Having intended to resume this blog as soon as I returned to Japan, I'm ashamed to note that it has been two months since I moved here and this is my first post. However, I have been rather busy getting settled in the meantime and now I have lots to tell you, so hopefully I'll be forgiven.

Without going into too much detail at this point, I can happily say that I have found a job and a place to live. By going into just a bit more detail, I can also tell you that my job is as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) in Ibaraki and that I really enjoy it, and that my place to live is a delightful apartment with Logan, which has a living room, kitchen-diner, bedroom and bathroom suite (in Japanese apartments the bathroom is generally composed of three parts), not to mention its own front door and hall. It's walking distance from the closest thing we've found to a pub in Japan, and also handy for other important things like shops, a few restaurants, the station and our weekly Japanese class.

My everyday life is simultaneously much the same as my life in England, and incredibly different. I think the easiest way to explain what I mean is by giving you a brief run-through of an ordinary day. So, here goes.

We start the day with breakfast, which, instead of my customary porridge (far too hot in this weather), is usually toast and peanut butter or cereal. There are a few provisos, however: firstly, bread is eaten somewhat differently here, and is therefore sold differently. White, sliced bread is available, sold as small loaves. Instead of being labelled "thin", "medium" or "thick", however, it is simply labelled with how many slices it has been cut into, with the maximum being 8. So, usually, my morning toast is a lot thicker (and also sweeter, I think that's just a general foreign bread thing) than usual. Another difference is that we don't have a toaster, so we make toast in the oven. We have recently discovered English muffins for sale, so may switch to these permanently despite the obvious stereotyping.

After breakfast I get dressed and head to work as "normal". I greet everyone in the staff room loudly before sitting down at my desk and preparing for the day ahead. More on the differences between UK and Japanese schools in another post. There are 4 lessons before lunch, with a ten minute break between each one, which is rather a pleasant way of doing things I think.

Lunch is where a big difference comes in. Part of my role as ALT is to mingle with the students during their time outside of lessons, and this includes eating lunch with them. So, each afternoon, a student comes to my desk and escorts me, along with my lunch tray, to their classroom to share in a Japanese school lunch. Everyone eats the same for lunch and everyone eats in their classroom. The food is served in the Japanese style of having a number of dishes together on a tray. When all the trays are distributed, we wait to say a whole-class "Itadakimas" (a sort of acknowledgement of the food) and then tuck in. Lunch usually consists a bowl of hot soup or stew, a "bento" (box of rice), a serving of pickled vegetables or salad, and a piece of cooked meat of fish (or sometimes tofu or egg), usually served cold. For example, today I ate white fish with pickled cucumber, cabbage and seaweed, rice and miso soup. We eat with our own chopsticks, which everyone keeps in a small plastic case in their desk, and wash it all down with a carton of milk. Somewhat different from a hasty tuna sandwich and a Mr Kipling's lemon slice in the staff room!

After lunch, there is a break and then a cleaning period (!! More on this later!!) and then two more lessons before the end of the day. Since my role is as an assistant only, I check any details with the teachers for the next day and then head home at 4pm.

I usually have a shower after work as I often cycle home and despite it now being Autumn, the temperature is still hovering around the upper 20s most days.

For tea, we usually cook something familiar and fairly Western. It can be awkward and often a bit more expensive to find Western ingredients, such as various cuts of chicken, beef mince (although pork is widely available), potatoes, pasta, butter and cheese. They are all available, there is simply less choice. We are planning to cook more Japanese and Chinese style dishes soon, and we certainly eat more fish than we used to, but it's quite nice to have a familiar, comforting Western meal. I've even made successful cakes and pastry in our little toaster oven.

On Tuesday evenings, we go to a Japanese class, at the absolute bargain price of 250 Yen (about £2.00) each. It's run by a group of retired older ladies who obviously saw an opportunity for using their Japanese skills to help foreigners in the local area. We simply work through a textbook, lesson by lesson, for nearly two hours. It's quite tiring, but its good to feel my Japanese progressing, especially so that I can communicate with my colleagues at work, who don't speak much more English than I speak Japanese.

Some evenings we go out to eat, although not as much as we did when I first arrived. There's quite a good choice in the local area considering it's a pretty small, rural town. Within walking distance, we can have okonomiyaki (a sort of bubble-and-squeak pancake), traditional Japanese (better for group occasion dinners), "Italian", ramen (delicious, cheap soup of pork, noodles and vegatables), soba (buckwheat noodles, usually served with tempura or soup), tonkatsu (fried pork), yakitori (marinated kebabs) and Chinese. Before I came to Japan, all I really knew of its cuisine was sushi and ramen, and I wasn't a keen fan of the former. I am happy to say that I have been thoroughly and pleasantly surprised, and I can't wait to try making some of these delicious foods myself!

So there you have it: my typical day in Japan. And now I look forward to starting to elaborate a little on so many more aspects of life in my newly adopted country.


  1. Sounds like you're settling into a routine well. Your Japanese classes sound like an absolute bargain. I started teaching myself a few phrases ahead of my trip but have since stopped because I've been so busy.


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