Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) December 2015

jlptlogoThis is just a reminder to all those that are interested in taking the
Japanese Language Proficiency Test for December 2015. The deadline for
registration is September 30th. If you’re interested in signing up, you can
go to the “MyJLPT” website and register. The
test fee is 5,500 yen and you can pay by credit card, bank transfer, or
through a convenience store.

The second chance for taking the JLPT in 2015 is: December 5th (Sunday)

If you’re taking the test and are in Ishikawa prefecture, the test will
be held at Hokuriku University. Continue reading

Happy Tanabata! Wish upon a pair of (literally) star-crossed lovers

Greetings all! Hisashiburi!

Recently, you may have seen some colourful paper trailing lanterns hanging around, and if not, you might well see them soon. It`s Tanabata! Also known as the STAR FESTIVAL.

Tanabata Streamers

[Tubular Tanabata Streamers]

Tanabata “七夕” means `the Evening of the Seventh`, and it`s an East Asian festival that is celebrated in China as Qixi or Qiqiao, and in Korea as Chilseok. The exact date that Tanabata is celebrated varies by region in Japan, but the first festivities usually begin on July 7th, and is held on various days in July and August. Continue reading

Interested in Running This Blog?

Calling any and all current or incoming Ishikawa JETs!  The managing editor of the Ishikawa JET Blog will be leaving the JET Program this July, and as such we’ll need a new, dedicated, enthusiatic volunteer to take over starting at the end of July.

If you’re interested in this volunteer position, use the “Contact Us” tab above and send us a message telling us about yourself.

Thanks to everyone for keeping up with the blog this year.  Good luck in the 2015-2016 JET year and beyond!

Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) Summer 2015

This is just a reminder to all those that are interested in taking the
Japanese Language Proficiency Test for Summer 2015. The deadline for
registration is April 30th. If you’re interested in signing up, you can
go to the “MyJLPT” website and register. The
test fee is 5,500 yen and you can pay by credit card, bank transfer, or
through a convenience store.

The day of the JLPT for Summer 2015 is: July 5th (Sunday) Continue reading

Back to School: Dust Off Those Brains for Some Trivia!

One thing that surprised me about when I first came to Japan is the teachers’ custom of testing students as soon as they return to school from vacation.  Talk about harsh!  Those poor students barely have enough time to get used to school routines again when — BAM!  Test time.

Well, Ishikawa AJET decided to take a page from the Japanese Teacher’s Handbook this time around.  To welcome everyone back to another year of classes, we’re having a Pub Trivia night.  Here are the details: Continue reading

My Interview With a REAL Junior High School Student!


Teaching at a junior high school, I often have the problem of surface-level communication with my students.  Sure, I’d like to have deep conversations, perhaps offer what little advice I have, or encourage a student if they’re going through a rough time in life.  What teacher doesn’t?  But when many of your students are still mastering the basics of the English language, (and I myself still struggle with communication in Japanese,) it’s difficult to step into the role of mentor as an ALT.

Along the same lines, I often wonder what my students really think of things.  When I ask a student why he joined the baseball team, for example, he’ll answer something like “Because baseball is interesting.”  Do you like playing in the school band?  “Yes.  it’s very fun.”  What’s your favorite part of school? “Lunch.”

Of course, for a bunch of second-language learners a mere few years into studying, those responses aren’t so bad.  Communication is taking place.  Ideas are being shared.  Way to go, students!

But then once in a while, you get a ringer.  A student who really, genuinely loves English and desires to improve their abilities.  I have the pleasure of teaching one such student, who I’ll call “Miki” for privacy reasons.  Miki is the student who’s never been abroad but still speaks better English than her friends who have done homestays in Australia.  She’s always asking questions and seeking advice to get better at English.

I asked Miki if she would want to sit down and answer a few questions for me about junior high school life, beyond the canned answers I get in class.  She happily agreed.  This is our interview. Continue reading

Cultural Gap: Greetings

For about the last month, since classes began in Janurary, I’ve entered my school every morning and faced a line of students standing shoulder to shoulder on each landing of the main stairwell.  As students or staff pass by, they all shout in unison, eyes straight ahead.  The noise is almost deafening on some mornings, assaulting the eardrums of passersby.

