Commenter “Ron NJ” lays it bare about Japan Exchange Teaching in the Japan Times.

A comment to the recent article there:

Anyone who thinks the JET program isn’t a joke is kidding themselves. Quite frankly, all it is is a tool to make Japanese people feel better about themselves compared to foreigners, kind of like some twisted version of a zoo: you can poke and make fun of and laugh at the the animal while you’re there, there are always trainers and handlers on hand to keep the animal in line, and then after hours the animal isn’t your problem. They get fresh, young animals that don’t have any exposure to park goers, and then when they get bored of it or the animal gets too old or is involved in some disturbance or causes a problem, they can just send it back to wherever it came from and get a new one. The animal should be grateful for having been given food and shelter – not like it could ever understand the world of its captors, anyway.


The article confirmed what I’ve been saying for years now, that the program basically trains westerners to be advocates for Japan. You can describe this as shills or even sell-outs, but advocates is a nice useful term, maybe.

If you are going to staff your overseas law firm with former JETs, then maybe OK. If you are going to staff your nation’s embassy with former JETs, I think you have a problem there.

JET does nothing to improve the English skills of the Japanese people. This won’t happen until the national government gets serious about teaching English to the Japanese masses, not just the (high) classes, or pockets of liberalism where there are more enlightened school board administrators.

The presence of JETs also tends to detract from any efforts that non-JET “assistant language teachers” make in Japan. These English teachers, usually provided through dispatch contract with a private dispatch company, probably make as much effort, if not more, than the average JET does, but must share his/her compensation with the dispatch company, and is often not covered for the proper health and pension benefits.

If you think that sticking a young westerner behind a keyboard to make blogs and chat or post all day, and then, for an hour or two, get wheeled out to “interact” with the young Japanese is a good cultural exchange or a worthwhile use of young talent, then I’m not going to convince you. I’ve felt for a long time that the participants of JET should be actual English teachers, being trained as journeymen for a role that, hopefully, a sizable minority would continue as a career. That’s not going to happen. From other comments on the article, even the proposal of doubling the participation in JET, was an idea that was pulled (after its usefulness as a headline).

Good luck to the young attorneys who are out there promoting their law firm and the JET Program. People who are wise to both endeavors have some differing views.