This was me and Henry’s first official week of work, so I was both scared and filled with anticipation
During our time here in Japan, Henry and I work as TAs at the Technos College. Our responsibilities typically include attending a couple classes a day and sitting in a community space the rest of the time. Today, I had 3 classes and I was surprised by the diversity of the staff. The teachers I helped today were from many different places like New York, England, and Bangladesh. All the classrooms were also very lively and a lot of students bombarded me with questions about America and myself and I had my questions about Japan answered too, in particular, I finally got an answer for where I can get a good cooking knife, so that will be a trip eventually. Being inside from 9 AM to 7 PM on top of the 30-minute bus ride from the sharehouse had Henry and I drained. Even the teachers were a bit shocked by these hours and said they would look into it. On the way back through Henry and I ran into a stand selling lacquerware items at the bus station which I may look into buying the next time I pass by.
Getting into work today I was welcomed with good news as Henry and I only needed to be in the building for 7 hours a day. The college also provided us with iPhones to use throughout the day. Today, we had to attend two classes and attend a welcoming from the English career students that Henry and I will be working closely with in the future. We got to meet all of them and we played charades, and Kahoot. After that we got to work on editing several students’ scripts they were preparing for the international week – a 2-week long event where people from Technos’s sister schools including IWU are taught about Japanese culture by members of the student body. About 60 people will be coming and will be escorted by students mainly through the Tokyo prefecture. The students we helped, in particular, will be leading them through the Yukata practice and also public bathing etiquette.
After preparing for the international week, we all headed to the international Week planning session. Henry and I were assigned to the sightseeing and scavenger hunt groups respectively. Only one person in my group was an English student, so things were a little tough, but we got a lot of work done. The sightseeing will mainly be taking place in the Akihabara area and we will visit a couple parks, statues, and a temple.
Finally, there was a reconvening of all the groups and a funny thing as one group confused Jackson 5 with Maroon 5 during their presentation. Everyone was dismissed at around 8 PM, so looks like I put in a bit of overtime today
Today I attended two classes – a basic grammar and a conversation one. The conversation one was the interesting one as I got put in a separate room with a student to talk one on one for the full hour. We talked about some grammar points, good food in the area, as well as a bit about our hometowns.
After that, Henry and I decided to take our lunch break at a cafe called Gusto the student I had the one on one with recommended. I ordered the Mentai cream pasta which I am still not sure I even know what it is.
After lunch all there was to do was go to the badminton club which a couple students helped me join. People here were really good and not a single one at the time was an English student which was a scary experience. I never really learned the rules of badminton so they all had to teach me by mainly just pointing at where to move. I also learned of it the day off so I had to play in my work clothes which is a big no-no in Japanese culture. I was let off the hook though since it was my first time and it’s not like I could play in my socks. We went for 2 hours and everyone in the club was very nice and understanding with me. I then checked out a Chinese place near the school and had the best boba of my life and for the first time some mapo tofu.
Thursdays are my busiest days because I have four classes. Two of them were Spanish classes which I had never TA’d for before. It was interesting to hear Spanish spoken with a Japanese accent and I got to learn some of the differences between Peru and Mexican Spanish since the teacher was from Peru. One surprising thing I have learned is that Japan has a surprisingly large Peruvian population. The teacher was nice and even reserved a Peruvian restaurant for everyone in the class that was interested in trying it. Nothing really noticeable happened besides that though.
Today all I had to do was to attend a two-hour public speaking class which was a bit scary for both myself and the other students. Being put on the spot and speaking in front of groups is something I get very anxious about. Besides my anxiety, it was a fun experience overall and the students were very talkative. They even suggested that Henry and I try Okonomiyaki, so we did just that after the end of class. We went to a small shop near the school and they gave me a weird look when I tried to order mochi and mentai in it. I guess it’s some sort of trend with young people since the lady who made mine said that is not real okonomiyaki. On the way back we also found a little display of a soba doll in a station
Henry and I went to Saitama today which is a prefecture north of Tokyo. I wanted to check out the Totoro forest which was huge according to google maps, and there was also supposed to be a beautiful lake there. Getting there was a bit tricky for us, Henry and I got on the wrong train a couple of times. I learned that this place is the highest producer of wheat in Japan, but sadly we weren’t able to find a place that sold udon noodles.
I wanted to go to Tokorozawa in particular which is a city that’s known for its nature. Right outside the station was a place that sold Sobakawa pillows which I had been looking for.
We also ran into a shrine while wandering around the area. It took us about an hour to walk to the forest but eventually, we made it. We spent at least 3 hours walking on the hiking trail, and now I get why this place is known for its nature. There were so many people jogging and biking. I did make the mistake though of not getting breakfast, so my energy was not where it needed to be.
We eventually made it to Tama Lake which took a lot of stairs to get to and it also had some monuments and sculptures around it. Me and Henry decided it was time for food so we got on a walking trail. We were on this for a couple of hours and each time we came across a restaurant it turned out to be closed. Eventually, we made it to a shrine with some restaurants around it, but they were all very expensive.
A while later, we found an Italian restaurant in the middle of a highway and settled for that. This was my only meal of the day, so I accepted the 40-dollar price tag for pasta, soup, and a slice of tira misu I got. By this time it was already 8 PM and there was not much lighting on the way back home. Things felt pretty creepy especially when going through the shrine.
We made it back to a station and I found a FC Tokyo statue thing which my friend is a fan of, so he got a kick out of it. Sleeping on the pillow was a weird experience since it felt like sleeping on a bunch of pellets. It didn’t feel good, but it also didn’t give me any back pain or soreness or anything. It also felt cool and never got warm.
Henry and I planned to meet up with a Japanese international student, Taiju, that went to Illinois Wesleyan University last year. He wanted to meet up in Nihonbashi which meant Henry and I had to make a transfer to Shibuya, so we planned for that. I tore my sneakers during our walk through Tokorozawa, so we started making our way to a discount shoe store. On the way, I stumbled upon a Thai festival with a bunch of people, but my feet were killing me, so I knew that I needed new sneakers ASAP.
Taiju suggested I go to an ABC Mart where I picked up some sneakers. I headed back to the Thai festival but now there were almost double the people and I could barely walk around. Lines were like twenty minutes at least at each stall, so I asked my friends what Thai food was worth getting. They suggested mango sticky rice, anything spicy, and papaya, but no papaya was in sight so I got the mango sticky rice, spicy chicken, and some shaved ice. This took me over an hour of just standing in line.
After this, it was time to go to Nihonbashi. I stepped out of the station and was surprised by how big the city was. I met Taiju at a convenience store where we stood around for like 20 minutes waiting for Henry so we just decided to walk around for a little. There were a bunch of expensive stores around here like Gucci and all of the malls felt fancy and even had elevator attendants and other people walking around dressed fancy.
We made our way to a rooftop garden which Taiju said was common in Japanese malls in bigger cities. Eventually, we went back to pick up Henry and went to a discount shoe store for my gym shoes. After that we went to a restaurant Taiju knew that had a good kaisen donburi- a rice bowl with seafood. We had to wait around 2 hours in line, but it was worth the wait cause we got some pretty high-quality sashimi, sea bream, and sea urchin for less than 15 dollars. After that, we went to an izakaya (Japanese bar with food) and I had some steak and taiyaki.