Who We Are | The HAJET Prefectural Council

So you might know what HAJET does, but do you know who the masterminds behind it all are? Allow me (Us? The website and I?) to introduce the Prefectural Council, or PC. Each of us plays an essential role in making sure your HAJET experience is top notch. Check out our bios below, and feel free to contact any of us at any time!

Here are your 2017 HAJET PC Members!

[As our website is still undergoing renovation, some of the bios will be missing photos for now. But don’t worry — we’ll have everyone’s lovely faces on here soon 🙂 ]

Betrice Yambrach | President


Hey everyone!

I’m Betrice and I’m the HAJET President for 2017-2018. I’m currently spending my days in the town of Urakawa located in the Southeastern edge (but technically Central region) area of Hokkaido. Here we’re known for our racehorses, konbu, and fresh strawberries (the three main necessities in life). When I’m not busy dealing with sassy high school students, you can usually find me road-tripping around the island, onsening for hours, or enjoying a good bowl of ramen. I actually really love ramen and want to travel to all of the famous ramen spots in Hokkaido (maybe even all of Japan??). Like the Sunshine textbook says: “Ramen is a symphony of soup and noodles.”

As President, I work to make sure that HAJET is running smoothly and effectively. I follow up with other HAJET PC members on any discussions or issues, delegate work and responsibility where needed, help coordinate HAJET events, and act as point of contact for the whole HAJET community. Ultimately, I’m here to support all of you who somehow found yourselves in Hokkaido and help you make the most out of your time here on JET. If you have any questions, concerns, or just want to talk, I’m always available and more than happy to hear from you. You can hit me up at my HAJET email address above.

Andrew Kaz | Vice-president


Hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii, everyone! My name’s Andrew, but feel free to call me Kaz, Andrew, or Andrewkaz (one word) if you’re really in a hurry and out-of-breath.
I’ve come to Japan by way of West Virginia’s country roads and the city of Boston back in the US, currently settling out east in Kushiro—the city of mist. And I suppose I should mention that I’ll be HAJET’s Vice President for the current 2017-2018 term!  When I’m not HAJETing or eating (note: I’m probably eating), you’ll find me listening to Utada Hikaru or pretending I’m a photographer. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to experience more of Hokkaido life with you all, including the necessary ramen/soba slurping, onsen poaching, and local speciality eating (being Hokkaido, I still have a long way to go).
As HAJET’s Vice President, I’ll be working internally to improve the operation of some of our bigger events (including our three seasonal meetings). I sincerely hope to make your journey across the island with us a smooth one, and ideally introduce you to at least a few parts unknown. Additionally, I’ll do my best to assist Betrice in achieving all her goals for the coming year, so please feel free to reach out to me with any pressing matters or questions, and I’ll get them answered as best I can.

Best wishes and looking forward to getting to know you soon!

Michael Bugajski | Treasurer


Howdy everyone!  My name is Michael Bugajski (Bug-eye-ski, if you were curious) from the grand ole city of Chicago (‘Merica!), and I am your HAJET Treasurer (for 2017-2018)!  I’m a first year Hokkaido JET in Asahikawa, but was also a JET in Niigata prefecture from 2011 to 2012.  Second times a charm, I guess!  Prior to being the Treasurer, I was also the First Year Rep for the 2016 new JETs.  Before coming back on JET, I had a thrilling career as a salary man in an Aerial Mapping firm, where I spent my days elbow deep in excel managing our departmental budget, making sure all the numbers came up black and not red.  Exciting stuff (I hope you can feel my excitment.  Wooo.)  Now I spend my days poking fun at my High School students and working with the most amazing sets of special needs kids in Hokkaido, so things are on the up and up!

When not playing with numbers, but passions tend toward the culinary. I love to cook and bake (2017’s project is baking improvement!), and one of my real passions in ramen.  While I haven’t started down the path of crafting my own perfect bowl, I have been eagerly working on the many many ramen shops and variations of Asahikawa.  So far, I’m 25 shops in, but with more than 400 shops in Asahikawa, this one is a long haul.  If you are ever in my neck of the woods, drop me a line-  I know a great ramen shop we can check out!

