Tonari no Piano: On Music, Cross-Cultural Understanding, and All That Jazz

Dr. Jillian Marshall (Hyogo, 2009-201)

In this JETs on Japan Forum article, Jillian reflects on the friendship she shared with her neighbor in a rural fishing village during her time with the JET Program and on music’s power to create lasting cross-cultural understanding. In those two years, she learned that life abroad begets an inevitable negotiation once the pink clouds of exhilarating novelty fade away: we must acknowledge cultural differences, lest we fail to truly overcome them. Had it not been for her neighbor—a 66-year-old piano teacher who invited her to play at her house every week—this challenge might have proved too overwhelming. When her neighbor later offred unsolicited support in a time of personal distress, her eyes were forever opened to the subtleties of Japanese culture and how music facilitated this bond. Ultimately, this article’s testimony of our unlikely liaison supports her broader mission to illustrate music’s ability to create cross-cultural understanding through its transcendent language of emotion, corporeality, and imagination. After all, if music can bridge gaps between two societies as diametrically opposed as Japan and the U.S., its soft power and diplomatic possibilities are endless.⁠

Read: Tonari no Piano: On Music, Cross-Cultural Understanding, and All That Jazz

The JETs on Japan Forum is a partnership between USJETAA and Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA (Sasakawa USA) that features selected articles of JET alumni perspectives on U.S.-Japan relations. More info.

60th Anniversary of the CULCON Panel & History of USJETAA

Last month, USJETAA presented at the CULCON 60th Anniversary Event sharing how the idea of USJETAA came out of a CULCON recommendation about supporting the role JET alumni play in U.S.-Japan relations. Congratulations to CULCON on this anniversary!

Want to know more about USJETAA came about?

Renewed Partnership with Sasakawa USA

USJETAA is pleased to announce its renewed collaboration with the Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA (Sasakawa USA). Since 2016, USJETAA has received an annual grant from Sasakawa USA which has been used to support a competitive mini-grant program for regional JET Alumni Association chapters across the United States and U.S.-Japan programs. In 2020, the program evolved to include an author series spotlighting JET alumni perspectives on U.S.-Japan relations. Last year, USJETAA funded activities organized by JET Alumni Associations in Washington, DC, Southern California, and Chicago which were conducted virtually. USJETAA looks forward to working with Saskawa USA again this year to support the JET Program alumni, whose personal and professional links to Japan make them ideally suited to expand and strengthen U.S.-Japan relations.

JETAA Chapter Grants Available

This grant program supports JETAA chapters in hosting robust programs that further U.S.-Japan relations at the grassroots level. All projects should have a clear focus on a particular aspect or issue of U.S.-Japan relations. Applicants should think critically about the application questions and elaborate as much as possible on how the event contributes to U.S.-Japan relations in their local community.

By receiving this grant and working with Sasakawa USA/USJETAA, JETAA chapters will impact the U.S.-Japan relations at the local level, elevate their leadership role in their local U.S.-Japan community, and strengthen the JET alumni network in the United States.

Deadlines for the Chapter Grant Program:

  • First-round applications must be submitted by August 1, 2021.
  • Second-round applications must be submitted by October 1, 2021 (there is no guarantee funding will remain for the second application round, so chapters are encouraged to apply as early as possible.
  • All programs, including the post-event review meeting with USJETAA and Sasakawa USA, must be completed by February 11, 2022.
  • Final reports are due one month from the post-event review meeting or no later than February 25, 2022.

Check here on the USJETAA website for more information on grant application instructions, eligibility, expectations, and previous grantees. Please contact Bahia Simons-Lane at the USJETAA office with questions or to discuss ideas at any time:

JETs on Japan Forum Applications Open

The JETs on Japan Forum is a partnership between USJETAA and Sasakawa Peace Foundation USA (Sasakawa USA) that features selected articles of JET alumni perspectives on U.S.-Japan relations. The series aims to elevate the awareness and visibility of JET alumni working across diverse sectors and provides a platform for JET alumni to contribute to a deeper understanding of U.S.-Japan relations from their fields. The articles are posted on USJETAA’s website to serve as a resource to the wider JET alumni and U.S.-Japan communities on how alumni of this exchange program are continuing to serve as informal ambassadors in U.S.-Japan relations.

