Category Archives: Backtrack

Backtrack #10: Beyond All Expectations (Meredith Boos, Uwajima SHS 2003-2005)


When the cruise cancelled our family trip to China and Japan in 2020 there was much cursing, crying, and screaming. Then my 12-year-old daughter patted my shoulder and said, “Stop crying mom. Japan’s not going anywhere.”

Though impressed with my child’s maturity, I was ticked off. Sniffling, I thought of all the planning gone down the drain. But as I set the travel brochure on fire in the kitchen sink it hit me. I wasn’t using the lesson the JET Programme taught me – to be happy, expect only the unexpected.

It all started with blackmail and somehow got me through a pandemic.

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Backtrack #8: Another Home For Me (Joshua Aresty, Matsuyama ALT 2009-2011)


What’s your name, when and where was your placement, and where are you from originally?

My name is Joshua Aresty.  I’m from Boston, Massachussetts in the United States.  I was placed at Hojo high school in Ehime Japan from 2009 to 2011.  I went with my wife Tara Trent who was stationed at Matsuyama West middle and high school in Matsuyama.

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Backtrack #7: Earnestness, a bit of Naiveté, and a Sincere Interest in Japan (Nicole Uehara, Saijo ALT 1999-2002)

JET class

How did you find out about JET, and what led you to apply?

I heard about the JET Program during a college internship from a few employees who participated in the early years of the JET Program. As an international business major studying German and Japanese, I was interested in living overseas and a chance to hopefully improve my Japanese language skills. My Japanese ability was not the best (unsurprising since the foundation was built on freshman year intensive classes that started at 8:30 am). I thought that the best way I could improve my language skills would be by living and breathing Japanese every day. Having grown up as one of a handful of Asians in a rural town in upstate New York, I also wondered what it would feel like to live in a place where I would not be the face that stood out. After graduation I was wondering what to do next when I learned that the JET application window opened in the fall. I filled out the paper application I received from the Embassy of Japan on a typewriter and bought my first professional business suit the day before the interview. Back in 1999 there wasn’t a Reddit forum or YouTube videos to explain in detail how to ace the JET interview, so all I had was earnestness, a bit of naiveté, and a sincere interest in Japan.

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Backtrack #6: The Language of the Colonizers (David Titterington, Niihama ALT 2005-2010)

Screen Shot 2021-05-09 at 7.41.25 AM
Taken 2008 or 2009 (I’m on the right)

What’s your name, when and where was your placement, and where are you from originally?

Pandemic greetings! I’m David Titterington from the USA, specifically from land stolen from the Pawnee and Kickapoo Nations – what we now call Kansas City. I lived in Niihama, Ehime, Shikoku (or New Port, Love Princess, Four Lands) from 2005 to 2010.

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Backtrack #4: Those Impressions Last for Generations (Abdulla Zokari, Imabari & Matsuyama 2011-2016)


What’s your name, when and where was your placement, and where are you from originally?

Abdulla Zokari. I was placed originally in Imabari in 2011, but I got married to a foreigner in Matsuyama and was able to transfer to that school to live with my wife 🙂   

Originally I’m from Yemen, but moved to Canada at 13 and learned English, then moved to Japan in 2010 at 23 years old to work for a private company (iTTTi PKC) in Ozu. That year I applied for the JET program, flew back for two weeks to take the interview, returned to Japan, then found out I was a successful candidate for 2011 JET programme. Not a typical JET story lol. 

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Backtrack #3: Goal Well Met (Terrence Gardiner, Yawatahama 1993-1995)


Flowers say thanks,
As do some sweets,
But a poem 
Does them better...

For the flowers will die,
And the sweets will be eaten,
But a poem is immortal,
To all forms of death,
And may only be consumed
By the heart...

So thus is my thanks,
Hereby written,
In hopes that your hearts,
May be filled
By my thanks.

What’s your name, when and where was your placement, and where are you from originally?

I’m Terrence Michael Gardiner. I was a JET in 1993 in Japan, Ehime prefecture, working in high schools, and I lived in Yawatahama city . I’m originally from Corcoran, Minnesota, USA.

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Backtrack #2: With New Eyes and Extra Colours (Sara Armstrong, Matsuyama 2005-08)

English Camp July 2006
A picture from a SHS school camp.

What’s your name, when and where was your placement, and where are you from originally?

My name is Sara Armstrong, I’m originally from West Virginia, USA. I was placed with the Matsuyama-shi BOE from 2005-2008 and worked at Asahi-chu my first year, Yushin and Nishi during my second, and I was in the BOE working only elementary schools for my third year.

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Backtrack #1: So Many Firsts (Annie Vuong, Matsuno 2009-12)

Editor’s note: Welcome to the first edition of Backtrack, a hopefully interesting project I’m pursuing as the newly re-elected Mikan editor! This year presents a few challenges to the blog. Firstly, we have a much smaller group of JETs to draw from than usual, even including the incoming JETs currently stuck in limbo. Secondly, these same JETs are restricted in what they have been doing in the last year or so. There haven’t been any festivals or large JET gatherings to write about. Although there are stories to be told about being a JET during covid, I think it’s fair to say that it will be a little easier to write those articles when we are completely out of the pandemic, and have some more perspective.

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