My Apartment in Ominagaoka

It’s been a long time since I’ve had Internet at my apartment, but I finally have a brand new modem and Internet provider, so I can finally update my blog.  This one is way overdue, but let me show you my little apartment here in Maibara.  Well, I actually live in a small, rural town right outside of Maibara called Ominagaoka, which is considered part of Maibara.

This is my apartment building, “Mountview.”  My apartment is the one on the second floor to the left of the staircase.

And here’s my bike!  I travel predominately by bike and by train.  Thankfully, my bike has a basket to hold my groceries, and it has a headlight for when I ride at night.

This is the 玄関 (genkan), which is the entrance way into a traditional Japanese home.  Here, you take off your shoes before entering the home.

 

 

 

Pretty much all restrooms in Japan have their light switches right outside the door, so you turn on the lights before walking into the room.  In fact, many rooms in Japan are set up like this.  In Japanese restrooms, you wear “WC slippers” (Water Closet), so that you don’t soil your feet with the relatively “unclean” floor.  Also, there’s a sink on top of the toilet, and the clean water that fills the tank runs through the faucet first so that you could clean your hands.  It’s one way to conserve water for the Japanese.

 

Here’s my little kitchen.  I don’t have much storage space or cabinets, unfortunately.  Nor do I have an oven or a toaster.

However, I do have a gas stove, fish broiler, rice cooker, and a microwave, so I get along fine.

In Japan, you have to sort your trash into multiple categories.  Above are my trash cans; the yellow bin is for burnables, the blue bin is for nonburnables, and the green is for plastics.  I have additional bags for bottles, aluminum cans, and batteries.  Below is a picture of the trash-sorting instructions for my city.  Each trash category has a different day of the week in which I may dispose of it.

Also, most sinks in rural Japan do not have trash disposals, so I have to rinse my plates over the little refuse colander.

Here’s my bathroom.  In the second picture, you see a typical Japanese bath.  In Japan, an entire family would draw a hot bath and use the same water for everyone.  So, someone would thoroughly clean themselves with the shower head before stepping into the bath itself.

Like many Japanese apartments, I only have a washer machine for my laundry, so I have to hang up my clothes to dry them.

I have two rooms with tatami mats (straw mats).  This room has my closet and a desk, but this room has no A/C, so its too hot right now to spend much time in this room.  The type of sliding doors in this room is called fusuma.

And this the room I usually hang out in, because it’s the only room in my apartment with an A/C unit.  At night, this is where I lay out my futon.  During the day, it is best to roll up your futon to prevent it from getting moldy from the humid summer climate.  And this type of sliding door is called shouji.

Lastly, this is a gift from one of my school’s principals.  His hobby is shodou, or Japanese calligraphy, so he painted the kanji for “new” for me, since one of the readings for this kanji is “sara.”

 

 

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My First Two Weeks in Japan

It’s rather self-explanatory from the title, but I’ve been living in Japan now for two weeks.  And yet, this is my first blog  post.  Before departing for Japan, I decided that I was going to maintain a blog to share my experiences with friends, family, and other lurkers that happen to pass by.  Back then, I was swelling with self-confidence, thinking that I could handle anything that life threw at me.  Of course, I was expecting the first month to be the most challenging, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for the roller coaster that Japan had in store for me.

Before I begin talking about my time in Japan so far, I should discuss the reason why I’m in Japan. Earlier this year, I successfully applied to the JET Programme (Japanese Exchange and Teaching) to teach English in Japan as an Assistant Language Teacher, or ALT. I was placed in Maibara-shi, Shiga-ken to teach at two public junior high schools. Well, I’m actually not in Maibara city, but in a small, rural town right outside of Maibara called Omi-nagaoka. My new home is right at the base of the tallest mountain in Shiga prefecture, Mt. Ibuki (which is pictured in my header).

The JET Programme has two main goals: improved language education in Japan, and internationalism. If you are interested in more information about JET, I advise you to check out the official page: http://www.jetprogramme.org/

When I arrived in Tokyo on August 5th, I was so exhausted from the long flight that I hardly had a chance to truly enjoy the city.  The jet-lag persisted for all three days of JET Tokyo Orientation, but I did manage to get out and explore the city a bit.  Though, I didn’t get a chance to leave Shinjuku; I’ll have to return to Tokyo someday for a proper vacation.

Until then, I can share some of the pictures I took in Tokyo during my brief stay.
Narita Airport

When we arrived at Tokyo’s Narita Airport, all of us first had to go through Immigration and Customs. Most of the paperwork for customs was filled out during the flight, but we still had to wait a while in line. Once we finally got to baggage claim, there was a path for us to follow forged by JET volunteers in bright blue shirts pointing us in the right direction. We were loaded onto buses to immediately head for the Keio Plaza Hotel, which is where Tokyo Orientation takes place every year for new JETs.

The first photo features the hotel itself, and the second is a view of Shinjuku from the hotel. The next morning, Tokyo Orientation began. Oh my God, there are so many orientations for new JETs. There was a Pre-Departure Orientation in Miami the day before us Florida JETs flew to Japan. Then, there’s two days of Tokyo Orientation. Immediately after that, we all travel to our prefectures and meet our Contracting Organization supervisors. On Friday of that week, we in Shiga Prefecture had a “Survival Orientation” in Otsu (the capital of Shiga) to learn about living in Shiga. And next week, there’s two days of “Job Orientation” in Otsu.

Now, I’m just gonna photo-dump the rest of my pictures of Shinjuku.


^And there’s me in the teal shirt.

I’ll talk about my first week in Maibara in my next post.