you're interested, you can download
the 2005-2006 application here.)
to the application:
Questions about your background, any teaching certification,
college education, marital status, international experience,
and placement request etc. Do some research on Japan before
you request a placement. Sometimes JETs are assigned exactly
where they wanted to be and sometimes they get the exact
opposite. There is always a high demand for the big cities
so keep that in mind when making your choice.
Japanese language and culture-related studies
Any courses or self-study of Japan, its culture and language
List any extracurricular activities, honors/awards or scholarships
you have received.
required documentation (to be sent with your application):
Self-assessment medical form
Basically a brief medical history
Statement of Purpose
The dreaded essay!! Your chance to single yourself out from
the herd to the selection committee and tell them why you
want to go on the JET Program.
Two letters of recommendation.
Transcripts of all university/college courses
Official transcripts only.
Verification of graduation
If you haven't graduated yet, you have to provide proof
that you will by the time the program starts.
Self-addressed stamped confirmation card
Fill it out and stamp it. They send it back to you when
they receive your application.
is due the first week of December. Get your application
booklet early and make it an ongoing project for you; don't
rush to get it done in one weekend. Take your time with
the essay and make it good.
you were given an interview?
Great job! Don't get cocky!
seem to be conflicting reports regarding the percentage
of applicants who make it to the interview and percentage
who actually go to Japan. Some people will tell you that
if you're accepted for an interview, you have a 75% or 90%
chance of actually "getting in" to the program.
The percentage of cuts is highly regional and these "odds"
can't always be relied on.
Email: JETs who are granted interviews nowadays
are sent a congratulatory email, which I don't think is
a terrific idea considering the importance of the email
and the aggression of most spam filters. MAKE SURE you
check your junk email periodically. It would be a great
tragedy if you were deprived of this experience because
of an overactive email filter. Included in the email are
instructions to sign up for an interview date/time online.
Set up your preferred time slot as early as you can; time
slots fill up quickly once the emails have been sent out.
for your interview: Research current events in
Japan. Politics, history, culture, top news. Who's who in
the government. Dress appropriately. If you were given an
interview that means you came across well on paper, the
actual interview is to give you a chance to come across
well in person; during the interview maintain professionalism,
but also stay warm and friendly. The interviewers' want
to know more about you and will angle their questions to
find out the following:
- Why you want to
go to Japan
- Your knowledge
of and level of interest in Japanese culture
to know more about your personal interests or your background
you know what you put on your application, inside and
ability to improvise and think on your feet
level of Japanese speaking/reading ability (if you indicated
you have some on your application they will make you speak
and/or read some Japanese)
Interview: Most people are interviewed by three
people. The ambiance of the interview is always intimidating.
The three interviewers are behind a long table with glasses
of water, reams of paper and each will have a copy of your
completed application with essay. Reports from JET applicants
vary radically as to the demeanor of the interviewers. Some
JETs have said that their interviewers were like a war crimes
tribunal; other interviewers are very cordial and friendly.
My advice: go in expecting a trial so that you aren’t
surprised if you get one. My own interview was along the
lines of the trial.
interview: I was invited in about fifteen
minutes early because the applicant before me didn't
show up or was late. There were three interviewers:
an older (40+) female Japanese scholar, a mid-twenties,
Asian former JET, and a grumpy old man. I never found
out what the grumpy man's job was.
interview lasted about a half an hour. Like I said,
it was a trial. They peppered me with questions about
my college activities, especially about the conversation
tutoring for ESL. They asked me a few basic questions
in Japanese. Then they got mean.
began with an innocent question about my placement
request. The former JET said offhandedly as he looked
at my application that I requested to live in a large
city in Kyoto, which wasn't true; I had requested
to be placed in a large town or smaller city. The
grumpy old guy chimed in and said, "No! I have
it right here. You want to live in a large city."
I said that I didn't believe that I had written that
and they skipped over that and went on into the next
issue. (After I left I figured out that they were
trying to trip me up by getting me to admit that I
had written something on my application that I didn't.
I.e. They wanted to see if I really knew
my application or not. Later I heard from several
other JETs that their interviewers tried to trip them
next issue was also related to my placement; I wanted
to live Kansai and they asked why. I told them that
there was a lot of culture in the cities and the festivals
in that region and I would really enjoy seeing all
of them. They asked me if I have any friends there
and I told them that I have an acquaintance in Osaka;
her name is Yuko. At this point they became borderline
hostile and accused me of trying to get into JET just
to be closer to my "Japanese girlfriend".
They were very persistent in following this line of
questioning even though I denied personal involvement
with her. I was completely bewildered and offended.
that died down a bit, we talked more about my interest
in Japan and then they had me role-play a teaching
scenario where I was the teacher and they were the
students, and I was giving my self-introduction to
a new class. The Japanese woman seemed very interested
while the former JET and the grumpy old man played
the roles of two extremely rude, inattentive students.
It was a chore, but they stopped the demonstration
after a few minutes. After that they told me when
I would expect to hear from them and I was shown the
far, the worst interview I ever had, I left chuckling
to myself that there was no way I got the job. I was
making some non-JET plans for post-graduation until
I received my acceptance letter on April 1st. I was
in shock, but very, very happy.
