For July 2022, we welcome Jeffrey Glenn to our roster of wonderful people highlighted for our Alumni Spotlight series. Please read on for Jeffrey’s experience working in Hikone City, Shiga Prefecture, playing the okoto in Hikone Castle, and what he is proud to have accomplished during his time as a GLJETAA officer.
Where are you from in Michigan or Ohio?
I’m from Detroit, Michigan and I have lived there all of my life except for the time spent living in Japan.
Where was your placement, and how long were you there?
I was placed in Hikone City, Shiga from 1996-1999. I initially signed for one year and enjoyed it so much that I signed for a second and third year. I really wanted to stay longer, but at the time JETs were only allowed to do 3 years.
What was your school setting like?
I was placed in two junior high schools. One was in Hikone City, Higashi junior high school and the other school was a few stops away in Inae City, Inae junior high school. I mostly taught the 1st year students at both schools, but occasionally taught the 2nd and 3rd year students. I was three days at Higashi and one and half days at Inae. The afternoon of every Friday, I spent at the board of education office in Hikone with the other two JETs.
What is a memory you have from your time on JET that sticks out to you?
I have so many memories that stick out for me when I was in Shiga. The one I will mention here is when I played a traditional musical instrument, okoto, at Hikone Castle garden. I had asked the Japanese teachers at my schools if they knew of a music teacher who would teach me how to play the okoto. I heard this instrument many times at Japanese events or in anime and I wanted to learn it. The teacher met with me and a few other JETs every week. When we had learned a few songs she asked us to play with her other students in the garden at Hikone Castle. In the below photo, you can see us playing in the tea rooms. We dressed in formal kimonos and played the songs.
I clearly remember during one song a young child came to the tea house with her family. While I played she said, “gaijin da”, which made me chuckle while I was playing. I was not offended because she was right that two non-Japanese were playing the okoto. It is traditionally played by women, but it is not normal to see a male, foreigner play it.
What are you doing now, and has the JET Program helped you get there?
Now I work as an elementary teacher at an international school in Tokyo. I live in Yokohama and it’s my 3rd trip to live and work in Japan. I have a teacher’s license from the State of Michigan for elementary and middle school levels. The JET program helped me by giving me the chance to live and work in a country that I have admired since I was a kid. It gave me the chance to see if I would like to be a teacher instructing students.
Do you have any advice or other support that you can offer to your fellow alumni?
My advice is to follow your dreams even if others question why you want to do it. My family was surprised when I told them I wanted to go and live in Japan for a year. They didn’t understand why I wanted to do this, but I knew it was the right move for me to go.
How has serving as a GLJETAA officer helped you? (personally or professionally)
I had the chance to be the vice president of the GLJETAA group for two years and the position allowed me to support the president in running the group. It also allowed me to help plan and organize events that would allow JETs to meet and enjoy each other’s company.
What, if anything, are you proud to have accomplished during your time as a GLJETAA officer?
I enjoyed sharing my experiences with the new people selected to go on JET when we did the Q&A information meetings. I also enjoyed interviewing new people at the consulate when I helped them in the selection process.
What is something in Japan that you’d like to see more of in the U.S.?
I would like to see people in the US who don’t know Japanese culture understand the wonderful qualities that the Japanese people exhibit when non-Japanese come to visit or live in Japan. I met many Japanese people who have become lifelong friends and acquaintances when I lived there.
Where can we reach you for networking?
I am still a member of the Facebook group for GLJETAA and can be reached through the Messenger app.
Please do reach out if you have any questions for our alumni. Thank you, Jeffrey Glenn, for sharing your own 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.