Unbeaten Paths: Toyo 2022 – The New Faces


Edited by Jordan Rocke

Welcome to the after-summer 2022 Unbeaten Paths! For those who are new to the premise, this is a set of introductions, divided by region, of the new JETs in our community! There’s no obligation to write an introduction, so this isn’t an exhaustive list of all the new folks, but I’m always really glad of how many people do take the time out of their day to put an introduction together. If you are a new JET who missed out and would like to be included , please reach out at themikanblog@gmail.com and I can add you in!


Michael Tam (Imabari)


Hello hello! My name is Michael and I am one of the new ALTs in Imabari. I am from Seattle, Washington, United States, and have lived there practically my entire life. If you haven’t heard of Seattle before, does Amazon, Starbucks, or Ichiro ring any bells? I graduated in June 2022 from the University of Washington and majored in Geography (GIS). While geography wasn’t my first choice as a major, being able to communicate and visualize information such as the flow of people and goods using maps is interesting. As a child, I had several opportunities to watch Ichiro play for the Seattle Mariners, and I attribute my interest in both baseball and Japan to Ichiro. I enjoy watching the Mariners despite the pain I feel each year they miss the postseason. This year is looking good so far and I hope the team breaks the 21-year streak of missing the postseason.

If you’re wondering, I did request Ehime as my top placement choice. Why? I suppose I was intrigued with Shikoku as a whole thanks to the tourist guidebook I read that described Shikoku as one of the more unexplored regions of Japan. Ehime seemed like a nice place surrounded by mountains and the sea.

Speaking of exploring, I have been to 13 countries so far with Japan being number 13. The three most recent countries I visited are Lithuania (March 2022), Iceland (July 2021), and France (2018). I am very grateful for the grants and scholarships I received as well as my job on campus during my years in college because they gave me the privilege to go traveling. I have been exploring Japan as well since arriving. Over Obon, I spent around ~10 days exploring the Kansai region using the Kansai Wide Area Pass as well as parts of Chuyo and Nanyo in Ehime. I didn’t understand the reputation of Japanese summers until I arrived. Standing at an intersection waiting for the signal to change while being cooked by the sun in 90% humidity is not a pleasant experience. I am planning on going back to Kyoto when it isn’t so darn hot. On the bright side, I finally got to experience Japanese trains! Indeed, they are convenient and nice to ride in, even if
they come once every hour or so here in Ehime. The Hello Kitty Shinkansen is something I didn’t think I would enjoy, but after seeing it in person and riding it I appreciate it for turning an ordinary train ride into something cute and interesting. I look forward to exploring more of Ehime as well as the rest of Japan.

Besides traveling, I also enjoy video games. My first console was a Nintendo DS Lite and my first two games (I still have both the console and games at home) were Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Darkness and Pokémon Diamond. Yes, I did play the remake on the Switch. And yes Cynthia kicked my butt. I now eagerly await the release of Scarlet and Violet and a new region to explore.

Thomas Redpath (Niihama)


Hello all, I’m Thomas and I’ve just started working as an ALT here in Ehime, specifically Niihama! I’m from Liverpool in England – though if you hear my strong accent you’ll likely guess where I’m from anyhow. I arrived just a few weeks ago in late August, and I’ve just about finished settling in (translation: I’m no longer existing off of instant noodles). 

I applied for the JET programme this year, just as I was coming to the end of my time at university, where I was studying Archaeology & Anthropology. Funnily enough, I received word about my placement the same week my exams ended, and even funnier, my last exam was on Japanese Society! I’ve been interested in the JET programme for some time, though, ever since a friend of a friend mentioned it as an option all the way back in Year 8. One of my tutors at university recommended that I should go for it – in fact, as further chats revealed, he’d been on the very first wave of JETs in the 80s, where apparently they were able to fly Business Class. How times change! I’ve intended to visit Japan for some time, as a childhood playing Yu-Gi-Oh evolved into an adolescence watching anime evolved into an adulthood interested in Japanese history and culture – though I must confess I do watch the occasional episode of JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure now and again.

