence, Kansas, I am now a 3rd year JHS/ES JET residing in Maebashi. This is my first year as a part of the GAJET committee, and I look forward to working as Treasurer with all the other members and the community at large to keep Gunma a great place to be an ALT.
When I’m not at school, you might find me at the local climbing gym, or enjoying Gunma’s great outdoor offerings like breathtaking mountain trails and soul-soothing onsen. I’m always looking forおやじギャグ or 諺if you have a good one, so when you see me out and about don’t hesitate to share! 宜しくお願い致します！
Alex Krause, Secretary
Hello everyone! My name is Alex Krause. I’m a second year American JET living in Takasaki. I’m honored to be your secretary this year. Originally from Western Pennsylvania, I’ve come to love our cabbage patch with all my heart and can’t imagine living anywhere else. I’m going to do my best this year to show you all the amazing gems Gunma has to offer.
I don’t really do the whole relaxing thing, so I try to keep busy as much as possible. I spend most weekends traveling around Gunma or surrounding prefectures with friends; my personal goal is to visit every Jomo Karuta spot before I finish JET. Whenever I’m not exploring, you’ll find me hanging around any of Takasaki’s delicious bakeries.
I’m also a firm believer in making the most of opportunities that come my way. I rarely ever say no to an invitation if I think it’ll lead to an awesome new experience, and that has only worked in my favor since being in Japan. That’s about the only little wisdom nugget I’d like to pass down to the next generation of ALTs, say yes to whatever you can! 一年よろしくね～
Gavin Au-Yeung, Editor
Heya, my name is Gavin and I’ll be editing the content on this site for the next year. I’m originally from Toronto, Canada, but now find myself teaching senior high school students in Isesaki. This year, I’m looking to spread the word of Gunma. To do this, I’ll need the help of Gunma ALTs to contribute their photos, stories, and experiences. I’m looking forward to sharing your messages!
Feel free to say “Hi” if you see me. I’m always interested in hearing about your own unique Gunma experience. Besides editing, you can also hunt me down to talk about basketball, video games, and photography.
Allan Tan, Webmaster
Ki Ora! My name is Allan Tan and I was born and raised in New Zealand. I’m currently a 2nd year JET, teaching at an elementary school in Shinmachi, Takasaki.
This year, as your Webmaster, I look forward to working alongside with the other members to improve and provide better services to the ALT community in Gunma.
When I’m not geeking around on my computer or working at school, you’ll find me in the ski fields during winter or on the courts playing volleyball and basketball throughout the year!
Feel free to spin a yarn anytime! 😀
Maja Thoenes, Seibu Rep
Hi everyone, I’m Maja Thoenes! I am originally from Huntsville, Alabama, USA, but I’ve called Tomioka home for the past year! I moved to Japan straight after finishing university where I studied literature and Japanese. I’m so excited to be on GAJET this year, and be a resource for both continuing and new JETs alike! Outside of school, I love joining my local communities for sports like hockey, running, badminton, and hiking, but I will never turn down an invitation to binge Netflix, either. I love making new friends, so please don’t hesitate to say hi or join me on an adventure!
Ciara Malone, Seibu Rep
Hello everyone! I’m Ciara and I’m a second year, elementary school JET in Yoshii, Takasaki. I’m from London, but spent my time before JET in sunny Scotland and swelteringly hot Singapore. This is my second time in Japan and my first year as a member of GAJET. During my first year in Japan, I have travelled from Okinawa to Hokkaido, attended Japan’s largest snow festival, been on the fastest and steepest rollercoasters in the world, performed my class in front of the Ambassador of Panama (randomly), and been in Gunma’s newspapers. Japan is an opportunity to get involved in a totally new environment, so take every moment that you can! As one of your two Seibu Representatives, I’m looking forward to planning some great events for you this year. Seibu is by far the largest area in Gunma and I’m excited to unite our (very large) community.
Tiffany Do, Tone/Agatsuma Rep
Hello! I’m Tiffany Do. I will be your Tone/Agatsuma Rep. This will be my third year as an elementary school ALT in Agatsuma. I teach at two small elementary schools, both with about 100 students in each. I am originally from California, so Gunma’s winter is still too cold for me! So during the winter you can probably find me in the onsen 7 days of the week! My goal for GAJET this year is to build a stronger ALT community, and bring everyone together. I want to be able to help put on amazing events and create beautiful memories. Let’s have a great year! I am looking forward to seeing everyone at our events!
