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Join JETAA Chicago for the 17th Annual JETAA Chicago Shinnenkai! To welcome the new year, we are spreading the fun out over three days from Friday, February 5 through Sunday, February 7! Each day will have a different focus, as we celebrate the culture of Japan and our community’s continued connection to it.

Schedule of Events

Kick-off - Friday, Feb. 5 - 6PM-7PM CST

Our welcome event featuring a demonstration from the Japanese Culture Center.

Cultural Connections: Storytelling and Trivia Night - Saturday, Feb. 6 - 7PM-9PM CST

An evening of exploring our connections with Japan post-JET. Part I (7PM-8PM) will focus on a discussion about how alumni maintain their Japan connections in different ways, featuring a special guest alumni, Joe Palermo. In Part II (8PM-9PM), attendees can go head-to-head in a special US-Japan themed trivia and compete for a variety of prizes! You must sign-up for the “+Trivia” ticket in order to participate in the game itself.

Sunday Family Fun-day - Sunday, Feb.7 - 2PM-3:30PM CST

Attendees will be treated to a variety of fun craft activities including origami and nengajo designs. You may bring your own supplies or sign-up for the “+Activity Supply Pack” ticket to have some mailed to you!

General Admission is free for all three days, but attendees have the option to upgrade to expand their experience. Check out the ticket types for more information. We hope to see you there!

Register for the event HERE!

And in the spirit of strengthening our community’s connection with Japan, this year proceeds from the “Activity Supply Pack” and “Trivia” upgrades will benefit two organizations in Chicago that have been incredible partners to our chapter over the years: the Japanese American Service Committee and the Japanese Culture Center.

Japanese American Service Committee

Founded in 1946, JASC was formed to serve the needs of Japanese immigrants and their American-born children coming to Chicago after leaving the World War II internment camps. Originally called the Chicago Resettlers Committee, the organization assisted with housing, jobs, and the re-forming of a community.

JASC has served as a unique locus for the Japanese American community while playing a much larger role in providing social services to a much wider and diverse group of Chicagoans. JASC has built the Heiwa Terrace Retirement Community, the Keiro Long Term Care Facility, and instituted a number of individual services and activities for both children and adults.

JASC also works to archive the history of the Japanese American experience in Chicago for both scholars and the community with the JASC Legacy Center while continuing to provide social service and cultural programs for the greater Chicago area. As our community continues to grow and change culturally, ethnically and socioeconomically, we have an ever-lasting duty to adapt and change to better serve and improve the physical, emotional, and social well-being of our community.

Click here for more information.

Japanese Culture Center

The Japanese Culture Center was established in 1977 in Chicago by Aikido Shihan (Teacher of Teachers) and Zen Master Fumio Toyoda to make some of the martial arts, crafts, and philosophical riches of Japan available to the public.

Today the JCC continues this tradition, offering classes in over a dozen martial and cultural arts. The Center is not a museum where lifeless objects are displayed; it is a school where living skills are passed on person to person from generation to generation. You become an active participant in arts that have been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

Click here for more information.

Questions? Contact us at info@jetaachicago.com.

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Updated: a day ago

Thanks to generous support from the Sasakawa USA/USJETAA Mini-Grant Program, JETAA Chicago is pleased to announce the first of two webinars in our series, J-Talks: Strengthening Ties Through Dialogue, centered around the themes of identity, cultural understanding and leadership, as experienced by JET alumni and individuals with meaningful connections to Japan.

Save the date for our first webinar on Thursday, January 28th from 7-8:30 PM CST! We will focus on the hidden roots of Chicago's Japanese community and the role of the Midwest in bridging US-Japan relations. We will be joined by three speakers from across the Midwest who will lead interactive discussions and answer audience questions.


  • Erik Matsunaga, a writer, researcher and martial arts instructor, will lead us on a virtual tour of Chicago's former unofficial "Japan town" located in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago.

  • Dustin Henrich, President of JETAA Heartland, will discuss the unique connection between Independence, Missouri and Higashimurayama, Japan and ways the JET alumni community can continue to build US-Japan relations after returning home.

  • Jo Oyama-Miller, Board President of Madison-Obihiro Sister Cities, Inc., will discuss the history of her organization and how connections between Madison, Wisconsin and Obihiro, Japan have been maintained for more than a decade.

RSVP required via Guestlist!

RSVP here!

*This event is open to the public, including JET alumni and Friends of JET (FOJ).

Questions? Contact us at info@jetaachicago.com

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JETAA Chicago officer elections are coming up on March 1st! In light of this, we wanted to take the time to shine a spotlight on our current officers (election term from November 2019 - March 2021) in order to get to know the people behind the headshots, and to learn more about what they do in their roles as officers. This will be an 8 part "Get to Know Our Officers" series in which we will highlight each officer leading up to the elections and come to know their motivations, values and legacy.

First in the series we would like to introduce our Treasurer, Tyler Blaz (he/him), who was placed in Miyagi Prefecture from 2015-2017!

Tell us more about your JET experience.

I was placed in Ishinomaki-shi, Miyagi-ken as an ALT at 5 Elementary and 2 Middle schools. My JET experience was life-changing in the absolute best way possible. It was a tremendous personal and professional growth experience and it infected me with a persistent travel bug!

When did you join/how long have you been on the JETAA Board? What positions have you held?

Secretary 2018 - 2019

Treasurer 2019 - 2021

What inspired you to step up as a leader and join the JETAA Chicago Board?

I knew that we had leadership standing down who had been on the board for several years. I was intent on keeping JETAA Chicago fun and welcoming, and I actively wanted to help shape that environment for returning JET alumni (recent or not so recent).

Describe your officer duties and what you have enjoyed about said duties.

As Secretary, I was mostly interested in getting familiarized with the board officer's duties and understanding how we made decisions, worked through issues, planned for events, etc. As Treasurer, I was more interested in taking on a more involved and serious role in the board, hoping to contribute more of my personal time towards helping the chapter. I've enjoyed working closely with CLAIR when submitting our annual budget and rectifying our out-of-date status with the state of Illinois.

What could be a healthy and/or needed culture add to JETAA Chicago?

I think we need to continue to strive for inclusivity and compassion between all JETAA Chicago members, including all board members. It is important to make sure we always remember why we are serving on the board - to benefit JET alumni and to enrich Japan-US relations at a grassroots level.

What is one highlight, accomplishment, and/or something you're proud to have been a part of during your time serving as an officer?

As Treasurer, I worked with Gabe and Lara to rectify our non-for-profit inactive status with the state of Illinois. It took nearly 20 years of records to be filed and submitted, but ultimately was a success in 2020.

For you, what sparks joy?

Beautiful hikes, Star Wars, video games, board games, and a good book

What is your favorite Japanese "thing" near where you live now (and/or in the Midwest)?

Mitsuwa Marketplace in the Illinois Suburb of Arlington Heights (near Chicago!)

Connect with Tyler via Linkedin!

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Japan Exchange & Teaching (JET) Alumni Association of Chicago
Connecting JET alumni in the Midwest - Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana