While researching the Tofugu JET Guide, I came across a wealth of information. Blogs, websites, wikis, forums, the list goes on. So many people are writing so much about life in Japan and on JET.
So it's only right to share the resources I was most impressed with. These are sites I bookmarked and kept coming back to in my research. The best of the best.
Naturally, no one site contains all the information pertinent to everyone ever. So it's good to look through the links below and see what uniqueness each has to offer. I've done my best to highlight what makes each one special.
Hopefully this page can be a resource for JETs looking for answers. Good luck!
Official JET Program Links
This is help from above, so to speak. The official word from the people who sent you to Japan and/or are in charge of you. This advice can feel stiff at first. After all, it's from the bosses so there is a certain veneer of formality that goes along with this type of writing. Nonetheless, there is a lot of great stuff in here. A lot of problems JETs faced are covered in these links and covered well. Read all this stuff before digging into other resources.
The JET Programme
This seems like a no-brainer. But few JETs check through the "official" JET help documents. While CLAIR may give you dry advice or gloss over tough issues, its resources are actually incredibly helpful if you take the time to dig. The General Information Handbook (GIH) alone clears up a lot of concerns held by JETs during their tenure. On top of this, CLAIR offers New JET Guides, ALT Handbooks, Teaching Materials, and Returners' Guides. Consider these resources the "Read Before Posting" guidelines of the JET Program. Clean and official, but very helpful.
AJET (The Association for JET) is an official/unofficial organization. It's officially the unofficial support network for all JETs in Japan. Being tied to CLAIR but not ruled by it means their help is down to earth and high quality. Their teaching materials are top-notch, as are their guides to life and work in Japan. You could get all the help you need from AJET and be just fine.
Visit: The AJET Resource Page
CLAIR's Information for Foreigners in Japan
This a site/directory created by CLAIR for foreigners living in Japan. It covers everything from marriage to taxes to garbage to job searching. If it's something you have to do in life, this site probably talks about doing it in Japan. What I find strange is that this is made by CLAIR, the same organization which oversees JET. Why is this site not shared with JETs? Sure, it's not JET-specific. But all JETs live in Japan and could benefit from this site. Whatever the reason, you have the link now. Give the site a look and I'm sure you'll find a lot of useful information.
The Prefectural Advisors of Shimane-ken did a great job setting up a resource blog for their JETs. Though many things are Shimane-specific, any JET or expat in Japan should benefit from 70% of everything here. The best part is, it's still active. So hopefully there's more goodness to come.
Visit: Help from Shimane PAs
The PAs of Ibaraki have started a nice website for JETs in their prefecture. Right now there's not much in the way of resources, but they do have an interesting feature: Ask Ibaraki JET PAs. ALTs ask questions about their job and the PAs give honest and helpful feedback. It seems to be updated rather frequently so hopefully it continues. In a year it could make for a treasure trove of Dear Abby style advice for ALTs.
Visit: Help from Ibaraki PAs
By JETs, For JETs
Almost every prefecture in Japan has JET Participant-created website meant to aid the community. Some of the resources on these pages will only apply to people living in or visiting that specific prefecture. But the majority of articles, guides, and clickables will help any JET anywhere.
If your prefecture's website doesn't offer the answers you're looking for, or you'd just like a second opinion, click some of the links below. You'll be surprised how much advice and wisdom you'll pick up from these sites.
Definitely one of the best. Consistently updated. High quality content. I could go on.
KumamotoJET is featured prominently in Tofugu's Guide to Lesson Planning, and it's no slouch when it comes to the rest of JET life. Their Tax Guide alone is worth the visit. It's only applicable to U.S. residents, but it's incredibly detailed. If you're a JET from the U.S., check it out for sure.
Visit: Kumamoto JET
Kyoto JETs has a great collection of information. It will take some crawling but its worth the effort. The standouts are the Disaster Preparedness section and the Tax Guide. Most sites don't even address disaster (surprisingly), so that alone is worth a click.
Visit: Kyoto JETs
This is one of my favorites (which is why it's near the top). JET Sendai covers a lot of ground and their explanations of procedures untangle complicated situations. Short, sweet, and to the point. If you need help in a hurry, head to JET Sendai. 'Nuff said.
