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Hi Blog. Turning the keyboard over to Debito.org Reader TS, for a lowdown on how the JET Programme might leave their NJ employees in the lurch in the face of xenophobic landlords. Debito Arudou Ph.D.
Subject: Re: Housing contract liabilities as JET program is willing to leave us homeless
Date: August 20, 2019
To: Debito Arudou
I have recently learned that as a JET participant via the Kyoto Board of Education that I will lose my housing at the end of August. My landlord, school and board of education will not help me or my wife in recontracting our current place.
My school, Hokuryo, used a flat agency last summer (August 2018) to find adequate housing for my wife and myself. Due to their lack of due diligence and responsible research, we moved in and signed a contract all in Japanese (not explained to us when I first arrived) that the landlord and his wife did not want friends or family visiting my wife and me.
This problem came up in September 2018 when I had a fellow JET from Hyogo visit; I attempted to introduce her (she being African-American) to my landlord, and he promptly crossed his hands and said “no friends”. Next my school gets a call from my landlord, and I’m brought to have a meeting with my principal, English teachers, office staff, and the landlord and landlady. They explained that they don’t want other people (hinting at other foreigners) visiting due to safety issues and concern.
I replied that we trust our guests and also to remind them that nowhere in the contract I signed said this. I also said that if we had known all of this information in advance, we would not have agreed to live in that apartment. In our view, it was the school who decided to offer us this apartment without due diligence and explanation, and in any case I’m not going to say no to, for example, my parents and parents-in-law and force them to go find a hotel if and when they visit. I thought the JET programme was about cultural exchange, anyway.
Following that, over the past year the landlady has come and harassed us about visitors (even though, I repeat, it was nowhere explicitly written in the contract). She also mentioned she was not the one who accepted foreigners to live in the apartment; it was her husband.
Now here it is August 2019, and I am under the impression that my wife and I will have a place to live for the upcoming contract year with JET. However, this time the school delivers a new contract explicitly with stipulations of “no guests in apartment.” You can imagine my anger when I say “you’re forcing me to re-sign for something I didn’t want in the first place.”
So now because we have been given less than a month to find a place that we also hadn’t financially saved up for in terms of moving (it’s more expensive to live elsewhere). But okay, I resigned to signing again for just one more year and accepting their terms of no guests. But a few days ago, I have come to find out that neither my school nor the landlord want to re-sign the contract and thus, the new contract was just for show.
My school has also informed me that they won’t sign as guarantor for any apartment like they will for the other ALT at my school because the circumstances aren’t the same. Is that not discrimination?
I say this because I don’t believe this would have happened had my wife and I been of Caucasian descent. I am Filipino-American and my wife is a Chinese-Pakistani Canadian Muslim. The landlords have made it very clear in how they treat other foreigners.
So now, with only less than 2 weeks before the end of the month, my wife and I cannot live in our current place, nor have the funds to afford to move and live in another… so what are we supposed to do? How are we supposed to teach and fulfill our contracts but not have anywhere to live? It is unacceptable the way we have been mistreated by this government program, our board of education and, most specifically, our schools.
I have attempted reaching out to both our prefectural advisor at Kyoto Board of education and a representative from CLAIR but neither can give us a solid answer in moving forward to remedy this situation. How are we to be JET Programme participants and be homeless? Is this my school and Board of Education’s passive-aggressive method of making us break contract? How is this cultural exchange?
Our treatment has solidified how temporary we as even foreign and migrant workers are in the eyes of the Japanese people and government.
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