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Five Ways to Win Against the Winter Woes

February 1, 2019 | Blog, Guides, JET Life | No Comments

Gunma’s windy winter got you feeling down? Feeling in a rut because your winter days consist of going to work and then immediately retreating home to your kotatsu? Its time for you to leave the winter slump!

Here are five tips to get yourself up and moving!

Winter: a time for staying under the kotatsu (photo by tarte777 on Flickr)

1: Improve yourself

It’s not uncommon for JETs to spend the warmer (read: better) seasons travelling around or beyond Japan. A lot of people tire of travelling during the winter months because its simply too cold. Use this travel-downtime to explore new hobbies and interest. Take an online course you’ve always been interested in. Join that gym down the street from your apartment. There are tons of things you can do in the warm confines of your home as well: learn an instrument, write short stories, cook new dishes. Personally, I like to spend my time playing video games, but some people might not consider that self-improvement…

Use this time to explore new passions… and save some much needed yen for the spring time when most of us will probably find new places to travel to.

2: Hang out

If you’re feeling the winter woes, chances are that your fellow JETs are also experiencing something similar. If possible try to get out once a week or maybe even schedule a get-together. Don’t feel like braving the cold winter? Get together for a warm nabe party. Who wouldn’t want to eat hot pot on a cold, cold night?  The point is, its always good to see a friendly face every once in a while.

Winter: the best time to eat nabe (photo from Wikimedia).

3: Travel… to warm places

I don’t mean getting on the next flight to Okinawa. But its extremely important to get out of your house every so often (and going to work doesn’t count). If you’re as allergic to the cold as I am, you would be wise to flock to warmer indoor places. Use these months to check out that local cafe you were always interested in (but never had the time to go to), or try going to a museum. If all else fails, a little retail therapy inside the (warm) shopping mall might do the trick.

This wouldn’t be a Gunma website if I didn’t suggest visiting an onsen. You don’t necessarily need to travel up snowy mountains to get to famous hot springs (of course, that’s cool too). Most areas will have local onsens which can get the job done as well. Enjoy the soak, fellas.

You’re missing out if you’ve never experienced an outdoor onsen during the winter (photo from Wikimedia).

4: Think about your post-JET life

This point is especially important for those who have already declared their intention to leave this summer. Just from speaking with friends who are about to leave the JET, it’s clear that a good amount of leaving JETs are uncertain about their future. Use this time to research possible careers, revise your resume, and even talk with others about their career plans. And of course, the After JET Conference will be held on February 28 this year.

It’s best to get the worrying out of the way. With the spring approaching in another month or so, you’ll want to cherish your last months on JET.

5: Come out to GAJET’s Skibo 2019 event

Gunma is incredibly famous for its ski resorts. If you’ve always wanted to ski (or snowboard), feel free to come along with GAJET as we tackle the slopes at Kusatsu! Sign up now, because the event is coming soon (Feb 22)! More information can be found here.

Gunma is well known for its skiing/snowboarding scene (photo by Jaime Wong)

For more ideas, check out this previous article: Winter in Gunma: A guide to keeping sane

Got more suggestions for surviving the winter? Feel free to leave a comment!

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

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)

 

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]

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. 

The Ultimate (Frisbee) Guide to Gunma

July 2, 2018 | Blog, JET Life | No Comments

Before I got here, I sent a lot of emails and Facebook messages about ultimate frisbee. I asked in Gunma ALTs and I bothered the people in Tokyo. I was informed that there was no such thing as ultimate frisbee in Gunma. A lot of people said they had tried, but they ended up shrugging their shoulders and saying, “shoganai, ne?”

“Shoganai” is not a word that I take kindly to.

At Gunma Games, I brought out a disc and found that a few others had, too. Tossing around, we talked about getting a game together. There were athletes there, but more than that, there were people who wanted to have a good time.

I created the Gunma Ultimate page on Facebook and invited everyone I knew to join. Since that first year, I’ve sent hundreds of personal messages, bringing out our fearless leaders and our most introverted nerds to play my favorite sport down by the river in Takasaki. It has been my singular mission to make ulti happen.