I’m sorry to say that hobbies-wise I’m terribly dull, I mostly enjoy reading, walking, some cycling (quite a bit more cycling ever since I’ve moved to Niihama!) cooking, and video games. While staying in Niihama I’m hoping to expand my cooking repertoire, particularly taking advantage of the fish supplies here – I have my eye on a few interesting fish stews! Likewise, I’m hoping to do some more hiking in Niihama, ideally when the weather has cooled down quite a bit. The landscape here is so beautiful, it’d be a shame to not explore it a little.

 I’m currently working in Niihama Nishi High School, though I also work in Niihama Commercial High School a few times a month. So far it’s been very interesting working in a Senior High School, given that my previous experience has mostly been with younger kids, with some GCSE tutoring thrown in. I just had my first self-intro lessons yesterday, actually, which was quite thrilling! If there’s one thing I’m hoping to develop here it’s a proper ‘teacher voice’ – the kind which ceases rabble-rousing and demands attention. Not that it’s hugely necessary while in Japan, but if I’m going to teach in the UK after this I probably ought to get started on developing one. 

So far I’ve very much enjoyed my time in Niihama, and I look forward to exploring it further (particularly the ramen restaurants), and meeting all the JETs in the area! よろしくお願いします!

Peter May (Imabari)


Hello, I’m Peter. I first came to Japan through WWOOF in 2019. For those not familiar, WWOOF is a program that allows people from all over the world to work on organic farms in exchange for room and board. When my mother first proposed the idea I thought it sounded like a pain and a really dull way to travel, but after researching it, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Because the most expensive aspects of travel (room and board) are provided by hosts, I thought it would be best to go somewhere expensive such that I wouldn’t be able to afford traveling there without the program, and Japan seemed to fit the bill. 

When I travel, I want to stay a minimum of a month or longer. I stayed 89 days in Japan the first time, which was the limit of my tourist visa. After the trip, I knew I wanted to return and actually live somewhere rather than just visit. I had so much fun working in the countryside and exploring the multitude of shrines and temples scattered absolutely everywhere. Having that experience in Saitama, Yamanashi, Wakayama, and Kyoto, already, I wanted to explore somewhere new. I chose to apply to Ehime through the JET Program. Going into the application, you can’t see anything about which city in the prefecture you might get, but looking on the map I knew I really wanted Imabari because of the Shimanami Kaido. As luck would have it, here I am! I also thought Ehime would make for a good launching pad to explore more parts of Japan I had yet to go to, such as Honshu and Kyushu.

Outside of school you can catch me biking, thinking about biking, eating baked goods, and occasionally backpacking around Japan. I’ve been very lucky to be able to join a softball team in the area and I love trying as many new things as I can. One of these days I’m going to rope a couple of the other JETs in the area into doing Ishizuchi with me and eventually get them on the mountains again for some backpacking. It sounds like we may be going rafting together very soon!

Before coming to Japan I was a philosophy major at UC Santa Cruz, EMT, mountain bike and ultimate frisbee coach, and I biked across America in the summer of 2021. I’m also rescue diver certified and itching to eventually go to diving here in Japan. If you want to go backpacking, camping, diving, biking, anything like that, just let me know!

Once I go back to the US, I’ll be getting a master’s in nursing. Nothing about my degree choices makes any sense.

I’ve also backpacked through Thailand for a month and traveled all over Costa Rica for another month plus. If you have any questions about WWOOF, just let me know. 

Please be sure to try hiyashi chuuka while you are in Japan. You will not regret it!


Melanie Deeble


Hi there! My name is Melanie, but you can call me Melon if you’d like. I’m from Denver, CO, USA and recently graduated from New Mexico Tech with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. I’ll be starting out as a municipal ALT in Imabari this upcoming October and am so excited to join the Ehime team! 

My adventures relating to Japan started when I was 12 years old and my junior high school required me to take foreign language classes. I took a few weeks of each class: Spanish, French, Japanese, and what can I say, the Japanese teacher had the best candy (this was my glorious introduction to Hi-Chew). 

I never looked back from this decision. I continued to study Japanese through high school, collecting three 1st Place JASC Japan Cup trophies along the way. I hosted three exchange students from Japan and visited Hokkaido as an exchange student myself. I ran the exchange program at my high school during my senior year as the president of our Japanese National Honor Society chapter and I started a Japanese Language Tutoring Club. All the while, I started to watch tons of Anime and listened to J-Pop (it counts as studying!). 

