Apply Yourself !
Question : Hey Captain Fugu, if the JET Program is so great, then how do I apply?
Answer : You can either get an application for residents of the United States in .pdf format (requires Adobe Acrobat software, free at Adobe.com) from the Consul General in Seattle, or you can pick one up from your local Japanese Consul or Embassy. If you do not live close to an Embassy, just call and ask them to mail you one or use the internet. I believe that the applications are unique depending on your country of origin, so just to be safe, I'd contact your local Japanese Consul or Embassy anyway. If the option is available to you, I would recommend downloading and printing everything you can from the Seattle Consul General. The documents they have available include a JET FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions), detailed instructions for filling out the application, as well as a list of major Japanese Embassies in the United States. If you ask me, now is a great time to think about escaping.
The application itself is one of the first stressful things that you'll encounter once deciding to apply to become a JET. Not only is it roughly 15 pages, but you will have to fill out every page of it with the scrutiny and perfection of the person that designs the anti-counterfeit patterns on most modern currencies. I'm serious. One little tiny mistake and that's it- no JET Program for you. On top of that, they ask that you type out the first page; this means that you have to try to use a typewrighter (yes, they still make them.. good luck finding one) to fill little boxes with each and every letter of your name, your home town, your address, etc. This was a major pain in the butt. Perhaps I was using a really old typewrighter, or perhaps they designed it this way on purpose. I have to admit that I used a liberal amount of white-out on the first page, and I must have done my best to cover my mistakes because here I am in Japan! Make sure to use all capitals when filling out this portion. Also on the first page, you are expected to know where in Japan you might like to go. Sure, it may be fun just to see where you might end up, but if you're not the adventurous type then I highly suggest doing some research about Japan. If you have a particular city in mind, then by all means research the heck out of it. Check the section at the bottom of this page for more info.
The following is a list of the eligibility criteria for entrance into the JET Program taken directly from the 2000 General Program Information .PDF found at the Seattle Consul General of Japan website. I have also included personal notes indicated by ***'s and I used 's to show content edited to account for people outside of the US and for specific dates (please check with your embassy and on your application for the exact dates):
1. Be interested in Japan and willing to deepen their knowledge and appreciation of the interest after arrival;
2. Be both mentally and physically healthy << *** The former is questionable in my case, though it can't be proven >>;
3. Have the ability to adapt to living and working conditions that could be significantly different from those experience in the applicant's home country;
4. Be a citizen of [a country other than Japan] by [the application due date]. (Those who possess and maintain dual citizenship with Japan and [another country] after [the end of June] will become ineligible for the program);
5. In principle, be under 35 years of age as of [the end of July]. The main purpose of the program is to foster ties between Japanese youth and JET Program participants comprised of young college graduates; << *** This does not neccessarily disqualify people over 35 from applying to JET. Three of the teachers in my city are currently over 35. I suppose the main reason that they say this is to imply that if you want to apply, please keep in mind that you will be working with young people, and need to be in touch with your inner child (have a ton of energy) >>;
6. Have excellent English pronunciation, rythym, intonation, and voice projection skills in addition to other standard language skills such as good writing skills and correct grammar usage;
7. Not be a current or former participant in the JET Program;
8. Not have declined, without justifiable reason, a position in the JET Program after accepting an appointment as a participant;
9. Not have lived in Japan for more than three years total [in the last 10 years];
In addition to the above 1-10, CIR applicants must:
1. Be motivated to participate in and initiate international exchange activities in the local community << *** This includes organizing parties and other events to mark holidays or important historical dates of your representative country. I included the famous "Pocket Hamster Smash Day" on May 31st, "Be Nice to Your Man Day" on March 19th, and "World Bellybutton Lint Day" on September 13th as some of the more forgotten holidays that represent my country >>;
2. Hold at least a Bachelor's degree or obtain one by [the end of June];
3. Have a functional command of the Japanese language. (Japanese language proficiency in necessary to function in a Japanese office environment) << *** This means you need to speak a TON of Japanese. A few courses in college is not good enough.. in other words, you need to be able to understand XEROX copier instructions when read to you in case it breaks >>;
In addition to the abovel 1-10, ALT applicants must:
1. Be interested in the Japanese education system and particularly in the Japanese way of teaching English << *** Though this may not be your first reason for coming to Japan, you have to at least admit that the differences between your school and a Japanese school are going to be different. Believe me, it is. >>;
2. Be interested in working actively with students;
3. Hold at least a Bachelor's degree or obtain one by [the end of June], or be qualified to teach at primary/elementary schools or obtain such qualifications by [the end of June] << *** Teaching experience is not necessary to apply for the JET Program. Neither is a degree relating to the English language. For example, my only teaching experience is when I had to 'teach someone a lesson' for attempting to change the music comming out of my car stereo. Also, I hold a Bachelor's degree in Medical Technology and have no idea what a 'preposition' is or any of the other fancy grammar terms. I guess I c'ain jus' tawlk straigt 'n things. >>;
4. Be those who already have qualifications as language teachers or who are motivated to learn about the teaching of foreign languages.
