The long-awaited update of my life in Japan has arrived. If I could sum it up in a single word it would be - rollercoaster.
Time has sped past me and I can’t believe it’s been A FULL YEAR! It feels like I have just begun. It's been fun, adventurous, and of course, I have had down moments too. If you want to catch up with what I've been up to you can read my previous post about my life update.
While living in Japan, I have come across some amazing things that have grown on me. I have also come across some things that make me tilt my head a lil bit or just made me miss and want to fly back home. Hence the title.
This list is based on my experience and I'll walk you through my thought processes and memories so you can mentally be in my shoes for a bit. Without further adieu let’s get right into it!
Hit #1 - My Own "Cha-cha-cha"
So before I came to Japan, I watched this K-drama on Netflix called "Hometown Cha-cha-cha.” In this drama, the main heroine moves from the cold city to a beautiful small seaside village. Before y’all beat me up, I wasn’t expecting Japan to be Korea in any way. I had expectantly asked the Lord Jesus to send me to my own “Cha-cha-cha.” I was ready to be by the sea and wake up to sea birds singing their little song and Sebastian the Crab directing the music, you know?
Instead, I went from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo to mountainous Kumamoto. When the plane landed, y’all, I thought surely, I’m going somewhere that’s far from these mountains.
I was even taking pictures like it would be the last time I’d see them.
When I was picked up from the airport, my supervisor drove about 15 minutes to my apartment, and guess what I could still see. You guessed it - mountains.
I had one image in my mind, but God had different plans. He certainly gave me my own “Cha-cha-cha,” which includes rice fields, mountains, and seasonal floral beauty.
Miss #1 - Difference in Measurements
This may not seem like a big deal at first, but the difference in measurements impacts many areas of life. That includes shopping for clothing, cooking, and reading weight, height, temperature, time, and even the calendar year and date. Out of all of these different measurements, the most shocking for me was the driving speed.
In September I miraculously got a car here in Japan. Ever since, I've been driving here, there, and everywhere. You can read and check out more on that story on the FB or Insta page @Idomizue.
For the first couple of months, I thought it was strange riding down the highway at 80 and still being able to see distinct shapes. I had been driving my mom’s car, Bella, before coming to Japan so I know what 80 mph feels like on the turnpike.
Even at 50, my car felt slow. I thought, “Wow my car is like a slow Mario go-kart.” It was like driving in slow motion! My mind was so shocked by the difference in speed that I thought something was wrong with my speedometer. Something wasn’t right and I considered taking it to my car guy to fix it.
Before I scheduled an appointment, I looked - and I mean, really looked - and noticed the speedometer was in kilometers per hour! I looked up what 50 kph was in miles per hour and y'all…I've been driving 30-50mph on the road!
I howled with laughter! My little Stella is a lil go-kart! She'd be road kill in the States! Though I got a good laugh at that surprise, I adore my little car and I take my time now enjoying the view.
Hit #2 - The Japanese Savory Pancake
Every time someone here asks me, what's your favorite food? They're usually asking about my favorite Japanese food. Without hesitation, I immediately say, Okonomiyaki.
Okonomiyaki is made with cabbage, your choice of meat, and it's mixed in wheat batter. You fry it on both sides and top it with Okonomiyaki sauce and other toppings. Meat options are usually pork, squid, or shrimp while toppings include dried seaweed, bonito flakes, mayo, or pickled ginger. It's so delicious, easy to make, and easy to share with a lot of people. I recommend you try it!
Miss #2 - The Squatting Nightmare
It's the most disappointing thing when you need to use the bathroom and all that's left to do your business in, is this ceramic hole in the ground.
I am utterly convinced that Japanese people are born with the leg and knee strength of steel. You should see these people sleeping standing up on trains or squatting with both feet flat on the floor - so it's more than physically possible for them.
There is no way my long, weak, skinny-legged self can squat long enough to pee or poop. If I tried, I'd probably fall into the toilet, which would be humiliating.
Just traveling around in the airport, at the train station, in the stores, at the schools - everywhere and anywhere - you will see this kind of toilet.
If you're in for a squat challenge go ahead and try, but it's a no for me.
Hit #3 Japanese Hospitality
You would not believe how many times I've been invited to someone's house for a meal, or invited to participate in some family activity whether it be planting rice, making mochi, eating barbecue, selling cotton candy, or going to see cherry blossom trees.
I'm grateful for the invitations and the warm welcome. I never imagined that I'd be invited into people's homes, eat with families, and be invited to be a part of the community I live in.
My church does a lot of community outreach and has been involved with international missions as well! I've met many people from all over the world and the prefecture because of Hikari Gospel's service to the community. I'm so happy that I found a church here in Japan!
I'm in good hands here. My mom is always relieved when I tell her people are always feeding me and taking care of me since she can't do so.
Miss #3 You Feel the Seasons
I don't remember feeling the summer heat as I feel it in Japan. Imagine Florida's hot humid summers but with little to no A/C. I mean, I've never sweated from my head to my toes like I've been doing recently.
In school, you feel the heat in the hallways because there's no A/C. The students and teachers have their little handheld or desk electric fans to keep cool. However, in the classrooms, and teacher work rooms, thank sweet Jesus, there is A/C.
No matter how sweaty I get these days, I'll take sunny hot days over one day in the winter. I go through less physical pain and I pay less for electricity.
The winter in Kumamoto is NOTHING a native sun-loving Floridian should experience. It's bitter. It's ruthless. It's cold. It's ferociously unbelievable.
It was so cold this past winter I got "shimoyake," or mild frostbite in Japanese, not once but TWICE!
Another time it was -10 degrees Celsius and my hands could not move. It was painful! When I arrived at work that specific morning, I sat staring blankly, and utterly shooketh that school was still open at such an evil temperature! That day I began looking for tickets to return HOME!
The changes in the seasons are beautiful, but the feeling of the summer heat and winter freeze is extremely brutal. Pray my strength in the Lord.
To end this blog on a positive note, I'll give one more special hit that's my absolute favorite part of living here!
Hit #4 Living Affordability
Many Assistant Language Teachers in Japan from other countries with stronger currencies, these days, see no real monetary gain by living here because the value of the yen has decreased so much.
I don't tend to worry about the fluctuating exchange rates or the Japanese yen's decrease in value because I fully immerse myself here in this life in Japan.
With my salary close to $2K a month, I have enough to pay for bills and utilities, groceries, and to give a little support to my family. I'm more than grateful to God for the income increase from my previous job. This job is almost double of what I was making as an English TA at home.
Also, I'm more than confident that in any situation, God will provide what I need. He has been faithful to do so thus far. I'm not interested in making some sort of return profit, I'm just happy to have a job that meets my real needs and as well as compliment my aspirations.
I know what it's like to live from paycheck to paycheck. Sometimes, I revert to a poor person's mentality when surprise expenses pop up. However, I'm learning the more I rely on God and put my financial worries in His hands, he blesses me with so much more than I can make on my own.
That's my update and my reflection on the hits and misses from my first year in Japan. Thank you for reading and to my faithful readers, thank you always for your support!