Our Volunteer Alumni Coordinator in Ōita, Japan, is James Blackwell.

VAC profile: James Blackwell (PhD in Applied Linguistics, Master of Arts, Bachelor of Arts)

James Blackwell, left, is our VAC in Ōita.

After graduating from the University of Auckland in 1995 with a double major in Political Studies and Indonesian, James began working as an English language teacher in New Zealand. When the school he was teaching at was bought by a Japanese company, he successfully applied for a position in Ōita, Japan.

“I had a plan to teach for a few years and get some experience,” James says. “But the longer I stayed, the more opportunities came my way. I’m still there 18 years later!”

James is now the Director of English and the Deputy-Director of the Centre for Language Education at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University. Since English is central to education in Japan, he is happily involved in a wide range of projects, tasks and committees. “The best part of my job is the variety,” says James.

In 2016, James and Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University hosted the University of Auckland’s Professor Mark Mullins. A teacher of Japanese studies in the School of Cultures, Languages and Linguistics; as well as Director of the Japan Studies Centre at the New Zealand Asia Institute; Professor Mullins presented on "The Politics of Yasukuni Shrine".

James still keeps in touch with his friends from Auckland. He enjoys getting together at Japanese restaurants, where they will share stories from their student days.

Some classes in particular stand out. James remembers studying modern Indonesian poetry, which was a completely new experience.

“The lecturer would sing the poems and we would join in. It left a great impression on me!”

He encourages recent graduates to be open-minded about their careers and seize opportunities as they arise. “You have to use your experiences to prepare yourself for anything that might come along.”

James is keen to hear from alumni based in Japan.