Visit: Sendai JET
The website is rather bare bones in terms of design but it has a ton of useful content. It doesn't cover every aspect of JET life. But what it does cover is unique and useful. More obscure and offbeat topics are covered here. Definitely recommended.
Visit: Hyogo JET
The Saga JET Programme site is pretty nice. Cute layout. Good amount of info. It takes some digging to find the good stuff though. Most of the advice ends up being Saga-specific. So you may click on a link thinking, "Wow! I really need to know this," only to find the advice contained applies only to people living in Saga. Nevertheless, keep poking around. There are a lot of gems in here that will apply to anyone living in Japan.
Visit: Saga JET
Honestly, I just have fun on this site. Maybe it's the layout. The colors. I don't know. All the resources are very complete and personal. One of my favs. It includes a unique furikomi guide. You'll probably be taught how to use this by your supervisor, but it's great in case you forget or are never taught.
Visit: Gunma JET
The Okinawa JET website covers most aspects of JET life. Their guides and articles are mid-size, which can be a good thing. If you're overwhelmed by comprehensive explanations elsewhere, it's helpful to read shorter versions of the same information.
Also, OkiJET has an Island Guide. With beautiful beaches and resorts, chances are you'll want to head down Okinawa way at least once. The Island Guide will give you the resident's perspective not found in most travel guides.
OitaJET is relatively new, but still sports a lot of content. Hopefully new things will continue to be added. Until then, enjoy the clean layout and unique features.
Visit: Oita JETs
Maybe the cutest logo of all Prefectural sites. Like others in this list, OkaJET offers its take on JET life. It also chimes in on regional issues like rainy season survival which you are likely to experience anywhere in Japan.
Though the site is very pretty, I was put off by navigation. But I pushed through and found some good content. The medical information was the most helpful, in my opinion.
Visit: Toyama JETs
Ishikawa JET Wiki
Very complete and has the advantage of being a wiki. Unfortunately it's a wikia wiki, so be prepared for ads, ads, ads! The experience is slow, but content might be worth it.
Visit: The Ishikawa JET Wiki
Ehime AJET is a little on the small side, but has some hidden gems. It's pop culture events guide is unique as well as the shipping guide. Good stuff for vegetarians. Worth a look.
Visit: Ehime AJET
The PAs of Kagoshima have created some original and helpful content. A lot of the common "Guides for Living" include abstract questions to aid in development. It's nice to see a personal touch once in a while.
Visit: Kagoshima JET Program
Though this site is more of a teaching resource, there are a good number of survival resources here too, especially if you're in the Kobe area. For JETs outside Kobe, there's a unique and handy glossary of social and cultural terms—the kind you'll run into a lot as a JET ALT. If you haven't studied much Japanese and/or you're new to the English teaching scene, perusing this list will get you acclimated to your new life fast.
Visit: Kobe JET
Shizuoka AJET (or Shizajet) is still getting started. Hopefully it will expand with time. I did really like their Top 5 Lists, which are a good collection of advice and ideas for ALTs in digestible form. More stuff like this please, Shizajet!
The AJET Niigata site is new, replacing an older site. Some of the same resources are here, some have disappeared. Click around and you'll find a few interesting resources. I thought their section on culture shock had some unique things to say.
Mie PA Newsletter
Unfortunately, the Mie JET site has become defunct, but the Prefectural Advisors (PAs) are still here to help you. There's a small wealth of articles on this site, so click around and you may find some answers to your burning questions.
Visit: Mie PA Newsletter
The JET Coaster
This site is unique to this list in that it is unofficial. It's curated by a group of former JETs who give awesome JET advice to newcomers and those currently on the program. It's relatively new, but already has a good deal of solid content. This site is often updated, giving it a big advantage over those that are helpful, though stagnant.
Visit: The JET Coaster
If you didn't get enough survival help from your fellow JETs above, here are some non-JET related links to take care of any loose ends you're still fighting with. Really, the first link in this list is the jam. Keep reading and see what I mean.
