Category Archives: Elections

Introducing… Your 2017 HAJET PC!

Good morning and sorry for taking so long to make this announcement! Congratulations to all of the newly elected members of the HAJET Prefectural Council! The “Who We Are” tab will be getting an update soon as well, so for adorable pictures and awe-inspiring self-intro’s, keep an eye out for that.

President: Betrice Yambrach

Vice-president: Andrew Kaz

Secretary: Debbie Walter

Treasurer: Michael Bugajski

Polestar Editor-in-Chief: Samantha Delia Peterson

Social Coordinator: Lianna Hrycyk

Publications Coordinator: Kelsey Elizabeth

Northern Rep: Finlay Harden

Central Rep: T.J. Wissick

Southwestern Rep: Haley Hollen

Eastern Rep: Stephanie T. Serres

Sapporo Rep: Stella Fronius

Bookseller: Adam Gentle

2017 Prefectural Council Elections!

*tap tap* …ahem, is this thing on..?


We’ve got a good lookin’ selection of candidates for you to harshly criticize and pit against each other in the HAJET PC Election arena! (That’s right; even solo candidates must prove their worth in trial by fire!) Feel free to peruse this year’s hopefuls at your leisure, and prepare to cast your vote starting next Monday (01/23)!

UPDATE: We have been blessed by… presumably Ainu gods with candidates for VP and Publications Coordinator!

Candidates for PC President

brad breitenJonathan “Brad” Breiten

Good day all!! I have had the distinct pleasure of meeting a good number of you, but for those of you that I have not met yet, I am Jonathan Breiten, a.k.a. Brad, a.k.a. Drab Bard Brad. I am a first year JET based in lovely, snow-filled Iwamizawa (seriously, I’m no stranger to snow, but this is worrisome). When not working or shoveling snow I practice judo, play shamisen, teach bachata, and do latin dance in Sapporo, on top of that I love traveling around our beautiful island, meeting new people, and-as the old adage goes-I can always find time for a drink with friends. (Check out this link if you don’t know the story You might eb thinking to yourself, “When does the Drab Bard Brad sleep?” An excellent question! To which I reply…I don’t really know. Maybe we can piece it together over a drink sometime.
But enough about me, let’s talk about why you’re actually reading this. You are basically vetting me for a Prefectural Council position. I want to be the HAJET prefectural council president, and beyond my winning personality, I need to convince you, in a few short words, that me holding the position will not result in an implosion of the HAJET PC, but will in fact help the PC continue to grow and be a unifying and internationalizing force at work in so many different ways in Hokkaido. I have always worked to share my passions, energy, and drive with as many people as possible by starting extracurricular activities, taking on leadership positions, and working to innovate and improve on established systems. During my undergraduate career I helped to start and run the UAlbany Mixed Martial Arts club, the Salsa Dance club, and the Japanese Anime Manga club, all of which are still active on campus now. During my time as a graduate student at CU Boulder I organized two conferences, and worked as the Lead Graduate Teacher to the Department of Asian Languages and Civilizations-an obnoxiously long title, but a position that allowed me to improve my skills as a teacher, work closely with departmental faculty to oversee graduate student participation and development, and to meet regularly with graduate students and department faculty to discuss ways to improve the ALC department at CU Boulder. I take great pride in my ability to organize, and I love working together for the betterment of an organization.
To me, that is exactly what HAJET is. So far HAJET has helped me learn how to engage with my local community as well as the community of JETs as a whole and has been an invaluable part of my time here in Hokkaido. I want to give back to that with my experience to help deepen HAJET’s participation not only in the JET community, but to help JETs integrate with their local communities more. HAJET is an opportunity to meet people, exchange stories and ideas, and help to make JET life better, and to promote international culture in Hokkaido.

DSC_0155Bryan Campbell

Hello everyone. I’m Bryan Campbell, and I want to be your next HAJET President.


One thing I’d like to work on is the value of membership. We do a great job helping new JETs and providing supports to our members, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot for recontracting JETs beyond the peer network. I’d like to work with our members to find out how HAJET can help and support them, and what we can provide them so they feel like their lifetime membership has more value.

My second major project is to work on internal procedures (don’t worry, I’m not touching the constitution). It feels like the Prefectural Council ends up rebuilding the wheel every year. While we have a lot of advice and institutional memory still around from year to year, there are some strange growing pains that pop up. I’d like to work on internal procedures to make it easier to evaluate and approve International Event Funding, clarify membership policies, and provide some better transitional materials so that future Councils can get to work faster.

Our website is also in desperate need of an update, and I hope to work with the webmaster to create that direction.

What’s my experience?

I spent the last year serving HAJET as Treasurer. Since this is a position on the Executive Committee, I have been very close to a lot of day to day decisions for the organization. Being an existing Prefectural Council member will be a major help as President, since I am already familiar with how things work; I can more easily hit the ground running than a new and less experienced President.

I also have a background in policy development, governance, and committee management. I was a member of my university’s Students’ Union, committee chair, student association president, and long-time event volunteer. All of this experience leaves me in a great place to help move HAJET forward.

What HAJET means to me

HAJET means a lot of things to me. Obviously, HAJET is a great peer support and friendship opportunity. Most of the people I know in Hokkaido were met through HAJET, and a lot of what I learn has come from HAJET meetings and workshop. I’ve had a lot of opportunities through HAJET that I really wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Additionally, HAJET is important to me because it helps legitimize our role as ALTs. Not only does it help connect ALTs and CIRs and thus allow for advice and support to reach all corners of Hokkaido, but it helps build a professional network for the future. It also helps show our COs that we are trying to be active and that we are always trying to better ourselves, even if it might not always look like it.

Further, HAJET helps me find a way to give back to Hokkaido. I love that the support we can offer to new members helps reduce stress on our supervisors. I am so happy to have reviewed and approved the International Event applications that have come through the PC. These are all great events and I’m glad that I’ve had a part in helping to support them. And I enjoy talking about what I’ve learn about Japan and teaching at HAJET events with my co-workers and friends.

And lastly, I appreciate that HAJET means different things for different people. Our entire membership has something to gain from HAJET, be it professional training, networking, lifestyle support, or just having a friendly face during the dark times. We live in a really big place, and I appreciate the diversity everyone brings.

I like writing. Sorry for making you read all of that. As President, I want to make it easier to be a member and easier for the PC to do its thing. HAJET is really important to me, and I hope to keep working with the organization for at least another year.

betrice yambrachBetrice Yambrach

Hey Everyone! My name is Betrice and if you don’t know me already, I’m the current Central Rep on this year’s PC. Even though I am a part of the Central Region, I actually live in the southeastern edge of Hokkaido in the decently sized town of Urakawa, mainly known for its racehorses and konbu (the two main necessities in life). I enjoy traveling, road trips, hiking, onsening for hours, and sassing my high school students. I also really love ramen and want to eat at all of the famous ramen spots in Hokkaido (maybe even all of Japan??).

I think HAJET is a great community that provides some really awesome opportunities. Whether it’s volunteering, parties andevents, or just finding someone to hangout with, there issomething for everyone. I’m applying for the role of President because simple enough I want to continue working on the PC. I really care about HAJET and I want to help it continue to grow and be as fun, resourceful, and amazing as it can be. Obviously there are a lot of logistics that go into keeping HAJET running so smoothly. Being on the PC as Central Rep for the last year, I learned how the PC operates and understand the specific roles of each PC member as well as the work and responsibilities required from the President.  In addition, I’ve always found myself in a leadership position, whether in college club activities or in the jobs I’ve had pre-JET.

Like I said before, HAJET provides something for everyone. I think for Hokkaido, it’s kind of hard to have an idea of what you’re getting yourself into before coming here. Once you get here you realize how large and vast the island is and that it can feel pretty isolating, especially when you live in a small town. For me, HAJET helped me see the beauty of Hokkaido and feel excited about being here. Of course I still have some upsets about the prefecture (those winter roads…) but I’ve also had some really great times out here as well. I’m especially grateful for the people who I’ve met during my time here in HAJET. I don’t know where I’d be without them, but I know they’ve definitely helped shape me into an English teacher, an adventurer, and overall better person (with just a little bit of sarcasm and saltiness).

