Introduction Organisations Aspiring JETs Current JETs Former JETs

History of the JET Programme

The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme is administered by local authorities in cooperation with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC), the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), and the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR).


The Programme was started in 1987 with the purpose of increasing mutual understanding between the people of Japan and the people of other nations. It aims to promote internationalisation in Japan’s local communities by helping to improve foreign language education and developing international exchange at the community level. 2015 marks the 29th year of the JET Programme. Over the past 29 years, it has seen significant growth, from its original 848 participants from 4 countries in 1987, to 4,786 participants from 43 countries at present.


The JET Programme is one of the world’s largest international exchange programmes and has an excellent reputation in Japan as well as abroad. The Programme is expected to encourage growth on a global scale through the development of an international network between JET participants and the people of Japan.


The JET Programme is primarily sponsored by local public authorities, but participants can also be placed in private schools that request them. There are currently approximately 1000 local government organisations, including 46 prefectures and 20 designated cities which host JET participants. Each participant’s appointment (including placement and duties) within each contracting organisation is determined in accordance with the assignment plan that is prepared autonomously by each governor or mayor.



From four countries (the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand), 848 people visited Japan as the first participants of the JET Programme: 35 as Coordinators for International Relations (CIR) to work in local public entities and 813 as Assistant Language Teachers (ALT) to teach at public junior and senior high schools. They attended Post-Arrival Orientation and Mid-Year Seminars


1,443 participants from six countries, newly including Canada and Ireland


1,987 participants from eight countries, newly including Germany and France (German and French included in the targeted languages); the JET Alumni Association (JETAA) was founded for former JET participants. (Initially 37 chapters → 2013: 52 chapters); started seminars for participants who choose to recontract for the following year


2,284 participants from eight countries


2,874 participants from eight countries


3,325 participants from nine countries newly including China, and the number of participants exceeded the initial target of 3,000 people; established the Counselling System Committee (CSC), comprised of three (four at present) professional counselors; dispatched Prefectural Advisers (PA) to organisations to give advice on the establishment and management of a counselling system for the JET Programme


3,785 participants from 10 countries, newly including South Korea


4,185 participants from 11 countries; started the invitation of Sports Exchange Advisers (SEA); started seminars on Japanese language


4,628 participants from 15 countries


5,032 participants from 18 countries


5,332 participants from 27 countries; started the Conferences for Returning JETs; introduced the merit-rating system


5,691 participants from 34 countries; Chinese and Korean included in the targeted languages; started supporting JETAA activities


5,835 participants from 37 countries; started seminars for contracting organisations


6,078 participants from 39 countries; achieved target of 6,000 participants; conducted an appraisal survey


6,190 participants from 39 countries; started supporting the organisation of counselling sessions by prefecture; started developing Self-Support Group Leaders (SGL), counsellors for the increasing number of JET participants from non-English countries, selected SGLs for each language; started supporting regional meetings of JETAA


6,273 participants from 40 countries (record highest); created Elementary School Specialist ALT position (20 ALTs in the first year); established the position of Specialist PA for those who have been participating in the JET Programme for more than three years; increased the upper age limit from “younger than 35" to “younger than 40"


6,226 participants from 41 countries


6,103 participants from 41 countries


5,853 participants from 44 countries; included Russian in the targeted languages


5,508 participants from 44 countries


5,119 participants from 41 countries; first-year ALTs allowed to become Elementary School ALTs provided a high Japanese ability; third-year participants allowed to reappoint with their current contracting organisation if the contracting organisation deems them outstanding and offers them reappointment; specialist PA position eliminated and Elementary School Specialist ALT title returned to ALT.


4,682 participants from 38 countries


4,436 participants from 36 countries


4,334 participants from 36 countries


4,330 participants from 39 countries


4,360 participants from 40 countries


4,372 participants from 40 countries


4,476 participants from 42 countries


4,786 participants from 43 countries