As of today I’ve been in Japan for 6 weeks and my actual apartment for 3 of those weeks. I began by training in Nagoya, which is one of the largest cities in Japan, located a little south of the middle of the country. It was a great area with lots to do and I definitely took advantage during the (little) free time I had during training.
The training was honestly completely exhausting. It comprised of learning the curriculum that I would be teaching, demonstrating lessons to other trainees, and actually teaching lessons while being observed by other teachers. This was combined with lots of travel and very little sleep. Luckily this was something I had dealt with less than 6 months earlier during my TEFL course and that lasted a whole month. However, this was still very tiring and I was glad to be done with it.
Whenever there was a free day or evening, the other trainees and I would relax by going out for food and karaoke. Like everywhere else in the world, the Japanese are obsessed with the song “Let It Go” from Frozen and so that seemed to become a theme for our group of trainees, alongside another version of it.
With the training finished I could finally move in to my new apartment. It was about 4 hours from Nagoya by bullet train however and so I got the first train to Tokyo and with 5 minutes to spare got onto the second train heading for Yamagata, which is where I would be living for at least the next year of my life. As I caught the train so late, there were no seats available and so with three heavy bags I then stood for the next three hours, until I finally arrived. My back was killing me and let’s just say that I may or may not have sat on the floor of a phone booth inside of the train for the last hour of the ride.
Upon arrival I was greeted by another teacher who took me straight to get my residence card updated. This was the start of a very long process that I would later learn is very common over here. The slightest thing such as a line miswritten would cause the whole process to start again and so that took a very long time to get done. I then had to get my bank account sorted. This took another hour and a half on top and I couldn’t wait to just get to my apartment.
Walking in was such a relief. Despite it looking very much like a hotel room, it was still my new home and much nicer than I was expecting it to be. We filled out forms, waited for the water and gas to be turned on and then tried to sort out my internet. Unfortunately it was only workable through Ethernet cable, which my laptop doesn’t have a port for and so we made another trip out to pick up a wireless router just to get me online. It was very much needed after three weeks without it! I know, I know, I have a problem.
Later that evening I met up with the other teachers in the area and we went for a drink at a Himalayan restaurant. I got talking with the owner about football, ate free curry and then somehow ended up singing karaoke. Don’t try to make sense of it because nothing here does actually make any sense!
My first day of teaching was a couple of days later and this was the first time I would be teaching without any supervision. Luckily I had only one class to begin with and it was a good way for me to get used to things.
I’m on a monthly rotation in which I teach at one school each week over the period of a month and then go back to the first school again at the start of the next month. So this week is my last of the four schools before going back to the first school again next week. The kids here have been great so far. They are all really interested in where I’m from, how old I am, and whether I have a girlfriend or wife. It’s pretty funny because it’s always the same questions that I get asked by them. I’m really enjoying the teaching though. It’s so much fun!
So now I’m fairly settled in, at least to my apartment anyway. I got myself a bike to get around as it’s so much easier than walking everywhere and I’m slowly getting used to what’s around the area, through venturing around in my free time and taking advantage of the 100 Yen stores which are the best thing on earth They are like a pound store but actually good. It’s a great city and I can’t wait for when it snows in the winter because I’m near some ski slopes so that will be a lot of fun. I also bought a new phone – which took three hours in case you were wondering.
The only thing left on my list of things to buy is a games console. Other than that my money is being saved for travelling. I’ve still yet to actually see Tokyo and I’d love to see so many other parts of the country. Luckily I still have plenty of time to do so!