JET: Japanniversary

The view from the hotel Beer Garden in Miemachi

It’s my Japanniversary! So the 3rd August marked my first year of living in Japan, and thus the longest I’ve ever been out of the UK!

As I stride into my second (and final?) year in Japan, at least as a JET, I’ve compiled just a few things I’ve learnt and discovered this year – enjoy!

  • A 3 hour drive actually means a place is nearby
  • Inaka means countryside, so I’m an Inaka JET
  • Beer is a lifestyle, not a drink
  • Without internet, you truely are alone (so get it ASAP!)
  • Things aren’t as far away as they seem, it just feels that way because the speed limit is 80kph/50mph
  • A water jet is a much more refreshing way to clean your arse, especially in hot, summer weather.
  • Nomihoudai (all you can drink) is not a challenge, but a polite offer, treat it as such
  • Your bank card will only work in your prefecture, and the neighbouring ones only if you’re lucky
  • There is minimal graffitti – I can’t recall seeing any!
  • Network, network, network, the people you meet at the orientations will become your travel destinations!
  • Cash is king – what’s a debit card?
  • 3 questions you need to understand and answer in Japanese – “Where are you from?” “Why are you in Japan?” “What do you like about Japan?”
  • Japan doesn’t work harder than anywhere else, they just spend more time in their place of work
  • Walking around naked, around other people, in nature, is nice
  • Konbinis truly are konbenient
  • Tokyo is surprising far away (from Kyushu) to the extent that it’s quicker to fly to other countries
  • When Japanese people drink, they go hard!
  • Even ATMs need to sleep.
  • You pay to access your money
  • ‘Studying’ doesn’t equate to learning, especially in English class.
  • The only difference between school holidays and school is that some of the kids come to school in their own clothes, and you literally spend the day at your desk, not just most of it.

So why stay a second year?

It’s an interesting question. Settling in takes a long time, and I feel that my increasing Japanese can only open doors for me to foster more meaningful relationships, that I couldn’t forge when I had just arrived.

I think a second year of studying Japanese will bring it up to conversational fluency, and that will really help me to understand the culture and mindset better.

Whilst teaching is so-so, it is great seeing the progress of the few kids that want to learn, and some of the kids are just weirdly funny. And whilst a lesson that bombs is pretty distressing, getting it right is pretty rewarding!

Going into my second year, I need to get serious with my money. It’s been a great year, visiting S. Korea, Thailand, Cambodia, and Taiwan, with Hong Kong to come. Within Japan as well, I’ve been to Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Osaka, with Tokyo and Kyoto lined up, plus all the littler places. But… it has hit my wallet hard, and pushed freelancing to one side.

With many of closest friends leaving, I think this coming year could be a more self-reflective year, with the time, space, and desire to fit in more hiking, cycling and work, and to work on my professional side in preparation for after I leave the programme.

Whatever happens, I sure it shan’t be like the last!

By J.Molkenthin

James Molkenthin is an enthusiastic and energetic British Designer, with a background in Graphics, Website and Product Design.