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Kamoshika
March 15th, 2016, 17:24
Hi Everyone,

Would any current/former JETs be able to help us find a suitable regular public elementary school where our now 7 year old daughter could attend classes for a month or so sometime later in 2016 or maybe 2017? We're flexible on location; anywhere in the country would be okay, even if it's super rural. A small village, town, city or whatever, would all be fine with us. The main thing we're looking for is a place where the local BOE and one of the elementary schools would be open and welcoming towards a 7 year old American girl, who speaks no Japanese other than a few words and phrases, coming to live in their town and attending a local elementary school as a kind of exchange student.

My wife and I both really enjoyed the weekly visits to our towns' elementary schools while working as JET ALTs in rural Tohoku in the early 90's, and we'd like for our daughter to be able to experience attending a Japanese elementary school, as well, with the goal being for her to learn about Japanese language and culture and also to share some of our culture with the Japanese kids in the school. Internationalization - isn't that what the JET Program is all about? :)

You can tell your town it's a great opportunity for them to expose their kids at a young age to an American girl and her parents, who they can teach all about Japan, and in exchange we can help teach the kids in her class and school about the United States and Hawaii where our daughter has grown up. As former JET ALTs, my wife and I will be happy to volunteer some of our time to assist the current ALTs to teach English and help the people in your town to feel more comfortable interacting with foreigners. We're a little rusty, but both my wife and I should be able, after a little practice, to communicate at a simple, conversational level in Japanese. Actually, our goal while we're in Japan will be to improve our Japanese. So, if there is somebody in the town who we could hire as a tutor a few hours/week while our daughter's at school, that would be a great bonus. If not, we can probably just study on our own and then practice speaking with the people we meet around town.

When I was working as a JET ALT at a rural BOE in Akita-ken, my little brother who was in junior high school at the time came over to visit for a month during his American school's summer break. My employer lent my brother a uniform and allowed him to attend our local JHS for a month. It was a great experience for my brother who still talks about it to this day, 20+ years later. I also think it was good for the school, its students and the village where I lived, because the kids got to spend time with a 13 year old American boy who spoke no Japanese. It forced them to figure out ways to communicate.

Obviously, since our daughter is so young, my wife and I will be accompanying her the whole time during her stay in Japan. Maybe the first day or so either my wife or I could go with my daughter to school to help with communication, but then after that, hopefully, she'll be okay to attend school on her own. Having to deal with a girl who speaks no Japanese in the classroom will obviously require a lot of extra work from teachers and administrators in the school, at least in the beginning, so we'll need a school, teachers and BOE who are all on board and enthusiastic to host a gaijin elementary school student. They need to see the benefit to their school/town, otherwise it'll just be a big pain for them to do all the extra work.

As far as accommodation goes, we're open to whatever's available. If there's a small house or apartment available for rent in the town, we'll gladly pay rent for our own place. If there's a nice family who maybe has kids our daughter's age and some extra room in their house, we'd also be open to some sort of a home stay with a Japanese family. For the past 20 years we've lived on and operated our own farm in Hawaii. We've got experience working with livestock, growing vegetables and fruit, etc., and would be happy to help out on a local farm(s) in the town as a way to learn more about the local culture and to practice Japanese. Also, my wife loves to cook and would enjoy learning more about cooking Japanese food if someone were willing to teach her.

Initially, we were thinking that we would go to Japan for a whole year. My wife and I started looking in to language schools where we could enroll as full time students, so that we could get visas, and then we were hoping to get a dependent visa for our daughter and try to enroll her in an elementary school after we got there. After talking with people at language schools in Japan and also the Japanese Consulate in Honolulu, we've scaled our plans back a little bit, because it wasn't as easy or straight forward as we'd thought it would be. Plus, we'd rather go to Japan with the plan of having our daughter go to school for a month, and then if she loves it and the people in the town are happy too, maybe we can arrange to extend for a little longer or come back for a second visit...

We're open to any and all of your ideas, suggestions, and any constructive criticism of our plan that you can think of. Feel free to post in this thread or PM me if you have any ideas for us. If you've made it this far, thank you for reading, and thanks in advance for any advice you can give.

Ebi
March 15th, 2016, 23:29
Do you have any connections to your old town? I think you might have better luck trying to organize a visit or stay directly through a Japanese organization than by trying to get something organized through ALTs or JET.

I've personally helped facilitate a brief exchange when a JHS student visited our school from Australia, but it wasn't in my power to arrange such a visit. Someone up the command chain asked permission and got my school to agree.

I think the opportunity exists if you look for it, but I can't recommend anything specific. Try googling homestay and exchange programs based in Japan and see what pops up.

