You've marked "No" on your decision to re-contract, and the months flew by before you know it, and it's now a few short months before you hand over your keys to your apaato, pick up your bags, and head to a new life.
But before you ride off into the sunset, we have a few suggested things to do, including advice from sempais who have been there, done that. Also, when you do ride off into the sunset, some advice on settling back into home.
PREPPING YOUR SUCCESSOR
Start by writing a handover for whoever will be your successor. Be kind, rewind.
The goal of this template is to make writing a changeover letter to your successor easy. This template is a recommendation of what you can write, and comes courtesy of the collective wisdom of members of Hyogo AJET 2016 led by Thomas Eley. The most helpful for your successor to know are marked “Necessary” in the comments. If you have already written a draft of your letter, you can use this template to see if you want to add any information.
As you are writing your letter, remember how little you knew when you were getting ready to leave for Japan and how helpful, or unhelpful, the letter from your predecessor was. You have an opportunity to ease the transition for your successor by passing on some of the knowledge that you have gained. We hope that this template helps!
Download the template here.
15 THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU LEAVE
We polled the JET alumni community to find out what they wished they did more of when they finished JET and before they left Japan.
1. ‘Travel more of Japan and the surrounding countries!’
It is so cheap that is seems almost criminal not to take advantage of the location. Fly to Hokkaido with Peach for the weekend or hit up sunny Okinawa before a quick jaunt to Taiwan. The possibilities are endless.
If you are hanging around for a few weeks and make sure that you order yourself a Japan Rail Pass online today!
2. ‘Figure out the trash system so I didn't have to do it all on the last day.’
You know exactly what this means.
Japan’s incredibly complicated trash system always boggles the mind of many JET participants and foreign residents alike. Which day was the burnable? Was it this Thursday? No, that is the glass and cans every second week but only when the groundhog leaves its home to approve…oh wait that is groundhog day! HELP ME!!!
You will be happy to know that many of your cities will have a pamphlet that should be available through your Contracting Organisation’s, friends' and city websites that will give you a breakdown using pretty pictures of what to throw away and when. You may even be able to visit the local trash centre and take larger items as well.
3. ‘All the shopping!’
We recommend that you take time to go and buy the things that you love. This includes food (For me one of these things was packet Gyudon sauce, Mintia and Hai- Chews). Favourite Character goods, sporting team merchandise, local omiyage and specialty goods or even splashing out and getting the kimono that you have been looking at for well over 6 months.
These things will help to remind you of japan and give you a connection to your second home. I always eat gyudon now when I miss Japan and it helps to make me feel much better.
4. ‘More road trips!’
With so little time left in Japan, don’t let a spare second drift you by! Jump in a car with your favourite mates and go for an adventure. Who knows what you will find and what better way to finish up in Japan then with the ULTIMATE ROADTRIP!
5. ‘Climb Mt Fuji’
There is no place more iconic to spend some of your last few days in Japan then making your way up one of Mount Fuji’s 5 courses. Start your climb in the morning, rest in a mountain hut overnight and then head off again in the dark to watch the sun rise over the land that you have learnt to call home. Climbing Mt Fuji is the experience of a lifetime and where better to sit and reflect on your time in Japan then at the top of Japan.
6. ‘Visit as many onsen as possible’
Yes, right now it's the height of summer and so hot that leaving the house or staff room is like walking into a sauna but trust us. We all miss onsen and the relaxation that comes from visiting them. If you love onsen, even though it’s hot, we recommend hitting up a few before you leave.
7. ‘Spend as much time as possible with my friends’
This may be the last time that you are all in one place before dispersing all over the world. Enjoy spending time with your friends at every moment that you can because you will miss them dearly when they are no longer so close to you.
8. ‘Watch a Baseball Game’
Trust us! You will not ever regret it. Tickets are cheap but the experience is other worldly.
9. ‘Get all your pension refund paperwork ready’
Then make sure to send it off as soon as you get home. The large lump of money that you receive into your account will help with the post JET blues..
10. ‘Think about cancelling your phone plan’
Cancelling phone plans can be expensive and stressful. Make sure that you speak to your provider ASAP to find out what type of money you are expected to folk out.
11. ‘Don’t leave packing until the last minute!’
Get it done ASAP!!! There are so many other cool things to do in your last few days. It will be less stressful for you to have it done earlier and you can actually get some sleep the night before you move out.
12. 'Send your packages ahead of time!'
You can organise Japan Post to come get your packages from your door step instead of carting them down to the local store on your bike at the last minute.
13. 'Make sure that your visa status is correct ie. Resident to tourist especially if you are a 3-5 year JET'
Save yourself some trouble at the airport when you are trying to leave!
If you are a 3-5 year JET you may need to attend the visa office to chance your status, even if you are only remaining a few more days than your contract states.
Changing your status to tourist means you get access to lots of neat discounts and transport passes. It is well worth the effort but make sure you get your paperwork together and get to the office.
