Welcome to The Jet Coaster’s glossary. Though we strive to keep away from esoteric jargon, it is occasionally useful to use some terms that may be unfamiliar to those not incredibly well-versed either in Japanese culture, JET or the world of business. This section will help you navigate our site better.
‘Assistant Language Teacher’: One of the most common designations for expats who come to Japan to teach English. Most ALTs are paired with Japanese Teachers of English (JTEs) or Home Room Teachers (HRTs) and assist them in various ways in the classroom. The specific job of an ALT completely depends on their school arrangement, and ALTs in different schools will have vastly different work experiences, an observation which gave rise to the once popular expression “ESID,” or “Every Situation is Different.”
Awa Odori (阿波踊り):
The biggest dance festival in Japan, attracting over 1.3 million tourists a year to Tokushima City every August 12-15. The word “阿波” (Awa) is the old name for Tokushima itself, and the word “踊り” (Odori) means dance, so it literally means something like “The Dance of Tokushima.”
‘Board of Education’: The prefectural employers of JETs around the country. David Namisato, a former JET, has written a well-known comic series about ‘the Jet experience’ entitled ‘Life After the BoE‘.
‘Coordinator for International Relations’: A position within the JET Programme that places people in prefectural/municipal offices around Japan. CIRs often engage in variety of work such as translation, grassroots exchange, school visits, event planning and more. Unlike their ALT counterparts, CIRs are required to have a high level of Japanese proficiency as their day-to-day work and office environment is often exclusively in Japanese.
‘Council of Local Authorities for International Relations’: An organization that manages the JET Programme along with three other ministries in the Japanese government. CLAIR oversees the implementation of the entire program and works closely with local contracting authorities that employ JETs. CLAIR employs 10 Programme Coordinators (PCs) that are responsible for all things JET-related.
A traveller or expat who makes a living at least in some part leveraging the power of the internet. Can include bloggers, e-book authors, app developers, all-around-web-dev guys, startup founders and employees, people with remote working arrangements, affiliate marketers, podcasters, dropshippers, people teaching English overseas with a side-hustle – the list goes on and on.
“Every Situation Is Different”: A once popular phrase used within the JET Programme to describe the fact that no two situations are ever the same and it is impossible to give generalizations about being a JET. This phrase was actively discouraged by CLAIR as it is a ‘non-answer’ and is not really helpful to someone who has a genuine inquiry.
“Expatriate”: someone currently residing in a country other than one they have citizenship in. If you live in Japan and don’t have citizenship, then you’re an expat!
‘Home Room Teacher’: Japanese elementary school teachers who are required to teach a variety of subjects. Currently, the Japanese curriculum specifies that English is to be taught at the grade 5 and 6 level (and recommends grade 3 and 4 be taught English occasionally), thus some HRTs are required to teach English as well (often being paired with ALTs). HRTs differ from JTEs in that they are not required to and often do not specialize in teaching English.
A popular manga and anime series about drifting and mountain racing. It chronicles the adventures of Takumi, a genius drifter who honed his driving skills on delivery runs for his father’s tofu shop.
The Japanese word for “rural area” or more generally, the countryside. However “inaka” is somewhat of a relative term. For people living in Tokyo, anywhere outside of a major metropolitan area might be considered as “inaka” while people living in smaller cities in other prefectures may consider only those living in even more rural towns and villages (usually deeper into the mountains or valleys) as inaka.
A Japanese style tavern. It typically serves beer and assorted alcoholic drinks and is analogous to a bar in western culture. They are a popular hangout for salarymen and ex-pats alike to wind down after a long day of work.
JET / JET Programme:
‘Japan Exchange and Teaching’ Programme: One of the leading ways to come to Japan to teach English. Can also be used to refer to a participant of said program, as in “I am a JET in Osaka.” The JET Programme is the only English-teaching program in Japan directly sponsored by the government, thus making all JETs public servants. JETs are placed in public schools or government offices throughout Japan as ALTs, CIRs or SEAs, and often (though not always) in more rural areas.
‘Japanese Language Proficiency Test’: A standardized proficiency test for non-native Japanese speakers. Typically held twice a year (in July and December) around the world, the JLPT offers five levels of tests ranging from N5 (can understand basic Japanese) to N1 (fluent). All JLPT test consist of a ‘language knowledge,’ reading and listening section allotted varying times to each section depending on the level.
