In Case of Emergency

You’ve seen the news about Japan’s earthquakes. You know about the typhoons. And by now, you’ve probably heard that your neighbor is an extremely active volcano. All this information would cause anyone to be nervous. Lucky for you, we have some resources to ease your worried mind.

The Prefectural Website has compiled an extensive list of links on how to handle your next natural disaster. You can find that list HERE. Resources include

  • How to prepare an emergency kit
  • How to evacuate
  • What to do in an earthquake, typhoon, eruption or tsunami such as:

A Tip for Drivers – if you find yourself in a car during an earthquake:

  1. Pull over to the side of the road
  2. Turn off the engine, turn on the radio for updates
  3. Put on your emergency brake/hand brake
  4. Stay in the vehicle until shaking stops
  5. You can exit the car once the shaking stops

IF YOU FEEL UNSAFE IN THE WORKPLACE

The prefectural website also has a list of contacts to report any kind of workplace harassment. CLAIR also offers counseling for long-term issues. You can find those HERE.

Finally, here is a quick list of emergency numbers to have on hand in case of the worst. They can also be found on the Prefectural Website:

  • Police (keisatsu / 警察) 110
  • Ambulance (kyuukyuusha / 救急車) 119
  • Fire (shoubousha / 消防車) 119
    • From green pay phones: Lift the receiver, push the red emergency button, and dial.
    • From grey pay phones: Lift the receiver and dial.

 

Minority Life: Opinions and a Personal Experience

Post by Aneika Angus, an ALT in Isa.

Many of you might be curious to know what it is like to be a minority in Japan. Naturally all foreigners in Japan are called gaijin (meaning outsider). It is quite easy to feel like an outsider especially in this homogenous paradise. For some strange reason Japan has managed to group everyone as a minority, e.g.: if you’re a vegetarian you’re a minority here. If you’re allergic to gluten- Minority. My focus, will predominantly be on the classification set by Jet, as you already know, the program consist of about fifteen (15) countries who participate in sending their citizens to be a part of this wonderful cultural exchange opportunity. Even though many things divide us; albeit; citizenship, race, culture, we share similar experiences across all our divisive spheres. So let’s give you some tips on how to cruise through by being seen and unseen at the same time.

A Little Background Story:

I’m from a beautiful island called Jamaica, even though I have been given the opportunity to travel the world while back home, I don’t believe I have ever felt this weird feeling-

“That hey, you’re not from here but I want to talk to you but I’m too shy to approach feeling”.

Yup that feeling that cannot be condensed into a single English word, because chances are one doesn’t exist……..Or does it? That’s homework for you to do. So yeah, I never felt that way until I got to Japan, it’s an interesting, scary, funny and almost nostalgic feeling, like being half aware of who you are but discovering there’s more to you than what meets the eye. So embrace this feeling, it’s going to creep up on you, but embrace the fact that you will stand out in a country filled with people, who do not have soulful brown eyes, naturally plumped lips, and a behind that can shade you from danger and gorgeous melanin that glows under the glisten of a sun ray.

On that note- WELCOME to Japan.

Here Are FIVE (5) Things to Embrace Prior to Coming to Japan

  • You are GOING TO STAND OUT, and there’s nothing you can do about it. #FACT
  • People are going to STARE. #FACT
  • People will want to touch you and or touch your hair. #FACT
  • People will want to take pictures with you. (this happens too often)
  • You have an ACCENT, so speak VERY SLOWLY.

While I knew some, if not all of the aforementioned facts, I never truly embraced them until after eight months of being in Japan. Tragic I know, but this sometimes happens. I never really knew I stood out until there was something I wanted to do anonymously and then I remembered-

“Booboo ain’t no anonymous in this country, you sound and look like a foreigner, so everyone will know you did it”.

Can you say PALM to FACE? Sigh. Then the stares, again I wasn’t aware of this until I attended a dinner event with a bunch of ALT’s, one of them pointed out that people were staring (not in a bad way). This again happened when I went to the city for some POW-wow time with my little brother, now let’s be clear. I consider anyone younger than me my brother. That’s just me. Anyhow, so we’re in the big city and he points out that people are staring at us; again I’m oblivious to such things, mainly because I like to mind my own business, but that’s just me. What took things to the next level was the fact that people assumed because we were “together”, of dark complexion and in Japan, that we must be a couple. What a Mess! This happens a lot when we’re together, we took a trip to Nagasaki for the Lantern Festival (BTW ya’ll should go; they have the best Chinese Food in Japan). We weren’t there for 10mins before this random lady, (to whom to this day we do not know), came up to us and asked to have her picture taken. So we did what we have slowly become accustomed to, smiled, leaned in and took the picture-without hesitation. These things happen sometimes and I hope you are ready for this. Do not expect that this might happen to you, sometimes we place our expectations so high that inevitably when reality hits, we feel cheated. Don’t, Every Situation is Different (ESID). That’s your new mantra from now on.