Candidate for Vice-president

16144559_10158130343120504_1984154564_nAndrew Kaz

Hi, everyone! My name is Andrew Kaz, but feel free to call me Andrew or Kaz—I’ll answer to either. I’m originally from almost heaven West Virginia in the mid-Atlantic US, but I’ve come to Hokkaido by way of Boston, Massachusetts. You *could* say I’ve had a bit of preparation for Hokkaido’s cold, snowy winter, but then I’d have to listlessly chuckle towards my cold bones and correct you. Now I’m one of a few ALTs scenically located in Kushiro (also known as the “City of Mist” or “Planet of the Cranes”). Oh, and I’d like to be your new Joe Bide—I MEAN Vice President.

I believe I can demonstrate many of the qualities required to be an adequate or—dare I say—successful VP. First and foremost, it is the VP’s responsibility to “organize and coordinate” the organization’s annual meetings. During my years as a university student, I participated in my university’s model debate program, both as a member and leader. Some such responsibilities included reaching out to new or underrepresented members, guiding monthly leadership meetings, and confirming hotel and dining arrangements during out-of-town conferences.

Bearing this in mind, draft language and procedure are sort of my bread and butter. Put another way (namely, in the words of Arianna Huffington), I *thrive*in an environment that allows me to draft, amend, or vote down draft language. Rest assured that HAJET’s constitution will be safe with me [makes two thumbs up and gesticulates towards chest].

Most recently, I had the great fortune of participating in my university’s summer study abroad trip to Tokyo, Kyoto, and Nagano as a teaching assistant. While I can’t guarantee that I know all or even most of the work involved in securing a venue for such a large group in Japan, I feel that I have some beneficial preconceptions as to the requirements of the job.

Most importantly, I want to learn. As a first-year ALT, I have honed the craft of asking for help, and I won’t be afraid to do so if (read: when) the moment arises. If selected for this position, I will have been preceded by multiple highly-qualified and supportive individuals whom are still with us in Hokkaido today, so I am confident I can benefit the organization in this environment.

To me, HAJET represents a gathering of individuals, sometimes isolated across a large (often less-than-wholly-forgiving) island, who understand the value of reenergizing together to be as beneficial for their respective communities as they can be. I’ve experienced how a harsh winter and lack of sunlight can affect people, so I want to do my part to see us through it together. If you’ll give me the opportunity, I believe I can contribute my skillset towards the greatest good as HAJET Vice President.

Thanks for your time and best wishes on plowing your car out of the snow that is inescapably falling,


Candidate for Secretary

debbie walterDebbie Walter

(Bio スタート!)

Hello, hello! I’m Debbie and I’m a 3rd year JET holed up in the cute little town of Kuriyama, but I hail from the Steel City, itself: Pittsburgh, PA in the good ol’ US of A! Why do I think I’d be a great fit for Secretary? Well, it certainly has nothing to do with the fact that I’m the Secretary for the current PC… Really, though, I could list a whole slew of technical reasons why I’m a great fit for the position, but as a matter of fact, I’ve been a part of the HAJET PC ever since I ran for Central Rep on a whim 2 years prior.

I’ve really come to love what it means to be a part of the HAJET community, and I would love for the chance to continue giving back to the community that has helped me from the very beginning. I love working alongside the PC, helping them with organizing our awesome seasonal meetings, welcome parties, and various smaller events throughout the year. I love welcoming the newly-arrived JETs to their new home. I love the opportunities HAJET has that allow me to meet every one of you, especially when those opportunities arise in the most random of times and places. I love the fact that HAJET continues to make it possible for members to improve their efforts to bring international events to their towns.

If nothing else, I’ll leave you with one good reason why I should be Secretary: given the high turnover rate of JET, every year the HAJET PC changes over to mostly new faces. This is actually pretty awesome. It shows that the departing members of the PC were successful in accomplishing what they have set out to do, and that’s making HAJET into an even better community than before. However, if I could draw a parallel to the nature of JET, when you join the PC for the first time, you get thrown into a new position with only an inkling about what you do and how you work in the grand scheme of things. As someone with 2 years of experience, I believe I can use my knowledge of how the PC works to help the new members with making the year to come the best one yet. So, if you all would have me, I would love to continue my work here and return to the position of HAJET Secretary for another year. Thank you! ^^

(Bio エンド!)

Candidate for Treasurer

michael bugajskiMichael Bugajski


My name is Michael, and I want to be your next HAJET Treasurer!  I’m currently serving as the First Year Rep, but am eager to get more involved and take a more active role in HAJET!  I am a first year Hokkaido JET in Asahikawa, but also a second time JET (I was in Niigata from 2011-2012).

A little background on me and the numbers!  Prior to moving to Hokkaido to be an English teacher, I had the wonderful experience of being the department head of the Logistics division of an aerial mapping company.  What does that mean?  It means it was my dubious duty to oversee and track expenses across the entire aerial mapping division, and manage our yearly operating budget, as well as track expenses across 60 employee credit cards, matching every. single. expense. to what was reported.  I was also responsible for planning, supervising, and executing a plan to (successfully) reduce departmental expenses from nine million USD to six million USD.

Since Hokkaido is so freakin‘ huge, HAJET offers a great opportunity for JETs all across Hokkaido to come together and build relationships and community, and I think that is what is so amazing about HAJET!   In a big way, the relationships we build here are the things which bond us together not only in Japan, but as we return to our home countries.  The chance to be a part of that, and take an active role…. I think that is pretty rad!

Candidate for Northern Rep

20170107_134226Finlay Harden

Hello! I’m Finlay. I am a 27 year old ALT from Scotland. I work in seven different Senior High Schools, one elementary school and one junior high school in the Rumoi district. I studied ecological economics and worked as an economist before coming to live the dream in Japan. I enjoy being outdoors and being generally active but my interest in Japan originally came from reading Haruki Murakami books. I’m looking forward to meeting you!
Why me
Moving to a new country is a scary thing. Especially if, like me, you don’t speak the language and don’t know anyone nearby. The thing I have appreciated most about HAJET since arriving in Japan is the role it plays in welcoming new JETs to Hokkaido.
I received a very warm welcome on the Hokkaido JET Facebook page. I learned from the presentations during the Sapporo Orientation and met some really great people. My block leader showed me around my area and introduced me to the other ALTs in Rumoi. I got to meet some of the JETs nearby thanks to the welcome parties. It feels comforting to know that there is an entire network of people who are able to help with the problems that new JETs may face.
With the HAJET meetings, the bookstore, the outreach project and, of course, the Hokkaido English Challenge, HAJET provides an opportunity for JETs to get together, meet each other, share tips about school, or just enjoy each other’s company. This helps new JETs settle into their jobs, contribute to international exchange and language learning and generally get as much as they can from their time in Japan.
I want to be the Northern representative so I can contribute to giving next year’s JET’s a welcome as warm as the one I have received. I want to support JETs who are trying to get involved in their communities and I want to help make the transition to life in Japan as easy as possible for as many people as possible.
Thanks for reading!

Candidate for Central Rep

tj wissick

TJ challenges a legendary obstacle course in order to prove his worth to his students.(Photo: Associate Press)


T.J. Wissick


Greetings, fellow Northerners! In the Hokkaido underground jellyfish racing circuit, I am known as Mister Donut. But if your box jellyfish isn’t pulling turns so well anymore, or you stopped paying your monthly dues, feel free to call me T.J. (“Teej” if ya nasty). I’m a first-year ES and JHS ALT in Naie, a small town smack dab in between Sapporo and Asahikawa. Originally I hail from the waving cornfields of Upstate New York, where all the trucks are lifted and the taxes are high.

