Apologies for the radio silence! It’s been one heck of a month, but I finally have some free time to blog!
It’s been five years since I came to Japan and joined the JET program. Back then, I only knew three words in Japanese, was incredibly homesick, and had no idea how to drive a car, let alone know how to use Japanese money to buy one.
Over these five years, I have gained so many friends and acquaintances, taught over a thousand different classes, and noticed so much personal growth that I can’t possibly include it all in a single blog entry, so I’ll try to keep it short!
While it can be a new and exciting experience for some, teaching in Japan was quite stressful at my local school, as it is one of the lowest achieving public high schools in the prefecture. In Japan, you don’t only teach kids English. You teach them English in order to pass tests, and in a country where the only thing that stands between children and their future is a long series of tests, this can be quite a challenge. Especially if you take into consideration the reputation and quality of students at my school. Helping five years worth of students through graduation was a lot of hard work!
However, I never once felt like I was alone. Over five years, I met hundreds of different teachers, parents, and friends from outside of work. Living in such a small town meant I was a regular everywhere I went. My barber, my mechanic, even the entire staff of my local LAWSON convenience store knew who I was, and when I would pay them a visit. My barber even “closed” at 4pm every Wednesday just in case I decided to show up for a shave and a massage after work, which I often did!
Then there’s this little bundle of joy that I met a few months after coming here. Who would have thought a girl I met on a Japanese social media site would end up being my fiancée? It’s been four short years and she still can’t speak English. Maybe I should have been teaching her instead of my students…
Anyway, Rie will be popping up in my posts a lot, so don’t worry, you’ll get to read loads more about her little toosh in the future.
In my fourth year of JET I had to make a choice. Go back and home and get back into the Games Industry, or finally realize my childhood dream of living in Japan, utilizing my new found talent for teaching. Taking everything into consideration, I picked the latter, and applied to many places before being accepted at a brand new international school in Chiba.
Now, a few months later, Rie and I finally found an apartment! It’s in a lovely little part of Chiba City, just five minutes away from a station by foot, with direct trains to and from the heart of Tokyo running all the way up to midnight. 15 year old me couldn’t be more happier.
I’ve spent the last two weeks packing five years worth of stuff, and yesterday the movers picked it all up.
Moving in Japan is expensive. While not as expensive as moving into an apartment or house with all those unneeded, unrefundable fees, you have to make sure you only take what you need. The smaller, the better.
The company I used doesn’t determine cost by weight, but by the total dimensions of a variety of cages, and charge you depending on how many of these cages you fill up to the brim with boxes you have to obtain yourself. Add a flat rate cost of transport between two prefectures (in my case, the cost to move from Aomori to Chiba was extremely expensive) a mandatory insurance fee, and you are looking at upwards of $800-$1,000, plus a 2-3 day transport period. Oh, and as always, a ton of paperwork.
The End of an Era
Cost aside, the psychology of moving out of Aomori is really fiddling with my emotions. I’ve always been a country bumpkin, living in a tiny hamlet for most of my life. This tiny town and all of the people here remind me so much of my past, it feels like I am leaving home for a second time.
The most devastating thing is that the ancient, wooden house that has looked after me over these last five years is being torn down after I move. Unlike my last two apartments which I fell completely in love with, I have mixed feelings about this.
In a prefecture where winter lasts 6 out of 12 months a year with an incredible amount of snowfall, this tiny, wooden shack has put me within inches of death numerous times. In summer, bugs dominate the floors, walls, ceilings and take over the inside of my desktop PC. In spring and autumn, the obnoxious fumes of nearby rice field pesticides and burning crop smoke fill every room. It really has been an adventure living here, and while it’s been a roof over my head, I am a little glad that by tearing it down means whoever was going to move in just avoided a very gruesome fate.
But the house isn’t the only thing that is breaking down after I move. My heart is, too.
The End of an Engine
Five years ago I bought a little red Pleo in order to survive the harsh, Japanese seasons. I passed my driving test when I was 17, and hadn’t driven once since I came to Japan at 25. My mentors, Helen and Steve, helped me pick out the car, re-taught me the basics, and luckily, since the UK and Japan have almost identical driving rules and regulations, I could drive again!
This car quickly became part of my family. We nicknamed it Chen, and without her I would have never met Rie, or the hundreds of other friends I made over these last five years. Without Chen, I would have never been able to survive all those winters, safely travel to other schools, or even make it to interviews for new jobs. Chen is the reason I am still here now, and will still be here in the future. Sadly, in order to keep that future alive, I had to let her go.
Chen is old. Super old. Almost 20 years old and has broken down more times than I can remember. Last year I had an awful accident where one of her front wheels came clean off by simply turning a corner!
She would never survive the trip down to Chiba, let alone driving around there without a huge amount of repairs. So, one last time, I cleaned her up, got her fully repaired, and sold her to my mechanic, who is going to remodel her into a simple, light car that local customers can use when their car goes in for repairs.
Saying goodbye to your first car is almost like saying goodbye to a dying family member. Rie really helped me get over it, by telling me that Chen was never the car itself, only the spirit we believed in, and that no matter what car I own, that spirit can be transferred into it. As expected from someone who reads a lot of manga.
Until we meet again, Chen!
Thanks for reading! I know I said I would try to keep it short, but I also said I would try to make a webcomic and I’m now well over a year into my hiatus, hoho.
Anyway, I move my butt to Chiba on Monday, and after I unpack and buy a bunch of furniture, everything should be back to normal. Art, streams, gaming, you name it!
Here’s to a new chapter of my life in Japan!