Essential Info for Incoming JETs & WI-ALTs

新規JET・ウィスコンシンALT引継書 日本語版 (Japanese version)
Welcome to Chiba Guide

This is a guide intended to answer some basic questions and give incoming JETs/WI-ALTs an idea of what to expect. It does not cover each individual situation in Chiba.

About Chiba Prefecture 千葉県

Chiba Prefecture is located next to Tokyo, Saitama, and Ibaraki and across Tokyo Bay from Kanagawa. The name "Chiba" comes from 千 meaning "one thousand" and 葉 meaning "leaves." Chiba is very green and beautiful, hence the name "one thousand leaves" (hence the name of this wiki). Chiba's flower is the nanohana, known as rapeseed or rape blossom in English; despite the unfortunate English name, this beautiful yellow flower blooms in many places across the prefecture in spring.

Chiba has a mild climate, being in the middle of Japan. Summers are hot and humid (around 30C and 90% humidity). Fall is very pleasant and leaves turn in October/November; but there are also frequent typhoons from September to November. Winters are cool and dry (down to just above 0C) with an occasional dusting of snow, although sometimes it accumulates. In spring, cherry blossoms bloom in March or April, and the rainy season is in June.

Chiba is a major agricultural prefecture, and is most famous for peanuts. About 80% of peanuts in Japan come from Chiba. Chiba is one of the top producers in Japan of sweet potato, biwa (loquat), and strawberries. The prefecture also produces a lot of fish, shellfish, and marine products like seaweed. This means that you can get fresh food direct from local farmers and fisheries.

The best about Chiba is that it has everything in a small, convenient package: forests, beaches, rice fields, big cities, international business districts, Disney Land & Sea, and Narita International Airport (which has direct flights to many American cities). You can stand in the middle of a rice field with not even a convenience store in sight, and then hop on a train or bus and be in Tokyo within 3 hours. People come from all over Japan for traditional experiences like rice planting, the knife ceremony, and the New Year's shrine visit at Naritasan Shinshoji; they also come for new experiences like attending conferences and concerts in Makuhari or going to Disney Resort in Urayasu City. And you can easily travel back home and throughout East Asia from Narita Airport. So Chiba is a great base to experience Japan from a variety of perspectives.

Return to top

About living in Chiba

Living in Japan is pretty easy and convenient. However, some procedures may be different from your home country, plus there is a language barrier.
JETs will want to read the "Pre-Departure" chapter in the General Information Handbook. Wisconsin ALTs will also find most of it relevant and useful.

There is also a Welcome Guide that JETs and WI-ALTs receive upon arrival in Japan to help you set up your life in Chiba. You can download it here:


Disclaimer: Every Situation Is Different
Information about the JET Programme and the ALT job often includes the phrase ESID. The reason is because there are many variables that make each position different, so it's hard to cover everything in one guide in a way that is useful. For example, here are some of the aspects of the position that affect an ALT's experience: number of schools, level and character of students, expectations and personalities of teachers, attitude of the current principal/vice-principal, expectations and personalities of the BOE supervisor and head of BOE, availability and personalities of other expats and young Japanese people in the area, and the ALT's own language ability, teaching experience, and intercultural awareness. Similarly for a CIR: personalities of coworkers, location within the municipal offices, attitude and expectations of the boss/section supervisor, the nature and balance of workload, budget of the municipality, availability and personalities of other expats and young Japanese people in the area, and the CIR's own language ability, office experience, and intercultural awareness.

No guide can account for so many variables, especially because the most important ones are your attitude, expectations, and personality. So take all the information here with a grain of salt and be prepared for anything.

What to pack

Most international airlines allow two checked pieces of luggage, one carry-on, and a personal item (such as a laptop, purse, or backpack). Please check the weight limits and weigh your suitcase before traveling to avoid excess baggage costs.

These are just some suggestions for things you might want to bring. If you are particular about your brands or specific products, you might want to bring those. However Japan is a first-world country and you can find almost everything you need for everyday life. There are many lists on other websites that you can find with a little googling with suggestions of what to bring to Japan.

