Saturday, 9 July 2011

My predecessor

Working as a JET in Japan normally means replacing another JET who did the same job the year before. A JET's predecessor can be a really useful source of specific information about the details of the post, accomodation, the local town, and many other general titbits. I asked my predecessor about three things:

  1. The school, and teaching there
  2. The city
  3. The accomodation

He got back to me today, and this is what he said -


Ireland? You must be having fun. Anyway about the questions.

1) The base school we go to is Koriyama Higashi H.S. it is considered a "shin gakku" (academic school) I have about 10 classes a week here, each about 50 min. I'm not sure who you'll be working with for team teachers, this changes every term.

But, when you arrive you'll probably continue with the schdule I have. You will have to create your own lesson plans. The team teachers will help translate English into Japanese for you. As for the students we teach both the freshman and seniors. Along with Koriyama Higashi H.S. you will have to make visits to several schools within the Kenchu district of Fukushima Prefecture. On Monday's I go to Iwase Nogyo Gakko, this is an agricultural school. This school focuses on agriculture. They have live stock, plants, and vegetables at this school. I teach all grades at this school. Your schedule will very here. On Tuesday's I go to Koriyama Kitakogyo a technical H.S., here I teach all grades as well. This will be your steady schdule most likely. Higashi H.S. is only Wednesday through Friday. Sometimes you'll have to make an occasional visit to other schools as well such as Koriyama Yogou Gakko, this is a special needs school for students with physical and mental disabilites. This school is really good though. The staff and students here are nice. For Higashi it is about a 25 min walk from our apt. there are buses you can catch near our apt to go to school but, it'll be faster to walk it maybe and you'll eventually have to walk from the bus stop to our school which is some distance. For Iwase Nogyo you'll have to catch a train to the school, for Kita kogyo H.S. you can catch a bus. I don't know if your planning to get a car, it might be easier but, I always use the public transit and it is pretty good. If you get a car I heard its kind of expensive for the gas, registration fees, insurance, etc. so, if your planning to stay more than a year here it might be worth it. For after school activities there are many different school clubs, such as baseball and other sports, band, and some traditional Japanese stuff like, "shodou" caligraphy.

2. Koriyama is nice. It's not a super big city but, its cool. It is situated near Sendai which is a big city and 40 min. train ride on bullet train. It is also near Tokyo if you have to get to Tokyo it takes about 1.5 hours on the bullet train. The summer is really hot, fall very nice, winter very cold, and spring nice. People are friendly. But, for Japanese culture people are very shy and quiet so, it may seem as if their rude and snobish at times but, this is because their very conservative and shy and not as open and loud. To hang out, the place is downtown, by the train station area, there are alot of restaurants, shopping places, and movie theaters that have a lot of foreign movies, mainly from the U.S.

3. Our apt is cool. It's spacious, one of my worries before coming here was that if the place was small and cramped, it turned out to be the opposite. It has a living room, kitchen, walk-in shower, western toilet, and 2 bedrooms and balcony. From school it's a bit far, like I was saying it's a 25 min walk to Higashi H.S. but, it's near a few restuarants and some grocery stores. In the winter it is super cold. There is no insulation nor central heating. This is typical for many Japanese homes. At times it can get pretty snowy outside. Also for our apt, there are no other JET's living in the same building, they live on the other side of town. But, this summer I don't know if the Board of Education will decide to put JETs in our building this year, things change.

Also, there are some things you should know due to the events of March. In Koriyama things are relatively OK, what I mean by this is that, the electricity, transportation, Internet, and TV programing is OK. The food, is relatively safe. The government didn't impose any new warnings on foods or tap water or at least not that I know of. The government said not to drink milk and eat leafy green vegetables. This was imposed in March/ April I think. I don't if this advisory has been lifted. From what I know of, grocery stores don't sell such products that are or potentially contaminated. Although the government says that things are somewhat OK, I still find it hard to believe. I have lots of doubts of what authorities say.

Other concerns, people are told not to touch dirt, soil, or stagnate water and to avoid walking in the rain. Besides this, we are also directed to not open windows so, that the air can't come in because of the radiation. And wearing those face masks are also advised along with long sleve shirts to cover up as much as possible. These recommendations I follow to an extent.

For earthquakes, we still have them. Aftershocks aren't as frequent as before but we still have them once in ahwile. Some are not that strong but, some can be felt. The magnitude of the aftershocks is about maybe anywhere from 1-4 in magnitude for the majority.

Some JETs whom left to go back to their home country in March decided not to go back to Fukushima prefecture but, at the same time many returned back as well. I don't really know the percentage of how many people decided to not come back and who returned. Also, there are JETs whom originally decided to re-contract before March but, then as of current decided to not re-contract. And their are JETs who originally re-contracted and are planning to stick to their contract. Everyone has their own ESID (Every Situation Is Different) to influence their decisions I guess.

As for the mood of everyone, people are trying to stay positive. Everyone is trying to live as normal as possible, doing daily normal routines. I can't really tell sometimes though, if people are trying to put up a front and not seem so concerned about everything in order to not make others so, worried, if people are using the idea of "tatemae" to hide one's true feelings. This is something I'm really concerned about, that people are maybe being to relaxed on all that is involved with the Fukushima power plants or that maybe because I try to follow the news of everything from foreign coverage and Japan about this issue I have a different perception of things. Some say the U.S. media sensationalized coverage about the power plants and over reacted while people in other parts of the world think that the way how TEPCO and the government handled matters irresponsibly. In Japan, people are able to get foreign coverage about everything. I know some people in Japan that don't believe government officials as well.

For me personally though, I feel relatively safe to an extent. The issues surrounding the concerns of radiation bother me. I'm not tryng to scare you into not coming to Fukushima prefecture. I just want to be honest so, that you know what you might or might not expect when you come to Koriyama. I guess in short, there are major concerns to think about but, at the same time I want you to know that JET is a great opportunity and if you turn it down you might regret it. I want you to know all this becasue I really value my experiences I had in Fukushima and Japan as a whole. People have different opinions about everything so, don't only listen to me or what you read or heard from the news, do as much homework and find out about things on this matter as much as possible from other sources.

Interesting, eh? Lots to think about. I'd love to hear any thoughts you might have in the comments below.

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