By Steve Corbett / Special to The Japan News初めまして！ ＪＥＴプログラムの元参加者で、米カリフォルニア州出身の Steve Corbett（スティーブ・コルベット）です。2009年から３年間、宮城県石巻市の市立学校で外国語指導助手（ＡＬＴ）を務めました。日本が好きになり、2015年から再度ＪＥＴプログラムに参加し、宮城県庁国際企画課で２年間、国際交流員（ＣＩＲ）を務めました。宮城県には通算で５年滞在しました。愛しい「第二の故郷」ができました。
The JET Programme is a world-renowned initiative to promote internationalization and facilitate foreign language education throughout Japan. Young people from all over the world go to communities around the country to act as leaders of cultural exchange and take on adventures of their own. My time with JET began in 2009 in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture.
Japan’s Tohoku region is replete with stunning natural beauty, but much of it can be difficult to reach by public transportation. While in Ishinomaki, I owned a small car that I used for most of my errands. Beyond convenience, the real value was the freedom driving gave me to control my own experience.
I taught at several schools, so when city sports championships came around, my students competed in many locations on the same days. During this time, I drove across town repeatedly to watch three or four games each day. In three years, I got to watch dozens of games with the parents and siblings of my students, and my relationships with students were enriched.
I spent other days touring the Sanriku Coast and exploring the area around Sendai. I found the perfect spot for gazing upon Matsushima Bay, one of the three most scenic sights in Japan. I fell in love with a mountain on the Oshika Peninsula where one can enjoy a 270-degree view of the ocean and watch the sun rise and set over water.
After the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and resulting tsunami devastated the region, I assisted people from other areas in distributing carloads of supplies directly to evacuation shelters.
Wheels offer freedom to explore
In 2016, while living in Sendai, I rented a van for a two-day tour of Miyagi with my family, who were visiting from America, and I took them to the places I had discovered in my time as a JET. Seeing the region and meeting some of the people that changed my life, as well as getting a firsthand look at the disaster recovery, was the highlight of their trip.
Ever since my time in Miyagi, I have insisted that no Japan experience is complete without at least one day on the road. While most visitors follow in well-worn footsteps through the major cities, those who rent a car can find themselves in a small port town tasting seafood caught that morning, photographing a crater lake atop a volcano, meeting friendly locals and following their whims.
Whether a resident of Japan or short-term visitor, I encourage everyone to get behind the wheel and create their own unique Japan story. You never know what you might find just off the beaten path.
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The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme is administered through the collaboration of Japan’s local and national government authorities and promotes grass-roots internationalisation at the local level. Learn more: http://www.jetprogramme.org