JET Returnees Reception Speech

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, good evening and welcome to our Returnees Reception to say thank you for all your hard work, to celebrate your safe return to the UK, and to wish you all the best for the future.

It is the first time I have to make a short speech in English in front of so many people, so please forgive my nervousness.

I am Shunsuke Mutai, Director of the London office of CLAIR, the Japan Local Government Centre. Our role in the UK is to represent all Japanese Local Authorities and assist them in research. Another of our roles is to promote and assist the JET Programme and fund the JETAA, and I suggest you talk to the JETAA representatives here today to find out what activities they organise and how you can become involved.

I would like to thank you for all your enthusiasm and support of the JET Programme and I hope your time in Japan has been a positive one for you. I’m sure that you all had some idea of what Japan would be like before you went, but I hope that when you were there that image developed and has enriched your perception of Japan.

I myself have just come to the UK to take up this post, and I know that even with the help of my staff, getting set up in a new country is time consuming and a steep learning curve! I trust, though, that your advisors and colleagues helped you get through the first few weeks, and then to prosper.

I was surprised that considering how warm and friendly the people of the UK are, at how cool the climate is! On the other hand, Japan was very hot this summer, so I hope everyone didn’t suffer too much in the heat. I’m not sure if global warming has a part to play but the temperature changes both in the UK and Japan have been noticeable this year.

Together with this (and again, I’m not sure what influence the climate has had to play), the government in Japan has also suffered from big changes – when the Prime Minister suddenly tendered his resignation, I think everyone was a little surprised. According to an editorial in The Times last week the chaos in Japanese politics has severely damaged the country’s international image from a diplomatic point of view.

Coincidentally, Next year we celebrate the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the UK and Japan, and it was just a little over 100 years ago that the UK and Japan signed a military alliance. At that point the Japanese were often called the Eastern English by people in the UK. Did you know that?

To Return to the JET Programme, You were not only living in cities, but rural farming villages and so I can safely say I think you have experienced the best Japan has to offer, and you have acquired a unique understanding of the country and her people.

You have been fortunate to be a part of one of the world’s largest exchange programme. I’ve heard someone say that in the UK, the JET Programme is the second largest employer of graduates after the civil service combined, and you have played an important role in Japan as grass-roots ambassadors for Britain. If we look at the bigger picture, you have played an important role at the forefront of diplomatic exchange over the more recent part of this 150 year history.

This evening, not only do we have the company of you, the returning JETs, but we also welcome many representatives from Japan-related organisations and the media. I’d like to thank them all for coming and hope they have found some aspiring candidates during their time here today.

Although your time in Japan as a JET is now over, I hope you will all go on to strengthen your personal and professional ties with Japan, as well as remember some of the good times and some of the bad times. The good times remind us why we came, and the bad times make us reflect about what we can achieve with a little patience and perseverance. In all areas of life there are good times and bad times, and as one door closes, another opens for you.

Your time as a JET was merely the starter, the time to come will be the main course, but for now, let’s enjoy the buffet!