This year marks my second visit to Japan. I’m tremendously excited to be here in the Frozen North working as an ALT and hopefully, as your Central Hokkaido Regional Representative. In applying, I’m hoping to bring my enthusiasm to the HAJET PC. It would be an honest privilege to work for you, and to become a more involved part of the JET community that helps make placement in Hokkaido such an incredible experience.

Since my arrival during the Warm Days long ago, I’ve been amazed by the support that HAJET offers both members and non-members. It’s so easy to get caught up in yourself, and in work. Joining HAJET has already proven a great way to see more of Hokkaido, meet its people, and stay involved. Running for this position is an incredible opportunity for me to be a bigger part of that experience, and to help share it with others.

In short, I look forward to working, talking, and hanging out with you all. I’m very eager to work in this position, and to help make our snowy tundra feel even more like home.

Candidates for Southwestern Rep

haley hollenHaley Hollen

Hey, fellow Hokkaido JETs! I’m Haley Hollen, and I live in the seaside town of Esashi in the Southwest region. I am applying to be the Southwest Representative because I believe that fostering a tight-knit community with your fellow regional JETs is an invaluable part of your experience here in Japan. I am so grateful to the current representative for all of the events and gatherings that have helped make the Southwest into the goofy family that we are today. In university I held leadership positions in my fraternity, including Fundraising Chair and Alumni Chair, which required coordinating and planning events for large groups such as hikes and BBQs to more formal networking events in Washington DC and on university Grounds. To me, HAJET has helped make Hokkaido not just the beautiful, snowy place where I live but a community where we support each other in our work and personal lives. More than anything, I’m looking forward to the chance to give back to a group of people that has already given so much to me in my short time here as well as act as a welcoming face for incoming JETs down in the Southwest!

image1Anna Thiel

Hello all! My name is Anna and I am a first year Prefecture ALT in Hakodate, the South of the North. I want to be SW representative because I really appreciate all that HAJet does and organises and would love to be the support and contact person for the area. There is a lot going on here, and I know that when SW Jets get together, we know how to have a good time. Currently, I find myself involved in (and organising) informal SW get-togethers and HAJet sponsored ones. There is so many great locations in the SW, from Niseko to Onuma, that we’re sure to have a great welcome enkai to follow up this years beautiful misty mountain camping. I hope that we can continue that spirit by inspiring other JETs, Hokkaido JETs, and HAJet members to come to the south a little more often–come see life on the peninsula!
I’ve taken leadership training in university, and feel that the best leader is one who listens and compromises to make all happy, not just themselves. This is my third time living in Japan, so my Japanese communication ability is pretty up there (though I was unable to take the JLPT this winter to give you my score). Other than that, I am a creative person, had majored in design at university. Hello kick-ass posters and marketing materials!
Hope you find me suitable to represent the south! Thank you all!

Candidate for Eastern Rep

Illest_selfieSERRESStephanie Serres

Short(ish) Bio:

Well, hey ‘der! My name is Stephanie T. Serres—but you can call me Smiley! I am originally from the quaint and tiny town of Prescott, Wisconsin, U.S.A. where we are known for our Midwestern charm and our Guinness-World-Record-long bratwurst—dont’chya know! In 2015, I obtained my undergraduate degree in Social Work at Bemidji State University. During my university years I worked as a Youth Counselor for at-risk girls, a Middle School Social Work intern, a Residential Assistant, and a Community Outreach Coordinator for the ARC United. After graduation, I journeyed to the “small city” (nearly 2 million people) of Weifang, China where I taught English at Weifang University’s Beihai International College. Now I am happily living in the charming town of Rubeshibe, as a Hokkaido BOE ALT, where we are known for our adorable Fox Village and delicious yakiniku! Please feel free to visit and enjoy together with me!  

Why are you applying/ why is this a good fit?

I am applying for the position of Eastern Regional Representative because I have a deep passion for creating and cultivating community. Aside from my previous work experience building community and doing outreach, I believe this position would be a good fit because I have always sincerely enjoyed helping, uniting, empowering, and connecting people to one another and to helpful resources. When I look back on all of my memorable experiences in life I can find a common denominator: a supportive and helpful community. By becoming your Eastern Regional Representative I will utilize my skill set and passion to continue to develop a supportive and helpful community for the ALTs/HAJET members living in Eastern Hokkaido. I hope to help enrich member’s time spent in Hokkaido by making it more fulfilling by organizing events, parties, dinners, and volunteer opportunities so we may all feel more connected to each other and to Japan! In the end, HAJET has already given me so much in the short time I have been here and I would now like to actively give back what I have so kindly received by becoming your next Eastern Regional Rep!

What does HAJET mean to you:

As I stated before, when I think back on what has made moments in my life most memorable, it is due to the community I was a part of.  When I heard of HAJET I instantly knew it would be a great community to join. Since joining, I have been met with boundless amounts of kindness, support, and encouragement—especially when I have needed it the most! Because of HAJET, I have felt truly welcomed. HAJET means many things to me but, to best answer your question, I would like to reiterate what was said at our 2016 Thanksgiving thankfulness readings: HAJET is more than just a community…HAJET is my Hokkaido family. So, what does HAJET mean to me? Simply put: family. 

Candidates for Sapporo Rep

hanna callen-wicksHanna Callen-Wicks

I’m a first year ALT from Edmonton AB but situated in Sapporo. I am currently at a private high school, but before coming on JET I received my secondary education degree and was working in junior high schools. My hobbies include reading, sports and long walks on the beach. Although the last one is a little hard when you are always surrounded by snow. I guess it would be more accurate to say that I love snow and long walks through snowy parks.

I’m applying for Sapporo Rep because I understand that being in the city can be very isolating. Despite thinking that it wouldn’t be when I first arrived, I have definitely felt that isolation first hand. My hope is to be able to socialise with people more and create opportunities for other JETs who feel isolated to come together and bond. I also feel like this will be a good reminder for me that I have a life outside of work, and that there are fun things/cool people to hang out with.

To me HAJET means making friends. I felt really isolated my first few weeks alone in August after first arriving and it took an 11 hour journey, full of multiple trains, buses and a white van, out to the Eastern welcome party along with some pretty awesome HAJET members to remind me that I’m not alone.

stella froniusStella Fronius

Good morning! はじめまして!

My name is Stella and I am a first year ALT based in sunny Sapporo. I have always had a hankering for history and I became interested in Japan through my involvement in an Okinawan public history research project, which I helped co-manage while in university. While my Japanese language skills are still a work in progress, I have had a blast these past few months traveling around Hokkaido, making new friends, and participating in HAJET events.

Why I am applying:

  1. I want to be a point of contact within the city for both JETs living here and those visiting from elsewhere, whether that means helping out with common household questions, or lending an ear in a time of need.
  2. Sapporo plays host to the largest number of JETs of any city in Hokkaido. It is my intention to work to improve their representation in HAJET activities and meetings. I’ve already done my best to reach beyond Sapporo to integrate myself with the broader community throughout Hokkaido and I hope facilitate in creating similar opportunities for other JETs in Sapporo.
  3. This has been the first year that JET has contracted with private schools in Hokkaido. As one of the first few JETs positioned at such, I would like to be a voice to share the experiences of private school JETs both in HAJET meetings and with incoming JETs that will find themselves in a similar situation.

To confess, I get lost very easily. On the day of Sapporo Orientation I sat with baited breath on the old government building steps, only an hour and a half early. I wasn’t alone for long. I was soon joined by two current HAJET members bearing a banner for the upcoming orientation. While we waited for the others I was regaled with stories of HAJET and HEC, and explanations as to why these individuals chose to become more involved. At some point during the discussion, we realized that with 15 minutes to go and no one else showing up, we’d evidently chosen the wrong location, which thankfully wasn’t too far away.

Over the next few days, I saw pictures and videos and listened to lectures about HAJET. It was the personal stories from these two girls that convinced me that they really cared and believed about the goals of HAJET.

