Tax Guide Corrections
There were some parts of the tax guide that were misleading.  I've corrected them and posted the new version here.  

Tax Guide for 2-5yr American JETs
2555-EZ, line 16
If the number you entered on line 15 is 1.000, the figure on line 16 should be 95,100.00.

Tax Guide for 1st yr American JETs
I changed the amount on line 17 of the 2555-EZ to $14,922.72 from $26,952.72. These are just arbitrary numbers, but the important thing to keep in mind is that you only report the income you earned IN JAPAN in 2012 on line 17 of the 2555-EZ. You write your JET net salary (#3 on the foreign earned income statement example shown in the GIH) AND and money you earned BEFORE JET in 2012 on line 7 of the 1040. 
Please, contain your excitement.  

The YOKA, Spring 2013
Is finally here!  Sorry for the delay.  This edition includes:
Festival on Fire, by Joe Fingerhut
The Mighty Rooster, by Mollee Reitz
Bittersweet, by Melissa Reed
Well, If Your Friends Jumped Off a Bridge...Would You?  by Ian Cruz
Spring pictures by Kaile Heng
This YOKA was also designed by Ian O'Kidhain.

Information for Non-reappointing JETs
If you are a non-reappointing JET, here are some documents to help you with the process of leaving JET and communicating with your successor.  These items have been sent to you via email, but we're also posting them here for your reference:
Table of Contents:  successor information, domestic affairs, money matters, Employment Information, Immigration Procedures, Parting Ways.
Please fill out this form and email it to your successor when you find out who your successor is.  The information in this form is just the bare essentials, so please do your best to pass on as much information as you can to your successor.  

Volunteering for Kumamoto Orientation
This is a call for help in welcoming the new JETs at the Kumamoto Prefectural Orientation, which will be held from August 14-16 at the International Center in Kumamoto City.  This year there will be 42 new JETs, including Kumamoto City JETs.  If you are interested in volunteering, please respond to this email by Monday, May 20.  Details on workshops and booths, as well as how to volunteer are below.  A rough draft of the orientation schedule is also attached.  This year’s orientation will be different in many ways from years past, and I’m super excited about it.  We would absolutely LOVE to have your help. 

We are looking for volunteers to help with 1) Interactive Booths, 2) workshops, and 3) the Kumamoto Orientation handbook. 

Interactive Booths
This is a new part of Kumamoto Orientation that I’m super excited about.  The key word here is “interactive”.  Each booth will have a theme and will have actual THINGS related to that theme.  For instance, the cooking booth could have actual vegetables and other Japanese foods; the Japanese Study booth could have JLPT study materials and study resources; and the trash sorting booth could have actual trash that new JETs can try sorting.  In addition to providing important information about various topics, these interactive booths also give new ALTs an opportunity to build their social network by getting to know their sempai JETs.

Each booth will have a table (the width of three chairs) and up to three chairs. Each booth will be manned by one JET from 13:00-16:20 on Thursday, August 15, 2013.  Those manning a booth will also be asked to compile information about their topic into a document beforehand so it can be included in the Kumamoto Orientation handbook.  The International Affairs Division will send an official request to the contracting organizations of all ALTs running booths, so you will NOT have to take nenkyu to volunteer.  Here are the booth themes and a brief description (the descriptions are not final, and those manning the booths will be asked to re-write a brief description as they see fit): 

