Q: When (how long) and where were you in Japan?
A: I went to Japan in July 2002 and came back home in March of 2010. I was in Hyogo prefecture in a place called Toyooka City (Hidaka-cho) for my first three years, after which I moved to Wadayama-cho, also in Hyogo prefecture, then I moved to Itami another city in Hyogo prefecture.
Q: How was your time in Japan?
A: Very productive, very fruitful. The first three years I worked at a high school, it was actually a nursing high school. So of the 300 or 400 students all were young ladies and about 2 or 3 young men were studying to be nurses. I was already a musician and some of my first interactions with my students were in the music room. I couldn’t speak as fluently as I wanted to; we spoke on instruments. I played the piano a lot, they taught me SMAP (Japanese Boy Band) songs. I would teach them songs I had written or Jamaican songs, our anthem, and in less than 2 months I was playing live at the bunkasai (cultural festival) and having fun and that was great.
I got married in Japan. My wife Jamila lived in Hiroshima as a JET. She went to Japan in 2001. We ended up getting married in 2004, had our baby girl Zuri in 2005 and then our second daughter Aimi in 2007. Then we came back home in 2010. So, Japan was fruitful.
Q: What was it like for you when you first returned to Jamaica? Returning to Jamaica
A: When I came back to Jamaica it was in the middle of a drought. We had the Dudus saga. We had the curfew - the Tivoli situation which was harrowing. It made world news and I got a lot of calls from my friends in Japan when they saw the world news regarding Jamaica. It was tough, but I knew it was the Lord leading me home and bringing my family home for a purpose. I’m looking forward to going back to Japan when I’m so blessed, we will be able to go again and I think that might be this year in 2019.
It was tough. Eventually, I got a job. I came back home in March to teach Spanish at Hillel High School. I also started a Japanese Club at Hillel. I also had the blessing of being a choir director there. It was beautiful being able to share what I had learned with the students. When I started the Japanese Club it was unheard of, about 40 or 50 students were lining up at the doors to come into the club. It was intense. It was great buzz, great excitement about this teacher who had just come back from Japan. As a result, I became very popular at Hillel.
Q: Tell us a bit about your current job/projects.
A: I’m a businessman. I am currently doing an audiobook, a series of audiobooks called “Call for the very last days” which are manuscripts that my pastor had written from his experience from the 1970s being in a ministry in Juarez. There was an advisory sent out recently by the US government about anybody living in Juarez to be very careful so it’s a tough spot. And the mission is located in that area. I’ve actually visited Juarez. I visited the mission there called “Casa de vida” (House of Life). So that’s one of the projects I’m working on.
I am a voice actor. I’m doing audiobooks but I’m also doing commercial projects for clients such as FLOW, Hyundai, Nestle, many big brands, Sweetie – a Jamaican candy company. I was the voice for Hyundai for about 2 to 3 years, I did all their TV and radio commercials. I offer voice-acting services in English, Spanish and go figure, Japanese. I’m also a teacher of Spanish, piano, voice and English as a second language. I got accreditation in the CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) course in Japan. So, I now do ESL (English as a Second Language) as a job as well. Right now, I have the privilege of serving the JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) volunteers when they come to Jamaica. I’m blessed to be able to teach that course to them as they acclimatize and get an understanding of Jamaica. I also lectured at UCC (The University of the Commonwealth Caribbean). I taught their ESL course as well. I have also started an Art event called Hungry for Art, where I have patrons come and learn the beauty of Kanji. So, it’s Jamaicans actually painting to the backdrop of beautiful music, beautiful food. So that’s another thing that I’m working on. I am also launching my clothing line called Clothed in Righteousness, which features the Kanji for “Life”. I’m also about to launch out into my music business. I’m looking forward to shooting my first music video which is going to be used as a promotional tool between Tottori prefecture and the Westmoreland Parish Council celebrating and promoting the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics. So I’m just about to shoot; I’m just in preparation plans to do this project.
Q: How has the experience in Japan influenced what you are currently doing?
A: My wife and myself, we met at UWI in Japanese class. In fact on my 13th birthday my mom came home and gave me a present; the present was a bible. I said “Thank you mom”. When I looked at the Bible I saw some writing, I assumed it was Japanese. I wasn’t sure if it was Chinese or Japanese so I asked, she said it’s Japanese and English. So I’m looking in the Bible for some code to see how to decipher this code, there’s nothing there. I said “Mom why did you get me this? Thank you. But why did you get me this bible?” She answers: “I don’t know.”
Fast forward many years later I go on the JET Programme. Well, I signed up for Japanese class at UWI through which I learned about the JET Programme. My friend Jamila, a classmate, goes in 2001 to Hiroshima, in 2002, I go to Hyogo prefecture. Japan has been an integral part of our whole development as young adults and then coming back home with that connection of two daughters being born in the land of Japan, it’s a special place for both of us. God has blessed me with rich friendships and I see a lot of my businesses and all of my enterprises being uniquely tied to this beautiful land and its beautiful people. So it’s a great influence. In fact, the song that I wrote that is going to be made into a music video was in Japanese, English and Patois. And so just being able to have that skill set to be able to write that and actually sing it and deejay in Japanese, that’s huge because every word I speak is because I received a gift and it’s a testimony to the various and many rich relationships that I have been blessed with, with my Japanese friends and with the Japanese people. And God has put a deep love for the land of Japan and the people of Japan.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in going to Japan on the JET Programme?