Andy Cerecero, Tone/Agatsuma Rep
Hi y’all! My names Andy and I’m one half of the Agatsuma dream team duo! Hailing from a small city on the US/Mexico border in south Texas, I spend my days now in the lovely mountain village of Kuni! When I’m not teaching my elementary and junior high school students, I enjoy passing the time by playing the Taiko drums with the village Taiko crew, or playing my bass guitar at home. One of my favorite pastimes is listening to horror podcasts and I tend to listen to them often during my 1+ hour long drives around Gunma. My favorite food back home in Texas is Whataburger (ask me about it) and my favorite food in japan is Abura soba (油そば, also ask me about it). じゃね〜！
Edward Portillo, Chubu Rep
Hello Chubu and the rest of Gunma! My name is Edward Portillo and I am originally from Los Angeles, California. Currently I reside in Shibukawa, and depending on when you read this, I’ll be a second year JET. I arrived in Japan with the goal of seeing every prefecture before my tenure ends, and this means that on any given weekend, I’ll be indulging my wanderlust. I want to build connections between Gunma and our fellow JETs in other prefectures through my travels, and serving on GAJET will help me do just that. I enjoy movies, video games, and anime & manga. If I’m in Gunma, you can probably find me at the movie theater or the arcade. I also enjoy sports, and regularly play badminton, as well as participating in basketball and soccer tournaments in other prefectures. If you see me at an event, feel free to have a chat, I’d be more than happy to swap stories!
Jansen Magarro, Tobu Rep
Hey there! My name is Jansen. I come from one of the colder cities in Canada: Winnipeg and I currently live in one of the hottest cities in Japan: Tatebayashi. I am going into my fourth year on JET, teaching at the high school level. I spend most of my free time exercising, cooking, and complaining about the hot weather. On the weekends, you can usually find me hanging out with friends around Gunma or chilling in Tokyo. If you have any questions please give me a shout. I would love to hear from you!
For many Gunma JETs, July can be trying times. In particular, we will experience two pains: the start of the humid season, and – more important – the departure of our fellow JETs.
Luckily, there is a solution for both of these problems!
On July 14, please come out to GAJET’s Farewell Beer Garden party to celebrate the leaving JETs one last time, and to knock back a few cold ones to combat the humidity.
The venue will be the Takashimaya rooftop beer garden, located near the west side of Takasaki station. Festivities will begin at 5 PM and go until 9 PM, but feel free to come at your own leisurely pace. Entry to the event will cost ¥3,000 for men and ¥2,600 for women. Your admission will cover both tabehoudai and nomihoudai (all-you-can eat and all-you-can drink)!
If you have any questions or want more information, please feel free to consult the Facebook event page or contact a GAJET member.
Thank you so much to the big and outstanding group of people throwing their hats into the ring to join the next GAJET crew! You can vote right here from now until Thursday, June 21.
Devyn Couch (Tamamura), President
Hello, everyone! My name is Devyn Couch, a soon-to-be third year JET from Gunma’s very own Ball Village, Tamamura.
Having served as Chubu Representative for the past year, I’m eager to continue building our community with you all, this time as GAJET’s president. Having worked with and learned from the amazing members of this year’s committee, I’m looking forward to using that knowledge and experience in creating even more opportunities to get out and enjoy all that Gunma has to offer!
Some of my personal goals for this year are to provide more resources and support to incoming Gunma JETs (via the website, Facebook page, and other sources); coordinate more with our block to co-host regional events; and keep bringing you all both familiar and new events so we Gunma JETs can keep on doing what we do best–being one of the most tightly-knit ALT communities around!
Thank you for your time and consideration!
Valerie Landers (Tomioka), Vice President and Seibu Representative
Hi everyone! I’m Valerie, from the M of the DMV (DC/Maryland/Virginia) of the United States. I’m going into my third year as an SHS ALT. I live in Tomioka, which sits in view of beloved Mounts Myogi and Asama. You can often find me on some Gunma excursion—driving up a mountain, scoping out a local cafe, snapping garden pics, or on whatever adventure the day calls for!
From my first Gunma Games two summers ago, GAJET events have been taking me to new experiences, folding me into our JET community. Ultimate Cabbage wasn’t the end! Art Share Nights, Canyons, and the fall Myogi hike pushed me past limits. I experienced how supportive our Gunma family is; they had my back as I shared poetry, careened down streams, and scrambled over mountain rocks.
