Pre-Departure: Placement Contact
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Researching your Placement and Contact with your Placement
Upon being informed of your placement by the JET Desk, you will be able to begin preparing not just for life in Japan, but specifically life as a resident of your prefecture. You will soon find out about all the perks and unique qualities of your home in Japan. With patience and utilising the resources at hand, you can come to Japan with confidence and knowledge.
Once contracting organisations receive your information and your placement is confirmed, they will contact you when they’re ready. If you don’t receive initial contact within a set period (usually about two weeks), the JET Desk at the Embassy can ask CLAIR to remind the CO to contact you. That said, don’t worry and be patient! As we cover in our work culture article, Japanese workplaces focus strongly on checking contents and reporting to superiors before moving forward with a project, and even just getting authorisation to send a welcome email may involve checks by a prefectural advisor, JET supervisor, their division head, and more.
What should I be asking?
Your contracting organisation can answer a lot of questions, but the points they can discuss with the most accuracy are those related to your livelihood and your work. Good examples include:
- What kind of accommodation is available to me?
- What are my working hours and how much leave do I get?
- Will I need a car for where I live?
- How can I get in touch with my predecessor?
- When do I get paid?
There are also specific questions you can ask based on your position. ALTs should, for example, ask about the learning targets of their school. Depending on the locality, student body and style of your school there may be different learning expectations for the students. Finding out that you’re going to an agricultural school with fewer students with high levels of English allows one to begin readjusting their expectations and start thinking about ways to tailor their classes to those students’ interests.
As CIRs have such a wide breadth of potential roles and responsibilities, it’s important to ask right away what kind of work you can expect. Will you be answering a foreign resident hotline, or planning teacher training? Will you be presenting at local international events, or managing a social media page? The sooner you know, the sooner you can begin to research and prepare.
Can I talk to my predecessor?
Yes! Due to the timing of JET programme contract periods finishing at the end of March and July, your predecessor will likely still be in your workplace until very close to your arrival. They may be part of your placement’s contact system, or will have left a contact method they’d like you to use. Some COs have departing JETs fill out a handover form describing their workplace, responsibilities and locality in order to ensure new JETs come in with as much information as possible.
What about my region?
Your first stop should be checking if your region has a JET website. Most Prefectures have a JET homepage run by the local JET community or an AJET Chapter. These work both as promotional material for events and community building activities, and as a knowledge repository for anyone moving to the locality. Expect to find breakdowns on public transport, shopping, restaurants and cultural institutions.
You may also find social media groups for the Prefecture on Facebook or Reddit, or get added to a regional group chat on the Japanese messaging app LINE. These are great places to ask questions about daily life in your future locality; after all, the people in those groups are living it!
That said, these places aren’t the best place to ask about your job. Stick to the experts: your CO contact and your workplace. Every Situation Is Different (ESID) is a common refrain in the JET community, but it’s not just a saying. Preparing yourself based only on what someone has said about their own situation, even if they literally live in the same place and work the same job, may result in misunderstandings and warped expectations. The best way to prepare is to take in information from the appropriate sources and act on your best judgment. An open mind and good humour will take you far.
Get to know your neighborhood
Once you’ve some idea of where you’ll be living, map research is a great way to get your bearings. Plug your address and your workplace into Google Maps and utilise streetview to get the lay of the land. How walkable is your neighborhood? Will you be taking a bus or train to your workplace, or should you begin researching buying a car?
Even something as simple as finding out your nearest supermarkets and convenience stores is a good way to come prepared. If you’re looking for more information on local leisure, Japanese rating sites like Hotpepper or Tabelog list local restaurants and cafes. These sites are in Japanese, but learning about food is a great way to brush up on your kanji if you’re only starting out. If you are vegan or vegetarian, HappyCow works pretty well in Japan too!
If your placement involves a lot of rail travel, Hyperdia is an extremely effective route search website with a very good English translation. It has more detailed filters than Google or iOS Maps, allowing you to filter via cost, time, and transport type, perfect for planning around rush hour foot traffic. There’s no limit on range either, so you can also use it to plan routes for domestic travel or business trips.
Beyond JET-related information, look at anything you can find about your locality. One of Japan’s most prominent attributes is a sense of local pride and promotion of local culture. There are tourism websites and official blogs (some operated by JET programme participants!), as well as reams of youtube videos in both English and Japanese of people living in or visiting places all over Japan. If you’ve the Japanese language skills or have a bit of extra time, you can seek out media made in or about your future locality. This isn’t so much practical preparation for life in Japan, but it is important emotional preparation.
The JET Programme is well known for not giving everyone the placement they want, and many applicants who ask for Osaka or Tokyo or Nara find themselves a bit lost when they are placed in Gifu or Aomori or Okayama. If this is you, don’t fret and don’t feel down. Just like Ireland, everywhere in Japan has its charms, and reading all about it is a great way to face your upcoming departure with excitement and confidence.
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