Thursday, August 26, 2010

JET Orientation: Round 497, and a Weekend Trip to Togane: Round 1

As I mentioned in the last update, upon leaving Jessica, I was headed to Chiba City for my prefectural orientation. All other new Chiba JETs and I united to hear yet another lecture on adjusting to life in Japan, preparing for the inevitable homesickness/culture shock, and discussing how learning the language will only help us…no kidding. I really appreciate JET looking out for us, I do, but at this point I probably could have taught the 2 day lecture.

During the day we heard from senior ALTs who spoke about various topics and in the afternoon we were placed in leveled Japanese courses to help us get as much as we could out 4 hours worth of class. There was a test you could take in case you weren’t sure what your level was, needless to say no time was wasted on my part, I checked that ‘beginner’ box just as fast as I wrote my name. During the one night that we spent in Chiba City we had a picnic in the park consisting of Costco pizza and beer; a meal that could bring even the greatest of enemies together. In case you wanted more information, yes Japan does have Costco, and though I haven’t experienced it for myself I have heard that your American membership will work. I’m assuming you’re all booking flights at this very moment based strictly on that last sentence aren’t ya? Well, if that is not enough for you we also have…drum roll please…IKEA!

When I was in 6th grade my parents decided to remodel our house. We spent every free moment at either the Home Depot or Ikea. I have since developed a serious hatred for fork lifts and the color orange, and an unbelievable affinity for colorful, cheap furniture. I have been dying to go ever since I got here, especially after learning the train stop plops you right there. I was expressing my love of this magical place that combines cheap furniture with $1 hot dogs, to Kim, remember her, the other new ALT from Wisconsin, when she said to me, “What’s Ikea?” WHAT!!! Before leaving her apartment I showed her the website and we were scheduled to go the following day.

Ikea in Japan, with it’s over grown grass welcoming you, is in fact, just as magical as it is of the 10 freeway in LA. The furniture is exactly the same, obviously, though the food is a bit different. Kim was able to get some furniture that she needed while I stocked up on decorations. I’ve been dying to make my apartment feel a little more like my own and Ikea helped me do just that. Also, adding to its magic were the people. Just when I was ready to blind some of the men in Japan for staring, I was met with the complete opposite reaction from others.
Living Room, pt 2...
we got new digital TVs yesterday

I decorated!
While Kim was off writing down item numbers for a desk chair, I was across the isle sitting in another chair on wheels, spinning in complete circles like the 23 year old I am. After going around a few times, I was finishing circle number 4 when I noticed a 3 people encroaching on my 
personal bubble. A mom was standing behind her two sons, her arms wrapped around their shoulders, posed like they were going to take a family photo, all eyes staring at me and smiling proudly. I jammed my foot on the ground and looked up and smiled. Their were a few seconds where we were staring at each other in silence; before the awkwardness went on any longer than it needed to I said, “Konichiwa,” with a smile and nod. She was thrilled and responded, in Japanese, with, “Wow, pretty!” I laughed and said thank you, at which point she heard my accent and asked if I was from America. I said, “Hai, California kara kimashta.” All three of them got excited over that one, and I swear took a step closer. I forgot what commodity being from California makes me. I hate saying that I’m from Los Angeles if I can’t further explain that I’m from a beach town on the outskirts of the city. Though sometimes just for fun, since I’ve been here, I throw in that I’m from LA, which always gets people pretty excited and I envision them thinking that I live next door to their favorite celebrity. Other times I say I’m from San Francisco, just to see what the different reactions are. Soon I should just start saying I’m from Japan and see how that goes over, they would probably think I didn’t understand the question.

After experiencing the magic of Ikea, which Kim now appreciates to its fullest, and reuniting with friends at orientation, a few of my fellow Chiba JETs and I made plans to reconvene in Togane. Togane is a city located, by train, about 2 hrs south east of me, it also is about a 10 minute drive from the beach, but most importantly the town houses a few of my favorite JETs. This past weekend 5 of us met there to enjoy a festival and some impromptu friends.

