A new friend of mine named Etsuko, found me a job, which is really exciting. I met her when she cooked dinner for some friends, and I just so happened to be invited. After dinner we were chatting and she casually asked if I wanted a part time job. I told her that I might try to find one after I get a little more settled in and understand how things work here in Japan. Next, she asked what I felt about teaching English, and I explained how that would be ideal because the pay would be pretty nice. She then explained that the community center where she takes classes needs a native English speaker to teach a beginners course on every Thursday evening from 7:00 to 9:30, and asked me to do it! It was pretty much that easy, and I couldn’t turn it down because the pay was great. I obtained the book a few days before I was to teach for the first time and came up with a lesson plan for my first day. The book they use basically explains what to do, and I’m mostly there for developing their listening and speaking skills, since it is considered a self-study course. There is no grading or anything like that, so it really stress free and fun! My students are all older folks who have retired or are still working, but there is one younger girl in the class. Most of them are learning English in order to travel for vacation. I’m not going to tell about everything that happened in the class because that would take forever, and I’m sure I’ll eventually have some good stories. Tomorrow will be the second class that I will teach. I’m pretty excited about it.
The sunday after my first teaching experience, I went on an excursion with some of my Japanese friends and some other foreigners from Australia. We originally planned to take a trip to Toba (nearby city to Tsu) and see the aquarium, but instead we went to “Mikimoto Pearl Island.” This place was quite interesting, and spite the language barrier, I learned a lot about how pearls are made, and why they are famous from Mikimoto. Pearls are naturally occurring but very rare, so Mr. Mikimoto invented a process in which a plastic piece is inserted into the clam so that a pearl will grow around it. Basically, this place is the birthplace of pearls as we know them. I’m not that interested in pearls, but the long history of harvesting them and witnessing the process was really interesting. Back in the day, women wearing heavy canvas robes dove for the pearls, and they’ve kept up with the tradition. Really cool place.
Next we went to a place that is famous in all of Japan. It’s called Ise Shrine. It’s one of Japan’s biggest shrines. It’s tough to describe a shrine, but basically it’s a large plot of sacred land with beautiful landscapes that contains many different places to pray to the gods. I still don’t completely understand religion in Japan, as most claim to have no religion and most visit both Shinto and Buddhist shrines every year. We toured the shrine, seeing everything, and witnessing the prayer that everyone does after throwing ¥5 (about a nickel) into a spot in front of the closed off sacred areas. It’s two bows, two claps, and then one final bow. Although people come here to pray and it’s pretty quiet, nearby is a really cool area with a bunch of shops with snack vendors and such. We walked through the busy corridor trying foods and looking at the souvenirs. The day ended with a drive back to Tsu, and dinner with everyone.
Everything seems be going really well, and I’ve been able to travel for cheap and get to see some of the things that are the most interesting in this area. I’ve made lots of friends and have been really busy whether it’s hanging out or studying. I have a job now, which is going to make my living in Japan much more affordable. I’m really liking where I’m at and I’m beginning to feel comfortable with where I’m at and what I’m doing. My Japanese had really bumped up a few notches as well, I find myself using more Japanese, and I can apply new material within a few hours of learning it in class. I’ve got plenty of tutors and friends to practice speaking with, and I get more and more comfortable using the language. I’ve had some down days, but for the most part, my Japanese life is great!