After high school, I attended the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, commonly known as New Mexico Tech, to study engineering. Unfortunately, this school did not offer courses in Japanese and I lost much of the language skill I once had. I could tell you plenty about mechatronics and control systems though! 

As difficult as it was, I completed my undergraduate studies and am looking forward to a new and exciting adventure with the JET Programme. I hope to regain my language proficiency and make some connections in Japan. My long-term career goal is to become fluent in Japanese and to be a communicative bridge between the US and Japanese engineering industries. I am so happy to have been placed by the JET Programme and am so thankful for this great opportunity. どうぞよろしく!!

Jonas Glick


Hello everyone, my name is Jonas, and I am currently an ALT working in Imabari City. I arrived in Japan in July, and I am excited to be here! I am from the state of Utah. I lived in Salt Lake City for 23 years but had moved to St.George right before the pandemic started. St.George is in the very south corner of Utah near Zion National Park and about two hours away from Las Vegas. The difference in climate from the deserts of Utah to the hot and humid summer of Japan has been a drastic one!

I graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in Film and Media Arts in 2018. During school, my main areas of interest were screenwriting and film editing. I have a 150 page screenplay that anyone can read anytime! I always enjoy getting feedback on my work. Some of my favorite movies are Pulp Fiction, Interstellar and The Grand Budapest Hotel. I also love movies from the 1960’s era such as anything from Alfred Hitchcock and French Noir films. Much of what I watch today though is anime! Some of my favorites to watch are Cowboy Bebop, Steins Gate and Bleach. Please let me know if you have any other recommendations or would like to discuss anime or films! 

When I am not watching something, I also like to dabble in some of my other hobbies, the biggest one being gaming. I am a huge JRPG fanboy. My favorite series of all time is the Fire Emblem series with Fire Emblem Radiant Dawn being my favorite game of all time. I also have spent hundreds of hours playing through the Persona series and it was my gateway to learning about the folklore and historical figures here in Japan. I am currently playing Xenoblade 3, having played the previous three games in the series, and so far it has been a great experience! I also used to compete in Super Smash Brothers weekly tournaments back home so if you own the game, we should play for fun sometime! Some of my other hobbies include hiking, cooking, playing soccer, and watching Youtube. 

One of the biggest questions any JET gets is “Why did you come to Japan?”. My answer has many layers but in its simplest form it is because I believe that traveling and seeing the world creates an environment that people can grow and learn about themselves and that is what I wanted for myself.  During university, I studied abroad in Grenoble, France. I lived with a host family and studied at the university in the city. Getting to see a new way of life, interacting with my classmates who were from all regions of the world, and participating in a brand-new culture were experiences that shaped me into who I am today. It changed how I interacted with the world around me and made me crave that experience again. It gave me a severe case of wanderlust that only grew because of the pandemic. With that background and now graduated, I started exploring options on how I would obtain an experience like the one I had before. I had been watching a Youtube channel called “Abroad in Japan” at the time and really enjoyed his content. He mentions often how he originally arrived in Japan as a part of the JET program, and it inspired me to apply. To finally be here in Japan feels like life is an adventure again and my hope is to experience all Japan has to offer. 

I want to give a huge shoutout to all the JETS I have had the privilege of meeting so far, everyone has been so welcoming! I am impressed just how many other JETs I have been able to connect with in my short time here. Reach out to me on Line or any other social media, I always enjoy meeting new people. Also, please come to Imabari! It has been wonderful so far and the JET community here welcomes you with open arms. Thanks for reading!

Karl Gaurano


The Beginning…

It all started one early Saturday morning. The crickets had barely finished chirping, and I just got home from work. The first sign of sunlight peaked through the gaps of the rustling tree branches.

