Graduation Day and Why I Love Living Abroad!

I don’t know how it happened but today’s the day!

Graduation Day!

Yay! It snuck up on me and I also didn’t quite realize how sad it would be… We’ve been practicing for the ceremony for the past two days, and classes for my Jr. High 3rd years have been over for about a week and a half. Through it all I’ve been fine, but I was crying with the best of them when those kids walked out of the gym!

School gym all decked out!
School gym all decked out!

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About Me, Hokota-shi, Interac, Japan, Random Thoughtsgraduation, , Japanese culture, Junior High School, living abroad, Tohoku earthquake

A Day in the Life of an ALT in Japan!

Hey all!

My Japan Junior High School!
My Japan Junior High School!

Now that you’ve all seen my average monthly expenses as an ALT, I thought I’d give you a look into my average day as an English teacher in Japan. So many people move abroad with the expectation that their life will automatically change for the better with adventure waiting to pounce like a cat on a laser pointer (don’t worry, I was totally one of them)! I think when you’re changing so much about your lifestyle it’s unavoidable to build up your expectations. Continue reading

About Me, Hokota-shi, Ibaraki-ken, Interac, Japan, Places in Japan, With Videoday in the life, eating natto, , Japanese school day, teaching English in Japan, working in Japan

An ALT’s Monthly Budget in Japan

Hello all! Long time no see! ひさしぶり! As usual, my laziness combines with my life to keep me from posting. I’m sorry! But here we go!

Budget and bank book, questions answered!
Budget and bank book, questions answered!

This has been one of the most highly requested posts for awhile now, so here it is! I’ve noticed that  at home most people are kind of quiet about their budgets and salaries, but here everyone is pretty open about it. It’s all about helping everyone out if they’re thinking about making the big move to Japan or just relocating to another part of the country. My city is definitely farm central, the supermarkets are well-stocked with fresh seasonal vegetables every morning and the only buildings with more than two floors are the schools. In the spring the entire place smells like fertilizer and in the fall everyone pitches in to help with the harvests. This means that my expenses are a bit cheaper than bigger cities and suburbs, but due to my proximity to Tokyo (about 1.5 hours by bus) there are also cheaper places to live that are even more rural. First I’ll give a rundown of everything in a list and then explain how/why I spend what I do as well as tips on cutting down! Continue reading

About Me, Hokota-shi, Ibaraki-ken, Interac, Japan, Places in JapanALT, cost of living, cost of living in Japan, how to budget, , monthly budget, questions answered

Getting My Japan Instructor Visa: My Pre-Adventure!

Hey all!

So it’s been awhile and I realized I’ve been procrastinating writing this post… Sorry! Old habits die so hard.

Downtown LA
Downtown LA

Anyways, I received my Certificate of Eligibility in the mail ahead of schedule! It arrived on Tuesday the 18th and I took it straight up to the Japanese Consulate in Los Angeles the next day. Interac had notified me when Immigration approved my CoE, when it arrived in the Tokyo office, and they sent me a tracking number for it once it was in FedEx’s capable hands. I had to sign for the package so it’s best to make sure someone is at home on the scheduled delivery date!

So then off I went to figure out where on this good Earth the Japanese Consulate in Los Angeles was located. Of course it wound up being smack in the middle of the downtown business district and parking was $4.00 for every 10 minutes… Not happening! But they are kind enough to give alternate parking lots in the area on the website (here) and the time it would take to walk to their office from each. Good things to check for here! Cities are expensive!

Both Interac and the Consulate advise calling ahead to check that you have all the documents ready and available for the visa application. In Los Angeles for a 1-year Instructor visa you need (1) the visa application which you can download on their website here, (2) a recent passport photo –2″x 2″ (yes, another one!), (3) your original Certificate of Eligibility, (4) a copy of your CoE, and (5) a valid passport*.

So I set off on a delightfully sunny Wednesday afternoon to brave the traffic and crowded city I generally do my very best to avoid! Directions to about three different parking lots in hand (less exorbitantly priced than the building lot, but still more than I would like to pay…) I wound up in a completely different lot on Spring St. and closer than I thought to California Tower #2, highrise that is home to the Consulate. There was a ridiculous hill to climb and a never-ending set of stairs to traverse (I hadn’t found the escalator yet!) before I reached the plaza that led to the buildings. It was really a very pretty place with an outdoor amphitheater, a mini-lake/fountain, and a lot of food joints!

California Towers Plaza
California Towers Plaza

Inside Tower #2 security checks you in, gives you a sticker, and directs you to the appropriate set of elevators. A kindly security guard set me on my course to the 17th floor and up I went in my bright and shiny elevator! Another security guard checks your bags when you enter the actual Consulate and you need to take a number to the Visa window (#6 I believe… there’s a big sign) and not stand in a line-that’s-not-really-a-line-just-a-large-group-of-bored-Japanese like I did for about five minutes! Once I was actually there and browsing the good-sized library room it wasn’t long before my number was called.

California Tower #2
California Tower #2

If you have all your materials ready like you should (because you were a good little teacher and called ahead!) it takes maybe 5 minutes total and you have the option of either (1) coming back when they tell you to pick up your completed visa, or (2) bringing a pre-paid FedEx envelope so they can send it back to your home. Once you get it, you have three months to enter Japan.

