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Okazaki for auction

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Students at Yamasa are divided into two camps. There are those who consider it but a country town - boring and lacking in entertainment possibilities and venues. Try living in Suzuka, Mie Ken I tell them. Ten months teaching English, studying by correspondence and very little else. Seriously, I can't say I haven't learnt all about the satisfaction of a Zen existence. Personally, I love the freedom of having no car, no regular 9.00 to 5.00 job, not having to spend those endless hours on the phone organizing my social life and that of my friends. It's carefree and healthy, excluding test and exam time of course when I make a complete liar of myself. Having said that, and I'm sure most post graduates will agree, it's a treat to have time off to be able to focus on study (when I'm not teaching English at the YES School of English on the ground floor or proof reading Italian in Declan's office). This outlines the difference beween members of group one and two. If you haven't enrolled yet and this has put you off - dont worry. I think it's safe to say that group one outnumbers two by far.

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I came to Japan to improve my Japanese. Having been a high school language teacher in Australia for over 8 years I did the obvious thing - got a job teaching English. Within two days of arriving in the country. It wasn't long before I met foreigners who had lived here for years (no exaggeration) who spoke less Japanese than I did. It's written in many books that Japanese is not a language that one picks up by immersion. Believe it! Unlike other countries it can also be hard to find oportunities to speak Japanese if you're working as an English teacher. Everyone you meet will want to practise their English. I should have enrolled in a language school from the start.

I'm writing this for all the people who have just arrived at Yamasa, for those that haven't but still don't know, and for those who are thinking of coming. This an inventory of all the things I can think of to make living here more interesting and more affordable. Although prices are more expensive than in most other countries. eating out can be quite cheap compared to back home and there are lots of things to do if you get out of your room and do some exploring. That's when you have those unique adventures your friends are eagerly waiting to read about in your emails.

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Do try a homestay. I was hesitant at first, being used to living on my own, but it has been the best thing I've done yet in terms of improving my speaking ability. Not only that, it's a way in to Japanese society and more particularly, a lead to meeting more Okazaki citizens. I was very lucky to move in with an excellent family whom I consider my surrogate family in Japan. There are times when I get down about my conversational skills and feel I should be doing another homestay. After a month I moved into Residence U. Although it's a far cry from the palatial two storey house I had to myself in Suzuka, I'm much happier in my compact little studio than I ever was back there.

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