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Oriental Orientation

This past Saturday I went to the optional JET orientation at the Children’s Museum in Boston.

The Childrens Museum on the Harbor in Boston

The Children's Museum on the Harbor in Boston

We had a number of talks scheduled ranging from what cell phones to get, to what kinds of     おみやげ (Omiyage, souvenirs) to buy. Actually that last one had had me worried for a while. The JET Program booklet I got was fairly explicit about how important they found おみやげ, but I had no idea what exactly to bring. I thought about little trinkets from Boston, but wasn’t sure how many I would be bringing.

The day started off at 10:00 AM with some introductions. We put name tags on, and they had a map of Japan laid out on the table. We wrote our names on sticky notes and put them where we were going to be in Japan. One of the people there was waaaaaaaaaaaay at the tippy top of Hokkaido. I am of two minds about how I would react to being up there. On the one hand, being out in the middle of nowhere would be fantastic for my Japanese, and I would be even more of an anomoly up there where it’s doubtful there are any other foreigners (besides Russians 😛 ) within a 100 mile radius. Being in such a rural area would be a fantastic change from living in a city. A new dialect, entirely new customs, just a whole different way of living. On the other hand…well I’m sure I don’t have to spell it out. YOU’D BE IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE! Nothing around you, nothing to do, a town of 25…a great way to save money!

After introductions  we were split up into two groups. One group went to a talk called “Money and Banking” and the other to a talk called “Living in the Japanese style”. Then we switched. Both were very informative, and I got a lot of good information about what to do. For example, in “Money and Banking” they suggested getting a Post Office account to handle your money. That may sound common sensical, but it wouldn’t have occurred to me immediately. Chances are when I arrive at my prefecture, my contacts will take me to get a bank account at the local bank. What happens when I want to go to Osaka or any other big city though? There won’t be a branch of my bank there. There are, however, post office branches in every single town and city in the country. I’ll be able to cash money when I need it without having to plan ahead. They also warned us about the NHK people coming to collect their $20 TV fee. Apparently they will knock on your door and ask for a TV fee even if you don’t have a TV. There’s a tendency to just pay the money to make them go away, but if you tell them you don’t own one they won’t bother you again. Supposedly half the country just tells them they don’t have a TV and get out of paying it. (And here I thought the Japanese were good, honest people…)

The second talk, about living in Japan, was a bit of an eye opener. They had the talk in a real Japanese house they brought from Kyoto and rebuilt in the Children’s Museum. They presenters stressed that, especially for those of us living in Kyushu, (me) we should keep our apartments as clean as possible because ゴキブリ (gokiburi, cockroaches) are quite plentiful. I hate cockaroaches. (not a typo) They also suggested getting an “exhaust fan” to keep the bathroom dry, as it will start molding very quickly in the summer if it’s really wet. Chances are I will be lacking an air conditioner.

After lunch (I had two sandwiches, one which I suspect was tuna, the other which I am more certain was ham) there was a presentation by a familiar face. One of the people working at the Boston Language Institute (where I did my TEFL certificate program, and where I taught two classes earlier this year) who specializes in cross cultural relations, gave a talk on…well…cross cultural relations, and how to deal with living in Japan, by all accounts a country with a culture quite opposite the U.S. in many ways. We talked a bit before hand, which made me feel all special because I knew one of the speakers and everyone else did not. Three cheers for feeling connected and important!

There were a few more talks, but nothing of real importance, at least to me. I do not have to worry about medications (which Japan is quite strict about), or learning that the wattage in Japan is slightly different (we use 120 here, they use 100, or 110, I can’t remember which now). What’s important is that everything you buy in the U.S. will work in Japan, just not really vice versa. This I picked up when I was there in ’06 at Kansai Gaidai.

All in all it was a very enjoyable day, though it ended rather abruptly when we all went down to a nearby bar “The Barking Crab” only to find it horribly crowded. Instead of stand around like sardines in a can, I decided to take off early and went to meet some of my friends in Brookline instead. It would have been nice to socialize some more with my fellow JETs, but that will come another time, I am sure.

I also want to mention one final thing. There were a few alternate JETs at the orientation. Alternates do not have a spot yet, and are waiting to hear whether someone has dropped out so that they can take their place. I feel for their position. Not only are they uncertain about their future, their wait continues even past the August 1st departure date. JET can call them up afterwards and say: “Still want to go?” and they might be shipped off to who knows where, Japan. Remembering the uncertainty of simply waiting to find out whether I passed the interview stage or not, I can only imagine what they must be feeling. I spoke to two of them, and while they were certainly cheerful, you could tell they were very eager to go, and a bit jealous of those of us who were chosen over them. Good luck guys! I hope you all make it 🙂

More later

oh! about おみやげ! I’m thinking salt water taffy or jelly beans! Any suggestions?

Categories: Pre-Japan
  1. Kevin Tambornino
    July 8, 2009 at 10:15 am

    Don’t give licorice flavored anything for Omiyage. I have yet to find a Japanese person that likes it. Postcards are good and they are light. Beef Jerky is what most Japanese people who go to America bring back for their friends. I would not recommend chocolate as it might melt in your luggage (Kyuushu summer)

    • Dash
      July 8, 2009 at 4:56 pm

      So I guess licorice is kind of like our Natto? haha

  2. Kevin Tambornino
    July 9, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Yeah, except I have found a few Americans who will actually eat natto…

    • Dash
      July 9, 2009 at 3:27 pm

      It’s true, it’s not super bad, as long as you can stand the smell

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