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Teresa Fong - Tokyo (2015 - 2020)

Where were you in Japan as a JET and when?

I was a 2015 - 2020 JET in Tokyo. I did all five years as a full-fledged unicorn in a private junior and senior high school in northern Tokyo.

What sparked your interest in applying for the JET program?

I had the most wonderful Japanese teachers and classmates at Brandeis University. After studying abroad with their encouragement and getting a taste of what life in Japan was like, I wanted to experience more. I knew studying in Japan was different than working there, so I applied to find the differences! At that point, I decided to switch careers from health policy to international education, so it made 100% sense.

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

Tokyo is known for being the "it spot" for everyone visiting Japan. There's a great dichotomy in the city. From Michelin-starred restaurants that can make your budget shake in fear to ones with meals barely hitting ¥1,000. I personally love going to cozy cafes tucked between high-rises and if whenever possible, eating 7 levels of matcha ice cream.

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

We speak standard Japanese in Tokyo, but I have traveled to other areas where I attempted to (with difficulty!) learn some regional dialects. They felt so novel and reminded me of the time I was starting my language adventure. My new favorite words & phrases are "アラサー" meaning women around thirty as well as "引いちゃう" meaning "being put off."

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

I currently live in the same place I moved into in 2015! I live in a city in Saitama that's not the closest to central Tokyo, but it has everything I want. The apartment is a 2DK within an area with endless "無人販売所" or simply unattended areas locals sell their homegrown vegetables. I get to have a balance of city and suburban vibes, which is so helpful especially during this 4th state of emergency. If I were to move, I'd probably go to Hachioji since it's a few steps away from hiking spots and valleys you can swim in!

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

I have such a large community here in Japan that it's hard to think of how my life would be without ever living here. My partner is from the States, but we met here in Tokyo. My close friends are from all over the place but we're all working in Tokyo. I am gaining experience for my third career switch right here in Tokyo. Every time someone asks me how long I'll be here, I say "Perhaps two more years," but that number never changes even as time passes.

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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