I’m looking forward to working with everyone on the PC this year, and I am confident that we can all move HAJET forward, together.  I have a feeling that it is going to be a good year!

Debbie Walter | Secretary


Hi there! I’m Debbie, and I’m no stranger to the ways of the HAJET PC. I’ve been a part of HAJET for the better part of the last 2.5 years, going from being your Central Rep to being your Secretary. Well, I suppose I should say that I still am your Secretary. A lot of what I do tends to happen behind the scenes–which, incidentally, is precisely where I shine the most! My primary job is maintaining the HAJET Member Directory, but I also keep records of everything discussed at both PC and general meetings. In addition to that, I provide support to the rest of the PC in whatever way I can, be that by answering questions, giving suggestions, or helping out at our various events. With that said, I am beyond thrilled to be returning to the PC for another year!

A little bit about myself: I grew up in a city called Pittsburgh, famous for steel and Heinz ketchup (the only one that matters!). Nowadays, I’ve been living in the adorable little town of Kuriyama. It’s very, very quiet here. Except when the baseball team is out practicing–it’s not so quiet then! When I’m not outside running from digital zombies, you can find me reading, cooking, and learning how to make pretty things out of yarn with a pair of needles (aka, knitting). I really love to learn new hobbies, so if you have an interesting one, I’d love to know about it! I also really love exploring the beauty of Hokkaido when I have the chance; if you’re ever in need of a travel buddy or a running partner, hit me up!

I’m really looking forward to working with the PC this year. I really don’t think I could’ve asked for a better group of people to pick up where the last group left off! I absolutely cannot wait to see what sorts of things we’ll have in store for you over the next year. I have a feeling it’s gonna be a good one! Until then, if you ever have any questions, comments, or just want to poke someone, feel free to message (or poke) me at any time! ^^

Finlay Harden| Northern Rep


Hello everyone! I am Finlay and I am this year’s HAJET Northern Rep. I come from a small island in the north of Scotland. The north of Scotland is famous for scallops, herring, salmon, wind, beautiful scenery and agriculture. Now I live in Rumoi which is famous for scallops, herring, salmon, wind, beautiful scenery and agriculture. I feel quite at home.

I’m a Hokkaido BOE ALT so travel throughout Rumoi district from Rumoi to Teshio and everywhere in between. The Rumoi district has some great beaches, beautiful onsens delicious food and some of the friendliest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

When I’m not trying to trick students into thinking that learning English is fun, I’m probably hiking, snowshoeing, bouldering or driving to visit some of Hokkaido’s finest ALTs. If you are looking for an outdoor activities buddy, then please get in touch. If you want someone to have a drink with, sing karaoke with, onsen with, cook with or visit new places with, then please also get in touch.

As Northern Rep I hope to increase awareness of some of the North’s unique places and activities among HAJET members. So if you know of anything special in your area, please let me know and maybe we can arrange a visit. Hopefully we can arrange some get togethers over the next year and help everyone feel a little more at home here in Hokkaido. Welcome to the North!

Stephanie T. Serres | Eastern Rep


Well, hey there, how do you do? My name is Stephanie T. Serres and I am your 2017-2018 Eastern Rep! 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! Now, I am residing in the charming and peaceful town of Rubeshibe where we are known for our adorable Fox Village and delicious yakiniku! Please feel free to visit and enjoy together with me!

If I am not traveling from high school to high school, teaching the lively students of the Kitami area, you can find me making some kind of handicraft, singing my heart out in an abandoned train station, or photographing the beautiful people and scenery around me. I am also always in search of an adventure and adventure buddies―whether it is hiking Hokkaido’s breathtakingly beautiful terrain or getting lost down some dimly lit alleyway in search of scrumptious ramen―I am your gal!