‘Japanese Teacher of English’: Japanese teachers who’ve went to school for and specifically trained to be English teachers. Most teachers who teach English from junior high school up are JTEs while most teachers who teach English in elementary school are considered HRTs. JTEs are responsibly for fullfilling the current Japanese English curriculum’s requirement of four English classes per week (per class). ALTs often team-teach with JTEs for one or more of these classes per week.
To ‘kancho’ is to put your two hands together in the shape of a pistol and stick your jutted-out fingers up someone’s butt. Most Japanese children think this is hilarious and often kancho people for laughs, especially unsuspecting adults (especially easy because of the height difference). This is often a cause for cultureshock amongst foreigners because whereas it might be seen as completely inappropriate or sexually-perverse in their country, it’s considered ‘kids fooling around’ in Japan.
A polite, honorific form of Japanese. Unlike merely ‘speaking more politely’ in English, keigo is a highly systematized part of Japanese language with its own vocabulary, prefixes and suffixes. One would usually use keigo around those more societally elevated or older than them as it expresses deep respect and reverence.
Kei car (軽自動車 lit. “light automobile”):
A category of small vehicles including cars, microvans and trucks. They are recognizable by their yellow license plates and typically smaller size. They are cheaper to own and run than regular “white plate” vehicles, as they consume less gas and the yearly taxes and maintenance costs are much lower. However they are also significantly down in power compared to “white plate” vehicles, and their small size may make them less safe in the event of an accident.
Naturally hot springs. Onsen can be outdoor or indoor and visiting them is a favorite pastime among many Japanese people. The vast majority of onsen require you to enter completely naked (accompanied by a small wash towel) and wash your body thoroughly before entering the actual onsen bath. Onsen are closely related to, but different from sento (though the etiquette remains the same). They are often marked by the symbol “♨” which depicts steam rising from the earth, representing the water’s natural origins.
‘Prefectural Advisor’: JET participants and/or Japanese staff that provide assistance to other JET participants and contracting organizations. PAs are designated in every prefecture and primarily provide three services: consultation (for issues related to JET and living abroad in general), mediation (in case of disputes between ALTs, contracting organizations, and the like), and crisis response & support (in the event of a disaster).Each prefecture may also require PAs to perform additional tasks such as relaying information from CLAIR or heading local initiatives. PAs receive training but are not professional councilors.
‘Programme Coordinator’: 10 individuals who work for CLAIR who are responsible for overseeing everything JET-related. PCs are are often former JETs themselves, and their duties include working closely with the Japanese government, placing JETs in different prefectures and running Tokyo Orientation. Near-fluent Japanese is required to be a PC (most possess a JLPT N1 level).
‘Sports Exchange Advisor’: A position within the JET Programme whereupon one promotes exchange through sports. SEAs are sports professionals and applicants must be recognized by a National Olympic Committee or similar government organization to even be considered for the position. Recruitment for SEAs is radically different from that of ALTs/CIRs, and as of the 2012-2013 year, there are only seven SEAs in Japan.
In Japan, senpai (先輩?) is a mentor or senior and kōhai (後輩?) is a protégé or junior. The mentor system is found at all levels of education, and in sports clubs, businesses, and informal or social organizations. The relationship is an essential element of Japanese seniority-based status relationships, similar to the way that family and other relationships are decided based on age, in which even twins may be divided into elder and younger siblings
Like their onsen counterparts, sento are hot water baths; unlike onsen, they are not from natural hot springs, but rather merely heated tap water. Many sento are public bath houses frequented by small communities. Sento are often marked by the Japanese character “ゆ” (“yu”) which is the sound for the character “湯” and means ‘hot water.’
‘Team-teaching’ refers to the style of teaching where two teachers teach the class together, and is currently the recommended/most-often implemented style for ALTs & JTEs who work together. In practice, team-teaching could take many forms, including two teachers deftly weaving in material back and forth, one teacher supporting the other by modelling pronunciation/demonstrations, or having one teacher simply walking around to ‘police’ the classroom.
Before new JETs are taken to their placements, they are first required to undergo a 3-day orientation in Tokyo held at the Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku. At this orientation, JETs attend various workshops put on by CLAIR that prepare them for life as a JET, and they also get an opportunity to meet other incoming JETs from their prefecture. Typically two large orientations are put on (Group A & B) at the end of July/beginning of August followed by a much smaller one held later in August (Group C).
The Japanese word for “mountain pass”, referring to the roads that up, around and through mountain ranges. It is said that the driving style of “drifting” originated in the Japanese touge, due to the multiple switchback roads that wind down the mountains.
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