Sunday, September 8, 2013

JET: Welcome to Tochigi.

Well, this post is long overdue, but Im here in Tochigi!

I arrived nearly three weeks ago, in the middle of the Japanese summer holidays. And unlike NZ, Japanese summer is an actual summer. It was hitting 40 degrees pretty often in my first week, which combined with 80 percent humidity basically left me continuously sweat-drenched and super attractive.

Anyway. All the Tochigi Group B JETs left on a bus from the Keio Plaza at about 9:00am. It was a two hour bus ride or so. We spent the time resting, chatting, and practicing our introductory speeches which we were to give at the Tochigi International Centre that afternoon. We also had a rest stop about halfway, where I got some delicious cart food, three fried potato balls on a stick with a sweet sauce. It was so good! I've forgotten the name of it, but another girl I was with got one too, and she knows. I definitely want to try it again!

When we got to Tochigi, we had lunch and then headed into the international centre. We went inside and soon were seated next to our supervisors from our schools. We gave a brief self-introduction in Japanese, listened to some short speeches, and then we had to say goodbye to each other, and head off with our new colleagues.

My supervisor is Akiko-Sensei. She is a Japanese Teacher of English (JTE) and a homeroom teacher at my school. She drove me to the school, and introduced me to the principal and some other staff members who were around, although many teachers were away due to the holidays. She also showed me the staffroom and my desk, and gave me some time to look around at everything. We then went to a local government office to get my residents card registered with my address and so on. This is very important in Japan, and without this card I wouldn't have been able to set up a bank account/get a phone/get gas turned on and so on. Because we went to a small local branch of the office, they actually weren't familiar with how to process the card at all. It took almost an hour and a half, and they stayed behind after closing time to process it! Neither me or Akiko-sensei had expected it to take so long, but it was okay in the end. Then it was time to go and see my new home.

My apartment is pretty nice. To be honest I think at first I was so excited about having an apartment that I didn't even notice much about it. Of course later I did. I've been working pretty hard these last few weeks to get the place how I want it. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with it, but it's just wasn't very "me" to begin with (in short, not enough pink going on). Its been a long process changing it, but I'm almost done, and its starting to look like home.

Akiko-sensei gave me some tips about the place, and helped me bring my suitcases inside. A man came from the gas company to turn on my gas. He was so helpful, and explained a lot of things in detail which Akiko-sensei then translated for me. He even took down a bamboo blind that was hanging by the gas water heater, and trimmed it because he said it was a bit dangerous for it to be so close to the water heater, as it could get too hot and catch fire. So nice! After he left, Akiko-sensei had to go and pick up her son, so she said another teacher would come by and pick me up for dinner. We went to a local family-style restaurant with the two teachers and Akiko-sensei's son. The food was really good, and the two teachers speak great English, so I was able to talk with them a lot and we had a nice time. After that, the teacher who had picked me up (Hashimoto-sensei) offered to take me to the supermarket to get some food. I wasn't about to turn that offer down, so off we went!

I didn't find the supermarket overwhelming like some people do...but it was a pretty small supermarket I guess. It had a lot of stuff that was pretty normal for me too, like cereal and bread and jam and fruit and veggies I recognised. I picked up what I really needed (toilet paper!) and headed home for a well-needed sleep.

The next morning, another teacher (Onozawa-sensei) came to pick me up. He took me to the bank and helped me sign up for a bank account, then we went and got a cellphone for me. I picked the cutest one possible. I love my phone! Its pink and has a bow as the main button, and a heart-themed camera and background. I know some people splash out for iphones and galaxies here, but to be honest this one does everything I need (maps, facebook, loads of other android apps) and was free upfront because it was an old model. So all I have to pay for per month is the plan itself, which is limitless data. Its a ridiculously good deal by New Zealand standards.

That was the last of my kind of setup time. The next day I was expected at school at 8:15am. I was armed with a bicycle, a slight knowledge of the area, and my student-stalking skills. Luckily, I made it! I thought I was going in the right direction, but after a while I started to doubt myself. Luckily ahead of me I saw some students who looked like they were from my school - it might have been summer holidays in Japan, but that meant pretty much nothing. A lot of students still go to school every day either to study, or to practice for their various club activities. Most of the students I saw were brass band club members, or kendo club members. Whoever those students were that morning, they really helped me out!

After that my time was mostly spend making introductions, planning, and sitting at my desk a lot. I did do some interesting things after school and on the weekends though, so Ill talk about them in my next post!

- Annabelle.

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I've been a high school English language teacher on the JET Programme since August 2013. Read about my experiences, advice on being accepted into the JET Programme, and travel tips around Japan on my blog:


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