Tokyo Orientation: Day 1

I’m writing about day 1 at the beginning of day 2. By the time I got back to my room last night, my roommates were already asleep. That said, I decided to go ahead and write this post in the morning. This one comes with pictures!


So the day started off with a welcome ceremony because this is Japan and welcome ceremonies happen a lot (haha). We all got dressed up in suits and listened while people from different government ministries welcomed us to Japan and the program and wished us luck. From there, we basically went through one workshop or lecture after another. This went from about 9 in the morning to 8 at night and I was very, very jet lagged (pun not intended but go ahead and intend it). Since I was super tired all day, my favorite part of the day was when they fed us. 0731170705.jpg

We got breakfast and lunch in the hotel’s banquet halls and it was all so good!

A lot of the workshops were run by current or former JETs and JTEs (Japanese Teachers of English). One in particular really stuck out for me in terms of giving me lesson ideas. The JET running the workshop was from Texas and he had friends basically everywhere, so he set up a lot of assignments where his students would mail something to people in America. For example, he has a friend who’s a Japanese language teacher and he set up a pen pal assignment between his class and his friend’s! The coolest assignment he told us about, though, was this assignment where he had students design and draw a superhero and they sent them off to a friend of his who worked at an animation studio. The guy’s friend drew polished pictures of the kids’ superheroes and sent them back to the kids!

Other workshops were a lot more technical like this one:


We basically went over workplace manners and little things that were considered rude in Japan. For example, don’t wear black ties to graduation ceremonies because black ties are worn at funerals. Also, don’t blow your nose in public. Hold on to it until you can go somewhere private.

After all was said and done in terms of workshops, we had a giant welcome reception. All the JETs and a few people from different government ministries were there. It was fun but it was so crowded! I ended up leaving a little early with one of my friends and wandering around Shinjuku.

One of the most interesting things I heard on day 1 is the new initiatives that the Japanese education system is trying to implement in schools. According to a lecture by a representative from the international relations organization, CLAIR, Japan is hoping that by 2020, all high school English classes will teach classes mainly in English. They also hope that teachers will focus on developing students’ communication skills rather than just teaching them to pass exams. According to our lecturer, only 2.3% of high school teachers taught their classes completely in English in 2010. Additionally, one of the most common practice for English education around the time was having students translate passages from English to Japanese rather than speaking with the language.

These new initiatives aim to foster students’ knowledge of English, their abilities to think and act for themselves, and positive attitudes towards learning. In short, the idea is to give students a “Zest for Life”. I love this quote so much because, not only does it have great implications for what students should get out of school, but it makes me feel better as an ALT. At the end of the day, if I can get students excited about coming to class and learning more about languages and cultures in the world, I’m doing something right!

To be continued with Day 2.



Tokyo Orientation: Day 0

I’ve been awake for about 20 hours but I can’t go to sleep yet because JET lag! (haha)

So I’m here in Japan! And this can officially start! I had to say bye to my family this morning at the airport. It hasn’t really hit me yet just how long I’ll be gone and how long it’ll be before I see everyone in person again but it will hit eventually.

Anyway, what I wanted to talk about today and for the next few days is the logistics of Tokyo Orientation (for all you prospective JETs and curious readers)! So without further ado, here’s what I can tell you about day 0:

Most of today consists of a long flight. In my case, it was about 11 hours from Portland, Oregon to Narita Airport in Tokyo. When we landed, I was a little worried about getting separated from the group since there was a big crowd coming off the plane. This fear was quickly done away with, though, because it turns out JET has an army of people whose job is to hold signs and point. Starting at immigration, people holding JET program signs showed us which lines to get in to. Then at the baggage claim, more people with signs pointed us to the right carousel to gather out checked bags. From there, at every corner where we might get lost, or sometimes, every few feet, there was someone in a purple JET shirt to point us in the right direction all the way up to the buses in the parking lot. They really don’t want to lose track of anyone!

At the buses, we sent ahead some of our larger bags to our host institutions and then went on the 1 to 2 hours drive to the hotel. This lead to more people holding signs, who lead us to a room where a hotel staff member gave us a quick rundown of hotel rules and what we’d be doing tomorrow, and then gave us a bunch of papers that we’d need for the next couple of days.

After that, the evening is yours to do with as you please! One of my roommates in the hotel went out with friends, another decided to wander around on her own, and I decided to be boring and stay in because I wasn’t particularly hungry and I wanted to go over the orientation schedule to make sure I knew exactly what was going on in the morning (exhaustion from jet lag makes everything so much harder to process).