Because I am only an hour away from L.A. (with some traffic) I elected to return. The Consulate is in the same building as my old roommates work so it wasn’t that bad. I applied for the visa on Wednesday and was able to pick it up on Friday! Good stuff, fast service! When I went back for my visa, I didn’t get lost, had less traffic, found the escalator (yes!), and found a quicker way to walk from the parking garage to the building. So much better!

Basically, applying for your instructor visa is a very simple process once you finally have your CoE in hand! I picked up my approved and completed final visa on the same day that Interac estimated my CoE would be approved by immigration. Everything is going so fast! The process takes minimal time and is good practice in navigating a large city with no map, just the knowledge of the streets you memorized on Google the night before (I don’t have a smart phone people. That’s cheating! ;) ) It all went very well and now I am almost fully ready to head to Japan and a bright new adventure!

* Make sure to check the requirements for the Consulate you are visiting. They vary! And the information on the application varies. For example, I needed to put down the place my passport was issued but didn’t need the ID number issued by my country (which I still think is SSN in America. But double check!)

Getting An International Driving Permit (IDP)

Hey all!

So today I went on down to AAA for my International Driving Permit! My placement in Japan is a driving one so my company gave us instructions for it. You need (1) 2 passport sized photos (signed on the back), (2) the application form which you can find ontheir website here, (3) a valid United States drivers license, and (4) it cost me $15.

One step closer!
One step closer!

There’s no test, you just need an actual driver’s license from your home state. It was honestly the easiest, fastest process ever. If you’ve ever gone to a DMV you know you can sit there for hours and hours while it seemed AAA was on top of it! All you do is take these materials to your closest AAA branch office (I’m pretty sure they all do it) and sit down with one of their travel agents. In and out in 15 minutes if there’s not a long line. Even if you don’t have photos or the application, some offices take passport photos for you (for an extra fee) and they always have the application there for you as well. Apparently I was the only person she’d seen with all of the steps done already!

A lot of travel agencies recommend getting an IDP as a form of identification before you go traveling. It is translated into 10 languages other than English and is valid in over 150 countries currently. This is helpful if you have to identify yourself to or need help from police in non-English speaking countries as at least they know who you are and that you are American. Also, even if some countries don’t require an IDP to drive, some rental car companies require an IDP to rent from them so make sure to always do your homework!

So now I’m one step closer to leaving for Japan! All the little pieces are coming together and I’m so very excited to begin this wonderful adventure! I picked up an awesome “travel” journal today (really just a pretty hardbound notebook) to document everything I do and learn on the spot and hopefully I’ll then be able to put it up here. :)

Have a fantastic February all! Go for those dreams!

*NOTE: These steps are for USA IDP’s. If you live outside of America, your requirements will probably be different.

Beginning Certificate of Eligibility and Visa Info (VIDEO)

Hey all!

So this is a recent video I made about my placement (which I already talked a bit about in this post), my departure date and flight (which I already told all of you in this post)– feel special, you’re all remarkably well-informed in a timely manner!– and info about my visa application which is  moving right along! Enjoy and let me know if you have ANY questions!

Have a remarkable day!

Interac Placement: Life is So Good!

Hey all!!!

It’s a very exciting time in the life of me! Why? I’m SO glad you asked! Finally, a captive audience!

As the world I am directly connected to via facebook and real life already knows, I received my placement call from Interac on Monday night (the 20th my time)!!!! Ahhhhhh!!!!!! It’s so completely unreal to me still, even the thought that I am actually moving to Japan for a year seems like a dream that could never really happen to me. Like it’s something you always think about and really want to do, but happens to someone else.

Anyways, the dream has gotten several steps more real this week as at 9:07PM (PST) my phone started ringing. As there was no area code and the number looked unfamiliar I let it go to voicemail (only the creepiest sales dudes call after 8!) only to see that they actually left a message. Curiouser and curiouser. So I listen in and… WHAT?!?! It’s the Tokyo office saying they would like to talk to me about a placement option! They said they’d email me asking for a good time to call and I email them back saying… now. Basically just call me back, like, five minutes ago! I was so nervous and so excited and so, just, almost scared I guess. This made the whole trip real in a brand new way and that sets off a whole host of conflicting crazy emotions. Soooo naturally I start to physically shake. I’m sitting with my cell on my lap shaking so hard my teeth are chattering so that others can hear. Sad but true.

When, Eureka! At 9:35PM, just 28 minutes (or a lifetime) later my phone rings again. Tokyo! I’m talking to someone in Tokyo! Silently freaking out inside like a crazy fan girl while he does all the talking and I gush my yes’s and thank you’s and sounds great’s. And then it’s over.

The place:




Oh dear Lord. It happened.

They didn’t dump me on my face. They didn’t say “sorry, we changed our minds.” No. They gave me a placement and allowed me to Google like my life depended on it! I’m headed to a rural agricultural town on the eastern shore in the northern Kanto region. The melon and strawberry capital of Japan (yum!). Home to about 50,000 people and closer than I ever expected to be to Tokyo and other tourist destinations. Bam.

I had a dream. And it’s happening. Right now.