As Vice President of GAJET I will support the President in building this community, working with the team to coordinate the events that bring us together. My modus operandi is, “Where there’s a will there’s a way.” I will make Gunma more accessible to my fellow JETs, so that we can better navigate this phenomenal prefecture in which we live, work, and play. Let’s do this!
Tiffany Do (Higashiagatsuma), Vice President or Agatsuma/Tone Representative
Hey Gunma ALTs!
Coming from the mountains of Agatsuma, I’m Tiffany Do, and I’m running for the positions of Vice President.
This past year, I’ve had the pleasure of being the Agatsuma Rep, and the experience has been extremely rewarding. It has been exciting watching all the events come to life and I would love to have a chance at that once again.
During my 1styear here, I attended many events held by GAJET and had a blast. Then as a 2ndyear, I had the pleasure of being on GAJET and played a part in organizing the events with a great group of people. Now nearing the start of my 3rdyear, I believe that I have an even better understanding of GAJET’s mission in creating a warm community for all the ALTs in Gunma.
I’m looking forward to an awesome year with many new memories to make!
Alex Krause (Takasaki), Secretary
When I first came to Gunma, I felt overwhelmed by the rush of names, faces, and information suddenly dumped on the new arrivals. It was difficult to keep track of all the people I’d met and the many upcoming events in the community. I didn’t know how to get involved with a variety of different things either.
Now that my second year on JET is approaching, I have found myself reflecting on what I will do from now. The recent Summer Conference really inspired me, as it was during that time that older and former JETs alike emphasized on how valuable the time spent on JET is. I made a personal vow that, during my remaining time in Gunma, I would do my best to give back to the loving community that had made this cabbage patch feel like home.
That is why I have decided to run for the secretary position.
I will utilize my strengths, which include strong organization, time management, and working well with others, to further GAGET’s goals. I hope that I can leave an impact on the future new ALTs so that they too can take comfort in the tight-knit support of the Gunma community.
Luke McDaneld (Maebashi), Treasurer or Chubu Representative
Hello everyone! I’m Luke McDaneld, and I’m running to be your next GAJET Treasurer. I’m a soon to be 3rd year JET currently residing in our lovely prefectural capital of Maebashi. When I’m not being used as a human jungle gym by nourishing Japan’s leaders of tomorrow at Hakoda-Chu and Shinden-sho, you might find me bouldering at Wall St. Gym, or hiking one of Gunma’s scenic mountains.
Why should I be your GAJET Treasurer? I bring the skills necessary to effectively assist GAJET in leading and providing for one of the most active and vibrant ALT communities in Japan. Before embarking on JET, I spent a year working in the actuarial department at a financial firm after completing a degree in Mathematics. I have also helped lead a presentation on budgeting and finance for ALT’s at our Summer Development Conference; and have the requisite mathematics and computer skills to efficiently carry out the duties of Treasurer.
Having been a beneficiary of the work GAJET has done in the past, it would be my honor to work with GAJET to continue making Gunma an excellent place to be an ALT in Japan. I hope you consider me worthy of the position of Treasurer!
Mathew Huynh (Kanra), Treasurer or Seibu Representative
What’s up Gunma! I’m Mathew, with one T or just call me Mat. I’m currently a first year from down under Melbourne, STRAYA, living in Kanra (Yay for Konnyaku Park). I would like to run for Treasurer and Seibu Rep.
Prior to packing my life away and hopping on to a plane, I have had experience dealing with event planning and keeping to a budget, whilst also leading and guiding a committee and team. I have co-organised small to large events as the President of my university’s Japanese club and even larger scaler events (Melbourne Summer Japanese Festivals). As a first year JET, attending GAJET had given the opportunity to meet fellow Gunmanians (Melbourne = Melbournians, had to call us that haha) and experience new worthwhile activities, I would like to enhance those events further for us to enjoy.
During winter, I like to hit the slopes. If there is no snow, I like to travel and experience Gunma and Japan. If I’m not traveling, you will see me stuffing my face at local cafes. I would like to share my experiences with you all.
Cheers for scrolling by!
Gavin Au-Yeung (Isesaki), Editor
Hello, beautiful people of Gunma! My name is Gavin (よろしくお願いします). I’m originally from Toronto, but now find myself living in Isesaki. When I’m not teaching high school students, you can find me playing basketball, bankrupting salad bars, or snapping pictures of Japan’s natural beauty (BTW follow me on IG @auyeunggavin).
