As part of our partnership with the Japan Society Boston, we will be sharing excerpts of interviews with JET alums on our social media and blog! In recognition of the Massachusetts-Hokkaido sister-state relationship, our first interview is with a former JET who was placed in Hokkaido. We will work our way down Japan and share interviews with participants from all 47 prefectures!
Episode 1: Hokkaido
Interview with Phylicia Bishop
Where were you in Japan as a JET and when?
Sapporo, Hokkaido, 2010-2014
What sparked your interest in applying for the JET program?
I was a Japanese major and went to Akita International University for a yearlong exchange, and during that time befriended local JETs and learned a lot about the Program. When I boarded my flight home, I told myself I had to come back to Japan, and that was when I started to seriously consider applying for JET.
What are some of the things your prefecture is known for?
Hokkaido is known as a home to Ainu people, an indigenous group of Japan. There are many famous foods due to being a huge producer of agricultural and dairy products — ramen, milk, ice cream, cheese, confections… the list goes on. Hokkaido’s powder snow and abundance of natural beauty has made the island an increasingly international tourist destination.
Did you pick up any of the regional dialects? What are some of your favorite words or phrases?
I did not learn Hokkaido-ben, as it’s supposedly more spoken in the coastal areas. Still, even in Sapporo, there are a few words everyone uses, such as なげる (nageru, “to throw”) which also means “to throw away (garbage)” in Hokkaido. Corn is famous, and is often referred to as とうきび (toukibi). One of my favorites is なまら (namara, “very”).
If you were to return to live in Japan, would you choose to live in that same prefecture?
If fate worked out that way, I would love to go back. But I’d also be open to gaining a new experience/perspective somewhere in Honshu.
How has your connection in relation to Japan changed since living in Japan?
After JET, I stayed in Sapporo for 4 more years, so Japan has become a big part of my life. I’ve maintained that deep connection through my involvement in the local Japan community, including working with the Portland-Sapporo Sister City Association and Portland JET Alumni Association.
This interview is part of a partnership between the Japan Society Boston (JSB) and the United States Japan Exchange & Teaching Programme Alumni Association (USJETAA) in which JET alumni contribute short interviews about their experiences in Japan in each prefecture.