Unbeaten Paths: Nanyo 2022 – Latecomers and Second Chances


Edited by Jordan Rocke

G’day everyone! Here’s part 2 of the roundup of 2020/21 JETs who haven’t had a chance to introduce themselves previously. If you’re looking for the Chuyo and Toyo folks, you can find them here!


Ryan Hirano (Uwajima)


Hello everyone. My name is Ryan Hirano. I just came to Uwajima around a month ago
(mid-April) so I’m still getting used to life here in Uwajima. Thanks to all of the support from my teachers and fellow JET participants, my transition to my new life in Japan has gone surprisingly well so far. Here’s to hoping that it continues to be so smooth.

Currently, I work as an ALT for Uwajima Fisheries High school, which is located near the
city center a short bike ride away from Uwajima castle. Since the school is a vocational school, most of my students are training to go directly into the workforce after graduating from high school. This is quite different from my experience as a high school student where most of my classmates and I went directly to university instead. It has been interesting interacting with students who have a completely different goal in mind from when I was a high school student.

Besides working at Uwajima Fisheries High school, I also occasionally go to Yoshida,
Mima, and Kitauwajima High school to assist the teachers there in their English classes. Sincethese are my “side” schools I don’t get to see the students there too often, but when I do it is always fun to interact with and learn more about them. Unsurprisingly (although very much surprising to me at the time), the students at my side schools tend to be very different from my students at Uwajima Fisheries High school. Not only in their aspirations after graduating from high school but also even in their hobbies and interests. I had initially assumed that all students are the same everywhere in Japan, but as it turns out that is far from the truth.

During Golden Week, I had the pleasure of going to Kushima (九島). Apparently, the
island used to be separated from the rest of Shikoku but just a couple of years ago a bridge was built linking the island with the mainland. Going over the bridge by bike was a little scary at first since while the bridge has a guardrail on both sides of the bridge, the guardrail is relatively shortin height so if you were to really fall down off of your bike, you very well could fall off of the bridge. I definitely recommend people either walk over the bridge or if they are using a bike that they should use the right side of the bridge (the side facing Uwajima city). The right side is a little bit wider than the left side so I noticed that it was a lot easier to ride my bike. Once I got over the bridge and arrived at Kushima, I proceeded to do a leisurely circuit around the island. It
only took maybe 1.5 or 2 hours to complete by bike so it was pretty relaxing. It’s only been a couple of years since the bridge was built so a lot of the island looks the same as before back when it was still an isolated island with only a ferry linking it to the mainland.

For being such a (relatively speaking) small island, it even has a couple of buddhist temples and a convenience store. There were also a lot more people than I had expected still living on the island, apparently fishing is a pretty popular pastime over there. Going to the tip of the island and seeing the sun set among the horizon with all of the other outlying islands was a very memorable experience. I would definitely recommend anyone who lives in or near Uwajima to visit Kushima at least once, especially if they want to get out of the city for a bit.

Kihoku BoE:

Brian Cahill


Hey everyone! My name is Brian and I’m a Kihoku JET.

I was born and raised in Tampa, Florida in the USA. It’s a great area in my opinion and one of the great things I like about where I’m from is, despite its size, you can still run into people you know at any time. Perhaps that is why I’m excited to move to such a small town like Kihoku. 

When I applied for JET, I requested Shikoku as my top area to live in. Although I have never set foot in the country, I felt as though Shikoku and specifically Ehime would be a good match for a great experience. 

Many people have asked me why I want to live in Japan, and I still have a hard time answering that question myself. It’s more of just a natural desire that has been there for as long as I can remember without any real definitive reason. As I’ve grown up and learned more about the world and Japan, I found there are a few things that have drawn me even closer to Japan. For one, living in and experiencing an entirely different culture first hand seems amazing in its own right. Having grown up in a country where gun violence seems ever-present, Japan’s scarcity of firearms has also been a contributing factor for an ideal place to live. I’m excited to also learn more about local foods and traditional practices.

I studied finance at my university and although I found it interesting, I believe my passion is to experience other cultures and travel the world. And what better way to experience a new place than to live and work there?

