Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program

Video and Photos

ALT with Students
ALT with Students

About

Please direct all questions to your local JET Program Office.

The Japan Exchange & Teaching (JET) Program invites young university graduates to participate in a professional international exchange position throughout Japan. Participants are invited to Japan as representatives of their home countries, and play an important role in promoting understanding between nations.

JET offers two main positions:
Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) work in public K-12 schools and team-teach English with a Japanese homeroom teacher. Duties include assisting in making lesson plans, leading activities and games, and motivating students to study English.

Coordinators for International Relations (CIRs) work in local government offices. Primary duties include localization / translation, assistance with international exchange programs, and community event coordination.

Questions & Answers

Hi Brent, and thank you for the question. JETs works all over the country, although some prefectures have more and some less JETs. You can see the full breakdown for 2018 at the following link: http://jetprogramme.org/wp-content/MAIN-PAGE/intro/particip… However to be accepted into JET you will still first need to apply though your local Japanese embassy/consulate in your...

Hello Jayd, and thank you for your question! While fairly rare, married couples do apply together to the JET Program. Should you both be accepted, you'll be able to notify us that you're applying with your spouse and efforts will be made to place you in the same city or at least very close by. We unfortunately can't guarantee 100% that you would be placed together, but it is very high on our...

Hi Maria, and thanks for the question! Some JETs who apply do have dependents (either a spouse or children), and they are very welcome on the JET Program. With this, you indicate in your initial application that you'll be bringing dependents and then should you be accepted your local Japanese consulate or embassy would help to arrange visas for them. While traveling with dependents has more...

Yes, you can join the program as a British citizen. The only real requirement is that you have a BA and are a native English speaker

Reviews

9.12 Rating
based on 17 reviews
  • Benefits 8.7
  • Support 8.5
  • Fun 7.4
  • Facilities 8.8
  • Safety 9.6
Showing 1 - 8 of 17
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Mandla
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Can't imagine doing anything else at this moment

I am loving my time in Japan through the JET Program. The pay is good, the workload is manageable and there is ample time to explore both Japan and other Asian countries. You get twenty paid leave days every year (double than that offered by other programs). Once accepted into the program, you really have no say as to where you'll be placed. More favored urban areas come with sometimes exorbitant rent, while rural placements (though secluded, sometimes remotely) are less expensive.

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Rebecca
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Two Amazing Years

I went on JET with no experience in Japanese and limited experience teaching. I came out having invaluable skills. I learned Japanese, gained public speaking skills, and learned how to put myself out of my comfort zone. My local area was Sumida, Tokyo and while I was in a large city I met many amazing people who became friends while I was there. I was able to learn and share so much with my students and the teachers. I also had the opportunity to travel in and outside of Japan. The program was frustrating at first because everyone kept saying the JET experience is different for everyone and I wanted to know, but after being on the program I see exactly what they meant. You're in different places and communities and schools. Even with the unsureness of it, I highly suggest this program. The benefits and pay raise you get each year are also wonderful.

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Erin
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Found my Second Home in Hiroshima

JET Programme was the single greatest adventure of my life! I taught in three high schools in Hiroshima for three years. My placement was perfect for me! Not only was the support network great, but my colleagues became a part of my extended family.

I was lucky to live in the suburbs, have my base school in a rural community (the "inaka") and have two visit schools in the big city. This afforded me a chance to experience the different lifestyles Japan has to offer. My base school was small, but I came to know each of my students (plus their families) and integrated into the local community. Their triumphs became my triumphs; their tears, mine. There is nothing better than joining your school and community in cheering your students all the way through their summer baseball tournament and joining them at the Koushien.

The compensation was great, but the memories were better. I HIGHLY recommend the JET Program for anyone looking for a "home away from home" in Japan.

What would you improve about this program?
I truly have nothing to add here. If anything, I would encourage the JET Program to become more selective, because it is such a jewel and I hope that those chosen as representatives to serve as ALTs bring more prestige to it.
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Simon
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A Japanese Sandbox

The JET Program is hard to describe or review because the experience that each participant has is uniquely theirs. You can't generalize the program as a whole because you could end up in any prefecture, and in any living situation. Obviously your experience is gonna be vastly different if you're in a small apartment in a lager city than if you were in a giant house all on your own with nothing but rice fields around you for miles and miles.

