First Impressions of Japan
Following are a few thoughts from participants who departed in 2012 about their impressions on first arriving in Japan. We hope to catch up with them later this year to hear about what life is like a year later.
Nick – Hyogo Prefecture, Shinonsen-Cho
From my brief experience of Yumura (Shinonsen-cho) so far I found that the people in this town are like the summer heat, warm and embracing, a little too much at times, but it is the type of warmth that sticks to you whenever and wherever you go. Like a tight embrace from a long lost aunt. Sometimes a little awkward and unnecessary, but it sure is addictive.
Christy – Ehime Prefecture, Ainan-Cho
My first impressions of Ainan, now that I’ve worked out which way is north and which kanji I need to pay attention to on the bus, is that living here comes with its own unique set of challenges and benefits. On lonelier days Ainan can feel particularly isolating, and not being able to walk to a supermarket, konbini, or indeed any shop that sells basic foodstuffs like milk or bread can be frustrating. On the other hand, I live about a minute away from the ocean, and my base junior high school is practically next door – as is the local onsen. The people are especially friendly and while most don’t speak a lot of English, communication rarely seems to be an issue. Time will tell, but I think that living in Ainan will present me with a view of Japan that many others will never be able to experience.
Jordan – Akita Prefecture, Daisen City
When I first arrived here in Akita, I was thinking—what have I gotten myself into. A seemingly abandoned landscape of (beautiful) mountains, rice fields and trees, but as time went on, and all of the incomprehensible signage started to mean something, I realised this place really isn’t so bad. I’m situated in 大曲 (~60,000人) and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in Akita (it’s quite conveniently located not so far from 秋田市 and is a nice mix of rural and city). It isn’t missing anything I can’t live without and for the size of the place, the amount of shops and restaurants is actually a little overkill (probably due to the declining population). So far, everyone has been incredibly welcoming and I feel like I’m slowly becoming a part of the community. I stayed in a homestay for five nights when I first arrived, and I’m now good friends with my host—she often invites me to her traditional Japanese house for dinner and takes me places for tea and snacks (she’s kind of like a mum).
My work life is pretty rewarding, and although there are times when I feel under-utilised, there are other times when the students really connect and learn something—not only about English but about New Zealand and/or a different way of life. I teach at five schools (２中学校＆３小学校 ), it’s really great because I get the chance to meet a bunch of students of different ages and teach with/learn from a number of different JTEs. We have our school festivals coming up this weekend so I’ve been helping with preparations (making paper animals, streamers, watching students dance etc) and I was asked to make a poster about myself for it, it’s been more fun than work lately.
I’ve filled up my weekly schedule already, I really wanted to be busy when I got here so I didn’t feel like I was wasting any time—it’s also prevented any homesickness or boredom. I study Japanese at a community class five hours a week, have Kyudo practice once a week and there’s a weekly dinner with local ALTs. The language is a struggle at times, very few people can speak English here and even speaking in Japanese is difficult because of the thick and fast 秋田弁. I can generally get across what I want to say, but usually have no clue what any of the responses I get mean. I’ve rented a car (which has been really great) so I can go on trips—I’m heading to Kyoto via Niigata, Nagoya, Osaka, Nara & Kobe next week.
To sum it up, it’s been an amazing experience so far, everything I hoped for and some. I can see myself living here for a few years and am really grateful to be here. Definitely looking forward to some winter snowboarding and whatever the rest of the year has in store!