Meet the new folks!

After a weekend in Tokyo I hopped on to the Shinkansen and headed off to Hamamatsu City in Shizuoka for a week of training with Interac. I was really looking forward to meeting others who I would be working alongside. Oh, and speaking again. Because I realized shortly after arriving at training that my weekend in Tokyo was probably one of the quietest in my life. Besides facetime with my parents I am pretty sure I didn’t say much at all besides some very, very broken Japanese that was accompanied by much pointing. But hey, it’s not every day that you realize just how well you can get along in a country where you don’t really speak the language.

Training lasted for four days and kept us pretty busy from around 9 until 6 almost every evening. We had a pretty fun group though and many adventures ensued outside of training time. There were 6 of us newbies heading to Otsu city and we had a great vibe going on the whole week of training.

Capping off the training week was an awesome night out for ramen and karaoke. It was my first karaoke in Japan and man was it a total blast. Not only was I over the moon about all of the songs that they had (all of the songs that they don’t have back home) but we also had our room invaded by some very friendly and very drunk Japanese business men. Apparently this doesn’t actually happen often but we had a blast getting to know them. And it proves that you really don’t need to speak each others languages to get along in the end. Oh, and I totally wowed them with my Japanese singing skills for the like 3 songs that I know.

On the weekend we had a bit of time off before leaving since most people were heading out on Sunday morning. I was one of the lucky few that was leaving on Monday. Anyways, we had to be up really early on Saturday for a chest x-ray but after that we were free. In the afternoon, me and some of the other girls headed out to Hamamatsu castle to check out the sites. It was a really pretty day and there was even a branch or two of cherry blossoms that had bloomed early.

On Sunday everyone took off in the morning and there was a small crew of about 8 of us left. A few of us decided we wanted to check out the beach and so we hopped on the train for a bit of exploring. The stop we were directed to was actually pretty far from the beach and we had to go on a bit of a detour because of a bicycle race or something that was going on.

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We found the back eventually though and it was cool, even though it was a bit of a grey and gloomy day. We even stumbled upon this cool seafood market of some kind where they grilled fresh oysters right in front of you. That was actually a pretty cool experience and I tried my first oyster. It wasn’t too bad.

That was it for the Hamamatsu adventures though and the next day it was back on a Shinkansen towards my new home in Otsu!

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One Weekend in Tokyo: Go!

Alright, now that I am settled into my apartment in Japan (more on that at a later date) I am ready to start writing about all of my Japan adventures so far. The best place to start is where we left off and in the last post I was talking about arriving in Tokyo. I was there for three nights and two days and I did my best to make them as full as possible.

Saturday morning was grey and gloomy, oh and raining. Not the most picturesque start to my adventures in Japan but it was still fairly warm compared to Calgary in March and so I armed myself with an umbrella from the lobby and headed out into the rain to explore Tokyo.

 

The hotel I was staying at was in the northern part of a neighborhood called Asakusa which is home to some of Tokyo’s famous temples and shrines. It was about a 20 minute walk in the rain to my destination and I stumbled upon the shrine without even realizing it. The rain certainly made my experience at the shrine an interesting and unique one. I’m happy that it didn’t keep me indoors that day, though I did feel considerably damp for the whole time it was raining as it was fairly humid too.

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The Senso-ji Temple Complex is quite large and is home to Asakusa Shrine (a Shinto Shrine) as well as the Buddhist temple. One of the main features of the Temple are the gateways with the giant red paper lanterns. There is also a pagoda and various other buildings and gardens.

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Outside of the temple complex are mazes of shopping streets and stalls filled with everything from souvenirs to food and more. Many, but not all, of the streets were covered as well which was a nice break from the rain.

The rain decided to let up just as I was getting onto the train for Akihabara. Akihabara is Tokyo’s electric town and is famous for it’s brightly lit signs and buildings. It is home to electronics stores, maid cafes, and all things anime and geeky that you could think of from Japan. I loved it. There was SO much to see including several arcades and all kinds of stores. Definitely the place to be if you are in to any of the geeky things that Japan offers.

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After a few hours of wandering around Akihabara, all with an added umbrella because of the earlier rain, I decided to head off to Shibuya. One of the new Digimon Adventure Tri movies had come out the weekend before and like the dork that I am, I wanted to see it in the theater if I could. And I did! I got to see my movie and check out the famous scramble crossing and Hachiko statue. I called it quits after that though and made the long trek back to the hotel.

