The JETs on Japan Forum is a new partnership between USJETAA and Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA (Sasakawa USA) that features selected articles of JET alumni perspectives on U.S.-Japan relations. The series aims to elevate the awareness and visibility of JET alumni working across diverse sectors and provides a platform for JET alumni to contribute to deeper understanding of U.S.-Japan relations from their fields. The articles will be posted on USJETAA’s website to serve as resource to the wider JET alumni and U.S.-Japan communities on how alumni of this exchange program are continuing to serve as informal ambassadors in U.S.-Japan relations. Click here for mores information on how to submit a proposal for consideration.
Virtual Exchange for All: Building on U.S.- Japan Relations to Further Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in International Higher Education
JETs on Japan Forum Issue No. 9
This paper illustrates the importance of emerging modalities of Virtual Exchange/ Collaborative Online International Learning (VE/COIL) in international higher education. It references VE/COIL programs conducted between the United States and Japan by Kansai University’s Institute for Innovative Global Education in 2020 and 2021, building on a qualitative study of student interviews and psychometric evaluation tools. Assessing the impact of these programs on student learning outcomes, particularly under the COVID-19 pandemic during which traditional in-person student mobility was halted all over the world, is crucial to the future of international education, especially with the return to traditional mobility programs. Findings suggest that upon completion of such programs, students demonstrated heightened skills in self-awareness, intercultural communication, and global resonance. While remote modalities of learning were necessitated across all academic levels at the start of the pandemic, this paper argues that they should be maintained in the post-pandemic world to purposefully target specific pedagogical aims in international curricula rather than as a temporary rapid response to halted mobility programs. Essential elements to ensuring the success of VE/COIL programs are assessing students’ transformative growth, building an international community for VE/COIL exchange through grassroots efforts, and positioning VE/COIL as a viable means to address issues of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in international higher education, for which JET alumni are uniquely positioned to orchestrate.
JETs on Japan Forum Issue No. 8
The COVID-19 pandemic has made an impact on the entire world, affecting each country in very different ways. The response to the pandemic has been of almost equal measure, with the United States having taken the lead in vaccine development and manufacturing to enable distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine within one year to countries around the world. As a major contributor to the COVAX global vaccine distribution effort, Japan has stepped up to play a vital role in the COVID-19 response. In this report, I discuss how the United States and Japan have worked together to address the burden brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, and, as the pandemic wanes, how they will continue to work together to support the world as it recovers.
Jillian Marshall, Ph.D
JETs on Japan Forum Issue No. 7
My article reflects on the friendship I shared with my neighbor in a rural fishing village during my time with the JET Program and on music’s power to create lasting cross-cultural understanding. In those two years, I learned that life abroad begets an inevitable negotiation once the pink clouds of exhilarating novelty fade away: we must acknowledge cultural diﬀerences, lest we fail to truly overcome them. Had it not been for my neighbor—a 66-year-old piano teacher who invited me to play at her house every week—this challenge might have proved too overwhelming. When she later oﬀered unsolicited support in a time of personal distress, my eyes were forever opened to the subtleties of Japanese culture and how music facilitated this bond. Ultimately, this article’s testimony of our unlikely liaison supports my broader mission to illustrate music’s ability to create cross-cultural understanding through its transcendent language of emotion, corporeality, and imagination. After all, if music can bridge gaps between two societies as diametrically opposed as Japan and the U.S., its soft power and diplomatic possibilities are endless.
JETs on Japan Forum Issue No. 6
Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) and alumni are valuable sources of knowledge on workplace relations in Japanese schools. Despite the long history and large number of participants and alumni of the JET Program, limited research on and with JET ALTs and alumni has been conducted. In this paper, I will recount the process of turning a replication study project for a graduate-level sociolinguistics class into a JET-themed qualitative study, highlighting the connections found between the participants and my own experience on JET. These findings have not only shed light on many research gaps, but also opened the door to my research in Japan.
