Where were you in Japan as a JET and when?
I lived in Soma-shi, Fukushima-ken from 1989-91.
What sparked your interest in applying for the JET program?
I had a couple of friends from college already on the JET Program and one of my best friends was getting ready to move to Japan. One night over a couple of beers he asked “Why don’t you come to Japan, too?” That was a Saturday night. I called the Japanese Consulate on the following Monday, and they told me the deadline for applying was that Friday. This the era before cell phones and the internet, so I drove to the Consulate, got the application and then hand delivered it that Friday. Talk about a life-changing moment! If it had been one week later I would have missed the deadline and maybe never have gone to Japan.
What are some of the things your prefecture is known for? Ex. food, hotspots, etc.
Fukushima is in Tohoku, northern Japan, and it is know for its agriculture, such as nashi (pears) and rice. The city I lived in is also well-known for the Soma-Noumaoi Festival. It is a famous horse race festival in Fukushima Prefecture. The festival has a history of more than 1,000 years and today it remembers the society of the Warring States Period of fighting warlords. The festival is held for three days and men transform into samurai with beautiful costumes. They ride on horses with different flags, which represent their city, over a distance of 1,000 meters on a track. I participated in the parade when I lived there. But only walking, not riding a horse!
Did you pick up any of the regional dialects? What are some of your favorite words or phrases?
I did pick up some Soma-ben. I used to love saying “Dou dabeshita” rather than “Dou deshita ka”, and “Iku be” rather than “Ikimashou”.
If you were to return to live in Japan, would you choose to live in that same prefecture?
I did return to Japan in 2007 when I opened and ran an office for the New York Yankees in Tokyo. We lived in Minami Azabu, which was THE nicest place I have ever lived. I used to take my family up to visit Fukushima and we would visit old friends. It was wonderful. My toddler son even got to ride a combine and do “inakari”.
How has your connection in relation to Japan changed since living in Japan?
My connection has only gotten stronger. I am currently the Executive Advisor in Pacific Rim Operations for the Yankees. I first started with the Yankees in 1998 when I was the translator for Hideki Irabu, one of the starting five for the team in both 1998 and 1999. Those were great years to be with the Yankees and I was lucky enough to receive a World Series ring both years. I always tell people it is thanks to Japan and the JET Program.