When I first visited Japan in 2014, I knew that I needed to come back to live for some time. Two weeks wasn’t enough to explore a country and culture I find so fascinating. Well, here I am, reporting from my very own tiny apartment and as happy as can be.
It’s only been two weeks since arriving, but it feels like an eternity. That’s a good thing! I’m enjoying every minute of it. It is familiar enough to be back in Asia, but there is enough novelty to keep me stimulated. After being in Asia for several years, the quirky things didn’t phase me anymore, but Japan has its own level of uniqueness that keeps me amused.
I work at a small private university known for engineering and economics. It supposedly is the workplace of a Nobel Prize laureate! The university is not my employer, though; a company that the university outsources for English is.
Judging from the first week of teaching, I can say so far that I love it because of the students. They’re exceptionally motivated, hardworking, and respectful. Teaching elementary school students in Korea required more classroom management skills than anything, so it’s a pleasure to have students that actually want to learn. Their English levels are lower than I had expected, but I have yet to evaluate their actual skills. Most of them know a lot more than they lead on because they have not developed the confidence to speak. So I view my duty as a facilitator to get the English out of their heads and be able to apply it. It is the first time many of them ever had a native English teacher before, so I understand how frustrating and intimidating it can be. But even after a week, I’m noticing them coming out of their shells more and relaxing.
I teach six 40-minute classes per day with about 10 students in a class. Another period is an English Challenge class where any student in this specific English program can come and get some extra practice. There are breaks sprinkled into the day when I plan and do paperwork, but I also find myself wandering around campus or chatting with coworkers. There are three friendly British lads teaching in the same program. They’re all experienced teachers who have worked around the globe, so I enjoy hearing about their varying past lives. They have quite the humor as well, those Brits!
I leave for school around 8:40 and arrive at 9:20. When I get home at 8:00, I cook something quickly (I want to do nothing but sit down at home after standing all day) and plan lessons until I go to bed at 11:30.
Work consumes the entire day, but I actually don’t mind it now. Since I was traveling for six months and then caught up at home for a month, I haven’t worked in ages. Having new challenges and a regular schedule is comforting; I consistently held a job since I was 16, so not having one for so long felt alien. The motivated students make it all worthwhile and I genuinely care about their progress. When I’m not teaching, I’m thinking about activities, lessons, and how I can improve as a teacher/facilitator.
The semester is only for about three months, so I know I can handle this hectic schedule for such a short time. As for a lifetime of work like this… no way. If anything, this experience has been a peek into the work culture of Japan. I have to dress in a business suit every day, so I blend in with the locals on my long subway commute. Sometimes I participate in the group nap by resting my eyes (it is common to see salarymen passed out from exhausting on the trains home).
The week has also been somewhat insightful for me. I thought I would relate with
university students; it wasn’t so long until I was in university, right? Well, I am feeling my age here! The students seem so young; many are right out of high school. Random students on campus even bow to me! I expected that with elementary school children, but not university students. I thought I’d be able to connect with them more and see them almost as peers, but they still seem much younger than me. When class is over, they still sit there awkwardly until I make it very clear that they are free to leave. They still need a lot of direction, but I hope to make them more independent with student-centered learning approaches. Anyway, I’m looking forward to seeing how this semester unravels!
My little shoebox is the perfect size for me. While I could use some more space for cooking, I make do. My “bed” (a futon which is more like a mat on the floor) is in a little cave that I reach via ladder. There’s also a balcony with a view that is nothing to boast about, but I appreciate having an outdoor area to have my morning coffee and contemplate life, of course. The biggest perks are the bathtub and a special fan so you could dry your clothes in an hour. Teachers in Korea will be jealous of this.
Tiny houses may be a rising trend in the west, but most people in the world have already been living in pocket-sized housing. My apartment looks like the one in this video, except I have a balcony!
The immediate neighborhood is serene and residential. I especially love strolling the quiet streets around dusk, admiring the tidy homes with carefully placed plants decorating doors and gates. Everything is intentional, or at least appears that way.
Nagoya is lovely from the little taste I’ve had so far. It’s a sizeable and modern city, but not so much that I’m overwhelmed. The subways conveniently move me around, but I find myself walking most of the time and running into entertaining quirks me like funky posters, cutesy character displays, and mysterious shrines. There are endless options for dining and shopping, nice parks, modern buildings, temples, zen gardens, and lakes. I attended an Earth Day festival, music festivals, a vegan festival, and an acroyoga meet-up in just two weekends. I also ventured out to the city over to climb a humble mountain to a castle with a fellow teacher. The locals that I met so far have been nothing but open and welcoming. It is unfortunate that I cannot afford the time to do anything during the week, but a lot can be squeezed in the weekend.
Looking forward to seeing how the semester pans out and exploring the surrounding area!