Second/Third Week – Encounters

In my last entry, I promised to talk more about the types of people that I have seen or met. I will also discuss some of the activities that I have done, as well as some of my plans for the future.

When first coming to Japan, I had an idea in my mind about what Japanese society would look like. I had seen things on the internet about how Japanese people are extremely polite, humble, shy, along with living with futuristic technology, while also valuing cultural traditions very heavily. All of this is true to some extent, but I feel as though many of these claims were overexaggerated. I have come to realize that many things in Japan do not feel too different than back home in America. The culture here feels very different, and certainly people are very helpful to me, but because I am living in the city, and have to walk, commute, eat, and buy things more like that average Japanese person (in comparison with a tourist living in an expensive hotel), and talk closely with Japanese students, I have a more clear picture into what Japanese life, especially student life, is like.

Over these past few weeks, I have seen that Japanese students are normal people. That seems like a strange statement, but I feel that the hyperbole used in discourse about Japan makes everyone’s expectations about students too high, unrealistically so, and place them in a box where you think that you how students are, but that isn’t the case. In my classes, I see everyday people just like at IWU. On most days, there might be a few brave souls who might answer questions in class, but most of the time, students are hesitant to ask questions, which is strikingly similar to school in America. I see students who sleep in class (mostly freshman), students who like music, students who like to gossip, students who are really into the class material, students who like sports, students who like video games, etc. This was honestly really refreshing, and makes talking with them much easier, as I can relate to them much more than I initially thought I would.

I love walking, and I find myself exploring areas during my travels to places in Tokyo. On weekends, I have notice many families with children either biking together or at a local park. It feels nice to watch families have fun, and runs in contrast to what I hear about Japanese people not having any time to have a family due to working so much. I know that this is the weekend, and that I do not often see families together during the week, but it is nice to see that family bonding time does exist here.

Hearing that Japan had public Wi-Fi available in the cities, I had assumed that I would not need a SIM card, so I never purchased one. I have since learned that public Wi-Fi is spotty at best, and non-existent at worst, so I often do not have access to the internet or even a map at times. This has made getting around difficult at times, as I am not able to read some signs, menus, and informational screens because the kanji is difficult to read. This has made asking for help really important for me, as I am otherwise unable to read. Fortunately for me, the culture around helping strangers is very positive. Oftentimes, I am able to ask someone for directions, and they are always willing to help me out. Sometimes, they even offer conversation if they are in the mood, which is always pleasant, even if I do not understand everything they say. Asking people is also a way to get good food, as they usually recommend their favorite menu items, which is always a treat.

Speaking of food, I have had the pleasure of eating a lot of different foods recently:

Udon, from a “fast food” place

Pizza (not very Japanese, but still very good)

Curry Rice


Yakiniku, a do-it-yourself grilled meat dish where a stove is in front of you, and they bring raw meat and vegetables as you order, and are cooked on the stove

Okonomiyaki, an unsweet pancake with egg, cabbage, bacon, Japanese mayo and a special sauce

Baskin Robin’s Ice cream, it is surprisingly very popular here, and is also called 31

Tonkatsu in Kabukicho (also I visited the nearby Godzilla head)

Udon, from a more traditional place in Kawagoe, where I sat on a tatami mat

Sushi, including Uni (sea urchin) which is a Japanese delicacy. Uni is intimidating at first but I think it tastes like fishy butter (in a good way)

Taiyaki, a pancake like dessert with filling, usually shaped like a fish (this one was a special Hello Kitty strawberry variety)

Some of the places I have went to are:

Inokashira Park

Sayama Park






Kitanomura Park

Yokohama’s Chinatown

A maid cafe

Ueno Zoo

That is a rough summary of what I have experienced so far. In the next blog entry, I hope to talk more about Japanese culture, as I plan on visiting the Tokyo National Museum, where I hope to learn more about Japan.

Also, I am having trouble sending some of the pictures from my phone due to the way that the images are converted, so hopefully I will have more pictures next week!

First Full Week

This past week was my full week at work, plus a few new Japanese experiences!

