Hello again! As mentioned before, we have a JET Alumnus of the Month interview. Each month, we will be speaking with a JET alumnus to know more about their JET experience and life post-JET. If you are interested to be interviewed, or if you would like to nominate someone, please let us know by dropping us a comment here, on our Facebook, or email us at email@example.com.
Second on the list is none other than Kennard Xu, who was placed in Kagoshima from 2010-2015. For many of us that didn’t have the fortune of staying the 5 year term in Japan, Kennard was able to savour the full flavour of Japan with his extensive 5 year stay! So drumroll please for Kennard and read on to be inspired by his experiences in this full exclusive interview with JETAA!
It’s time for Q&A!
What are you doing now that you are back in SG?
I have registered a company and started my own business in marketing and trade. At the same time, I have also been appointed as the Kagoshima Prefectural Government ASEAN Regional Director to assist them in their overseas promotional efforts in Southeast Asia.
How did you come to make the decision to set up a company promoting Kagoshima in Singapore?
Towards the end of my fifth and final year as a CIR, I happened to speak with my then Executive Director, who asked about my future plans. I told him about my interest in promoting Kagoshima overseas and that led to further discussion on the possibility of setting up a Kagoshima Prefectural Government representative office in Southeast Asia. Things ended up with me registering a company in Singapore, which at the same time acts as their Southeast Asia representative office, promoting trade and tourism in the region.
How has your experience on the JET Programme helped you reach this decision?
Through my work such as translation and creation of tourism promotion materials, interpretation for foreign dignitary visits, giving presentations on Kagoshima to foreign audiences, participating in local festivals, etc., I was given ample opportunities to interact with the locals, and to learn more about Kagoshima. With a rich history, great nature, and unique culture, I came to realise that Kagoshima, a Japan yet to be discovered by many, has got a lot to offer. I would very much want to be part of the effort that helps promote this wonderful place, and this led me to where I am today.
What is it about Kagoshima that made you stay for so long (5 years)?
It was the good work-life balance and ideal living environment. However, I have to admit that things didn’t start out too well initially, and I almost wanted to leave the programme after two years. In April that year, a new Director was transferred into my office. She was highly motivated and goal-oriented, and was very supportive of the CIRs, giving us lots of room and opportunity to develop ourselves professionally. The newfound challenge and sense of purpose at work made me reverse my decision to leave, and I stayed on till the end.
In terms of living environment, Kagoshima city is a well-developed regional capital city with all the necessary services, facilities and conveniences of a modern city, and great nature just a stone’s throw away. Commuting to work was stress-free, as I either cycled or walked (no packed trains and buses!). On weekends, my wife would make some rice balls and tea and we would spend the late afternoon at the bay side or up in the hills, overlooking the majestic Mt. Sakurajima and enjoying the peace.
One other important aspect would be social support. Kagoshima people are known for being very hospitable and friendly, and the many friends I have made, both locals and foreigners, had made my life in Kagoshima a fulfilling one. I had been on camping road trips with friends, was invited regularly to attend home parties and participate in local festivals, and as such, never did I ever feel lonely or homesick.
What are some of the challenges you faced when you returned to Singapore after such a long 5-year stint in Kagoshima?
The biggest challenge for me is to manage both work and family, starting everything from scratch. We moved into our new flat in early May this year, but as we unpacked and sorted our belongings shipped from Kagoshima, we also had to liaise with our contractor to discuss our flat renovation. I also had to quickly set up my new business and office, opened bank accounts, signed up for mobile phone and home internet, bought printers and office equipment, etc. At the same time, as new parents, my wife and I have to learn to care for our new-born, bringing him for medical check-ups and vaccinations, registering his citizenship with the Singapore government, etc. With all of the above coming together at once, I have to say it was, and still is, quite a challenge for us.
What is the JET experience you got which was unique?
As a prefectural CIR with Kagoshima, my unique work arrangement required me to rotate between the Prefectural Government Office and the Kagoshima International Association every six months. At the Prefectural Government Office, I dealt mostly with government administration, translating official documents, interpreting during foreign VIP visits, support the planning and execution of government conferences, etc. At the Kagoshima International Association, I focused more on cultural exchange and interaction with the locals, through the organisation of events such as Singapore seminars to introduce Singapore culture, and cooking sessions to share Singapore recipes, school visits, and English Story Telling sessions for children.
On top of that, Kagoshima has an on-going, long-running bilateral exchange relationship with Singapore for 34 years (it started in 1982). This gave me the unique experience of working closely with several Singapore government agencies when we organise the biennial “Singapore Kagoshima Conference”. I believe not many CIRs get to work with their home country government and receive ministerial level VIPs, and I am very thankful for this unique experience.
What insider’s secret can you share with someone who is about to visit Kagoshima for travel?
A picture paints a thousand words and well-filmed high definition videos would paint a billion. I would like to take this opportunity to share the following two websites with our readers to save them the trouble of having to read a billion words.
- Kagoshima Energetic Japan – a collection of 34 high resolution videos depicting the charms of Kagoshima
- Bird’s Eye View of Kagoshima – a collection of 31 high resolution videos on amazing islands in Kagoshima, taken by a drone
My current job requires me to promote Kagoshima, so I greatly welcome interested parties to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more insiders’ information on tourism in Kagoshima. I also conduct presentations and seminars on Kagoshima, so for those who are planning school excursions, exchange programmes, corporate incentive trips, etc. and need more information on Kagoshima, please feel free to get in touch with me!