Apple Country

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

I’m a quarter of the way through already?!


A few weeks ago my supervisor handed me the documents regarding my decision to accept or decline reappointment on JET.  I’d barely been here for two months and already I was having to start thinking about my future in Japan.  But now that I’ve done exactly a quarter of my year-long contract, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to come to a decision about staying or leaving.  I don’t have to decide until January at the very latest, so I still have some time to think, but I thought it’d be worth considering my experience so far and how it might change in the future.  Last week I was 80% sure I wanted to stay, and since my parents have been visiting that’s gone down to 50%!  Maybe they made me realise that I do miss home quite a lot (even if I don’t show it) and that there are other options I could choose instead of staying here another year.

Why I want to stay:

  • Japan is so completely different from anything I’ve ever experienced and I love the challenge of living here.
  • I’ve made some great friends already and I really love hanging out with the other ALTs.  Next year I’d get to meet even more new Aomori JETs!
  • I will never eat such amazing Japanese food for so little anywhere else.
  • There hasn’t been one day where I’ve seriously questioned my happiness here.
  • The job is not very demanding (see cons!)
  • I worked hard to get on this programme and it was such a long (and expensive) process I feel like I should make the most of it by staying.
  • I don’t want to go home, end up in a boring job and wish I hadn’t left Japan.  I’m worried that I’ll feel really comfortable here and then have to leave when I’m still having a good time.
  • I want to become a master of nihongo.

Why I want to leave:

  • I miss my family and friends and dog.  I know everyone I grew up with is moving on with their lives as well, but it’s hard knowing that it’s impossible for me to spend any time with them.
  • The minority of my time is actually spent teaching, and even then I’m not always used to my full potential. While I enjoy the job, because I’m only an assistant I have little control over what is taught and how.  2 days a week in an office with no atmosphere is also fairly dull.
  • Eventually I will have to move on and find a permanent job which I can grow in, so maybe the sooner the better?
  • This year has been fun because everything’s been a new experience.  Next year everything will seem normal and routine, which might make me lose my motivation.
  • Living in the middle of nowhere has its drawbacks!
  • Knowing this is only temporary makes it hard to settle in my apartment.  I want to make it as ‘me’ as possible but I know I’ll have to abandon it soon!
  • 5 months of living in an igloo.

So what do I do?? Someone decide for me please.  If only there was an extra 6 months option instead.  Honestly I’m kinda leaning towards leaving at the moment… but the main reason is because I don’t want to be bored next year and feel like I’m wasting my time.  However I will (most likely) never get this opportunity again…

Hopefully I can come up with something by January!

7 thoughts on “I’m a quarter of the way through already?!

  1. All will become clear, little grasshopper.

  2. I was in the same boat as you, also weighing up the pro’s and con’s of leaving or staying after one year. And I agree with you about the pro’s – especially the fact that we worked so hard to get here in the first place. I have been told by other ALT’s in my area that the first year is the hardest. Even though I miss my family and pets, there are still so many things I want to see and do in Japan, so I have decided to stay for at least a second year 🙂
    I believe that if it is possible, then stay for at least 2 years. A year is too short to experience all that Japan has to offer. But no matter what your decision, I hope you have had a great time so far here in Japan! Great blog btw 🙂

    • Ahh I’m glad someone else is going through this haha it’s really hard!! Yeah I still feel like a newbie here, so maybe another year would give me the chance to enjoy Japan as much as I can. I am constantly switching between wanting to stay and wanting to leave… At least I have some more time to think 🙂 thanks for commenting!

  3. I would say give it another year. Remember, if you go back, that’s it for the moment. Might as well as make the most out of your chance while you have. Would hate for you to have regrets later in life.

    • Yeah this is the problem, I feel like if I leave I won’t know what I’ve missed out on! I’ll see how things turn out in the next few weeks 🙂 thanks for commenting!

  4. Of course it’s up to you, but in my experience and from what I’ve seen, when you’re in the first year, you’re just warming up!

    The best thing is that you get your new students in April when the new school year starts, so instead of having to live up to the old ALT (or cleaning up their mess), this time the students will have an even better bond with you because you are all they know, instead of you just bursting in on the scene a third into the year.

    The office gets shuffled around and new teachers come in too, so it’s a really interesting time.

    • I’ve heard this from a lot of other ALTs too, I do think I’d have a better idea of what I’m doing by staying another year. It would also be interesting to work with new JTEs if a reshuffling did happen! Thanks for your reply 😀

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