I was about halfway between those extremes (which is where most people end up, honestly). I was in a well sized government subsidized apartment, in a decent sized city. I was lucky in that I was a half hour train ride from a major city, and 15 minutes from the biggest city in my prefecture. I was also in a prefecture with a large number of JET Program participants, and I was close enough to most of them, and the JET community in my prefecture was vibrant enough that I had a large and close-knit group of friends. In addition to that, thanks to being close to some big cities I found it easy to pursue the hobbies that I was interested in.

My time on JET was excellent for the reasons I already mentioned, but I suppose the point I want to make lies in the title of my review. People's experiences in Japan, and certainly on JET, are what you make of them. JET is challenging, for sure, and living abroad is not for everyone, but if you want to live and teach in Japan, it's a challenge that's well worth the effort. While your opportunities will be limited depending on your living situation, there are so many things to do and ways to spend your time, that JET feels like a big Japanese sandbox, where you can create your own Japanese experience.

What would you improve about this program?
The program has recently cut back on its support network, and while JET communities in individual prefectures are still an excellent resource, the official resources that JET program participants have to draw on have been severely cut back. There is little in the way of mental health support, and the Program's interaction with AJET, the unofficial association of JET participants that attempts to represent them, has also been scaled back.
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Debbie
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Unforgettable year in Japan -- Once-in-a-Lifetime Opportunity

Out of all the teaching English in Japan programs, I think JET has the best benefits and support system. They pay for your flight from your home country to Tokyo Orientation, your hotel for orientation, and your transportation to your placement. The monthly salary is pretty high - in my first year, I would get 240,000 yen directly deposited in my bank account each month (and this is after paying for Japanese pension and National Health Insurance). With my rural/suburban placement in southern Nara, I only had to pay about 35,000 yen per month for an entire apartment to myself. It was more than enough money for me to eat out almost everyday (I was too lazy to cook most of the time), buy random cute Japanese trinkets I'd see in stores, going out into the city with friends some Saturday nights, and traveling to different neighboring prefectures on the weekends. (One of my friends had an entire HOUSE to himself and didn't have to pay any rent at all! His BoE covered it all. And then there were my northern Nara friends--the ones who live close to/in the main city, and have to pay about 50,000 yen a month for their small studios/apartments)

The work I had was fairly easy--I would plan and teach 13-15 classes a week at three different elementary schools. Since most of the teachers I worked with didn't speak much English, our lesson-planning meetings were conducted mostly in Japanese. (I was really glad I had five years of Japanese background. Knowing the language helps so much in daily survival and interactions.) I believe that JET places people with higher Japanese ability in elementary schools, where students and teachers speak minimal English, and people with lower/no Japanese ability in high schools, where the teachers and students know more English. The kids I taught, grades 1-6, were bright, energetic, curious, and a joy to teach. They constantly asked me if I were Japanese, and why my English is so good. Since I'm Chinese (but have been told I look Japanese or Korean), I didn't fit their image of the "foreigner." Even after a year, some of the students still didn't fully grasp that I'm of Asian descent, but born and raised in America and fluent in English.

One of the best parts of JET for me was being able to travel on the weekends. It would take me a full hour to get to the city than my northern Nara friends because of my rural placement and infrequent train times (only twice an hour). I loved traveling in Japan because the trains were always clean and quiet, and I felt safe even when I was venturing out alone at night. Also, the food (even fast food) is so much healthier here, almost all of my friends here lost weight while living here. (On the other hand, I discovered the amazing variety of unique chip flavors Japan has to offer, and gained some winter fluff while I was here) Since I lived in the "inaka" (countryside), me and my fellow inaka friends in the area would hang out a lot. Our area was called "Yoshino-gun," so JETs living in our area were affectionately dubbed "The Goons." We would have midnight runs to the nearest McDonald's after my evening eikaiwa (adult conversation class) on Thursday nights, drive to each other's villages for spontaneous sleepovers (called "goon spoons"), and participate in alcohol-fueled karaoke sessions with the locals. The best thing about living in the countryside is the small town, community vibe. Anytime I ventured out in my town or to neighboring places, I'd run into some of my students or colleagues. My friends and I became regulars at the local okonomiyaki restaurant.

