Current PAs

So who are we?

Your PA team is:
Tourism and International Policies Division – Spencer Jiro Viernes (CIR) and Aki Takehara (Japanese PA)
Compulsory Education Division – Adam Sano-Pool (ALT) and Keiko Kira (Japanese PA)

Here’s a little message from each of us.

Spencer Jiro Viernes

CIR Prefectural Advisor
Tourism and International Policies Division

Hello there! My name is Spencer Jiro Viernes. Coming from Wellington, New Zealand I graduated with a degree in International Relations and Japanese. I have been to Japan multiple times before joining the JET Programme. The most memorable experiences are from my short school-exchange trips in Chiba and Okayama Prefecture. I have been living in Japan for three years. Prior tobecoming the CIR PA, I was an ALT in Kashima Town, south of Kumamoto City. It is famous for its clean water, Suntory Beer Factory and AEON Mall. If you ever decide to visit, let me know and I can show you around! I want to give special thanks to Amy and Hueseng for being great PAs. Without their guidance, help and support, I wouldn’t be where I am today. They genuinely went above and beyond. Similarly, I will do my best to be there for you too. Feel free to reach out because I’m excited to meet you all. Welcome to Japan! See you!

To de-mystify the CIR PA position a bit, here are some of the things I do:

  • Listen. If you need to vent, are feeling homesick, talk over a difficult issue, or just need someone to listen, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
  • Facilitate communication between ALTs and contracting organisations when issues arise due to miscommunication or misunderstandings
  • Plan, organise, and facilitate Kumamoto Orientation
  • Compile the Kumamoto JET Programme Photo Directory
  • Visit schools with the Japanese PA to watch the classes of 1st year JETs
  • Conduct area visits with all 1st year JETs, their tantoshas, and some JTEs in a given area of the prefecture. There are usually about 6 or 7 areas that we visit in February.
  • Outreach visits to each area of the prefecture to have dinner with all the wonderful ALTs and CIRs
  • Disseminate information on taxes, visas, reappointment, driving, festivals, etc.
  • Edit The YOKA, a quarterly JET newsletter published by the International Affairs Division
  • Help revise a recommended JET Terms and Conditions for contracting organisations in Kumamoto
  • Meet, greet, and accompany incoming JETs from Tokyo to Kumamoto
  • Attend PA conferences
  • Prepare a Leaver’s Packet for non-reappointing JETs
  • Help the ALT PA to plan and facilitate the Skills Development Conference
  • Monthly eikaiwa lessons with the ALT PA for kencho employees
  • Maintain this website

In addition to being PA, I’m also a CIR, which means I do a few other things. My CIR duties usually take up about 30-40% of my time, and include:

  • Translations for the prefectural government. They could be anything, such as thank you letters to/from foreign officials, pamphlets about Kumamoto’s delicious agricultural products, presentations about cruise ships at Yatsushiro Port, or requests from companies abroad wanting to use Kumamon on their products.
  • Interpretations. The majority of interpretations are 30-minute courtesy visits to the governor, vice-governor, or other officials from visitors to the prefecture. Once in awhile I’ll also be asked to accompany visitors as they travel around Kumamoto.
  • English interviews. I interview applicants for Kumamoto’s Technical Trainee Program and other prefectural programs.
  • Elementary and junior high school visits. Play with students, do games and activities that teach the students about Canada, and do anything else that the school asks.
  • English camps. Occasionally participate in English camps throughout the prefecture.
  • CIR conferences.

Also important, here are some things PAs DON’T do:

  • Act as an advocate for JETs in disputes with their contracting organisations or JTEs
  • Evaluate JETs on their work performance
  • Intervene in personal matters between JETs, particularly on financial issues
  • Tell JETs, their contracting organisation, or their school what they have to do

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Adam Sano-Pool

ALT Prefectural Advisor
Compulsory Education Division
Prefectural BOE

Hello, my name is Adam Sano-Pool, I’m a 5th year JET, and I will be the new ALT PA for Kumamoto. It’s quite a daunting task given the dedication and effort that Hueseng and Amy have put in to the job. They have seemed to have worked tirelessly over the past couple of years, and I thank them for all their help
and patient answers to my concerns or questions. I hope they do well in whatever they challenge next!
I am from bonnie Scotland, but don’t hold that against me. I currently live in the beautiful Tamana with my wife Naoko and my dog Riku. For 4 years, I worked at Tamana High School and Affiliated Junior High School.