Submissions are encouraged from mid-to-senior level professionals who are established in the current fields OR current/recent graduate degree students in both masters and doctoral programs.

Check the USJETAA website here for more information on eligibility, how to apply, and submission guidelines. Abstracts will be accepted until December 1, 2021 on a rolling basis, but we are seeking articles to publish in August and September.

Alumni Interview: Sophia Chow (Kanagawa, 2015-2017)

"Kanagawa has a lot of great sightseeing spots -- you name it, we've got it. If you're looking for somewhere urban with good shopping, entertainment, and international cuisine, there's Yokohama and Minato Mirai. Missing the ocean? You can visit the Shonan beaches and Enoshima (featured in a lot of anime, movies, and the reality TV show Terrace House). Kamakura is known for historical temples, retro cafes, and an off-the-beaten-path bamboo forest. To the west, there is also the popular hot spring resort town of Hakone which has great views of Mt. Fuji on clear days.

Food-wise, Kanagawa is by the ocean, so whitebait rice bowls, or shirasu-don, is a local specialty, along with octopus crackers, or tako senbei. The Miura Peninsula on the southeast coast of Kanagawa is famous for fresh tuna and daikon radish. The port town of Yokosuka is known for its naval curry, or kaigun kare, which is often served, interestingly, with a glass of milk."

Read the full interview with Sophia here.

Alumni Interview: Ben Green (Saitama, 1997-1999)

"Saitama is known for manufacturing, along with a lot of large companies being based there including Honda, and it's known for hosting several great communities like Omiya and Asaka that are close to downtown Tokyo. It also has a great park called Shinrin Koen that is famous. It also hosted some World Cup games as well. Saitama is great."

Read the full interview with Ben here.

These interviews are part of a partnership between the Japan Society Boston (JSB) and USJETAA in which JET alumni contribute short interviews about their experiences in Japan in each prefecture. To read the full interviews, please visit our website.
Did you know that you can donate to USJETAA, helping fund USJETAA and its programs, just by shopping on Amazon? Go to and Amazon will donate to the U.S. JET Programme Alumni Association. More setup info:
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Debunking the Myths: JET Program Edition (Part 2)

By Asma Khan (2021 Outgoing JET, Iwate)

The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program is a highly competitive employment opportunity that allows college graduates from around the world to work for boards of education, schools, and government offices throughout Japan. While in Japan, JETs are able to gain the cultural experience of a lifetime while also developing necessary soft skills for future employment. Although The JET Program is loved by almost all JET alumni, there are a number of rumors circulating that reject the benefits of the JET Program. These rumors ultimately deter JET hopefuls from applying and taking on one of the most transformative, life-changing opportunities out there. In this series we call “Debunking the Myths: JET Program Edition,” we attempt to tackle these misconceptions/assumptions head-on with facts and statistics. ⁠

Part 2 of "Debunking the Myths: JET Program Edition" tackles these JET myths:
  • There’s too much sitting-at-desk work.
  • The JET administration is unresponsive to calls for help from JETs. 
  • JETs who don’t speak Japanese cannot make friends in rural Japan. 
  • JETs who cannot speak Japanese cannot communicate with their Japanese coworkers.
  • The salary given to JETs is not enough for them to sustain themselves.
  • Most JETs get sick of their jobs 6 months into their stay. 
Discover Asma's answers to these JET myths here.

Featured Recipe - Cold Tuna and Tomato Somen

Looking for a new summer recipe? Try making this Japanese recipe for Cold Tuna and Tomato Somen from Just One Cookbook.
Invest in the next generation of U.S.-Japan leaders with a tax-deductible donation to USJETAA to help us continue our work. USJETAA is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization, EIN 47-4042132. Donations are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.
Donate Here

JET Alumni News 

Maureen Brase (Nagasaki, 1994-1996) learned taiko while on JET in Nagasaki-ken, started a group in Nebraska, and from 6/13 to 6/20, just shared taiko nationally at the U.S. Olympic Swimming Trials playing with Kokyo Taiko.