The hardest part of the program was definitely when teachers and students found out I was leaving, and then all the ensuing goodbye/last lessons and assemblies in my final months there. It was heartbreaking... I've never cried so much in my life. Every class I had taught made me personal handwritten cards, letters, posters, and some students gave me little gifts that they had made for me. They chorused "Thank you and see you again" to me after my final lessons, and ran up to hug me goodbye. We took commemorative photos. Some students cried, which of course made me start crying too. They told me to take care, and wrote in their letters, "We won't forget you, so please don't forget about us."

Whether you stay on JET for one year or five, make sure to cherish every moment of it. My JET coordinator told us before we departed for Japan, "Going to Japan means saying goodbye a lot." You will meet a ton of new people, make new friends, bond with your students and fellow teachers, and most likely have the time of your life while on JET. (of course, every situation is different, but almost everyone I know on the program embraces their unique situation and set of circumstances, makes the best of it, and enjoys their time in Japan) But your time on JET and in Japan is limited, and eventually you'll have to say goodbye. But the unforgettable memories I made while on JET, and the time I spent with the people I met there, will stay with me for a lifetime.

What would you improve about this program?
Being more lenient with vacation time. At first, I thought that we as JETs would get winter vacation, spring vacation, and summer vacation off, since the students won't be in school and there are no classes to teach. However, unless we used our paid days off, we were required to go to school and sit at our desks with nothing to do. (One of my friends was lucky and not required to do this. But most of my JET friends and I were stuck at school. We had to save our days off for bigger holidays like Christmas) I wish there were the option for us to have winter/spring/summer vacation days off along with the students, and simply not get paid for those days we aren't at school.
Default avatar
lostinplace
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Small Town Charm

I was on the JET program for 3 years. Most JET positions are ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) positions and you are placed in either Middle Schools or High Schools. (There are also a few placements that are Elementary school only. They are not as common but probably increasing since Japan made English education mandatory from 5th grade, rather than 7th grade.)

I knew JETs is such a variety of situations. I knew people who lived in towns of 400 and knew the 30 kids they taught extremely well, spending their weekends at the students' basketball games and being invited to their teachers houses for dinner. I knew other JETs who worked in big cities and had hundreds of students. They couldn't know the name of each student. Some students they would only see once every 6 weeks. That's only a few times a semester.

While the national support system is strong, the local support can vary. Many JETs find themselves in places where almost no one speaks English. They may have to co-teach with someone who speaks no English (this should only happen in Elementary school, where the homeroom teacher co-teaches with the JET rather than a Japanese teacher of English). My friends described pantomiming with their teachers during lesson planning and being frustrated with being unable to get their point across. If you know Japanese before you go over, you will be able to communicate better and you may have a smoother transition.

Social life varies a lot. But in every prefecture there are JET groups planning events throughout the year and even if you live in a rural area, you have opportunities to socialize if you choose.

Lastly, the image of a typical JET is someone just out of college but I knew many people who came to Japan in different circumstances. Some had been out of school and working for a while. Some were married. I know that some people bring their kids. Anyone who is a citizen of an English speaking country and has a bachelors degree is eligible, so don't think you have to be a fresh faced college grad.

What would you improve about this program?
One difficult thing for people who go on the JET program is that you need to be open to a placement anywhere in Japan. You are required to accept a position before knowing where it is. If you accept the position and then back out after finding out your placement, you are forbidden from reapplying for several years. If you really want to be in a big city or in a certain region, then JET may not be the best option for you. If you are open to going anywhere in Japan, then apply to JET.
Default avatar
rebeljonny
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

All depends on the luck of the draw

One phrase you will hear countless times; and very quickly learn to hate, whilst applying for and working on the JET programme, is ESID (Every Situation Is Different). I didn't truly appreciate the appropriateness of this phrase until I started my work as an ALT here in Japan. This variety in what your JET experience might include makes a general review somewhat difficult, although I will do my best to give a balanced account of my experience so far! However, I hope that from this review you'll get an idea of why that phrase constantly rings true!

