Welcome to my Japan Blog!
Japanese Translated Version Here
I am an American who is a new ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) in the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching.) Program. I have been studying Japanese for about 3 years now taking advantage of the Input hypothesis or "Monitor Model" as it is sometimes known. I am taking the N2 level of the JLPT in December of 2022.
I arrived on July 31st of 2022 and hope to stay until I receive a terminal degree at a Japanese university!
Some of my Goals While in Japan
- Pass level 5 of the Kanji Kentei (The standard kanji aptitude test in Japan, most children take this at some point in their life)
- Pass N1 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test with a score above 150
- Actively participate in some sort of thing intrinsic to Japanese Culture
- Enroll in a Japanese University once my time on the JET Program is over
- Find a cushy job in the greater Tokyo area
- Update this blog regularly and eventually make it a bilingual blog
My Job, Responsibilites, and Hobbies
As of today (2022-09-28), I am technically an employee my city's City Hall yet my responsibility lies mostly within the schools I teach at, those being the largest elementary and middle school. I work 2 days a week at the elementary school and 3 days a week at the junior high school so naturally I have fallen into enjoying more of my time at the latter. I teach all levels at the junior high, 1-3, which equivocates to 7th-9th grade when compared to the American structure of schooling. At the elementary school I only teach 5th and 6th year students which is the same grade levels in America.
My role within the classroom changes based on who my JTE (Japanese Teacher of English) is; I am at worst a student teacher just facilitating in helping the classroom run smoothly and at best I am the main teacher giving and creating the lessons. Altogether, it balances out to an enriching experience regardless of what I am doing. The kids here, maybe at the hands of the JET Program, seem to not have had a great experience with the previous ALTs and I am having to work hard to reinvigorate their desire to learn English. A few of them are starting to figure out that I speak Japanese though so it may be a bit hard to continue only using English with the students...
In addition to playing an active role in the classroom I also participate in after school activites as much as possible. Clubs in Japan are way more strict and structured than when compared to America and from my short time here I can confidently say most kids are in one or more clubs. As for what I participate in, I have regularly gone to Kendo practice, about 2-4 times a week, and I have also participated in almost every other club thus far. The kids seem to really appreciate me coming and I hope they feel seen and cared for as a result of my efforts to be a more critical part of the school systems I exist within.
My personal hobbies include playing video games, mostly Dota 2, reading manga and watching anime, and I also frequently did Frisbee Golf and Ultimate Frisbee in the states but that seems to be far less popular in Japan unfortunately.
10-28-2022 Blog Update
As of late, I have done a bit of traveling. Last week, I went to Kanagawa. I am enjoying my time at my schools but lately the reality of being "alone" in Japan is hitting me. Not hard but I can feel the pressure. There is something strange about suddenly becoming a minority in a foreign country. Everyime I go to the grocery store or discount mart or wherever, I get stares, people talk about me, and just in general there feels as if there is an invisible bubble around me and people skirt along its edges. At first, I somewhat welcomed this new-found celebrity status but now it can be quite annoying. I really cannot go anywhere in peace and my trip to Kanagawa helped me get away from that unwelcome fame.
In order to combat this feeling, I have decided to begin writing more, working out more, pursuing goals with more diligence, and seeking my next steps in this life. There is not much room for me to grow within my workplace so I am having to essentially carve my own path within my city. ALTs in general seem to come to Japan with an initial burst of motivation that gets decapitated by the rigidity of the Japanese school system. I am constantly worrying about how much my students work and how little time they have to actually enjoy their youth. On top of that, some of the methodology used for teaching is quite outdated. I learned Japanese through immersion learning so I wanted to bring that approach to English in the classroom but it has been shotdown by the almighty textbooks that rule many language classrooms around the world. Even when trying to make my own club or branch off into something I control it is not allowed or deemed too hard to implement.
On a more positive note, I have a few upcoming trips lined up and I hope to enjoy myself in Japan even if I am not fully utilized in the classroom. I have been learning how to cook, improving my Japanese reading skills, and also playing video games as I always have. I have also recently received 2 boxes from my family that have brought me great joy. There is absolutely no Mexican food in the part of Japan I am in so the prospect of making tacos this weekend is bringing me an insurmountable amount of joy. I have a few plans to go to my school's brass band/ chorus concert in a couple weeks and there are two dinners with coworkers in that time period that will also be fun.
I will try to update this blog more in this fashion and add a bit more functionality if the page gets too long; such as a search by month/date function or different pages for different topics. Thanks for reading my blog and I hope you will continue to do so.
