Apr 19, 2017
A large percentage of foreigners coming into Japan to live and work here tend to be employed as english teachers, and of these a large percentage are with the JET program. I am one of those people. It wasn’t the first time I had lived in Japan, but it was the first time to work here. With no background in teaching, or any experience lesson planning or coming up with and coordinating games of any kind, I was terrified. But also because I came through the JET program I was told there would be a good network to help me adjust to my new life and job here. Here. In Gunma prefecture. If you are unfamiliar with Japanese geography, then picture Tokyo, that huge major metropolitan area where pretty much everyone imagines when you think of big city japan. Now go north from there about a hop skip and a jump. You can also imagine a 2 and a half hour train ride or a 2 hour car ride, a 6 hour bike ride, or possibly a 17 hour walk (according to google maps). It's pretty easy to get here from tokyo or should I say, go to Tokyo from here. There is a saying, “Every road leads to Tokyo.”. This is sorta true and includes biking roads and most built canals. Back before Japan was industrialized, everyone walked that 17 hour trek to Edo, the old name for Tokyo. The big bosses had to go have chats with the emperor back before they could just send him a message on Line. So they made pilgrimages yearly that set up the main roads which are now the paths of the highways and freeways, and train lines. Gunma prefecture is the beginning of a mountain range that extends up into the northern parts of Japan. The very bottom part of that is where my town that the Jet program placed me in resides. And one of those highways leading up north into the mountains, and south to Tokyo runs in front of the school I taught, as well as my apartment. I didn’t have a car, so this didn’t make that shiny city of lights feel closer, but I was aware all I needed to do was hop skip and jump. Nestled snug in the valley of a very small mountain that on clear days from the top, Tokyo Sky Tree as well as very far off Mount Fuji, can be seen, my placement was certainly considered rural. I had all the modern conveniences within walking distance, and with a 20 minute bike ride I could get myself to the train station and follow all the other youth on the weekends down south. But anyone from a major city would cry at how out in the boonies it was. This part of Gunma, and probably northern Saitama and a few of the other surrounding prefectures are part of a strange limbo area in Japan of not quite feeling like you were living in the country because there were just so many people, but there just wasn’t enough stuff to say it was urban. If you wanted shopping or partying, you really did have to get out of the small town and visit Tokyo. But there were things to do without having to leave, it just took more effort to figure out what those were and who to talk to. Usually when people make plans, they don't want to have to go out of their way to have fun, so why go out of the way to invite that foreigner who can't speak the same language, right? My first year in Japan was very difficult for me, and I think it had to do with this limbo area. Many of my "problems" centered around not enough support from those around me and not knowing how to best utilize the support I did have. Moving to a new country takes an incredible amount of adjustment, and no matter how well you think you can adapt, there will be moments of stress. Sometimes intense stress. It is very easy for some to slip into a negative space, which I did. I didn't know who to turn to. And here lies the problem with not really being in the country, not really in the city. Rural areas set people up with the idea that they must help out their neighbors. Community is what allows everyone and everything to function smoothly. The smaller the town, the more people know about your business, but also the more they are going to lend out their help. Help will come to you whether you like it or not. In the city, where there are so many people, this is not likely to happen. There are enough people though, for communities to form and advertise so you can find what you need. Sometimes this is through other foreigners, or perhaps church groups. However there are paid services for those who can't find the community they are looking for. It's easy to look and find help. But in limbo land, there is just enough people that everyone knows your business, but not enough of your business and they assume someone else is taking care of it. There are multiple occasions I can think of that, after everything had been dealt with and was peachy keen, I'll tell my harrowing tale about such and other and how no one seemed to come to my aide, and the response would be along the lines of, “Oh I heard about when that happened, but I thought someone had your back. Didn't your school help you out? Let me know next time, I'll be there.". So if you find yourself in limbo land Japan, appreciate the different aspects it gives you. Take advantage of the amount of people around you and make friends. If there are just so few, then become buddy buddy with the eighty year old down the road.And if you are in some major metropolitan area (or very close to one) then marvel at the overwhelming amount of opportunities you have and just step outside .
American step mom with beautiful Brazilian babies. Raising them in Japan. I'm a crafter too
That was a great read! Personally, I've never lived in limbo land in Japan. I've always been in Tokyo so for me it's hard to imagine what life might be like for foreigners in these places. I imagine you get a better sense of 'community' and the way in which locals interact with one another. I hear that most JET posts are out in the more rural areas of Japan.
@DaveJpn I really don't mind where I was placed honestly. After the first few years adjusting to living in a new country, it really feel like home. I've moved out of that town, but now I'm in a town that is pretty much the same thing. I have friends though that just couldn't handle not being surrounded by everything they need just outside their door. Missy if the people I know who also went on JET were waa aaaaaaaay out in the country. Like, a 24 hour ferry rude to the closest Starbucks. Places where there are no convenient stores or traffic lights. But they ended up loving their towns and the people there. It's really all about taking advantage of what you get, or getting out of it as soon as you can.
@DaveJpn also thanks for reading and saying you liked the post