Apple Country

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

“I live here now.”

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I keep having to remind myself that I live in Japan.  This is the country I’ve wanted to visit more than any other since I was about 12, and the thought of actually living here still hasn’t really sunk in!  It’s hard to describe what it feels like… when people have asked me how I’m settling in, the best way I can put it is that in my head it feels no different, I’m just in another place now.  So far nothing has really fazed me or made me feel uncomfortable – I wonder if it’s because I’ve read and learned little bits about Japan on and off over the years, I’ve unconsciously grown used to the idea of it in my head??  It also probably helps that everyone I’ve met has been really friendly and the transition has been almost completely stress-free.

View of Mt. Iwaki near my apartment

View of Mt. Iwaki near my apartment

My favourite thing about being here so far is noticing the little things that happen during the day that don’t happen at home:

  • People bow to each other, A LOT.  They even bow when driving to say thank you.  I’ve had to learn to bow when someone lets me out of a junction instead of raising my hand to say thanks, as I realised they haven’t got a clue why I’m waving at them.  Even on roadworks signs they have a diagram of a man bowing to apologise for being such an inconvenience.
  • Every time you enter a shop you are warmly welcomed with “irasshaimase!”, and it continues around the shop whenever you walk past another member of staff, which is a lot when you’re in a supermarket. They obviously appreciate my custom!
  • I’ve had strangers come up to me a few times now to put their English skills to the test, most recently on Sunday when I was looking for a mop in the supermarket and I heard a little “Hellooo” over my shoulder and there was a lady beaming at me from behind her trolley.  We chatted for a bit until she used up all her English phrases and offered to lead me to the mop section.
  • On my way back from the beach on Saturday I stopped off at a roadside fruit stall to buy a watermelon (they were huge) and the lady was so lovely and gave me a different kind of melon for free!  I have so much melon now.
  • My drive to work is kinda long, but on one side is the Sea of Japan’s rocky coastline, and on the other are mountains and forests shrouded in mist.  There are no traffic lights or  traffic jams either so it’s actually quite a nice commute, especially now that the sun is setting earlier.
  • I actually really appreciate the concept of never wearing shoes in the house and putting slippers on instead to pad about in.  My feet stay so clean!  It makes me feel so Japanese.
  • I like their way of eating – everything is served separately in little bowls or plates so you can have lots of different things at different times.  I’m enjoying learning how to cook Japanese-style.  On Saturday someone gave me some octopus that they didn’t want so I made this in my rice cooker.  You can cook anything in it and the rice always comes out yummy and fluffy.  Apparently you can make cakes in it too so that’s next on my list of things.  I also tried dried squid which is AMAZING, so if you ever see any, buy some.

Even though so far there is a lot I like about Japan, there are a few things I do miss about the UK.  I’ve had to get over my fear of using a Japanese washiki squat toilet, but I would much rather use a standard Western any day.  Slurping noodles here is actually considered a compliment, so at lunchtime in the office this is mostly all I can hear.  They try to encourage me to slurp but it just feels too wrong.  I do like getting lunch delivered at work though.  Everyone is also amazed that I can eat and enjoy Japanese food.  Today I ordered noodle soup with deep-fried tofu and they were like “ehhhh sugoi-na”.   I miss straight-forward recycling.  I miss good adverts on TV.  Japanese adverts are kind of bizarre… and mostly advertising different kinds of liquid vitamins because it appears everyone is too tired to go about their daily life without them.

It was Obon this week (a festival where people return to their hometowns to honour the spirits of their ancestors) so there was a small festival in Fukaura.  I had Kakigouri which is shaved ice with a flavoured syrup of your choice on top, which was an instant hit with me obviously as I am in love with frozen dessert.

Fukaura summer festival

Fukaura summer festival

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Firework display in Fukaura on Friday

Firework display in Fukaura on Friday

The shops here are like my dream come true.  Yesterday I went into Goshogawara with my nearest JET neighbour and got a manga book about Beethoven and a lunchbox shaped like a gummy bear.  We also found a foreign food store so we stocked up on tea and biscuits 🙂

Be-to-ben

Be-to-ben

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That is all for now! Off to do some yoga to try and counteract all the tasty things I’ve been eating.

Beach BBQ

One thought on ““I live here now.”

  1. Fluffy rice eh? Enjoyed reading the blog – enjoy gummi bear lunch! X

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