People to talk to
There are a number of people to talk to when you run into all kinds of problems.
Apart from your friends or family, there are the PAs (Prefectural Advisors).
This system was established to provide referral services and to help JETs deal with problems related to living and working conditions. The PAs have received training in counselling techniques and know about the internal workings of the Prefectural bureaucratic engine. If you have a problem relating to your contract (i.e. not being allowed to take sick leave) or other personal issues (culture shock/life in Japan/other worries) you can speak to your PA.
Every JET has come across some sort of hardship while living in Japan. We all have our individual coping styles and we know what works for us. The PA comes in when you have exhausted all of your normal problem solving methods and still cannot make the problem better. Though your PAs cannot solve the problem for you, they will help you find out the root of the problem so you can ultimately solve it yourself.
The balance of relationships in your workplace is VERY delicate. One of the things you should AVOID at all costs is going over your supervisor’s head. If you have a work-related problem, you must talk to your supervisor first. In some cases you can also talk to another co-worker with whom you feel comfortable. If this does not yield satisfactory results, contact the PA. For your supervisor getting a call from Kencho (the Board of Education) is usually a cause of anxiety and may negatively affect the relationship between you and your coworkers. The PA may ask you first to speak to your supervisor about the problem, and if you have not done so be sure to let the PA know – an “unexpected” call from Kencho to your supervisor can be very stressful.
Obvious exceptions are secual harassment or security issues. If your supervisor does not understand or concern on these issues or does not seem to be taking appropriated steps, let the PA know as soon as possible before the situation escalates.
When you need a sane voice or someone to bounce ideas off or vent frustration, you can also give your PA a call. The PAs will probably have had some very similar experiences.
There is always someone at the PA’s office who can speak English, so don`t be nervious about calling.