I have a friend applying to JET. He got an interview in February and was waiting patiently for his letter. It arrived the other day. He's been named an alternate, which means he's still in the running, but isn't guaranteed a place. He'll get on if somebody who got a yes declines their place, if someone who originally recontracted decides to renege, or if someone who goes over this year freaks out and comes back in the first few months.
It surprised some of my friends in Japan to learn that I was an alternate, too. I stayed longer than most of the people who went in my year, and I was more into Japanese stuff and learning the language than most of the people who go over there. To some extent I think the interviewers try to weed out the ardent Japanophiles who might not take the job seriously. Still, a lot of people I knew who got an instant acceptance onto JET either left after one year or didn't even get through the first six months.
In my case, I was the beneficiary of a failed relationship. My predecessor had been dating a guy before she started JET, her boyfriend had joined her in Japan and proceeded to have a little more fun than she did. They were engaged, but they broke up after she had recontracted, leaving an opening for me. I got a call around the end of May telling me I'd been upgraded. I remember it was the day I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End at the cinema. I was so happy I skipped along the road to catch my bus.
In the end, I wound up in the first departure group, even though I'd been prepared to wait until potentially as late as October to get an answer. Things worked out funny like that. But it was good I got the call when I did, because I had literally no backup plan.
This year I wouldn't be surprised if swathes of worried parents will be forbidding their children to go to Japan with the nuclear crisis apparently not expected to be brought under control for many months yet. There might be more declined offers than usual, which may mean alternates have a good chance this year. I think Japan needs JET to continue at a tough time like this. Grassroots internationalisation for the win.
To anyone out there waiting to find out if they have a place on JET, I understand what you're going through. Hang in there. Good things come to those who go to Japan.