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Stephanie Simpson-White - Toyama-shi, Toyama (2006-2009)

Where were you in Japan as a JET and when?

I was an ALT at Yuho High School and Toyama Prefectural Deaf School in Toyama-shi, Toyama Prefecture from 2006 to 2009. 

What sparked your interest in applying for the JET program?

I was a Japanese Language and Literature major at Tufts University, so the JET Programme was the natural next step for me after I graduated. I had already spent a year in Japan, studying abroad at Kanazawa University, and I knew I wanted to return.

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

Oishii Mizu represent! The snows from the Japanese Alps provide the area with fresh, pure water, which feeds the paddies that grow delicious rice and is brewed into excellent sake. Of course Japan overall is known for sushi and sashimi, but even within Japan the fish from Toyama in particular is among the very best. Local culinary specialties include masu no sushi (pressed box sushi wrapped in bamboo leaves), hotaru ika (firefly squid), kan-buri (yellowtail), and shiro ebi (white shrimp). Notable sightseeing locations are the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, the Kurobe Dam, Shomyo Falls (Japan's tallest waterfall), Gokayama Gasshouzukuri Village (a World Heritage Site), Toyama Castle Park, and the town of Yatsuo when it hosts the annual Owara Kaze no Bon festival.

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

I did, which is funny because I didn't particularly set out to learn Toyama-ben, but discovered I had absorbed some quite by accident. And to this day it pops out sometimes without my noticing! 富山行かんまいけ?

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)

Hmm... I think if I were to return to live in Japan, I would probably want to be in Osaka or somewhere in Kansai. But I would definitely want to be able to visit Toyama. A part of my heart will always reside in the Hokuriku region. There are many similarities to New England, which makes it an easy place to live for me.

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

Since returning, every job I've held or company I've worked for has had at least some connection to Japan. I've also been active in my local JET Alumni and Japan America Society chapters. Before Covid-19, I would visit Japan once a year to attend events, and I still work as an interpreter occasionally in my free time. My connection to Japan has never strayed far, and I don't imagine that will change anytime soon!

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.

Visit the main JSB website: Check out JSB's "My Japan Journey" Podcast:

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