I had been working the night shift for the last few months and was exhausted beyond measure. I laid on my bed and closed my eyes, savoring the sweet, sweet silence around me. Slowly, I began to drift away to sleep, allowing the darkness to envelope my being…

My phone vibrated like crazy. I forgot that it was still in my pocket. I was slightly annoyed as I was already beginning to snooze. I took it out to see who was calling me. It was my girlfriend. As soon as I answered the phone she asked, nay, INSISTED that I check the link that she had just sent. I asked if it could wait, but she vehemently insisted, and I knew better than to argue with her. I clicked the link she sent me. My eyes were getting heavier as the site slowly loaded.

However, my fatigue almost instantly disappeared as soon as I saw what she sent me. I stared at the screen dumbfounded. It was an announcement from the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines. The JET Programme has officially started recruiting…
I knew that from that point onward, things were about to get crazy… in a good way.

Who in the World am I?

Oh, I guess forgot to tell you who I am. My bad. My name is Karl Friedrich Vladimir Tesoro Gaurano. Yup. I have quite the long name, so you can just call me Karl. I am 38 years old and I hail from the Philippines. I was born in Kuwait in 1984 and went back to my home country in 1989. I am currently assigned in Kikuma-cho, Imabari City.

I’m just a normal guy who just so happens to have many interests. I dabble in martial arts, film- making, song-writing, and photography. I also collect toys and comic books. Most of my friends think that I came here to Japan just to live the geeky dream life I have always wanted. Well, as much as I want to say that that was the only reason I moved to Japan, there were other factors that contributed to my decision to come here.

Bushido and Ninjutsu

Apart from being the mecca of all things geeky, Japan is also the home of one of my passions.

And that is Martial Arts.

I have been always been a fan of the samurai and ninja lore. This was the main reason I started practicing martial arts. I am invested in stories about personalities from the historical Sengoku Jidai. Figures such as Masamune Date, Oda Nobunaga, Hattori Hanzo, Tokugawa Ieyasu, and others intrigue me. With this being said, I try to get as many books and movies as I could about these people. I must have watched countless films and documentaries about the samurai and the ninja. I just love reading and watching tales about the brave samurai and how honorable they were as well as the ninja and how they executed their guerilla tactics during Japan’s feudal turmoil.

My obsession with these legendary warriors had led me to practice Karate when I was in junior high school. I eventually became a fan of MMA after watching UFC. However, my fascination with the sport became a passion of mine when I saw Kazushi Sakuraba defeat Royler Gracie of the famed Gracie family in Pride Fighting Championships (hands down the best MMA promotion of all time) I then studied to Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. It has been my dream to share at least one training session with Kazushi Sakuraba in his gym. Hopefully, I am one step closer to achieving this by being here.

Audio and Video Connection

I love movies. I like watching them, and I like making them. Before the pandemic I made music videos, short films, and corporate AVPs for a living. I don’t know how cliché this may sounds but I was inspired after watching Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai (七人の侍). Watching his movies had always been a treat for me. I would always try to emulate his style or inject some of his influence whenever I had a project.

I am also a fan of Stephen Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick, Rod Serling, Hayao Miyazaki, and
Quentin Tarantino. Now I, being the comic book enthusiast that I am, am very much into the whole comic book movie genre craze.


I am a huge anime fan. I have always been, since I was a kid. The very first anime that I saw was Dragon Ball Z. After watching Goku and Piccolo defeat Raditz, I instantly became hooked. There was a point in my life when I would beg my friends to lend me their VCDs (for those who remember what those are) just so I can watch the shows that I had been following, and even though they were badly subtitled anime, I would still watch them with gusto.

I still partake in anime binge watching to this day. Right now, I am watching a lot of mainstream titles such as Kimetsu no Yaiba, One Punch Man, One Piece, Jujutsu Kaisen, Overlord, and That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime. However, I always revisit classics such as Dragon Ball, Naruto, Gintama, Hunter x Hunter, Yu Yu Hakusho, and Shaman King to name a few.

I also love watching Studio Ghibli films. My favorite is Spirited Away with Howl’s Flying Castle coming in as a close second.

So What Now?

Being in Japan for over a month has been awesome so far. I plan to stay for a long time if possible. I’d like to explore the country and eat as much food as I can. I would like to experience the culture as much as I can. With this being said, I am still a teacher at heart and I plan to utilize my experience to help my kids learn English (as cliché’ as this may sound).

