Glossary

Just a collection of terms you’ll encounter on this site and within the JET/ALT community

Official Terms:
ALT: Assistant Language Teacher, the “official” title of 90% of JET participants (Occasionally you will see AET, assistant English teacher)

CIR: Coordinator of International Relations, the other 10% of JETs

JET Programme: The Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme. This is the program I came to Japan on. I took the scenic route with this program (I was rejected the first year I applied, and wait listed the 2nd) so if you want any JET words of wisdom, please feel free to comment on one of my posts and ask.

JTE: Japanese Teacher of English, the people you work with at school. (I’ve also seen JET, Japanese English Teacher, but that’s just confusing). Remember, just because they teach English doesn’t mean they speak it.

CO: Contracting Organization. Either the prefecture, the city/town, or sometimes just a school that your contract is with.

BOE: Board of Education, they sign the pay-stubs.

Municipal/Prefectural ALT: This boils down to who pays you. Municipals are employed by  their local city/town/village BOE while Prefecturals are employed by the Prefecture BOE. Generally, municipals work in elementary and junior high schools (and usually move around many schools within their town) while prefecturals are in high schools and have a base school and maybe a visiting school. This is not always the case, though, see next term for why.

Unofficial terms:
ESID: Every Situation is Different (aka YMMV: your mileage may vary), the unofficial motto of JET. The cop-out explanation for why workload, living situations, and life in general varies so greatly from JET to JET.

Human-tape-recorder: A term to represent the fact that many (if not most) ALTs aren’t so much teachers as they are a resource of correct pronunciation. And your JTE still might used the tape that came with the textbook over using you.

LBH: Loser Back Home, a social awkward foreigner who comes to Japan and gets Japanese friends and maybe even a reasonably attractive girlfriend based much more on his gaijin-novelty-ness than his personality. Usually used in reference to a male, though women certainly aren’t except from being an LBH.

Japanese Words
Nihon: (日本) The Japanese word for “Japan”. “Nippon” is a more emphatic, patriotic way of saying “Nihon”

Nihongo: (日本語) The Japanese word for “Japanese”. You can add “go” to many country names and it will mean that country’s language. Example: Furansu = France, Furansu-go = French.

Eigo: (英語) The English language

Sensei: (先生) Teacher, or master of something. So “Eigo no sensei” means “English Teacher”.

Gaikokujin, Gaijin: (外国人、外人) Foreigner. “Jin” means person, and “Gai” means outside. “Gaikokujin” (outside country person) is considered more polite.

Machi: (町) Town. Cities in Japan basically break down into “-shi, -市” (city), “-machi, -町” (town), and “-mura, -村” (village). My town of about 25,000 people is classified as a “machi”. Don’t be fooled, though, there are plenty of so called “cities” that have many more rice fields and mountains that people.

Inaka: (田舎) Rural area. Sometimes “inaka” can be a positive term referring to simple, country life, but usually it’s meaning is more akin to “the stick” or “the boonies”. Since the JET Program is all about “grassroots internationalization” and bringing English speakers to places in Japan they wouldn’t normally go, many placements are going to be out in the “inaka”. On the plus side, an inaka placement will provide beautiful scenery, and “inaka” JETs often get more job perks than their urban-based colleagues, such as low rent or a less stringent schedule. On the downside? You’ll probably be surrounded by little obaachans (grannies) and could be pretty far from the nearest decent sized city.