My TA position keeps me pretty busy, as I am going to classes along with students, and have office hours on my time away from classes. Working with students has been interesting, as the experience depends on the class. Like my experience in America, there is a wide variety of students that all have their own personalities that they bring to the classroom. While there are some very outgoing students, who are not afraid to try and practice their English with me, many others seem a bit hesitant, especially when I first met them for the first time. I have been trying to be welcoming (smiling, saying high, trying to remember their names) as much as I can so that the awkwardness breaks a bit. I find that as I get to know students (which mostly comes from 1 on 1 interactions of having a lengthy conversation) they get more comfortable with me, and try to use more English.

One thing that I took for granted was vocabulary. As someone who like reading, I know a lot of big words that are not commonly used in conversation, and can be confusing for students who do not have previous exposure to the English language. Therefore, I find myself commonly trying to explain words more creatively, often using a picture, acting or trying to use the student’s imagination. Honestly, I find that my own understanding of the English language has improved, because I have to think critically about the meaning of words, rather than just internally understanding them.

My ability to speak Japanese has also improved. I feel more confidant talking with people in Japanese, in addition to having English as a fallback in case the other party happens to know a few words. I like to refer to this way of speaking as “Japanglish” and usually is accompanied with a lot of hand motions to convey basic ideas a bit more clearly. I feel as though I could go almost anywhere with only minor help from the dictionary app on my phone.

Next Post, I plan on talking more about The types of people that I see around Japan, as well as what interesting things I have seen.

Arrival to Japan, First Days

I arrived on the afternoon of May 10th at Haneda Airport, where I was greeted by the previous TA Devesh Mondal, who showed me the ropes on my first few days in Japan. The flight was smooth and not as long as I thought it would be. My fellow TA, Alexis, Devesh and I traveled to our sharehouse in Hanakoganei (花小金井) via train, and after getting lost a few times and some backtracking, we made it to our destination around 7:00. Since we didn’t know anything at the time, our first dinner consisted of items from the convenience store (コンビニ) across the street. I was pleasantly surprised to see that convenience stores here are very different than those in the U.S.

Sandwich bread is very different here, it is sweeter with a milky texture, and without the crust. Onigiri, the stuffed rice/seaweed triangle, is a versatile snack food that is perfect on-the-go.

The first day of work was mostly introductions. I met with my supervisors, teachers and a few of the English students. Everyone that I have met here has been polite and friendly, even if they have to put up with my barely comprehensible Japanese. This extends to outside the college as well, as people are always ready to answer my questions whenever I have needed assistance in public spaces. After my short day at work, I visited Shibuya (渋谷) with Alexis, where we walked around and saw the famous Shibuya Scramble Square. We tried to get sushi in the city, but it was peak rush hour, and the lines to get in were unbearably long. Due to the population density, rush hour can get very hectic with the sheer volume of people in the area. Shibuya, Shinjuku (新宿), and Takadanobaba (高田馬場) stations were among the most crowded during this time.

On the second day, we had a nice party for us coming to the school, where we introduced ourselves to a larger body of students, played games and asked questions. We were also given an assortment of Japanese snacks, I would show a picture, but I was so excited to try them, I ate them already!

On Saturday, I visited Mitaka (三鷹) and Inokashira (井の頭公園) Park. Inside the park was the Ghibli museum (which needed a reservation so I will go back at a later date). It was very nice to see Japanese families having fun in the park.

The first day of school went well I think. For the most part, I think both the students and myself are pretty shy, so hopefully, if I get to know them, they may open up a bit more to me.

I am still getting used to having Japanese being spoken to me, and it sometimes seems like I am a toddler. I have to remind myself that I am still learning, and that mastery over language does not happen overnight. I will continue to try to get better at speaking and understanding. Plus, the students learning English are probably thinking the same thing when I talk to them, so I feel as though I can relate better to them in this way.

I will be back this Sunday with another blog post, I will have updates on what I have done and seen!

Signing off -Henry


Welcome to my blog for my summer internship at Technos College in Japan. I currently a Junior Biology major at Illinois Wesleyan, and I have interest in Japanese language and culture. During my internship, I will be assisting with students learning English, and I hope to learn from the people I am helping just as much as they can learn something from me. I hope to immerse myself within the culture to broaden my horizons, and take back a few lessons that I can apply when I return home. I will be posting weekly with updates on what I’ve seen and experienced that is worth sharing!

Signing off -Henry Moore