A byte of life from the Land of Sumos and Sushi

Friday, April 22, 2005

I have had several enquires as to what exactly I do to support my lavish lifestyle here in Japan. Comments such as “it seems to be all dog walking and snowboarding with no working” reflects the general opinion of thefunkydrummer readers.

So, for the sake of clarity, here follows a typical working day in the life of yours truly. I “work” as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) on the JET programme – a government run initiative designed to improve Japan’s English ability and cultural understanding of foreign countries.

6:50am: Alarm goes off and I immediately hit snooze. It’s an early start for me, and my least favourite part of the day – it’s not all slacking off.

7:40am: After dragging myself out of bed, jumping in the shower, and eating a quick breakfast, I’m in my Suzuki wagon, and I’m heading into work, which will see me dodging students cycling on the wrong side of the road and cursing Japan’s inane need to have a set of traffic lights at every junction ever made.

7:55am: I screech into my parking spot, grab my bag, and sprint to the staff room. It’s normally touch and go as to whether I’ll be able to proudly shout “Ohio Gozaimasu” (good morning) to everybody, or whether I sneak in with my head lowered in shame for being late for the daily teachers meeting. Today, it was the latter.

8:30am-12:30pm: Lessons. I have two or three per day, each of which is 50 minutes long, but requires little preparation as I normally “freestyle” it. I always teach with another Japanese teacher, so my job is simply to provide real life examples of English language and culture. Games, quizzes, role plays and speaking practice is the order of the day, and apart from the occasional disruptive kids, the classes run smoothly.

12:30pm-1:15pm: Lunch time. Food is eaten at my desk in the staff room – this is the same for all teachers. Students eat their lunch at their desk in their classroom. There is no canteen or dining hall and there is no choice of food. You eat what you are given which ranges from the quite tasty, to the unusual, to the occasional down right minging.

After lunch there is about 20 minutes of free time for the students. I often go to the gym and display my football keep up skills to the kids. They love it. I encourage them to join in, but often have difficulty in explaining that the aim of the game is to keep the ball off the ground, not blast it into orbit, which is what they seem to enjoy most.

1:15-3:30 – Sometimes I have a lesson in the afternoon, sometimes I don’t. If not, I normally go for a wander outside of the school grounds if it’s not raining, and if I’m at Kamisho school, I take the dog for a walk. The rest of my free time – which mounts up to around 4 hours a day is spent emailing, surfing the net, or learning Japanese.

3:20pm –3:30pm: Cleaning time. All students must clean the school everyday. The special music comes on over the P.A. system, and out come the dusters, brushes and mops. I normally wander around the school at this time and inform students where they have “missed a bit”.

4:00pm: I can officially go home now, but I normally stay a bit longer. In winter I participate in the cross country ski club, so I stay till around 5:30.

4:45: Unless it’s winter, and I’m zipping around in the snow in the aforementioned ski club, I’m normally home by now. If the weather’s nice, I’ll go for a bike ride, if it’s winter, I’ll go snowboarding, and if it’s raining I’ll watch a DVD, listen to some tunes, or hang out with friends. I also have a Japanese lesson once a week, and sometimes play football with the local Ono team.

5:30pm-7pm: I often eat out as my kitchen is not the ideal catering center, and you can get a slap up meal for a few quid. Sushi, Curry, and Sauce Katsu (a schnitzel like cutlet) resturants are my favourites. A visit to Yasu’s (our man of the mountain’s) bar Yumeya (which literally means “Dream Shop”) is a weekly event.

11pm- By now I'm pretty knackered and ready for bed, so out comes the futon, and I catch some zzz’s, so I can do it all over again tomorrow.

If you'd like to find out about how you too could be living it up in the land of sumo, check: www.jet-uk.org


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