Navigating Tokyo: My Big City Day Trip!

My first trip to Tokyo was also going to be one of my first solo trips. But happily some of my fellow ALT’s decided to come along and

My proof I was in Tokyo!
My proof I was in Tokyo!

meet me about half-way through the day! Here’s a rundown of my Tokyo Adventure and some tips based on what I learned there so you can hopefully learn from my mistakes!

Getting There

Not many people have heard of the Ibaraki Airport, but it offers some pretty sweet perks! Located in Omitama City towards the middle-southern part of the prefecture the airport also serves as air-base for the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. Their priority is keeping things low-cost so they have free parking, three consistent airlines, and several buses going north and south. What makes this place very valuable for me is the proximity (20 minute drive from me), free parking, and shuttle bus service directly to Tokyo Station (¥500 if you are an airline passenger transferring in Narita or Haneda, ¥1,000 for general). ¥1,000 to get to Tokyo is dirt cheap compared to a train! Continue reading

Japan, Places in Japan, Travel in Japanday trip, , japan trains, tokyo, tokyo station, , travel tips, ueno, ueno park

“Are You Nervous?”

So lately I have been getting this question more and more! It seems every day my family or some random stranger that has heard about my upcoming adventure (from my family) is asking me “so are you nervous?” And I never have been.

"Are You Nervous?"
“Are You Nervous?”

Until one day…

I realize it’s March. Hold the phone! Say that again? Yeah, it’s March. And I checked my countdown and realized I have less than 20 days until I leave for Japan! My, time does fly!

Short answer: Yes. Of course I’m nervous. I think Continue reading

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.

Q&A #1- Teaching in Japan

Hey all!


So when I first told my family and friends that I would be coming to Japan they had about a zillion and one questions for me. And as one of my favorite pastimes is answering people’s questions (hence the best ever life choice to become a teacher), I figured I would make a list and see if I can help anyone out there who as as of yet undecided about attempting or still confused about the whole process! These are in the order from the most frequently asked downwards.

1. Do you speak Japanese?

Right after the “WOW” this is always the question I get. And the answer is: the most basic you can think of. I can greet people, ask how they are, get directions to the station and bathroom, and comment that it’s raining. Other than that, I’m working on it. I can read Katakana and Hiragana (thanks to the Anki program!) plus kind of sorta write it. I am currently starting the Genki 1 textbook and workbook and would recommend it so far. Very easy to understand and lots of useful information. Another useful resource has been YouTube surprisingly. Try JapanSociety and JapanesePod101 for some good lessons and there are so many others it’s kind of mind boggling!

2. Why Japan?

Anyone who has ever known me, especially my grandma, knows that China is my number one travel dream destination. I want to walk on that Great Wall and marvel at those terracotta warriors. So why Japan? When I first looked into teaching abroad, I was looking at China. Japan was a blip on my radar; a fairly cool blip I would highly consider traveling to, but not until the China goal was reached. Practicalities, however, are a game changer. Salaries are better in Japan. The company I was hired for is reputable and I can be sure that it’s not a scam. But largely, I first settled on Japan for my family’s peace of mind. It’s the safest country in the world, it’s not Communist, and it is very modernized. But then something unexpected happened. The more I learned about Japan, and the more I researched into its educational system for my senior project, and really the more I found out about the people, culture, and landscape, then I became rather obsessed. Truly, if given the choice right now, I wouldn’t be lying by saying that I would choose Japan. I’m taking a side trip to China when my contract is up or during my summer break; but for the long haul, I really would choose to live in Japan.

3. How long will you be over there?

I will begin a one-year contract from the time I start at the school in Japan. So yes, I will be there for one year. My family and friends have expressly forbidden any extension of the contract if I’m asked but hey, we’ll see how it goes over there ne?

UPDATE May 7th 2015: I renewed my contract for another year. I guess I kinda sorta like it here! This is month 14 of my Japan Adventure.

4. Where are you going to be?

Short answer: I don’t know. I have yet to be placed but I did request the Tohoku region. Hiraizumi specifically or at least Iwate Prefecture. I’m a big nature girl and I want my scenic mountains and hiking nice and close! I’ll also be a southern Californian in the snow, and I really want to know if I love the cold as much as I think I do!

UPDATE 01/25/14:  I will be teaching at a Jr. High base and several elementary schools in Hokota-shi, Ibaraki-ken. It’s a small agricultural beach town on the Eastern coast. No mountains, but I do love the beach!