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I had big plans on Sunday to head back to the Shibuya and Shinjuku area for the day but at this point my feet were hating me and jet lag was catching up with me and so instead I checked out a Shinto Shrine that was near my hotel’s train station and then made my way back to Akihabara and wandered around there some more. I spent some money on crane games and those vending machines that give you a toy or something inside a little plastic ball that back home only kids care about (here they are huge and everywhere).

The next morning I was packing up and out of the hotel by 10am. After a quick and cheap breakfast at Denny’s, yup they are even in Japan, I was heading off to a larger train station to catch the Shinkansen bullet train to the city where Interac training would take place.

It was a quick two days in Tokyo and I didn’t get to see half of what there is to see there but I had a blast for what it was. I do not regret coming the few days early and starting my trip off with a bang. It’s going to be a while until I’m back in Tokyo after all, since I am actually pretty far away down here in Shiga. That’s okay though because Kyoto is just next door.

Leaving on a jet plane.

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Written early morning Saturday March 19th:

Hello from Japan everyone! After what amounted to a very, very long day I have arrived safely in Japan. I’m still not completely sure how real all of this is yet. It does feel like I’m here though! Even now the humidity is such a drastic change from dry, dry Calgary. It’s a bit of a rainy and grey day here too which I’m sure doesn’t help.

Anyways, on to the details of my arrival in Japan. I had a whirlwind day of packing up my apartment in Canada and getting my suitcases packed (thanks Mom!). I’ll probably do a longer post later on what I brought but needless to say it was a lot. Two large 50lb checked bags, a probably 25lb rolling suitcase and a laptop bag that was absolutely stuffed with way too many electronics, was what was coming with me.

My flight from Calgary left at around 7:30 in the morning so I had a very early morning. Everything went smoothly though, even though Canada decided to send me a little snow before I left. The flight to San Francisco wasn’t too bad. The seats were terrible but other than that it was okay. I played some games and the time literally flew by.

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My plane to Japan was a large 747 and it was quite nice. I had a decent window seat which made me happy. I don’t think the two guys I was sitting by liked me much when I had to go to the bathroom though. Two times on a 9ish hour flight is acceptable, I don’t know how they seemed to have bladders of steel. The movie selection was okay, watched the new Star Wars again and then the Attack on Titan live action movie. Otherwise I played some games, coloured and got not a wink of sleep.

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We landed about half an hour early in Japan which was nice. The customs line took about as long to get through. It was super easy once you made it up there though. They just look at your forms (if you are coming for work and all), make your residence card (again if you are working here), and send you on through. My bags were already off and ready by the time I had grabbed a cart and found which carousel I was looking for. They had attendants standing by to pull the bags off of the carousel and have them waiting at the sides which was nice. Customs was super quick to get through as well.

After making it out the doors I had to find my way to the baggage delivery services but there were signs everywhere. So I pushed my way down to them and was promptly handed a form I had no clue how to fill out. After nearly a days worth of travel I was not really up to trying to figure it out on my own and so I asked for help, showed them the address of the training hotel and tried to pay attention as they filled it out. After signing it all away I went up to the counter an paid, it was about 3300 for two large bags.

After sending off my big bags, which get to training a day before I do, I went off to figure out how to get into Tokyo from Narita. Before coming I had looked up several things and the cheapest way to get there. After a long day of flying I had absolutely no energy to try and figure it out, especially at the airport with so much going on. I shelled out some cash for the Skyliner Express train and called it done. This train was just below where I came out and runs every 20 minutes or so. It only makes two stops outside of the airport terminals, Nippori and Ueno. I was getting off at Ueno. The train was fast and I chatted with another girl who had just arrived to visit friends. She got off at Nippori and then, not five minutes later the train was at Ueno. I got off, figured out where to go, after asking questions a couple of times because it was fairly busy.

I managed to find my way to the line I needed and bought myself the right ticket. I even found the right platform and train that I needed to take. I did get a little lost after getting off at my station. Trying to figure out how to get on my hotel’s street. I did figure it out though and made the ten minute walk to my hotel. The check in was really easy and my room is tiny but nice.