I am a super Otaku for Anime, Manga and Japanese History, so coming to Kumamoto was like destiny. First, because it’s Oda Sensei’s (the author of One Piece) and Midorikawa Sensei’s (NatumeYujinCho) birthplace. Second, Kumamoto (and Kyushu as a whole actually) has some incredible history from the wildly famous Kato Kiyomasa, to the often-overlooked Kumaso people. I am happy to talk to anyone about these things at any time! When I am not reading the latest issue of Shonen Jump or searching for statues of Samurai throughout Japan I practice Kendo diligently. I have no talent for it, but it’s still good painful fun. For me the ideals of Bushido, or the way of the warrior, are something I strive to live by every day. I also the enjoy the Japanese performing arts like Kabuki, and performing Rakugo is a great joy for me. Although to my shame I think my Japanese sometimes has a slight Scottish lilt…I am really looking forward to supporting JETs across the prefecture, trying to make their experience as good as mine has been. I just hope I can live up to the example my predecessors have set! But to quote the great wandering
Samurai, Miyamoto Musashi, “In time, all things work to your advantage if you pursue them with an open

As an ALT PA, my duties involve:

  • Information giving
  • Personal support for Kumamoto Prefecture ALTs
  • Coordinating “Senpai Shadowing” for 1st year SHS ALTs.
  • 1st year SHS ALTs surveys and interviews.
  • English class observation visits with the Kumamoto Prefectural BOE.
  • Checking of English scripts for various exams.
  • Random English checks for the Prefectural BOE.
  • Recording various listening tests throughout the year.
  • Attending and assisting with English camps.
  • The planning, coordinating, and organizing of the annual Skills Development Conference.
  • Being available for mediation if any problems between ALTs and base schools arise.
  • Judging of speech, debate, and skit contests throughout Kumamoto Prefecture
  • Monthly eikaiwa lessons at the prefectural office.
  • Assisting the Tourism and International Policies Division with the orientation of new JETs.
  • The meeting, greeting, and accompanying of new JETs from Tokyo to Kumamoto.
  • Outreach visits to each area in the prefecture to have dinner with JETs
  • Attending PA conferences.
  • Compiling the Leaver’s Packet for non-reappointing JETs.
  • Maintaining this website.

There are also some things that I DON’T do as PA:

  • Act as an advocate for JETs in disputes with their contracting organizations or JTEs.
  • Evaluate JETs on their work performance.
  • Intervene in personal matters between JETs, particularly on financial issues.
  • Instruct JETs, their contracting organization, or their school what they have to do.

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Keiko Kira

Japanese Prefectural Advisor
Compulsory Education Division

Prefectural BOE

Hi! My name is Keiko Kira. I’m originally from Oita City, next to Kumamoto Prefecture. I worked as an English teacher for 8 years in Oita and then 10 years in Kumamoto. I worked in Amakusa High School before taking this post, and now I’m totally an “Amakusa Lover”.  I studied in Canada when I was a university student. I’m married and I have a six-year old son who is super genki.

It’s my third year to be engaged as a PA. I would appreciate if I could help you at any point. Speaking as an ex-English teacher, I believe that all the work ALTs do is definitely indispensable, so please do not hesitate to make contributions. I hope your views of life are broadened and enriched through your experience on JET. 

Please enjoy Japan, Kumamoto, and your lives as ALTs and CIRs. I’ll do my very best to support you all!

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Aki Takehara

Japanese Prefectural Advisor
Tourism and International Policies Division

Hello! My name is Aki Takehara, the new Japanese PA since April 2022. I worked as an English teacher for 10 years in some high schools in Kumamoto before this position. When I was in working at those schools, I enjoyed talking with ALTs. I would like you to enjoy communicating with many Japanese students. They are looking forward to seeing you.

I was born in Tamana City in Kumamoto and live there now. But before working as a teacher, I lived in Fukuoka and Tokyo. So, I realized that Kumamoto has many good points that other cities don’t have. For example, people can drink clean water anywhere in Kumamoto. This is amazing! I would like you to find many other good points. I am very happy to welcome you.

If you need any support, please do not hesitate to ask me. I would be glad if I could help you. I hope you will enjoy your life in Kumamoto and your experience on JET will enrich your life. I’ll do my best to support you. See you soon!

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