HAJET is composed of likeminded passionate people who really want to bring together the JET community. I believe this organization represents an opportunity and a challenge to impact the local community, our students and Hokkaido at large.

Fun fact: my current dream (alongside becoming Sapporo Rep) is to become a cup of coffee. Come share a cup of joe with me.

Candidate for Polestar Editor-in-Chief

samantha petersonSamantha Peterson

Short bio: About an hour and change west of Hakodate there is a very cold girl huddled under her kotatsu, drinking her weight in apple tea and typing away at her computer. That’d be me. My name is Samantha and I’m a first-year ALT in the self-proclaimed “Potato Kingdom,” more commonly known as Assabu-cho. When I’m not magically producing last-minute variations of that one vocab game and making a fool of myself in front of a group of 12-year-olds, I like to write stories, play music, and explore the beautiful nature that is so abundant around Hokkaido.
Why I’m applying: First and foremost, my experience as the Head Editor of the Lion Tale, Thompson Middle School’s quarterly student news publication, in 2007 makes me the best fit for this position.

Okay, all joking aside, I’ve really enjoyed working with publications all my life. All aspects of the job of Polestar Editor-In-Chief sound exciting to me, from working with the designer in order to create an appealing layout to gathering articles to distributing the Polestar. I have some relevant experience, as I’ve taken journalism classes and helped run a publication at my university last year. In addition to that I have about 9 years of Adobe Suite experience and I know my way around a page layout.

I’m applying to this position because I’m passionate about writing, design, and publishing. I have a lot of ideas for the Polestar, such as getting more people involved through social media, including a section for short creative writing, and reaching out with polls and surveys to see what people all around are interested in reading. I think the Polestar is an amazing platform with the potential to bring people from our widely diverse island together and better understand the variety of experiences that can be had here.

What HAJET means to me: Before I’d even stepped foot on this frozen island I’d heard all about HAJET and knew what it does. I was relieved by the idea of having an organized group of people I could belong to through shared experience. It was good to know that I wouldn’t be traveling out to some isolated great unknown. That’s what HAJET is to me. An organization that connects us all to each other and supports us, no matter how inaka you are, no matter how much snow you have to shovel to even leave your house, no matter how many bus transfers it takes you just to hang out another person who speaks fluent English. It’s the guarantee that when you first come to Hokkaido people will be waiting there to welcome you, and as you spend your time here that you will always have someone to see on those dark winter days.
Thank you!

Candidate for Social Coordinator

lianna hyrcykLianna Hrycyk

Hey guys! My name is Lianna Hrycyk, and I want to be the new HAJET social coordinator.

About me:

Originally from Montreal, I’ve spent most of my life in the Greater Toronto Area in Ontario, Canada, which is affectionately known as the GTA (not to be confused the video game). I studied psychology and cognitive science, so I’m a lab nerd by training. Studying language acquisition as a summer research gig somehow spiraled into an interest in ESL… and, well, you can probably guess the ending of that story.

I’m currently based in Higashikagura-cho, known by JETs for hosting HEC for the past few years. I have decided to stay another year and continue to see what other challenges my lovely town will throw my way.

What HAJET means to me:

Our job is “to bring internationalization to Hokkaido”. This motto sounds appealing, but I strongly believe its power lies in its practical terms. How do we actually accomplish this? Cue HAJET.

First, HAJET brings JETs together to maximize the impact we can have on our communities. Through HAJET, you can attend information seminars. You can apply for international event funding. As well, HAJET also provides you with a community of foreigners seeking to improve English ability. Boozy bake sales, enkais, and camping parties are organized to help you feel at home in Hokkaido. Finally, You can also take part in events like HEC, which bridges the gap between students and fellow JETs alike. These initiatives are made possible by the collaborative efforts of the HAJET community.

Why I am applying/Why I’d be a good fit:

The best part of Hokkaido, for me, has been the people I’ve met. I might live in a town of 10,000 people, but I’ve never been so busy socially. I have met so many great people at the welcome parties and the fall meeting. Hokkaido is so big, which makes it all the more important to organize events that tighten and strengthen our sense of community.

I think I would be a great person to organize HAJET’s social events next year. I like to think I’m pretty outgoing (as I am talking…). I love talking to both new people and good friends. I’m also a very organized person and have held administrative jobs before moving to Japan. This organization-freak-extraverted combination is exactly why I think I’d be well suited to the social coordinator position.

Candidate for Publications Coordinator

IMG_3452Kelsey Woodford


I’d like to have a go at being the HAJET Publications Coordinator and bringing out the Hokkaido Newcomers’ Guide this year. I’ve seen and experienced two of these guides in my time on JET now, and I think now after my experience as an ALT in Hokkaido and on the PC as the Eastern REP, I have enough of an idea of what HAJET and Hokkaido is all about to do this right and work with the content well.

My house was filled with numerous interesting piles of books and things when I moved in, among them were a few older Newcomers’ Guides. I’ve seen how it has changed for the better, and what got lost along the way.

What’s my experience?

In high school I started to learn to use adobe software in year 10, I took art, design and photography at high school. At university I studied and achieved a Bachelor of Fine Arts and also took a number of Design classes (that number would be 3…) and did my best to use manual design techniques and avoid the computer as much as possible. What that means is that I’ve figured out ways to get what I want done, while still learning everything necessary for an understanding of design principles and an understanding of the software. I have experience making and collaborating on zines (not quite the same thing as the newcomers guide, but publications nonetheless). I’ve been using computers (although not for the same tasks) more and more these days… daily in fact. I’m no stranger to writing as that was also a big part of my Fine Arts degree.

From an observer’s perspective watching the Hokkaido Newcomers Guide being made last year, I saw how Karisa handled some of the more challenging aspects, and I’m ready for a new challenge too.

What HAJET means to me:

When I first got to Hokkaido, HAJET meant support. Later HAJET meant friendship. When I joined the PC as Eastern REP, HAJET meant family. When I participated in HEC camp, HAJET meant experiencing and understanding the core of what we are here for as ALTS (and those young English learners! Fantastic!). When I decided not to re-run as Eastern REP, HAJET meant growth, both for me and whoever would come next. I kind of miss making and creating things, and haven’t found a way for that to fit smoothly into my life here aside from photography, so I’d like to see what I can do with this. Also, I just love Hokkaido so ‘ much.

Happy voting. :)

First Year Rep Elections 2016!

Howdy! It’s time once again for the HAJET First Year Representative elections! (So bizarre, I was the rep last year and now I’m the one making the post about it.) All of the candidates look great, and they all seem to be genki about getting this position, so please please please actually take the time to read their bios and cast your vote when the time comes!

Don’t worry; as far as we know, none of these candidates have filed for multiple bankruptcies, nor deleted their emails. The First Year Representativeship will be in good hands.

13668859_10157149173715504_6508324975216108611_oAndrew Kaz

Hiiiiiiiii. My name is Andrew, but feel free to call me by my last name Kaz. I’m originally from the wild and wonderful state of West Virginia, but I’ve landed in Kushiro (“the City of Mist” tbqh) in eastern Hokkaido by way of Boston, Massachusetts.

(Whoops. Accidentally slipped into that jikoshokai I’ve been giving for the last two months straight…)

So my first visit to Japan was as a computer science student on a political science study abroad in university. After about two weeks, my professor looked at me and asked, “Andrew, what the hell are you doing studying computer science?” To which I responded, “Phil, that’s a great question,” before abruptly changing my major and joining his Arab League and NATO mock debate teams. After feeling unmoored for a few seasons during what were to me absurdly harsh Boston winters, joining that model debate program helped to ground me in a sense of community and (more importantly) positive peer pressure to get out of my house and socialize even when the snow was higher than my waist.

