Author Archives: Roland

Letter to New Kumamoto JETs

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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, 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 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

JLPT Grant for JET Participants

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CLAIR is now providing grants to JET Programme participants who pass Level 3 (N3) of the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). This grant is only available to JET participants in their first three years. This grant is only applicable for tests taken starting this summer (no tests taken before April 1, 2016 are eligible for the grant).

You can read more information about this grant on the JET Programme website:

Earthquake Updates (Day 2)

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(E-mail at 6:45 AM)
Good morning Kumamoto,

At 1:25AM, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake hit Kumamoto, centered around Kumamoto City Higashi-ku and Mashiki. There has been damage reported in Kumamoto City, Mashiki, Uto, Yatsushiro, and Minamiaso areas. The tsunami warning that accompanied the first earthquake has now passed. Similar to the earthquake on Thursday evening, aftershocks have continued throughout the early morning hours.

Thank you to all the JETs to responded to us or their tantoshas about their safety in the middle of the night. It made our job a lot easier to make sure that everyone was taken care of.
Continue reading

Earthquake Updates

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On Thursday, April 14 at 9:26 PM, a 6.4 earthquake hit Kumamoto, with its epicenter in Mashiki Town. Aftershocks from the initial earthquake lasted throughout the night and into the next day. There have been reports of damage across the prefecture, mainly centered in Mashiki and Kumamoto City. There was no tsunami risk reported with the earthquake and its subsequent aftershocks. Continue reading

JET Programme Video Contest – Spring/Summer

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CLAIR is holding a JET Programme Video Contest to help mark the 30th anniversary of the JET Programme in 2006. While it is labeled as a “Spring/Summer” contest, the rules are similar to the previous contest and does not necessarily need to be Spring/Summer themed. Current and former participants can submit videos. The contest theme is: “Japan’s Local Communities as experienced by JET Programme Participants”. Award winning videos will receive tickets for free travel within Japan.

Submissions will be accepted until August 10th, while online voting is open from June 1st to August 31st. Please visit the official contest website for more information. Good luck!

Greetings from Matsuda-sensei

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As of April 1st, Harada-sensei has returned back to junior high school (we wish him all the best!) and has been replaced in the International Affairs Division with Matsuda-sensei, who will be the new Japanese PA.

Here are a few words of self-introduction from Matsuda-sensei:


Hello! I’m Keishi Matsuda, new Japanese PA from this April. I had been teaching English in high schools for 13 years until last March. My work here is completely different from what I have done before, but I’ll do the best that I can for the JET Programme with Roland. Also having taught in various kinds of schools, I can give you some relevant advice if you need it.

I had many ALT friends in my twenties. Most of my English has come from them, but words are changing every day. Through this job, I will make efforts to improve my English to help you and express myself correctly. “I help you” means “you help me!” Let’s help each other to make our lives meaningful in Japan.

I was one of the “Rocky Wings”, which was a student exchange programme between Montana and Kumamoto. Now I’m fairly surprised to work next to the State of Montana Japan Trade Office!

I’m looking forward to meeting all of you, ALTs and CIRs. And all tantoshas too, of course! See you soon!

JLPT: July 2016

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If you are studying Japanese and would like to test your Japanese proficiency, look no further than the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test). The first test in 2016 will be held on Sunday, July 3rd, and the application period has already began. Those interested in taking the test have until April 28th to register. Registration is available both online and by mail, and costs 5,500 yen. For more information about the application process and the test itself, please visit the official JLPT website.

Kumamoto Governor Elections

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The elections for the next governor of Kumamoto were held on Sunday, March 27.

The candidates were:

  • Daisuke Terauchi, a lawyer
  • Ikuo Kabashima, current governor of Kumamoto running for his third term
  • Seiji Koyama, former three-term mayor of Kumamoto City (2002-2014)

The results are as follows:

  • Ikuo Kabashima – 504,931 (68%)
  • Seiji Koyama – 201,951 (27%)
  • Daisuke Terauchi – 33,955 (5%)

51.01% of eligible voters participated, an increase of 12.57% from the last election in 2008. Continue reading

Kumamoto Population Data from National Census

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Here is some information about the population of Kumamoto Prefecture and its cities, towns, and villages. All this data was compiled from the National Census that took place last October. Your city, town, or village may also have population data on their websites.

You can find more information, such as specific data for each city, town, or village in the official report from the prefecture on the Kumamoto Prefecture website (Japanese only).

National Data
National Population: 127,110,000 people (decrease of 947,000 people – 0.7% down)
Number of Households: 53,403,000 households (increase of 1,453,000 households – 2.8% up)

Kumamoto Data
Kumamoto Population: 1,786,969 people (down from 1,817,426 people in 2010, decrease of 30,457 people – 1.7% down)
Number of Men: 841,042 people
Number of Women: 945,927 people
Number of Households: 704,497 households (up from 688,234 households in 2010, increase of 16,263 households – 2.4% up) Continue reading

Kumamoto Cherry Blossoms

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一心行の大桜の写真As of March 16, forecasts that the cherry blossoms in Kumamoto will begin to open on Wednesday, March 23 and full bloom is expected on Saturday, April 2.

The Japan National Travel Organization also has a very handy English site with background information on the cherry blossoms, such as the various types of blossoms you can find and a guide on “how to hanami” (cherry blossom viewing).

Here’s a table of some of the more famous spots for cherry blossoms in Kumamoto. As always, it’s not a comprehensive list, so don’t worry, you can easily find great spots closer to where you are in Kumamoto as well (they may even be less crowded!). This list will be updated with more information as it becomes available, please feel free to send in any suggestions you have for more sights to view cherry blossoms! Continue reading