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Jesse Kerstetter - Odate, Akita (2006-2010)

Updated: May 13, 2021

Where were you in Japan as a JET and when?

I lived and taught in Odate City, Akita-ken from 2006-2010

What sparked your interest in applying for the JET program?

I was going to University to be a teacher and unsure about wanting to teach in the U.S. I had some friends who were already in the program. Their stories and my own desire to do something new inspired me to apply.

What are some of the things your prefecture is known for? Ex. food, hotspots, etc.

Food-wise, Akita is known for kiritampo nabe, Hata Hata (an ocean fish), rice, sake, and a smoky pickle called iburi-gakko.

Culturally, it might be best known for a number of winter festivals and traditions including the Kamakura Matsuri in Yokote and the Namahage from Oga.

Also, Akita Inu are probably a quick association many people have with the prefecture. The famous Akita-inu, Hachiko, is actually from Odate where a similar statue to the one in Shibuya also stands.

Did you pick up any of the regional dialects? What are some of your favorite words or phrase?

I picked up a few, but because I started JET not knowing any Japanese, I didn’t really know I was picking up any region-specific phrases. One of my favorites is still “nda” which is just another way to say “soudesu”. It felt good to understand what someone was saying and be able to reply “nda, nda, nda”

I also like the Akitaben for “tabete,” or eat, which was just Ke.

Lots of Akitaben and the general Akita accent was clipped and shortened. People said it was so that people wouldn’t lose too much hot air speaking in the winter.

If you were to return to live in Japan, would you choose to live in that same prefecture?

Absolutely. Akita is incredibly endearing and I think there’s something there for everyone. While a lot of the prefecture is rural and remote, I think many of the people I met were proud of what the prefecture has to offer and eager to show you why it’s a great place to be. I think about it almost every day 10 years after I left.

How has your connection in relation to Japan changed since living in Japan?

I still feel very connected to Japan and the friends and memories I built there. While I do not work in a field directly connected to Japan, I have found ways to find connection. Currently, I’m on the board of the New England JET Alumni Association, and I’ve had a few occasions at my current organization in Boston to support the Fish Family Foundation’s Japanese Women’s Business Initiative.

This interview is part of a partnership between the Japan Society Boston (JSB) and the United States Japan Exchange & Teaching Programme Alumni Association (USJETAA) in which JET alumni contribute short interviews about their experiences in Japan in each prefecture.

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