A: The JET Programme is the best, hands down. It’s the crème de la crème, it’s the Rolls Royce of any programme that you could go on to be in Japan. Every situation is different is the mantra and that’s beautiful because you get to enjoy a custom-made experience, a custom made life. You can’t compare yourself to any other human being and that’s beautiful. But there’s a tremendous track record. In fact, when myself and my wife went to Japan in the earlier days of the JET Programme, being amongst the forerunners, part of our drive to excel and produce excellence was to be able to open the doors for many other Jamaicans. I saw myself as a pioneer, as if I excel I would open up doors for other Jamaicans by giving Jamaican ALTs a good name. And I was blessed and my wife was blessed in Hiroshima to be able to perform excellently and when I see the number of Jamaican JETs that are being requested there’s a deep sense of gratitude that that determination to excel and open up doors has blessed us with. That was literally one of our goals- to excel. In fact I was promoted at one point to be the head ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) to play a supervisory role in taking care of the over 20 ALTs in the region. I was a part of having ALTs report to me and that was unprecedented.
Another thing that was unprecedented was that I was the first JET ALT in Hyogo prefecture to work for 5 years. On my third year the Hyogo prefecture changed their whole policy and they were looking for quality JETs who wanted to remain in Japan who they would then reallocate to other areas, particularly in elementary schools where the Japanese teachers may not speak fluent English but the ALT has the proficiency in Japanese to be able to collaborate with the Japanese teachers, teach them English, teach them culture and build curricula and create excellent content and executing classes, particularly in nurseries and kindergarten and elementary school level English education. That was a blast. I was the first ALT period in Hyogo prefecture to do 5 years and the first Jamaican if I’m not mistaken, and we checked and we were the first 2 Jamaicans myself and my wife, to ever get married in Japan. So that was pretty cool.
Q: What advice would you give to someone about to return or who has recently returned to Jamaica from Japan?
A: Make sure it’s time to come home. I just knew in my spirit that it was time to come home even though everything seemed so rough, it was confirmed that it was time to come home. It’s going to be a transition, it’s not easy. But it has been fruitful just seeing the reconnection with my whole family. Coming back to Jamaica there’s a great appreciation for the experience that I was blessed with. patience. Love is patient. To go or to come back home, both ways patience is required. No complaining, just thanksgiving and patience, that’s my advice. That’s necessary; you grow in patience and it’s an opportunity to grow in strengthening mental fortitude in learning to give thanks in every situation. It is an opportunity to have enrichment both ways, no matter where we are.
Right now I’m an interpreter as well, and just to give you an example I never dreamed that I would have worked with the Japanese Embassy. I did a stint of two years with the Embassy working as a Project Manager responsible for the refurbishing of the current residence of the Japanese Ambassador. That opened up other opportunities where right now I’m the interpreter for the student exchange which started two years ago between Tottori prefecture and the Westmoreland Parish Council. I am looking forward to high school students from Westmoreland going to Tottori prefecture in Japan. I think there are 7 Jamaican JETs in Tottori right now and Tottori prefecture will be the games village for our athletes in 2020. Again this relationship has been ongoing from Usain won his first gold medal in Beijing. The games village was hosted by the Tottori prefecture. So be patient. It’s now 2019 and many of the things I’ve been working on are just bearing fruit. You’ll see many periods of drought and disappointment but patience is key. Love is patient.
Q: Would you return to live in Japan? Why or why not?
A: Yes, I’d return to live in Japan. There’s a love from my heart for the people. I speak the language fluently. That was one of the reasons it was tough to leave because I loved my community. There was so much love that we received as a family from the community. I left with tears looking forward to coming home. So it wasn’t like I wasn’t having a good time or wasn’t enjoying the experience and then I left as a result and I’m thinking “good riddance”. So that was tough, and then at the same time I’m looking forward to coming home and reconnecting with my young family as a husband, as a dad. In fact, if I’m not mistaken I may be going to Japan to do a speaking tour later this year and possibly be doing music. So I look forward to going back to Japan to do music. The name of my movement/band is Life Academy. So look out for it, listen out for it, some epic music on its way.
I did enjoy a few opportunities to do live music in Japan. I travelled Japan representing Jamaica, at various schools where I did presentations speaking about Jamaica and sharing with the Japanese people and it was always a joy and a privilege and a pleasure. The blessing and the skill set of music can be very effective. My 2 daughters are amazing musicians and so I look forward to going back to Japan and blessing the Japanese people with music.
And the food is good so I’d go back for some good food. But that’s very ironic. My wife laughs at me because I did not enjoy Japanese food for the first 1 or 2 years. That was a serious point of contention and I just started to love it. And I honestly miss it. So look forward to the music video coming soon. It should be epic. Looking forward to a March release and blessings in abundance.