Being here is an opportunity I do not want to waste. It is a chance for me to immerse myself in a culture that has fascinated me for the longest time. I am looking forward to having new experiences and meeting new friends along the way.

Luke Anthony Santos


Mabuhay! My name is Luke Anthony Santos, a Filipino ALT in Imabari City. It is nice to meet all of you!

I taught in the Philippines for 6 years and the JET Programme is a new page in my teaching career. It is a big leap from my previous school but this is one adventure that I am excited to face.

So, what led me here? Well, I have always loved history ever since I was a kid. Social Studies and History classes were the subjects I looked forward to. The love for history eventually led me to take a History degree in college. After graduating, I immediately started working as a Social Studies teacher – teaching classes in Philippine History, World History, Asian History, and Economics.

During college and my time teaching in the Philippines, I always had an inkling with Japan’s history and culture. Every time Japan was brought up in my history classes, I would always be the one reciting during class and religiously taking down notes. Whenever I prepared my lesson plan for Japan, it always seemed I put more effort into it as compared to the other countries.

I think there’s just something about Japan that I find myself wanting to learn more about it and teach it. I have always found stories about Japan interesting. From Amaterasu, to the Feudal age of Japan, to the experience of Japan during the pre- and post war period; all of these occupied a space in my heart that fueled my desire to visit Japan and to learn more about this beautiful country. The JET Programme became the perfect opportunity for me to learn more about Japan’s history and at the same time get a first hand experience in understanding its culture through its education system.

I believe being in Imabari City is the perfect way for me to begin this new chapter of my life. This place definitely feels like my home away from home.

See you around!

Maya Rao


My name is Maya, and I’m an elementary school and junior high school ALT in Imabari City. I’m originally from Maryland, USA (close to Washington D.C.). I graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019 and majored in biology and minored in Japanese. In my junior year of college, I studied abroad at Waseda University in Tokyo. I had visited Kagawa (Naoshima and Takamatsu), so I’m excited to be back in Shikoku. Imabari is definitely different from Tokyo, but I’m enjoying exploring my neighborhood and can’t wait to try biking on the Shimanami Kaido. In my free time, I enjoy film photography and baking. I unfortunately do not have an oven in my apartment, so I’ll have to resort to eating absurd amounts of Lawson’s Anpan to make up for it.

Sweda Rajaram


Hello!! My name is Sweda (she/her) and I am a fresh college grad from LA but I also rep my home-state really hard (where my Jersey people at?). I found myself in the towel capital, Imabari, after freaking out for months about what I would be doing post-grad. While the intention was to end up in the medical field, I thought that a life time of blood and guts could wait a couple of years.

I’ve always been drawn to different languages and in undergrad I studied Spanish, Arabic and Japanese but interestingly enough I knew the least about Japan and Japanese culture. Because I only had one year of college that wasn’t plagued by a pandemic, I never got the chance to study abroad or travel to Japan so I took the plunge and my first time visiting was when I moved here!

I’m a huge believer in signs and since I’ve been here I’ve felt like there have been some unmistakable signs that I was meant to be in Imabari for whatever purpose. 1/3: My BOE branch office in Imabari is a minute walk away from the only vegan restaurant in a 50km radius (like out of 14 other JETS in Imabari how did the only vegan land myself here?). 2/3: When I walked into my BOE on the first day there was a Japanese flag, an American flag and a Sri Lankan flag, which is where my family is from! (When have you ever met another Sri Lankan, and in Imabari???? seeing that flag floored me) 3/3: In a random grocery store I found the flower of my ethnic group in Sri Lanka (flame lily) which has deep symbolism for my people, which I have never been able to see in person before. (Mind you this is not a very common flower in the world, let alone in Japan.) 

I’ve only been here a month but in that time I’ve sweated more than I ever have in my life, mostly during recess when I sprint across the field in my dress pants while playing tag with 9 year olds. You would assume that because my legs are more than double the length of theirs that I might have it easier but I don’t know what they pump these kids with during kyuushoku to give them that much stamina. Very excited to outrun these kids, see the seasons change and learn more about this cute little city.

