Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Brief History of ( My Time in) Japan

Hello, friends. I'd like to take the time to give you a little history about myself. This is primarily for the benefit of new found friends and colleagues that I've encountered and continue to encounter through my involvement in the JET Alumni Association (JETAA). The Japanese Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program provided me with the opportunity to teach English in Japan for two years after I graduated from college.

I recently took on the mantle of Representative for the Dakotas Sub-Chapter of JETAA USA. One of my responsibilities with this position is maintaining communication and participation, as much as I'm able, for North and South Dakota. And that brings me to the brief history of my life after college when I lived in Japan. I'll sum up with a brief paragraph on where I'm at today. Yes, I realize that one paragraph is a very small amount of space to summarize where a person is in life, but it will serve our purpose today.

First allow me a chance to introduce myself. I graduated from Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, South Dakota with an English / Creative Writing degree in 1998.
That same year I entered the JET Program and began working at Ohito-koko in Ohito-cho, Shizuoka-ken. I spent two years teaching various classes, including Oral Communications A and B to a total of 600 students covering the three grade levels at Ohito-koko.

hito-cho was located on the Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka-ken. I say was because it has joined with some other surrounding towns to form Izunokuni-shi. I lived in a beautiful valley which ran the length of the peninsula. One of the things I miss the most about my home in Japan is the presence of mountains on either side of me, rising up and then falling down to touch the shoreline of the Izu. Ohito-cho was a very rural location, consisting of about 15,000 citizens.

uring my two years I managed to experience a lot of Japan, though I felt like there was far more that I missed out on. One of the first experiences that I went through, a few weeks after arriving in Japan, was to climb Mt. Fuji. About 125 JETs started out together at 11 pm on the last weekend that the mountain was open to the public. Thanks to the cold wind and rain that we struggled against all night there were only about 25 of us that actually finished the climb. Of course, thanks to the aforementioned weather, we did not get a chance to see the sunrise from the top of Mt. Fuji. And no, I don’t think I’ll try it again.

also managed to visit Kyoto, Tokyo, Nagoya, and Hiroshima while I was there. This, of course, means that I had opportunities to visit such memorable locations as Kinkokujin, Akihabara, the Olympic Arena, and the Peace Museum. I also had the great opportunity to learn join Kyudo and learn this traditional art from some of my own students. They got a real kick out of being able to teach me the proper way to hold the bow and arrow, and the proper stance to use when aiming and shooting. It was also a good chance for them to stretch their English skills outside of the classroom.

ow let’s fast-forward briefly and let you know a little bit about my post-JET Program life. I live in Sioux Falls with my wife, Rihoko, my 4-year old son, Christopher, and my 1-year old daughter, Nanami. My wife is originally from Atami-shi in Shizuoka-ken, and we try our best to make it back regularly to visit with friends and family. I am an unpublished fiction writer and lover of the English language. I currently receive a regular paycheck from a large company in Sioux Falls in exchange for the daily use of some of my brain cells.