I said from the beginning that I would post regularly about all my adventures and daily life, but I simply haven’t. I am obviously a bad person, and you may feel free to judge me accordingly.
Where we left off, was many moons ago, in the wintry wasteland of Osaka. Ok so maybe wasteland is a bit harsh, but I am a sucker for some decent alliteration. Since Osaka and Gifu and all that, I have had many an adventure in this wonderful country, and plan to briefly summarise them for you below.
Takayama was the first and most impressive. I could go on about the breathtaking beauty of Takayama all day, possibly many days. But I wont. I shall attempt to keep it brief, to the point, and also mildly interesting. The two of us took the train down, managing to get seats, which was awesome. We went in February, during the long weekend. We weren’t sure if there would still be snow, but we were in luck! The first sight of the magical white stuff was pretty exciting. It just kept on increasing in volume the closer we got! Our first stop once we arrived was to check out our accommodation, and double check the check-in time, then on to Hida village. It’s an amazing little place that’s basically for tourists, but it has all the original housing. Obviously no one lives there now, but to see all the traditional buildings surrounding a lake, with ducks swimming, really made us feel like we had gone back in time. Or it would have done if not for all the tourists snapping away with their cameras (us included!). We wandered up the paths, looked inside the little huts, and were generally amazed. It was just so relaxing and beautiful. My friend had the genius idea that seeing as it felt as if we were on the set of some fantasy movie, then we should have music to match! So she whipped out her phone and played some lovely theme song of something or other, to really set the scene. It was a winter wonderland.
After we’d finished soaking up the atmosphere and generally freezing our fingers off, we continued walking through Takayama, and eventually ended up at a Hida beef yakiniku restaurant, where my vegetarian inclined friend chose to have seafood and a small amount of chicken, while I stuff myself on the most delicious succulent meat you could imagine. After we felt that we could move without rolling, we wandered back in the direction of our Ryokan. Stopping on the way to get some lemon cheesecake icecream, which we ate in the snow. Coz that’s just how we roll.
The next day brought more snow but less photo opportunities, as we went in and out of all the cute little boutiques and gift shops that Takayama is dotted with. I spent just the right amount on souvenirs (in other words more than I should have but I don’t care), and then we started back for the train station. On the way we stopped to get me (and not the vegetarian) a Hida beef burger, which while delicious, was possibly a bit too tiny for the cost of the thing. Unfortunately the line for the train to go back was huuugggeee and we did not get a seat until we were almost in Nagoya. I did manage to sleep at one point though, standing, clutching a seat with one hand and my bags with the other. Maybe it was the steady swaying rhythm of the train, or maybe I was just that dead tired after two full days in Takayama. Either way, it was scary as hell waking up after my short nap, to find that I was on a train, standing up. Bizarre.
So we made it back to Nagoya safe and sound, and had dinner at a lovely Italian place in ESCA.
I highly recommend Takayama to anyone and everyone. Obviously winter is amazing because of all the snowcapped buildings, but it is a beautiful town? city? any time of year.
So the next most exciting adventure that has happened, and is still happening, is starting a new contract, and a new school year, with ECC. This has brought both challenges and joy, and is set to be a most interesting year. The more students, staff, and teachers I talk to, the more I am convinced that ECC is definitely the Best Eikaiwa company in the Chubu district, if not all of Japan. The working conditions are excellent, the hours are short, and everyone from the staff to personnel, is very accommodation, understanding, and helpful. Of course nothing is perfect, and I am sure every school has its flaws, but the 3 schools that I am working at this year are amazing. I was lucky enough to get exactly what I requested, and I feel like this year will be a great one. Of course, like the beginning of most things, there have been some difficulties, and some obstacles I am continuing to work through, but that is part and parcel of any job, and I am sure it is helping me grow as a person. That doesn’t mean to say that in the moment I don’t want to yell and scream and throw things; but I do my utmost to hold that in, while repeatedly telling myself that it can, and will, only get better from here. Occasionally, when I am having these feelings of self-doubt and worry, I look back at where I was less than a year ago, and think about how far I’ve come, and how much I have achieved. Training was hell, but I got through it. Taking over other teachers’ classes, some who left with notice, some who did not, was hard. Covering classes with kids that refused to listen to ‘the sub’ and proceeded to pelt things at me, cough and sneeze all over me, cry for absolutely no reason, or throw my materials around the room (to name but a few kids’ quirks) was a challenge. But at each hurdle I have pulled myself over and come out the other side a stronger, more resilient, and better equipped teacher.
So yes, some of my kids aren’t the most obedient or wonderful, but while they learn, so will I; and I hope to build just as strong a relationship with these kids, as I did with those I only had for a few months last school year. I miss so many of my kids, and find it absolutely adorable and heart-warming when they come up and say hello, or give me cuddles, before going into their new class. When I think about how crazy those kids seemed to me when I first got that shift, I think maybe there is hope. We are only two weeks in to the year, after all!
Golden Week is just around the corner, and with it the arrival of my parents! I could not be more thrilled to show them where I live, and the places that I go, in the city that I love. It will be like seeing Nagoya for the first time all over again, and I can’t wait! People say that Nagoya isn’t really a tourist city, and for the most part I am inclined to agree. However I still believe there is so much to see, if only you know where to look! I am most excited to tantalise their taste buds with all the culinary delights that Nagoya has to offer. Miso Katsu is a personal favourite, but there is a never ending list of restaurants and bars and cafes that I believe are unmissable on a trip to this amazing city. Unfortunately, time is limited, and therefore so must our choices. Also, given my parents’ lack of culture and refinement, with regards to Japanese cuisine especially, I feel it is necessary to inflict on them the most quintessentially Japanese foods, as well as those local Nagoyan specialities. So we shall be visiting my favourite Miso Katsu, Yakiniku, sushi, salad, Katsudon, and Tebasaki restaurants, at the very least. I can’t wait to say I told you so, when they find out just how delicious raw fish can be!
I would also love to show them a night out at the Gaijin bars of Nagoya; but I fear they may be a bit too far past it. My favourite place to go for a night out of drinking and fun with my friends is definitely Red Rock Aussie Bar and Grill! Last night I had everyone drinking ‘Melbourne Tingles’, just because I had told the barman to make me something tasty, and from then on everyone had to have ‘one of those delicious blue drinks’!! The best thing to do after a few hours at your favourite gaijin bar, is obviously to stumble drunkenly to the nearest karaoke place and (smuggled drinks in hand) sing until the sun comes up and the trains are running once more!
I have met some of the best people on these drinking + karaoke adventures; and I’m sure I’ll meet many more in the future! I am sure that I will be in Japan for quite a few years yet, as there are just too many people, places and things that I would miss, if I were to leave!