Archive for category Life in Japan
Before finishing off the stories of my teaching adventures in Japan, I’d be doing a disservice to my blog to not talk about one of the most interesting parts of life in Japan: love hotels. Note to readers: if you were expecting pictures you will be disappointed – this isn’t that type of blog.
Japan is a densely populated country with living spaces that would be considered “small” by North American standards. Also, it’s not uncommon for older relatives to be living with the children’s families. This creates a situation where privacy for some, um… quality time with your significant other is not always easy to come by. The same problems exist for English teachers, who often live in small apartments together where you can hear almost everything that is going on even behind closed doors.
Fortunately Japan has a solution for the lack of privacy: love hotels! They are specifically designed as a place where people can go for some intimate time together. Rooms are available for a “rest”, usually 2-3 hours, or a “stay” which lasts overnight.
The typical love hotel room is MUCH bigger than a regular hotel room. Love hotel rooms are also more fun, featuring bigger beds, adjustable music and mood lighting, and extras like video games, karaoke machines or even tanning beds. The bathrooms contain nice deep tubs big enough for two, usually with jets. Due to the purpose of the rooms, you will always find condoms, a sex toy vending machine, and 3 channels of free porn on the TV. Be warned: one of these channels is usually terrifying ( depending on your personal tastes).
Love hotels are also built for privacy: check in can be done without any face to face communication. Food can be ordered from nearby restaurants and the delivery comes through a tiny door in the wall. I have even seen love hotels where each parking spot has it’s own entrance to the rooms.
Overall, love hotels rooms are bigger, better, and more comfortable than regular hotel rooms, often at a lower price. If you’re for a fun cultural experience in Japan, or you don’t want your roommates to listen in, I highly recommend taking a rest at a love hotel* – they’re fantastic!
* You will need to provide your own partner
After a few weeks of trying to decide which of my things were going to stay in Japan and which things I wanted to bring back to Canada, I have ended up with 5 boxes of stuff to send and my 2 giant suitcases to accompany me on the flight.
About a month ago, my mother and sister started apartment hunting for me in Winnipeg. Vacancies are usually pretty low, so it took them a while to find a nice, spacious 1 bedroom apartment in Osborne Village, the same neighbourhood I lived in before I moved to Japan. The area is filled with cool stores and restaurants all within walking distance, and is served by several bus routes. Having a place to live also means that I have a place to mail my boxes.
There was no way I could get 5 boxes to the post office by myself. Thankfully, my helpful future father-in-law had the day off and gave me a ride. He waited patiently while I filled out the parcel forms several times. The one thing I wasn’t prepared for was the customs forms where I had to list all of the contents of each box. This took a little memory work, a little unpacking, and a lot of time. In total it cost me 40,000 yen to ship my stuff home (about $400). Ouch!
Shop sensibly when living overseas for a few years – you’ll thank me later.
Packing with a hangover also sucks.
Business attire in Japan is very conservative, so it makes sense that English schools have strict rules regarding teachers’ appearance. NOVA has the typical rules for dress code, but they also have an interesting set of rules regarding facial hair: if you have it you can keep it as long as it’s properly trimmed and groomed. If you don’t have facial hair you aren’t allowed to grow it on the job.
Ever since my last lesson I decided to stop shaving and see if I could grow anything. So far I have learned two important things:
- There are spots on my face where nothing grows. This is going to make a beard impossible and a goatee challenging
- Growing facial hair on a usually clean shaven face is super itchy
Some people like my roommate Azeroth can grow a full beard in a matter of hours. With my uncooperative face and blond hair it’s going to take me weeks and may look ridiculous the entire time. I can now understand the reason for NOVA’s “can’t grow it on the job” rules.
When English teachers leave NOVA, there are usually 2 major farewell parties: the “official” party with teachers and staff, and the “unofficial” party with teachers and students.
Tonight was my official farewell party. Most of the teachers from the area showed up, and a few staff joined as well. We enjoyed beer and sushi at Ryoba, the most popular izakaya for teachers. I was happy that The Penpal was able to attend for a few hours. Her parents are extremely strict and didn’t like her out late, especially to hang out at an izakaya with a bunch of rowdy English teachers. I’m happy they were flexible for my farewell party.
After closing out Ryoba, the second party included karaoke and pool (billiards) at one of the new karaoke places near Numazu station. It was a lot of fun and I didn’t have to worry about being in rough shape for work the next day: there is no more work!
The Penpal and I spent the day in Tokyo attending two very different cultural events: ikebana and live theatre.
In the morning we took the shinkansen to Shinagawa and then transferred to Meguro to see an ikebana show. Ikebana is the ancient Japanese art of flower arranging, something that neither the Penpal or I knew anything about. The invitation came from one of the Penpal’s friends, who was a student of Shogo Kariyazaki, one of Japan’s most famous flower arrangers.
We walked through a beautiful old building looking at the intricate displays of flowers and branches set up along the way. I didn’t really understand what we were looking at, but they looked nice. Near the exit there was a table set up where Mr. Kariyazaki himself was signing copies of his new book. He looked like someone right out of Rivendell in Middle Earth! Waiting to see him was a long line filled with middle aged women who were as excited as teenagers meeting a pop idol. It was a truly interesting look into a culture that was totally unfamiliar to both of us.
In the afternoon we went to see The Tokyo International Players perform Agatha Christie’s classic whodunit “And Then There were None”. The TIP is an English language amateur theatre group which was founded in 1896. We came to see my former coworker and Saturday night late shift companion Vivian in her Japanese stage debut as Ethel Rogers, the housekeeper and second victim. The performance was fantastic, and it was a great English challenge for The Penpal to interpret a variety of different British accents from the characters. We had a short visit with Vivian after the show – with only a few weeks left until I moved back to Canada this was my opportunity to say goodbye.
After our cultural day of ikebana and murder, we spent our evening wandering around Shibuya before returning home. It was a very fun day!
One of the many reasons why I like teaching in Numazu is the variety of people different people I get to teach. I have taught English to doctors, students, musicians, Buddhist monks, soldiers, hostesses, and cowboys to name a few. Among the interesting occupations was miniature dollhouse furniture artist, which is not someone you would normally get to meet everyday.
My student and her husband own Dollhouse Kimura, a store in Numazu where they create and sell very detailed, very realistic dollhouse furniture and plants. They occasionally visit model conventions around the world, but especially in America. Speaking English was helpful to interact with the other modellers.
I always enjoyed teaching this student and did my best to help her become more confident with her English abilities. When she heard that I was leaving Japan, she invited me to come and see her shop before I left the country.
After work, The Penpal and I went to the store which is located in the Nakamise shopping area near Numazu station. We got a tour of the store and workshop. I’m not artistic at all, so it was very interesting seeing how they created their very detailed, very tiny furniture. I was in awe of the skill and patience required to create their work. At the end of the tour they gave us a miniature plant as a housewarming gift for our future house in Canada.
As mentioned throughout my blog, NOVA has strict rules against interacting with students outside of the classroom. Going to a student’s business and accepting a gift were both not allowed. Having said that, I am happy that I had the opportunity to interact with some of my students outside of work – these interactions were some of the best and most memorable experiences of my time living in Japan.