Constantine In Tokyo FAQ

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What’s up with this whole ‘cosplay’ thing?

– I’ve been cosplaying for about 12 years, but it was only recently that I began to seriously incorporate it into my life. I just happen to like making and wearing costumes from videogames/comics/anime. You can see more of my cosplay work at http://www.facebook.com/ConstantineInTokyo

Will you cosplay with me?

– I absolutely love cosplaying in groups – if you’ve got an idea for a group cosplay, I’d love to hear it!

Do you speak Japanese?

– Yes and no. Yes, I can speak Japanese. No, I don’t speak Japanese very well. I want to improve my Japanese language skills and that is the main reason I am now living in Japan.

Your Japanese sucks! Your pronunciation sucks! That word is incorrect!

– Yes, I am bad at Japanese and I have a strong American accent. But, I ignore comments like these because I am not interested in getting into arguments with people I don’t know over the internet. I simply do not care.

Can you review ______ movie?

– Yes, I can. When people request I review, I will add it to the list of movies I will review. This list is rather long by now, so be patient and it should eventually get reviewed.

Could you give a list of recommended best Japanese movies? I have seen some Japanese movies, but maybe because I am a terrible picker, I have hated all the movies so far, and I always cringe when passing the Japanese section at the local rental shop. A friend of mine recommended Akira Kurosawa’s Ran, she said she cried at this movie, but I can’t find it!

– It is very hard for me to make a list of the ‘best’ Japanese movies. If you watch my movie reviews, I usually tell you if I think a movie is good or not. If I say a movie is good, then you should try watching it and see for yourself. The movies that I have currently reviewed and consider to be perfect (as perfect as anything can be, that is) are:

Miike Takashi’s AUDITION
Kobayashi Masaki’s HARAKIRI

My TOP 5 Favorite Japanese Zombie Movies: PART ONE and PART TWO

Are the OLDSCHOOL movies like the ones you review any good? Are they better than the new movies that are coming out in this day and age?

– This is a matter of opinion. In my case, I think that many old Japanese movies are better then more recent ones. Typically, the 1950s, 60s, and early 70s where considered the ‘Golden Age’ of Japanese cinema. However, recent Japanese movies have also proven themselves to be well worth watching.

JET Program FAQ

Since being accepted into the JET Program in 2009, I have posted a number of blog entries meant to offer advice and insight into the JET Program, the selection process, and my personal experience on the JET Program. Here are links to some of the most popular entries:

JET Program Application Process: How does JET select candidates?

JET Program Sample Interview Questions

JET Program Statement of Purpose

Where you shortlisted for the JET Program? What is the difference between being shortlisted and wait listed?

– Yes, I was shortlisted for the JET Program. ‘Shortlisted’ means JET is offering you a tentative position in the program, provided you can pass the mandatory FBI background check, medical exam, and they can find a school to hire you. ‘Wait listed’ means that if and when a shortlisted candidate drops out of the program, you will be upgraded to the shortlist.

What is it that you want to achieve out of the JET Program?

– First and foremost, I want to increase my Japanese language skills. I also want to experience everyday life and culture firsthand while here on JET.

What do you want to do after the JET Program?

– I plan to mess around for one or two years, then go to graduate school.

Do you need a bachelor’s degree to participate in the JET Program?

– Yes, you do need a bachelor’s degree to qualify for the JET Program. More information can be found on the official JET website for your country, just google it.

Will you read my JET SOP?

– Yes, I would be happy too. I tend to be rather thorough when I proofread essays, so you will get a big response from me where I not only critique your general message, but also change around you sentence structure and/or word choice. This doesn’t mean that I think your SOP sucks and you can feel free to disagree with my opinion about changes that need to be made.

My JET Statement of Purpose can be found HERE.

The sample interview questions I made to prepare for the JET interview can be found HERE.

What are my chances of the JET Program placing me in Tokyo?

– There are 9 JETs in Tokyo. That’s right, NINE. Five in a city about 1.5 hours outside of Tokyo and four on a series of islands administered by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. As of July 2009, there were 4,436 participants in the program. That means you have a .2% chance of being placed in Tokyo. Maybe less if people choose to recontract the year you are getting your placement.

I was just wondering how many days you get off while working as an ALT in Japan. Are the breaks in between semesters long enough for you to travel out of the country ?

-This is one of those questions that is hard to answer. Though you apply to the JET Program, you do not work for the JET Program; you work for your ‘contracting organization’ – the school(s) or the prefectural Board of Education that hires you. Therefore, there is are many differences between placements in the JET Program. Some contracting organizations will have you work five days a week at one school or you will visit several different schools in one week or month. In some placements, JETs teach classes everyday, in other places they only teach a few classes a week. Some prefectures have JETs located in the prefecture’s Board of Education and they send them out to various different schools and in other prefectures the JET is located at only one school. Because of the various systems contracting organizations use, you won’t know the specifics of your contract (including the days you will need to work and vacation time) until your contracting organizations contacts you and delivers the contract to you. If chosen for the JET Program, you should be contacted by your contracting organization between mid-June and mid-July. The contracting organization will probably mail you a contract listing all of the specifics of your placement and you will sign the contract when you arrive at your placement (though by traveling to Japan you indicate a tacit agreement to the contract). Long story short, this means that the hours I work and the vacation time I get may be completely unrelated to the experience you will have.

