Before you can head out to Japan with the JET Programme, you’ve got to attend a few seminars/workshops.
Some of these are mandatory, others are highly recommended. Some people only have 1 seminar just before departure, others have multiple onboarding seminars leading up to departure.
For the LA Consulate in the USA, we had two seminars: an on-boarding seminar and a pre-departure seminar. Honestly, the terms are one in the same.
The first seminar was a two-day on boarding seminar held in LA near the consulate in June. The first day was required and the 2nd day was highly recommended by our coordinator. The LA consulate/LA JET Departure group consists of Southern California and Arizona departures. Those in Arizona could either attend in person in LA or attend a virtual session on the first day in Phoenix, but the 2nd day wasn’t broadcasted. The seminars are hosted by embassy/consulate staff and JET Alumni, usually AJET.
Some people had their first seminar in June, others in July, along with their big departure one.
The seminar was mandatory to attend. It ran from 9:30 AM to 5:30 PM, with an optional after party until 8 PM.
It mainly consisted of ALT seminars, since there were only a handful of CIR candidates and even CIRs might have ALT duties. (Or ALTs with CIR duties like me.)
There were lectures about studying Japanese and survival Japanese.
You also had to turn in your passport and visa application at this time.
There was also a seminar on taxes by a Japanese American tax representative, which was really useful. Make sure you check on your tax status! It can really vary depending on what position you’re in, what country you’re from, and even what state you’re.
For California JETs, we are not exempt from state income taxes as we are from federal if we’ve been out of the country for (nearly) 1 year. For California, you have to be out of the country working for over 1 year, so if you decide to re-contract you’re safe. Otherwise, you are still considered an in-state resident and have to pay the income tax. So, for you future California JETS, if you’re thinking about being able to avoid taxes, you’ll have to stay for at least 2 years or pay up!
The seminar also beat into us “Every Situation is Different” pretty much non-stop… So if you’re not tired of hearing it by now, you will be after the seminar!
The after-party was a Mexican buffet at the seminar location, which was the Miyako Hotel in Little Tokyo. It cost $5 to attend and the food was really good. It was nice to have Mexican food as a couple last meals since it is hard to come by in Japan.
9:30 AM to 5:00PM
More ALT seminars at the Japan Centre in Little Tokyo. There were a bunch of different seminars to attend this time and you could choose which ones to go to. Cherish this, because for Tokyo Orientation you have no freedom to choose.
It’s a bunch of alumni volunteers doing demo lessons, talking about life in Japan, team-teaching, culture-shock, etc.
July 26th, the day before departure
The event was held at the Four Points by Sheraton by LAX Airport. Those who flew in from Arizona or elsewhere or had to travel to LA from far distances within SoCal, would be staying in the hotel overnight as to not miss our flights the next morning. The seminars were from 2 PM to 8:30 PM.
We were seated in the banquet hall by our placement regions. We picked up our passports with our visas, luggage tags, and bus pass/luggage shipping passes for Tokyo. Make sure you don’t lose the passes and to pack them in your carry-ons for easy access. You need them to get on the bus from the airport in Tokyo and to send your luggage to your placement. Also, please don’t lose your passport. Some consulates keep your passports until the very last moment so that you don’t lose them. There is always one person every year who either has a panic moment or actually lost/left their passport somewhere.
The event was mainly a bunch of speeches from alumni, embassy/consulate staff, and distinguished guests. The consulate’s vice-consul gave a short speech.
More ESID talk. Seriously, everyone has to mention it at least 3 times.
There were a few “What did JET do for me?” testimonials, which were interesting to see how people have used JET in their careers and how they are still involved in the community.
Nippon Travel Agency, who handled LA’s travel arrangements, was there to give another reminder course on luggage, hotels, and what to expect.
Biggest take away from that speech? “Some people get dinner [on day 2].” Seriously, everyone kept talking about this all the way until Tokyo.
Some embassies will host dinner with their JETs, but the US Embassy in Tokyo does not. So, this is where this comment came from, but when the speaker mentioned it, everyone latched on to it.
The departing group had a designated speaker/representative. How this was decided is beyond me, but we had one ready. They gave a short speech near the end of the event.
It is great networking event. You can talk to alumni and other incoming JETs and make connections. Get their card if they have one or their contact information. For other incoming JETs, it is a great way to have a place to couch surf at when travelling around Japan. For the alumni, it a great way to have someone to ask for help in certain situations or to fall back on after JET. Make sure you stay in contact with them and not just pop up randomly after JET looking for a job.
Those that needed hotel accommodation needed to inform the consulate and travel agency back in June to make the reservation. This was provided free of charge for us. Those that did not specify had to either return home and then come back down to LA early in the morning the following day or find their own accommodation. If you are staying with a significant other, you must find your own accommodation or contact NTA to see if they can accommodation you both (but your SO will have to pay for their own accommodation).
July 27th, departure day
For Group A, LA Departures, we had 2 different departure groups.
As we are one of the biggest groups in all of the U.S., we had to split up between two flights.
Some flew out on American Airlines, others on Singapore Airlines, departing at 12PM and 3PM respectively.
We were required to be at the airport very early. Leave the hotel at 9AM and arrive by 9:45 at the latest for AA flight, and arrive by 12PM for Silk flight.
If you have an overweight luggage or extra luggage, you have to pay for the fees yourself upfront. This will not be billed later or to your CO. Plan accordingly.
Check your luggage requirements with your airline and with your travel agency. Triple check.
For AA, we had 2 checked luggage at 23kg each and 1 carry on plus 1 personal item. There was no official weight limit for either of the cabin items, but there was a size limit, so double check. If the flight is packed, which it usually will be for JET, you might have to gate-check your carry on if there is no room. JETs fly economy, so you will typically be one of the last to board and there might not be a lot of overhead space.
Overweight fees were $100 23-32kg per bag (if you went over that, I’m leaving it up to you to find out how much) and if you wanted to bring an extra bag it was $200 each bag.
For Silk, they also have a 2 checked bag allowance at 23kg each, and 1 carry-on plus 1 personal item. But the carry-on must be 10kg or less. Silk is pretty strict with this. You might be able to get away with it, but most people get their bag weighed, especially if any other bag of yours is overweight, have a lot of luggage, or if your luggage looks too heavy/full. A lot of the LA JETs had their carry-ons weighed.
Overweight fees were $100 23-32kg each and an extra bag cost $150. If you are going to be overweight for certain, I recommend just bringing that third bag with you and getting another full 23kgs over just 9kg extra for $50 more.
Silk’s service is hands down far superior to AA overall. They have been rated as one of the top airlines in the world for a reason. But their baggage rules are stricter.
You do not get to chose which flight you are on! Your travel agency will assign you one and how they do this varies by consulate/embassy and country. Some countries are only allowed 1 check-in, others 2 but combined weight 23kg, and some people have been allowed 3. It really is ESID.
The seminars were not bad but very long. Some of the stuff could have been an email, but then again, a lot of people didn’t read their emails carefully and caused more problems for our coordinator. So, it really depends. Go to your mandatory meetings and try to go to the ones that are optional. Behave respectfully, this is an official work event.
Go out and make friends! Our LA group is still really close nearly 2 months in and we actively talk to one another and some have even travelled together already!
Good luck JETsetters.