I discovered more about Louise’s passion for Kobe City and her rise from the JET Programme to her current role (PR Specialist) promoting Kobe to non-Japanese people.

“I first came to Japan as part of my year abroad at University, where I spent 6 months in Tokyo and 2 weeks in Kobe for a summer course at Kobe University. Then after I graduated, I came back to live in Kobe in 2011 as an ALT then CIR on the JET Programme and was offered my current job in the Kobe City Government, so I’ve been living here for nearly 5 years now!” 

There are always elements of ‘culture shock’ when you arrive in a new country, whether that’s just the language or getting to grips with the hustle and bustle of a buzzing city that’s always on the go, Louise explains her experiences of arriving in Japan:

“I couldn’t take it all in! Tokyo was as big and crazy as I expected, but it was the little things that struck me, like how they give you hot towels in restaurants, how people bow all the time (even on the phone), and how everything is written in Japanese. I know it’s obvious, but still it was a shock to the system for someone who had never seen anything but signs written in roman letters. After living in Tokyo for 6 months and making my commute to University on a packed train every day, it was so refreshing to come to Kobe and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. I had the chance to see a different side of Japan and I loved it. Kobe has the sea and the mountains a short distance away from each other, so it was great to feel closer to nature after all of Tokyo’s concrete!”

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Like many foreigners that have a passion for Japan, Louise applied as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) through the popular JET Programme. As an ALT, you play a key role in promoting communicative training in the classroom. The role of an ALT also provides students with a valuable chance to become familiar with another culture. Louise guides us through her journey; from the JET Programme to becoming a PR speciality for Kobe City:

“I started off working for two years as an ALT. When applying for the JET Programme, I remembered my time in Kobe and was determined to go back so my top choice was Kobe, followed by Osaka and Kyoto. I was one of the few who had their wish realised! One of the CIR positions in the City is filled by Kobe ALTs, and I was lucky enough to get the job in City Hall’s International Department, which mainly involves translating and checking official documents and interpreting for the Mayor at events and when he receives guests. After nearly two years, I was offered my current job at the PR Department, where I have been working since April 2015.

Now, my job involves promoting Kobe to non-Japanese people, providing information to non-Japanese citizens, and dealing with foreign media as well as strengthening Kobe’s image as an international city within Japan. I run the city’s official English Facebook account, Instagram account (in English and Japanese) and my own Twitter account, which I use to provide news, information and beautiful pictures, as well as sharing what I love about the city and what I’m up to. I’m also working on improvements to the City’s English homepage. I attend to foreign press who visit Kobe and Japanese media who are interested in my activities. I’ve been in newspapers and on TV talking about my experience and why I love the city. Every two months I have a page in the Kobe Paper, where I visit an area in the city and spotlight its hidden attractions. I write the original printed version in Japanese but I also translate it into English and upload it to my page on the Kobe website. Check it out! I really do love Kobe, so I feel very lucky to have the chance to tell people about it as my job!”

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I’m exhausted just reading Louise’s job role but you can tell that her passion and drive for Kobe City really shines through! If (like me) you’re currently learning Japanese, learning the language can seem a little frustrating at times but hang in there as Louise explains:

“I studied Japanese at University for 4 years and it was as hard as I thought but so satisfying when you grasp a new grammar concept or successfully read something in Kanji. It can feel like an impossible task and can be frustrating after studying hard and still not understanding but if you persevere and look past your short-term challenges, you’ll get there in the end! People often say that exposure is the key and to consume as much Japanese media as possible. I would agree with this but add that it’s a good idea to make sure to vary the types of Japanese you are exposed to so you don’t end up speaking in a ‘weird way’. Especially make sure to practice polite language, as you can come across as rude speaking in plain form to people you don’t know. After over 8 years of learning I recently passed N1, but still every day there are words I don’t understand. Learning Japanese is a lifelong process, which is both a frustration and a pleasure. If you’re studying, good luck with your journey!”

Planning your first visit to Japan can seem a little daunting with so many tourist destinations and sights to tick off the list but don’t worry, Louise is on hand to give you a few pro tips:

“Come to Japan in Spring or Autumn, when the weather is just right and you can enjoy the cherry blossoms or autumn leaves. Bring plenty of yen- Japan is very much a cash society, so not everywhere will take credit cards. Don’t just go to Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka! Those are the big three, but there are so many different places with different characters that it would be a shame to leave Japan thinking that’s all Japan has to offer. I might be biased, but I think Kobe is definitely underrated and would recommend visiting for a taste of the city’s chic atmosphere, beautiful night views and of course Kobe beef! Recently I went on a tour of the world’s longest suspension bridge here in Kobe, where you can go up one of the 300m high towers and get fantastic 360 degree views!”

I’d like to thank Louise Dendy for taking time from her busy schedule to share her knowledge and tips of not only Kobe City but her experiences so far living in Japan. If you’d like to find out more, please check out the links below:

Kobe City Facebook page,
Kobe City Instagram account,
Louise Dendy PRS Twitter account.

Have you already visited Kobe or have now added Kobe to your next destination?? Share your thoughts in the comments below.