Watch Maureen teach 6 time gold medalist Amy VanDyken explain taiko starting from 12:20 in this video from USA Swimming.
Australian JET alumna Sara-Jane Seely (Kochi, 2016-2018) has been appointed as the Tokyo 2020 Overall Technical Officials Coordinator for all disciplines. Read more about the Queenslanders involved in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Steven Horowitz (Aichi, 1992-1994) - and founder - has launched a new legal English podcast titled “USLawEssentials: Law & Language" in collaboration with Daniel Edelson of

So far they've interviewed a number of JET alumni, including  JET alum parents/multilingual lawyers Brian Hersey (Fukuoka, 1994-1996) and Brenda McKinney (Hyogo, 2006-2009) and Rebecca Chen (Akita, 2014-2017) who has been working as a paralegal at a business immigration law practice. The podcast is intended for non-native English-speaking lawyers, law students, and anyone who finds it helpful or interesting.
Lillian Hanako Rowlatt (Niigata, 2002-2005) of Kokoro Care Packages was featured on the Transformations with Jayne podcast talking about her business goals to bring artisanal Japanese food to the United States.
Mainichi featured Kjell Hahn (Hyogo, 2002-?) in a recent article "American artist's studio connects foreigners to traditional crafts in small-town Japan." Kjell is an American artist who founded an art studio in Fujioka, Gunma Prefecture, which invites painters, sculptors, and other types of artists from around the world to learn about traditional Japanese crafts and interact with the local community.
William Archambeault's (Ishinomaki, 2017-2018) music article "Leveling Up with Joystick" was featured in Antigravity Magazine.

Happy Birthday, Pokémon! In commemoration of Pokémon's 25th birthday this year Joe Palermo (Gunma, 1982-1983) wrote a piece about PokémonGo for Origami Magazine: "Confessions of a 62-Year-Old PokémonGo Player."  Joe, MEF (Monbusho English Fellows Program, predecessor to the JET Program) addresses the unfair stigma attached to those who play PokémonGo and celebrates the opportunity provided by PokémonGo to broaden our social circles and improve our physical health.

Read Joe's article here

Kristy Mariko LLC (Kristy Ishii, Gunma, 2016-2018) is launching a 5-Day FREE Boot Camp in August 2021. This is tailored career accelerator program for people who are transitioning out of JET and/or are JET Alumni

Fill out this survey if you're interested:

Highlights or the program include:
- Translating transferrable skills learned via JET to careers outside of education 
- Aligning past skills from jobs before JET, with current career goals
- Revamping resume, LinkedIn Profile, and interviewing skills
- Re-aligning life goals, because they changed while on JET
- Online Networking and Making Genuine Connections via LinkedIn, Webinars, Online BootCamps, etc.
- Personal Mindset Training Hacks 

EMAIL with your questions!

Ian Thomas Ash's documentary about death and dying おみおくり〜Sending Off was awarded the prize for Best documentary in The Life Beyond Life Film Festival, an event dedicated to films about terminal care, grief, and transition.

Although they were not able to attend the closing ceremony which was held in person in Italy, he and Dr. Kaoru Konta recorded their greetings and gratitude to be played at the event. Watch the event remarks here.
The weekly Krewe of Japan podcasts takes listeners on audio journeys through Japanese culture. In Accepted to the JET Program... Now what?, Nigel, Jennifer, & Doug Tassin (Fukushimi, 2007-2010) talk about the months-long emotional roller coaster of preparing to relocate to a new country (for JET or any program). Departing JETAA Mid-South President Megan DeVille (Aomori, 2009-2010) stops by to talk about her pre-departure JET experiences, from interviewing to arriving at a tiny regional airport in Aomori Prefecture.
New newsletter from Bruce Feiler (Tochigi-ken, 1989-90) on dealing with life's transitions. Feiler is the author of Learning to Bow, The Council of Dads, The Secrets of Happy Family, and more. Learn more here.
Jessica Kennett Cork (Hiroshima. 1997-2000), Community Engagement and Corporate Communications at YKK Corporation of America, will be speaking with a dynamic group of female leaders in the manufacturing industry representing small, medium, and large companies and a diverse group of manufacturing verticals. Sixth Annual "Success in Manufacturing: the Woman's Perspective" will be on September 22 in Atlanta. Learn More.

