Apple Country

Stories of rural life as an ALT in a northern Japanese fishing town.


Introducing my home for the next year (and possibly beyond…)

I finally got my placement info on Saturday after waiting around for the post all morning, by which point I’d given up and gone for a shower.  Then obviously the doorbell rang as soon as I opened the bathroom door and I had to awkwardly run downstairs to get my package in my towel to the postman’s horror, but it was indeed from the Embassy of Japan AND THAT’S ALL THAT MATTERED.

“Blah blah blah… You have been placed in Fukaura-town, Aomori Prefecture.”

Firstly, I was not expecting to actually get a placement in Aomori (even though I’d placed Hirosaki, Aomori as my first preference) as I’d gathered that it was pretty rare to get your first choice. And I’d also told my interviewers that really I’d be happy living anywhere, so I had imagined getting somewhere totally in the middle of nowhere… turns out that’s what I got!

Having never heard of Fukaura, I did a quick search on Google Maps and squinted at the result.  A mild panic ensued as I realised it was about 2 hours away from the bigger cities and it seemed kind of isolated, right on the edge of the country facing the Sea of Japan.

Here is the general area:


And with the rest of Japan:


So I can probably expect the next winter to be loooong and cold, with snow apparently lasting from December to April.  But I’m okay with this because summers in Japan sound pretty unbearable, and I don’t cope well with the heat! Although I don’t cope brilliantly with the cold either… oh well.

Anyway, my misgivings were vanquished when I discovered a bit more about the area, and couldn’t be more thankful to the lovely people on ITIL ( who told me what an awesome placement it is.  I had actually hoped for quite a rural placement in the first place, because I think it’d be easier to regularly get involved with the community and my Japanese should improve more quickly if none of them can speak English!  Apparently the guy whose place I’m taking over makes frequent trips into the city and hangs out with the other ALTs all the time so the location can’t be too much of a hassle.  Also Hirosaki = the biggest apples and most beautiful cherry blossoms in Japan (mainly why I chose it, ha) so I am reaaaally excited to be nearby.  I think Tokyo is about 1hr30 by plane, 5 hours by Shinkansen, and I’m really keen to explore a load of other places across the country (Kanazawa, Kyoto, Shizuoka etc) so weekend trips should be very doable!  I’ve heard I might be inheriting the Fukaura-mobile, a car provided by the town and reputed for being a pretty sweet ride…

I’m also really happy about living right next to the sea… I’ve always wanted to do that, so there’s another dream to be accomplished!  I imagine it’ll be a bit like living in Broughty Ferry (Dundee), minus the gale-force winds.  Hoping my Scottish blood will see me through the winter nicely.

Ohhh and there are also some UNESCO World Heritage sites in the area, like a group of 33 lakes called Juniko, which were created 300 years ago as a result of an earthquake. Image

Preeeeeetty.  Can’t wait to take my camera out there…

Anyway you can probably tell I’m excited, but equally terrified, so until I leave I’ll be collecting lots of British things to take with me and enjoying my time with everyone at home.  67 days to go!