Booths and Descriptions:
  • Cleaning Products / Seasonal Housekeeping:  Learn how to care for your tatami, combat mold, use bathroom & kitchen products.  Tips for surviving summer, winter, rainy season
  • Appliances, Electronics, and Internet:  Learn how to use your water heater, washing machine, air conditioner, TV, rice cooker; info on internet providers
  • Bug Killer Products:  Eliminate mites, cockroaches, spiders, mosquitoes, gnats, centipedes, slugs
  • Trash Sorting:  Learn how to sort trash
  • Cooking in Japan:  Vegetable zoo, common and easy-to-make Japanese foods, recipes
  • Driving:  To drive or not to drive?  To buy or lease?  Advice related to all things automotive
  • Sightseeing & Tourism:  What to do while in Kumamoto.  Pamphlets, specialty products & crafts from each region of the prefecture/other parts of Kyushu. 
  • Japanese Language Study:  Study books & methods, JLPT
  • Health:  Physical, dietary, mental, spiritual, sexual health; women’s health; health care in Japan
  • Classroom Games:  Get more ideas/materials for games
  • KumAJET:  Learn about AJET and KumAJET, events, sempai-kohai program
  • Hi, Friends Teaching Materials:  Learn how to use the Hi, Friends software and teaching materials for elementary school classes. (projector provided)
  • The 職員室:  Find out what is where in the teachers’ room; learn how to read the papers on your desk and the chalkboard; learn work-relevant kanji
  • Emergency Preparedness:  Emergency packs. Past disasters in Kumamoto and Japan. Register at your home country’s embassy

Learn more about each area in the prefecture. 

Also check out this guide to Kuma-ben in English.  The grammar is very similar to Kumamoto-ben. 

Looking for something to do?  Check out this fantastic list of recommendations by Kumamoto City JET Chris Ott.  Thank you Chris! 

Kumamoto Prefecture records the level of PM 2.5 throughout the prefecture and gives hourly updates on their website:

In order to give new ALTs a chance to attend all the workshops they want to, I’ve organized workshops in a round-robin format.  Each workshop will be 30 minutes long, and be presented 3 times.  Given this format, the number of JETs attending a workshop at any given time will probably not exceed 10 or so.  As much as possible, workshops should be FOCUSED, and emphasize acquiring PRACTICAL SKILLS.  Video and other methods of SHOWING new JETs are also highly encouraged.  Workshops should avoid being just lectures.  (New JETs get talked to a lot at Tokyo Orientation; I’d like Kumamoto Orientation to be more about doing things and engaging with people).  For instance, the Etiquette workshop could have an actual mock enkai (this was done at last year’s KO and was a huge success), the Teaching Phonics workshop could show video of an actual phonics lesson, and the Long-term Curriculum building workshop could guide new ALTs in making a long-term curriculum of their own there and then. 

In addition to presenting, workshop presenters will also be asked to submit slides/presentation materials beforehand to be included in the Kumamoto Orientation handbook.  Workshops will also be videotaped and posted on the Kumamoto JETs website.  Some workshops target specific types of ALTs and therefore should be presented by those types of ALTs.  The International Affairs Division will send an official request to the contracting organizations of all ALTs presenting a workshop, so you will NOT have to take nenkyu to volunteer.  Here are the workshop topics:
  • Teaching Phonics   (target audience: ES ALTs)
  • Classroom Management   (target audience: everyone)
  • Special Education   (target audience: everyone)
  • Long-term Curriculum Building   (target audience: ES and SHS ALTs)
  • History of Kumamoto*   (target audience: everybody)
  • Office and Enkai Etiquette   (target audience: everybody)
*the History of Kumamoto workshop will be 1 hour long and be presented only twice.

Kumamoto Orientation handbook
The Kumamoto Orientation handbook will have information on topics not explicitly covered during Kumamoto Orientation.  I would like help compiling information to include in this handbook.  Anybody may contribute to the handbook regardless of whether or not they are attending Kumamoto orientation or even reappointing.   Here are some additional topics I’m hoping to include in the handbook:
  • Public transportation and travel*
  • Finance*:  Bills, sending money home, How to use an ATM, How to save money
  • Elementary school recess games
  • Understanding the Japanese Education System*
  • Japanese school year at a glance: a calendar of events and how ALTs can participate/contribute to each activity.
  • Map of recommended places to eat for lunch/dinner in downtown Kumamoto City:  So ALTs have good leads on where to eat for the 3 days of Kumamoto Orientation. 
  • Handbook cover:  If you are artistically inclined, please consider designing the handbook cover.  
*materials for these topics already exist, but need to be updated and in some cases made relevant to Kumamoto. 