UPDATE 05/07/15: I don’t like the cold. I am solar powered. Give me sun, give me warmth! You can keep your cold!

5. When are you going?

Again: I really can’t say for sure. I know that it will be in the Spring of 2014, specifically mid-to late-March. I will update this info as well as the placement info as soon as I get it and these two pieces of info along with a whole other bunch of useful stuff should all be coming together no later than about Valentine’s Day I’m told.

UPDATE 01/25/14: I’m leaving on March 20th, 2014 for Tokyo, Japan! I will land on the 21st and train until I leave for Hokota on the 27th. :)

6. What will you eat?

I find this question to be kind of hilarious in the number of times it’s asked and the faces of the people who ask it as they remember one very important thing about me. I hate fish. In a culture that has a largely seafood diet I expect to lose a whole lot of weight (yay!) and yet I also hope to find something fishy that I can like. I know tuna and salmon are fine, but I don’t know if I can stomach raw anything… I guess we’ll find out! I know there are two rules I can live by when it comes to unknown foods, seafood in particlualar:  (1) if it’s fried, I like it (that’s the southern girl in me!) and (2) if you don’t tell me what it is until I’ve swallowed it, I will eat it. I’ve never been all that picky about food; normally I like everything (except fish) that’s thrown at me! I’m curious what American taboo foods I’ll find and fall in love with in Japan! (I do expect to be eating massive amounts of rice and ramen however…)

7. Will anyone there speak English (aka Will you be near any Americans/native English speakers?)

In all likelihood, from most of the current teachers I’ve been following, probably not. I could get lucky and share a school with another ALT but the very few people I know from the interview process that will be going over me are probably going to be placed nowhere near me as they either requested Hokkaido (as a fellow Californian, I think they are either crazy or super brave) or southern Japan. So no, I won’t know anyone and yes, I do expect to become more outgoing as a result of this job. I’m the quieter, more reserved one in my family and my group of friends (not all that quiet or reserved around them, but certainly not at their awesome level of craziness!) so I do expect  this to be a hard but necessary method of personal growth. Look at me trying to be all grown up and stuff!

8. Why?

This is another question I find a little odd in it’s timing and the look on their faces. Once they hear I’ll be alone, in an unknown culture with an unknown language they start to see past the glamour and start seeing the risks and the hardships. So my family asked: why? Why leave us and everything known and familiar for an entire year and travel around the world to teach a subject you could just as easily teach here to California’s large EL population? The answer to this question is a little trickier than others. How do you explain to so many people that you love more than life itself why you are choosing to leave them for an extended period of time? I’ve thought extensively about this and I suppose there’s no easy or right answer. Wanderlust. I itch to travel and I itch to travel for a long period of time to really have an opportunity to integrate myself into a new culture as much as possible. Adventure. I’m tired of dreaming of one, and this is really the most perfect opportunity for an adventure in my life to actually happen. Growth. There’s this image in my head of who I want to be, but surrounded by people who have known me as I am now for 15+ years it is really hard to rock the boat. I hope that being away from my niche will allow me to grow and present myself as and actually become the image of me that I really want to be. I also hope that I come back and am able to maintain that new shape.

9. What will you be doing?

This one is sometimes asked after the heavyweight that  is question #8 and sometimes not. But basically I will be working for Interac and taking a position as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) in a public school somewhere in Japan. I requested to be placed in an Elementary/Jr. High combo so will most likely be at more than one school singing songs and playing games in an effort to actually have students remember their English and not test and forget (like I always did in German… and Spanish…). I love teaching and would never want to do anything else, no matter where in the world I am!

Last one! Last one!

10. How do you go about getting a teaching job in Japan?

Good question! I’m glad you asked! In terms of me, I literally just went and Googled “How to Teach English in Japan” and started reading blogs and watching YouTube videos. But there are some really good resources out there! I recommend looking into both Interac and the JET Programme (check to see if it’s available in your country) if you want to be a public school teacher. However, if you are looking into an eikaiwa (an English conversation school) I know they usually have better benefits and salaries, but your working hours will be more and more varied than a 9-5 public school job. There are postings literally all over the internet but some good places to start would be Dave’s ESL Cafe (post your resume and search for jobs in Japan, Korea, and China) and Ohayo Sensei (a free bi-monthly newsletter that posts openings). Gaijin Pot is also a very good resource for studying, working, and learning about Japan. I also have a very very long list of independent eikawa that are not associated with the giants like AEON as well as schools you can directly apply to from my advisor at my TEFL institute. If you would like a copy I will gladly email or message it to you, just shoot me a note!

