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Life in Japan: Hannah Azok in Kyotango, Kyoto-fu

Hey I’m  Hannah Azok! Or…HA! 

What do you currently do for a living? 

I teach English to crazy Japanese junior high and elementary students in the inaka. I also serve the dual purpose of being a playground for said elementary students. :) Oh, and by night I’m a super hero that doles out sweet beautiful vigilante justice to stray bears that happen to wander too close to my town…but don’t tell anyone, ‘kay? 

What’s a typical day like for you?

I wake up around 7am. Then I down some much-needed caffeine and head to one of my schools—usually it’s the junior high, which—lucky me—is a seven minute walk from my apartment (or a two minute drive if, you know…I happen to be running late? ^-^;; ). At both the junior high and elementary schools, I like to say I serve the purpose of being “the cool aunt.” Basically, whenever I go to class we just play fun games (usually my creations…muahaha) that involve using English and that is the entirety of my job.

When I go to the elementary schools I’m going all day with no breaks like my man (it’s a dude…right?) the Energizer Bunny.  Technically, I get breaks when the kids have recess but you know, Hannah = playground, so yeah. Junior high’s a bit more laid back—I would say I average maybe three classes per day. The rest of the time I’m preparing more fun games, working on my beautiful English Board, studying Japanese, and/or catching some Z’s when no one’s looking.

After work I usually work out at my local gym (where my principal also happens to frequent! Yeah…we’re totally bros now.). When I get home from that I eat, write, play video games, and procrastinate cleaning my apartment by zoning out to the beauty (and horror) that is Japanese TV.

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What’s the best and worst thing about your job? 

The best thing about the job is the free time! I don’t get how so many people see this as a negative or get bored when they don’t have classes; I can never seem to have enough of it—seriously! I get so much done on days when I get free time that I usually don’t have much that needs doing when I finally get home. It’s awesome and totally different from any other job I’ve had before! Also, the elementary kids are great. Every other JHS/Elementary ALT I’ve talked to at this point agrees—they’re just so damn cute and excited about learning English that there’s never a dull moment in those classes!

The worst thing by far for me is kyushoku, aka the school lunch! *cue the dundunduns* If you work in the junior highs or elementary schools like yours truly, then chances are you’ll be forced to deal with this lovely event on a daily basis. Basically, they just give you WAY too much food and you’re expected to literally clean your plate in twenty minutes tops. I received the nutrition info for each school lunch last month and every day it averages to about 1000 calories….for a single meal! And they say American meals are unhealthy….HA, I say! HA! In addition to that there’s a general rule that no one’s allowed to talk (which actually will vary from school to school) so that everyone can just pack it in that much faster. Awkward! Especially when you’re the only gaijin in the room and all the kids literally will just watch your every move the entire period—what’s so interesting about me eating my lunch, kids!? I don’t get it! Please tell me! T.T

Rant over. I may actually write a blog post on this soon since it’s my arch-nemesis! But on the plus side, the meals are ridiculously cheap!

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Kyushoku is like the colossal titan, lying in wait to ensure that your day is bad one!

Who would you recommend and not recommend your job to? 

I would recommend this job to people that love kids and are both creative and energetic…and maybe a little bit crazy too. Crazy’s good. You’ll definitely need creativity to keep up with (and enjoy) all the class activities you’ll be asked to make. And you’ll need to like kids and be energetic for, well, obvious reasons. :)

Why did you come to Japan? 

My major was in Japanese but I’m still no where near fluent (College, you lied to me!!!)! While living in a country isn’t required to get fluent in a foreign language, I’d definitely say it’s a hell of a lot easier that way! Thus, I find myself back in the Land of the Rising Sun (seriously, man….that bugger comes out at 4am sometimes! 4am!) I also wanted to have a fun and rewarding job, which this is definitely turning out to be! So, yay for that? 

What’s your favorite place in Japan? 

That’s a tough one—I’ve been to a lot of places in Japan and they were all amazing! So I guess I can compromise and narrow it down to three? 

First is Ikebukuro in Tokyo! I lived in Tokyo longer than anywhere else in Japan, so it still feels like my home away from home. And INSIDE that home is the wonderland that is Ikebukuro! If you are a female otaku to any degree (like me) then you’ll probably prefer this to Akihabara, as it’s geared more toward female fans! In addition, there’s Namja Town (which always makes me feel like I’ve gone to Wonderland), Sunshine City (a giant mall…and it has a Burger King! One of the only Burger King’s I’ve ever seen in Japan), crepes (which are ALWAYS a good thing), an aquarium, Sweets Paradise (a sweets buffet), and just a ton of other awesome stuff!

Second would be Kamakura! It’s got beautiful beaches and was my go-to beach vacation destination when I lived in Tokyo. In addition, it’s got a lot of really interesting traditional things, such as the Great Buddha!

Finally, I’d say Nara. ‘Cause cute deer. Nuff said.

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What’s one thing you love and one thing you don’t about living in Japan? 

I love the food! Seriously. Can’t get enough of it. They say people are supposed to lose weight when living in Japan but I gained it! …I guess that’s what happens when you eat seventeen plates of sushi at Sushi-Ro on a regular basis (of course that was the old me, who had a never-ending stomach—she probably would’ve been all about kyushoku!) . Woops. 

I don’t like all the red tape and bureaucracy. Like, c’mon guys, how many trees do you gotta kill  for each new ALT that’s hired? …Okay, no. I change my mind. I don’t want to know the answer to that!

Finally, if you could go back to the start of your life in Japan, what advice would you give yourself?

Buy Monsters. Like, a LOT of Monsters. Like an infinite supply of them. Because they will be your lifeblood, for that is the only way to survive the elementary school days…you have been warned.

 

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