As your Eastern Rep, I am here to help develop and facilitate community by creating and promoting events and activities in our area so we may all feel more connected to each other and to Hokkaido! If there is ever an event you would like to go to or host, give me a shout so we can make it an event for others to enjoy! And, if you are ever in need of an empathetic ear or helping hand, please don’t ever hesitate to reach out to me. Living in another land can be intimidating at times but when we come together it can truly start to feel like home.

Ok East, let’s have a swell year!


T.J. Wissick | Central Rep


Hello, all! My name is T.J. Wissick. I’m lucky enough to be your Central Representative for the upcoming year! At the moment, I’m a first year ALT in picturesque Naie-cho, a cozy little town tucked right smack dab in between Sapporo and Asahikawa. Recent anthropological studies by a group of roaming college seniors in desperate need of credits to graduate suggest that I originally hail from scenic Upstate New York, where I live in the middle of scenic nowhere with my scenic family. I must confess, I’m impressed that they figured that much out just by going through my trash and stealing some of my food, but…

At any rate, I’m very excited to be a part of the PC this year. I look forward to working with everyone, and to learning more about Hokkaido and about my fellow ALTs. I’m always astounded at the sheer breadth of different ideas and experiences that we all bring to the table. It’s going to be an absolute blast connecting with, and working with, all of you. That said, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me in any capacity, with the obvious-but-somehow-still-in-need-of-mentioning exception of taking out ad space on websites in order to get my attention. Looking at you, Ben.

Keep in touch!

Stella Fronius | Sapporo Rep


Hi! My name is Stella Fronius and I am your Sapporo Rep this year. I grew up chasing sunshine among the waves of sunny San Diego and this is my first time living in a place that actually requires a jacket. it’s been a lot of fun traveling around Hokkaido, uncovering the island’s mysteries and making so many new and wonderful friends. I especially love exploring Hokkaido’s natural beauty and there’s lots of it. From wandering through the flower fields of Furano, driving through the hills leading to Sounkyo and watching the leaves gradually change color, to tasting that first snowflake and feeling your heart beat with excitement knowing there are many more to come.

Eventually all roads lead back to Sapporo. Unlike the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, Sapporo is more laid back and chill. It has a little of something to offer for everyone. On any given weeknight, I can usually be found walking aimlessly through a park, knitting at a cafe, or listening to music at the local concert hall.

As Sapporo Rep, I would like to find and create events and activities that will bring people together, so that you can enjoy all of the opportunities Hokkaido life has to offer. Moving to and living in a new country can be difficult at times, and it’s my goal to foster a sense of community among both first year and continuing JETs living in and visiting Sapporo. Give a shout out if you have any questions, want to hunt for tanuki together, or are simply in need of a willing ear. I look forward to getting to know everyone better!


Haley Hollen | Southwestern Rep


Hey, everyone! I’m Haley, your new Southwest Representative. I’m a 22 year old recent graduate from University of Virginia, and I come from the wonderful world of Northern Virginia. My current town of Esashi is the perfect cure for the madness of DC suburban life! It’s a cozy and quiet seaside town where the lack of traffic has brought my blood pressure back down to an almost reasonable level. I’m still getting used to the long, windy winters though.

My hobbies are reading, nature, sports, and fighting video games. So if you’re ever in the mood to play SSB or Soul Caliber, you know who to call. (Just be prepared to get schooled). I’m also always down for a friendly sports match.

As your new Rep I will continue to nurture the bonds of our tight-knit, southwestern family with a slew of events tailored to indoorsy folk and outdoorsy folk alike. From camping in the summer to cozy karaoke nights in the winter, we’re going to have lots of fun together! Representing what you want out of your JET experience in Hokkaido is the whole reason why I’m here, so be sure to let me know of any groovy suggestions you have! And remember, I’m always free to lend an ear, helping hand, or warm cup of tea whenever the going gets rough. Don’t hesitate to give me a holler.


