I was recently given the opportunity to welcome the incoming JETs in Tokyo. Myself and a number of other veteran teachers from all over Japan were selected to descend on Tokyo and imbue our wisdom and experience into their fresh and malleable minds. I was excited and honored to be selected; being the first point of contact to those that would be joining our Takamatsu friend agglomeration would be a lot of fun. Also, since I was to be travelling throughout the month of August, this was my one and only chance to avoid being a name simply brought up in conversation. Beyond the standard duty of addressing life in Kagawa, I was also summoned to Tokyo on behalf of my AJET Block Representative and Resource Coordinator positions. I would be splitting my time between the obligations pretty evenly, though the orientation duties would take preference. This turned out to be quite a time burden, and also had me dead at the end of each night but it was still a welcome reprieve from occupying my school desk in a hot teacher’s room.
I arrived on Saturday morning by bullet train and jumped right into the job. After a lunch with one of the other Orientation Assistants, we had a basic information meeting. Here we got our duty assignments, heard a rundown of things like our TOA code of conduct, and learned how to actually do our jobs. I was assigned as a bus leader coming back from the airport, so that night myself and the rest of that crew went over to stay at the airport hotel. The next morning I arose, bused over to the airport, and after a quick tutorial was all ready to meet the new batch of teachers.
As the shift’s head bus leader, as soon as the first plane had arrived and boarded it, it was my job to brief them on the flow of the next few days, collect their insurance forms, and also to field any questions. The 45 minute ride from the airport went smoothly, though there were some chuckles to be had when people drew the connection between ‘bus leader’ and ‘Bussies’. I actually wasn’t expecting it, I guess I’ve grown so accustomed to warding off the Justin Bieber comments instead.
Myself at the airport, ready to meet the new folks. “Let me help you!!”
I was fortunate in that I was on an earlier bus back to the hotel which left me with just enough time to get dinner in my belly and also to put in a shift at the hospitality center. This was two hours of answering questions and monitoring their use of our gratis computers and internet connections. A highlight of the position was writing each and every question asked into a large tome – nothing was unfit for documentation and the highlights were always enjoyed by subsequent shift. “I lost my tooth [what should I do?]”, “How do you make gravy?” and of course the inevitable “What should I do? I just lost my passport.” There were countless more gems. I was finally done with the first of a couple long days, but myself and some fellow TOAs decided to get meet at an izakaya from 11 to celebrate our hard work with a few beers. It seems as if those that apply for this position tend to be colorful individuals with a lot of personality, so we had a lot to talk about and made it quite an evening. All coming from different backgrounds both in Japan and our origins, but coming together all as relative strangers on equal footing made for some great conversation and a lot of laughs. Some people bailed a little earlier than other, but a number of us stuck around till about 2:30am, which made the following morning fantastic.
The crew. Highlights of the night included the nickname “Beefcakes”, the chug chant, and the ongoing cell phone pic battle.
Though that next Monday was a bit rough, we got things rolling right away by throwing the 750 odd teachers through a number of information seminars & workshops. Fortunately I was spared the responsibility of speaking at any of these, though I was made even busier by having to spend so much time with the AJET crew. They too are a lively bunch, and all the time we spent in the AJET room together had us fast friends. Besides chatting, we played a lot of Jenga, and I even taught a few to play Crib. My duty as the Resource Coordinator meant that I was heading the sales of all AJET publications to the new folks and also help my team know the sales pitch. This was certainly hectic at times, but everyone always worked together to contend with the lunchtime rushes. The other part of the AJET gig was sitting at the information desk and helping those lost souls in need of AJET related direction.
Here was Anni and myself rocking a shift.
One other duty I had was to meet all the new teachers coming to Kagawa, walk them through their first month and basically help clear any concerns that they had about their new lives. We had met briefly the day before at the Keynote Speech and Welcome Banquet, but this was our first official sit down at a group. I had 8 new teachers coming in from the US and UK and all seemed like they would bring a lot to the Kagawa crew and our weekends. The following morning I saw them off from the hotel to the airport bust that would start them on the way towards their new home. Normally the TOA returns home with their crew, but in my case I had some AJET meetings and business to tend to, as well as some pressing fun to be had in Tokyo. Here we can enjoy a ‘silly pose’, along with the representative sent from the prefectural office to meet them.
All in all, it was a fantastic opportunity and had me feeling especially nostalgic. It was great to see this teaching position come full circle and I find it hard to believe it was already two years ago that I myself was going through this crazy blur of a weekend. Though I certainly recall it being more easygoing the first time around, I did find this opportunity and the experience rewarding. What’s more is that I got to know a lot of teachers from all over Japan that I hope to maintain contact with. Of course, staying in the wonderful Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku was a giant step above my usual accommodations, and being located in downtown Tokyo is always great fun.