Interview by Peter Underwood
Jackson Hale is a first year JET Hale-ing (hehe) from Gonohe, who makes wonderful and occasionally musical appearances at events across the prefecture, and answers your dilemmas in our very own Forward All Inquiries. Get to know him a bit better in this month’s Spotlight!
Why did you choose to join JET?
Well, I really wanted to study Japanese in Japan. I do find that I want to study Japanese more than I study Japanese, but those are my personal struggles.
I want to work both in Japan and in America later down the road, so having some opportunity to feel like a part of the workplace was really important to me. I had felt that JET was the best program for that type of immersion, so I picked JET.
What do you hope to gain from your time on JET?
Well I want to find my own voice in Japanese. There are so many times where I am not confident that what I intend to say is the same as what I am capable of saying. And I think it is more than just language. I think Culture is usually the bridge between intended meaning and understood meaning. And my Japanese ability is just one level, I think. I don’t yet have the ability to code-switch like I do in English, where I can choose how I say things to fit the context in which I am saying them.
How long do you plan on staying in Japan?
3 years. But I would like to return after graduate school. Heck, if I can improve my Japanese I would like to go to grad school in Japan.
What extracurricular activities/hobbies do you participate in?
Well my main hobby I guess is video games. Video games are great, but the thing I like best about them is they give you a space to decompress in a relatively low stakes environment. But that’s also why I don’t like games like DOTA. There are people who play that game that just get real angry and mad, and they become their worst selves and that is no fun. I have a whole stressful life outside of my computer, you know?
I am a big reader too, but since coming to Japan I really haven’t read as much as I would like. I have been watching more TV, because it gives me something I can talk about with coworkers. Same with the news.
What are some things you like about Japan?
Number one is the food. It’s my favorite thing. I also like how diligent everyone is. Everyone struggles along together and puts their nose to the grindstone. I like that. And I like how there is lots of history and scenic views everywhere.
What are some things you like less about Japan?
Not really sure. I wish people didn’t think I was scary. And there are some coworkers who I think are pretty rude because I am not fluent in Japanese. But I don’t think that`s specifically a thing about Japan. I feel like it is pretty easy sometimes to not consider others having an inner intellectual and emotional life, especially if understanding them takes work, or if they look scary and don’t act in a familiar way.
What do you miss the most from your hometown/country?
I mostly miss Cracker Barrel. I would like to put my family up as a close second.
What was it like growing up in your hometown?
There were lots and lots of churches. I remember that every family crisis involved church. I grew up going to a Baptist church and a Church of Christ Church on alternate weekends. I remember retirees having houses with faux-wood paneled interiors, armchairs with blue tinted ashtrays in the cupholders, crosstiched messages about the merits of familial and spiritual love hanging framed in bathrooms. I think religion was probably like a class equalizer there.
What are your family and siblings like?
They are ok. I am closest to my mother, and she is super nice. My sister is also nice. I love my family, but I also believe love is the feeling you get when a person isn’t around, and you need them in your life more than anything. And then they come around, and you wish you were by yourself again.
I was raised by my mom mostly, so me and my mom have been each-other’s support for a long time. And my sister has had a hard life, so she is a pretty patient and understanding person.
I know you’re into your board games – what are your favourites?
So I feel like I like board games quite a lot, but I don’t play them as much as I wish. I love arbitrary sets of rules. I think that’s why I like games in general, really. But I really like games where the conversation between players changes the nature of the game. Me and my friends played the “Conquest of the Empire” in high school, which we all got into after “Axis and Allies”. We were all in the historical society and Mock Government, so we liked creating alliances and playing off of one another.
Now though I occasionally play a game called “Twilight Struggle”. It is a two player asymmetrical political strategy game. I really like it, but it is hard to get people to play because there are so many things happening at once and it gets a little confusing at first.
How do you feel about Aomori summers?
I didn’t get a full one last year. I remember there being a lot of bugs, and I remember me not being able to believe how hot my room was. But I also remember that I could take a cold shower with the windows open and drive with the windows down listening to The Eagles’ Take it Easy like a cool cool dude. So it could go either way.
Netflix or NHK?
Netflix. Although I do watch a fair bit of NHK too. I like the variety shows and the travel shows and the ghost stories.
Mos or McDonald’s?
McDonalds. Although if MOS had the McDonalds Monopoly promotion, I would choose MOS.
Surfing or Video Games?
Video Games. I don’t know how to surf. Unless you mean surf the net? I prefer to lazy river Netflix.