I’m a lover of asymmetry, blueberry flavored items and all desserts. My goal is to try every flavor of kikkoman soy milk there is. Self-proclaimed vegan God-tier palate so if you need vegan food recs, I will be your guide (vegan food blog insta- @spicedgrass). Favorite discussion topic: love. My motto for my last year of college was never say no, so I’m pretty much down for any adventure (that doesn’t involve free diving off of a 50m high platform). Will cry each and every time I watch Hotarubi no mori e.

Sam Stewart


Hey how’s it going. My name is Sam and I’m an incoming ALT JET headed to Hakata-Jima which is one of the little islands in between Imabari city and Hiroshima prefecture. Ive been trying to get into Japan for almost 5 years now to do a study abroad but that was eventually canceled by I’m sure you know what, so this will be first time in Japan and I’m definitely super excited. 

I’m from Lexington, Kentucky and I just Graduated from the University of Kentucky this last spring (2022). I was an Anthropology major and International Studies minor with my focus area being southeast Asia so I guess I’m a bit of a Japanese history nerd? So I feel lucky that I am pretty close to Kyoto with my JET placement because I for sure plan on going and looking at the castles and architecture there, as well as whatever can be found in Ehime. If you want to know more about Imabari’s famous “Samurai Pirates” then let me know. I’ve been doing some research on them myself just for fun. I also studied Japanese in college for a couple years so I have a decent base understanding of the language, but I’m sure once I arrive I will feel like I don’t know a single word, so I’ll have to keep working at it in order to actually use it.

Before I started going to college I was actually an automotive mechanic and my love for cars still persists, and is a big factor in my desire to go to Japan. Japan has an extremely passionate and unique automotive culture that I plan on getting involved with in some shape or form. It’s also a goal of mine to do some road trips around Japan to get off the beaten path a little. I know more and more people my age don’t drive so if that’s you but you still want to go somewhere the train doesn’t go, then let me know and we can work something out maybe! 

I can’t wait to get to Ehime and get started. It seems like such a beautiful and comfortable place to work and live. The couple of Ehime JETs I’ve already spoken too seem like great people as well. so I also can’t wait to meet everyone and become a part of the Ehime JET community. See you there!

Allison Simko


Hey everyone 🙂 I’m Allison, a 2022 summer ALT arrival in Imabari. I grew up in California around Sacramento, but I went to Montana for university. Camping was always a big thing for my family, so I love anything that involves the outdoors- swimming, backpacking, skiing, etc. Montana was a great place to bum around outside, but I’m excited to explore Japan too! In my free time, I also enjoy creating useless and time-consuming art projects, re-watching the same 3 TV shows, and listening to music in all shapes and sizes. When I was at university, I worked/DJed for my college’s radio station, so I really like music! But I promise not in a pretentious way… 

I first got interested in studying Japanese my freshman year of high school when I saw it was offered as a language, and I wanted to learn something other than Spanish. Flash forward 4 years and I decided to keep up my studies in University, with my rationale being “well, I’ve come this far.” I majored in political science and minored in Japanese, but was never able to study abroad in Japan because Covid hit my first year of university. I did, however, take a few interesting Japanese culture classes that piqued my interest in traveling to Japan. More specifically, I took a Japanese literature class that focused on major themes of the Edo period. 

I decided to apply for JET my final year of school because it seemed like the best alternative to studying abroad. I knew I liked working with kids, and I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do when I graduated. Luckily, I was accepted and got placed in Imabari! I didn’t know much about this city before I came here, but I am grateful for such a beautiful and welcoming place. As someone who loves riding their bike, I was happily surprised to discover the shimanami kaido upon first looking up Imabari.  Right now, I’m teaching at one elementary and one junior high school, and they are both great! It’s been really interesting connecting with the kids through a language barrier, and I’m finding the whole experience very rewarding. Finding community has always been important to me wherever I am, and the process has gone much smoother than I initially anticipated. As my first solo out-of-the-country excursion, I was nervous about adjusting to life in a different country, but I am really enjoying getting to know more about this place. Cheers!

Yedda Adona


Hi, everyone! I’m Yedda Vicelle Adona. My friends call me “Yedda” but as an ALT, I’ve decided to adopt the nickname, “Yvie.” (Mostly because I don’t want to be called “Yada-sensei” behind my back by the students if I chose to be called “Yedda.”)

