This list is not necessarily things which are exclusive to Nagoya, or even Japan, but together they make me incredibly glad that Japanese was compulsory in grade 7 of my high school; this being the starting point which led me down the path I am on today.
1. Nagoya food
Miso Katsu, Tebasaki, Kochin Chicken, Miso Nikomi Udon, Hitsumabushi, Tenmusu… the list goes on. Nagoya has some of the best (in my opinion) local food there is in Japan, as well as offering a huge amount of specialities from other regions. Nagoya might not have the flash of Tokyo, or the traditional atmosphere of Kyoto, but it sure does food well.
2. Broadening my outlook on life
Moving to another country broadens your mind like no other experience. And although I like to think I was fairly cultured before, living here really brings it to life. I have learnt so much and I continue to learn each and every day; about people, about Japan, and about myself.
3. Meeting people
Japanese people are known for being polite, reserved, and not too open with their feelings. While this might be somewhat true in a broader sense, the people I have met since being here have shown me that Japanese people can also be loud, crazy, funny, and really, just like everyone else. So leave your prejudices at home, and see people for who they are – individuals who are influenced, but not bound, by their social and cultural upbringing.
On that same note, I’ve also met a whole lot of incredible people from all over the world, united in a love of Japan and all it has to offer.
4. City life
I love Tassie, don’t get me wrong, and I certainly plan on going back one day. However living in a city (especially one as incredible as Nagoya) has really opened my eyes and my mind (and, unfortunately, my wallet). There are what seems to be millions of restaurants offering endless cuisine choices; more clothing shops stocking my size than I ever thought there would be; and an endless array of possibilities for entertainment. Also, Nagoya having a smaller population (a mere 2.2 million) means it has all the features that one would expect from a big city, without the feeling of suffocation that comes from endless crowds.
5. Language skill improvements
As much as I maintain my language ability isn’t where I would like it to be by this stage, I cannot deny that being here has certainly helped. Apparently if you want to improve rapidly you have to do this thing called studying? Who knew?
6. ‘Safety Country’
This grammatically incorrect little catchphrase really caught on, and although it’s a pain having to constantly explain to students that the word they were after was ‘safe’, the sentiment certainly holds true. I know my parents are nowhere near as worried as they could be, with their little baby off in a foreign land, and this is because they understand that Japan is one of the safest countries in the world.
7. Career Confidence
I’ve talked about being a teacher in other posts, but I just wanted to reiterate that it really is such a rewarding job. Every day I help students continue to strive towards their goals, and they are often quite vocal in their gratitude, which makes me feel awesome. I have no idea how long I will continue teaching, whether it will just be for the next few years, or the rest of my life; but I hope I can say, without sounding too conceited, that I am rather good at it. The encouragement and praise I receive from staff and students alike make me glad each day that this is what I do for a living.
8. Managing stress
For those of you who know me personally, you will know that I suffer from quite bad anxiety. This was one of the major hurdles that I was worried I would be unable to overcome, on my path to becoming the teacher I wanted to be. But you know what? I did it! Nobody’s perfect, and I certainly still stress out sometimes, but it is a lot less than it used to be. When a kids class is suddenly sprung on me at the last minute, rather than collapsing into a bundle of nerves and tears, I am able to take it in stride, and plan the lesson as I go. When I have a sudden brain-freeze in the middle of a free time lesson, I am able to laugh it off and use the tools at hand in order to solve the situation – namely my dictionary for embarrassing spelling or definition mistakes/queries, and my ability to draw silly cute cartoons to either make my students laugh and break the silence, or to fill up space on the note paper that I hand out at the end of every lesson.
Stress management in my personal life still needs some tweaking, but I am confident that in time I will get there, given what I’ve accomplished so far in my working life.
9. Living independently
Before moving to Nagoya I lived a very comfortable, happy life with my daddy. I am a daddy’s girl through and through, and while living with him I was thoroughly spoilt. I do not regret that at all, as I am now managing all on my own, so I must have been taught some skills for survival somewhere along the way. Living alone can be lonely, but it is also incredibly liberating. As much as I would love to have daddy here to do my laundry and cook my meals once more, living alone is an experience that I wouldn’t want to trade, and I’m sure when I go back home I (and my family) will be able to see just how much the experience has changed me and helped me grow.
10. Appreciating nature
With the turning of each season comes the certain knowledge that Japanese people will flock to certain areas in order to experience whatever nature has to offer. The seasonal activities which probably spring to the minds of your average foreigner would be that of skiing and other snow-related sports during winter, and beach visits in summer. In japan it is actually the two other, often forgotten, seasons that garner the most excitement. Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) in spring and kouyou (leaves changing colour) in autumn send millions of people on expeditions of varying lengths each and every year to delight in the colours of nature. Living here has ensured that I, too, am swept up in the excitement. The fact that spring and autumn are such fleeting seasons in Japan makes it all the more special.
11. Learning how to cook
-Or more precisely, learning how to cook without an oven.
Pizza was always my forte when living with dad. When I grew tired of dad’s cooking, I would grab a wrap, a premade base – or, when I was feeling more ambitious, whip one up myself – or any kind of flat bread-type substance, and chuck all sorts of toppings on it; add cheese, bake for however long, and hey presto – delicious dinner was done! This formed the staple of my diet, although the toppings did vary quite a bit so it wasn’t monotonous at all. Now, living without an oven, and indeed many of the ingredients I would normally use, I have had to rethink my diet. I have, in the past 15ish months (goodness, has it really been that long?) come up with a number of dishes that keep my heart beating and my brain working. I consider that a feat to be proud of. Maybe one of these days I will do a post on my various creations.