I’m aiming to be the GAJET editor, as I believe there is much Gunma can offer. The community of JETs in Gunma is extremely vast. However, a community is only as strong as its member’s ability to communicate and share knowledge. As the GAJET editor, I would like to contribute to the ever-expanding pool of information. I love what GAJET is doing online now, but I see ways we could improve our reach. This means getting new and interesting content online and promoting a strong social media presence.
Last year, I remember reading the email informing me that I would be living in Gunma. I knew nothing about my new home at the time – as I’m sure many others can relate. But now, as community members, we have a chance exercise our voices to promote our wonderful cabbage patch!
Nikkita Kent (Ota), Editor
I believe I would be a great addition to the team as GAJET’s Editor. I have worked in a high-paced business environment where writing and editing was of the utmost importance, but so was helping others develop those skills. In my own time, I’ve written two novels (still seeking publication), blog posts, and short stories ranging from the impact of societal expectations to science fiction.
My goal as GAJET’s Editor would be to bring together writers from across the prefecture. Gunma has numerous JETs who write for blogs, friends, and fun. We have a community of untapped potential right here! Let’s shine the light on some of these talented individuals and increase community involvement by giving them a platform to showcase their work, not to mention the ability to share their experiences with other JETs.
I have a WordPress blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram already; therefore, I’m familiar with the technology required for the position. I’ve edited technical reports, resumes, and creative writing for myself and others. But most importantly, I feel that I can make an impact by bringing people together to share Gunma with the rest of the world – one article at a time.
Chris Sept (Maebashi), Editor
Greetings my fellow Gunma-llenials.
Septimus Entertainment Productions (in association with Septimus Inc.) is proud to present to you, me. Hi.
I will be rounding off my first year here in the bellybutton prefecture at the prestigious Maebashi Girl’s High School. When I am not scuttling about my business trying to coordinate energetic high school students, you can usually catch me DFA (down for anything). A myriad of strange comprehensions and skills lends nicely to randomly participating or volunteering at events.
Speaking of bizarre talents and desires, I want to be your GAJET Editor. Here’s the deal — I do a fair bit of writing. Been a bit of an addiction of mine. I used to get my fix during university as the Chief Editor of the school’s TV news show, the Beaver News. Or the SUPER Beaver News, when I was done with it. See, I am a bit of a people pleaser. Just ask any of my friends, and they’ll tell you how fun I am. Ask any of my non-friends that I have paid off, and they will tell you how fun AND generous I am.
In my short time in Gunma I have met several awesome people and participated in many fun events, both designed by and for the JET community as well as events put on by the locals. Did you get to see the Samurai Parade and musket demonstration? No? It was a blast. Literally.
After spending nearly a year in this awesome community, I think it is about time I use my considerable talent for writing, copyediting, social media ninjutsu, and eccentric charisma to give a little something back to the folks I have come to love. Er, in a strictly platonic way.
As GAJET Editor, I will put my attention to getting people involved and spreading the good Gunma word to newcomers and JETerans alike to generate some serious HYPE for this grand community of ours.
I look forward to serving you.
Andy Cerecero (Kuni Village), Agatsuma/Tone Representative
Howdy everyone! My name is Andy and I’m a soon to be second year JET from Texas, currently living in the beautiful mountain village of Kuni! With my newfound mountain life away from the city came a lot of newfound free time, and as such I would like to dedicate it to helping build the amazing JET community here in Gunma by serving as GAJET’s Agatsuma rep!
When I first moved to Kuni, I thought that I would never be able to form connections living so far out in the inaka. But thanks to my amazing Nakanojo and Agatsuma family that quickly changed, and with that came my introduction to GAJET and all the awesome things the organization does for us JETs! Being able to participate in events like Gunma Games and the Art Showcase helped me connect with so many people whom I know have the pleasure of calling friends. I want to help in building bridges for all the JETs here in Gunma which is why I want to represent Agatsuma. Agatsuma is one of Gunma’s many hidden treasures full of natural beauty and onsen… lots and lots of onsen. I want to be able to invite more JETs out to Agatsuma to be able to witness all it has to offer. Can you believe some Gunmites (Gunmies?) haven’t been to Kusatsu yet?! I’d love to foster more growth and friendship between Gunma JETs by having joint events with the other regions!