  • Cash or travelers checks in Japanese yen. Japan is a cash-based society and many places do not accept credit cards. You may not receive your first paycheck until the end of August, so the JET General Information Handbook (p21 PDF p13) recommends at least 250,000 yen for daily expenses and utilities.
  • Clothing. School ceremonies and conferences will require a suit. Everyday attire at school may be a bit more casual (no jeans). Women should avoid sleeveless, low neckline, and short hemline clothing. Jewelry (especially facial piercings) may not be allowed. Tattoos will likely need to be covered. Japanese sizes are smaller than most Western ones; if you wear larger than a US M or L, you may have trouble finding clothes in Japan. Summers are warm and humid; be prepared for all seasons or have someone from home ship you winter clothes later.
  • Shoes. In addition to formal shoes to match your suit and whatever you wear on weekends, you will need sneakers/tennis shoes to use indoors. Teachers and students remove their shoes and slip into sneakers or Keds-like shoes to wear inside the school.
  • Any medications you need. You may bring up to a 2 month supply (1 month for prescription drugs including birth control pills). Note that some over-the-counter medications (such as Nyquil) are illegal in Japan! In order to bring medication over this limit, you will need a "yakkan shomei" certificate. More information in the JET General Information Handbook (p25, PDF p15).
  • Items you can use when introducing yourself and your home country to your students, such as maps, coins/dollar bills, pictures, stickers, and other small things from home. You can also bring special presents and souvenirs (omiyage) for your supervisor at school, your principal/vice principal, colleagues in your department, neighbors, etc.
  • Toothpaste--Japanese toothpaste does not contain the same levels of fluoride as toothpaste in other countries. But there are many brands available that work fine.
  • Deodorant--roll-on types are just now catching on but stick types are hard to find.
  • Skin and hair care products for dark skin/ethnic hair types--Japan has a thriving makeup industry, but there are rarely shades darker than medium tone. Hair salons that can do weaves and other ethnic hair care are mostly in Tokyo.
  • International Driver's Permit--this will enable you to legally drive in Japan for one year. Even if you don't need to drive to get to school, you can use it to rent a car. Get one at AAA before you come. After one year, you will need to get a Japanese driver's license.

What not to pack:
  • Drugs, firearms, porn, and other illegal items. In Japan firearms are illegal, and there is no distinction of severity between different kinds of drugs (ex. marijuana is equally as severe as heroin with the same penalties).
  • Medication that contains amphetamine, methamphetamine, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, etc. including Nyquil, Tylenol Cold, Advil Cold, etc.
  • Very warm winter clothes. Chiba has mild winters and usually gets only a dusting of snow, so leave your ski coat and snow boots at home.
  • Pets--many apartment buildings do not allow pets and strict quarantine procedures may cost you a lot of money

Return to top

About the JET & Wisconsin Programs

The JET Programme (Japan Exchange and Teaching Program) has been running since 1987. It is administered by the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR) and three ministries of the Japanese government (MEXT, MIC, MOFA). There are three positions: ALTs, CIRs, and SEAs (Sports Exchange Advisors), but in Chiba we only have ALTs and CIRs (there are only a handful of SEAs in the entire country). Most JET Programme participants are Assistant Language Teachers (ALT) who work in Japanese schools. In Chiba, most JET ALTs work in elementary and junior high schools. Coordinators for International Relations (CIR) comprise about 10% of the JET population nationally, and mainly work in city halls, prefectural offices, and international exchange associations to plan events, manage sister-city relationships, do translation and interpretation, visit schools to talk about other cultures, etc. JETs are from many different countries; most are English-speaking (US, UK, CN, AUS, NZ, Jamaica…) but some are from “countries with a small number of participants” (France; other prefectures have ALTs and CIRs from China, Korea, Germany, etc.).

JET Programme participants who are CIRs or ALTs at elementary or junior high schools are contracted by their municipality (city or town). This means that they are employed by the Board of Education of the city or town in which they work (the city BOE is their Contracting Organization). The Chiba Prefectural Government (International Affairs Division) liaisons between the municipal BOEs and CLAIR (except for Chiba City, which is a designated city and therefore technically separate from the rest of the prefecture). JET ALTs at prefectural high schools are contracted directly by the Chiba Prefectural Board of Education.

The Chiba-Wisconsin ALT Program came about thanks to the sister-state relationship between Chiba and Wisconsin. It is very similar to the ALT portion of the JET Program in terms of job situation, except that Wisconsin ALTs teach at high schools (some JET ALTs also teach at high school). WI-ALTs are from Wisconsin or have attended college there.

WI-ALTs are contracted directly by the Chiba Prefectural Board of Education.

About French ALTs

Chiba has a few French ALT positions at high schools that also offer French language courses. French ALTs may also be expected to teach English in addition to French.

French ALTs are contracted directly by the Chiba Prefectural Board of Education.

