Reappointment: Do I Stay Or Do I Go?

Each year one of the toughest decisions for each JET can be the decision of whether or not to reappoint for another year. The implications of the decision can have a huge effect on your life and it’s one that must be made months in advance of actually beginning the new contract. That’s part of the fun of the JET Programme – as is the cold winter’s morning on which you must hand the papers over to your supervisor.

Decision making is a journey down a windy path. 

For Summer Arrivals (which is almost everyone), you normally get reappointment papers between October and December. If it feels like you either a) just arrived, or b) just signed your current contract, it’s because it’s only been a few months, but such is the reality of the JET Programme. However, you don’t have to make a decision right away. For the 2016-17 JET year, reappointment papers weren’t due in to your Contracting Organization until January 13th, 2017.  CLAIR needs to know how many JETs to recruit for the upcoming JET year and the slow moving beast that is the JET Programme takes time to work through all the information (Scary fact: If you’re reading this in October, application submission for the 2018-2019 Programme has already begun).

As PAs, we are always here to help you work through your decision and we welcome your comments, e-mails, and phone calls at any time.

The Big Question

It is a difficult question for many people and an easy one for others. Part of the difficulty is the finality of the decision – once it’s made it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible to recant.

If you find yourself on the fence, unable to decide, over the coming weeks and months then working through the following questions may be able to provide you with some clarity.

  1. What were your goals for Japan before joining the Programme and what is the status of those goals? Have you accomplished them? Are they still relevant for you? Can you accomplish them in another year?
  2. What are your life goals and will another year on the Programme assist you in reaching them?
  3. What would you miss about Japan if you left?
  4. What do you miss about home?
  5. How content do you feel at work? How much job satisfaction is there for you?
  6. How discontent do you feel at work? How much dissatisfaction is there for you?
  7. If your job satisfaction is low, how important is that to your overall happiness? Are you getting enough satisfaction from life outside of work?
  8. What do you think of your current living situation?
  9. What do you think of your personal life in Japan?
  10. Are there new things to learn and new challenges for you in Japan?
  11. If your current situation were to continue exactly as it is now next year, would you be satisfied?
  12. Is there something you can realistically do to improve any of the points you are dissatisfied with in your work, living, or personal situations and are you willing and able to go through with them?
  13. Is there something you could change to make you definitely want to re-contract?
  14. How close is your current situation to your ideal life situation? How close do you think it is to the ideal life you could have in Japan?
  15. What would your goals be if you stayed another 12 months in Japan on the Programme?


  • Staff at your Contracting Organization will change in early April. Discuss with your supervisor who or what may change for you after then.
  • Your decision will be made up to six months in advance of actually starting the new JET year. Be fair to yourself and take the time to really think about whether or not staying is right for you and remember the entire experience you’ve had on JET – not just the January weather.
  • While your job may become easier for you as your become more experienced, it’s unlikely to change very much in your second or subsequent years. You’ll likely be doing the same work next year, too, just with some different faces.
  • Not every reason for staying/returning will be equal (‘I miss Taco Bell’ vs. ‘I am on the path to spiritual  enlightenment at a local shrine’), so it may be an idea to assign a point system to your reasons. It’s all too easy to be fooled by a long column of trifling reasons on a pro/con list.
  • Especially if you have come directly from college, it can be easy to romanticize the life-style you had before you came on JET. Remember that, short of grad school, you will probably need a new job, home, car, phone and maybe even some new friends when you return home.
  • If you really miss your home, try talking with people who have no vested interest in you coming home to find out what life is like. Old friends may have moved on, or be too busy to meet as frequently as you used too. Old workplaces may be very different after or few years of staff changes. Family dynamics may have changed while you have been gone. This can help to put any nostalgia in perspective.

    No one knows what is beyond the clouds.

‘Weak’ Reasons

There are definitely weak reasons to base the decision about reappointment on. It’s fine to base some, or all, of your decision on weak reasons, but it’s important to remember that these reasons are often short-term reasons and can change over time.

Some ‘weak’ reasons include:

  • Purely money-based decisions.
  • Staying to avoid situations/problems back home.
  • Staying to avoid making life decisions.
  • Decisions based on pressure from your BoE, co-workers, and other external factors.
  • Hoping/Assuming that your situation will get better on its own.
  • You enjoy the perks that come with being a foreigner here.
  • You believe that if you decide to stay, you can always choose to break contract later on if your situation doesn’t get better.
  • You’re not sure if your beloved PA will recontract yet and want to wait until you find out. (Who am I kidding – this is a strong reason!)


In the end, everyone’s time on the JET Programme must come to an end. This is not a long-term career option. Even if you wait the allotted time and return, you’re very unlikely to end up in a similar situation. For better, or worse, this is essentially the one shot you have.

Fight through the thick bamboo forest of uncertainty to the grey sky of decision.

You can talk to as many people as you want, and get feedback from differing perspectives, but in the end the decision is yours and you have to live with whatever choice you make.  Once you have made your decision, you have to own it. There is no turning back.

Finally, it’s very possible that you will come to a reasoned conclusion that does not sit well with you. In this case, go with your gut and re-evaluate your options again.

So, stay or go?


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