Welcome to the inaka! Who would have thought that the densely populated country of Japan is also home to small and disconnected towns like your new home? A huge step for newcomers to adjust to life in Hokkaido is by getting involved in the community. It’s fair to say that the options in this island aren’t as abundant as in the mainland. But it is not impossible. Here’s a few unique ways you can get yourself involved.
The Japanese arts
Most traditional Japanese arts are offered in towns all over Hokkaido. Traditional arts include tea ceremony, taiko (traditional drumming), ikebana (flower arrangement) and shoudo (Japanese calligraphy). Pottery is an art club which is special and popular in Hokkaido.
Martial arts and other sports
The Japanese are known to be an active bunch. Your town will most likely have a range of common sports available. For a cultural experience, consider trying out martial arts clubs for aikido, judo, kempo, karate, kendo, and kyuudo. Outside of this, you can do everything from rock climbing to snow trekking, snowboarding, hiking, scuba diving, and more.
Volunteer at local events
Offering your time and services in this atmosphere gives you the opportunity to meet an array of people as well as give back to the community. In smaller rural towns, a lot of local events have a connection with the BOE. If you’re interested, ask your supervisor for a list upcoming events and dates. Are you a high school ALT? Your town more than likely has a BOE that deals with the elementary and primary schools. Why not pop in there and find out? The options really are endless, so get involved.
Start an Eikaiwa class
For those who have not already been approached to run an eikaiwa – English conversation class, then ask your board of education if you can start your own. They will more than likely be happy to allow you to use one of their rooms or get in contact with a facility you can use. You can also ask them to advertise in the local paper or within the board of education. Be sure to specify a target level and maximum number of students for your class.
Join the ALT Community
If you’re looking for a way to meet other ALTs in Hokkaido and share interests with them, then joining HAJET is the easiest way. HAJET has a large friendly membership of ALTS scattered all over Hokkaido. There are range of meet ups and events held throughout the year. HAJET like to mix up the locations and activities at said events, so getting involved in HAJET is not only a great way to make friends, but see what the island has to offer.
If getting around Hokkaido is a struggle for you, there are many other ways you could get involved with HAJET.
- You can volunteer with the Hokkaido English Challenge (HEC). Help is through judging, being a camp counsellor, fund-raising, or entering your own students. This is a great way to build bonds with your students and improve English in your schools.
- You can submit your photography to the HAJET social media coordinator.
- You can create an article for the polestar magazine.
- You could also join the HAJET Prefectural Council. Elections for the PC are held every February. Getting involved is a good way to see the inner workings of what HAJET does for you and for internationalisation in Hokkaido. For more information see www.hajet.org
Joining Tatami Timeshare is a great way for making new ALT friends while exploring Hokkaido and the rest of Japan. It is an established page set up to provide cheap, if not free accommodation around Japan hosted by fellow ALTs. For more information on T.T. and an application form visit https://ajet.net/community/tatami-timeshare/
Attend English camps
Many ALTs at some point in time get approached by their Board of Education to attend neighbouring towns English camps or events. They are usually run on a volunteer system of mainly ALTs and JTEs. By volunteering your time to attend such events not only allows you to give back to the community, but it gives back to you by introducing you to potential new friends.
Of course, there are a lot of other things you can do to get involved. The options are limitless.