Ambassador Kitano’s Speech at JET Returnee Reception (21 November 2019)

Good evening JET Returnees, Ex-JETs, Friends of JETs, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you very much for joining us this evening despite your busy schedules.

This year, thirty-five JETs have returned from Japan. Some of them are here with us this evening, and I would like to start by saying “Okaerinasai” or Welcome Back Home. 

I arrived in Dublin in late August.  One of the reasons why I am happy to be posted here in Ireland is that it is a country where we have the JET Programme.   When I was posted in the U.S., I was in charge of public diplomacy.  The JET Programme was one of my responsibilities.  I had the pleasure of sending off new JETs heading for Japan and also welcoming home JET Returnees.  I truly believe that the JET Programme is an outstandingly successful exchange programme of Japan.

JETs don’t always live in big cities in Japan. In fact, many JETs go to places of which even Japanese people have little knowledge. Speaking from my own experience, many of the JET Returnees I met in Washington D.C. had lived in towns and villages around Japan I had never even heard of.

In the various locations around Japan where you were all living - from Hokkaido in the north to Kyushu in the south - you taught English, worked in local government offices, and built up friendships with Japanese people in the community.  I hope that your time in Japan was positive and you have returned with happy memories.

At this point, I have to admit that I am a little envious of new JET returnees.  I have been based abroad for more than five years, while you were fortunate enough to be in Japan to experience His Majesty the Emperor’s accession to the throne in May this year, and the start of the new era of Reiwa.  You were also in Japan during the lead-up to the Rugby World Cup, and maybe some of you even had the chance to go to some of the matches.  

For new JET Returnees, a new chapter in your life is ahead of you as you decide what you want to do next.  I sincerely hope that you will be able to make the most of your experience in Japan, and apply the knowledge of Japan and the Japanese language you gained as JETs in your future careers. Whatever path you decide to follow, it is my wish that you will continue to be good friends of Japan and share what you learned about Japan with the people around you.

One of the distinctive features of the JET Programme is the presence of the JET Alumni network connecting former JETs. This evening’s guests include new JET Returnees as well as JETs who returned in earlier years.  I welcome them.  With new JET Returnees joining, I hope the JET community in Ireland will be bigger and bigger.

I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who has helped with the JET selection process over the years. Without your invaluable support, the JET Programme would not be possible.

Earlier on, I mentioned that it would be wonderful if JET Returnees could work in fields related to Japan.  To do this, links with Japanese companies are very important.  Among this evening’s guests, there are representatives from Japanese companies in Ireland. Thank you for your presence despite your busy schedules.  I hope this would provide an occasion of networking for JET Returnees. I am sure this networking is mutually beneficial, since I know JET Returnees are also very good in business scenes.

With regard to Japan-Ireland relations, this year’s Rugby World Cup was a wonderful chance to strengthen relations between the two countries.  Next year, Japan will host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo in July and August, and construction of the new Ireland House in Tokyo will start.  I intend to do my best to make sure that 2020 will be another productive year for relations between our two countries.

Please join me as I propose a toast to the health, happiness and future success of all the JET Returnees and all the participants in this reception, as well as the furtherance of ties between Japan and Ireland.  Kanpai/Sláinte!

I hope you will enjoy the rest of the evening.