Daijoubu: (大丈夫) This means “okay” or “all right”, very handy

School/Work related Japanese Words:

Kocho, Kyoto: (校長、教頭) Kocho is the principal, and Kyoto (yes, like the city, but the “to” sound is longer) is the vice-principal. Generally, when you want time off, or want to leave early for some reason, you’ll be directed to one of these guys. The “kocho” is often a bit of a figure head, someone on the verge of retirement who mostly does speeches and goes to meetings, while the “kyoto” is actually doing most of the work.

kyushoku: (給食) School lunch. In grade school and junior high, kids serve and eat their lunch in their classroom. I was roped into eating with a different class every day, and while it’s fun with elementary students (in that they actually TALKED to me), eating with JHS students was always a bit awkward, and half the time, the teacher would forget I was eating with their class that day. If you want to eat with your JHS students, consider picking one class you like (doesn’t hurt to like the homeroom teacher, also) and eat with them every day.

taiikusai/undoukai: (体育祭、運動会) If you translate literally, taiikusai is “athletic festival” and undoukai is “exercise/athletic meet” but both refer to Sports Day, a day (typically a Saturday in September/October, but many also happen in the spring) where classes compete in various events. Some events are familiar (relays, 100m dash) other will make you go “What?”

bunkasai: (文化祭) Culture or Arts festival. Kids sing, dance, and put on various skits. At some schools, especially high schools, bunkasai is a big community event and may have things like goods for sale, or a farmer’s market.

nenkyuu: (年休) There are several words ending with “~kyuu -休” that means different types of leave. Nenkyuu is general personal leave. Byoukyuu (病休) is sick leave, daikyuu (代休) is time-off you’ve earned from working extra hours. There’s several other “~kyuu”s I’m sure, but these are the ones you’ll encounter the most.
*note* I mistakenly thought “study leave” was “kenkyuu” but it’s actually called “kenshuu”, not sure about the kanji. It basically allows JETs to take trips during the long school breaks without using nenkyuu, so long as they write up a report or presentation on what they learned. It’s not as common as it used to be since the system was easily abused, but JETs can try to get kenshuu for things like volunteer trips on a case-by-case basis.

shucchou, or shutchou: (出張) this is translated as “business trip” but it can be applied to any meeting or seminar that’s takes place anywhere other than one’s work place. So if you see this next to your teacher’s name one day, don’t assume they’re living it up in Osaka or anything, they’re most likely just at a meeting at a nearby school.

enkai: (宴会) a drinking party, generally one with your co-workers. These tend to be pricey affairs (usually between 4000 and 6000 yen, though I’ve heard of it getting closer to 10,000yen) and I’ve found the more expensive the enkai, the less edible the food is. However, it is a great opportunity to be around co-workers in a more casual and fun environment, and you may just learn that science teacher who sit across from you and never says anything actually speak decent English and knows all about recent rock music.

Japanese Names

Tokyo: The capital and largest city in Japan. Well, kinda. See, Tokyo is one of the “prefectures”, but within Tokyo prefecture are 27 “wards” which constitute the city of Tokyo, however each of those wards are run like their own individual cities. All you need to know is the general area is Tokyo, and there’s a lot of people.

Kanto: This literally means “East District”, and is the region of Japan that I lived in. There’s a lot of reference to “Kanto style” as oppose to “Kansai style” (The “West” District where Osaka and Kyoto are located).

Shinjuku, Shibuya: Two “wards” in Tokyo, this is like the downtown, Times Square area of Tokyo. Many blinking lights, kinda intimidating.

Saitama Prefecture: I have no idea how the Japanese word “ken” got translated into “prefecture”, but a prefecture is basically a state/province, and Saitama is the name of the prefecture I was placed. It’s directly north of Tokyo, and if I caught the right train, I could be in Downtown Tokyo in an hour. Can’t lie, it was pretty great.

Omiya: This is one of the wards in Saitama City, the prefectural capital of, you guessed it, Saitama Prefecture. It’s a popular meeting place for Saitama JETs because a lot of train lines come into Omiya. Plus considering how big is it, Omiya is an awesomely easy-to-navigate station, unlike certain other stations, like pretty much every major Tokyo train station.

Fuji-san: Mount Fuji. “San” means “mountain”, and conveniently enough, is a suffix that means “Mr/Mrs/Ms”. I could occationally Fuji-san from my town, it was impressive even from 75 miles away.

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