I found the initial few days a whirlwind of jet lag and Tokyo Orientation. It was nice to meet lots of like-minded people, ready for an adventure. Although, I wonder how many people were really prepared for the life upheaval and emotional impact of leaving their families. Nonetheless, I found the Tokyo Orientation scratched the surface of some knowledge we would need, and then we were quickly on our way to our new homes with little time for much to soak in.
On arrival in Yamaguchi (I flew into Ube airport) I was surprised at how beautiful the parts I saw of the prefecture were. I am not certain why I was so surprised to see lush mountains and pretty valleys, except that I had arrived in Yamaguchi with very few expectations. This was both because my internet searches had returned very little and I have gone into this whole process with an open mind. I had to really after leaving a career and established home / routine in the UK!
My first few days in Yamaguchi are a little hazy! I had lots of life admin to sort out along with some Kencho (local government) training. However, I finally got to meet lots of the JETs I had already been speaking to through our social media interactions. The current JETs I have met have been extremely helpful and supportive; a real credit to the JET programme! I certainly would have not been able to settle in as well without their help and guidance.
Since my arrival in Shimonoseki two weeks ago I am settling in to life slightly. This has only recently occurred, as initially I was without Dan and so couldn`t fully settle into our apartment. He arrived on Friday 12th, and so since then we have been `making home`. This has probably been the most challenging part of the experience so far, as the apartment we have been assigned is extremely old. I knew to expect old, but I still wasn`t prepared for this old! It has taken some work and imagination to make it a little more like our home, but this initially preoccupied quite a lot of my time in the evenings and on my first weekend. Yesterday we purchased the world’s best chairs though, so it is already feeling and looking a little better! As the well-established and practised JET saying goes, every situation is different.
My supervisor at school is great. She is very relaxed and really goes with the flow, which has helped me to settle in. The other day she took me to one of my other schools (I have four in total) and we were driving for about 30 minutes before she realised she was taking me to the wrong school. My second school, as it happens, was only about a 10 minute walk away from where we started! This surprised me as I was expecting a slightly intimidating and highly efficient supervisor, who worked to an almost militant schedule. That’s what forming a Japanese stereotype in your mind will do to you! She has been friendly and very helpful with all of the paperwork I have had to complete, along with Dan`s. It’s nice to be able to speak with someone actually teaching in a Japanese school as well, and I have already learnt a lot from her and the other teachers.
I like my schools very much. My experience of Japanese schools so far is that they are all very similar in terms of look and style, and all bring limited technology into teaching. The teachers seem happy and very committed to their students and have a great relationship with students. The lack of technology isn’t a surprise as I was aware of it before I came to Japan, but it is still a shock. It seems that in so many ways Japan is advanced and values technology and invention, but in other ways it is very far behind what I have been used to. Still, the students I have met so far seem committed to education of some kind (not always English!) and society has a lot of respect for its teachers.
The biggest challenge I can now see ahead for Dan and I is learning the language. We are both committed to doing this but have been so busy already, it is presenting a challenge. We intend to attend some local language classes and are already sourcing an on-line tutor. Watch this space…