What’s this, you may wonder?  Angry students protesting?  Some kind of punishment?  Punk students trying to cause a scene?

They're "punks" because their hair touches the tops of their ears.  Those rebels.

They’re “punks” because their hair touches the bottoms of their ears. Those rebels.

No, it’s merely my students giving a lively morning greeting!  If you’re not familiar with Japanese, the customary greeting for the morning is おはようございます (ohayo gozaimasu), which basically means — you guessed it — “good morning!”

Greetings, called 挨拶 (aisatsu) in Japanese, are a big deal in Japan.  Before I came here, the folks at the Japanese consulate in Denver gave us a cultural briefing, in which they told us a little about the importance of greetings.  They said that sometimes the volume and frequency of one’s greetings can even dictate if they get a promotion.  If they’re stacked up against a coworker who greets ireggularly and half-heartedly, the choice for who should move up is pretty clear.

To be sure, offering a greeting is a polite and welcome thing to do in America or other Western countries.  However I’d venture a guess that if, like the students at my school, you shouted at your boss “GOOD MORNING” when you saw her every day, she would not recieve it well… whereas in my school, the teachers regularly praise and encourage the guantlet of shouted greetings.

Once a semester, the staff at my junior high school even do a greeting campaign.  They meet up early in the quad, pass out armbands to participants, and then spread out over a few block radius around the campus.  For about forty minutes, the staff stand on street corners and at bus stops to greet the students as they walk to school or get off the bus.

Another interesting thing to note about Japanese greetings is that being repetative is not at all strange.  Some mornings, I’ll walk past a slew of coworkers and basically just say “good morning” “good morning” “good morning” over and over again.  No problem!  Usually we’d want to break it up in the States, perhaps by saying something like “good morning!” “hey there.” “Mornin!” “Good morning, Bob” so as not to sound like a robot.

Of course, the repetitiveness may stem from the fact that there is no single greeting in Japanese that can be said at any time of day.  In English, you can use the word “hello” in the morning, afternoon, night, or anywhere in between.  But in Japanese, おはよう (ohayo) can only be used in the morning.  こんにちは (konnichiwa) can only be used in the afternoon.  こんばんは (konbanwa) can only be used at night.  If you say one out of place, you’ll get strange looks (once, my wife said konbanwa to a shop keeper at around 7pm, but because it was summer, the sun hadn’t set yet.  The shopkeeper giggled and told her that we should only say konbanwa after the sun had gone down.)  Thus, it’s not like I can throw in a konnichiwa with my ohayos in the morning.  I’m left with only one suitable greeting, so using it many times is okay.

There are also special greetings or phrases to be said at special occasions in Japan.  Around the New Year’s holiday, the biggest holiday in Japan, you greet people by saying あけましておめでとう (akemashite omedeto), or “happy new year” instead of the usual konnichiwa or konbanwa.  There are also set things to say before and after you eat, when wishing someone happy birthday, when checking on someone who’s ill, and when congratulating someone on their wedding.  You can read about some of those here.)

So, why are greetings such a big deal in Japan?  I asked a few of my Japanese friends to explain.

“Because it’s polite,” one of my coworkers explained.  “It can make you feel refreshed, and it restarts the new day.  [Encouraging a loud greeting is] also a way for instilling discipline in the students.”  He went on, after a few minutes of thought, to say that “Japanese people have a wall between them and unknown people.  So, they need to break the wall.  The starting point is the greeting.”

Another coworker said that the greetings cause “others to start saying something to other students.  It makes them more active and genki [spirited].”  Continuing, she said that she believes “one greeting can change your whole day.”  When I asked about the shouting, she said it’s useful because it “wakes us up.”

So, what are your experiences with Japanese greetings?  Have you found them to be annoying?  Uplifting?  Have they been important to your living and working in Japan?  Let us know in the comments!


