Friday, March 16, 2012

Moving to Japan (Officially)

To inject a personal post into a personal blog, it's time I mentioned that I am actually moving to Japan in the very near future.  As in Sunday.  ... Which is in a couple days.  Holy crap, where did the time go?

Toyama City, Toyama - Japan
I'll start with all the good stuff.  My placement is in the nicely sized city of Toyama-shi (富山市), population 500,000, in the Chūbu region of Japan.  Since no one probably knows where that is, least of all me before I Googled it, I've included a nice little picture showing where Toyama is on a map of Japan.  There isn't much I can say so far about the place that you can't find on Wikipedia.  It resides within a prefecture of the same name (Toyama-ken or 富山県).

Toyama is one of the best places to see the so-called Japanese Alps (in actuality they are the Hida Mountains).  These bluey, whitey, mountainy things can be seen from Toyama City on a clear day, often capped in snow well into the summer season.  If anyone has seen these mountains before, it was probably during a StumbleUpon marathon when they stumbled on a road carved through literally twenty trillion feet of snow.

The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is a big attraction in Toyama Prefecture.  To traverse it, you must take a variety of transportation including cable cars, buses, and probably walking.  Thanks to the ridiculous snow Toyama gets, this route is open from about April to November.

The majority of the Toyama Prefecture is rural.  Being in the biggest and capital city of the prefecture is nice, but I'm also happy to be so close to the rural side of Japan as well.  It's a rather nice compromise between living in an urban center and out in the inaka (that's boondocks for you English speaking folk).

As a coastal town, there are obviously beaches nearby.  They may not be the swankiest, Kardashian-attracting beaches around, but no one really wants her at their beach anyway.  If you're in just the right spot, though, on the clearest of days, you can get the surf and turf in one amazing shot.

Was this taken in Toyama?  As far as you know, yes, it was!
You can expect blog posts on some of the nearby beaches, as well as the hiking trails in the mountains.  And I'll probably have to learn how to ski or snowboard at some point, although I'd be much happier to just sled unskillfully down the sheer side of Mount Shirouma.  And build a snowman at the bottom.  Why yes, I am twenty-three, why do you ask?

Be Careful, Oh Mighty King, for Japan Has Dangerous Earthquakes
Toyama doesn't get too many earthquakes compared to the eastern side of Japan.  It'll take more than a little wobbly dirt to scare me off.

What About Radiation?
Prevailing winds and the natural barrier of the Hida Mountains kept the radiation away from Toyama!

Tsunamis?  Japanese Encephalitis?  Katamaris?
Out of all those, I'd be most afraid of the katamari.

Okay, So Why Japan?
I originally chose to go to Japan almost two years ago exactly.  I was feeling a little unhappy at working a white collar job for the rest of my life, and the accuracy with which I could view my future was a little disturbing.  I came to a sudden realization:  If I wanted to enjoy my life, I had to make some rather drastic changes.  And nothing could realistically stop me from doing what I wanted to do.

Some people will say my real reason for
going to Japan is for the girls, but this
simply isn't true
Japan was interesting to me for a variety of reasons.  Although most of Asia is exciting and wondrous and amazing in its own right, Japan is the most industrialized of them all and would make a home base from which I could vacation.  It's a remarkably safe and hygienic country, and the salaries offered would be enough to save a not inconsiderable sum... although this is not at all the job to do if you want to get rich quick.  Japan also has a very unique culture and history.  No where else do you see a society so homogenized, so enamored by other cultures while paradoxically shut off from them.  I wanted a country that was radically different from what I had thus far experienced, while not straying too far off the beaten path.  Japan fit the bill perfectly.

The job, of course, is teaching English.  Teaching English isn't exactly a career for a Computer Scientist to take up, but I understand myself well enough to know my flaws.  Living abroad on my own, teaching kids all day, learning a new language, and being a genki (energetic) teacher... This will teach me independence, patience, communication, and the art of parading about as an extrovert.  I truly believe I can apply my experiences in Japan toward the rest of my life, where ever that takes me, and come back as a better and more confident person.

My love for kids is recent, my teaching experience non-existent, and my qualifications lackluster, so I'm all rather nervous about actually beginning the job of teaching.  But I have been told by at least one person that I'm charming (and I tell others I'm devilishly handsome, too).  Hopefully with a clever mind and a nice smile, I can succeed at my job as an English ALT.

Mushy Stuff
I'd like to thank everyone who has helped me get as far as I have--and trust me, that's a lot of people.  I spent the past two years scouring the internet for information so I would succeed in my interviews, talking with English teachers and TEFL teachers, even sitting in for a TEFL class.  I've got English teachers, friends, co-workers, and mentors to thank.  Throughout my interview process, I've met with the kindest recruiters, and made some of the best of friends.

But most of all, I'd like to thank my family for their support in every way possible.  I haven't been the best son (who has, eh?), but you've allowed me to follow my own path and that's one of the scariest things a parent has to do.  My unfortunate deferral back in August allowed me to spend nearly ten months with my family and, though it was absolutely aggravating, I wouldn't change a thing.  I know I've got family waiting for me when I return.

When I decided to start looking for a job in Japan, I thought all the character building and lesson learning would all take place after I had arrived.  But I guess the biggest changes occurred... before I even left home.


Thank you mom, dad, Amy, James, Mark and Hera, Rhonda, Price, Matt Buechler, Dr. Hurson, my greatest friend Lauren, and Amyko.  Let's hope I don't drop the ball on this one...