Apple Country

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

Spring catch up


It’s been a month since I last posted anything and the stuff I want to write about has been piling up in my brain, so since I’ve finished all my little jobs and have a free day at the BOE, I’m gonna give y’all an update.

The fact that 99% of my friends here are American means their ways of speaking are sloooowly sinking into my brain.  Our different expressions always make for amusing conversation; one time in particular was when a friend told me about something silly another friend did, and I said “What is she like!” and he replied, “Errrrrm.. she’s kinda tall and got brown hair…?”

I haven’t said it out loud yet, but the amount of times “y’all” pops into my head when I’m thinking is a bit alarming.  It’s just such an easy word.

I didn’t hear anything else from my principal about the American accent either.  He came back to observe one of my lessons but it was with the first years, and they were concentrating so hard on a writing task and taking longer than I expected, so I didn’t have to do much speaking during the time he was there.  I was praying he’d get bored and leave, and finally after like 20 minutes he did.  Mwahaha.

I went to Tokyo Disney Sea with three other JET friends that weekend.  We took the night bus on Friday and the night bus on the way back on Saturday.  I didn’t think I could do 11 hours on a bus for two nights in a row but actually I slept the whole way both times so that was a result.  Disney Sea is supposed to be the more ‘adult’ park out of the two resorts in Tokyo, the other being Disney Land, because the rides aren’t as twee and you can drink alcohol!  The park itself was absolutely stunning and I couldn’t get over the amount of detail that had gone in to making the rides and the park’s aesthetics so magical.  However this did mean that the rides lacked thrill and I found them a bit too tame.  But at least I was never bored when there were so many little things to look at in every corner.

Aomori’s cherry blossoms finally bloomed at the end of April, and the ALTs across the prefecture gathered at Hirosaki Park for a hanami (cherry blossom viewing) party.  Festivals in Japan are so much fun, partly because the food stalls are so GOOD.  Some friends told me about ‘torimochi’, which is a skewer of alternating pieces of squidgy rice cake and fried chicken with a sweet sticky glaze, apparently only sold during hanami period.  It certainly lived up to expectations!



It was a good day.  We laid out a huge blue tarp and spent the day drinking, eating, talking and playing frisbee.  There was an afterparty in the evening which I played piano at but I was so tired, it probably wasn’t my best performance!

The week after that I went to Beijing, so I’ll do that in another post.

Last weekend I had no plans, so I called my Japanese grandparents, Mr and Mrs Matsuura, and we decided to go to Hakkoda mountains for the day.  We drove the two hours there, had lunch and drove to the hiking start point where we drank a cup of tea for longevity.  Mr Matsuura seemed concerned about the oil in his car, so we skipped the hiking and drove all the way back, stopping off at the garage for an hour while it got fixed and we had a chat over a cup of coffee.  I hadn’t planned on spending most of the day driving around, but it was good practice for me to speak so much Japanese.  I invited them in for tea and showed them pictures of my hometown.  We had fun looking up different places on Google maps, which they thought was amazing!  Mr Matsuura is a bit of an Anglophile so he had A LOT of things to talk about.  By the end I was so tired and having difficulty keeping up with his fast Japanese, I think they caught on and decided to head home when my replies got shorter and I just started smiling and nodding…

I’ve also started weekly English/Japanese conversation practices with Bridget’s friend Toshiya, who is a barber with a passion for growing vegetables.  He offered me a space in his garden to plant my own vegetables, so on Sunday I went to the hardware store and picked up some cucumber and watermelon seedlings.  One of my students had just had his hair cut when I arrived, so I made him my garden elf and he helped me do the planting.  When I got to the BOE today, one of the guys asked me if I was a farmer because he saw me when I was buying the seeds.  Yesterday some students said they saw me running the other day as well.  Is this what it’s like to be famous?

So yeah I’ve started running every other day using the 0-5k plan on the Run Keeper app on my phone. My overall fitness and strength is good, but my stamina is rubbish so I really want to work on that.  My fishing village is an absolute delight to run around in the evenings, especially as it’s finally getting warmer, so I’m actually enjoying running for the first time in my life.

Mini updates:

  • It’s 6 months since I broke my arm!
  • I’ve applied to be President or Vice-President of a charity organisation based in Aomori called Everest of Apples, which works closely with a school in Nepal and other communities in South East Asia.  Will update after my interview!
  • I registered to take the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) in July.  I’m taking N3 level which is lower intermediate (N1 is highest and N5 is lowest).  If it goes well I might aim for N2 in December, which is the lowest level most Japanese companies expect from foreign employees.  I’m thinking about possibly getting another job in Japan when I finish JET, but the Japanese work ethic is starting to appeal to me less and less…

Beijing post coming shortly!

5 thoughts on “Spring catch up

  1. As interesting as ever, Nelbert. Looking forward to your Beijing post…… x

  2. Great read – love the fabulous photos too. x

  3. The blossom is beautiful. You look like you had a fantastic time. X

  4. Most of my friends on JET were American, so I ended up saying lots of Americanisms too

  5. Top blog Nel, can’t believe it’s been a month but you’ve clearly been up to loads. Good luck with the Nepal charity interview, let us know how you get on as I’m sure people back home will want to support it if they can, I certainly will. x

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