12-02-2022 Blog Update
To start off, sorry to all my readers for my lack of a consistent posting schedule. I have been rigorously studying for the upcoming JLPT exam this weekend here in Japan and have therefore given my other more minor responsibilites the back-seat. Today is quite an eventful day here in Akita, as we have received a sizeable amount of the snow. Just by my crude measurements of a few finger lengths and using the crude measurement of my homeland America, I can confidently say we have received over a foot of snow in the past 10 hours. My native Tennessee is not unknown to this amount of snow but the locals here have informed me quite heartedly that this is indeed the normal I should come to expect. I am thankful I experienced a snow like this for the first time with a good friend in Michigan before coming here.
As it concerns my recent endeavors, I am actively looking for a job outside of the region for personal reasons. I enjoy my students and some teachers but being away from the city is taking a toll on my body. Not being able to go enjoy a nice cup of Starbucks coffee without an hour commute by train starts to widdle away at the American sanity. I do however have a few trips planned this month, first a little weekend trip to Sendai, Christmas in Tokyo and then my birthday in Kyoto. I will be sure to include an update after all of my trips sadly come to an end. I also have plans to start adding pictures to these posts but as I am mostly doing these updates while on the clock and Japan being quite stingent with the free movement of information, especially as it concerns technology, I am unable to easily move pictures from my phone to my work tablet.
My studies appear to be going well. Just to give a quick breakdown of the complexities of the JLPT, you must first pass each section of 4 with an approximate score of 33% and then have a cummulitive score of over 50% as an overall. The test is not curved but does have a system in which points are given an arbitrated score of difficulty which weights them based on the frequency of correct or incorrect responses. The level which I am taking, N2, is what is needed as a stepping-stone into a Japanese company. To give an idea of what level of Japanese this entails, I would say it probably hovers around the level of a 9th or 10th grader here with some questions being able to be answered by elementary school students and some questions being hard even for high-schoolers. Also as a side-note, the format of the test is quite Japanese so it really does feel like a tried and true Japanese standardized test. I take it this Sunday so please send me your good energy and well wishes!
My plans after the test are to finally embark on the epic journey that is overcoming my fear of going to an onsen. Something about being naked in front of old Japanese strangers irks me to no end. And, if I receive stares like I do in the grocery store, I may simply implode from the sheer embarrassment. Also, I think I have fully cemented my status as a celebrity here in my city, beyond random people striking up conversations with me (this is very non-Japanese) and the constant stares and comments, someone finally decided to ask for my hand in marriage. Well, not marriage, but they revealed their love for me mere seconds after meeting me in a grocery store parking lot. I not only confirmed their intentions but reciprocated my own love for them in a somewhat awkward fashion considering the street-lights dimly lighting our momentous bondage. In return, the young man, yes, young man, then gave me his cologne-drenched, Detroit Tigers cordoroy baseball cap and sent me on my way. Sometimes I find myself staring longingly unto the distant ricefields, wondering where my estranged lover my be in the rolling countryside...
In this update, I believe I will try to chronologically list my experiences with cultue shock while in Japan. These are things I have both witnessed or experienced. I want to keep them impersonal in an attemept to protect my dignity.
- Protected green turn signals are rarer than white people here.
- There is basically no discipline in schools here.
- Students change clothes in the hallways!?
- I`ll definitely do that! means they won`t and I`ll definitely do that, what time is good? means they will.
- Children naked in public?
- Their parents naked too? (Apparently this is rare but I witnessed it)
- Making a lot of noises while you eat is perfectly fine.
- Burping is not okay.
- Most male teachers have a favorite female student and apparently that`s okay?
- Students here say some crazy things and both boy and girl students seem capable of having massive crushes on teachers.
- Women have far less accessible healthcare than men.
- When you see someone drop something, you better sprint to give it back to them!
- Foreigners who eat on trains are stared at until they explode.
- People in the rural areas of Japan are much more inquisitive and more socially amicable like that of Americans.
- Japanese people work way beyond their contractual obligations. This is a collective problem that everyone begrudgingly continues.
- Everything you do is watched. Everything needs a stamp of approval.
- No dryers! At all! And really no dishwashers!
- Kerosene stoves as opposed to central heating.
- Talking on trains is frowned upon usually. Talking on your phone on the train is a death sentence.
- Drinking a drink while walking is no good. Eating is even worse. Drinking a beer while walking through the station is badass.
- Ignore the racists.
- Squatting toilets of doom and hell.
- You probably shouldn`t talk to your boss directly but it`s funny to catch them off-guard sometimes.
- The sense of community is insane!
- I will update this list as time goes on! Thanks for reading as always!