I’m from Tacloban City, Philippines, home to the Waray people. I graduated with a BA in Communication Arts in the University of the Philippines Tacloban College and worked as a teacher starting in 2018. Currently, I’m stationed in the Namikata branch of Imabari. Though the town is pretty isolated, I have pretty much all I need nearby, plus I’m only 15-20 minutes away from the station.

Honestly, it still hasn’t completely sunk in that I’m living and working in Japan even though I’ve been here for more or less a month now. Sometimes on the stroll to work I think to myself, “Wow… I can’t believe I’m on my way to my Japanese elementary school to teach Japanese students in Japan.” It’s still pretty surreal to me.  

So… why Japan? It’s been a long time dream of mine to live in Japan. Ever since I started watching anime as a little kid, then being a full on geek with my friends during high school to learning about and reading Japanese literature in my college years, I felt like every stage of my life led to Japan somehow and here I am.  

After college, despite not majoring in education, I decided to take on the path of an educator. At first, I had wanted to be a literature professor. It was so cool listening to my instructors talking about literary theory and books – I wanted to be like them. I wanted to expand the knowledge of young people and make them see the world through a wider lens. I wanted to teach people. I also really like acting. I believe that teaching is like a performance, like I am putting on a mask for my students that is different from my usual self. My first job was an online ESL teacher for Chinese students and while the job itself was stressful I adored being silly with kids and laughing with them.  

This was my second time applying to JET and this time I finally pulled through. I learned about JET from a friend and ever since then I’ve strived to get the qualifications to finally get in. (The “qualifications” for the Philippine cohort is not the same as in other native English speaking countries.) I taught at a private school in the Philippines from 2019-2022, first as a speech laboratory teacher and then as a senior high school teacher. Not gonna lie, it’s been pretty challenging so far but I love learning new things every day.  

My Japan bucket list includes going to a festival, wearing a yukata, seeing fireworks, riding the shinkansen and going to Disneyland. I want to explore the different areas of Japan and find little hole-in-the-wall places. If you know any around the area, please let me know! I’m also in the middle of learning how to ride a bike.  

Sadie McNeil


Hello everyone!  My name is Virginia, but I have gone by Sadie ever since I was a baby so feel free to call me that instead!  I am from Richmond, Virginia, and I graduated from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA with a BA in Cultural Anthropology with a minor in Asian Studies.  I am living here in Imabari as an ALT and loving it so far! 

I first came to Japan in the summer of 2019 for a study abroad program.  My Japanese teacher brought about ten of us from our Japanese class, and rented a room in Kyoto for us to have our lessons.  During this period we mostly stayed in Kyoto, taking day trips to other places in the Kansai region such as Osaka, Himeji, and Nara.  Once we had finished the class, we spent a week in Tokyo where we did some sightseeing and played around the city.  During this trip I fell in love with Kyoto as well as Japan as a whole, and knew that I had to come back.  

While I did put Kyoto and Osaka as my picks for locations for this program, I am nonetheless very excited to be here in Ehime! While the latter cities would have been familiar, living here in Ehime with you all will be the start of a new adventure in a completely new area!  An area that I am excited to explore and make the most out of!


Nicholas Paitsel


Hello! I’m Nicholas Paitsel, an ALT in Kamijima-cho⏤ more specifically, on the lovely island of Iwagi. Disclaimer: As I write this article, it has been less than a month since my arrival, so I’m sure it will be full of rosy perceptions and expectations. Nonetheless, let’s proceed⏤ with a healthy dose of optimism for my fellow newbies and future JETs and perhaps a dash of skepticism for the veterans reading this: I arrived in Japan on August 23, 2022, and I couldn’t be more grateful for my new home. I requested an inaka placement, but I never expected to be living on a beautiful and quiet island full of kind and mellow people. With some reclusive tendencies, as well as a love for the ocean and outdoor activities, I think I will enjoy spreading out some of my roots in Kamijima and the surrounding areas. I’m a quick ferry ride away from the folks in Imabari and Innoshima, and I intend to spend some time in Matsuyama once I get settled, so don’t hesitate to reach out!