What I’m saying is that I have a deep and unnatural fondness for constitutional bodies. Honestly, it is absurd and slightly disturbing how willing I am to sit through points of order, successive tabling of agenda items, and other aspects of parliamentary procedure. And while I promised myself that I would only seek even a semblance of power through appointment (call it the Frank Underwood method; that’s where the real authority lies) rather than popular vote, I’m willing to make an exception.

If selected to be your First Year Rep, I hope to find that same sense of community—whether it be through camping, snapping pics, planning some amazing programming like the Hokkaido English Challenge, or having a beer in “the city”—as well as provide an empathetic shoulder for other newly-minted Hokkaido residents—especially those of us who may have never experienced this kind of majestic (and frankly terrifying) weather! And most of all, I would be sure to voice any concerns, issues, questions, or requests that you share with me to the rest of the PC through an appropriate moderated caucus.

As for what I’m “really digging right now”: it’s Utada Hikaru. Seriously, I have been listening to this goddess’ music since I was in middle school. Her first new album in eight years was just released, and I’m pretty sure I shed a tear in front of the cashier obaasan at my local music store. Even if this whole First Year Rep gig doesn’t pan out for me, I’m sure we’ll be speaking (read: I’ll be ranting) about this album at some point in the future. Blessings and best of luck to everyone!

img_20160822_135712Brad Breiten

Hello! My name is Brad Breiten and I am applying for the position of HAJET first year representative. I am very excited to be a member of HAJET and even more excited at the prospect of working with the prefectural committee to help make Hokkaido and Japan accessible and welcoming to the present and future first year cohorts.
From what I have seen of HAJET thus far it is obvious HAJET works to help us as JETs and foreigners to integrate into our lives and communities here in Japan, increase international exchange around Hokkaido, and to create a community around itself to achieve those goals and offer support to all of us. To me personally though, HAJET is an opportunity to get to meet a bunch of truly amazing people and to have a positive impact on your experiences here. I want to help in anyway I can, and the first year representative position is a perfect way for me to start helping and to learn what more I can do for the HAJET community in the future.

Before coming to Japan I finished my M.A. in Japanese literature and (somehow) wrote a thesis that focused entirely on dance in Japan. I love dance in all of its forms, it is something that has always made my life brighter and I quite literally cannot get enough of it. I am constantly searching for dance events and performance art, and being here in Japan there is so much new to experience! I have some specific interests, but I am always hoping to be introduced to new performances or styles. I just want to know what all is out there! If you see a cool event, want to teach me about your world of dance, or just want to cut loose with a portable speaker in a park, I am always in the mood to boogie.

image1 Finlay Harnden

Moving to a new country is a scary thing. Especially if, like me, you don’t speak the language and don’t know anyone nearby. The thing I have appreciated most about HAJET since arriving in Japan is the role it plays in welcoming new JETs to Hokkaido.

 I received a very warm welcome on the Hokkaido JET Facebook page. I learned from the presentations during the Sapporo Orientation and met some really great people. My block leader showed me around my area and introduced me to the other ALTs in Rumoi. I got to meet some of the JETs nearby thanks to the welcome parties. It feels comforting to know that there is an entire network of people who are able to help with the problems that new JETs may face.

With the HAJET meetings, the bookstore, the outreach project and, of course, the Hokkaido English Challenge, HAJET provides an opportunity for JETs to get together, meet each other, share tips about school, or just enjoy each other’s company. This helps new JETs settle into their jobs, contribute to international exchange and language learning and generally get as much as they can from their time in Japan.

I want to be the first year representative to learn how HAJET works, so I can contribute to giving next year’s JET’s a welcome as warm as the one I have received. I want to support JETs who are trying to get involved in their communities and I want to help make the transition to life in Japan as easy as possible for as many people as possible.

Right now, I am really into my bouldering. It’s not something I had done before coming to Japan. One of the ALTs in Rumoi had set up a meeting with the local young entrepreneurs club to arrange an event where the ALTs will lead an English conversation session for any entrepreneurs who are keen to improve their English.

Through chance, during our first meeting with them, we started talking about hiking and sports. They invited us out to a small scale bouldering venue in the town. I go along at least once a week. Despite the entrepreneurs not speaking much English, and me not speaking any Japanese, we have really clicked. Through miming, gesturing and much general amusement, they have taught me the basics of bouldering.

I have met people there who I wouldn’t have met in my daily life at school. Bouldering is a new hobby that I can keep up through the winter and I can feel my fitness and strength improving already. The bouldering sessions are a great place to meet new people who are always interested in speaking to the foreigners they have seen wandering around town. 10/10, would recommend!

Thanks for reading!

lianna-pictureLianna Hrycyk

Hey! My name is Lianna Hrycyk, and I’m Higashikagura’s newest ALT. My past few months in Hokkaido have been busy, yet exciting. I attended my first (and second… and fifth…) nomikai and mastered the jikoshokai lesson. I even made it out to a few welcome parties when the typhoons didn’t cancel my trains!

Why I want to be first year rep:

Our job as JETs is to bring internationalization to Hokkaido, all while settling into our new lives. Sure, this sounds good on paper, but how are we supposed to actually accomplish this? To me, that’s where HAJET comes in. HAJET brings JETs together to maximize the impact we can have on our new communities. Through HAJET, you can attend information seminars. You can participate in boozy bake sales and make new friends if that’s more your style. You can also take part in events like HEC, which impact our students and fellow JETs alike: it’s really cool to have an organization that bridges the gap between both. These initiatives are made possible by the collaborative efforts of the HAJET community.

Experienced JETs have joined HAJET to provide us with resources to help us thrive. We’ve all just arrived in Hokkaido, and we can all feel lost at times: that’s where I would help. If you keep encountering a certain obstacle, then it’ll be my goal to present your concerns to the council. If you want to launch a new initiative in your town, then I can help you access the resources you need through HAJET. In the end, HAJET is here to represent you and I. Please, leave the boring administrative work to me: I will make sure your ideas are clearly heard and I will enjoy doing so.

I am happy to be in a prefecture with such an active AJET chapter, and I hope to become a bigger part of it.

What I’m digging these days:

House of Cards. I think I’m a little late on this, but damn Kevin Spacey is amazing.

Besides taking advantage of Japan’s decriminalized streaming, I’ve been eating ridiculous amounts of Hokkaido ice cream. I took a trip to Toma to taste the watermelon ice cream. I found black sesame ice cream in Higashikagura. The lavender ice cream in Furano was definitely おいしい. I visited Sapporo’s chocolate factory for some Shiroi Koibito ice cream. Seriously, I’ve eaten so much ice cream. In what might by now be considered an expert opinion, Higashikagura’s Tamura Farms has the best ice cream so far. Come try it! And please, send me any ice cream recommendations.

Thanks for reading!

mike-bugajskiMichael Bugajski

Hi everyone!  My name is Michael, and I’m a sort of first year JET!  I say sort of, because this is actually my second time around on the JET Program.  I was in Japan from 2011 to 2012, serving as a Elementary / Junior High ALT in Niigata prefecture!  Now, I am a first year (in Hokkaido!) JET in Asahikawa, teaching high school and special education students!  In the years in between, I was the President of the Heartland US08 chapter of the JET Alumni Association (KS, MO, IA, ND, SD, NE), where I worked hand in hand with the Chicago consulate to help recruit and train new JETs, as well as provide opportunities for new and old JET alumni to (re)connect with the JET and Japanese community!

AJET and HAJET in particular, is an opportunity to really get involved with not just with your local JET community, but with the JET community as a whole, and in a really big way, with the people of Hokkaido.  Being the First Year Rep for HAJET is the kind of opportunity that is essential in a group as large as ours, to help represent those of us new to Hokkaido (or Japan!), and just as importantly, help to provide the kind of opportunities to volunteer and get involved that really help to shape and the quintessential JET experience.  Really, at the risk of sounding cliche, HAJET is that kind of organization that is more than the sum of its parts, and the things we can accomplish together can have a real, lasting impact.