Surviving in Japan
No joke, this site is what inspired this list. All the other sites listed are very helpful, but this one is extremely, overwhelmingly helpful. Unfortunately, it hasn't been updated since 2013. Fortunately the articles left over are pure gold. This is all the nitty gritty stuff most guides don't bother to cover.
Which toothpastes have fluoride? Where to find foods from home? What kinds of foundation match which non-Japanese skin colors?
I really can't say enough good things about this site. Check it out and be amazed.
Visit: Surviving in Japan
This is an online community for expats in every country. The topics covered are fairly comprehensive, but not as deep as really good sites. Check here if you've checked everywhere else. You might find some answers or links you're looking for.
Visit: Just Landed
Japan Post Communication Guide
This is a chart from the Japanese post office that helps foreigners use the Japanese post office. Makes a good language study tool.
Visit: The Japanese Post Office
Hyperdia & Jorudan
These are both Japanese train time calculators. I included them for completeness' sake, but Google Maps does the same task better. Use these if you have an aversion to Google Maps.
Japanese Toll Calculator Guide
Road trippin' in Japan? Calculate the tolls you'll have to pay on your cross country tour. Don't forget the snacks! Seriously. Don't forget the snacks.
Visit: Japan Toll Calculator
Food is one of the things you'll miss most while on JET. Sometimes a tough bout of culture shock can be cured with a bit of cheese or some sour patch kids. Thankfully there are some websites that offer import and foreign foods delivered straight to your door.
The Flying Pig
This is probably the most famous resource. The Flying Pig delivers Costco items. Considering there aren't many Costco locations in Japan and they may be hard to get to for most JETs, this is a big deal. The Flying Pig offers comforts of home as often as you like.
Visit: The Flying Pig
Foreign Buyers' Club
The Foreign Buyers' Club goes beyond Costco to just about everywhere else. Almost anything you can imagine, they've got. Try not to spend your whole paycheck.
Visit: The Foreign Buyers' Club
The Meat Guy
Pretty self-explanatory. He's a guy. He sells meat. His prices are pretty reasonable and you can get almost any kind of meat in any size. Even Thanksgiving turkey! Put your burger and bacon cravings to rest once and for all.
Visit: The Meat Guy
Tengu Natural Foods
For whole, natural, and organic foods. Tengu is the best way to eat right in Japan.
Visit: Tengu Natural Foods
Yoyo offers items from Costco and a little bit more. If it's for sale anywhere in Japan, chances are they can get their hands on it.
Visit: Yoyo Market
Hopefully you won't need these links while on JET.
Japanese Law Translations
Unofficial translations of Japanese laws and regulations. If you're in legal trouble or are simply a law geek, check it out.
Visit: Japanese Law Translations
Japan Legal Support Center
Legal Consultation for foreigners in Japan. If you need a lawyer while on JET bookmark this site. Actually, bookmark it no matter what. You never know.
Support for Various Groups
If you need help or support for certain issues on JET, these sites and organizations should help you out.
Stonewall Japan is a branch of AJET that offers support for the LGBTQ community in Japan. They offer groups, events, resources, community outreach, and more!
Visit: Stonewall Japan
Figuring out what you can and can't eat as a vegetarian in Japan is a challenge. Thankfully this extensive guide distinguishes which Japanese dishes are vegetarian. There's even a nice restaurant guide at the bottom.
Visit: The Neverending Voyage
"Is it Vegan?" offers solutions, recipes, and guides to help vegans find and make food while on JET.
Visit: Is it Vegan?
Japan Vegan gives survival tips and, most importantly, vegan friendly restaurants in Tokyo and Kyoto.
Visit: Japan Vegan
People with Celiac Disease
Avoiding gluten is a serious matter for those with celiac. Thankfully, Gluten Free in Japan brings relief and suggestions for navigating the Japanese culinary landscape with gluten-avoidance in mind.
Visit: Gluten Free in Japan
More JET Program Survival Resources?
JET life outside of school can be a challenge, sometimes more so than the ALT job itself. Working out what to do and how to do it takes years. Hopefully these resources help a little and put you on a path of figuring out life in Japan.