As a minority, here are some common issues faced:

  • Language Barrier– this comes in two phases, the most obvious, not knowing enough Japanese to have a conversation that both parties can enjoy. This is why it’s imperitive to start learning as soon as you read this article. Start with basic greetings and common terms used, I promise you this will be helpful during your stay in Japan. The latter is having difficulty communicating with other foreigners here. You would assume that because we all speak English that would mean we all have a common ground from which to have meaningful conversations. Mmmm Yes and No. Because we are a small melting pot of cultures many times things can be misconstrued due to the use of slangs/dialect terms. True Story, at my current school, should you happen to visit do not be surprised if you hear someone say: “You’re a Mess”!! Apparently I have used this term so often that it’s become main stream English for all.
  • Fish Bowl Effect– that feeling where you’re on display, we spoke about this earlier. Try to be comfortable with persons being fascinated by who you are, it’s a strange phenomenon, I know, but honestly most of them stare because they have never seen a foreigner before or let’s face it, because you’re gorgeous.
  • Entertainment/Down Time– you might find that the entertainment scene is a little dry, who am I kidding its arid. Lol. For many of us, how we entertain and have our down time will definitely change once we’re in Japan. Entertainment here is seasonal, with the majority of festivals and activities taking place between April – November. What you do for entertainment varies; some persons visit overnight onsens, go to the city etc. Just note the activities available are quite different but you’re in Japan, so be sure to enjoy.
  • Grooming/Hair Care/Wellness – In my home country it was quite easy to get everything I needed done to my body in a day. In Japan, you’re quite limited. Getting your hair done may be three (3x) the cost of what it would be in your home country. I suggest taking someone who speaks Japanese with you. Mainly because your expectations might differ from what the stylist is realistically capable of doing. This goes for men and women. Overall wellness and achieving same is quite costly here, lets deal with skin care for example, most of the products available here contain bleaching agents which whitens and dries out ethnic skin. So be sure to read what you’re purchasing or take enough supplies from home to last you until you get to Costco or can buy online. Funny story- I have eczema and stress related acne- Judge me- lol. Anyway after my first two months here my face was fine until my products ran out, I tried almost all the available products in my local drug store, what a waste, my skin finally cleared up when I started using the products I used from my home country. Thank you Jencare Skin Farm. Moral of the story, if you have problematic skin, stick to what works for you, should your products run out, visit a doctor to get a refill of your prescription before trying every over the counter drug you can find.
  • Looking Asian and Being Gaijin
    Now because we’re in the South of Japan things are a little different here so brace yourself for what’s about to happen. Let me start off with a story, so there’s a very cute ALT who looks Asian, speaks good Japanese but he is from Singapore. When he first got here and started going out and about in his community he got by fairly easily until he started interacting with the natives within his community. Now let’s be clear, you have Japanese which is the formal language which we all try to learn, and then there are the derivatives such as dialects etc. In Kagoshima we call it Kagoshima-Ben. Now this particular ALT happened to be in conversation with an individual and felt quite proud until the native started speaking in Kagoshima-Ben. WHAT a Mess!!! This happens sometimes, people feel because you look Asian, you must speak Japanese and cook with soy sauce. Don’t be discouraged. If you explain you’re not from Japan, they usually give you a free pass. But, be on the lookout for the Kagoshima-Ben.

See you in the next helpful article.

 

When I First Arrived: CULTURE SHOCK!

Originally posted by an anonymous contributor.

My first year on JET was similar to riding a roller coaster: It had many ups, downs, twists and turns. When I arrived in Japan, I was at the beginning of the ride. The coaster slowly eased up to the top of the first slope, the anticipation of what lie ahead was exciting and nerve wrecking.  Then it slid down from that first hill, and there was no going back. I had started the ride of my life.start roller coaster

Prior to coming to Japan, ALTs are warned of culture shock and given ideas for coping. You go to Japan with the notion that it will happen, but the effects of culture shock are rarely understood before they are felt. In the past I have struggled with anxiety. I knew before I left that it would be a challenge, but a challenge I was willing to try. I arrived in Japan with absolute elation for learning Japanese, meeting my students, and living in Japan. Even with this excitement, culture shock was looming around the curve. Towards the end of that first month I began to feel tired, under the weather, and down-spirited. I constantly worried about my health because I had heard horror stories of past JETs who had issues and needed hospitalization. Try as I may to have a positive attitude, I slowly slipped into a slump. I thought this was just being anxious, because I had never experienced culture shock before.

Things in Japan are different from what I was previously used to. Students sleep in class, sick leave is hardly used, and ATMs have operating hours! Who knew a robot needed time off? I could not speak a lot of Japanese so I could not say the things I wanted to say and I became very frustrated. All these things plus the stresses of a new job and living in a foreign country chipped away at me.adult

It wasn’t until I started talking to other JETs that I recognized I was experiencing culture shock. It became clear that I was not the only one who was struggling- we all were. I have seen how other expats have struggled and some choose to isolate themselves. As much as you want to keep to yourself and stay in your apartment, you must do the opposite. Become more involved, join clubs, pick up a new hobby, stay active, and talk to people. If you are struggling with culture shock, anxiety or depression, please do not be afraid to receive help. You can talk to your friends and family, other JETs, or a counselor. Even if you are in a slump, remember- you have an amazing opportunity to explore and try new things. The life of an expat is not easy but the things you gain from the experience are worth the struggle.

