ALT found after years at desk – Special Report

After arriving for her first day of work on the JET Programme, Tracy Mertz was told to wait at her desk for further instructions.


“I had my intro lesson prepared, and I was super excited to begin my new job in Japan!” explained Tracy.


She wouldn’t leave her desk for over 3 years.


Mertz, an ALT in Ibaraki Prefecture, was discovered last week after shocking the teachers at Miseno Junior High School by climbing out of a nine-foot-tall pile of papers and spare office supplies that had built up around her.


Tracy was hired in 2013, and was told at orientation that she might have some free time during the first few weeks. However, after several years of teachers throwing coats, faxes, and empty Yakult bottles on her day after day, she began to feel like something just wasn’t right.


“I was tired, hungry and cold, but remembering that every situation is different made it all bearable” said Tracy.


When I asked the teachers at the school how Mertz’s burial could’ve happened, responses ranged from, “What’s an ALT?” to “Nihongo jyouzu desu ne!”


With the Olympics coming to Japan in 2020, MEXT is anticipating thousands of new ALTs arriving in Japan over the next several years. In preparation for that, the organization has begun training teachers on what an ALT actually is, how to successfully recognize one, and how to dig them out in case a similar situation occurs in the future.


The JET Program, The JET Programme, MEXT, Yakult, and the Olympic Committee declined to comment on this story.



Hissam Jaties

Investigative Reporter