Successful applicants for either the CIR or ALT position are expected to make an effort to study or continue studying the Japanese language prior to and after arriving in Japan. << *** This helps alot. At least learn katakana and hiragana before you come. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you need to do some more research. >>
So anyway, jump through these hoops and you win a prize. What's the prize you ask? A years supply of Japanese food HAHAHAHA! Just kidding...
-- How do I apply to the JET Program? --
If you still have the desire to apply after all of that nonsense, then all you need to do is get your hands on an application. Use the link to the Seattle Consul General of Japan if you live in the United States or contact your local Japanese Embassy for more information.
Make sure you fill out the form EXACTLY like the instructions tell you to and then check it four or five times for mistakes. Don't wrinkle it, don't use a staple, don't sneeze on it, don't leave a coffee-stain ring on it, don't cry on it, and don't let your cat chew on it. Seriously. You are required to include proof of graduation from a university (or proof of enrolment with an expected date of graduation within the boundaries dictated by the JET Program), two reference letters and a reference form (with copies), a "Statement of Purpose" no more than two pages long, a self-assesment of your medical health, official university transcripts of ALL courses taken, a confirmation card with a self-addressed-stamped-envelope, and your first born child. Ok, just kidding about the first born child bit, but you get the idea.
-- A little note --
A word of advice- read everything very very carefully and triple check for mistakes. Also, please do a large amount of research about life in Japan and all that it entails before you send in your application. Japan is nothing like western culture, and if you are not prepared for it you WILL go crazy. You'll go crazy anyway, but at least if you do a little research you won't end up in a padded room. A little research goes a long way too. For example.. you come from a warm climate and are severely uncomfortable in cold temperatures. However, you really really want to study the regional brewing techniques utilized at the Sapporo Brewery in Hokkaido. Would you enjoy your stay in Japan if you requested to go to Hokkaido? No. You would hate your life and hate Japan because Hokkaido is REALLY REALLY COLD. Even I didn't want to go to Hokkaido and I absolutely love snow. Then again, I will probably go there anyway to visit because I hear it's beautiful. I'm not talking bad about Hokkaido either, the JET's that live there love it. It's just an example of why you should do some research. If you need to, it's okay to stretch the truth a little when it comes to the part about why you want to go to the place you requested. Do not say "I want to go to Okinawa because Karate Kid 2 was filmed there and it looked cool" or "I want to go to Tokyo because I like big cities" or "I want to go to Sapporo to drink beer". Nonononono... Say something like: "I would enjoy living in Okinawa because I want to study the differences between Okinawa and Honshu" or "I would like to go to Sapporo to study Ainu culture". Beware of mentioning Tokyo!! The JET Program is actually not very active in Tokyo.. and besides.. there is an island 1000km off the coast of Japan that falls under Tokyo jourisdiction. Ask for Tokyo and you could be placed on an that island! You'd be stuck in the middle of nowhere with only one boat making the trip to the mainland once a week. If you really really want to go to Tokyo (keep in mind that Tokyo isn't really Japan, it's a beast all its own) your best bet is to do a little research and find a city or prefecture next to Tokyo like Saitama or Chiba. Remember that Japanese train service is wonderful and Tokyo is never that far away. I think having Tokyo as an option on the application is really a conspiracy to disqualify JET applicants. If all you want to do is go to Tokyo, then you probably aren't really interested in Japanese culture.. Do your research. Besides, being the conspiracy theorist I am, I think that the consulate lists Tokyo as an option specifically to weed out people that aren't sincere about comming to Japan.