Letter to New Kumamoto JETs

Thanks for coming to our website. Perhaps you came across us through a Google websearch, a Facebook post, or just a message from a friend. Whatever the means, I appreciate you coming here and giving some of your time to read my letter.

Everyone has their own reaction to when they find out about their JET placement. You inevitably go through a variety of emotions as you try to balance your new placement versus your placement requests, expectations, and knowledge of Japan. For years, Kumamoto Prefecture has welcomed many JETs who have great experiences and fall in love with their placement and the prefecture.

However, as you may already be aware, on April 14 and 16, Kumamoto was hit by two major earthquakes, causing heavy damage. 49 people lost their lives as a result of the earthquake and as of May 11, 12,099 people are still currently staying in evacuation shelters. There have also been light to mild aftershocks following the main earthquakes.

I can understand if you are worried about coming to Kumamoto because of our recent earthquakes. Personally, I came to Japan the summer after the Tohoku Earthquake in March 2011. While I was placed nowhere near the disaster zones, friends and family, driven by news reports and accounts that focused on the damage in Tohoku continually questioned and worried about my decision to come to Japan so soon after the earthquake.

No doubt you as well as your family and friends have concerns about the safety of Kumamoto. Similar to Tohoku in 2011, most media outside of Japan may be focusing on the damage and difficulty of life after the earthquake. Of course it is important to document that side of things, we are still only just about a month past the earthquakes and just starting to recover and rebuild.

But that does not mean all of Kumamoto is a dangerous and difficult place to be. The amount of evacuees is less than 1% of Kumamoto’s total population. The estimated amount of homes damaged is only about 5% of Kumamoto’s total (with the number of homes that were at least half destroyed being less than 1%). Our expressway and trains opened up within weeks of the earthquake and the Kyushu Shinkansen now travels through Kumamoto with no problem. People are going back to work as stores, businesses, offices, and factories reopen. As of today, all the schools in Kumamoto have reopened as well, with children eager to get back to class, ready to learn and play with their fellow classmates.

Of course, there will some difficult aspects of life in Kumamoto for the near future. While you can get to anywhere you need to go, the roads may be a little longer or the trains will be a little slower. But you will get there. The things you may want to buy may take a little longer to get you. But you will get them. The road to recovery is not a race, but a marathon. Luckily, we have the support of many people, both inside and outside of Kumamoto Prefecture to make that road just a little bit shorter.

And there are some things about Kumamoto that will never change. We are still a prefecture full of delicious food, beautiful sights, and amazing people. For all the things we may have lost or were damaged in the earthquake, we have plenty more to spare while we work to rebuild and replace.

Kumamoto is much more than the disaster zones you may only be exposed to at the moment. We are not a prefecture of ruined homes, people living in their cars, with no access to supplies. Outside of those areas, life goes on as normal. For a great number of you coming to Kumamoto, this will be the case. But no one coming to Kumamoto will be placed into a situation that is adversely affected by the earthquake. Like any other incoming JET, you will have a safe place to live, great schools or offices to work at, and fantastic students, teachers, co-workers to meet.

And most importantly, I firmly believe that you will still have the opportunity to have a fantastic JET experience here in Kumamoto.

As you think about your decision to come to Kumamoto, I do hope you give it careful thought. Please think about the whole picture and your reasons for why you wanted to come to Japan in the first place. Despite the earthquakes, Kumamoto is still a place full of opportunity and possibility if you choose to take advantage of it.

This website, KumamotoJET.com is run by the Prefectural Advisors of Kumamoto Prefecture and contains a lot of information on living and working in Kumamoto. I invite you to take your time and browse around and see a little bit about life here.

In addition, back in 2014, we made a welcome video for our new JETs, filmed and edited by former Kumamoto JETs Joel Carter and Joost Van Steenderen. It features past and present Kumamoto JETs talking about different aspects of life and work in Kumamoto, as well as some advice for making your time on JET fruitful. Despite it being now two years old, the advice in it is still very much relevant and I do recommend giving it a viewing if you are curious about what is to come on JET.

If you have any questions or concerns about JET, Kumamoto, or anything else, feel free to reach out to the Kumamoto Prefectural Advisors at kumamotopa@gmail.com. We are more than happy to give our insight and opinions from here in Kumamoto.

Life is getting a little bit better day by day here in Kumamoto. We are all working hard towards a better future for Kumamoto. Hopefully you will choose to come and be a part of it.


Roland Carlos
Kumamoto Prefectural Advisor