Hello, my name is Heather Jost! I have been the ALT at Akashi Kita Senior High School since August 2006. I have spent the last two years living and working in Japan and it has been quite an experience. Akashi Kita has been a welcoming school and I have greatly enjoyed my stay here. Before introducing more about our school, I would like to tell you more about myself.
I am from the United States and before coming to Japan I lived in New Mexico. I was born in Albuquerque and raised in a small town called Farmington. Did you know that the entire population of New Mexico is smaller than that of Tokyo, Japan? In New Mexico I also became accustomed to wide open spaces, desert heat (meaning almost zero humidity), and all the spicy Mexican food I could get my hands on. I grew up in a family that loved to travel, so I knew at a young age that I wanted to live abroad. Then towards the end of my college career at The University of New Mexico, I wasn't yet sure what I wanted to do with my degree in biology and chemistry.
You could say it was destiny then, when I met my future husband, Dylan. He was just about to leave for a year of study in Kyoto, Japan, and I was excited by the chance to visit somewhere new. In college I had taken various elective courses about Japan, including Japanese history and Japanese literature. It has always been a country of interest for me, but I never thought I would eventually come to live here. After my short three-week visit to see Dylan, though, I knew I wanted to see and experience more of what Japan had to offer.
That led us to applying for the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. After almost an eight-month application process, full of nerve-racking interviews and long waiting periods, we were informed that we'd soon be moving to Japan! We were very happy to discover that we'd also be living in the centrally located Hyogo Prefecture, which is an area close to cities such as Kobe, Osaka, and Kyoto. My luck grew even more when I learned the name of the school I'd be teaching at: Akashi Kita Senior High School!
About Akashi Kita high school
In Japanese, the name is g¾ÎkwZh. g¾h means bright or cheerful, gÎh means stone, and gkh means north. I'd have to say that name fits perfectly for this school. The just over 1000 students are very smart and always smiling, the school sits atop an elevated piece of land among rice fields and gardens with the famous Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in the distance, and the roof of the school is very distinct with a silver dome pointing to the sky. There is much that this school has to offer, and I am pleased to introduce it in English for people around the world to read.
Akashi Kita was founded in 1971 and it is one of five public high schools in the Akashi area. When translated to English, the school motto is: gIndependence. Cooperation. Creation.h
All students are required to wear uniforms, and school reputation and self-responsibility are very important. With all the rules, though, there is definitely no lack of personality. It's certainly not surprising why there are so many tears on graduation day. Students are together with their homeroom classes for all three years and the teachers move with their classes, so school becomes like a home away from home, with everyone working hard and with dedication.
There are currently 1,019 students enrolled, and in the last two years I have had all of them as first years in my Oral Communication class. I have had all sorts of kids come into my class; from the very smart, but shy student, to the tough, too-cool for school guy with more hair product than an American high school cheerleading team. At times it has been challenging trying to get the students to speak English, but overall I get great responses and students that are excited to practice. I try to keep a fun and relaxed classroom, so it's always rewarding when I get the students involved and actually enjoying themselves.
Outside of the classroom, Akashi Kita is well known for many reasons. I remember when first arriving and mentioning that I was working here, people would say gOh, Akashi Kita! They have a wonderful brass band!h
Indeed, the school's marching band has made quite the name for itself. Since high school in Japan is not compulsory, students have to take entrance exams and apply to their schools of choice. Akashi Kita has one of the highest numbers of students hoping to enter each year, and one reason is our award-winning marching band. Every day after school they practice for hours, providing everyone else with a soundtrack of trumpets, flutes and drums. I feel very privileged to have seen them march on more than one occasion here at school, for events like Sports Day and our Cultural Festival. Just this last January, the Akashi Kita Green Band went all the way to California to march in the 2008 Rose Parade. The kids were so excited to go to the US and I was very proud of them to have been awarded such an honor.
I would say that around 90% of the students at Akashi Kita participate in an after school club activity. Despite being busy with classes and studying, they are always around for hours after school, practicing whether it's raining or miserably hot and humid. Everyone tries very hard, they have a lot of fun, and I've seen a lot of talent in the time I've spent here. In the last couple of years, for example, our school's weight lifting club has grown and they have had great success in tournaments around the area.
One image associated with our school now is this illustrated owl, drawn by a student when she was a first year. I'm one of the teachers in charge of the English Speaking Society, or ESS club. I have a great bunch of students in my club and we have fun practicing English, watching movies, and listening to music. I have also really enjoyed participating in some of the Japanese cultural clubs, like flower arrangement and tea ceremony. Coming in June is the yearly Cultural Festival, or Bunkasai. It's a chance for the students to show off their talents to the whole school, and it always turns into a fun-filled and entertaining two days.
Overall, I have found living in Japan to be enjoyable and exciting. While pretty challenging at times, it has also been a great learning experience. I'm definitely happy that I've been able to spend my two years at a school like Akashi Kita. I've met wonderful people, tried things I never thought I would, and all of it has opened my eyes to viewing the world from more than one perspective. It's not an experience I would want to trade and I will remember my time in Japan for the rest of my life.
Thank you for reading,