April 2022: James Wilson

Our guest today is James Wilson, who works at a Japanese trading company. Read on to hear about his time on Sado Island, future plans, and advice for JET Alumni.

Where are you from in Michigan or Ohio?

My hometown is in Indiana but I’ve permanently relocated to Royal Oak, MI for work.

Where was your placement, and how long were you there?

Through JET, I was placed on an island just off the coast of Niigata Prefecture called Sado Island for 3 years from 2014-2017.

What was your school setting like?

On Sado Island, I was responsible for the northern district of Aikawa. Within Aikawa, there were 7 schools that I commuted to on a regular basis including 1 kindergarten, 4 elementary schools, & 2 junior high schools where I taught English classes to all grades. The area was very remote even compared to other districts on the island and the majority of my students were focused either on nature-related or fitness activities.

What is a memory you have in Japan that sticks out to you?

My brightest memory is actually working with the kindergarten children. At the request of parents in my district, I opened an Eikawa (English club) for the kindergarten children that met once a week. While there weren’t large amounts of academic progress, interacting with the children, playing games, and getting to know the families more intimately was a very special experience.

What are you doing now, and has the JET Program helped you get there?

Currently, I work for a trading company called Toyota Tsusho America, Inc., which is a subsidiary¬†of the Toyota Motor Company, as a sales member of their Chemical & Electronic Materials department. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that I would not have arrived at where I am without the JET Program, neither linguistically, culturally, or geographically.

What are your aspirations for the future?

When I returned from Japan in 2017, I was a little lost as to where my path was leading me. However, after experiencing a few years of the American workforce, I’ve gained a better understanding of where I’m inspired and I’m now aiming to continue my education (TBD whether it will be an MBA or focused in a specific technical field). Other than that, I’ve also recently been reinvigorated by the idea of finishing my first triathlon, my dream which was crushed when I was injured weeks before the event on Sado Island. #kneesdon’tfailmethistime

Do you have any advice or recommendations for your fellow alumni?

We all get very busy with work and our personal lives. Consequently, it can be easy to fall out of sync with Japan and your love for the people, language, and country when coming back to the USA, especially if your job doesn’t involve anything related to Japan. Many people here in the USA don’t want to hear your stories or listen to any of the vast knowledge about sake you acquired during JET. However, I strongly recommend that you find a community in which you can still revel in all of that. Not to plug anyone or anything but, *wink wink, nudge nudge* JETAA is a great haven and community for that.

What is something in Japan that you’d like to see more of where you live now?

Of course, more variety and better Japanese food and more Japanese communities would be nice, and also an improved recycling system similar to Japan’s would also be very appreciated. However, just recently I was having a conversation with a friend about how much we miss bidet toilets being in public areas and that would be AMAZING! We definitely need to increase the number of bidets in Michigan.

What does Japan mean to you?

This is a rather difficult question. Japan to me is like a second home. The part of me that acclimated to Japan and appreciates the daily traits of Japanese culture (the order, the modesty, the regiments, the bowing, etc.) is constantly homesick and I’m certain I will never shake it.

Where can we reach you for networking?

If there are people that would like to connect with me, please feel free to reach out via LinkedIn. I’m always happy to chat, so feel free to message me as well. My profile can be found through the following link. https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaemcarlwilson/


Please do reach out if you have any questions for our alumni. Thank you, James Wilson, for sharing your story.

Alumni Spotlight is an outreach activity through the Great Lakes JET Alumni Association seeking to build stronger connections between alumni and to provide bridges for networking. If you or an alumnus you know would like to be featured in an installment of Alumni Spotlight, please email Kyle Belanger at vpmi@greatlakesjetaa.org.