About the support system in Chiba

Main Article: Chiba Support System
Chiba JET org structure.png
Chiba WI org structure.png

As JETs and WI-ALTs in Chiba, there are a few people you can go to if you need help.
  • Your supervisor: Your supervisor is usually technically the head of your Contracting Organization (such as a 課長 kacho), but within your CO you will likely have a "supervisor" (担当者 tantosha) such as a person in the city BOE or a teacher at school, who is responsible for you and will be your go-to person for important matters. Figuring out who your defacto supervisor is is one of the first things you should do.
  • Your Block Coordinator: (More on the Block System) This is another JET or WI-ALT who has lived in your area for a few years and can help you get connected to the community. If you're looking to try an activity or can't find peanut butter, your BC will be able to help you out.
  • Your Prefectural Advisors: (More on the PAs) These are JETs or former WI-ALTs who work in the Chiba Prefectural Government offices and in addition to other responsibilities, plan conferences and support JETs/WI-ALTs in Chiba. If you're not sure who to go to, the PAs can point you in the right direction. However, the PAs are NOT your employer, nor are they professional counselors.

Return to top

On the job

ALTs

ALTs work with Japanese Teachers of English (or other languages) in foreign language classrooms.

Preschool/kindergarten (幼稚園 youchien・保育園 hoikuen)
保育園 hoikuen: infants to age 5
幼稚園 youchien: ages 3-5
These children are still learning how to sit still, and most cannot read or write yet (in any language). They enjoy songs, simple games, and lots of patient repetition.

Elementary school (小学校 shougakkou): Compulsory education begins and students build a foundation in Japanese schooling and culture.
1st & 2nd grade (一年生 ichinensei & 二年生 ninensei): Students are just learning to read and write Japanese, but they are very good at listening and mimicking English sounds. They enjoy simple active games and cheerful teachers.
3rd & 4th grade (三年生 sannensei & 四年生 yonensei): Students learn the English alphabet ("romaji") in computer class, and can handle active, quiet, and complex activities as long as the English is simple.
5th & 6th grade (五年生 gonensei & 六年生 rokunensei): Students learn basic English phrases and vocabulary as taught in the Hi, Friends! textbook. Some classes may be shy but some may be too active.

Junior high school/midde school (中学校 chuugakkou): Compulsory education ends after JHS; students take entrance exams to enter their desired high school.
1st grade (一年生 ichinensei): Students learn the English alphabet as used in English, simple sentence structure, and a ton of new vocabulary. There are severe differences in ability between high- and low-performing students.
2nd grade (二年生 ninensei): Students learn the past and future tenses and many other expressions. High-level students become able to express themselves while low-level students may still struggle with the basics.
3rd grade (三年生 sannensei): Students learn the perfect tense ("have") and relative pronouns. Grammar and vocabulary becomes more difficult and less relevant to everyday usage.

Senior high school (高等学校 koutougakkou a.k.a. 高校 koukou): Non-compulsory education but most students attend high school. HS is divided by students' abilities and future goals. Some schools have a separate English or international course. Many schools have classes like "Oral Communication."

English club: ALTs, especially at high school, may also lead an English club for students who are interested in practicing English. It may be held at lunchtime or after school. The club may be titled something like "English Speaking Society" (ESS).

Speech contest/debate: One of JHS ALTs' first responsibilities is often to help students prepare for speech contest in the fall. Students memorize a piece to recite, or write their own speech and perform it; they are judged on pronunciation, body language/gestures, voice, and content if they wrote it themselves.
HS ALTs also help with speech contest in the fall or with debate contest. Some ALTs may be asked to judge contests.

English conversation class (英会話 eikaiwa): Members of the community gather together to learn and practice English. English ability may vary strongly within the group.

Resources:
No matter what level you're teaching, knowledge of basic linguistics and teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL)/teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL) will help you know what to do in a classroom. Here are some links to get started:

Return to top

CIRs

CIRs work in prefectural or city government offices or international associations. The exact nature of the job varies greatly by situation, but here are some things many CIRs do:
  • translation/native-checking
  • interpretation
  • planning international exchange events
  • publishing English information, such as a newsletter or magazine
  • school visits and reading books to children
  • facilitating courtesy visits by sister city representatives and other delegations
  • providing foreign language information and support to non-Japanese residents

Resources:

Return to top

About your situation

JETs and Wisconsin ALTs leaving the programs are asked to fill out a form called "Essential Info Outgoing→Incoming JETs/WI-ALTs" (in Japanese 引継書 hikitsugisho) in which they explain all about their job and situation. However, sometimes this form doesn't make it to their successor, or some points might be different for the incoming person. Regardless of the amount of information you receive from your predecessor, the BEST way to create strong relationships with your CO/school and learn about your situation is to proactively ask questions on your own. If you're not sure what questions to ask, you can fill out your own "Essential Info for Incoming JETs & WI-ALTs" (also applies to CIRs). It's also available in Japanese so you can discuss it with your supervisor.