All in all, I want to pay the kindness and warmth I received forward by serving you all to the best of my ability! Yoroshiku onegaishimas y’all! And thank you.
Edward Portillo (Shibukawa), Chubu Representative
When I came to Japan on JET, one of the goals I set was to travel to every single prefecture. So far I’ve had the opportunity to visit 14 of them, and I’m looking forward to more. Every prefecture I visit has unique and fun things about it, sometimes that means festivals, sometimes that means great sights to see, but it almost always means a fun JET community with great things going on. I want to be able to share all the great things we have here in Gunma, here in Chubu, with the rest of Japan, and in return, bring back the best things to you from all corners of country. Whether it’s sports tournaments or theater performances, there’s so much out there we can learn from.
As your rep, not only will I be here in Chubu, having fun events, helping out GAJET, and helping each of you however I can, but I’ll also be using my travels to connect us to fellow JETs and other communities across Japan. A vote for me is a vote for fresh ideas, new connections, and lots of adventure, so let’s go explore together!
‘Ohayo～. I’m Ciara from the UK going into my second year as an Elementary School teacher in Yoshii (basically, the middle of a rice field). I’m hoping to become your Seibu rep for the next year! I’ve had an incredible time getting to know as many of you as I could, and am looking forward to meeting you new JETs as well! Without the strong community that Gunma has, my time in Japan would have been half the experience that it was, and we are lucky to have such a tight-knit community in our prefecture.
I have spent almost all my time in Japan either participating or running my own events. Whether it’s jetting off to Japan’s largest snow festival or eating too much BBQ at Kannonyama Family Park, I have spent almost every Monday since I arrived in Japan recovering from fun. GAJET organises some of the best events of the year, including Gunma Games (sei-no, Seibu!) and Minakami Canyons, and I am looking forward to lending a helping hand. But, I also want the opportunity to introduce some events of my own, such as welcome parties, pub quizzes, BBQs, hiking trips, camping, and more. If you, the community, have any more suggestions, let’s make them happen!
(P.S. a vote for Ciara is a vote for fun!)’
Maja Thoenes (Tomioka), Seibu Representative
Hi, friends! I’m Maja Thoenes, an upcoming 2nd year JET in Tomioka! Originally from Alabama, USA, I enjoy climbing mountains, binge-watching Netflix, and dominating at onigokko.
Whether or not I’d be able to make real friends in Gunma was the biggest fear I had when I first moved to Japan. However, (as we all know firsthand) the ALT community here is unlike any other, and the hard work of the passionate, relationship-oriented GAJET members is a part of what maintains our Gunma standard. This year, I’d like to help further our mission as your Seibu Representative!
In university, I planned weekly dinner outings for foreign exchange students, organized Frisbee games, and mentored future study abroad students. As your Seibu Rep, I would love the opportunity to assist and support incoming and current JETs, while organizing regional events that grow ALT relationships as tall and strong as our mountains!
One of the many things I love about Gunma is its balance between city life and nature. As the Seibu Rep, my goal is to organize one hiking or outdoor activity per month, in addition to several karaoke outings, onsen excursions, marathons, and movie nights throughout the year. If elected, I look forward to being a source of positive energy to our GAJET community and helping people from all over the area make our experiences in Gunma unforgettable.
Jansen Magarro (Tatebayashi), Tobu Representative
Hey Gunma JETs!
My name is Jansen Magarro and I am Senior High School ALT from Canada going into my 4th year on the JET programme. I currently reside in Tatebayashi: a place where the Tanuki roams freely, the udon noodles are as big as sheets of paper, and thermometers explode.
I have helped organize a number of regional and Gunma-wide events for GAJET as the Tobu Representative this past year and I am hoping to continue to contribute with the 2018-2019 committee.
Prior to joining the JET programme, I held several positions within the Canadian banking industry and Federal Government. During my time at these institutions, I assisted in organizing team building events and casual get-togethers. Furthermore, I led and organized many recreational sports teams over the years.
A hobby of mine is traveling. As most of you know, traveling takes a great deal of planning and coordination. By using these skills that I’ve acquired through my journeys around the world, I feel that I could utilize these abilities and use them to bring together the ALTs within Gunma and the Tobu region.
I look forward to the upcoming year.
And that’s it! Remember to cast your votes via the google doc, which can be accessed through this link. Voting is open now until Thursday, June 21. Thanks so much!