Question: What happens now?
Answer: You leave everything you are used to, get buried under an inhuman amount of information and junk handouts from long distance companies, meet about 2000 people, laugh, cry, eat strange food, and stumble around in in a suit during high heat and humidity... all this during a serious bout of jet-lag. If you've been to Tokyo before then you're already off to a good start. Those of you that have never been, prepare to be shocked.
Passport? check. Bags? check. Money? check. Sanity? uhhh... I knew I forgot something..
Say goodbye.. and perhaps have that last bit of delicious local food in the airport before you go. I haven't had a humburger since I left, because I'm scared to eat Japanese hamburgers.
Ahhh the airport. One of the modern world's greatest marvels. Tens of thousands of people pass through the airport each day, and you will be one of them. Welcome to Narita International Airport. Here you will be herded by a long line of people wearing the same t-shirt. They will guide you through Narita and down to the buses waiting to take you to your hotel in the depths of Tokyo. Take a good look around you, because this will be the last time you see most of these people. Honestly, this entire process is a blur to me. I can't really remember what happened. All I know is that I got off of a plane, gave my bags to someone, got on a bus, and ended up in Tokyo at night.
So. What is orientation all about? Well.. it's not bad actually. Some people think of skipping the meetings, but if you ask me, these are the people who are out to take advantage of their situation, won't really care about their kids, and will most likely go home after a year or even sooner. Anyway, during the Tokyo JET Orientation you will stay at a hotel in Shinjuku for three days, and attend a bunch of informational workshops. This is when your business attire will come in handy.. you did remember to pack some formal clothes right? Unless the airlines lost your luggage, you are expected to look nice for the Tokyo Orientation (TO). Also, with the exception of your carry-on luggage, only one of your bags will be coming with you while the rest will be taken and shipped to your host prefecture, so remember to pack about 5 days worth of necessities in this bag. Another thing that could be handy to pack in the bag you bring to the hotel with you is a smaller bag or backpack. Over the course of the next three days you will recieve a ton of papers, pamphlets, and handbooks. It helps to have a little bag that you can stuff all of this into. If you forgot one, then you should check out the bunch of newspaper and long distance solicitors who show up in the lobby of the Keio Plaza hotel in the afternoon. You might be able to pick up a bag there from the Yomiuri-Shimbun, and this is also a good place to get long distance cards with 10 minutes FREE! I went back several times for more cards.
Here is a basic outline of what the orientation consists of:
o Arrive at Narita International
o Send your excess baggage to your contracting organization
o Get on a bus to your hotel
o Pick up more information
o Meet your roomates and stumble around Tokyo together.
o Pass out --- from JET-lag of course!
o Welcome Ceremony
+ Listen to important people talk about the JET Program
+ Meet the other people in your prefecture
+ Realize the enormity of the JET Program
+ Become infused with a new degree of bewilderment while trying to stay awake
+ Stumble around in a jet-lag-induced state of psychosis
o Formally meet your prefecture
+ Listen to recontracting JET's talk about their lives
+ With some luck they will stay on topic and be somewhat organized
+ Whatever you want to do.. take a nap, explore (get lost) Tokyo, pick up long distance info, etc.
o Banquet and Welcome Ceremony
+ Free food
+ Free drinks
+ Schmooze with new JET's
o Bedtime (mabey)
o Watch a short video about a day in the life of a JET
+ Many people laugh at this video because it's so ridiculous. But now, I can't laugh at it anymore. It's what my life has become, and it is merely a prediction of your future. Just don't end up wearing the pink shirt okay?
+ see Monday's notes
+ Find something that interests you or might be helpful
o More workshops
o Closing Ceremony
o Dinner (mabey with your prefecture or Embassy)
o Enjoy a night out on the town
o Pack for Wednesday morning
o Breakfast (depending on what time you leave)
o Leave for your Prefecture- we took a bus to Fukushima, you might get to take a plane, train, or boat.
The workshops section of the orientation is meant to give you firsthand information about living and working in Japan. Second and Third year JETs will hold the workshops on a variety of topics. Personally, I found that the workshops were somewhat helpful. Honestly, it's nice to be able to hear about the little things that you might have forgotten about. Sometimes the conversation tends to stray off topic, but this is most likely due to someone in the audience asking a question. Some of the topics of the workshops were:
* Being a one-shot ALT
* How to manage your money in Japan
* Elementary School visits
* Japanese cuisine, restaurants, and cooking
* High School teaching tips
* Junior High School teaching tips
* How to stay sane
* Your Japanese apartment and tips on utilities
* Learning Japanese
* Team-teaching tips
* Outdoor activites
Leaving for your new home
I'm not too sure what happens to everyone as far as this is concerned, but I will do my best to tell you what I think happens to you and what I remember happening to me. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but this is where you will find out the truth behind the term you have already heard ad nauseum: Every Situation Is Different. Just how Different will your Situation be? Only fate can decide that.
You are told beforehand what time you need to leave the hotel. Some people leave at 5am, some people have until the early afternoon. All of the JET's assigned to Fukushima Prefecture had to meet our buses at 8:30am. This was painful, but probably not half as bad as the people who had to leave at 5am. After slamming down my last bit of buffet-style breakfast, I grabbed my things and met everyone in the lobby. Then, I got on a bus, and the next four hours is a blur. When we arrived in Koriyama, the air was filled with nervous energy. All of us filed out of the bus, and we had to sit in neat little rows facing the representatives of our Contracting Organizations. After listening to many speeches and formalities, we were introduced one by one to our supervisors, and invited to sit next to them. This process was repeated about 30 times, and then it was over. I was lucky enough to already be in Koriyama. The other people still had to travel to their new homes. My supervisor then took me to my apartment, and we picked up my bags along the way.
And everything has been a blur since then.
If you're coming to Japan in July or August, I wish you luck and welcome you to Japan. I hope that this site has helped you.