Okay, a bit about me. I’m from the United States, and I grew up in a small coal-mining town in southern West Virginia. Imagine a typical image of Appalachia: rolling hills, “Almost Heaven” scenery, bluegrass and country music, four wheelers, funny accents, pecan pie, a dying economy, etc. That’s where I grew up. But there are outliers in temperament anywhere you go. I feel relatively separate from and unsentimental about my hometown, but I’m grateful that it raised me, for the lessons it taught me and continues to teach me. I went off to college at West Virginia University and graduated in 2020 with an English major and minors in Parks, Recreation and Tourism Resources, Philosophy, and Japanese Studies. I’m 25 years old at the time of writing this, which means I did some stuff between college and JET. That stuff was: substitute teaching, a brief attempt at social work, and volunteer work with Maine Conservation Corps (living in the woods in Maine and building recreational trails with a small team for 4 months). Now I’m here, connecting with kids, Japanese people, and other ALTs, taking in this new way of living; watching and waiting for whatever lessons, joys, and mysteries this part of my life wants to show me.

ALT life is busy, but when I do have free time I enjoy walking/hiking in nature, biking around my island, playing soccer, reading books on psychology, religion, and poetry, playing guitar (let’s jam!), and watching popular anime. I also treasure a good food experience. I’m not sure exactly what “foodie culture” is, but I think it’s a kind of personal black hole of fate for me, slowly pulling me toward it. So, let’s eat together! Lastly, I am super interested in religion and would like to visit temples and shrines in order to take a deep dive into Japanese religion while I’m here. If anyone happens to share this interest, I’d be curious to hear about it. 

I’m not sure what is ahead for me here in Japan, but that’s okay. I’m happy to take it day-by-day. Godspeed to you who are reading this. I hope it reached you in some way, whether you’re a future JET anxiously awaiting your life in Ehime, a current Jet looking for resonance and friendship, or a seasoned veteran thinking about what comes next and reflecting on the meaning of your experience in Japan so far.  I wasn’t kidding about reaching out. I am on Line and in the Ehime Discord, under my own name on both platforms, but a good place to touch base with me for any reason at all is my email, because I don’t love engaging with social media all that much: nspaitsel20@gmail.com.


Nguyen Thi Nhi (CIR)


皆さん、はじめまして。ベトナムから来ました。愛媛県西条市の国際交流員、グエン ティ ニーと申します。日本の「2(ニー)」と同じ発音です。旅行が好きで、ぜひ皆さんの任務の県・市・町に遊びに行きたいので、紹介していただけると嬉しいです。英語はまだ復習中ですが、英語でも自己紹介を書いてみますので、是非ご覧でください。

Hi everyone! My name is Nguyen Thi Nhi. Nhi’s pronounced the same as the Japanese “2”. I’m from Viet Nam, and I’m working as a CIR in Saijo City. I love to travel, so I would love to visit the prefectures, cities, and towns that you are working in. I would be happy if you could introduce me to them if I come. Now, I’m still reviewing my English, and trying to write a self-introduction in English, so definitely take a look at.


It has been less than a month since I came to Saijo City, but everyone at my workplace is so helpful, so I’m gradually getting used to my new job. At the beginning of my life in Saijo, I had a lot to prepare for the house, so I was very busy. But now, once everything has been cleaned up, I feel comfortable. Also, Saijo City’s mountain scenery is so beautiful that you can not see it anywhere else, and there are many daily services such as supermarkets, shops, and pharmacies…so I think it’s a great place to work. The autumn will soon be here in October, so please come and visit Saijo City with me if you have free time. I haven’t had the experience of seeing the beautiful autumn colours in Saijo City yet, but I would like to enthusiastically introduce you to my Saijo as far as I can. Let’s climb the mountain together and see the autumn leaves. Or, even if it’s just to go to see me here (www). 


I am from Vietnam, so if you have any questions about Vietnam, please contact me. I will be happy to help you. Last but not least, please take good care of your body and do your best at your work. I hope all is well with you. Bye and see you soon. 


Saijo City, Coordinator for International Relations

NGUYEN THI NHI (グエン ティ ニー)

TEL: 0897 52 1206(内線番号・ext)

E-mail: cir-1@saijo-city.jp

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