Ini
March 16th, 2016, 00:09
What would you and your wife be doing during this month and on what visa will you be coming on? To officially enroll a child into a school you will need to become residents of that town/city/ward and set up a family register there which if you are coming on 90 day tourist visas you won't be able to do as you won't be issued a residents card. Now if you could convince the town/city/ward to allow your child to visit the school as a guest for a month you wouldn't need all that jazz but then you get into insurance issues of having a child on school property for a month who isn't actually an official student.... It would require a lot of good will and support from the relevant board of education to get something like this off the ground even if you could find a school willing to do it. Saying that, with all this Olympic fever I'm sure somewhere in Japan would be keen to get in on some international action and the positive PR they could spin from it. Asking about it in the last few weeks of March is a terrible idea but once April rolls around and the staff rotation has all sorted itself out you could start making enquires to BOEs.

Isola
March 16th, 2016, 09:50
Just to give you an example, there's an American family that comes to my town once a year (the wife is Japanese and from my town), and they put their kids in the local elementary and junior high school for about a month every year. The kids speak fluent Japanese, but can't read or write kanji. My town allows this because they think it's a good experience for the kids, and because the wife is actually from my town. It's possible, but like Ebi said, I think your old town is your best bet, or somewhere that you have some kind of connection or relationship.

Ini
March 16th, 2016, 10:25
If the wife has family in that town then they can simply add the child to a family members register, it's a little different to just turning up with no family connections. It's not impossible but would probably require a senior member of the board of education or the mayor to have a boner for international relations to make it happen. Going through a organization/NPO/charity to help with the paper work might be best. You could try contacting groups operating in Miyagi/Fukushima to see if they would be interested in helping? You and the wife could do some volunteer work for a month and they could act as a liaison with the town in order to get the kid into school.

Ebi
March 16th, 2016, 17:40
Just to give you an example, there's an American family that comes to my town once a year (the wife is Japanese and from my town), and they put their kids in the local elementary and junior high school for about a month every year. The kids speak fluent Japanese, but can't read or write kanji. My town allows this because they think it's a good experience for the kids, and because the wife is actually from my town. It's possible, but like Ebi said, I think your old town is your best bet, or somewhere that you have some kind of connection or relationship.
I should also clarify that the kid who visited my school for a few weeks was also half-Japanese and had local relatives, but he had very basic Japanese speaking and listening comprehension.

I suspect that he probably had dual-citizenship and a local address through his grandparents, which would have made it much easier to get permission to attend the school.

Kamoshika
March 16th, 2016, 18:51
Thanks everyone for your common-sense suggestions. You're right, it may be best for us to just ask Japanese people we already know to help us to set something up, rather than trying to go through random JETs we meet on the internet. :)

My thinking was that I didn't want to make our Japanese friends feel obligated to help. I felt like if I asked them, they might feel like they had to do it. I figured if I just posted on here asking you guys for help to set something up and you weren't interested, you could just ignore the post. On the other hand, if somewhere in Japan there was an ALT who knew a teacher or school or family that had been bugging her to help arrange some kind of international exchange, then that would be ideal.

We're still open to considering an informal exchange with a Japanese family, school, BOE or whatever, so if anyone reading this thread happens to know of a situation that might work out for us, please let us know. I'm also considering looking into volunteering on a farm somewhere in Japan through WWOOFJapan.com (http://www.wwoofjapan.com/main/index.php?lang=en). If we can find a Japanese farm family, maybe with kids our daughter's age, that needs some help, that might be fun and mutually beneficial for everyone.

It's been over 20 years since my wife and I were on the JET Program. Later this year when we travel to Japan, we're definitely planning on visiting the towns in Akita where we lived and hopefully meeting people we used to work with, former students, etc., but I haven't had any direct contact with anyone from the BOE or schools where I worked in over 10 years. I was pretty close with my village's mayor. He was the one who pushed hard to get an ALT in the first place, and I was the first one, so he was pretty excited. For awhile after I left, the mayor and I exchanged handwritten letters in English, but after a few years, I got an email from my old interpreter saying that the mayor had passed away. A good friend who we still keep in touch with lives in the next town over from where I was stationed as a JET has invited us to stay with him, so we're going to base ourselves at our friend's place while we explore the area.

After talking with the woman in charge of visas at the Japanese Consulate a little more, I learned that we may still be able to find a language school that will be willing/able to act as a guarantor so that our daughter can qualify for a dependent visa, which was our original plan. If my wife and I become full-time students of Japanese and get student visas and our daughter is able to accompany us on a dependent visa, then we should be able to get a residency permit, and with that our daughter should be able to legally attend a regular Japanese elementary school, right? If that works out, it would be ideal, I think.

The language school we originally contacted was GenkiJACS in Fukuoka. They told us they could help me and my wife to get student visas but that they couldn't act as guarantors for our daughter's dependent visa. At first, I understood that it wasn't possible to bring a dependent on a student visa, but what the lady at the consulate explained was that some language schools may be authorized to act as guarantors for their students' dependents and other schools may not be able/don't want to do that. So, she suggested we keep looking for a school that will maybe be willing/able to act as guarantor for our daughter's visa as well our own.

Any suggestions for a good language school? Any place in the country would be fine for us, except maybe not Tokyo, just because we'd rather live someplace a little smaller and lower cost of living.