So I’ve come to the realization that although this blog was intended for friends and family, prospective, current, and former JET ALTs might also find something of interest on this site.  This entry will be dedicated to our preparation before departure for Tokyo.

Breathing Room

When we found out about our acceptance into the program, Julie and I decided to spend June and July with friends and family.  Since I was teaching at a high school, where we always have June (most of it anyway) and July off, this wasn’t a very difficult plan to put into motion.  After some reflective meditating and shrewd financial analysis, we decided to drive across the U.S. with planned visits in Idaho, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.  Our exploits are chronicled in other entries on this site.

Before we embarked on our road trip we moved out of our apartment and put the vast majority of our material possessions into long-term storage.  Taking care of this early was a huge weight off our back.  We highly recommend it.  It also gave us an opportunity to come up with a first draft of what we thought would be good to pack to Japan, create this blog before our arrival in Aomori, and get our priorities in order. 

Back to Work

Our road trip ended up taking about a month and we arrived back in Oregon refreshed and ready for work.  First, after attending the JET Q & A session and talking with some former ALTs, we decided we needed to buy stuff, repack, and send some personal items through the mail. 

You will receive plenty of information and suggestions for what to bring, ship, or leave behind.  We packed four suitcases mostly full of formal and casual clothes, toiletries, and gifts for the people we’ll be working with.  Julie and I went for edible gifts created locally in Oregon.  Each of our supervisors and principals will receive a jar of honey or jam and the teachers we work with will either enjoy a bag of salted hazelnuts or saltwater taffy in the office.

Other things we bought during this time include:

  • slip-on shoes (indoor and outdoor, formal and casual)
  • International Driving Permits
  • clothing (formal, socks, undershirts)
  • long underwear for the cold Noheji winters
  • toothpaste (no fluoride in Japanese toothpaste)
  • deodorant (no antiperspirant in Japan) 
  • thousands of stickers (for students)
  • stamps (also for students)
  • haircuts (gotta look sharp)

We also scheduled appointments with our dentist and informed our bank, cell phone provider, and insurance companies that we’d be leaving the country.  Since we moved out of our apartment a month earlier, all of the stuff above only took a handful of days to complete.

Shipping Experience

Julie and I followed the advice of former ALTs in Northern Japan and shipped winter clothes ahead of time.  We also packed these boxes with a handful of books from our favorite authors, extra toiletries, and a few goodies (our favorite snacks and a Christmas tree ornament). 

Everything fit into three 16 X 16 X 18 boxes.  We wanted to ship these through surface mail (30 – 45 days to Northern Japan), but found that the U.S. Post Office no longer provides that service.  After some research we discovered that Nippon Express is the only company that still uses surface mail to Japan in the Portland area.  Even that is still expensive (about $100 a box).

We took what we thought were three large, heavy boxes to Nippon Express only to find out that they were small and light compared to what they normally ship.  After some thought, Julie and I decided to get an estimate from a post office for air mail and compare prices.  It turns out if we sent them through priority mail we would save $10 and receive the packages 2-4 weeks sooner and that’s exactly what we did.  The moral of the story:  if you send multiple boxes compare air mail and surface mail costs beforehand.  Also, had we known more about how pricing works, we probably could have consolidated our boxes in order to take advantage of surface shipping the way it was intended.  Anyway, it worked out.

What are we doing now?

Mostly relaxing with friends and family now that most of the work is done.  However we’re also finding time to put together introductory lessons (printing and organizing photos of home and preparing question cards for students) and learning a little more survival Japanese.  Although I’m sure we’ll look back on this summer later and think about what we could have done differently, so far it’s work out nicely.  We highly recommend taking care of your material possessions early so the inevitable last minute preparations are more manageable.

Prospective ALTs:  Was this entry helpful?

Current/Former ALTs:  What did you do differently?  Any advice for these next few days in the U.S.?

Friends/Family:  Sorry for the dull entry.


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3 Responses to “Pre-Departure”

  1. violetismycolor Says:

    Hi, I am the mom of a JET, who left today via Seattle for Tokyo with that group. We live in Portland, but since she interviewed in NYC, she was in the A group and so had to leave out of an A city: Seattle. They did an afternoon event yesterday, before departing…meetings in the afternoon and then dinner at the house of the Japanese Consul in Seattle. They had to be at the airport 3 hours before flight time. They took a Northwest flight and Northwest allocated one line (and 3 agents) exclusively for the group’s check-in. Everything ran very smoothly.

    Good luck with your own JET experience.

  2. sarah austad Says:

    It sounds like you and Julie have your ducks in a row. What a great learning experience for you both. Enjoyed your blog as we haven’t talked to you in a while. It’s gorgeous here in Wisconsin. Enjoyed a wonderful church picnic and outdoor service at church yesterday. Take care. I have some busy days ahead of me this week.

  3. Great Aunt Jet Says:

    I am so happy you were able to spend a couple of hours at least in Stillwater en route to WI. If you tried to call on the return trip (I betcha didn’t!) we were at Dwayne’s great niece’s wedding in Libertyville, IL. Sounds like you have it all together. Sometime I will send you the name of our 4-H International Exchange student who lives in Tokyo with his wife and baby. He is your cousin Trevor’s age and works for Mitsubishi Co. Take care. Love, Jeanette

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