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Experience Japan

Vol. 7 - English Teacher

experience8_1.jpgName: Michael Keeley
Area of Residence: Tokyo and Chiba
Useful Link: English Teaching Job in Japan

I woke up at 5am to catch a flight to Tokyo. 24 hours later, I was drifting through customs in Japan in a haze of exhaustion. If you can sleep on airplanes, I suggest you do so. The only thing to be said for sleep deprivation is that everything kind of passes as if in a dream and none of the shock sets in until much later. Seeing the neon lights of Tokyo slide slowly by through the train window was a nice introduction to the city though. The culture shock was pretty severe but thoroughly enjoyable. The shock when I returned to Canada was much worse. I think I had started to take things for granted that exist there but not here.

experience8_2.jpgI taught English "conversation" at Nova for the entire time I was there. Everything from older Japanese with suspect memories to kawaii little 3-yr olds. Teaching is probably the best way to learn about the people and the culture; I learned just as much as I was able to teach. Teaching was a bit of a trap as well however. I got lulled into the security of hanging out with a lot of kankokujin like myself. I could've learned and seen so much more had I just gotten drunk with the Brits a little less often. All the more reason to go back though.

experience8_3.jpgJapanese are some of the most polite people I've every met as well. I like to think they weren't nice simply because I tower over nearly every one of them. I've had salary-men come up to me in Asakusa to practice English and had a short conversation about Canada in an elevator with a Japanese woman and her wide-eyed daughter. Some underage drunk kids bought my friends and I a sushi boat once and I've nodded politely to countless streams of Japanese I didn't understand. Its an amazing place.

experience8_4.jpgI spent nearly all of my time in and around Tokyo. There's something new to see in that city everyday, probably even if you were to frequent the exact same place. There is a miniature Statue of Liberty in Odaiba, temples across from pachinko parlours, and the world's only centreless ferris wheel (unless someone else has built one since). The fashion is incredible, from the Harajuka girls all the way to the occasional Armani-clad salary-man. Everyone knows japanese food is good so I won't go into that except to say that anything you've had here pales in comparison. The number of authentic foreign restaurants in Tokyo surprised me as well. I learned to love Indian food in Japan. Strange.

experience8_5.jpgThe things I miss most are being able to shout 'Sumimasen!' in Izakayas and not having to tip practically anyone. I liked being so tall and standing out as much as I did. I loved learning the meaning/origin of japanese slang terms. I miss the everyday variety and the sheer number of trains that go whistling by. The list goes on but what I don't miss are the suicides and the hungover students. I wish I didn't have to travel to 5 different countries to visit the people I met and that it wasn't so expensive/far. Needless to say, I got addicted to those islands and the nostalgia is making me study hard so I can get a job there and go back. Its worth every moment you're there and every dollar it takes to get you there. I recommend it, for whatever reason you choose to go and for however long.


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