How to Find Remote Jobs

By Emily Frank (Hokkaido, 1993-1996) of Denver Career Catalyst

Are you one of the many people now looking for a work-from-home job?  A lot of us have adjusted to this new way of life and realized there are some things we don’t want to give up: a commute-free day, home-cooked lunches, the freedom to take the dog on a walk just because you need a break, the ability to throw in a load of laundry as the coffee brews.

Read the blog post for some great resources.

Highlighted Job Postings

Visit the Job Board for more great opportunities.
Check out the following resources for more job opportunities:

Upcoming Events

Event: The Same Moon: Reading and Q&A with Author Sarah Coomber - July 22
July 22, 8 pm ET/5 pm PT
July 23, 9 am (Japan Time)

Join us for our second author event featuring JET alumna Sarah Coomber (Yamaguchi, 1994-1996)! Sarah will read a short passage from her book and then we will take questions from the audience. You do not need to have read the book to enjoy this event. We hope you'll join us.

About The Same Moon

Recently wed—and quickly divorced—twenty-four-year-old Sarah Coomber escapes the disappointments of her Minnesota life for a job teaching English in Japan. Her plan is to use the year to reflect, heal and figure out what to do with her wrecked life while enjoying the culture of the country where she had previously spent a life-changing summer that included a romance with a young baseball player.

Event: USJETAA Japanese Reading Group - August 10

The goal of the USJETAA Japanese Reading Group is to help advanced beginner and intermediate-level students improve their reading skills. Each month we will look at a short reading from Aozora Bunko, a repository of public domain literature. Participants should attempt to do the reading on their own and come to the meeting with any questions. We will spend the meeting each month reading the assignment sentence by sentence to understand how the Japanese is working. This event will be on the second Tuesday each month, from 7:00-8:30 pm Eastern Time and is facilitated by Daniel Morales of How to Japanese. Sessions are not recorded.

August 10, from 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm Eastern Time

RSVP via Facebook or join by Zoom Link

Please note, we are now requiring registration for this event!

For the August meeting, we will be finishing up the second half of the essay 承認欲求が強かった私に天才ダンサーが教えてくれた生き方 (The way of life that a talented dancer taught me and my need for recognition). It's a personal essay by a woman named Aoi, writing about how she learned to live from a very talented hip-hop dancer she met.

Check this Google document for upcoming readings

July JETAA Chapter Events

For July alumni events, check out this blog post for a round-up of activities you can join virtually or in your region.

July 30 at 7:30 PM PT - JETAA Southern California: Sake - A Deep Dive

JETAASC is presenting a Sake webinar and tasting session with JETAASC member, Greg Beck (ALT/CIR Hiroshima '06-'11) of Please sign up here to register for the event

August JETAA Chapter Events

For August alumni events, check out this blog post for a round-up of activities you can join virtually or in your region.

Date TBD - JETAA Minnesota Nebuta Crafting Event

JETAAMN is planning a Nebuta crafting event this year and is sending out kits to JETs who purchase one! 

August 4 at 7 PM ET - JETAANY Book Club: Before the Coffee Gets Cold

JETAANY is discussing Before the Coffee Gets Cold. Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s beautiful, moving story explores the age-old question: what would you change if you could travel back in time? (Just be sure you return to the present before your cup of coffee gets cold.)  

Register for the Zoom link: Zoom RegistrationLet others know you are going on Facebook: Event pageQuestions: Contact Christy via email.

August 29th at 4 PM CT - JETAA Chicago: No Pianos, Pets or Foreigners - Book Discussion with Author Joe Palermo! 

In partnership with JETAAUSA working to connect our community across generations through their JET Generations initiative, JETAA Chicago is hosting a discussion of No Pianos, Pets or Foreigners!: My Life in Japan in the 80s' with author and Monbusho English Fellow (Gunma, 82-83) Joe Palermo! The Monbusho English Fellows Program (MEF) is the precursor to the modern day JET program, and No Pianos, Pets or Foreigners chronicles Joe Palermo's experience in Japan as a MEF in the 80s. REGISTER

August 31 at 6:30 PM CT - JETAA Texoma, JETAANY, & JETAA Mid-South Mothra Story Hour

THEME: The theme for this summer storytelling event is... Matsuri! 
REGISTER as attendee or storyteller!

