Saturday 16 November 2013

15 years today…

I landed on the shores of Japan, I can't believe it has been that long! I haven't actually spent 15 years here because I took a year out to travel South America. I arrived early in the day at Narita and was met by my teacher trainer, then we took the train into Tokyo and then the shinkansen up to Kitakami which is in the north. I was taken straight to the school, GEOS, which in the day was one of the big 4 language schools. 

this was taken in the spring!

I had to spend the day sitting in on the leaving teachers lessons and they were, quite possibly the dullest lessons I have ever had to endure! For afternoon tea break we went to the combini and I had a nikuman and onigiri, I had no idea what anything was and back then there wasn't any English labelling on anything.

I must say, the guy who was leaving wasn't very helpful at all! I had to suffer the rest of his lessons and the we had a leaving/welcome party. It must have been getting on for 11pm when we arrived at the party, school finished at 9.00pm but there was loads of shuffling of paper and phone calls to be made before we could leave. As you can imagine, by 11pm jet-lag was seriously kicking in. I have no recollection of where the party was, I just remember sitting there the whole time thinking 'keep your eyes open, keep your eyes open'.

I eventually got taken to my apartment, around 1.30am. Obviously in the dark, from the bar so I had NO idea where it was in relation to anything. I was dropped off with my carry-on bag, my suitcase had been sent from the airport so arrived the next day.

Slept like a log, woke up to discover that the really thoughtful teacher had left NOTHING in the fridge or cupboards, gee thanks! Luckily I grew up as a scout and the motto 'Be Prepared' is deeply ingrained. I had the forethought to pack some tea, coffee and biscuits! My first breakfast in Japan!

The school manager had kindly left me a map of the town, but had not marked on the map where the apartment was, just the school. Always the adventurer and thankful blessed with a great sense of humour, I ventured out. After a couple of hours wandering around, I had the lay of the land as it were, I found the supermarket, train station and school so I was set.

My apartment was a 2K, so 2 tatami rooms and a kitchen, imagine a gas stove, sink and fridge in your entrance way and that was my kitchen! I did have a headed toilet seat - how posh, warmed room in the whole place! The apartment was built of wood, not insulated and was FREEZING cold. I had a kotatsu, which is a low table with a heater under it, brilliant idea and a kerosene heater that you could only use if you opened a window - genius idea that!

I didn't realise at the time but I met my husband to be on that first night, he was in the last class on a Saturday night, which became by drinking buddies, we would have the 2 hour lesson and then go out for dinner and drinks.

I stayed for just over 2 years, Kitakami is a lovely town, the first 8 months I didn't see any other foreigners except for the teacher trainer that would pop down on occasion. Then I discovered that one of my students had a JET teacher at their school and so I got to meet the 3 JETs that lived in the area, all blokes but it was good to hang out with them.

The draw back of being the only female foreigner in town was everyone knew everything I did! I would go to work at the start of the week and my school manager could tell me what I had been doing. I also got old ladies coming up to me in the supermarket to touch my white skin or stroke my blond hair, quite amusing really!

I had no idea 15 years ago today that I would be sitting in my own house in another part of Japan, writing a blog about my adventures!

I feel like I need to bake a cake to celebrate!


  1. Thank you for sharing your adventures with us :) I'm always enjoying coming around and read the news :)

    And congratulations for 15 years in Japan :)

  2. congratulations on 15 years! Wish I had known you back then- I would have shipped half the stuff my predecessor left me, I got EVERYTHING to the point I didn't feel like I belonged in my apartment for about a month and until I had thrown out a whole lot of phone messages stuck to the fridge, sticks of deodorant etc!

    1. Blimey, what happened to your predecessor? Sounds like they left in a bit of a hurry!
      Mine move up to Hokkaido and took everything with him. I found out later that he was supposed to leave a welcome pack for the new teacher with some some basics food wise, map of the town with useful places marked on it etc. Instruction on how to use everything!

  3. We were both working for Tohoku GEOS at the same time! I was (still am) in Tsuruoka, Yamagata-ken. I was lucky, my predecessor gave me a mini-tour of the area, and maps, but didn't tell me how to work the AC heater. I froze for the first weekend until the manager came with my suitcases. I made him write a mini-translation for the AC which helped a bit.

    Congrats on your 15 years!

    1. I have wondered a couple of times if you were the same Helen! You were obviously in a posh pad if you had zircon! LOL.

  4. It was a nice apartment...but expensive too! I had an air conditioner, but as I came at the end of March it was still cold. My predecessor took all her belongings with her as she was transferring, so I didn't get a kerosene heater until November or so. Brr!


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