14. ‘Got more than one type of contact info for my friends and whomever I wanted to communicate with!’
Now is the perfect time to be collecting contact details of those you want to stay in contact with. We advise collecting as many different ways to keep in contact as possible which include but are not limited to physical addresses, email addresses, mobile numbers, LINE Id’s, Facebook profiles, Twitter accounts, Instagram accounts, Linkedin profiles etc. In the case of remaining in contact with people better safe than sorry.
15. ‘Take a deep breath, take a look around and soak it in before you leave.’
These next few weeks will fly by with farewells, parties and packing so make sure to give yourself time to say goodbye to your second home by sitting back and just looking around one more time before departing for the next chapter of your life.
Thank you to all the JET alumni that contributed to this list. We hope that those leaving JET now and in the future, find it useful.
FROM SPECIAL TO AVERAGE, FROM ADVENTURE TO NORMALCY
Everyone’s situation is different but I have sensed a common theme reoccurring amongst recent JET returnees: a deflation brought on by a realization that you are no longer special and the daily adventure of living in Japan is replaced with complete, well, normalcy.
(Special thanks to Dalin Hamilton for this article)
Certain mitigating factors or evasive actions are available to smooth out this counter cultural shock, which I highly recommend.
The JET Programme is a once in a lifetime experience to live in a beautiful, mystical and rich culture while being well remuneration, complete with the full package of health, mental and work insurance and the added bonus of the supreme comradely of fellow JETs and local friends. We all had times we will never forget: playing taiko drums, wearing kimono or yukata, washing our hands and mouth before praying at a Shinto Shrine, travelling to spectacular vistas of mountains, waterfalls or sakura, and yes, even when you got kancho for the first time at school by a beaming Japanese kid. The safety and security of most things in life being looked after availed the opportunities to travel throughout Japan, urban and rural, mixed in with embarrassing moments of saying the wrong Japanese or not knowing how to bow correctly or not realising that you had to use your fingerprint instead of a signature. Each day was filled with newness, freshness and delicious food.
And then it ends.
You come home.
Your contract expired.
Averageness and normalcy paint your new world in greys and blacks, replacing the bright reds and pinks of Japan.
Don’t worry, nothing remains forever and this too shall pass. However, a few tips for making the valley that little less deep.
1. If it can be avoided, don’t move back in with your parents or relatives
The freedom that a steady income and independent living brought during JET was wondrous, allowing you to live life to the fullest. Now, back in the ‘real world’ for financial reasons many move back in with their parents to avoid economic stresses. You may not have a choice of course, but a little financial downside can mean an upside of freedom, independence and a chance to create your new life, sooner, back home.
The freedom that a steady income and independent living brought during JET was wondrous, allowing you to live life to the fullest. Now, back in the ‘real world’ for financial reasons many move back in with their parents to avoid economic stresses. Take the economic stress! A little financial downside for the upside of freedom, independence and a chance to create your new life back home is a desirable tradeoff.
2. Oh not that job
Most JET returners are smart and save to make the landing back home less turbulent. But from experience I suggest taking the job over travelling around once you get back. “A spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down”, especially when the regular income includes the ability to stay away from living with relatives, maintaining freedom and independence and stems the flow of red ink. Additionally, I have seen that an employed person is helped in forming a new network, gaining an anew sense of purpose or drive and keeps your mind busy.
3. Drop a LINE in
Staying in touch and connected with the friends you made in Japan is a deeply meaningful aspect of life for all JETs. It simply requires dropping a LINE, and of course some of these funny character stamps... Because we have had some special experiences with our friends and fellow JETs in a foreign country, they hold a singular space in your heart and emotions. Tapping into these relationships brightens your new gray canvas of home. It also makes the return trip in 3-5 years time all the more eventful. Particularly if your JET assignment was in a rural area, most Japanese people do not use Facebook, Twitter or Instagram as often as LINE. It therefore pays to get the LINE contact details prior to coming home.
4. Get active
As you have been away, friends and family might have moved or situations changed. Coming home therefore requires branching out and making a new network of friends and causes to be involved in. Remember how the community life in Japan, the local festivals, school events, etc. was such a fulfilling part of your JET experience. This is available to everyone in any community. But as you are now, most likely, the citizen of the local community as well as speaking the language, you can engage in a much greater extent. I therefore suggest finding a cause or organisation that you can get involved in and start making a contribution to your local community. Perhaps it might be the local school, nursing home, clean up activities, teaching Japanese at the local community centre; the skies the limit. But certainly on your list of organisations should be your local JET alumni chapter. There you will find liked-minded former JETs who plan awesome events and ways to be engaged with Japan.
Yes, your JET experience was special and overflowed with adventure. Trying to create this back home is more difficult but well worth the effort. Ganbarimasho!
USJETAA has recorded a series of webinars as a resource for JET and JET alumni. A prepared playlist for JET leavers can be seen at this link.
You can view all webinars by USJETAA on Youtube.