How to Volunteer
If you are interested in helping to welcome the new JETs to Kumamoto, we would LOVE to have your help.  To volunteer, please email by Monday, May 20 with a numbered list of up to 5 booths/workshops you would like to do, as well as a clear description of what you will cover and how.  If you are interested in compiling information for the handbook, please mention that as well.  Here is an example of how to reply:

1st choice:
Teaching Phonics workshop
Description:  I will cover blah blah by doing sha la la.

2nd Choice:
Cooking in Japan booth
Description:  I will bring nantoka and nantoka and even this nantoka.

3rd Choice:
Trash sorting booth
Description:  I will bring such and such, and ALTs will be able to do this and that. 

4th Choice:
History of Kumamoto workshop
Description:  I will cover la la tee da la tee da la.

5th Choice:
Classroom Management workshop
Description:  I will talk about shoo be doo bop and show a video of myself managing class like a boss.

-I am also willing to compile information on Understanding the Japanese Education System.

I look forward to working with everyone to welcome the new JETs to Kumamoto!

Getting your Japanese Driver's License
If you spend more than one year in Japan, you cannot drive legally without a Japanese Driver's License.  Even if your International License has not yet expired, you have one year from the original date on your Japanese visa to convert your foreign license into a Japanese one.
Converting a foreign license is a long and tedious process, but with some patience and a little luck it can be done relatively painlessly. Everyone must collect the required documents beforehand, spend several hours completing paperwork at the Menkyo [License] Center, and take an eye test, which costs ¥2400. An additional fee of ¥2050 is collected with each license conversion. JETs with American, South African, Indian, Jamaican, Singaporean or Chinese licenses also need to take a written test and a driving test.  

STEP 1 -  Check that your home country’s license meets certain specific criteria.
It must sa
y “date of issue” or “issue date.”  The date of issue must be at least three months prior to your arrival in Japan.

If your home license uses a different term to refer to the date you received your license or if it does not include this information at all, you will need to obtain a letter from the licensing center in your home country (state/province) stating the date when your license was issued.

If you renewed your license within three months of coming to Japan, you will need to obtain a driving record or letter from the licensing center in your home country (State/Province) stating the date when your first driver’s license was issued.

If you received a license for the very first time within three months of coming to Japan, you will not be able to convert to a Japanese license and will need to obtain a Japanese license from the start (i.e. by attending driving school) in order to drive in Japan.

STEP 2 -  You will need to get your home country’s license officially translated into Japanese.
can only be done at your country’s consulate or the Japan Automobile Federation (JAF). In Kumamoto, it’s easiest to go with JAF. The translation costs ¥3000 and you can get it by mail or in person at the JAF office. Either way, download the application form

By mail (takes one week): send the application form, copy of home license (front and back, in color, and blown up so it is easy to read), and the ¥3000 fee plus ¥380 return postage by genkin kakitome (registered mail for cash) from any post office to the following address:

6-30-30 Nagaminehigashi, Higashi-ku, Kumamoto-shi  〒861-8038

〒861-8038  熊本市東区長嶺東 6-30-30

In person (takes about an hour): take the application form, your home license, and the 3000 fee to the JAF office. It is located where Dai 1 Kuko Dori (#1 Rd to the Airport) passes under the Kyushu Express way.

If you had to get a letter from your home licensing center, you will likely need to pay to get that translated, as well. Call JAF (096-380-9200) to inquire about the process and fees. JAF can only do certain translations, so you might have to go through your consulate.