On a lighter note, I am super pumped for Luke Cage on Netflix (No spoilers, please!), and I worry that this winter is going to lead to me over-indulging in one of my secret, guilty pleasures… sports anime. Seriously, volleyball, rugby, and… figure skating?!  That, and worrying about the glimmer in my coworker’s eye when I mentioned I would go ice fishing with him once things start to freeze.  He’ll forget by then… right?



Social Coordinator Election

Looks like we’ve got someone stepping up to bat to coordinate you, socially. Who is that? Wait, it’s… it’s…


Kelsey Fast

Why I want to run for Social Coordinator, and why I would be good at it:

I live in the city of Hakodate, which is nearly as southernly as you can get in Hokkaido. It’s not exactly a fast trip up the high way to see the rest of Hokkaido. Yet in my first year here I feel like I’ve done a decent job of exploring the Prefecture and meeting people. HAJET events have been a good reason to travel, to go to events like HAJET meetings and the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri. I also feel like I’ve made friends who make the long trips worth it.

My first year here has been full of the excitement and adventure that I was missing back home. Experiencing organized events with other ALT’s have been some of my best memories yet, and I would like to participate in some way in the Hokkaido community in a larger way.

I feel like I would be a good Social Coordinator because I have a lot of interest in enjoying the rest of the year together with both our current group as well as the newbies arriving in Summer. I think despite me living in one of the more difficult to reach places in Hokkaido I have gotten to know many of you pretty well. I’m not saying I am the worlds biggest social butterfly, but I enjoy meeting new people and trying new things together.

I want to hear about any events you are planning in your town, any cool festivals you have going on, or just even if you are thinking of marathoning the Lord of the Rings or something and want company. Also, I worked as an Administrative Assistant previous to coming to Japan, and I feel pretty confidant in organizing information, planning and getting the message out to everyone who needs to hear about it.


2016 Prefectural Council Elections

So it’s that time of year again folks. Time to elect some new folks to lead HAJET. We’re sure there will be some farewells and thank yous in an upcoming issue of Polestar, so let’s get right to the nominations, yes? Here are the nominees for each position–when you’ve read their platforms, head to and vote!



ferfie nomi

Chris “Ferfie” Brownoff

Why do you want to be, and why should you be President?

Hey, this is Ferfie. I live in Rikubetsu, located right on the northern edge of Tokachi. Rikubetsu is a wonderful little town, famous for being the coldest place in all of Japan. However, it is lesser known for not having an ALT for 11 years prior to my arrival. Needless to say, this has been a year of a lot of “firsts” for me. Likewise, these “firsts” have presented quite the learning curve since my arrival in August. I imagine that this isn’t all that different for just about anybody reading this blurb. We all got to Hokkaido, many of us weren’t entirely sure what to expect from our jobs/new lives, and I’m willing to bet that the majority of you experienced at least some kind of challenge in adjusting. Maybe you reached out to your predecessor for: a) advice regarding your duties as an ALT; b) what to expect from your town as far as amenities/services are concerned; or c) perhaps you were concerned with just how small your new accommodations would be.

Yeah, I didn’t get that. Not having a predecessor meant that, prior to my arrival, I had no one to communicate with that could offer any real advice relating to the situation I was about to get into. When I showed up to my house, I was fortunate enough to have a bed, some appliances, and a TV. That being said, I had no furniture, no cookware/dishware, not even a set of chopsticks. I ate my first meal from Seicomart on my living room floor.

I had no one to communicate with regarding what I should expect when I get to my house, let alone with respect to my actual job (in fact communication was so sparse that I didn’t even know how I was getting from New Chitose to my town).

Fast forward to Sapporo Orientation, and things started to make a lot more sense. I got some job suggestions, finally started to get some living advice that might be applicable to Hokkaido JETs, and got to meet a lot of rad folks. Getting to hang out with and ask questions to other ALTs (both new and current members of HAJET) finally gave me the opportunity to start actually preparing for my job. Not only that, but since then, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know some of the most wicked folks I’ve ever met.

For me HAJET hasn’t simply been a resource for advice on working in Hokkaido. It’s provided me with an extensive network of interesting people who I want to reach out to for a variety of reasons. Got questions about teaching as a one-shot? HAJET’s community seems pretty damn ready to offer some advice. Want to plan a holiday event? In my short time here, HAJET has time and again pulled through with support. Want to just hang out with some folks with similar hobbies? Doesn’t seem to matter how big Hokkaido is, if you have a shared interest, you’re probably going to find someone willing to take part in it as well. Plus, the dedication to cultural exchange or opportunities like the Hokkaido English Challenge demonstrate the caliber of JETs that we have in Hokkaido. So for all of these reasons and more, HAJET has been a very significant part of why I love my life in Hokkaido.

Simply put, I would love to take on the position of HAJET president. I’m not going to sit here and tell you about all of the council positions I’ve held before, nor do I have anything resembling a platform to run on. In all honesty, I’m not even certain if that’s required for this kind of election. I will tell you, though, that aside from the black mold in my first house, I have been incredibly stoked with just about everything I’ve experienced in my first few months in Hokkaido. I honestly can’t do justice to how I feel about my town, my coworkers, students, or the friends I’ve made since I set up shop in Rikubetsu. So much of this is because of how stellar HAJET has been for me. Not just the council, but the community that it encapsulates. To be frank, I just want to contribute to that and help others connected to this community as much as I can. But don’t call me Frank – just Ferf will do… I’m sorry I really like puns.

What’s your favorite Hokkaido memory?

As for my favourite memory, I’ll keep this short-er: Probably just driving through the mountains on my way back from Sapporo Welcome Party. The whole weekend the weather was beautiful, leaves were in great autumn form, and I was travelling through unbelievably serene terrain with some people that I happen to quite like. But coming back on the Sunday evening, it was late and the sky was totally clear. I remember looking up at the stars and I thought that they all looked so vivid. We pulled over near some trees and just looked at how clear and stunning it all was. It was the first time I was ever able to see that long, dense cluster of stars in the milky way, stretched across the sky. It was really humbling and beautiful.


nomi nikolia

Nikolai Arkady Muth

Hi everyone! My name is Nikolai, and I’m here to tell you all about my application for Vice President of HAJET. If HAJET is a pirate ship and we are all pirates, I want to be your first mate. Possibly you know me or remember me from real life, which would be awesome. Maybe if you’re a first year you remember me from my application for First Year Rep last year. If none of the above, then probably—as Michael Bublé once said—”I just haven’t met you yet!” Regardless on how this election turns out, hopefully that can change in the future. :)I was told I have to answer three questions, which as far as applications go isn’t bad. The first is why I want to be Vice President. This one’s easy. As I said, I did apply for HAJET’s recent First Year Rep election, and I’m applying again now to HAJET because I’m serious about my desire to give back to the community that was so welcoming and fun when I first arrived in Hokkaido. I want to be that friendly face (see attached photo) that newbies and veterans alike can turn to when they have questions, or want to make a bid on some sweet cuppin’ cakes at the HAJET bake sale auctions, or even just want to chat. I really do think that HAJET is an amazing organization that really benefits, and actually forms the backbone of the community of ALTs in Hokkaido. Part of what attracted me to the JET program in particular was the great support group and communities that I’d heard about. Now that I’m here, for me, HAJET IS that community and that support. But I’ve realized I’m not truly satisfied just being a member and if I can I want to be able to participate: to help shape how HAJET moves forward, and to keep it being a strong and loving presence in Hokkaido’s ALT community.

The second question here is about why I SHOULD be Vice President. This one’s a little harder. If pure desire and motivation haven’t swayed you yet, you should probably know I have experience in the role. I was the Vice President of my Student Council in high school. I KNOW!! It’s like I was preparing my whole life for this moment! As a bonus, I’m exceedingly tall, so you know, if you’re ever at a busy meeting and you’re like “Oh no I need to find the PA or someone in charge,” you’ll probably be able to see my head above the crowd.
Ok but seriously, Vice President as a position seems perfect to me, because I’m looking for a way that I can provide support to this community and organization that’s helped make my time in Japan enjoyable. My Japanese is pretty well developed so I’ll be able to set up hotels and meeting rooms for our seasonal gatherings, or help anyone who needs to figure something out but doesn’t quite have the language proficiency. I really believe that the way I want to live my life is by doing good for the people around me and so I want to do the best I can for the ALTs and the community of wonderful people in Hokkaido. Thanks for reading this far and for your consideration, and I hope the rest of your winter goes well.