Daniel is a second-year ALT who works at a junior high school in Kanazawa.  he enjoys coffee, riding his bike, and hanging out with his wife.

Taxes 2015: Advice and Links

Japan loves to tout it’s seasons.  Cherry blossoms in spring, festivals in summer, leaves in fall, and Anna and Elsa in winter.  There are even seasons here that some of us don’t have in our home countries, like rainy season or typhoon season.  But you know what season everyone has, no matter how far you run or how hard you try to hide?tax-season

That’s right, it’s time to dust off your calculator and get to work filing taxes!

Of course, tax season looks different for every JET Program participant.  Depending on your home country and length of stay in Japan, your tax situation will vary.  As such, it’s important to research your own country’s tax information to get the most accurate information.  However, there are a few things that all JETs should keep an eye on during this time.

Also, I see everyone else is doing it, so I’d better follow suit:  The Ishikawa JET Blog is by no means an authority or expert on tax matters.  (If you weren’t clued in by the Bugs Bunny picture above.)  The information presented here is to be used as a rough guide, NOT as an authoritative source.  Please do your own research when in doubt!

1. Know Your Home Country (A.K.A. Ask a Sempai)

As mentioned above, every situation is different.  (If only there were an acronym to express such a thing…)  If you don’t want to read through the troves of forms and databases on government websites while looking for the tax laws that apply specifically to you, a more popular strategy is to ask someone from your same home country who’s been in the program longer than you.  For you first-year JETs, the ideal target is a 2nd-year, because usually tax proceedures change for 3rd, 4th, and 5th-year JETs.

You can ask them what forms they filled out last year, where to find information, and whether or not they’re wanted for tax evasion back home.  Of course, the ultimate responsibility with getting your taxes done correctly lies with you and you alone.  But, it can’t hurt to ask around in an effort to save you some time.

For American JETs like myself, I was given a tax guide back in 2012 that’s helped me every year since.  I have added it under the “Downloads” tab above.

2. Don’t Throw Anything Away

This time of year, you’ll be getting a lot of forms and papers from your CO with lots of numbers and amounts on them.  It’s best to play it safe when in doubt and not throw them away.  The most important one is the statement which lists your total earnings from 2014 (For Americans, this is the equivalent of your Japanese W-2 form), and it looks a little something like this:

Tax Form

Keep this somewhere safe, as you’ll probably need it.

3. Don’t Procrastinate

Of course, none of us would ever think of doing this!  Doing your taxes here isn’t nearly as complicated you think it is.  In fact, the JET Program website even makes a point of saying how little paperwork is required on the Japanese side of things.  Carve a bit of time out of an evening or weekend and see how much you can get done.

4. Save a Little Bit for Summer

The taxes we’re dealing with now are usually income taxes from our home countries.  But, (and this again depends on where you’re from and where you currently live), you may have to pony up this summer and pay your Japanese residency tax.  This can be really expensive, so it’s a good idea to start laying aside some money just in case.

For some perspective, I received a bill in the mail last June for about 120,000円!  It was a great way to start off a Saturday morning, let me tell you.  I took it in and handed it to my supervisor, who in turn took it to the school office.  It turns out, they were footing the bill that time around.  But, I got a note later that month saying that in 2015, it’ll be up to me to cover that cost, and that it could be a different amount (they conveniently forgot to say if it would be more or less…)

If you’re worried, this is another good time to use the “ask a sempai” technique, as that will give you a baseline number.  However, the tax varies depending on where you live and how long you’ve lived there.  And hey, if you save up and it turns out that you don’t have to pay the tax, you can use that money for something fun!

Treat yoself!


6. Links and Resources

As mentioned above, I’ve added a useful tax guide for American JETs under the “Downloads” tab above.  In addition, here are some good resources:

Ishikawa JET Wiki (Scroll down to the “Taxes” heading)

JET Program website

Kumamoto JET Blog

Mie JET Blog (Ooh!  This one talks about Canadians!)

In addition, your “General Information Handbook” has more information.  Happy tax season, everyone!