Saturday, 20 September 2014

The land of the rising sun...and falling masonary




Well here we are in Japan and have started what, I guess, is phase three of our relationship. First living in England, then travelling the world and now, hopefully, living in Japan for a while.

We decided to leave Tonga and fly to Japan again to actively seek out jobs. We had fallen in love with the place when we were here a few months ago and since we were getting nowhere fast applying for jobs on line we decided to bite the bullet and start knocking on doors.  We had a slightly ambiguous reply from a company we had had Skype interviews with so dropped them a line to say that we could wait no longer and were on our way to find work elsewhere.

I guess it forced their hands because about three hours after we landed in Japan and booked an apartment for a week in Osaka we received an email saying we had both got jobs… Me in a Junior High School and Rachel as a substitute teacher for the company. Yeah.

All a bit frantic as we were in Osaka and it was Sunday night and we had to get to Ageo – about 40km north of Tokyo for Training on Tuesday. Training as it happened was that comprehensive and was more about cultural integration so even though we missed the first day it didn’t matter.

We are now living in a place called Kumagaya. Towns roll into one another in this country and there is no clear distinction between them. However, we are 26km from Ageo where we work and live in a tiny apartment owned by the language supply company. It’s about 3m x 7m and is our kitchen, lounge, bedroom, hallway and bathroom – all in one room (apart from the bathroom). We have roll out futons for our bed, one gas ring for our food and have to be very tidy. Living in a Camper van for two months certainly prepared us for this so whilst it may seem a ridiculously small place for two people to subsist its actually OK – for now. On the plus side it is two minutes walk to the rail station (We have to commute 30 minutes to Ageo every day – paid for by the company). The amazing gym we have joined is 5 minutes walk as are all the shops and supermarkets. We have never lived in such a convenient place. Its very much in keeping with our just-within-reach new lifestyle.

There’s lots of little idiosyncratic things about living in Japan that I will cover in a later blog. I will say, however, that these are a very polite and proper people and it will be a challenge to conform. But conform we will. We are both trying to learn Japanese conversation which at this stage is not seeming too bad. The written world however is just bonkers….. There is Kanje – The very complex symbols which mean a whole word but mean other things when put together – Next there is Hiragana which are much easier symbols and these represent the phonetics of the language. Finally, there is another set of symbols which are called Katakana and these are used for foreign words. Looking at this in a text book is truly overwhelming. But we will try. I have to say I am trying harder to crack this aspect of Japanese than Rachel but we will see.


As ALT’s we are there to assist the Language Teachers. These teachers, however, speak fairly basic English with an American Japanese twang so the poor spoken word is passed on to the students. It’s our job to try to correct this so we are encouraged to speak to the students as much as possible and read out the passages in text books. It’s OK. We do our jobs and we go home. It’s difficult though because the Japanese work like dogs. The school day starts at 8.15 until 4.15. We arrive at 8 and they have already been there since 7.30 and when we leave at 4.15 you can bet they will all be there till 5.30. Sure they get paid more money but it is all based on this “seen to be working” shite. Effectiveness is not important – physical presence is the best way to lick ass and this will possibly be our downfall because we sure as hell won’t do it.

This is all pretty long so in closing will say that our first week has been incredibly tiring but we both feel great about what we are doing, where we are living and how our brains are coping with all the new info. Oh yeah I don’t know whether someone was trying to tell us something but on our first day we experienced our first earthquake..

At epicentre some 50 miles away it was 5.6 but in Ageo where we were it was 4. Rachel was in a third floor building so i think it was stronger for her. I was in school. Everyone’s phones had earthquake alarms sounding, then a few seconds later the shaking started, built for 15 to 20 seconds then subsided. It was like having a big lorry thundering past your house but such a big lorry that stuff moved on tables a bit. Teachers ran for their classrooms to check on the kids. But it was over pretty quick. No one seemed at all bothered. i guess they know when it’s going to get big because at the point when it started to subside they looked like they had to make a decision whether to take action of not. Obviously with lessening shake the danger had passed.


So that’s it for now. 

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