Essential Info for Incoming JETs & WI-ALTs

Sections 1-5 cover basic information about your working situation. Sections ABCD cover each specific workplace for JHS, ES, SHS, and CIR respectively. For example, a JHS ALT who will visit 2 elementary schools can fill out Sections 1-5 with their supervisor, then section A for their JHS and two copies of section B for each ES. That way you can learn all about the expectations and differences of each of your workplaces.

Ask your predecessor for the Essential Info Outgoing→Incoming JETs or Essential Info Outgoing→Incoming WI-ALTs form that they should have filled out for you.



Here is the Essential Info for Incoming JETs & WI-ALTs form in Japanese. In some cases, your supervisor may have filled it out for you, or you can use this to discuss your situation together.


Return to top

FAQ

  1. What will my apartment look like? What are my schools like? Is my supervisor nice?
    Information specific to your individual situation is something that only your predecessor can tell you. Others nearby may be able to answer some of your questions, but only your pred can answer all of them. Most of this information is covered by the Essential Information for Incoming JETs
  2. What should I do before I come?
    In addition to packing, preparing any last minute paperwork, and saying goodbye to your friends and family, you can brush up on your Japanese, look up information online about your area and living in Japan, and learn about your home country and hometown to share with your community.
  3. What should I do once I get to Chiba?
    For the first week or so, you will be busy setting up your new life, including opening a bank account, getting a phone, setting up your house, etc. You will also visit your workplace(s) and meet your new bosses and coworkers. There may even be work for you to start right away. When you're not working, you can explore your neighborhood, check out nearby beaches and see fireworks, go to Tokyo or Yokohama, or just chill out at home. It is extremely hot and humid and moving is very stressful, so make sure to take care of your mind and body.
  4. How much Japanese do I need to survive?
    For ALTs: While Japanese language ability is not a requirement, studying Japanese before arriving and while on the program will significantly improve your ability to communicate with your students and colleagues, as well as help you navigate Japan more easily. Even just knowing hiragana and katakana will make your first few days in Japan less overwhelming. There are many websites online to help you get started. Also knowing the kanji for Chiba, your town, nearby train lines, etc. will help you get around more easily once you arrive.For CIRs: Most CIRs come with about N2 level Japanese, but textbook Japanese is very different from the everyday language. CIRs in the Boso would do well to pick up some 房州弁 (boshu-ben), the dialect in southern Chiba. Learning how to read nearby town and area names, brushing up on your 敬語, and memorizing frequently-used terminology is useful too. For more tips check out the CIR resources on this wiki, the Chiba CIR Facebook group, the national CIR Facebook group, and the CIR Forums.
  5. Why is Chiba a prefecture, not a province or state?
    To quote Wikipedia, "Before the modern prefecture system was established, the islands of Japan were divided into tens of kuni (国, countries), usually known in English as provinces." Chiba's provinces were Shimousa, Kazusa, and Awa; these names are used in train station names to differentiate them from similarly-named stations in other prefectures (ex. Awa-Kamogawa).
  6. Who is my boss? Is the PA my employer/supervisor?
    Your employer is your supervisor, who is the head of your Contracting Organization. If you are a JET CIR or ALT at elementary or junior high schools, you are likely contracted by your city's Board of Education (or in the case of a CIR, the International/Exchange Division, Policy and Planning Division, etc.). If you are a JET ALT or Wisconsin ALT at a prefectural high school, you are likely contracted by the Chiba Prefectural Board of Education. Your supervisor is usually technically the head of your Contracting Organization (such as a 課長 kacho), but within your CO you will likely have a "supervisor" (担当者 tantosha) such as a person in the city BOE or a teacher at school, who is responsible for you and will be your go-to person for important matters. Figuring out who your defacto supervisor is is one of the first things you should do. PAs are not employers or supervisors of ANY JET or WI-ALT.

Return to top
1st grade (一年生 ichinensei):