First day in Akita

I arrived at Akita airport on Wednesday August 1st. It was early afternoon. The flight was short, comfortable and i didn’t think too much. But as i shuffled off the plane, i was immediately struck with feelings of nervousness. My head kind of went blank and the dreaded hot and humid weather was not helping at all. I mean, everything was great during Tokyo Orientation, there were English signs and English speakers everywhere to help us, but now that I’m in Akita, now what? No one told me what happens from here. Lots of questions began popping into my head. I remember as i was collecting my luggage i would occasionally peek outside the automatic gates to see if i can see my name on a sign post but all i saw was many bright smiling faces holding signs which one, did not have my name and two, did not help calm my nervousness. At that point i remembered being told by someone that first impressions are really important in Japan, and thus i went to the restroom to straighten up (as you normally would do before a date if you’re early). After I collected my luggage, I waited until everyone got theirs. I did not want to be the first one out but everybody seemed to have the same thought as me. Eventually, I gathered courage and pushed out first and everyone followed…’damn them’. Things happened so quickly from the moment i got out the gates. I felt dozen pairs of eyes looking at me briefly and then moving on past me, probably thinking i was just a Japanese person returning home. Yeah, i kind of blend in here which was good because people don’t stare and judge but bad because they assume you know Japanese (more on that later). I scanned and found my name on a sign, ‘Mr Wei Li’ it read, I was then greeted by many eagerly awaiting people, including Jim (my neighbor and a third year JET), Francesca (also my neighbor and a second year JET) and my supervisor Fukuda-san. I muttered some ill prepared Japanese introduction that i could remember at the time, i think ‘Hajimemashite’ came out but not sure what followed. I was also told by Jim that we would meet later. I followed Fukuda. Fukuda was actually older than i expected, probably in her late forty/early fifties (but don’t tell her that :)). As she lead me to her car we conversed in English which gave me a massive sigh of relief and it felt comfortable. We talked about many things from my reasons to coming to Japan and my hobbies to the schools and Akita in general. At that point i was not nervous any more. Fukuda was one of the head English teachers at Yuzawa Senior High School, she was not very hands on in terms of helping me with things but overall she was friendly and i felt i could get along with her quite well. (More on teachers later)

From there it was about an hour and thirty minute drive to Yuzawa (the city i will be living and teaching in). I remember mainly seeing rice paddies and occasional buildings which i was expecting. As we arrived in Yuzawa, i saw a lot more buildings (the city itself was bigger than i thought but more on that later), we went straight to my base school, Yuzawa Senior High School (yes not my apartment, yes still in my sweaty, sticky shirt and suit pants). The school principal was away that day but the vice principal was there, along with some other teachers. I greeted them all (properly this time, with ‘Maikeru Ri to mo shimasu and dozo yoroshiku onegaishimasu’ :)) I was even introduced to some third year students or year 12s (i thought they were really short) who were preparing for tests at school, even during Summer Holidays. They spoke very quietly, probably because they were nervous. I remember one of them said in Japanese: ‘eh Nihonjin desu ka?’ (which roughly translates to: Heh, is he Japanese?’) which i confidently replied ‘Iie Osutoraria jin desu’ :D (yes i prepared that line because i knew it will be asked). I was then taken to my desk in the staff room and briefly shown around the school.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon at the City Office sorting out my Resident card, signing my leasing contract, being shown how the hot water worked in my apartment, unpacking and doing grocery shopping.

In the evening i caught up with the other Yuzawa JETs, 3 new and 2 existing for some Izakaya (Japanese bar/restaurant) for food and drinks as a welcome party. It was my first ‘Kanpai’ experience in Japan and i will always remember it.
Thanks Jim and Fran for arranging it and taking us out almost every night lol. You guys are awesome!

I would love to hear other JET’s first day experiences.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to leave a comment.
I shall try to post more regularly.
Mike

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