The Next Chapter Begins: JET

Hey JETsetters!

It’s officially been 1 week since I moved to Ishikawa and just over 1 week since I arrived back in Japan.

It’s been an interesting journey so far and I am sure there are more adventures to come!

I flew out of Los Angeles International Airport via American Airlines on July 27th. Our flight was delayed by an hour or so. Thanks, American. Can always count on you guys for delays.

The flight was not the most comfortable but not the worst US-Japan routed flight I’ve been on. However, the flight crew were amazing and went above and beyond to service our seating section. While the flight itself was not very comfortable, they crew made up for it.

We arrived at Narita Airport on July 28th, around 4:20 PM, and were expedited through immigration and customs. We were granted access to a private immigration section, which really helped, considering the JETs on our flight were around 80 people or more on a huge international flight. We didn’t have to deal with all the tourists attempting to go through immigration at the same time as us while attempting to get cleared for our residence cards.

After getting our residence cards and picking up our luggage we were ushered to queue up for a brief check with CLAIR staff to make sure our residence card info was correct and then outside to send out our luggage.

You will typically only be allowed to take 1 suitcase and 1 personal item with you to Keio, with CLAIR recommending you take your carry-on as your suitcase. You will have to ship out the rest of your luggage ahead of time.

The shipping process was not well discussed at the LA Onboarding/Pre-Departure Seminars, so it was refreshing to see it was pretty well handled.

You do not need to worry about knowing you address or your BOE’s address. A lot of people were stressing over this fact, but in the end it was fine.

CLAIR provides your departing consulate with little tags and a sort of bus ticket before you leave for Japan. Keep this with you and have it ready in your carry on before you get off the plane. You might not have time to get it out of your check-in if you put it there (like me).

I was that person that forgot that the bus pass was in the little packet they gave us ahead of time and put it with other non-immediate documents in my check-in suitcase, and had to scramble to get it out before going to ship out our luggage. Don’t be me. (Hey, at least I didn’t forget my passport!)

The paper with the bus pass on it will also have a section that you give to the CLAIR staff handling your luggage being shipped. They will take the tag and any luggage you want to ship and send it ahead to your BOE without you worrying over providing information. You do not need to pay ahead of time for the shipping. Imagine thousands of people trying to get out the right amount of change on a time crunch.

Be advised that, while ESID, 90% of JETs will be required to pay back their BOE for the shipping service. Some JETs get lucky and their BOE doe pay for the service completely, but most of us must pay them back in the next couple of months—either directly from our paycheck or as a bill that we will receive. The shipping provider will either be Yamato or Sagawa. For Group A Narita people, it was Sagawa. Unfortunately, you do not know the exact amount to be billed until it arrives, so make sure you keep some money on hand from your next paycheck.

After shipping our luggage, we boarded charter buses to Shinjuku in Tokyo for Keio Plaza Hotel. From Narita to Shinjuku, it takes around 90 to 120 minutes, depending on traffic. We arrived around 7:20 PM and given that we left closer to 5 PM it was not too bad of a drive.

Upon arriving at Keio, you will be ushered up to one of the main concords that orientation will be taking place over the next 3 days. You will have a very brief info session, where you will get a little info on the seminars and what type of behaviour is acceptable. Don’t walk out of your room in the hotel yukata and slippers! Keio staff will tell you to go back to your rooms, as these are meant to be sleepwear only.

Officially, they tell you to also be dressed business casual/professionally even on your time off, since you are still representing JET, but as long as you aren’t dressed like a member of the yakuza, naked, or in your PJs, they don’t really care much. You are in a famous business hotel right next to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and could run into politicians around the corner. Be aware of what is standard dress code in Japan and just don’t be too crazy and you’ll be fine. I went out to the hotel convenience store in my sweats and a low-cut shirt, which were my PJs technically, without much of an issue.

Once the info session is over, you head to the other side of the room to get your room arrangements and pick up any documents you may like.

Everything for the LA consulate was booked in alphabetical order, by last name, for our flights and hotel arrangements. I ended up rooming with 2 other girls from LA, with one of them having been my seat partner on the flight. I highly recommend you get to know you roommates as this will be the perfect chance to make friends when in a foreign country and to have friends all over the country!

Depending on your country, you might have a dinner or information session with your embassy or consulate. Some of these may be mandatory, others not so much.

The U.S. Embassy Tokyo usually hosts a small, optional info session at Keio. Due to the amount of US JETs, they can’t host them all at the Embassy or at the Ambassador’s residence. This year, Group A US JETs were not able to have an info session with the Embassy due to time constraints. Group B US JETs did have an opportunity to do so. The session typically consists of some more safety and legal matters, as well as more alumni stories, and then a chance for you to talk to various diplomats.

After all that fun stuff, you can pick up sim cards and pocket wifi from certain MVNO carriers at Keio. This year the carriers were: Sakura Mobile, Mobal Japan, and Link Japan. If you did not preregister/pay for a service, you cannot do so there typically, but you may try.

Next up, you are free to do whatever you want for the night! Freedom!!! You can head up to your room and knock out or go out and explore Tokyo. Be aware that you do have an early start the next morning, so plan accordingly.

I was supposed to meet up with a friend from Kyoto but plans changed last minute and I didn’t end up going. Same for the following night, where one of my friends moved to Tokyo from Kansai recently but due to work had to cancel last minute. Sad but there will be other opportunities to meet up with people.

I spent my nights resting mainly over going out. I’ve been to Tokyo a lot of times, having lived there before as well, so it was not new to me. Even to those that are new to Japan and Tokyo, you will have plenty of chances to go to Tokyo while on JET. If you can’t make it out during the 3 nights you are in Tokyo for Orientation, it’s not the end of the world—there will be other chances.

