I actually thought about starting a thread with this topic last night! I'm glad someone did.
My very, very first contact with Japanese culture was through my grandparents. They are globetrotters and when I was about 9 or so they went to Japan. My grandmother brought me back this beautiful rice paper and on the front of it a lady was painted in an extremely elaborate kimono. I was so in love with the fan and almost immediately started telling everyone I could that my favorite foreign country was Japan.
In middle school, my art teacher did a Japanese inspired art section (we were doing block printing, making Japanese clay tea cups, and doing some origami) with us and as a special treat she took us to the Asian Cultures museum in town. My hometown isn't all that big, so I suppose it was kind of strange that we had an Asian Cultures museum. It's very small but the exhibits they did have were awesome. We got to take part in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, learn how to use chopsticks, learn the history and tradition behind origami and also learned a little about Japanese theater and the Samurais. By the time we finished our day at the museum I was even more in love with Japan. I bought a beautiful Geisha doll in the gift shop - she still sits on my shelf.
In the later years of middle school and much of high school I got into anime. My very first one was Rurouni Kenshin and as a result I got very interested in Japanese history. Anime was how I fed my craving for any kind of Japanese culture the rest of grade school.
In college, I was able to finally pick and choose any classes that I wanted to take. I started out as a theatre major and in my theatre history classes we actually learned a lot about Japanese theatre and I fell more in love with the culture. When I changed over to English Writing & Rhetoric I took a Japanese Women's Literature class to cover my lit credit, an Asian Traditions class to cover my religion credit (I went to a private catholic college) and two semesters of Japanese (would have taken four if I had had the time in my schedule
) to cover my language credit. I took almost every class having to do with Japanese they offered.
It was in my Japanese language class that I learned of the JET program (my sensai was an alum), but at the time I wrote it off because teaching wasn't exactly what I wanted to do at the time. It wasn't until last October, in the middle of a small post-grad life crisis, that I thought of the program again. It seemed to click all of the sudden. Everything I'd been doing, my English degree, my love for Japan, the Japanese culture classes I'd taken in college finally added up. They all converged in the JET program.
And here I find myself, dying with anticipation.