Tuesday, 29 July 2008

PostHeaderIcon One Year

I arrived at Narita airport in Tokyo exactly one year ago today. After a sleepless 20 hour journey starting from Edinburgh airport I walked off the plane and was immediately greeted with "Mista Hanta? I'm afraid your cases have not arrived." That was a bit of a kick in the teeth considering I had paid about £200 extra because my cases weighed a whole 27kg (7kg over the limit). Also, the British Midlands woman stole my debit card details and bought mobile phones and booze with them. That was a good start to my life in old 日本.

After a few jet-lagged days in Tokyo I was sent in the direction of my small town in one of the most rural prefectures in Japan. It was unbearably hot and I had to wear my suit whilst meeting people from my office. I had lunch at an Indian restaurant with three Japanese people and some American I didn't know called Noah. I remember being lost in the conversation immediately and I really didn't want to eat a curry. Even then it dawned on me that my life for the next year would be interesting if not a bit of a struggle. So, how has it been? Well, for starters... I now love nothing more than ordering the Larka set at that restaurant and stuffing my face. Here's a small breakdown of the rest of the year:

August: Everything was very interesting and exciting to begin with as is usually the case. I had moved away from home and was ready to adapt to this new culture etc. I got to meet lots of Japanese people and made friends with the other foreigners. There were summer festivals and I had time to study Japanese before school started. All bright eyed as you'd expect. Although it was unbelievably hot and I didn't really know what to do.

My first day at work with my first supervisor. Typhoon waves in the background.
Releasing balloons at the 7th inning whilst watching baseball in Aki.

September/October: These were some of the more enjoyable months of my time here. The weather started to turn really nice around this time and I was feeling a lot more settled in the town. I had lots of parties and barbecues around my house and lots of visits to the city. It was still pretty exciting to be living in Japan. I was nervous for my first few classes at school but by this time I was already into the swing of things. We had a pretty decent Halloween party in town too.

Playing frisbee on a very sunny, October day. Posing with the Aki guys at Halloween.

November: This was a good month too as I went on some long weekend trips around the rest of Japan. I had a great time visiting Tokyo one weekend and then visiting Matsuyama and Hiroshima the following weekend. It was still lovely weather and I actually studied Japanese a lot during this time.

An army of people crashing after a night out in the city. Messing about in Hiroshima.

December: Along with the weather, things began to cool down a bit in December. I remember the month really relying on a Christmas/New Year break at the end of it. I did have a few good nights out in the city. I remember waking up one morning in the fancy clothes I had worn for a film festival and not really knowing where I was. I ended up at some friendly Americans apartment and spent 2 hours hiding under the table trying to shake off the worst hangover of my life. I do kind of miss those big drinking nights out in the city. I had an okay Christmas up in the mountains and a had a nice meal at a nice cafe/restaurant on the cliffs. I spent New Year travelling around Osaka and Kyoto. I quite liked visiting touristy places on my own before meeting up with a Japanese friend and the some foreigners from Kochi. Kyoto was a really excellent city and I'd like to go back to see more. I'm not the biggest fan of Osaka ever since that trip though.

Downing pints and belting out karaoke with Andrew in Tokyo.

: These two months were pretty miserable. I broke my leg playing football at the start of January just as the weather and misery were already starting to kick in. Indeed, the break was symbolic for my change in mentality and life here that still lingers occasionally. Everyday was a bit of a hassle and it wasn't unusual for me to be starving at weekends because I couldn't be arsed to go out in the rain to buy food. Although I did get pretty damn good at Pro Evolution Soccer on my Xbox360 and I ate my weight in Oreo cookies. Looking back on it, I think I coped with the situation pretty well. I never missed a day of work and I still managed to teach my classes with a smile of my face. This was probably important in a country with a "get on with it" attitude. If I really wanted to extort some sympathy then I could describe how I spent my 22nd birthday. I hobbled about in the cold, showering in the pitch black because the light bulb had blown, spent 12 hours in work teaching at school and at my adult class. Eventually I went home and had toast for dinner.

March/April: These months were also miserable but with little reason because my leg had healed. I figured out that breaking my leg had actually postponed my expected period of culture shock by about 6-8 week because I blamed everything on it. Then I realised that everything was still woe and work/life was just as dull and dire as it had been. It didn't help that all my friends spent their time doing this musical practice at weekends and I hardly really socialised with anyone for a long period. I did have a trip to Tokushima that was rubbish on paper but was an appreciated break from the four walls of my apartment. Japanese study was exceptionally bad during these four months. Also, I enjoyed growing a really bad beard during this time as seen above.

Just chilling with my twin Mike Miyagi in Tokushima. Group photograph at top of the city hill.

May/June/July: Things began to pick up again during the past three months but there was also an element of life turning a bit mundane. Nah... they were good months where I became more sociable and upped my game at teaching a little bit. We had a successful day camp in town. I had another fun weekend in Tokyo. I had an unusual but somewhat enjoyable weekend trip with some Japanese old ladies. The football tournament in Awaji was one of the better weekends of the year as well. Despite being a bit ill this month I've really come to appreciate living here again and I am looking forward to next year. I've really relaxed and mellowed out in the past few weeks and my holiday home should be really beneficial.

Good old Aki karaoke in May. Sayonara Party in Kochi City with the Muroto guys.

My apologies for the long entry but it was something I forced myself to write since I have lived halfway across the world for a year now. Last night I went to the Indian restaurant again for dinner with my friend Andrew. We chewed the fat about.... the moon, video games, going home on holiday and how hard I was to understand when we first met. On the way home I stopped the car to admire a thunderstorm out on the ocean. I listened to Sigur Ros on my iPod whilst watching these lightning strikes light up the pounding waves. It was great and made me all philosophical and what have you about living here. Here's to another year of blogging about my ups and (mostly) downs. Cheers. I'll upload some cheeky pictures others have taken during the course of the year.


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About Me

I am a 24 year old Scotsman currently teaching English to Japanese schoolchildren. I live in a small town on the east coast of Kochi prefecture.