one thing I was most curious and anxious about when I applied for the
JET Program was my placement, a.k.a. my new home in Japan. Unlike the
interview and acceptance notices, the placement notifications were unprecedentedly late
(by a whole month). It was great news to know that I was accepted but
then surreal to believe I'd actually moving to Japan in only three
months when I hadn't heard from the consulate in so long.
Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami happened a month before I was informed
that I had been accepted. At first, the fears of my loved ones had been
completely unfounded seeing that I hadn't even been accepted yet.
However, as that terrible situation continued to unfold, news of my
acceptance brought about genuine concern and anxiety. On the application
that I submitted in November, you are allowed to request up to three
places (with no guarantee that you'll be placed in any of them). Not
heeding the advice given to me about the likelihood of receiving a
popular request, I put choices like Kyoto and Hirakata (near Osaka).
These places are familiar to me since I had studied abroad at two
universities in the area, but weakened my chances of actually getting a
suspected, the delay was in fact due to the March 11th events. When the
events happened, CLAIR, one of the JET Program branches, had to drop
everything concerning getting the new applicants established with a
contracting organizations (CO) and instead confirm the safety of their
current JETs. This was, of course, completely understandable but it
created a unique set of circumstances for this year's batch of new JETs.
Being accepted into the program is not the end but more like being
three quarters on your way to moving to Japan. The more time you have
knowing where you're placed allows you to prepare more effectively, get
in contact with your predecessor and schools, mail boxes over, and so
The days of June 13 / 15 / 28, 2011:
odd assortment of dates represent when I finally knew the details of my
placement. On June 13th, I was contacted via an unknown email that
turned out to be my CO. They had a random question about my preferred
living arrangement. This was a very perplexing way to find out my
placement because 1) your CO should not be contacting you before your
consulate does, 2) I had only been told the prefecture I was in, not the
city, and 3) how do I tell them my preferred living arrangement without
outright stating my exact preference of city? The last one I handled
well. I volunteered that there was only one city I had been to in that
prefecture and that I wouldn't mind going back to live in it. This
strategy either went unnoticed or failed in the end. ::le sigh::
So which prefecture? Hyogo! But, but where in Hyogo?! Hyogo is
ginormous! So that city I mentioned? A little place called Kobe. You
might have heard of it as one of the most popular, well-known, cities in
Japan. Kind of exciting right? I practiced restrained excitement, but
already knew I'd be in Kansai, my area of preference and thus was hugely
June 15th, I was contacted via email by my Consulate with the kind of
subject line I had originally anticipated - "JET Placement!" This was
nothing but a huge tease since I was hoping to find out more concrete
information. It turned out I am what is called a Prefectural JET and so
my Consulate only knows my prefecture until my CO contacts me with more
information. Considering I had been asked nearly everyday if I had heard
my placement, I decided to let my family and friends know the
prefecture even if I didn't know the city yet. They were so happy and
relieved as well.
So without much else to go on, I finally started researching my prefecture!
Prefecture is know as 'The Heart of Japan' because it is geographically
the center of the country. When I think about it, Japan has always been
in my heart so I found it fitting that I'd be living in its figurative
heart as well. As I mentioned earlier, prior to learning my placement,
the only time I had been in Hyōgo was to visit the capital city, Kobe. I
loved the ultra-modernness of Kobe even though I was only able to see
the port area. I hadn't tried Kobe beef either so I was excited to go
back and have some ridiculously expensive and delicious meat! Hyōgo is
also known as 'Japan in miniature.' This is because the prefecture is
rich in traditional and contemporary culture, full of natural beauty,
and home to a highly modernized society and business market. Japan as a
whole is often remarked upon for having these contrasting yet appealing
aspects and considering this one prefecture possesses all of these
traits, makes 'Japan in miniature' a fitting description.
was very excited to live here after just reading a few things about
this place. But like I said, Hyōgo is a large prefecture and my eyes
couldn't help but roam towards eastern Hyōgo where I could be more
closely located to my requested cities of Kyoto and Hirakata as well as
other large cities like Kobe, Osaka, and Nara.
on June 28th while away in New York visiting my brother, I was watching
a Project Runway marathon, having a conversation, and checking my email
at the same time (ADD or great multi-tasker? you decide) when I noticed
the email from my CO. Quite matter-of-factly, he wrote that I would be
at Hikami Senior High and gave me a link to the school's website. My
first shock was that I was at a high school. I had requested elementary
but I later guessed the teaching experience listed on my application
better suited me for high school. Next, I rushed to find out where in
all of Hyogo Hikami was, only to find out that recently, Hikami had been
merged with six other towns to form the city of Tamba - in eastern Hyōgo!!
I must admit that this wasn't how I felt at first. I had foolishly
hoped too much for Kobe and had also seen some other towns even closer
to Kyoto and Osaka. In the end I realized I was being ridiculous though
since I definitely could've been on the other side of the prefecture,
way too far from my favorite places to go often at all. The town also
seems a quite rural, something else I hadn't requested, but at least
people have heard of it which was definitely a good sign.
Here's Tamba City in Eastern Hyogo!
As you can see, I am not that far
from the major cities I requested (total city girl here). In fact,
according to Google maps, I'm about 2 hours all these major cities,
making them definite options for weekend trips!
you have it! Though I'm excited and grateful for being placed in Hyōgo,
at the moment I'm more focused on soaking up Miami and making sure I'm
ready for the transition.