Finding Utopia

-Jessuina James, Island Placement

When I applied to the JET program, I had no idea that Japan had this many small Islands. I had only looked at the possibility of being placed on the main Island. Eventually I received my placement, I was overjoyed, as it was Kyushu and not Hokkaido. The cold weather and I are archenemies and that is all I cared about. My placement was Kagoshima ken so I only received my exact location closer to the departure date. I was placed in AmamiOshima an Island in-between Kagoshima and Okinawa. I could not find much on the Island, it was even hard finding it on the map, I needed to zoom and zoom and zoom before I could see it.

Amami Island

At this point, I was anxious mainly because I would be far from the other South African ALT’s, But I decided to spend the time I had left with family and friends just to fill up my love tank and leave home on a good start. It is important to sort out the administrative side of moving, but also the psychological side. The expectation is that you will return home and see everyone again but the truth is we never know. So creating good memories with your loved ones is just as important as selling your car and getting a new wardrobe.

Narrow Village Street

Once in Amami, I was overwhelmed. The first 3 months were just about adapting and familiarizing with my surroundings. Getting to know the teachers, students and the neighbourhood. Everyone understood that I was confused and jet-lagged and were very patient.

You may be wondering “What is Island life like?”. Well, it is hard to describe, it has its ups and downs but which place on this earth does not? People are very friendly especially the senior folk, they always trying to feed me fruit from their farms or traditional sweets. Living on the Island is a unique experience, as I wave back at the bus driver passing me I sometimes feel as if I never left Soweto. However being social on an Island takes more effort than in the city because of the greater language barrier. For people who enjoy a night out, the local bar is a starting point to socialize. Other places like churches, English practice classes, and sports clubs are also a good way to meet people. You will be invited to more events and there you will meet more people.

As an assistant, I work on two Islands, and have more than nine teachers. Each school has its own work culture. A teacher is not just an English teacher but also an individual with a unique personality. To maintain a good relationship with everyone it is important to navigate your space and

My school on Okinoerabu Island

manage all the different personalities as best as you can. Teachers also have to transition, get the old ALT out of their system, and adapt to you too. In conclusion, adapting is key to enjoying your stay in Kagoshima whether you are in the city or on a beautiful remote Island, taking one day at a time. Kagoshima is one of Japans most beautiful prefectures as its natural spender is breathtaking. There will always be something to do. The relaxed Inaka (countryside) lifestyle will afford you the opportunity to tap into your creative side whether it be music, art, photography etc. it’s a fountain of inspiration. Leave your expectations at your departure gate and be pleasantly surprised.