I work in Niigata prefecture in what I would call a small city on the coast, with a population of around 200,000. I am employed by the local BoE (Board of Education) to work at two local Junior High Schools as well as two Elementary Schools. This is a fairly standard set up for the ALTs working in my area, although some have as few as two schools and others as many as eight, so it really is ESID (told you). At my Junior High Schools I typically have three lessons in one day and will be expected to run the majority of those lessons, but at my Elementary Schools I will have a much busier day, sometimes a full six lessons, although on the flip side I am given complete lesson plans and materials and effectively just follow the script. This is something that is so dependent on your situation, as I live next to ALTs that have the exact opposite teaching experiences!

Housing situation is also varied in my area, but most ALTs live in accommodation owned by the BoE. This tends to be fairly far out from the city centre, and the houses are also on the old side, but we pay a lot less than others and get more space than those in the centre, so overall I'm happy with it. I got fairly lucky in that my longest commute is a mere fifteen minutes, but others have to content with upwards of an hour, which can easily become two once the winter sets in.

I came to Japan with almost no Japanese language ability and although I have definitely improved, I have been surprised by how easy it has been for me to get by with the little that I do know. A lot of this is down to the fact that the majority of my JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English) have sufficient English that we can communicate without much trouble (WARNING - this is by no means always the case!) and that I am fortunate enough to live in a city with a very large number of other ALTs relatively close by. In total there are nineteen ALTs employed by the local BoE, and a further four (I believe) employed by the prefectural office (they work in the Senior High Schools) and even a handful of other private ALTs. Because we all have cars, that means nobody is further than forty five minutes from anyone else or the centre of town, and as a result, I spend the majority of my free time socialising with the other local ALTs. This has been a fantastic source of support for me during my time in Japan, and is something that I am incredibly grateful for. However, it has definitely given me a very different experience on the JET programme to what many might have that live more rurally or further away from other ALTs. I am sure that for me, had I not had this support I would not be staying a second year, but for others, this constant contact with other English speakers may well be a turn off, as plenty of people come to Japan wanting to meet Japanese people and get immersed in that culture, something which I am yet to truly achieve.

Overall, I am really enjoying my time on the JET programme and it is something that is full of possibilities to try new things, see some amazing places and of course meet some brilliant people. Although it is definitely a risky application to make, because you really won't know until last minute what exactly it is that you've signed up for, I would still very much recommend this to people who are interested. You get paid well, have a relatively easy job (shush, don't tell anyone) and get to enjoy some fantastic new experiences that you won't soon forget.

What would you improve about this program?
Although it is almost impossible to achieve, the programme, and peoples' confidence in it, would improve drastically if there was more security in knowing exactly what job you are applying for. Too many times have I heard of hugely contrasting experiences from ALTs placed only a matter of miles apart. This to me seems entirely unfair when everyone starts by applying to exactly the same programme and until the last minute has no idea what they have signed up for. Thankfully, I think most people get a mostly positive end result, but a lot could still be done to even the whole process out for all ALTs across Japan.
Default avatar
Suejk
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An Awesome Program

I was in Niigata-ken, Japan for 3 years from 1995-1998. I went with my husband. We had an amazing experience. The Board of Education staff were very welcoming and helpful. We made many friends in the small city where I lived. I worked in 2 Junior High Schools, as well as 8 elementary schools and several kindergartens. The culture is fascinating, although obviously culture shock happened (as it does to everyone). I renewed my contract twice because our experience was so positive. I would recommend the JET Program highly!

What would you improve about this program?
Obviously, it has been many years since I lived in Japan and completed the JET Program. It's hard to think critically now, as my memories are overwhelmingly positive!