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Life as a Municipal ALT

Being a municipal ALT means your contracting organization is the local town or city as opposed to the majority of Fukuoka JET ALTs who are employed by the prefecture. The differences are mainly administrative but there are some common differences in living situations. Many prefectural ALTs live in the prefectural teacher apartments or jutaku, whereas municipal ALTs generally live in private apartments within the municipality. The apartment’s rent may or may not be partially subsidised depending on your situation and contracting organisation.


Living within the municipality has some advantages and disadvantages. If your contracting organization is a small town then you may find that you are the only English speaking foreigner living there. While this can initially cause a feeling of isolation, as your first year progresses you will achieve greater integration to the local community and significant improvements in your Japanese. Many prefectural ALTs who live in large apartment blocks with many other JETs find it harder to achieve this as they are always around other foreigners socially and don’t need to speak Japanese or get involved with local events.


For a municipal ALT, participating in your town’s local events is something that is respected and appreciated by the local townspeople and leads to many new contacts, friends and experiences. In particular if you are placed in the countryside, you have the advantage of living both the country and the city experience of Japan. You can enjoy the relaxing friendly atmosphere of the countryside during the week and go and live the city life at weekends. ALTs placed in a city however will rarely, if ever, go to the countryside on weekends so they only experience one side of Japanese life.


Another aspect of being a municipal ALT is that since you are employed by your town, you will generally never travel to a school outside of your town. This means that all of your schools will likely be within a distance that is easily travelled by bicycle. The travel distance to schools for prefectural ALTs can be much further involving long bus or train rides.


Another caveat of municipal ALT life is that since you are living inside the town you work in, you will be recognised more outside of school. Expect to be spotted at the supermarket, post office or just out and about in town, especially by your schools’ kids. This needn’t be a negative aspect as it is likely nobody will invade your privacy more than a polite greeting and it adds to the friendly atmosphere of municipal ALT life.