Where were you in Japan as a JET and when?
I was a multiple school ALT in Kamogawa City, Chiba Prefecture from 2012-2014.
What sparked your interest in applying for the JET program?
I went to Japan in my first year of college after an opportunity came up to go for a month. We went on a tour of Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki and then spent two weeks living in Nagareyama in Chiba Prefecture. After that trip I knew I wanted to live in Japan for a period of time. So when I found out about the JET Program in my junior year, I immediately applied. I was lucky that they placed me in the same prefecture I had visited already. It made it easy to see my host families while I lived there.
What are some of the things your prefecture is known for? Ex. food, hotspots, etc.
Chiba is known for a lot of things actually! Indigo dying, Disneyland, the airport. I didn’t know this until I got there, but it is especially known for boiled peanuts. Of course there is a character called ‘Piinyatsu’ - ぴーにゃっ。I thought it was so cute so I made cards for some of my speech contest students that were in a similar shape. My other prefectural character obsession is none other than Chiba-kun. Chiba-kun is well known all over Japan! Kamogawa in particular is known for Kamogawa Seaworld (not to be associated with Seaworld in the U.S.) and surfing, which I also learned while I lived there. Lastly Chiba is well known for fish as it is mostly on the ocean from top to bottom. Some of the freshest sushi I ever had was from a restaurant next door to my apartment.
Did you pick up any of the regional dialects? What are some of your favorite words or phrases?
Kamogawa is in the boushuu region (房州) of Chiba prefecture so occasionally they would try to teach me boushuu-ben words like ‘Soudappei, そうだっぺい’, ‘Isshouni ikubeisa, 一緒に行くべさ’ and ’Andayo, あんだよ’ . There are some great Line stickers with boushuu-ben if anyone is interested.
If you were to return to live in Japan, would you choose to live in that same prefecture?
Yes, I will always choose to live in Chiba. After my first experience and then getting placed there, I determined that I will always live in and love Chiba when in Japan. I would love to buy a home in Kamogawa at some point. Chiba is the best prefecture and I am always sure to share that with anyone who will listen.
How has your connection in relation to Japan changed since living in Japan?
It has grown exponentially! I knew nothing about Japan before college so it really did change my life. I came back from Japan in 2014 and started working at the Consulate-General of Japan in Chicago and through that work I was able to meet a lot of the community here. I was also president of JETAA Chicago for three years, networking coordinator for one and a member after returning, which also introduced me to a lot of the Japan community here. After leaving the Consulate I went to work at Chicago Sister Cities International and worked with the City of Osaka as they are our sister city. I don’t have much interaction in my current role, but it is a goal of mine to get Japan included at some point. I will always be grateful to my JET experience, Japanese language skills, and Japan for helping me become who I am today.