Apple Country

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

Country Bumpkin

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Yesterday, for the first time since arriving in Aomori, I went to the CITY!  I’d forgotten what shops and restaurants looked like.  I know I’m exaggerating a little bit because I have been to the mall a few times in the bigger town an hour away from me but it’s really just a huge shopping complex on one of those industrial estate things.  I also went there on Saturday and raided Uniqlo for more business-casual clothes as everything I brought is really formal and it seems that most of the teachers just wear tracksuits so I look a bit overdressed… When I visited one of my schools last week, the English teacher told me I looked too sexy, which is not something I get told very frequently so I was a bit surprised!  , so now I’m working on getting the level of conservative-ness just right.

Yesterday I left Fukaura for a meetup in Aomori City in a Mexican-style restaurant called Pent House.  It was really relaxed and everyone was sitting on cushions on the floor or the amazing hammock swing-chairs they had, talking and eating chicken tacos.  I appreciated eating something that wasn’t rice or noodles, although having said that, I haven’t actually eaten something I haven’t liked yet since being in Japan.  This may change once I get round to trying natto.  Sometimes my colleagues in the BOE bring snacks in to work which is fun.  Today Mr S brought me vanilla tea from Hakodate, and some unusual soy-sauce flavour squid nibbles.  Last week it was Mr K’s birthday and the cake was AMAZING so I’m glad my birthday this year is on a day where I’m working at the BOE.  I want to make biscuits but I don’t have an oven… Might have to borrow Bridget’s next door.

Inside Pent House

Inside Pent House

Afterwards we walked to the port area and sat on a grassy bit by the sea.  Aomori City is much more Western/modern-looking as 88% of it was bombed by the Americans during WWII, so it doesn’t really have such a Japanese feel.  Hirosaki is said to be much more traditionally Japanese, and most people visit Aomori prefecture specifically to go there rather than the capital. Still haven’t been there yet though.  Saturday is looking like a possibility!

Facing the Aomori Tourism Centre

Facing the Aomori Tourism Centre

Although I didn’t get to explore much of the city, it was nice to meet and hang out with other JETs for a while and speak English. I think my Japanese is getting better, but my speaking is still a bit caveman.  I’ve ordered a textbook but I have to pay for it at a convenience store using an ATM, and I haven’t psyched myself up yet for all the kanji I’ll have to decipher on the screen in order to do so… I impressed myself the other day by managing to successfully follow the instructions to make Japanese curry.  (Can’t go that wrong when adding curry cubes to boiled vegetables.)

Today my supervisor helped me sign up for a Shoudo (Japanese calligraphy) class in Fukaura which is every Monday evening.  It’s a little expensive but I need all the tools and stuff to get started with, so hopefully it’ll be a good investment!  I need a hobby as I’ve just been going home after work every day and it’s not very exciting.  The schools asked me to get involved with some clubs as well but they’re mostly team sports so I’m not sure how that will work out for me… Ski season starts around December so I’ll definitely be getting a season pass for that.  I’m leaning towards snowboarding at the moment just because I’ve already tried skiing and snowboard boots look so much comfier in comparison to the shin-mutilating ski boots.  Also I want to look cool.  I don’t want to break anything though…

After work today I’m going back to one of the schools to help with some students practise for the speech contest.  They have to memorise a text (usually taken from their English textbook) and recite it, but I’m finding it difficult to help them as they’ve already learned their speeches off by heart, so it makes improving their pronunciation a bit of a challenge.  However the teacher has said she’s noticed big improvements since I’ve helped so that’s reassuring at least!

Going back to Aomori City on Wednesday for a 3-day prefectural orientation.  Hopefully I’ll get some karaoke in there at some point.  And alcohol!  Can’t risk the super strict drink-driving rules here, and I have to drive a lot, so it’s been a while.




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