I flew out to Ishikawa on July 31st from Haneda Airport. It was a very short 30 minute to 1 hr flight to Komatsu Airport. It was extremely hot and humid, and having to be a full suit did not help matters. From there, I met my supervisor, CIR, and another BOE staff member. We went out to lunch on the way to Nonoichi and chatted for a while. I was told I could take off my blazer for now but had to put it back on when I got to City Hall. Eventually we made it to Nonoichi City Hall, where the Nonoichi BOE is located.

First thing I had to do was get myself registered with the city and sign up for all the legal stuff. Fun. Pension, insurance, and health insurance were all registered for and I changed my address on my My Number card. If you were in Japan previously when the My Number system was implemented, the number stays the same. It is much like a Social Security Number in the US, it never changes, even if you leave the country. It was very easy to update it and now I am all set with my documents.

I had a chance to relax and chat with various departments for a bit before being ushered up to meet the Mayor and be interview for the newspaper and local TV. It was an interesting experience.

I have been informed that due to my background and language abilities, I will be doing some CIR work from time to time, which is going to be fun.

One thing to note is that not all your supervisors will speak English, others might be completely fluent. It really is ESID. Some people thought their supervisors were able to use English, if only small amounts, based off previous emails but ended up with supervisors that only spoke Japanese.

My supervisor does not speak English and has relied on Google Translate in the past for previous JETs in my city. I’m apparently the first JET, outside of the official CIR, in years to speak more than elementary Japanese, so the BOE was very happy. But this has resulted in all of my interactions with my supervisor and BOE being in Japanese, which was hectic in the first few days as I am still readjusting to actively using it after two years.

After all that fun stuff, we headed to the bank and got my bank information updated. Again, ESID… For me, I notified my supervisor ahead of time that I still had my JP Post Bank account open and wanted to update my address there, but that I was open to signing up with whatever bank was needed of me. Some BOEs require you to open a specific bank account to receive your salary, but you can open another account if you wish for your personal stuff. For Nonoichi Municipal JETs, you can use pretty much any bank you wish.

Most had Hokkoku Bank, which is the local Ishikawa/Chubu Region bank. I did ask my supervisor to sign up for a Hokkoku Bank account, because they are very easy to open a Visa Debit account, and possibly a credit account, and have simple online banking. Online banking and debit & credit cards are still pretty rare in Japan. Most accounts will require you to sign up for online banking separately, if they even offer it, and the same is for debit cards. You are typically given a cash card/ATM card and a bank book to keep track of everything, but that’s it usually.

My supervisor insisted on only going to JP Post, so if I want to sign up with Hokoku, I’m on my own. But we did manage to sign up for a separate Visa debit card through JP Post, but it’s a bit…different. I’ll go into more details on it in a future post once I test it out a bit to make sure it’s in fact a debit card. I might try to sign up for the JP Post credit card in the future or go with another provider, such as Amazon JP or Rakuten, but that won’t be for a few more months when I have a recent salary history in my account.

I didn’t get to move into my apartment until August 1st. I’ll have a separate post on my housing process in the future, for it was a bumpy ride. I had to stay in a hostel the first night in Nonoichi as a result of this. Nonoichi doesn’t have a lot of hotels and hostels, so you will probably have to stay in Kanazawa. I stayed on the outskirts of Kanazawa, as close to Nonoichi as a possible could, while also staying at the absolute cheapest hostel I could find. My BOE did not pay for it.

Moving in on August 1st was pretty simple in itself, considering how stressful it was to secure the place. It was completely unfurnished. I bought some things off my predecessor and so we had to move to all from her place to mine. It. Was. Hell. We both live on the 2nd floor of our respective flats, but her stairs were inside her flat and extremely narrow, as well as winding. Mine are outside and wide, so easier to get things upstairs. It was just my supervisor and I moving all the furniture by ourselves—from sofas, beds, mattresses, refrigerators, to washers. If I don’t have muscles after this, I’m suing.

I had to buy a brand-new washer since my pred didn’t have one. We shopped around a bit before deciding on one but had to move it in ourselves.

We weren’t able to move the fridge and microwave in until August 5th, so I was stuck with conbini food for 5 days, which was ok but extra money than groceries. It also meant no cold drinks in this horrid heat unless I went out to buy new ones all day long.

I am now mostly settled into my apartment. I still want and need to buy a few more furniture items but will be waiting till payday to do so.

I briefly met my school principal, vice-principal, and JTE supervisor on July 31st as well. I am in an interesting situation where I am not even desk warming during this summer vacation. Instead, I was told to not even come in to work until August 22nd, and even then that is only for a brief meeting. I won’t really start work till the 26th. I have nearly a whole month free while still getting paid, since I was given the vacation by my principal instead of using nenkyuu. Stay tuned to find out if my BOE actually pays me… My supervisor said yes, but let’s see.

I have a few CIR things to do this month but not all day events nor very often. So, I am free. If it wasn’t for my high start-up costs to move in, I would have gone down to Kansai or Tokyo to visit friends and family, but alas I will have to wait for another chance to do so.

My JTE supervisor took my pred and I out to a shrine in Tsurugi/Hakusan area and it was gorgeous. We also had dinner with the school nurse and it was a wonderful night.

My internet situation has also been an interesting trip. NTT is supposed to arrive this Friday to set it all up, but I have absolutely no clue when they are coming by. 🙂 Welcome to my life of YOLO.

That’s mostly it for now. Stay tuned for more adventures!


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