1. Home
  2. Useful information
  3. Experience Japan
  4. Vol. 4 - English Teacher


Experience Japan

Vol. 4 - English Teacher

experience4_1.jpgName: Kathleen O'Hagan
Area of Residence: Tottori prefecture, Japan
Useful Links: 
International Tourism Center of Japan

Japan National Tourist Organization

I've been asked to write a short article about my experience in Japan, and I find myself at a loss for words. How do I begin to express a time in my life when every moment seemed to be filled by something new or different or wonderful or sometimes even terrifying? Sitting here, listening to a Japanese favourite at karaoke "Sakura"(Cherry Blossoms), I will attempt to give voice to what may have been the most life-changing decision of my entire life.

experience4_6.jpgI was hired by a tiny, little independent 3-teacher school in a small "countryside" town, in the prefecture of Tottori, called Yonago. Being a "city girl" from Toronto myself, I was a little bit wary that I would find the time spent there "boring"(to quote myself). That I had worried that this experience of living in a culture entirely different from my own, surrounded by a language I could not understand, might actually be boring shows how truly unprepared I was for what was to come.

And I'm not making an overstatement when I say I was completely unprepared-unprepared for the mouth -watering diversity of foods, displayed as if art, in tiny

experience4_2.jpg plates and bowls taking up most of the space on the tables (I had somehow convinced myself that Japanese cuisine was  made up only of sushi), unprepared for my newfound addiction to karaoke bars (once I got over the initial stagefright, there was no stopping me!), unprepared for a winter, though significantly warmer than a Canadian winter, that still had the ability to chill me to the bone (a lack of central heating acquaints the foreigner with many a fun warming-device: heated toilet seats, kotatsu tables (heated coffee tables), heat fans, heated seats on the bus,and for the very rich, heated flooring), unprepared for and honored by the kindness and respect I received from my adult students, moved by the kindness, generosity, and selflessness of the many Japanese people I was lucky to call my friends, and most of all unprepared for my readiness to truly immerse myself into what I had discovered was a beautiful culture that offered much to be learned.

experience4_4.jpgFrom tasting my first cup of sake, to eating the wonderful Japanese adaptation of a delicious Korean meal, yakiniku (grilling various raw meats on a barbeque in the middle of your dinner table), to engaging in hanami during Cherry Blossom season (drinking sake and having a barbeque under the gorgeous cherry blossom trees with your closest friends), to trying on my first kimono, to bravely getting naked my very first time at the onsen (the wonderfully relaxing hot springs), to using my Kei-Tai (cell phone) anytime, anyplace, anywhere, to hearing the word gaijin (foreigner) whispered excitedly whenever a group of children passed by, to maneuvering through the extremely narrow roads on the left side of the road (yes, I had my own car!), to falling in love with a local, "Aishiteru" ("I love you"), and learning that love on the other side of the world can be just as wonderful, if not more so at times, as love in the Western world - not one of these experiences hasn't left me breathless with wonder at some point along the way.

experience4_7.jpgEven though I lived in a city that Japanese people will describe as "countryside", it was still quite large by Canadian standards. A bustling city of about 130,000 people isn't exactly what I'd call countryside, but then again we're talking about a country whose largest city's population is a little under half of Canada's entire population. Tokyo has roughly 12.5 million inhabitants while our entire country has only about 30 million. Keep in mind, you could fit Japan inside Ontario.

experience4_5.jpgIt's pretty crazy when you think about it! Japan's amazingly efficient transportation, which of course includes the Shinkansen (Japan's famous bullet trains) brought me on some great adventures across the country. From the visually stunning sights of Tokyo, to a trip back in time to ancient Kyoto, to the haunting history of Hiroshima, to the miraculous metropolis of the once earthquake shattered city of Kobe, to the beach-lined tropical paradise of Tottori, to the broccoli mountains of Yasugi, to the often overlooked Mt. Daisen of Yonago, Japan is one country not to be missed!

Since I only have good things to say about my experience in Japan, why don't I just go back (you must be asking)? Well, I am going back! But until then, I'm continuing on in the challenging (and fun) study of the Japanese language here at AITAS!

« Prev

Next »

Aitas Japanese Language School