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Represent American Teachers in Japan


How could I not write about this unbelievable opportunity?  The government of Japan annually sends 400 educators a year to Japan under their teacher program, Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund. This really is a once in a lifetime opportunity that should not be missed.  I lived abroad for a while and love traveling, but this trip will never be topped. Never. Here is a short description of the program on the JFMF page:

Program Plan
Applicants selected to participate in the 2009 JFMF Teacher Program will receive a fully-funded three week experience in Japan. At seminars in Tokyo, participants are introduced to the Japanese culture and education system and meet with Japanese government officials and educators. Participants also visit urban schools, museums, and historic landmarks. They are then assigned to small groups that spend the next several days visiting a particular Japanese city. The participants visit local schools and teachers' colleges, where they interact with Japanese teachers, students, and parents. For many, the highlight of the study visit is a short home-stay with a Japanese family. The program concludes with debriefing sessions in Tokyo where all participants share their experiences and insights. Throughout the study visit, participants are encouraged to discuss their "follow-on plans" and to develop strategies for sharing their experiences with their schools and communities in the U.S.

Are You Eligible?

This is not limited to classroom teachers. I went as a literacy coach and was surrounded by a variety of educational positions (from art teachers to directors of schools). The only exclusion is for kindergarten teachers and those planning on retiring.

~Preference is given to educators who have not been to Japan, but you are still welcome to apply.

~You do not need to speak Japanese.  An interpreter was provided for most of the trip.

~A huge part of the admission process is writing a strong follow-on plan.  How do you plan to educate your school and community about Japan upon return? 

~There are two cycles during the school year that you are competing for.  One is in October and the other is in June. You may not select a preference of one cycle over the other.  I was selected for the 2006 October cycle and only needed to take one week off of school.  The other two weeks fell on my school’s fall break.

What Do You Have to Lose? 

The deadline will most likely be December 10, 2008. I say "most likely" because the site does not have the application up yet. I suspect it should be available very soon, and a notification link is available to give you the first chance at applying. Meanwhile, check out the site to learn more about the process, details, and objectives of the trip.

Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund Site- http://www.iie.org/Website/WPreview.cfm?CWID=752&WID=194

Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund Headquarters: http://www.fulbrightmemorialfund.jp/

My Experience

Click here to visit an old travel blog I created for the trip. Here's a sneak peek slide show:

More Questions?

Feel free to post your questions here. It's honestly a trip of a lifetime that shouldn't be passed up. If you have ANY questions, please post them here. I wish I had that option as I muddled through the process on my own. I am ready to give pointers, application questions, and so on.


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Angela Bunyi

I knew it was going to be ending soon, but I thought one more group would be going through. When I went (October 06), they said that 07 would be the last group. However, they also said they were going to do their best to continue it somehow too. In my mind, knowing an 08 group had gone, I was optimistic.

Anyway, that is a total bummer to me. I am tempted to delete this post overall, but I think an awareness that SOMETHING might be in the works sounds good to me.

But you also lifted my spirits- Thanks for including your Japan blog under your name. It was neat to see some of the same JFMF faces as well...like the man that said, "JFMR's..." A LOT. I am 99% sure you know who I am talking about-he's speaking at the podium under your top blog photos. And you mentioned Miki Motto. You might be surprised that I bought and lost a beautiful pair of pearl earrings from Miki Motto (after returning). Oh well. The experience was amazing anyway. Come to think of it, I lost my digital camera while I was in Japan. I am either careless or really unlucky.

Monica McDonald

I was part of the October 2008 group and we were told we were the last group that would be funded for this opportunity. The Japanese government did not approved this program for next year. The did say that they were working on a new program, but the details were not available.

Sorry for the bad news!

Angela Bunyi


When you first arrive in Tokyo, you are with a group of 200 educators. We were placed in the nicest hotel (Condelezza Rice was giving a press talk there when we arrived, if that gives you an idea) and given several outstanding seminars on Japanese culture, education, etc. After a few days you are introduced to a smaller group of 20 educators. You then travel with that group to another city and spend about two weeks together. An interpretor for that entire portion of the trip was given. After this, everyone returns back to Tokyo to summarize what has been learned. The trip, in total, is almost three weeks long.

As far as time for siteseeing, this is such an organized trip. All you have to do is show up, and you wouldn't feel cheated on sightseeing. The sightseeing is totally built into the schedule already and is very balanced. However, most days are completed at 5:00 so siteseeing is possible at that time as well. You are alloted one Saturday on your own, but you may not leave the country. I spent some time shopping in the Harajuku district and went to Disneyland! Looking back, I am not sure how so much was covered in three weeks. It was incredible! Oh, and you are also provided all meals as well as a money allotment.

Follow-Up Plans: Presentations (BOE, PTO), newsletters about Japan (school-wide, county), websites (I had one on my county site), application for students (since I was a coach, I integrated this into modeled lessons in the classrooms), grade level meeting discussions. Others included school-wide plans (A day for celebrating Japanese culture, for example), but the main point is how you can educate other people about Japanese school and culture.

Release forms- Now this widely ranged in our group. Some were alloted time to leave and it was paid (sick/personal days used). I was one of those people...especially because I only needed one of the three weeks off. I was VERY fortunate. Some had to take leave without pay, but I don't think that should deter you. I can very, very easily estimate that at least 10,000 dollars was spent on each individual. Easily. All meals, transportation, housing, entrance fees, etc. paid for (in additon to a dinner money allocation). You are treated like absolute royality and some time without pay should be considered if that is the case. However, you should know upfront your situation as the application process will have you sign off on that plan before hand.

But Lisa, I really hope you apply for this. I kept thinking there was some weird string attached, but I can tell you that there isn't. So, don't be afraid to ask me any questions. I'd be happy to answer any you may have.


Lisa McCarthy

I love traveling, and I'd love to go to Japan! Did you primarily spend your time with other US educators in Japanese schools? Was there time for sightseeing or independent travel away from the group? What was your follow-on plan? Was it hard to get release time from your school district? Thanks for posting about this!

Comments are closed. Please see Classroom Solutions, our new blog for the 2009-2010 school year. And stay tuned for Teaching Matters with Angela Bunyi and Beth Newingham.

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