Hope these helped, I have many more I can answer but this is getting long enough as it is. I will post more Q & A’s as the month goes on. If there’s something you are curious about that I didn’t cover or want to know more about stuff I did please comment or message me! I would love to gather more questions from you and/or just talk about how cool it will be to move/live in Japan!

Adventure on!

Interac Offer of Employment!!!! (+ Video!)

Hey all!!

I GOT THE JOB!!!! On December 18th, 2013 I was offered employment by Interac Co., Ltd. It was so exciting!!! I was nervous all last week because my recruiter had said I would hear back from Tokyo before their break on the 23rd. And as my packet was sent off to them on the 13th it HAD to be that week! So I refused to check my email after 10pm because if I actually got the job I wanted to be able to share it with someone without waking them up… Therefore, every morning I woke up and checked my email. Religiously. And on Wednesday it paid off when I saw the wonderfully joyous email that I could read far enough ahead in the preview line to see that it said “our pleasure”! That means only one thing: I AM GOING TO JAPAN!!!!! Going to JAPAN!!

Nothing is containing my excitement anymore and yet it doesn’t seem as if it could POSSIBLY be real! I mean, living in Japan for a year? That’s something you dream about but never actually DO, right? I honestly don’t think I will believe it’s happening until I step off the plane in Tokyo and realize I have no idea what anyone around me is saying! As I’ve never left the country before I am SO STOKED for this brand new adventure and all the wonderful and even awful experiences I am sure to have! Stay tuned cuz this dream just got really real!

Have a beautiful holiday season and I’ll see you in the new year! JAPAN!!!! YAAAY!!!

Ja ne!

One World, One Girl

Hey all!

This is just a small little introduction to me. I don’t expect many people to be all that interested, the only people reading this

Welcome on my journey :)
Welcome on my journey :)

probably already know me just as well as I do. But I am going to be doing something extraordinary in my life pretty soon, at least in my opinion. I will be leaving my safe, wonderful community here in southern California and moving around the world with two suitcases and a carry-on. In short, I’m going to become an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) in a public school in Japan!

And this, I honestly want to share with everybody because I 1.) want to preserve the memories, 2.) want everybody I know and love in the grand ol’ U.S. of A. to know what I am up to and not worry (once I actually leave), and 3.) I think it’s worth talking about! Right now, everything is still far enough away as to be unreal. The application/interview processes to actually have a job when I get there are ongoing. And pretty much excitement trumps fear for the next 4 months or so (April 2014, oh that’s sooo far away!) but I think I will need to write about it when that sets in, and right now I need to write about it so I don’t just explode all over the room from not screaming this opportunity from the rooftops!

There are two main programs I am applying to. JET and Interac. The main difference is that JET is sponsored by the Japanese government and pays better. But Interac is more likely to put me into an elementary school and actually hire me! Pros and cons all around. :)

I first got the idea to teach abroad from an SCTA meeting at my college (thanks Dr. Hawkins!) and she had told a story about her former students in JET. I originally thought about international American schools because I would be an actual elementary teacher, not just an English teacher. But you need a credential for that and that wasn’t in the cards this spring so I fell upon the idea of teaching English. It was always my strongest subject anyway and there are far more job options in the field. Next I just had to decide where!

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? It seems most everyone has an answer to this and for all of my life I would always scream: CHINA! However, everyone but my grandma had an issue with this it seems. (Communism and all that. Whatever.) So I went with my second most favorite place: JAPAN! So now everyone is happy that I’m going to the safest country in the world (though you can bet your socks I am making that side visit to China!) and I am endeavoring to learn some of the language! Yikes! New alphabet and grammar structure, no sweat right? But since learning about the ALT position and with the knowledge that I can actually be a part of the public school system Japan has quickly become my very first choice! (And if I come back loaded down with Pokemon stuff, who can complain about that too?)

Anywho, I started this blog because I think my life is soon going to get way more exciting and scary than I can handle alone and so poof! Here it all goes into the void that is the WWW. Going to Japan has been a dream of mine for a long time now, and I can’t wait to actually make something this big a reality. After all, if your dreams don’t scare you, you’re not dreaming big enough!

Ja ne!