August 25, 2015
My first month in Japan as a JET
Hello! My name is Laurence Dubé. I'm a first year JET programme participant working at Seiritsu Gakuen and these are the things I did during my first month in Japan.
First, let's talk about accommodations. Personally, I got to stay at a weekly mansion for two weeks and then did a home stay for the reminder of the month, but some JETs just did homestay. Either way, there are a few things I had to learn to do during my first week.
-How to get to my school, how basic transportation here works and how to get a suica or a pasmo card (to pay for transportation).
-How to introduce myself properly in Japanese (I already knew the basics but that isn't the case for all JETs)
-How the appliances (washing machine, toilet, shower/bath panel) work
-How and where to get cheap food near me (I'm talking about actual $4 and less meals here), including learning about the frequent questions people at the konbini or restaurant might be asking you
-How trash sorting works here.
Then once you got that out of the way, congratulations! You can now basically function as a human being in Japan! But of course, that's only the beginning. There are a lot more things you need to do in the first month, including…
-Registering at your local town office
-Look for an apartment (with relocation Japan's help, in my case)
-Get a hanko (personal stamp)
-Open a bank account
-Get a phone and a phone plan
-Join as many Facebook groups relevant to your JET situation as you can. These will give you access to tons of useful information, as well as a way support and answers to any questions you might have.
-Look for furniture. I recommend Japanese Craigslist and second hand/recycle shops (Off House is a good one) and arrange for delivery.
Finally, there are also work related matters to attend to even though you probably arrived during summer break. We're here to work after all! Personally, I had to…
-Do some readings about my school (history, clubs etc.)
-Read through some of the books the teachers use to teach at my school
-Start learning the teacher's names
-Write some JET/School related blog posts (like this one ;P)
-Record some short, educational videos about differences between Westerners and Japanese people.
-Learn where all the important locations were in my school.
-Work on my self introduction and start coming up with ideas for lessons and activities.
Annnnd that's pretty much how it went! That sounds like a lot, right? That's because it is, but don't worry—you're not alone. There are most probably tons of JETs in similar situations as you are in right now and there are many people around you who can help, including other ALTs, your supervisor and your coworkers, so your transition in your new life goes as smoothly as possible. Just remember to take some time to relax, eat well and never hesitate to ask for help.