Join JETAA Texomoa, JETAA Mid-South, and JETAANY for another JETAA Mothra Storyteller hour open to all JETS and Friends of JET! Join us as we swap stories and amazing memories from our time on the JET Program. Whether it's been a year, a decade, or longer since you've been to Japan, come relive those only-in-Japan moments with your JETAA friends! This will be an informal event with different speakers sharing short, 5-min stories of their most memorable experiences on JET.

Events are added as announced. Is an event missing? Let us know via email at

Other News & Events

The Go for Broke: Japanese American Soldiers of WWII Forever stamp is now available for purchase!  You can order yours online by clicking here. Read more about the 15-year Stamp Our Story effort that led to this stamp being issued. The stamp art is based on a photograph of a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, whose motto was "Go for Broke." The photograph was taken in 1944 at a railroad station in France.

USPS official stamp description: "With this commemorative stamp issuance, the U.S. Postal Service recognizes the contributions of Japanese American soldiers, some 33,000 altogether, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Thousands of other Nisei served as translators, interpreters, and interrogators in the Pacific Theater for the Military Intelligence Service (MIS), nearly a thousand served in the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion, and more than 100 Nisei women joined the Women's Army Corps.

Digital Museum of the History of Japanese in New York

Last month, The Digital Museum of the History of Japanese in New York was launched by the Japan History Council of New York. This is the first East Coast digital archive to preserve Japanese contributions to New York's diverse physical and cultural landscape. Covering stories from 1860 through to today, the Digital Museum highlights major events such as the first Japanese delegation to the United States but also spotlights lesser-known individuals in history whose contributions are still felt today. It is the perfect chance to virtually explore important moments in the history of the Japanese in New York.

International Affairs and Public Policy Graduate School Fair (Online)
July 22
10:00 am - 12:15 pm ET

Thinking about a master's, mid-career, or Ph.D.? Register today at for a free online recruitment fair featuring leading grad schools from around the world.

Nakamura Kazutaro: ART of KABUKI - From Classical Kabuki to Art Kabuki, Moving Forward

July 23, 5:00 pm (Pacific Time) / July 24, 9:00 am (Japan Time)
Register Here

Join us for a very special program with Kazutaro Nakamura, one of Japan’s rising stars of Kabuki, as he explains his journey from traditional Kabuki performed on stage to “Art Kabuki,” a new multi-media art form that melds traditional and modern esthetics. *Free and in Engligh!

How the Japanese Video Game Industry Found, Lost, and Rediscovered Its Way
July 28
7 pm ET

Super Mario, Pac-Man, Sonic, Final Fantasy, Street Fighter, and Metroid. While many of these Japanese games are widely recognized, loved, and still played by many fans worldwide today, players might not realize just how integral these games were in popularizing the videogame culture in the West and influencing both the growth and course of the global videogames industry.

For our first episode focusing on the topic of video games, we will be joined by Chris Kohler and Mia Consalvo, who will be taking us on a historical journey with their presentations. They will delve deep into the history of the Japanese video games industry, focusing on events that kickstarted this global phenomenon, along with some of the issues which caused it to lose its way and fall behind its western counterpart in the 2000s. Rachael Hutchinson will moderate our discussion following the presentations, continuing the narrative of how the Japanese games industry recovered and rediscovered its position in the global landscape. The discussion will be followed by a live Q&A. If you have questions for the guests, please submit them through Eventbrite when you register.
A Conversation with Naomi Umeki: Japanese Kokeshi Doll Maker
August 5
7:00 pm

Join Japanese Kokeshi doll maker Naomi Umeki live from Japan as she talks about the art and craft of Kokeshi dolls.

Learn More
Bridging Cultural Differences at Work: A Conversation with Japanese and American Professionals
September 15
6:00 pm

Join us for an informative and inspiring conversation with 3 professionals in Greater Cincinnati who have bridged cultural differences between Japan and the US for many years.  Virtual networking sessions to follow the event. 

Learn More


Thank you to our grantors, program partners, and donors!

Grantors and Major Donors

USJETAA is an independent, self-sustaining 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization that serves as a resource for and about the JETAA network and alumni in the United States. To learn more about our activities, become a registered member, or to support our efforts, please visit us at
Copyright © 2021 USJETAA, All rights reserved.

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