Last summer I had the pleasure of working as a summer camp counselor for Guy Healy, Japan, spending time with children from lower Elementary school ("HELLO!!!!! HELLO!!!!! HELLO!!!!!") right through to playing patient with students from Aichi Medical University. It was a great opportunity to get to know a little about the Japanese education system, but more importantly I spent some time with students not unlike those I'll be teaching this coming year. It was a crash course, an invaluable immersion into Japanese youth culture, mostly the stalwarts Doraemon, AKB48, and Chunichi Dragons.
Meoto Iwa, Mie Prefecture
I look back on the experience through wildly positive memories. Even beyond the flattery of the campers' affection, the job had many unforgettable aspects. Each camp was in a different prefecture, and the loooooooong (looooooooong) bus journeys allowed us to visit a variety of the most beautiful areas of Japan, including the wedded rocks of Mie and the gorgeous Fukui coast. The team of counselors was a rag-tag band of ~twenty like-minded individuals, and together we worked incredibly hard to make small Japanese children smile, laugh, and talk; usually in that order. It was extremely hard saying goodbye to these friends, natives of the US and Japan, but happily, we still keep in touch.
Fort Smile, with my fellow pillow masons - Nagano Prefecture
In downtime I was able to travel around and catch up with old friends and new, and also spent some time with a host family. My host parents were wonderful, offering my host-brother and I embarrassing levels of generosity. They showed us a side of Japanese life that is so often denied of visitors, as well as sharing experiences that we couldn't have hoped to find without their guidance, perhaps most memorably meeting the Japanese Elvis.
A little less conversation...
There were a million reasons for me to apply for JET, but my time at USA Summer Camp was undoubtedly a key factor in my decision to return to Japan. If my time in Kagoshima lives up to the promises made by my time in Japan last summer, I can't wait...