JETs on Japan Forum Issue No. 5
Japan’s agriculture industry faces challenges from a shrinking and aging farming population, an overwhelming presence of small-scale farms, and inefficient structural and political issues. Yet against this backdrop, an opportunity arises for Japan to preserve and support its agricultural communities by increasing the awareness of its traditional cuisine, sharing its philosophies around food and farming, and decreasing restrictive trade barriers with the U.S.
JETs on Japan Forum Issue No. 4
Mounting research indicates that gender diversity on boards is correlated with superior financial performance and governance oversight. Gender diversity fosters innovation, improved risk oversight, and a greater focus on workforce diversity issues. As board gender diversity has become a global issue, and governments, exchanges, and investors around the world have taken significant actions, Japan remains behind on board gender diversity. Historically, Japan was only held to local market standards. The rationale for not expecting Japan to rise to higher global standards included a lack of female talent and culture. However, this historical rationale is no longer valid. The concerns expressed over lack of female talent are no different than those heard when Norway instituted 40 percent gender quotas in 2003 and when California instituted gender quotas in 2018. If the definition of a qualified director is expanded and global boundaries are eliminated, then Japan has sufficient female candidates to fill board positions. For these reasons, certain leading investors and proxy advisors have changed their proxy voting policies to require Japanese companies to have at least one woman on the board. Higher standards for gender board diversity are necessary to shift ingrained cultural gender stereotypes, maximize the usage of talent, and harness the merits of board diversity.
JETs on Japan Forum Issue No. 3
In issue 3, Jacobs demonstrates the significance of U.S.-Japan collaboration across the space, science, and technology sectors. He offers an overview of U.S.-Japan science and technology (S&T) relations over the years, showing how the relationship has grown from its formalization in 1988 to include policy coordination on issues like research and development (R&D) projects and space exploration as well as top-level cooperation on critical and emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and quantum information science. The article identifies opportunities to expand the U.S.-Japan S&T relationship to address strategic questions and regional issues such as China’s technological rise and shows how deep U.S.-Japan cooperation on S&T issues benefit society beyond the national security policy space, including expanded soft power and a larger innovation sector in both countries. The author draws on his experience in science and technology policymaking and his knowledge of the U.S.-Japan relationship to offer a unique perspective on this important track of the U.S.-Japan relationship.
D’Mitri A. Farthing, Jr.
JETs on Japan Forum Issue No. 2
In issue 2, Farthing discusses three myths commonly encountered about the U.S.-Japan security alliance and demonstrates why those myths are false. The year 2020 marked the sixtieth anniversary of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, which the United States government itself recognizes as the “cornerstone of U.S. security interests in Asia and fundamental to regional stability and prosperity” (Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, 2020). This treaty and the resulting partnerships form the bedrock of peace in the Indo-Pacific region, and yet duringhis time on the JET program, he has encountered multiple individuals from the United States, Japan, and elsewhere who have a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the U.S.-Japan security alliance. As the world changes and certain states, including the United States, become more isolationist, particularly in the COVID-19 era, it is important to clarify these misunderstandings and continue to promote the bilateral relationship that has proven critical to U.S. and Japanese security and promoted prosperity across the entire Indo-Pacific region.
Mary J. Eberhardinger, PhD
JETs on Japan Forum Issue No. 1
In issue 1, Dr. Eberhardinger demonstrates the significance of the role of gift-giving in the omiyage industry in Japan. The role of gifts in the omiyage industry is situated and argued as an extension of U.S.–Japan grassroots public diplomacy. The article also serves as a truncated exploration into how gifts function to strengthen everyday political, professional, and personal relationships between the U.S. and Japan. Implications drawn in this article will seek to address why the question concerning a philosophy of gifts matters for friendship and relations between the U.S. and Japan. By exploring a position on non-reciprocity or asymmetry in the giving and receiving process, this article will offer the eventual takeaway that a true gift across cultures, specifically between the U.S. and Japan, is one with no expectation for return. The author’s experience living in Japan for two-and-a-half years will shed light on the observations and suggestions for readers to ponder when they find themselves overseas with the choice to give or not give.