I was tired last night and the idea of trying to communicate terrified me slightly and so supper was some gyoza and Sakura Pepsi bought from the convenience store a few doors down. The convenience store in itself was a lot, there was so much stuff for a little store. And my favorite candy is only 99 yen here, I don’t know if this is good or terrible for me.

Anyways, it’s Saturday morning now. I wanted to get this down before I forgot about it because this is going to be a crazy busy few days.

So, who likes lakes?

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Take a look at my new city folks! That’s right, I finally found out where I am heading to in Japan. Actually, I’ve found out twice because they have moved my placement once already about a week after I first found out. So this might not actually be set in stone but I’ll post this anyways because I have less than three weeks until I am in Japan!

Where am I going do you ask? Well in the last post I mentioned that I was narrowed down to three prefectures: Shizuoka, Shiga, and Kyoto. Well, I was placed in the capital city of the Shiga Prefecture, Otsu.

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As you can see it is very, very close to Kyoto and not very far from Osaka either. My earlier placement was a city only a little ways away on the other side of the lake so I’m not to concerned about the change.

Since getting my placement I have done a little, or a lot I suppose, of research on the prefecture and city that I am heading to. Shiga as you might notice from the picture is home to the largest freshwater lake in Japan, Lake Biwa. The lake itself is actually one of the twenty oldest lakes on the planet, something like 4 million years old. Because of it’s close proximity to Kyoto, Shiga is full of historical sites and things like that. The city that I am heading to, Otsu, is the capital of the prefecture and was at one point the capital of Japan for a very brief period. It’s maybe about 15 minutes away from Kyoto and it is full of some very famous shrines and temples.

I don’t know much else about my placement yet, besides that I will be working at a couple of elementary schools and that I won’t have to drive, but hopefully I will be hearing more soon. The countdown to Japan is officially in high gear though as I have 19 days before I get on a plane and get this adventure started!

Narrowing the Possibilities

As I talked about in my last post, patience is definitely a virtue when it comes to applying to live in Japan. That being said it seems like Interac is doing some new things this year which means that people like me, who were hired quite a few months ago, are getting a bit more info on where we will be earlier.

I got a phone call last night from the Tokyo office about a branch placement! So a branch of Interac is generally in charge of the contracts in a particular area in Japan. There are quite a few branches in Interac since they cover most of the country.

Anyways, I was offered a placement in the Hamamatsu Branch! (Which I accepted, obviously.) The Hamamatsu Branch works in the prefectures of Shizuoka and Shiga, as well as Kyoto (I’m not entirely clear on whether it’s the city or the prefecture for that one). I was really pleased to hear about this because it’s right around where I wanted to be. I really wanted some place that was in central Japan so that it would be easy to get around and travel.japan2

I have been spending my time (and abounding excitement) doing a little research on the areas Hamamatsu covers. Shiga is a prefecture right next to Kyoto and is home to Japan’s largest freshwater lake. It also seems to be pretty connected to Kyoto and rich with a lot of history. Shizuoka is on the other side of Japan and is home to Mt. Fuji.

I won’t find out an exact placement until sometime in January probably but at least I can kind of narrow it down now. I can’t wait to find out exactly where I will be. This blog might still be quiet for this month but once I start getting more information I plan to post more. I also want to talk about things like packing and purging a lot of my things and all. Also, you may find some really geeky translations of songs or cd dramas on here occasionally because I like to translate things to improve my Japanese.

Until next time!

The Waiting Game

No matter who you apply with to go to Japan you will invariably spend a lot of time waiting. For JET the application process is nearly a year long. To avoid this I applied to Interac but I still managed to stick myself with a wait period just as long, the big difference is that I know I have the job whereas in JET you don’t find out for months.

Interac updates have started to roll in finally. At the start of October I received a more official offer of employment and an application for my CoE that I sent off, along with applying for a new passport. And just today I have received several emails from Interac discussing what is happening next. Besides waiting on my CoE (Which won’t be sent for until the end of December at the earliest) the next things I am waiting on are the confirmation of an arrival month and then an offer to work with a specific branch, or rather sub company. According to the email Interac is restructuring into 6 regional companies starting in the spring. I don’t think this really changes much but it does give a slight idea of where you will be going a little sooner, a general group of prefectures at least.

Seeing these emails certainly gets me excited though. Japan is creeping up pretty fast!