STEP 3 -  You will also need to prove that you were physically present in the country where the license was issued for more than 3 months after it was issued.
Ideally, this can be done by looking at the stamps in your passport. You may be asked to make a list of the trips you’ve taken and show the page numbers of the stamps that match each border crossing. Make the list in advance to save time. However, if there is an exit or entry stamp missing - many countries do not stamp passports these days – your passport alone will not be sufficient. The simplest way for most people to prove they were present in their home country is to provide university transcripts or a reference letter from a previous employer with dates that show you were there for 3 months. Though the Menkyo Center prefers an original, it is possible to use a photocopy of your transcripts or a reference letter from your JET application if it has an official stamp of authentication (genponshoumei (原本証明) in Japanese) from your Contracting Organization.  Finally, if you use a reference letter, this must also be translated into Japanese (doesn’t have to be an official translation, though).
STEP 4 - Make an appointment and go take the test!
The menkyo center can only take 2-3 non-Japanese residents a day, so make sure to ask your tantosha to call and make an appointment for you.  
The number is 096-233-0116.  Make sure your tantosha has your passport and foreign license in hand when she/he calls, as the menkyo center will ask for the date of issue and date of expiry on both items.  

Applications for transferring licenses are only accepted between 9:30AM and 11:00AM Monday – Friday. The license transfer process is called 外国免許切替(がいこくめんきょきりかえ) in Japanese.  Reservations can be made up to 3 months before your international driver's permit is set to expire. 

When you go to the Menkyo Center, bring the following documents and items:

- Passport

- University Transcripts or Letter of Reference (original or authenticated photocopy) showing that you lived in the country for at least 3 months at some point after you received your license

- Valid Foreign Drivers License

- JAF Translation of Foreign Drivers License

- [An International License is not required, but if you have one it’s not a bad idea to bring it.]

- Residence Card

- Residence Record (住民票) (available at your town office)

- Inkan

- 2 Passport photos (or they can be taken at a booth at the Menkyo Center when you get there)

- Fee money: ¥2200 (if you are applying for an ordinary, Class 1 automobile license.  The application fee for moped licenses is ¥1500.  The application fee for a motorcycle license is ¥3050.)  plus ¥2400 (and ¥700 for the photo booth if necessary)
NOTES:  Everything related to the procedure is conducted in Japanese.  If you do not understand and speak Japanese, you need to bring someone to interpret for you. (In general, a 3kyu level ability or higher will suffice).  

The driving test for motorcycles is only conducted on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  

You cannot take more than one driving test in one day.   

The Menkyo Center is in Kikuyo Town, just north of Kumamoto City.  It is on the same road as the Prefectural Athletic Park (Park Dome/KKWing). Buses leave from platform 14 of the Kotsu Center (main bus terminal) at 8:37, 9:13, 9:32, 10:05, and 10:40. They should say “driver’s license center” on the front.  When you arrive at the center, go up the stairs/escalator to the second floor and turn left. The office is on the left, down a small hallway just before the last set of help/payment windows.


According to the menkyo center, it takes an average of 3-4 times for the average non-Japanese resident to pass the practical driving test.  The practical test is difficult because they are very particular about certain things. To improve your chances of passing on the first try, we STRONGLY recommend going to a driving school to take a few lessons.  You can reserve 50 min. slots with an instructor at a driving school who will sit with you in the car and give you advice while you drive around the course.   Spending some time and money before taking the test at a driving school will not only improve you chances of passing on the first try, it will also save you money in the long run, and potentially save you days of nenkyu as well. 

Toyofuku Driving School (豊福自動車学校、第2教習所), located near the menkyo center, is a good place to practice.  They charge 5,700 yen for 50 minutes, and are open 8:00-17:00 on weekdays, and 8:00-16:00 on sundays.  They are closed saturdays.  Reservations are required, so ask you tantosha to help you:  096-388-0509.  

There are other driving schools that offer similar services throughout the prefecture, so if you live far from the menkyo center check with your tantosha to see if there is a driving school nearby.  Good luck!

・If you have been to a good English-speaking doctor, please email the PAs about it.

・Good luck with the new semester of classes! 

Important upcoming dates:

・Starting in October - New ES/JHS ALT School Visits  
Upcoming Events:

・September 5 - Taco Night, 7PM at Tortacos, Kumamoto City
・September 26 & 27 - Ashikita Beach Party, Otachimisaki Park, Ashikita, check-in starts at 4PM
Area Guide


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