I applied for the JET programme as I believed it provided an invaluable opportunity for me to live and work in Japan. I spent two years on the JET programme from 2002 to 2004 and still today I have close connections with the JET programme and community.
The JET programme was a life changing experience for me. During my time on the JET programme I lived in a rural village called Nishiyama located in Niigata prefecture. Although it was challenging to live in the countryside of Japan, the warm welcome I received from the local community during my two years living there helped me to experience the real Japan. I would encourage new JETs to be proactive and to get involved in the school and local community as it's so rewarding and will help build relationships and the opportunity to experience Japanese culture.
I used a spare room in my Junior High School and created an English room for students to visit during break time and after school. This helped me to get to know the students outside of a formal classroom settings and also gave them the opportunity to speak English in an everyday environment. I also joined local clubs in the community such as calligraphy, dancing and hiking. This was a fantastic way to make friends (friends I'm still in touch with today!), improve my Japanese and to experience Japanese culture.
During my time on the JET programme I learned so much about Japanese food & culture from the local community. Thanks to the JET programme I now work full-time as a Japanese cook. I'm a food writer, author and tutor specialising in Japanese cooking. I published my first cookbook called "Japanese Food Made Easy" which is now available on Amazon. There are stories throughout my cookbook giving an insight into Japanese food and culture during my time on the JET programme. Part of my cooking inspiration comes from the local community in Niigata and everything they taught me about Japanese food and culture.
Last year, the JET programme brought twelve ex-JETS worldwide back to Japan on a programme called the "Satogaeri Programme (return to your Japanese hometown)". I was the Irish representative and after ten years I had the opportunity to return to my Japanese hometown in Niigata prefecture. It was an unforgettable return trip to Japan and it was broadcasted on NHK World - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BYgg28I9fQ
I would highly recommend the JET programme. It provided me with unique experiences and so many opportunities when I returned to Ireland. Back in Ireland I continue to use the experience and knowledge I gained on the JET programme in my work today. I also work closely with the JET programme and stay in touch with the JET community.
To see more about Fiona go to:
Culture & Education
February 9, 2016
Satogaeri Programme - Fiona Uyema