I, along with Nathan from Oregon, Amanda from Canada, and Mike from New Zealand, went to visit Trey from Tennessee in Togane. I’m listing where they’re from because a) I think it’s interesting and b) you may need to remember them in case they come up in the future. I, luckily enough have other JETs as my neighbors, but a few of these guys are the only foreigners in their towns, and I think by that point we were all dying for some ‘friend contact,’ especially them.

I took the train last Friday and upon arriving at Trey’s dropped my stuff and went with the other older JETs in the town to an izakaya. Think awesome Japanese food while you sit on a pillow on the floor. It was great food and a lot of fun to get to know some of the people I had only heard speak at orientation, on topics such as mold cleaner and cockroach spray. While we were sitting and eating, three Japanese men headed for their table walked past us. Trey for whatever reason felt the need to strike up a conversation with them, resulting in the natives asking the waiter if they could sit at the table behind us. We all started talking and long story short one of the guys, Shige (she-gay) offered to teach us how to surf the next morning! He and Trey exchanged numbers and the five of us had a 9 am date with our first Japanese friends!

The next morning we got up, got dressed, had a hearty breakfast at the ever classy Micky D’s. [Side note: I NEVER eat McDonald’s yet have had it, I’m ashamed to say, 5 times since I’ve been here. I’m gonna need to knock that off real fast.] Anyway, after that we went to the resale shop to buy the ugliest shirts we could find to wear as rash-guards, and we were off to Shige’s house.

He brought us 2 boards and took us out. The beach itself was great as it was 90 something degrees, who are we kidding, at that point I would have taken a slip ‘n’ slide on gravel if it meant I could cool off. We went back to his house and met some of his friends, BBQed stakes Trey had bought and discussed, what all conversations are about when you’re in your 20s, girls and boys. We talked about dating, they taught us inappropriate words, asked if I, the only single girl there, was attracted to Japanese guys…haha uhhhhhhhhhhhhh, and actually ended up inviting us to a party with them that night.

Nathan, Trey and I at the festival in Togane
We went back to Trey’s in dire need of showers and so excited to have met some locals who were so cool and so kind. There was a festival that night in Togane, which Trey was set to dance in, yukata and all, with the other local ALTs. Us visitors were just gonna go along to eat and support, but somehow got roped in to dancing as well. We learned the dance in 5 seconds and danced for an hour in one huge circle. It was so fun and an awesome experience!!! Then it was back to Trey’s to get the car and head to our first Japanese partaaaay.

We got to Shegay’s house to find it totally dark. Trey called Shige and was told to stay put as he was going to come get us. A few seconds later 6 cars pulled up, I wasn’t sure whether to be honored or terrified as these cars came to a halt and Japanese surfer guys appeared everywhere. Apparently the entire party left the bar to come retrieve us, man they’re hospitable even on Saturday nights! Shige swapped seats with Mike announcing that he was our navigator back to the bar, a bar which had evidently been rented out. Everyone in there was friends of Shige’s and was so kind to us, drinks were everywhere and we didn’t pay for a thing! They were so fun and we danced and talked, the best we could, for hours before heading home to recap on our night.

It was such a great weekend! Knowing that we could all get to each other without too much trouble as well as meeting some new native friends (courtesy of Trey) was an amazing time and as cheesy as it sounds, greatly empowering.

This week: I’m set to meet with the teachers at the 4 schools I’ll be working at AND get my gaijin (alien) card!

Latest Accomplishment: I have memorized all 46 Hiragana symbols and their sounds! I am kind of reading things now!! Not that I have a clue what I’m saying, but either way I’m making some type of connection. Yippee!

Mata ne!


  1. OMG you had so much fun!! I can't wait to go back down there and join in on the festivities! By the way, fav part of this blog: "I was across the aisle sitting in another chair spinning in complete circles like the 23-year-old that I am"...duh hahah

  2. I think you stole my wall flowers, kindly mail them back to: 323 willard ASAP! ;-)
    (Your appartment looks pretty darn cute Kbo!)

  3. KB almost missed this blog, grate deign work on the home front, added color with flowers & a bed cover, the futon or sofa was that there or is it new? Kate you shop well in any countery! saw your other blogs about school I have a question assume your name Keito Sensei Hai what do the last 2 words mean? love ya



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...