I finally arrived in Kawamoto two days ago – to be greeted by my supervisor and to meet the principal (kocho-sensei) and vice principal (kyouto-sensei) of my base school, Shimane Chuo High School.
I will be living in a teacher`s apartment, so called because it is located right next to the high school and offers discounted rent for teachers. My neighbours are kocho-sensei and kyouto-sensei (so I have to behave…).
My predecessor had lived in this apartment for 3 years, and had acquired quite a few “western comforts” that seemed a bit unnecessary to me. I had hoped to designate one of the rooms in the apartment as my yoga room, but after evaluating the apartment, I decided it would be better if I took everything I didn`t want, put it in that room, and closed the door! Therefore, my “western” themed room now contains: a couch, a desk, an office chair, a microwave, a toaster, a full-length mirror, a few weird chairs, and all the office supplies and home decor you could ever wish for.
My apartment has six main areas: kitchen, living room, bedroom, bath, entry, and a lovely full-length veranda. The floors in the bedroom and living room are tatami (never wear shoes on tatami), and there are moveable walls (shoji screens) which divide the rooms if I so choose. I prefer it to be all one open space.
It is outrageously hot and humid this time of year, but mornings and evenings sometimes feature a cool-ish breeze. I use a fan to sleep at night.
To keep myself sane I`ve been going on long morning walks. I wake up around 4:00am due to jet lag, and the sky starts to brighten around 4:30am, so this routine has been working out well. Kawamoto is a joy to peruse – so many beautiful homes, mountains, secret pathways, rice fields, and small home gardens. Around 6:00am everyone comes out of their homes and waters whatever plants they have sitting around their porch or driveway. A cheery “Ohaiyo Gozaimasu!” greets me when I pass anyone on the street. It`s a wonderful way to start your day.
Although I speak very little Japanese, and read even less, I was able to make my way through the co-op and find some food to eat. I asked a few questions, pointing at items and waving my arms wildly while saying “Kore wa nan desuka”, which means “What is that?!” Everyone is so helpful, even if I have no idea what they`re saying. I made it home with a couple of packages of locally-made (Izumo) soba noodles, some dried sea weed from Hokkaido (Norther Japanese island), shoyu, a cute bundle of mushrooms, and umeboshi (pickled plums). All went well in preparing the meal, but eating it without MJ was a lonely experience. I`m attempting to ask some of my coworkers to come over for dinner, but I want to ensure I understand some of the ettiquette surrounding home visits in Japan before I do so.
I begin teaching at Shimane Chuo High School, Yakami High School, and Iwami Special Needs School on August 22nd. Until then, my days in the school office at Shimane Chuo are spent reading team-teaching guides, asking silly questions of my coworkers, and wandering the school grounds in search of students to talk to or observe in their club practices.