The bonus question asks me to detail my favorite memory in Hokkaido so far. By far the hardest question here. I’ve met so many cool people here through HAJET and just in Hokkaido and in my town; these are people that I know I’m going to want to keep in touch with beyond my time as an ALT. I’ve had too many good memories so far to choose a favorite! I’m gonna narrow it down and say that ONE of my favorite memories of my time with HAJET folks was when a group of pals and I banded together at one of the bake sales to bid a sizable amount of money so we could win a cake with the face of our current President—Adam—emblazoned on the top in frosting. The consumption of his face that followed felt very symbolic and ritualistic. In a good way! Any organization where the new, bright-eyed, and impressionable members can purchase and subsequently devour the visage of the current leader is one that I want to be a part of.


nomi debbie

Debbie Walter

Why do you want to be, and why should you be Secretary?

From the moment I learned about HAJET, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it. It is through HAJET that I have had some of the best moments of my time here on JET. One year ago, I ran for a position on the PC. Over the past year, I have learned so much about how HAJET works and what it means to be a member, and although this year may be drawing to a close, I don’t want to stop giving back to the organization that has helped me adjust to life here in Hokkaido. Along with a new year, I feel that taking on the position of Secretary for the 2016-2017 year is the best way I know how to continue to be involved. I believe I am a good fit for Secretary for the following reasons.

First, given the constantly changing nature of life as a JET, it would be beneficial to have someone who already has experience working on the PC to work with the new council. As my year as the Central Rep comes to a close, I feel that I am familiar enough with the direction in the which the current council is going that I will be able to offer support for the new council, whenever necessary.

Second, I have three years’ experience working in a secretary-like position during my undergrad. I worked closely under my university’s Asian Studies department advisor to maintain our database of certificate students, in which I handled the information of new applicants, current students, and graduates. In addition to this, I was also in charge of maintaining an updated mailing list for our department’s weekly and monthly e-newsletters. I also have experience with taking accurate and concise notes about departmental meetings and various events held by my department. With this kind of experience, I think I will make a successful Secretary on the HAJET PC.

What is your favorite Hokkaido memory?

My favorite Hokkaido memory is a very recent one: keeping up the tradition of having an American Thanksgiving to get over the hump of the school year. Hosting good friends, eating delicious food, and playing great games, but not before the intense, near-24-hour cooking marathon in such a small kitchen!


nomi brian

Bryan Campbell

Why should you be, and why do you want to be Treasurer?

While in university, I was twice elected as an Operations & Finance Commissioner for my Students’ Union. Here, I worked with clubs, reviewed and approved travel grants for students, and sat on the $14 million organization’s budget committee as well as another funding committee. I also worked with a student club as the president, where I helped to clean up our finances, and helped make membership a better value. Lastly, I also worked with other clubs to help them run their events by lending our club’s equipment and skills, which could have cost them a fortune without our help.

I’d like to be HAJET’s next Treasurer because I’d like to get more involved with the organization’s operations. I know how important but undesirable a Treasurer is, and how crippling it can be for an organization to have to find someone to do a job that isn’t always the most interesting. I really enjoy behind the scenes work and want to ensure that HAJET remains financially transparent and responsible while still having room to grow. I’m very easy going and agreeable, and just want to make sure that everyone else can go about their work without road blocks or concern. This is a job that I’ve done before and enjoyed doing it.

What is your favorite Hokkaido memory?

My favorite memory in Hokkaido so far has been having friends visit my small town. We always go to the city to do everything, and I really enjoyed showing people around my town and having a relaxing weekend. It’s not the most exciting place in Hokkaido, but I enjoyed playing host and showing off what my town has.

Northern Representative

nomi adam

Adam Gentle

Hey, everybody! My name is Adam Gentle, I’m stoked to say that I live in a land of giant crab claws and drift ice named Mombetsu, and I’m running for Northern Rep.

In case I somehow completely failed in one very big aspect of my last position and you have no idea who I am, I’ll go ahead and say that I’ve had some experience with HAJET over the last two years. Because of that experience, I feel that I have a pretty good understanding of what the job of a Regional Rep entails, and how vital those positions are when considering how big and varied our prefecture actually is.

Part of my plan, if elected, is to continue in the tradition of two people that I consider to have done excellent jobs in the position of Northern Rep over the last two years. They both planned fun and memorable welcome parties with their own creative twist (I’ve got a couple of would-be tricks up my sleeve too), as well as being massively helpful in contributing to the Prefectural Council in other ways throughout their respective years. I’ve learned a lot watching and collaborating with these guys.

In addition to that, I’ve got some ideas of my own for rad events throughout the year to bring all us Northerners together, and I will do my utmost to represent the interests of those that tend to live quite far from where a lot of the HAJET action normally happens.

Basically, what it boils down to for me is that I’ve spent the last year riding the collective force that is HAJET all over this beautiful prefecture, focusing on the big picture aspects of what HAJET is (and I feel incredibly grateful for the experience and the friends that I’ve made), but now I would like to know what it’s like to focus my efforts digging a little deeper into the part of the island I call home. Going even more grassroots in an already heavily grassroots-y organization, if that makes sense, and supporting the new Executive team coming up.

I’m still excited about what HAJET has managed to do, and even more stoked to see what’s to come. Thanks for reading this.


nomi jon

Jonathan Curry

Hey there! Jon Curry here, this year’s First Year Rep from the northeastern coast town of Hamatonbetsu. Just like when I ran for First Year Rep, a huge part of my motivation this time around also comes from the many experiences I’ve had in the relatively short amount of time I’ve been here thus far – experiences that our current Northern Rep really helped to facilitate.

One of my best memories, both because it was great and it led to many more good memories, was the weekend of one of the earlier welcome parties. I was planning on having a lazy, antisocial weekend, heading home straight after work and jumping into a pair of sweatpants. I suddenly heard my genkan door slam open; to my surprise, Mike (the current rep) and Sam (my fellow Hamaton ALT) were standing there with wicked grins. “Shut up and get in the car.” “We’re goin’ to that welcome party and so are you.” Caught between shock and laughter, I caved and packed a bag for the weekend.

If I hadn’t gone to that welcome party, I would never have made as many great connections with fellow JETs as I have in these few short months. It made me feel like I was part of a greater and more cohesive community, and pushed me to get more involved. I made new friends at each subsequent party or meeting, and was elated to run into them again and again at other JET events. Hamaton is fairly isolated and big JET gatherings being somewhat few and far between, so I’ve come to realize how impactful my regional rep has been on my life here in Hokkaido.

It’s that first friendly kidnappi- er, invitation that led to so many more memories, all of which make me want to be someone who can provide that same warm welcome for future first years. I had a similar responsibility in college as a senior mentoring freshmen, and my connections with them are still strong despite the distance. I can only imagine that not only would I provide clear and patient guidance for the JETs up north, but I would have an opportunity to form even more deep, long lasting connections. I both understand and welcome the challenge and responsibility of taking on a mentoring role such as this, and I would be honored to serve as your HAJET Northern Rep. Thank you!

Eastern Representative

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Kelsey Woodford

Why should you, and why do you want to be Eastern Rep?