12. Gaining experience
Japan will always mean much more to me than just something to put on my CV, and the experience I’ve gained even in the short time I’ve been here goes far beyond teaching skills. One day a time will come when I will have to move on from this magical land, first back home to Tassie, then onto the unknown. Everything I have learnt here I will take with me, and who knows, maybe in 5 years I’ll be living, working, maybe teaching somewhere in Europe, and I will think back to those first few weeks of Training Hell and remember some little thing I was taught, and put it to use in my new imaginary life.
13. Proving it to the doubters
While most weren’t too vocal about it (some definitely were), I know there were many people back home that did not think that I would make it this far. Some thought I’d never leave Tas; some thought if I did that I would return, tail between my legs, within a few months; I am sure many people thought that I would definitely only last a year, and I wouldn’t be able to wait to get home, back to the safety and security of my family and friends.
To those people I have but one thing to say: YOU WERE WRONG.
14. Travel opportunities
All I have to say in this regard is that it’s a hell of a lot cheaper to go from Nagoya to Kyoto than it is to go from Tasmania to Kyoto. The best way to see a country is to live there, and this year I am going to explore as much as my energy levels and budget will allow.
15. Zombies at USJ
This deserved a particular mention as it was one of the coolest things I’ve seen in Japan. I will definitely be going back to Universal Studios this year, and I hope to take in even more of the Halloween atmosphere! Of course as soon as Harry Potter World opens I’m going to have to go again, but so be it; USJ is awesome!!
16. Letting out my inner decorator
Having your own little place (rented though it may be) is a marvellous thing. During the last few months especially I have been slowly transforming my one room apartment into a cosy haven that suits my personality and my style. Again, I will possibly do a post about my decorations at some point when I have the time and energy.
There are a lot more options for clothes shopping than I thought there would be, given how full this country is with skinny-minnies, but none have made quite the impression on me that Uniqlo has. It’s a Japanese company that has stores all over the country and the world; indeed they recently opened a store in Melbourne I believe. It’s good quality clothing at a very reasonable price, and I don’t know how I would survive without it. Heat Tech, Airism, leggings and work shirts are a few of my favourite things to buy there.
Life in Australia is expensive. There is no doubting that. Of course wages reflect this, to a point, and so one does not really notice, until one moves to another country, of course. I am a proud Aussie, and while it does frustrate me somewhat to see online or hear about how everything is a million times cheaper in the states, it does mean that I have a very different outlook on pricing in Japan than your average American. While they see alcohol and food and everything else as being quite expensive in Japan, I think everything is a total bargain! This attitude doesn’t help my budget, and so I have since attempted to adjust my mind-set with regards to what is worth the price, and what would just be a waste.
All you can eat and drink deals are everywhere in this beautiful land, and they are not nearly as expensive as you would think. In fact, for the price of maybe two cocktails in Australia, you can have all you can drink for 90 minutes in many an izakaya. In bars and clubs, where these offers are usually not available, the drinks are still remarkably cheap. But it is almost unfortunate that these drinks still seem quite expensive when you compare the prices to the absolute pittance you pay for alcoholic beverages at the convenience stores.
20. Let’s face it, Tassie is kind of boring
I always recommend Tasmania to my students as an absolutely beautiful and unique holiday destination. I stand by this. However as somewhere to live, Tassie is kind of lacking. Sure, it’s peaceful; sure, there are lots of stars; but having become quite used to city comforts I will definitely find it challenging to readjust to life on the island when I eventually do return home.
21. Studying culture from the inside
“I’m Japanese so…”
I have heard this phrase countless times from students, staff and friends. It usually precedes an explanation of a cultural norm: they did whatever they did because they are Japanese and that’s what Japanese people do. Of course having studied Japanese for some 10 years before coming over, as well as taking several specific culture classes at university, I already knew a lot of what there is to know about Japanese customs and traditions. There is, however, always more to learn. And while I hate studying, I do love learning, and my students are a great source of knowledge.
This year one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to stick to a weekly routine. Well, we aren’t too far into the year yet but I have been going pretty well with it so far. Living alone as really enabled me to be master of my own life. I have no one to blame but myself when I don’t follow through, but on that same note I can also be immensely proud of myself when I actually manage to do the things I tell myself I must do. Yay me.
23. Proving to myself: I can do anything.
This is the big one. Reason number 23. I have to remind myself that doing what I have done is not something that everyone could do. It is not something to be sneezed at. There have been happy times and sad times during this journey that I am on. The happy times are great, but when I’m happy it’s all too easy to think that life’s a breeze and I haven’t accomplished all that much; I just did what I did, anyone could have done the same. During these times I need to remember that I am awesome, so that happy does not rapidly descend into sadness. During the sad times the voices inside my head remind me of everything I have done and am doing wrong. These voices need to be silenced. I’ve made it through a million downs and I’ll make it through a million more. There has been many a time when I have said to myself, you can’t do this, what were you thinking, attempting this? But do it I did, and I will continue.
I am living the dream, and so can you. If you can dream it, you can achieve it.