Though I still struggle with culture shock I find that its’ effects are lessening. There are days I do feel completely stressed out, but I know I am coming to the top of the next slope of that roller coaster. The inclines are beginning to even out, the curves aren’t so steep, and I feel more content with where I am now.

As the holiday season comes closer, it is more important than ever to get involved and form a sense of community. Stay positive and be open to changes because one thing is for sure: when you get off this roller coaster you won’t be the same person as when you got on.

Here is my challenge for you: Get more involved from from this point forward. Make a marked effort to meet new people on the JET Programme, and in other places. Join an activity, find a hobby, check out extra curriculars at your schools. The worst they can do is say “no”, right?

For those who need assistance or want someone to talk to here areold ladies roller coastersome resources to check out. You can do this.

Enjoy the ride!

What Your First Day in Kagoshima Might Feel Like

The following is a post from a South African JET living in Kawanabe.

From Tokyo:

The morning we were set to depart for Kagoshima prefecture, I was super early. Almost uncomfortably so. Going from “Africa time” to “Japanese time” had me overcompensating. ..

To Kagoshima:

Upon arrival at Kagoshima Airport I was greeted by Yonemitsu-sensei (my supervisor) and Hosotaki-sensei.  They took me for lunch at a classic Japanese restaurant.  I was thrilled when the menu was physically big to accommodate a picture of every meal they served. I got to point and ask questions rather than go with a luck of the draw. I had udon noodles, for the first time, in a broth with nori and a soft poached egg.  The udon noodles are a lot slicker than the soba noodles, which the teachers had (I should have taken it as a sign) and I feel like it was taking me ages to eat but they were patient and seemed glad that I was using chopsticks.

Little Kawanabe is about an hour and a half from the airport.

To Kawanabe:

On the road to Kawanabe, I was mostly conversation staring – one of my more regular activities here that I hope will (relatively) soon fade to actual conversation participation or at least understanding – but I was also just staring out of the window.  The landscape here is gorgeous. You can’t believe that there are regular towns in this sort of setting. The types that aren’t providing employees for fishing farms and mountain lodges. It is just hills and trees and rivers.

And farms. They farm tea and sweet potato.  Kagoshima-ken (Prefecture) is actually the second highest producer of tea in the country and is growing in popularity due to many different tea plant cultivators producing a wide range of different flavours.

I learned their other crop is sweet potato. Kagoshima-ken is in fact the highest producer of sweet potato in the country! They also decided that they cannot possible eat all of this sweet potato and they make a liquor out of them called Shochu. A must-try they say.

To Work…

It was straight on to the school where I was shown to my desk in the staff room. The staff room is nothing like the lounge-like getaways that teachers have back home but is rather an open plan office that seems to breed ultra efficiency.  (One of the panellists at Tokyo Orientation said that this is a facade and that there are some watching YouTube videos… Stepping in here, I am not convinced…)

To Errands..

Later, we bustled back to the car and were off to order an inkan.  Here, you very rarely sign anything but you rather use a stamp of your name. Just about nothing can be done without it. Even if you do sign for whatever reason, you still need to stamp. Since they will only be ready the next day, the only thing to be done today is to register me at the City Office with my residence card.  Standard bureaucracy. But there was this glasses box, you know, in case you forgot your glasses at home and need to fill in a form! Because, shame, the population is getting old… Died from the adorableness…

Next they took me on a little ride around my little town.  We stopped at AZ Store – a megastore that is opened 24 hours a day.  Think about baking Makro (Walmart) and Pick n Pay Hyper (Costco) into a cake and then icing it with Builder’s Warehouse (Lowes) and sprinkling it with SupaQuick (auto-shop)… Although not mind-boggling massive, it is pretty comprehensive.

And Back Again.

Back to school for some time-passing Japanese study and then off for dinner with the department.

There are 5 teachers – 3 male and  2 female – and they seem very easy to get along with.

Because my flat was being cleaned, I couldn’t move in immediately so I was sleeping at Hiraoka-sensei’s – one of the female teachers – house for 2 nights.

Most the teachers at my school actually in live in Kagoshima-Shi (City) and commute in everyday.  On a good day, this takes about 40 minutes – Mostly due to winding roads and a highway speed limit of 80km/h (town is 40 km/h – this is going to take some getting used to…)  Hiraoka-sensei lives in a quaint neighbourhood with a park in the middle and neat gardens, the epitome of Japanese suburbia.

To Bed!

We watched a little bit of TV – news, a cooking show and baseball (possibly my first outside of a movie!). I learnt that Kyushu has just one baseball team – while the general trend is that each prefecture has a team – and we are the Softbank Hawks.

Sleeping in a home environment did me wonders!