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Sarah Baughn - Ishikawa (2019-2021)

Where were you in Japan as a JET and when?  

I was in Japan as a JET from 2019-2021 (the COVID years). I was a JET in Suzu City, Ishikawa. 

What sparked your interest in applying for the JET program? 

I ended up working for the Japan-America Society of Georgia and JapanFest Atlanta after graduating from Oglethorpe University. I had taken a Japanese literature class in college, but after becoming familiar with Japanese culture in my work, I really enjoyed the cultural outreach aspects to rural communities in Georgia. I was also teaching piano (I worked about three jobs at the time, somehow) and thought that the JET Program would be a fantastic opportunity to develop both my teaching skills and general cultural outreach ability. 

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

Ishikawa is known for a lot of things, but I think in particular the nature stands out to me. “Between the mountains and the sea” is a common phrase, which was true and described the area very well. I was always within a ten-minute drive of mountains and the ocean, which I loved. The seafood is also absolutely fantastic. 

In addition, the Noto peninsula is known for its incredible kiriko festivals. The fire and violence festival took place in the town next to mine and the many festivals I attended in my first summer before COVID were absolutely incredible. July-August in Noto was such an incredible time, and I would love to return for those two months just for fun and to enjoy the constant local festivals. 

[For more, check out JSB's online event, Abare Matsuri: The Festival of Fire and Violence, hosted by our staff and fellow JET alum, Ian Malloy]

If you can rent a car, I highly recommend driving around the Noto peninsula if you get the chance. The nature is so beautiful, with many highways that are directly between the mountains and the ocean, and I think it’s a super enjoyable drive (that I had to do so many times that I can tell you that it takes about three hours under normal driving conditions, longer if you want to do the super scenic route). 

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

I did! I learned Japanese almost entirely in Japan through self-study. I’m slightly afraid to speak it now in professional contexts because I think my Japanese is probably too rural for the political and business contexts I find myself in. I primarily use my Japanese for reading fiction books or listening to music now, honestly. 

I use ぼれた boreta instead of 壊れた kowareta for example, which is Suzu-ben. びっちゃ biccha instead of 違うchigau occasionally as well. There are probably several other aspects of my Japanese that are Suzu-ben instead of the traditional accent that I remain unaware of. My favorite おやじギャグ oyaji gyagu (dad joke) is: 珠洲市は涼しい Suzu-shi wa suzushii. This was universally disliked by most Japanese people I told it to. 

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

I love Suzu and the rest of Noto very deeply, it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever had the privilege to live in. I wish I could say I’d still live in Suzu, but as I work at a research center now and would like to continue doing fairly specific work, I do not see myself returning. If my career could be supported by living in Suzu, I would absolutely return there. I hope one day I can return to see it rebuilt from the recent earthquake! 

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

I still feel very connected to Japan! I hang out with many Japanese government members who are studying in my graduate program, I cook Japanese food about as often as I cook American food, and I generally live my life in a pretty different way now than I did before. 

I stay in contact with some of the JETs I met in Ishikawa during that time, as well as a keeping up on social media with a few people who live in Suzu, but the time difference has honestly made it very difficult. 

My first experience with snow was in Suzu, and now living in Boston in the winter I find that my life in here in Boston is more similar to my life in Suzu than it ever was to my life in Atlanta. Also I started learning how to play Koto in Japan and I’m looking for a group or a teacher to continue with that. Finally, I'd like to ask you to consider donating to the fundraisers helping Noto recover from the earthquake on January 1st, 2024. It’s a beautiful part of Japan that really could use the help. 

The United States-Japan Foundation and its US-Japan Leadership Program is raising funds for recovery and relief efforts around the Noto Peninsula, following the magnitude 7.6 earthquake that struck New Year's Day.

They will match all contributions made through the page below up to $25,00 All donations go to Peace Winds America, a leading organization in the relief efforts.

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