So…I’m moving to Japan!

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One of my favourite times in Arashiyama, Kyoto prefecture

Over the past couple of blog posts, I’ve mentioned being either really busy or planning for my future (hence the lack of blog posts). As many of you know, Japan is a country that I have been enthralled with since I was in Primary School, and when I turned 18 I finally got to visit. Since then, I had been working hard to make my dream a reality: to move to Japan. Not to study or have a long holiday, but to work there and earn it.

Well in November I applied for the JET Programme, in January I was interviewed at the Embassy of Japan in London, and in late March I found out…I GOT THE JOB! Although it is something I have wanted to do for over half of my life, it has really taken time to sink in. Leading up to my interview result, I had convinced myself that I hadn’t been accepted, I applied for other jobs and unfollowed all JET Programme related social media, so I was not even aware on the day that the results were coming out, so lets just say when I got that email one evening I was a little bit shocked to say the least… It was not until last month when placement notifications started rolling out across the world that I realised what I am getting myself into.

Would I be placed in one of my requested regions: Hiroshima, Okayama, Wakayama? If not would I get somewhere I would like? What about geography, could it be near Russia in the North? Or the Pacific islands in the South? A city like Tokyo, or a village in the middle of nowhere? All of this would make a huge difference as Japan is an extremely diverse country when considering geography and demographics. Most JET participants do not get their requests, there are over 47 prefectures, so I was preparing myself for anything. However in Mid-May, I was asked for my driving licence… meaning…they had already decided where I was going. At this point I prepared myself for rural Hokkaido, Shikoku or Okinawa since they are so isolated and have less public transport, as much as I was open-minded and would make the most of anywhere in Japan, I did not want any of these regions in my heart.

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A street on Itsukushima island, Hiroshima prefecture

The second half of May arrived, as everyone received their letters, mine did not arrive from the embassy *cue frustration and impatience*. However, on one morning, I woke to an email from my future employer: Akiota BOE. My first thought? ‘WHERE ON EARTH IS AKIOTA?!’ I had never heard of the town, but a few taps on Google Maps and Google Images, my face lit up I realised I am going to be moving to my first preference of prefecture: HIROSHIMA!!! An adorable town nestled in Hiroshima’s mountains. I realised instantly I would most likely be given Elementary Schools/Junior High Schools as I was hired by a town rather than a prefecture specifically, thus another request of mine was granted.

I was in absolute disbelief, to be so lucky to get exactly what I wanted. A town far enough from the city to provide me with an experience of a lifetime in ‘real’ Japan, but still with the Shinkansen (bullet train), airport and Hiroshima city close by. Now I find myself experiencing extreme emotions about my situation. I am exhilarated at the thought of the experience and lessons I am going to learn, a year alone in the Japanese countryside will teach me a lot about myself, and the fact that I have worked for this for around half of my life. However, I will be living away from my family and loved ones for at least a year, with it being difficult to return home. Parting ways with these people will hurt me so much, however there is so much to gain. I’ve always tried to be resilient as possible. Besides, dreams only come true if you are willing to make sacrifices and work hard.

As I am writing this post I have just under three weeks until I land in Tokyo, so I am getting stuck into my Japanese studying, lesson ideas, as much educational work experience as possible before I make the move. Below I’ve answered some FAQs, (as of course, you get asked a lot when doing this sort of thing…and I haven’t even blogged about it until today!)

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Mt Misen, Hiroshima prefecture

WHAT IS IT YOU’RE DOING AGAIN?

I have been accepted by the JET Programme. It is a government sponsored role that recruits Britons to teach English in Japanese schools, however depending on your placement/BOE your job could be anything. I have been told that I will be doing things ranging from creating lesson plans/curriculums to teaching adult classes and helping out with various things in the local area. The recruitment process is very competitive, however the rewards cannot be beaten. The salary is great for a graduate role, expenses are paid and all the confusing things are taken care of by the British and Japanese governments. However, JET is not the only route into working in Japan, it is just the easiest and best paid. Interac was my back up option which is the same job but a lower salary and not affiliated with the national government. However everyone who I have spoken to have enjoyed their roles with Interac also! I also have friends who work as private tutors/at conversation schools, which are well paid and based in cities 9 times out of 10, but are long and late hours with little holiday. I will probably write a post about getting yourself out to Japan in future! Number one recommendation though? Get a degree, you must have one to get a working visa.

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Hiroshima Peace Park (The A-Bomb Dome, Peace Flame and Memorial Cenotaph)

WHAT WILL YOUR NEW HOME BE LIKE?

I will be working in a small area called Akiota which is made up of lots of smaller villages in Hiroshima prefecture (I won’t specify the specific village I am living in though.) It’s much smaller than any of the towns where I live in commuter-belt Hertfordshire, the seasons are strong with very hot summers and very snowy winters and it’s very mountainous. It’s home to a national park full of hiking trails, waterfalls and gorges. Hiroshima is part of the Chugoku region of Japan (not to be confused with China, they both are called the same thing in Japanese) which is the most westerly part of Honshu, the main island that is home to the major cities: Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya etc. Much like the North/South divide in the UK, Japan has a East/West divide, with Tokyo and Osaka being the two main rivalries. The West where I will be living is the more ‘friendly’ of the two, the side that has more hearty food with lighter broths and a more ‘rough’ accent. I fell in love with Hiroshima both times I visited, and for good reason, it felt so homely. When I tell most people this they seem a little surprised as people mostly know Hiroshima for the atomic bombing of 1945 and know very little about the present day city. I hope that through blogging/instagram I can show the Hiroshima I know, an optimistic, beautiful, friendly city.

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A bento on a JR-West Shinkansen

WHEN DO YOU GO AND HOW LONG FOR?

I’ll be flying out at the start of August for some training in Tokyo and then after a few days I will travel down to Hiroshima where I will have a one year contract which I may extend up to five years. I’ll most likely stay for one year as I want to get on with my career back in the UK and look at buying a house, however I haven’t ruled out longer!

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A friendly deer unbothered by Gaijin on Itsukushima, Hiroshima prefecture

DOES THIS MEAN YOU WILL BLOG AND TRAVEL AGAIN?

Yes, this year, although I have still travelled a fair amount, I haven’t done so as much as previous and I haven’t really blogged about my experiences. However, in Japan I aim to travel at least twice a month over weekends and try to visit South Korea a couple of times in the year! I will try to blog about traveling the country cheaply without all the benefits that foreign tourists get, since students and workers from abroad are treated as Japanese citizens.

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Hiroshima Castle

I can’t wait to get there. The next two weeks are going to be really busy getting ready but I’m planning to do some more in-depth posts about the application and interview stages of the process as posts by Britons are few and far between! I would have loved to have found out more from a British perspective so hopefully I can spread some love and help in that regard!

For those of you who are only here for the travel blog posts, there still will be lots of travel posts. Most of them of course will be Japan-related, however, I still have many draft posts on European destinations left, so you will see the odd European destination sprinkled here and there (keeping it relevant for us Brits I promise <3) This site will be continuing on with my life in Japan though, what its like, the ups, the downs, you understand.

I’m living my dream that’s been 10 years in the making right now and I couldn’t be happier, although I won’t be doing it forever (far from it), I’m grateful to have the chance to pursue it for now <3

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain

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