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Liz Brailsford - Joetsu & Myoko Kogen, Niigata (2004-2007)

Updated: Sep 17, 2021

Where were you in Japan as a JET and when?

I was an ALT in Joetsu-shi (prefectural high school ALT for two years) and Myoko Kogen (municipal junior high school ALT for one year) in Niigata 2004-2007.

What sparked your interest in applying for the JET program?

The opportunity to travel, experience the wonderful culture and food of Japan, and to see the moon from a different viewpoint. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do for my career and felt a bit aimless at that point, so this seemed like the perfect chance to explore and ponder my next era. I never regretted my choice and loved every moment in Japan - I soaked up every day like a sponge. What are some of the things your prefecture is known for? Ex. food, hotspots, etc.

Food, most specifically rice and sake! It's also a wonderful place to go snowboarding/skiing (Myoko Kogen) and has tons of farmland and snow. A really friendly area - the "midwest" of Japan. Did you pick up any of the regional dialects? What are some of your favorite words or phrases?

Being that Niigata is kind of like the midwest of Japan, it has a pretty standard dialect! But I love douzo, yoroshiku/yoroshiku onegai shimasu - simple phrases for which we here in America just don't seem to have an easy replica. I also love their saying ichi-go ichi-e; I have that in calligraphy and framed to this day.

If you were to return to live in Japan, would you choose to live in that same prefecture? (Or in your case you can talk about where you are living in Japan now)

Although Niigata remains nearest and dearest to my heart, I'm a city person and need the constant heartbeat of activity and opportunity so would live closer to one of the largest cities, probably Tokyo. It's centralized and easy to travel to beautiful countrysides if desired.

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

It has remained really strong! JET gave me the gift of wanting to work in international affairs for my career, and although my career hasn't been linear, the connecting thread has been international. Japan has always been in the picture in some form or fashion so have remained close by doing that and also working on several boards of Japan-related nonprofits. I've stayed tight with the JET alum community as well. Japan and JET is a constant gift.

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. This interview may be edited for clarity.

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