Photo from Shuichi Tsujimoto

My crew has played a dozen or so times. It’s not much, especially compared to my thrice weekly games in California, but every time has been a blast. I teach everyone what they need to know—the basics of the game, how to throw—and then I make sure that everyone is included. If it’s your first time with us, you have to score a point. Don’t worry, the pros will do all the work to make sure it happens, but I want you to understand my love of this sport. I want you to feel it. With a rotating group of regulars and newbies alike, we play until we’re nearly exhausted, then we go get ramen. Sometimes, we even do karaoke after that. I run myself into the ground to make sure everyone has a good time, and it is totally worth it.

If you don’t personally know me, you’re probably thinking, “this must be one of those organizer types—the guys who shake a lot of hands and make an uncomfortable amount of eye contact. He’s probably a jock, too.”

Absolutely not. I’m averse to eye contact and I hate shaking hands. Frisbee is literally the only sport I enjoy, and I only enjoy it in one way: when people are playing to have fun. This is it for me. This is what I do.

For context, ten years ago, I started playing ultimate because of my friends. We played on patchy dirt, with Home Depot buckets for cones. None of us owned cleats, and we were all completely f***ing terrible at the sport. As a result, half of our rules were completely made up to support our game and keep it fun for everyone. One or two people knew how to throw, and the rest of us made do, wobbling discs at each other until we eventually scored. It was a mess, but it was beautiful.

Now, after a typical school day, I go out to a park near my house and throw for an hour. I’m always alone, so if a kid is watching, I bring them over and show them the ropes. Sometimes their moms and dads play, too. Of course, I throw with my middle school students during lunch whenever they have a break, too. Even kids who hate me in class, who fall asleep or shout the answers during my group games, respect me and want to learn when there’s a disc in my hand. When my BOE insists that I visit preschools several times each year, I bring a stack of discs. I teach three, four, and five year-olds how to throw a backhand, and they have an absolute blast.

On the JET Program, we all fantasize about leaving our mark on this place, about changing the culture and convincing people that some small facet of our worldly understanding is worth adopting. The only thing I want to give Japan is a love for the silly side of this sport. I want them to see the side where men and women can play together without frustrating each other (mostly because the men finally throw to the women), and where losing can be just as fun as winning.

To that end, I threw a tournament in April 2018. It was a funny hat tournament; as in, you have to wear a silly hat or you’re not allowed to play. It enforced that sense of humor, that feeling of people barefoot in the park tossing the disc. Even though one of the coaches for Japan’s national team came to the tourney, he was including first timers in his plays. There were even a few little kids—like under ten—who showed up with their parents. It truly embodied the spirit of the game, and it was the most fulfilling thing I’ve done while living here.

I proudly wear my tournament’s t-shirt around town, and when someone asks about it, I tell them about it. I show them videos and teach them about the sport, often answering far more questions than I had intended. Yes, it happened here in this town, right over there. Yes, a lot of people came. Yes, it’s fun. Sometimes they tell me that they saw me in the newspaper or on TV.

I don’t push ultimate on anyone, but I do invite everyone. There’s a difference, and it’s important. I lead by example and collaborate with people who have similar goals. Whatever you’re into, chances are you can do it, too. Talk to people. Show them how much you love whatever it is that you do. Invite them.

I don’t do shoganai, but I do enjoy a good ganbare.

Ganbatte.

Epilogue: Since my tourney, I’ve solicited the help of Tokyo’s Ultimate crews to donate Frisbees and jerseys to my school. They gave us enough for a full class set, and next week, we’re going to teach the sport—for real, during class time. Wish me luck!

Charlie Hayes is a third year JET in Tatebayashi. Although he’s leaving the country, he is looking for a worthy successor to take over the Gaijin Gunma Ultimate scene. You can reach him at [email protected] if you’re interested!

Introducing the 2018-2019 GAJET committee!


Devyn Couch, President

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!