The first phrase my Japanese Language partner taught me back in New Zealand when I told her I would be going to Nemuro was, “the edge of Japan”, maybe: 日本の境界 nihon no kyoukai… I’ve since forgotten, because I’ve not felt the need to use that word since. At the time I truly felt I would be venturing out into the last place in Japan, kilometers away from anything and everything. But I’m glad to say that is not the case! Somehow the distances shrank into familiar journeys, connections were formed, and we all saw each other naked at a lake. I really owe all my sanity to HAJET, not only for the events put on, but for everything that came after that thanks to those initial meetings. More than anything I want these events to continue happening in the future, I’d like us all to keep on keeping in touch. I’d be happy to be a part of that and know that it would all go fantastically despite the fact that I’ve only been here a few months, and though I’m trying my current understanding of Japanese admittedly isn’t amazing. I know this because we are a bunch of lovely people out here on this massive island, and we all help each other out. There are so many fabulous adventures to be had out East, we can all learn so much from each other and this place.

What is Your Favourite Hokkaido Memory?

I’ve learnt that foxes get fluffier in winter, I’ve also learnt what foxes are like in reality, and that they scream. I’ve learnt that deer are insane and come out around twilight and have no sense of timing when it comes to crossing the road. I’ve learnt that the mythical creature tanuki is round and fat and lives near Betsukai. I’ve learnt that Japanese cranes are giants (155cm tall) and come in pairs. There’s a weasel guarding a hot spring at lake Kussharo in Autumn, and Eagles watching Notsuke Peninsula in winter.

It’s extremely hard to choose one specific favourite memory, but I can tell you the moment I decided I wanted to stay here. It was Autumn and we drove from Akan to Lake Onneto to look at the Autumn leaves. I’ve never seen anything like it; all the mountains were made of the colours of fire, but not only orange and red, also yellow, green, purple, brown, as well as the blues, whites and greys of the rivers and lakes. We looked into the dark green forest and you could really understand the creatures, stories and art that come out of Japan. I turned to my friend and said “I’m not leaving yet”. There is still so much more to explore.

Central Representative

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Betrice Yambrach

Why should you be elected?

Before coming on the JET Program I worked in the recruiting section for a company where one of my duties was being responsible for the new hires. Ultimately I had to be a support system for those new hires, providing solutions to any problems or answering any questions that were brought up. We were sending many of these new hires to work around the world, so I had to be knowledgeable about where they were going and make them feel comfortable, but also excited about moving to a new country. Though this took place in a completely different context than HAJET, it really gave me experience on how to be supportive and helpful to a group of people who are coming into a new environment and helping them become a part of their new community.

I understand that being Central Rep isn’t only about welcoming new incoming JETs, but rather making a community between those new JETs and the other JETs and ALTs in the Central Region (and the rest of Hokkaido for that matter!). I look forward to doing this by making sure that there are events, not just welcome parties, that bring those JETs, new and old, together. It’s important to let people know who is in their area as well as what’s going on in their area. I often hear JETs looking for events happening around Hokkaido to observe or take part in. As Central Rep, I plan to stay well-connected with the members of the Central Region and other Regional Reps so that I can find events and activities that are taking place throughout the year. I want to make that information available to both those in the Central Region as well as the rest of Hokkaido. Also, by staying connected, I can actively contribute to the Polestar with news and updates that really highlight the Central Region. Plus, the more I get to know all of you, the more I understand what the Central Region is all about and the better I can represent you on the PC!

Why do you want to be elected?

Simply enough I really love HAJET. I feel as though people always flourish best and get the most out of their experiences when they’re a part of a supportive community and that’s exactly what HAJET provides. My first six months in Japan have been amazing lagely due to HAJET and participating in their events. Because I enjoy the HAJET community so much, I want to take a more active role in it and would be excited to help contribute to what makes it so great. I want to continue making HAJET a useful resource for new and old JETs and other ALTs alike so that it can be used to help you make the most out of your time in Japan.

Favorite Hokkaido Memory:

My favorite Hokkaido memory has to be the open-onsen moonlight adventure at Lake Kussharo during Eastern Welcome Party. I just thought it was perfect way to be introduced to the HAJET community. Here you have 20 or so JETs all naked in an open-onsen in the middle of the night under the full moon. It was definitely romantic, but in a platonic kind of way. But in all seriousness, as strange as it sounds I think that moment was the epitome of the HAJET community. What could have been an uncomfortable and awkward situation, especially as a newcomer, was actually a genuinely a great time. Everyone was just  so laid back, casually chatting about things, no shame or judgment whatsoever. There is always bonding whenever onsening is involved and that moment really made me feel part of the HAJET community.

Southwestern Representative

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Kelsey Fast

Why should I be the SW Rep?

I should be the SW Rep because I have spent most of my free time in Hokkaido exploring our area and meeting other ALT’s. I love meeting new people, finding new places and going on adventures. I think I could help any new incoming ALT’s settle in and enjoy our region of Hokkaido.

Why do I want to be the SW Rep?

I want to be the SW Rep because I would like my peers and any new ALT”s to feel as excited as I was about living in the SW. Our current SW Rep brought me pizza when I arrived. I feel at home here because we have a good community, and we have a lot of events. I’d hope to continue this atmosphere.

What has been your favourite Hokkaido memory so far?

My favourite Hokkaido memory is hiking in Daisetsuzan National Park in the Fall. The colours of the landscape were completely unreal. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Before that trip I had some doubts about whether or not Hokkaido was the best place for me, but after going there I was sure I was going to love it here.


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Daneille O’Neil

Hello, I’m Daneille O’Neil. I’m a third year JET from the island of Jamaica, living in the small but picturesque town of Morimachi.

I could go on and talk to you about how hardworking I am–slight OCD levels–dedicated and the like but I will chose not to bore you with such things. What I will tell you is what my region means to me and what I hope will continue to happen whether I’m elected or not (but seriously vote for me :D).

The Southwest, though small and maybe even considered far away, is a home away from home to me. This sentiment didn’t come about overnight either. It was through the camaraderie of the persons I’ve met here, their eagerness to help and share their experiences that made mine an even better one. They gave me a sense of belonging and comfort in knowing that I’m not alone here even though it may seem so sometimes.

It is this type of fellowship I wish to perpetuate here in the Southwest and to our neighbours. Sharing with and caring for each other like bothers and sisters from other mothers and generally making your experience here in Japan one of the best you’ve ever had.

Publications Coordinator


Karisa Whelan

Despite the huge job it is, I’ve decided to run for Publications Coordinator again. As the 2015 cordinator, I completely reworked the Hokkaido Newcomer’s Guide, making it tighter, prettier and easier to read. I also managed to slash the cost of the publication and bring in new advertisers from across Hokkaido, saving HAJET a huge amount of money and improving the budget for both 2015 and into the future. I was successful in the role thanks to a 10 year career in journalism and a Masters in Communication majoring in Professional Writing and Journalism. In taking on the role again, I hope to draw in further advertisers and maintain the quality of the guide. So, vote for me and I’ll keep rocking the publications coordinator role.


Musical Director

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Katelyn Mitchell

Why do you want to be, and why should you be Musical Director?

I have extensive experience in the theater, and have been involved in performances from a very young age. I majored in Dramatic Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. During my time in university, I was involved in over 10 student-led productions in a variety of roles including actor, props manager, blood designer, combat choreographer, sales coordinator, and director. In February of 2015, I wrote and directed an original musical, which parodied a number of classic Broadway shows and songs. The production had a budget of $0 and a successful run which sold out all but one performance.

Theater is one of my passions and has always been a huge part of my life. I am eager to contribute in any way to the revival of the fantastic HAJET Musical tradition, and for this reason hope to be considered for the position of Musical Director.

What’s your favorite Hokkaido Memory?

My favorite Hokkaido memory so far is my first HAJET camping event, the Eastern Welcome Party at Lake Kussharo. It was my first taste of the natural wonders Hokkaido has to offer, from the beautiful lake view out my tent flap to the day trip I made to Lake Akan to get my first glimpse atmarimo. It’s also where I met so many of my amazing HAJET friends and resolved to become more involved in the organization itself because I saw its commitment to making everyone feel welcome and putting on great events with something fun for everyone.


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