Thursday, August 18, 2011

Doug in Japan: Arrival and Beginning

What feels like it began a long time ago - last November when the application was mailed in, three and a half years ago when I applied the first time, almost ten years ago when I first started studying Japanese - has finally come to fruition. I'm now on the JET Programme, living and working full time in Nagasaki prefecture, Japan.

This was originally started as a blog for a journalism class at the University of Oregon a long time ago, and older posts reflect my usual interests (cars, video games, music), but from here on out I'm invisioning this as a "hey guys Doug is living in Japan and here's what he's up to!" site. Which is fine; there are many like this, but this one is mine. My friend Julia from the Portland State MIM program has been running her own site in the same vein on living in Shanghai. It kind of is The Thing To Do in this situation, but screw it, I need some place to write.

Plus many friends said I should do this, so here we go.

On July 30, I took off from Portland and through the magic of the international date line, touched down the following day at Narita Airport outside of Tokyo, Japan. Let the JET Programme begin in earnest! After collecting baggage, we piled onto buses - I say "we" because groups from Toronto, San Francisco, and a couple other cities landed around the same time as the Portland group - and headed into the city. I was a little taken aback at how dark Tokyo looked this year; last March it was lit up like a Christmas tree, but with "sendetsu" (electric savings) being a necessity in the wake of the earthquake and nuclear issues in March, so goes the neon. I roomed in Tokyo with two others from Portland, Jim and Ken, who are now in Tottori and Niigata prefectures respectively. Dinner and early to bed was the result of the first night.

The JET Orientation began in earnest on the first full day, Monday. Keynote speakers! Presentations! Lots of jet-lagged people stuck in suits or formal wear! Rooms without windows! The orientation itself was alright, but god, after flying over the last thing I wanted to do was sit in a suit in rooms without windows. We could have been in Japan; we could have been in Spokane for all I was concerned. On the first night we also had a huge reception where we got the chance to talk with more people from our prefecture. We'd all met earlier in the day but that was so formal and official. Even better, after the reception, word spread around - "8:30, lobby, karaoke." That was all I needed to hear.

The second day, Tuesday, included even more presentations and lectures about teaching and adjusting to life in Japan. In the afternoon, we were instructed how our travel down to Nagasaki prefecture would go on Wednesday; we also had to drop bags off Tuesday evening so the buses could be packed and ready to go. Tuesday night I wandered around Shinjuku (the district of Tokyo we stayed in) with my roommate Jim, finding dinner and wandering through the huge electronics shops. We also went to Uniqlo, a huge Japanese clothing chain; I think their largest size of shirts might just fit me, which is great news.

Wednesday was when things really got going. Up and out to the airport in the morning, a nice quick flight from Tokyo Haneda down to Nagasaki, you are. This is where you live now. I was picked up from the airport by my supervisor, Okaki-san, and my predecessor, Sho. From there it was a whirlwind tour of my new little town - the Board of Education building, the town hall, photos taken for my Alien Registration Card (aka "gaijin card"), even more. It was a touch overwhelming, to be honest; getting to rest in what was now my apartment was a welcome respite. That night I also had my first "enkai," or party, which was hosted by the Board of Education and had other top figures in the town there.

Thursday and Friday featured tours of the schools where I'll be working in a couple weeks. One of the best moments was at Sonogi Middle School, where I'll be spending the most time. Though it's the summer break, school clubs and groups still meet; the baseball club and a brass band were both practicing when we visited. After meeting the teachers (including the English teacher), we (Okaki-san, Sho and I) came back outside and the kids gave Sho an impromptu performance and show of their appreciation. I think he almost cried; I wouldn't have blamed him.

Since then I've been working at the BoE on weekdays and hanging out with other JETs in the area on the weekends. The first weekend included a trip up to Sasebo to see the Seaside Festival and fireworks; last weekend included an all-you-can-eat and drink party in Omura, followed by traveling south to Nagasaki city proper for the Obon festivities on Monday. Tomorrow I'm going up to a beach party north of Sasebo. Gotta keep busy! All the other JETs I've met, whether in my group arriving this year or returning ones, have been great, interesting, wonderful people.

Apologies that this is so long and there aren't any pictures; once I get an Internet connection at home, that will definitely stop being a problem.

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