It’s now officially one year since I plopped off that plane in Tokyo excited about moving to Japan. I have blogged and spoken about it countless times about how moving to Japan had been a longtime goal of mine so I won’t go over that. Instead, I will be quickly talking about my experiences in Japan so far and how it has changed me on a personal level.
First I cannot believe its been one year already. It feels like I landed and was so overwhelmed and disoriented then by the time I got to my senses I was freezing my ass off in Winter, sick most of Spring, enduring what felt like a month of rain, now burning up in the Summer them boom! one year Japaniversary. My 1st year in Japan and indeed my Japan experience so far is very different from what I thought it would be – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If I could talk to myself from a year ago I would tell myself to calm down and adjust but not lower your expectations. Rural island Japan-life is a special type of Japan experience but after a year of experiences here I don’t think I would want to change my placement.
Grateful for all the assistance received
I am fortunate to have a good group of people around me that have helped me survive this first year -and I have to remind myself that just surviving sometimes is a victory. My coworkers are awesome, my supervisor is awesome, my neighbours are awesome and most of all the kids I teach are awesome. During my roughest periods, it is the kids that kept me grounded and focused on remembering why I am here. I remember arriving and during my 1st few classes I was so clueless – the kids were not warmed up to me yet and man did I struggle in those early weeks. However, after a while, I could feel the tide change and I started to improve day by day to now the kids are excited about English class and my co-Teachers trust me to plan activities and value my input.
I worked for 15 years before coming to Japan – so I wasn’t a young 23ish-year-old fresh out of college like most participants on the JET program. My biggest challenge continues to be navigating this society and being so depended on others for almost everything when I was so independent back in Jamaica for a very long time. The language and communicating is still quite hard and recently the biggest source of frustrations is when I am misunderstood which means I have to struggle to get what I really wanted or just live with the miscommunication and learn from the experience. I never dreamed that simple things like finding baking powder at a store or getting a tooth filled could cause such a spike in my anxiety levels.
Hard to link with friends in Japan
Also, before coming to Japan I had a lot of friends that live here from all nationalities and walks of life. Most I have met via my blog or from my previous visit to Japan. However, due to my location, I have been unable to see any of these friends since I have been here because with my rural island commute just getting to the mainland and the perfect logistics and timing to return etc is so frustrating. So when I do get holidays or long weekends I am either super tired and stay close to home or travel to the nearest city on the mainland which is still another 3-4-5-6 hours from big cities like Osaka, Hiroshima etc – Tokyo is a flight or a overnight bus away so expectly traveling for me ain’t cheap and none of my friends seems willing or able to meet me half way.
Onwards to Year 2
Overall though I am happy with my first year. My maturity has really helped me adjust to the challenges here. My experiences before Japan has helped me in my job and my impact in my community is amplified because it is so small and close-knit. Cheers to my 1st year in Japan and lets see what kind of experiences year 2 has in store.
Kirk is a proud Jamaican who started Jamaipanese.com in February 2006 and now lives in rural Japan. He enjoys sharing his experiences learning about Japan, personal milestones in life as well as interests such as photography, gaming and travelling.