Samantha Delia Peterson | Polestar Editor-in-Chief


Hey friends! My name is Samantha and I’m the Polestar Editor-In-Chief for 2017. Despite how badly I wanted to be placed literally anywhere but Hokkaido, I live in a tiny inaka town called Assabu “Potato Land” on the southwestern peninsula of this frozen island and I love it. I’m from America, and although I was born in New York and raised in New Jersey, I adopted the phrase “West Coast Best Coast” after moving to California a few years back. (For the record, that saying applies to Hokkaido too. Possibly. I’ve never actually been to any other coast of Hokkaido.) I like food. I like cats. I like words.

My vision for the Polestar is pretty simple. I would like it to be a platform for bringing the members of HAJET together through sharing information, ideas, and creative endeavors. The Polestar is here to serve you and your needs, so let’s see if we can achieve that.

Please hmu if you have a submission for the Polestar, funny knock-knock jokes, juicy gossip, music recs, or cute cat videos.


Edwin Acre II | Polestar Designer


Heya! I’m Edwin and I’ll be designing the Polestar magazine for you along with Samantha! I’m currently living way down on the southern tip of Hokkaido’s fin in the small town of Kikonai (where I’m known as a “baribari New Yorker”… still no word on what that actually means). In addition to my English teaching duties, I also teach unicycle!

I’m excited to be working on this team and look forward to helping put out the best publication we can. You can find some of our back catalog at issuu.com/polestarhajet. I’m always happy to receive feedback, questions, ideas, or whatever, so feel free to shoot me a message with your thoughts!

Kelsey Woodford| Publications Coordinator


Hello, I’m Kelsey. Previously I was the Eastern region rep and this year I am the Publications Coordinator. That means that I will be working on getting the “Hokkaido Newcomers Guide” out for you! The HNG is given to all first years, a little welcome gift from HAJET.

I came to Nemuro, Hokkaido (the most eastern place in Japan!) from Wellington, the capital city of New Zealand in August 2015. My hobbies changed with my environment, I studied art and loved drawing, printmaking and painting. Now, I am surrounded by the ever changing nature of Hokkaido, and these days I’m more often taking photographs outside.

I look forward to meeting you, so please say hi if you see me. And if you need to contact me for any publications related reasons, feel free to email me at publications@hajet.org

Lianna Hrycyk | Social Coordinator


Hello HAJET! I’m your 2017-2018 Social Coordinator. These days, you can find me in the snowy little town of Higashikagura. It’s not too far from Asahikawa and I can see Asahidake from my window. I originally hail from the other Great White North – Canada. In fact, I have the unpopular opinion that (central) Hokkaido is warm, as opposed to the beloved city of Ottawa I left behind.

My main winter hobby is skiing. I go 2-3 times a week. And yet somehow, I am still utterly average at it… Besides that, I love cooking vegetarian food, reading books, and going to Costco. In the summer, I hope to try hiking and am currently searching for hiking buddies. Apply within!

Being SoCo combines two things I love: organization and meeting new people. If you hear about an event happening around the island, or if you are stopping by Asahikawa, remember to let me know!


Phillip Hennessy | HEC Coordinator

mail: hec@hajet.org | website: hec.hajet.org

Hey! I’m the HEC Coordinator and a second year Hokkaido BOE ALT living in Abashiri. This wonderful place is famous for sea ice, a prison, and a chipmunk petting zoo. If any of those strike your fancy, come on over!

I joined the HEC camp last year and needless to say, I loved it. It lead me to see HEC as a valuable tool for ALTs around Hokkaido. Simply put, it’s a way for us to really connect with our students. It’s also a wonderful outlet for our students who want to improve their English and experience other cultures. That’s why I decided to take on this position. Even though I’m a noob compared to a lot of you wonderful people, I’m willing to work hard and want to make this a wonderful year! I’m actually co-author on a scientific paper published in the European Journal of Soil Science. I also through hiked the Appalachian Trail. But don’t let those things fool you…

Anyways, a large part of my job now is mediating between people. I talk to people who are involved and who want to be involved, so, please, contact me anytime. The more people talk to me, the happier and less worried I am : ). Feel free to let me know about any thoughts or ideas or questions you might have.