JET interviews have three main segments:
1) Questions about your teaching / international experience
2) Questions about you personally or how you would react
in certain situations
3) Some kind of teaching / role-playing demonstration
some reason, not everyone is given a role-playing demonstration.
Some people will say that if you're not given a scenario
to play out that it's a dead giveaway that you've already
been cut. This is not true, as there are some former JETs
that I know who weren't asked to role-play.
random components of interviews that may or may not be given
include short written grammar tests, on-the-fly spelling
quizzes, or being asked detailed questions about current
events or political figures in Japan.
Here is a list of
questions JET applicants have been asked during interviews:
- Why do you think
you are a good candidate for our program?
- How would you contribute
to international understanding?
- What kind of special
talents or abilities would you bring to the program or
- Why should we hire
- What makes you
different from the other applicants?
- Why did you choose
this particular city/prefecture?
- (If you are applying
with another JET applicant) What would I do if he/she
got in and you didn't?
- Why are you interested
- Why did you decide
to go to Japan?
- (If you were previously
unsuccessful in a JET program application) Why do you
think you were unsuccessful?
- Why don't you teach
English in Mexico/Taiwan/etc. instead?
- What kind of negative
experiences do you anticipate encountering and how would
you deal with them?
- (If you are a vegetarian)
How would you handle a situation in which you were served
- How do you handle
conflicts with your friends?
- Many Japanese are
prejudiced against people of other Asian ethnicities.
How does this make you feel? How would you handle this
if it became an issue with a student or fellow teacher?
- If you were at
a work-sponsored drinking party and a fellow teacher tried
to grope you, how would you handle it? What if it was
- (If you are female)
What would you do if you were expected to serve tea to
the men during the morning meetings?
- (If you are American)
What would you say if a student asked you why America
bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki?
- What sort of teaching
experience do you have?
- Tell us about your
experiences in teaching.
- In what ways do
you expect education in Japan will be different from education
in your home country?
- How will you present
your home country to the Japanese people that you meet?
- (If you were a
teacher in your home country) What sorts of projects or
assignments did you give your students?
- Suppose there is
an important event at one of your schools on a weekend
that you had pre-arranged plans. Your principal asks if
you could cancel your plans and come to the event. What
would you do?
- Tell us three things
you would like to tell your future students and other
ALTs about your home country.
- If you could bring
only three things to show Japanese students to represent
your home country, what would they be and why would you
- Paint us three
pictures: three distinctly Western things that you could
describe to students without having a common language.
- There is a loud,
obnoxious boy in your class who isn't doing the assignment
you have given. What do you do?
- You are teaching
a lesson and Japanese team teacher makes an English grammar
mistake. What do you do?
- What will you say
if a student asks you about drug use?
- What would you
say if a student asks you when you lost your virginity?
- Would you ever
strike a student? What if the teacher you are teaching
with struck a student in front of you? What would you
- What would you
do if you are teaching a class and there is one student
in the back room sleeping? Reading comics? Talking on
a cell phone?
- What would you
do if a student spit or cursed at you?
- What would you
do if you were in the right classroom when the bell rang,
but your team teacher is not there?
- What do you know
- Who is the governor
of your home state (or province)?
- Who is the president
and vice-president of your home country?
- Who is the prime
minister of Japan?
- Name five famous
places in Japan.
- What are the important
issues facing our world today?
- What are some current
important events in Japan?
- What holiday is
your favorite and why?
- What research have
you done on Japanese culture since you have applied to
the JET program?
- Name five famous
authors of your home country.
- Name the major
islands (cities) of Japan.
- Name three famous
- What do you know
about the political system in Japan?
- What do you know
about Japan's current financial crisis?
- What is the name
of the current governing party?
- Do you have anything
that you would like to ask us? (You should always ask
a couple questions.)
- Explain to your
new Japanese students what Halloween / New Year's / Thanksgiving
/ Boxing Day is like in your home country.
- Introduce yourself
to your new class.
No matter what happens,
always appear relaxed and confident. A part of the interview
is seeing how you react to stress.
you are a former JET applicant email
your interview story and I'll post it here! If you have
any other interview questions to add, let me know!
got a letter that says that you were selected as an alternate,
do not lose all hope. This means that you are on a "waiting
list". If your number gets called up, and there's a
fairly good chance that it will, you will go with the other
successful JET applicants in July. If you get an acceptance
letter, congratulations!! You made it!! Now your real work
a few weeks or so (maybe longer), you will receive some
paperwork telling you where you have been placed. Do as
much research as you can about your placement before you
get there. Soon after you get this letter, you should be
contacted by your predecessor (your predecessor
is the current JET whose place you will be taking in the
fall). He/she will tell you what kind of schools you will
teach at and what your new apartment will be like. He/she
will also sell you the items in the apartment. Most JETs
are honest about this, but I have heard a few stories about
new JETs getting ripped off; paying too much for shabby
stuff or only a few items. Ask your predecessor to take
some photos of the apartment and the things he/she is selling
you and email them or upload them to a website. If you still
have qualms about your new apartment, contact your new supervisor
or offer to send a payment once you get to Japan. Sometimes
JETs will pay their predecessor before they go to Japan,
some after, and sometimes they split the payment: half before,
half after arrival. Work out an arrangement that you are
both comfortable with.
plane ride, you will probably be allotted only one carry
on and two suitcase check-ins. This is not a lot of space,
so choose what you bring with you wisely.
to Bring: When you arrive in Japan you will need
several categories of things immediately:
- Business attire.