That said, you will be a government employee and thus (I believe) will receive a certain amount of paid vacation time (called nenkyuu). I think this ends up being around 10 or 11 days a year, but I am not 100% certain about this. Some contracts also include paid sick leave (but this is a luxury most Japanese employees don’t even have – if they are so sick that they can’t come to work Japanese employees usually use their vacation time). There will be regulations on your contract about when you can use this (in my contract I need to have worked for the contracting organization for 6 months before I can use my vacation time) and you must have your supervisor/vice principal/principal approve the vacation time in advance before you can use it. Your contracting organization has the right to say that you can’t use your vacation time, so you can’t use it whenever you feel like it. For example, my schools don’t let me use vacation time if it means I will miss any of my English classes. You don’t have to work on national holidays, and in Japan there is usually at least one national holiday a month (including almost a week-long holiday in May called Golden Week). Also, the Japanese school year includes several breaks – before the beginning of a new school year in March, summer break in August, and winter break in December-January. Depending on the school, these breaks are anywhere from one-two weeks long to almost a month long (in August). However, the Japanese teachers are still expected to work during these breaks…if your contracting organization will require you to work when there are no classes is unknown and, again, varies from place to place.

In Japan, its extremely important that you go to work – even if you don’t necessarily have a lot (or any) work to do. One of my Japanese friends puts it this way, “It’s like the Olympics, the most important thing is just physically being there” (I suppose this offers some insight in how Japanese people view the Olympics too). On their website, in the application process, and probably in the interview, JET will stress how important it is that your job at the school(s) be your number one priority. Maybe your contracting organization will ask you to come into work on a Saturday, maybe they will ask you to cancel your plans to visit a friend in order to participate in a school activity. These are the same obligations that any Japanese teacher would be expected to meet and your contracting organization will expect the same of you (in all likelihood, they will probably expect less from you). If travel (in Japan or abroad) is one of the reasons why you want to do the JET Program, you might want to look at other options. However, you aren’t a slave and will have plenty of time to do other fun things (though maybe not to travel abroad).

Finally, and this is important, your contracting organization provides and pays for part of your insurance. Because of this, your contracting organization may have a problem with you traveling abroad while you are employed by them. This is because while you are traveling in a foreign country, they are still responsible for you – medically, legally, etc. This can end up being really complicated from them if something bad happens to you. So some contracting organizations may have trouble with you traveling abroad (not back to your home country, but to some other foreign country). My contracting organization doesn’t have a problem with it, but this is one of things mentioned online and in the JET Program Handbook.

Can you offer me a female perspective on the interview? What should I wear? What did you wear?

– So, what to wear – in Japan the standard outfit for interviews is a blazer, white blouse, and skirt (though pants are also ok). I decided to be conservative and wore a black blazer, white blouse, and black dress pants (and high heels). You might consider wearing a blazer with any outfit, but as girls we are allowed to deviate from the suit-and-tie formula. One thing about skirt lengths – for a professional length usually they hit right at the knee or right above it. Western women are almost universally dress more sexy than Japanese women, this is partly because we’ve been raised to be sexy and mature while Japanese women aspire to look young and cute. I wear pencil skirts, fitted blazers, blouses and shirt dresses to work and had to get used to my female students squealing ‘SEKUSHI!’ (sexy) and ‘Ashi nagai!’ (long legs) when I walked into class. And I don’t think I dress particularly ‘sexy.’ Anyways, just wear a professional-looking outfit. Japanese women tend to wear light makeup, so while I don’t know how you normally do your makeup, just keep it natural and professional too.

You mentioned that some of your friends were asked about their low grades? How did they respond and did they get on JET? My grades dropped during some of my university years, but I’m not sure how to explain why without making myself sound bad or unable to handle stress.

– The friend who was asked about his grades did not get onto JET, but I don’t think it was due to his grades. They ask about grades because they can indicate how seriously you take commitments and your work ethic. I went through a school year where I was being treated for depression and taking anti-depressants. I can guarantee you that during that time I was not a straight-A student. If they ask you about your grades, I recommend you tell them honestly what was happening in your life then… just don’t say that your grades fell because you didn’t care and college is bullshit. =P Just put a positive spin on it and tell them what you learned from the experience, how it helped you learn how to manage stress and develop time-management skills so that you could fulfill your various responsibilities. The interviewers might then ask you some follow up questions. Try to think of potential follow-up questions beforehand, so you won’t be too surprised if they ask you. No one on JET expects the applicants to be perfect, that’s impossible. They do expect people on JET to have a positive attitude and be capable to successfully manage challenging and difficult situations. To me, it sounds like you have experience doing just that. By mentioning difficult problems you’ve faced in the past, you have the chance to demonstrate to them how much experience you have and how you’ve grown and matured as a person.

If the JET interviewers ask how I’d respond to inappropriate comments from teachers or students, what should I say? Do you have problems with inappropriate comments or sexual harassment?

– The interviewers may ask how you would deal with students and/or teachers making inappropriate comments to you. I just returned from my prefectural mid-year conference, where I had the director of the Board of Education pull me aside and ask if I was having any trouble with sexual harassment from the male teachers (weird out-of-the-blue question). They could ask you an wide array of questions like how you’d react to being told to make tea for the male teachers (has never happened to me), being told you must wear a skirt to work (also have never happened), or to comments about your appearance. In Japan, there seems to be a different set of rules governing what is and is not appropriate to say to women. You’ll probably have men recommending you drink Japanese green tea ‘to make yourself look even more beautiful,’ recommending you order the half-size bento instead of the regular size, or urging you to work out more to ‘stay healthy.’ I think that as long as you demonstrate in the interview that you have an open mind to adjusting to different cultural norms and don’t have some sort of ‘rampaging feminist agenda’ then you’ll be fine.