Jordan Frazier | HEC Camp Coordinator


Hello! I’m Jordan Frazier, a 4th year ALT in the great northern wilds of Takinoue, and this year I am the HEC Camp Coordinator! I’m a transplant from the US (Texas, specifically- never say that the JET Programme doesn’t have a sense of humor) but have found a happy place here exploring, onsening, and skiing as much as I can.

I have been involved in HEC for a couple of years, and I’ve seen the impact that HEC can have on students firsthand. I’ve had multiple students attend HEC at this point, and seeing them at camp has made this ALT misty-eyed at times. Some of my proudest moments have been watching them grow and interact with others at camp. Even students who take the test and don’t even go to camp are affected by the process- they gain confidence and a more positive attitude towards English as they realize that they can express themselves in creative and adaptable ways in preparation for the test.
HEC is an amazing experience for everyone involved, so if you’re interested, whether to volunteer or to enter your students, please contact me! Every year we need talented and dedicated individuals to make HEC run smoothly; we can’t do it without you!

[Pic coming soon!]

Lynn Ng | HAJET Translator

[Bio also coming soon!]

Adam Gentle | Bookseller


Hi, guys! My name is Adam, and I live up in the lovely and slightly stinky city of Monbetsu on the Okhotsk coast. If you’re into petting seals, meeting Russians, viewing drift ice, eating crab, or hanging with me, you should stop by sometime. I’ve got plenty of coffee/tea, and an entire wall filled with books for you to peruse and purchase/gawk at.

This is actually my fourth position on the HAJET PC, and during that time I’ve come to appreciate the cool and completely donation-based resource that is the HAJET English Bookstore, and I am super stoked to continue the tradition. If you have books you’d like to donate, hit me up via email at bookseller@hajet.org and we’ll work out a way to take them off your hands.

If you would like to make a purchase, check out the up to date Google Doc on what we currently have and the corresponding Goodreads reviews on the Hajet website under the Resources tab and then shoot me an email with your literary wants from the doc. I’ll get back to you with a total and some ways to make your dreams come true. All proceeds from the bookstore go to fund HAJET events and outreach programs.

Also, check out the Hokkaido English Book Club I run on Facebook if you get a chance. HAJET is all about building community, and this particular one is the perfect place to connect with other equally nerdy individuals from around Hokkaido and dork out about everything from the latest Neil Gaiman to what makes “1984” the perfect introduction to dystopian fiction (actual discussions).

Cheers, and happy reading!


Fiona Dunton| Elections Coordinator


Hi. I’m Fiona. You may remember me as that girl who’s usually late, or “Wait, what? Who’s this person?” I’m from New Zealand – my mountain is Mauao, my ocean is the Pacific Ocean – it’s a beautiful ocean and has only tried to hurt me once, in Australia, because Australia.

Stop. I’m the Elections Coordinator, which means – believe it or not – I coordinate elections. No. So I call for people to nominate themselves (or others!) for various positions, prepare the polls, and copy/paste more emails than my brain appreciates. Sometimes it turns against me in protest and will have me do all sorts of things that elicit a “Oh, she’s so blonde!” kind of response, but no – my brain just wants revenge. And it’s too late to stop it.

Too late.

I’m sorry.

[it could be… your picture here!]

[TBD] | Project Outreach Coordinator


Interested in coordinating volunteer opportunities around the island for your fellow HAJET friends? Contact any PC member, be it your regional rep or the president herself, and get invovled! Or nominate a friend who you think would be well suited for the position. Yoroshiku!


Jonathan Curry | Webmaster


Yo! Hamatonbetsu ALT Jon Curry here, taking care of all your HAJET interweb needs. In other words, I get to play with HAJET website and email things during my many many BoE hours. Shoot me an email or find me on Facebook if you have events you would like to share with your fellow JETs, or if you have questions or suggestions regarding the website.

There’s not a lot to do way up here in Hamatonbetsu, so I spend my off time playing Pokemon and pretending to commit to getting back in shape – if any of that interests or relates to you*, let’s enjoy talking together!

*Also applies to anyone not in this demographic.