And that’s about it as far as day 0 goes! I need to wake up about 7 tomorrow to make sure I can get some breakfast before the orientation really starts. After that, it’s workshops from morning till evening!

To be continued with Day 1.

Future Posts: Cute Dogs

So today, my little brother told me that if I see a shiba inu dog while I’m in Japan, I should take a picture of it.

I will take a picture of all the shiba inu dogs and post them here. And if you’ve never seen a shiba inu before, look them up because they are adorable! Imagine a round-faced husky with a curly tail.

So that said, prepare for what may be a lot of pictures of cute dogs.

Four Weeks to Go: Paper, Paper, Paper

Just when I think I’ve gotten all the guidebooks and survival guides I need, somebody sends me one more! Since April, I’ve received so many documents from the JET Program and my predecessors in Shimane that it’s pretty funny. All of it’s a great read, especially since the anticipation of leaving home in four weeks leaves me with a lot of anxious energy.

Anyway, the business for today! In the reading I’ve done so far, there’s been a lot of advice for dealing with culture shock (since it hits everyone eventually). Among those advice bits is a list writing exercise.

From what it looks like, I think the lists are supposed to be touchstones for when you need to ground yourself and remember what exactly you want and how you want to get it.

I’ve started some decent poems and short stories with ideas from a list in the past. That said, I’ll go ahead and try this one!

List 1: Who am I? (List the first 20 aspects of your identity that come to mind)

  1. Afraid of spiders
  2. No longer afraid of lightning
  3. Book lover
  4. Rain lover
  5. Tea fanatic
  6. Cosplayer (Most recent favorites from the Resident Evil games and Pokemon Sun and Moon!)
  7. Poet (Mainly performance poetry and free verse)
  8. Oregonian (Only one place I want to live for the bulk of my life!)
  9. Sister (Specifically, the older sister)
  10. That person who either can’t pick a favorite because she loves everything or has one single favorite–forget all others
  11. Friend (Who will end a fight for you)
  12. Hates the taste of alcohol (Designated driver forever!)
  13. Introvert with a great extrovert impersonation
  14. Nostalgic like WOW
  15. Aspiring high school English teacher (With a dream to start a poetry club!)
  16. Aspiring author (Work in progress…)
  17. Spiritual (Figuring that out…)
  18. Anxious but working on everything
  19. Family (Love you all!)
  20. Two roads diverge in a wood and I always take the middle road (Usually, haha).

List 2: What do I expect? (List a dozen expectations you have, and don’t just limit them to Japan. Include how you expect to behave, and include your expectations for leaving Japan.) 

  1. I’m going to be happy about having access to things/people I can only find in Japan (like barley tea and my old friends), but I’m going to hate being cut off from things/people I can only find in America (like libraries with big sections in English and all my friends and family).
  2. Teaching is probably going to be much different than I picture it now, but I’ll probably adapt just fine.
  3. I am not going to know anything about dealing with earthquakes big or small. So I’ll ask a lot of questions about that.
  4. I’ll ask a lot of questions in general.
  5. I need to be extra careful that I don’t talk too fast while teaching class.
  6. If I can learn how to work within the Japanese education system, working within the American education system will be much easier (maybe).
  7. At the end of every year, it’s going to take a long time to think about whether I want to stay in Japan longer or go home.
  8. When I want to go home, I think I’ll know it.
  9. There’s going to be ups and downs like any place.
  10. I’ll probably make a lot of awesome new friends and do a lot of awesome new things.
  11. The experience will ultimately be good for me.
  12. I’m going to have a really hard time breaking the habit of bowing to be polite when I come home.

 List 3: What are my goals? (This is a tough one. Take your time and it will ground you like little else. Goals for many people are not traditional.) 

  1. Use the experience of teaching in Japan to become a better teacher and grow as a person.
  2. Keep in touch with everyone.
  3. Take advantage of the change of scenery to try new things and develop new skills
  4. Make sure I’m happy doing what I’m doing
  5. If I can’t be the teacher that changes the world, I’ll at least be the teacher that makes students look forward to classes
  6. Don’t lose sight of my core and what I really want
  7. Be ready to come back home when I’m ready

I’m happy with how these turned out. And I’m glad I can come back and look at these whenever! Hopefully this helps when homesickness eventually hits.

Now back to getting through the rest of these papers I need to get ready, haha.