Interview by Chris Simmons
Recently the Spotlight made its way over to Yokohama. This beautiful inaka town is home to the most delicious tofu donuts as well as Ms. Emily Ellis, who is just as sweet. Find out more about Emily in this week’s interview.
Why did you choose to join JET?
JET is the adventure I had always dreamed of post-college. I think a lot of college graduates and twenty-somethings in general go through a stage of “self exploration” or a desire to defy the 9-5 office norm. That aspect about JET was a big attractor. As a public policy major in college, I also developed a profound interested in education policy and thought JET would be a fun, real-life, comparative policy experiment. Plus, cute Japanese children?! How can you say no?!
The main reason I joined JET, though, was for personal ties to Japan. I’m half Japanese but culturally American. I really longed for more exposure to the Japanese culture and language. So much so, in fact, that I requested a countryside town in Aomori Prefecture! Yokohama-machi definitely answered that request!
What do you hope to gain from JET?
Perseverance, since living in the countryside for two years with the language barrier has not always been easy! I also want to become a better teacher, learn Japanese, make great friends, and eat a LOT of delicious food!
What are your plans after JET?
I will probably apply to graduate schools for education policy programs back in the States.
How long do you plan on staying in Japan?
Two years in JET, but I want to return in the future! Maybe I will come back in ten years or so and live here for another couple of years. That would be awesome.
Do you participate in any clubs or extracurricular activities/hobbies?
Yes! Soccer! I play soccer 2-3 times a week up in Mutsu city. I also love hiking, driving around the countryside, and currently have a long winter reading list to keep me preoccupied this winter!
What are a few things you like about Japan?
The food, the cleanliness, the general respectfulness for others, and ONSEN! I went to a ryokan in Misawa last weekend, and it makes me want to go every weekend.
What are a few things you dislike about Japan?
- Sometimes at school, teachers seem a bit stuck in their tradition, even if tradition might not be the most effective way.
- How limited land-traveling options are. JR is a monopoly and they suck the money out of me for shinkansen rides to see my grandmother in Tokyo! (Night buses are cheaper, but they take SO much time for a three day weekend).
What do you miss the most from your hometown/country?
Cheesy, unhealthy things. Nachos and cheesy burritos. With lots of cheese.
What was it like growing up in your hometown?
Springfield is a suburb of DC, so there was a lot of traffic, a lot of people, and a lot of buildings. But, there is also a decent amount of space for outdoor activities. I played soccer about four times a week and during the summers my friends and I would play in my treehouse, do swim team, and explore the woods at the end of my street.
What are your family and siblings like?
My dad is an actuary, a math researcher, and teaches math at George Mason University once a week. As you might imagine, he’s a bit nerdy, but all kinds of funny. He liked to tell math jokes to my friends after soccer games (and still does). We also watch movies, go on road trips, and hike together.
My mom is my best friend. She’s more introverted, which works out nicely with my talkative personality! She seems like a very polite Japanese woman, but if you come over to my house you might see her yelling at the TV when UNC’s basketball team makes a bad pass.
My two older brothers are mean. JK! Well, they used to gang up on me as a child, but now we have a nice camaraderie. They are both engineers and enjoy rock climbing on the weekends. One is moving to Seoul, which will be so fun to visit! Maybe you all will get to meet him when he visits Aomori.
Do you have any interesting or embarrassing stories about adjusting to Japanese culture?
I accidentally said “tonkatsu ramen” instead of “tonkOtsu ramen.” I wouldn’t have thought it was that embarrassing, except a classroom full of 30 students were howling with laughter.
Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?
Read more, study more, get back in shape.
How did you spend your winter break?
I traveled to Okinawa, Taiwan, Osaka, Washington D.C., and Tokyo. I’m still recovering from travel exhaustion.
ski or snowboard?
Both! At the same time!
pray for summer or pray for powder?
have a traditional Japanese breakfast or toast and coffee?
Traditional Japanese breakfast!
pass-out in front of the heater or under the kotatsu?
In front of the heater! My legs get all hot and sticky under the kotatsu, as nice as it is.