When I was 20 years old, I decided to learn Spanish and spent two years practicing conversation and eventually became rather fluent. It was easy for me since I was able to speak with friends and coworkers since I lived in Florida. Unfortunately, my Spanish is not as great as it once was, since I haven’t used it because I have been learning Japanese for the past year and a half. I enjoy learning Japanese so much because it’s always been a dream of mine to learn, and especially now with the knowledge I have of moving there soon motivating me more and more. 

I hope to learn more languages in the future. Some of these include Korean, Amharic, Arabic, Vietnamese, and Tagalog. I would also like to travel to and possibly live in the countries these languages are spoken. 

But for now, I am extremely excited to use my Japanese and get started with my new life in Japan! 

Thank you all, and I’m looking forward to meeting you soon!

Ikata BoE:

Anna Ostovich


Hello everyone! My name is Anna Ostovich. I am from a city that is located next to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. For college, I attended Montana State University in Bozeman where I graduated in 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in Secondary English Education and a minor in Japanese. I am an ALT working at an elementary and junior high school in Ikata’s sister city, Misaki. I was originally part of the 2021 departure group, but due to Covid, my leave date kept getting pushed back. I feel extremely lucky to finally be here. Ever since high school, I have wanted to participate in the JET Program. So why Japan? I don’t really have an answer every time I’m asked that question. I know that I like certain aspects of Japan and Japanese culture but I cannot quite explain the draw I feel to this place in words. Growing up I remember watching Pokémon and Power Rangers with my father every Sunday morning. Looking back, I think that is what started my fascination with Japan. After that, I began reading various manga and novels, watching anime and other Japanese TV shows, and listening to music. I am finally able to be fully immersed in these hobbies and not have it be seen as a waste of time.

I am the type of person who gets bored when I spend too much time in one location, so I am used to traveling, though this is my first time in Japan. Growing up, my family would take vacations every summer. Because of this, I have been to all 50 states, the Virgin Islands, and Canada. One of my favorite places I have been to is New Orleans. The jazz is amazing and there are so many delicious sweets!

I spend most of my free time studying Japanese or walking around my town. My interests include hiking, camping, playing soccer, reading, and listening to music. Back in high school, I played the trumpet as well as took dance and swim classes. Almost every day you can find me playing with the elementary students after lunch, or running with the junior high students at the end of the day. I love to be outside but also like to lay in bed with a good book or TV show.

One of my philosophies when it comes to teaching is to learn from my students just as much as I am teaching them. Coming to Japan where I am not able to communicate fluently or have many things to learn about the culture/land, I feel that I am learning more from the students than I am teaching them. I have always loved learning new things and so far, there has been no shortage of new things to learn. The more I get out and meet new people, the more I love it here. If you are ever in the area, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Facebook!

Soren Birkeland


Hello everyone! My name is Soren Birkeland (He/him) and I am teaching at a middle school in Ikata-cho. I am from Minneapolis, Minnesota and I just graduated from college back in 2021 from a school in Maine called Bowdoin. 

About me:
I am easy going. I am up for anything. I like trying new things and meeting people. I like drinking games but I also love some sober karaoke. 72 is my favorite number. Green is my favorite color, but it changes as the years pass by. I am in love with the moon. I just bought a Wii and I am very happy about that. Teaching these kids has been rewarding and challenging. I hope I get the chance to meet you during our time here 🙂

Why Japan? 
In the midst of completing my coursework in philosophy and economics I realized my understanding of how the world worked was pretty myopic. Everything I was studying was from a western perspective. So, I decided I needed to explore other perspectives and what better way than to live in an Asian country and learn the culture. I played American football and ran track, so I wasn’t able to study abroad. I had to think of post-grad opportunities. I was pretty lost, I didn’t even know what country I wanted to go to. Until, one day I was walking around the student center and my eyes found themselves looking at a promotional poster for the Japanese department. Smack in the middle was a promotion for JET and I was sold. It helped that I had a few friends in the Japanese department and they loved the professors and the community. Within a week I added a Japanese minor and started studying Japanese. Since then I have fallen in love with Japanese literature and poetry. I have a few books here that I will happily lend you if you are interested 🙂 

All in all: I am happy to be in Ehime. Let’s have fun.

