Yukio Tada, chairman of Keizai Doyukai’s Empowerment of Japan Hands committee, was the special guest speaker at a dinner with JET alumni in the DC area on March 16, 2016. This relatively new committee was created following initial action in the Americas-Japan Relations Committee in 2013, when Doyukai conducted a survey to gauge the awareness of the JET Program by the Japanese business community. The survey showed a tremendous lack of awareness about the cadre of young foreigners who have gained key insight into Japanese culture, lifestyles and language through living and working in communities throughout Japan on the JET Program. Keizai Doyukai recognized the need to create a team dedicated to empowering “Japan Hands”, including establishing an official committee, and organizing events to connect business executives with these potential “influencers” and “bridge-builders” between Japan and other countries.

Tada-san at Tono Sushi

This potential pool of next generation “Japan Hands” include participants and alumni of government-sponsored exchange programs such the JET Program; the scores of foreign students who study abroad in Japan; as well as the members of the U.S. military forces based in Japan and their families. By highlighting the importance of these Japan Hands to the U.S.-Japan relationship, Keizai Doyukai has been trying to develop cross-sectoral collaborations with the private sector, public sector, local governments, academia and foreign organizations in Japan.

Tada-san discussion at Tono Sushi

The JET Program includes over 30,000 alumni from the United States alone, who have experienced living and working in all corners of Japan. The DC-area JET Alumni attendees at the dinner lived in Akita, Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Niigata, Shimane, Mie, Wakayama, Kagawa, Ehime, Kyoto, Saga, Kumamoto and Okinawa. These alumni, who are unofficial cultural ambassadors for their locales in Japan, are now working in the State Department, Department of Justice, USDA, Embassy of Japan, NPOs involved in international exchange, Japanese businesses, as well as the JET Program office in the U.S. During the last year, a special interest group at the State Department was established by alumni of the JET Program and over 100 members have already joined.

Tada-san talk at Tono Sushi

As the JET Program prepares to celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2017, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) plans to revise its Guidelines for English education to include teaching English beginning in Grades 3 and 4 in elementary school through high school. In addition, there is growing support for expanding JET Program ALTs from only working in public schools to private schools; creating a JET Coordinator in small local communities; and conducting a new survey of JET Program participants. Mr. Tada shared news about Project “G” with Goto Islands in Nagasaki Prefecture, which is moving ahead to include teaching English from Grade 1 in elementary school beginning in 2017. Nagasaki Prefecture has also been on the forefront of adopting English education in elementary schools, and notably over 4,000 Junior High School G7 students (中学校1年生) attended a special English Camp.

Group Photo