When you arrive, you need to have a couple suits or
formal wear for the Tokyo orientation and the prefectural
- Casual summer
clothes. When you arrive in Japan it will be hot. Really,
really hot. Light, breathable clothing is best.
- Clothes for the
office. Your school might have you start going to your
office right away, despite the fact that school won't
be in session for five more weeks. Think khakis and
a collar shirt. For ladies, skirts and blouses. Nothing
too fancy or nice (I wore a shirt and tie for a while)
or your school or office might ask you to "dress
down" like mine did. Your schools probably won't
have air conditioning so make sure your clothes are
comfortable and breathable.
Swimming trunks, waterproof poncho, and make sure your
socks have no holes in them, as you will be taking your
shoes off quite a bit.
You're going to need
some money when you arrive. Make sure you exchange some
into Japanese yen before you go. I usually recommend you
take about $1500 US in travelers' checks and cash. Some
JETs say they only use a few hundred dollars before they
get paid, others spend the entire amount. Keep in mind
that this money is on top of whatever you plan on sending/giving
your predecessor for the things in your apartment.
You'll need the necessities like toothpaste, deodorant,
shampoo, razors and such. After you explore your new town
a bit, you can probably discover where you can find similar
products you'll be satisfied with.
(gifts): Before you go, shop around
for some gifts for the people who will be helping you
out. A list of people to shop for might include: your
supervisor, your head JTEs, your JTEs, other people at
your office. Buy something region-specific, which can't
be purchased in Japan. Ask your predecessor for advice.
The nicer gifts go to the people at the top, then work
your way down.
- Digital Camera.
Buy a nice, small digital camera before you go. Photo
opportunities are everywhere!
- A guidebook.
Go out and buy the most current Lonely Planet Japan.
Stuff to Ship:
You can't possibly bring everything to last you a whole
year in two suitcases; you'll have to ship a few large boxes.
Here are a few of the main things you'll need to ship:
- Winter clothes.
New JETs shouldn't stress out about this as much as they
do. Ship your winter clothes by sea mail a week or so
before you depart for Japan. You'll be in your new apartment
a couple weeks before they arrive. Keep in mind that winters
in most of Japan are very, very cold and there is usually
no insulation in the apartments, schools, etc.
You might find a lot of Western products in local
stores, but among the items you probably won't find are
toothpaste with fluoride and good deodorant. Have these
items shipped to you. Condoms are generally not made as
well in Japan. If you plan on using them, have them shipped
to you or really hunt around for Western-made brands.
In Japan, it is mostly made for asian skin tones so if
you have a favorite shade, brand, or whatever, plan on
getting some shipped to you.
- Books. Books
are heavy and expensive to ship. Ship them if you must;
make sure you get the book rate. Two great options for
readers include book exchanges with JETs in your region,
You might need some help from a native to understand the
site, but Amazon offers a lot of English books with internal-Japan
CDs, DVDs, video games, computer games etc. Keep in mind
that DVD players and game systems manufactured in Japan
will not play DVDs or games from your home country. Several
workarounds include playing DVDs through a PC or buying
a region-free dvd player and a game system from back home.
- Student rewards.
If you are teaching elementary school or junior high,
then small, cheap rewards from home will go over very
well as a prize for a game of Jeopardy or bingo. Pennies
and stickers never lose their appeal.
- Photos of family
Your students, new friends and co-workers are going to
know what the folks back home look like. Take one or two
small photo albums with you or have them shipped.
- Home videos.
Every Christmas I would play a home video from a past
family Christmas to my new classes and they loved it.
If you have any home videos from holidays like Halloween,
New Years', Christmas or any festival or holiday type
day, ship it. It makes a great, fun, easy lesson that
your students will enjoy.
Stuff to Buy
in Japan: There are some things that JETs try to
ship or bring to Japan every year that they don't think
they'll be able to find in Japan.
- A computer.
I strongly advise you purchase a desktop system in Japan.
Don't try and ship one from your home country or buy a
laptop before you go. The voltage difference (while slight)
is enough to fry rechargeable batteries, CD/DVD ROM drives,
or even hard drives over time. And seriously, you aren't
going to be taking your laptop with you all around town.
You can buy a 1 gigabyte flash drive that can fit in your
pocket or even your wallet for $60 US. Transport any files
between work and home that way. Gateway and Dell are both
in Japan and you can get a good deal on a computer and
have tech support if something goes awry.
- Foreign foods.
I remember a JET who carried three boxes of Pop Tarts
from home in his luggage. The Foreign
Buyers' Club is a great option for anyone who wants
Western foods in Japan delivered right to your door.
If you'd like to look
at the pre-departure handbook for for Southern California
JETs you can download it here!