PS I shaved my head back in February so my hair is no longer that long

Yawatahama BoE:

Harper Brown


Hi, my name is Harper, I’m from San Francisco, and my pronouns are they/them. I’ve nearly completed my first year as a JET (which feels so weird to say) and I live in Honai, which is a very tiny town right on the coast that falls within the city limits of Yawatahama, another very small town.  Before JET, I lived in New York for seven years, where I worked in costume design for theatre, film, and TV. When jobs dried up at the start of COVID and I had to rethink what I wanted to do with my twenties, JET seemed like the ideal next step. I’ve always wanted to do this program, so it gave me the opportunity to stop putting it off and apply.  One special thing that’s bonded me to Japan is that I’m a second-generation JET; back in 1995, my parents were twenty-somethings fresh out of college who’d only been out of the country a couple times. They were placed in Utsunomiya and ended up having me during their two years there. I grew up hearing so many weird and fascinating stories about their time here, and so it’s been a bit of a dream to be able to come and have my own connection to the country.  During this next year, my goal is to see as much of Japan as possible. I’ve now seen a lot of Ehime, Kansai, and Hiroshima prefectures, and next on the list are Okinawa, Kyushu, and Tokyo (because obviously the two-week quarantine doesn’t count). It’s certainly been a wild ride so far, and I’m looking forward to what comes next. 

Ainan BoE:

Damien Joubert


Greetings fellow Mikans!

My name is Damien Joubert. Some call me DJ, others D. I come from South Africa. I was looking forward to coming to Japan and I am happy to finally have come. Why Japan? I hear everyone asking. Well, if you really want to know, come and meet me. Maybe I’ll tell you. I am placed in Ainan, the so-called Deep South of Ehime. Although it is super inaka, I like being away from the hustle and bustle of city life. I don’t think I’ve ever been that kind of guy.

As for my interests and hobbies; I really enjoy going out into the world and exploring. I guess anyone who packs up their lives and moves to Japan enjoys going out into the world. I love hiking and mountains. I love reading books, which some might say is just another way of exploring.

I hope to someday meet the faces behind every single pair of eyes that read these

Kindly and openly

Matsuno BoE:

Chloe Holm


Hello! I’m Chloe Holm and I’m originally from Northeast Ohio with my second home in the states being Duluth, Minnesota. I now live in the small village of Matsuno, Ehime! This is my second time in Japan; I participated in a foreign exchange program when I was 16 and was placed with a host family in the (only slightly bigger) town of Odate, Akita. Some of my favorite memories are from those 6 weeks where I went to a local high school with my 2 host sisters and became a student of class 2-A. My host family was incredibly kind and helped me enjoy every aspect of Japanese life, from cooking meals together and doing Japanese homework to driving me to school and packing my obento. That exchange encouraged me to study Japanese language and culture in college, and is what ultimately persuaded me to apply for the JET program. I’m grateful to now be able to experience Japan from a Sensei`s perspective after already experiencing some aspects of Japanese high school student life. 

I graduated college in August, 2021 with an English degree and a TEFL certificate, and really wanted more experience with teaching and improving my Japanese skills. So while I shifted my focus from literature to come abroad, I never stopped writing and some of my poetry will be featured in the art edition of AJET Connect magazine in June! I feel incredibly lucky to be able to interconnect many of my passions here, as I feel each part is integral to who I am. I also can’t go too long with playing DnD, ttrpgs, and board games. I love both Japanese and American pop culture and some of my favorite shows/movies/interests are Marvel/action movies, anime (JJK, Promised Neverland, AOT), sci-fi/fantasy shows, manga, cosplay, ren faires, Jpop, karaoke, and the sort.  

Before coming on JET, I was disheartened by the long, then longer, wait to come here. I ended up getting a job at a local bakery to pass the time and it was one of the best job experiences I ever had. I have now been living here for about 3 months and, while definitely challenging, the people I’ve met have been so humbling and encouraging. It’s amazing to see people like me thriving in another country, and I’m humbled by the obstacles others have overcome, as well as my own. I’m also excited for the journey ahead, to meet more people and really engage with all the quirks of inaka living. I hope to survive the heat of the summer, to travel around, and to always be in the comfort of good food and good company.


Editor’s note: We are, at longest last, finished with introductions for the 2020-21 Ehime JETs, including those who were meant to arrive last year but only made it in early 2022. Thank you so so so much to everyone who has taken the time out of their busy lives to put together an intro for this little project. In another few months I’ll dive in once again for 2022 crew, but I hope that everyone who has participated so far feels a little more of a part of the Ehime JET community through this project.

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