Hi everyone, I'm from Vancouver and I just found out my placement is in a small village of 6,000 people in Shikoku.
I'm slightly worried since my internet research suggests that the nearest JR is a 15 minutes drive (no bus!) away, the nearest city Kochi-shi is about 1.5 hours away, and the nearest major city Osaka is 5 hours away.
I know ESID, but I was wondering if anyone could share their personal experiences of living in an inaka arrangement:
Did you have to get a car? How difficult/expensive was the process? Did you rent or buy (and sell it before you leave)?
How many JETs or English-speaking people were there in your town?
Are you responsible for pretty much all the schools in your town?
Realistically how often would you make 1-hour or 5-hour trips out to the bigger cities?
Were there differences in the students in terms of interest in studying or pursuing post-secondary education? (I read in some forums that said some students were from working class families and didn't care a lot about school since they were just going to work in trades)
How often do you feel lonely? What do you do to deal with it?
What are some good ways to approach/make friends with your neighbours and community? (are there always local groups to join?)
How difficult was it setting up internet, getting a cellphone, finding a bank that you could access elsewhere?
Were there certain items that were particularly difficult to buy?
I'm a strict vegetarian...should I expect to never eat out lol?
What's your favourite and least favourite part of living in inaka?
What's one thing you wish you knew before you came to this arrangement?
I know the questions make up almost an interview itself...but feel free to answer whichever ones you feel like.
And thanks a TON in advance!!
I'm in a village of 1300 (no train stop or buses) and will try to answer some of those questions for you:
1) Yes, I did need a car. The nearest grocery store is in town which is a good 40 minutes away so I go into town about once a week to get groceries. I bought the car from one of the leaving JETs and it wasn't horribly expensive, nor was it a difficult process. If you need a car, odds are your pred will have one that they will want to sell you. Makes life simple.
2) In my village, there are no other JETs, in the city that I am technically part of, there are 10 other JETs, plus 3 40 minutes the other direction, and a few more about an hour north. It's easy to hang out with them if I put in a little bit of effort. There aren't any people who speak English in my village, though there is an Eikaiwa group with a few people who can get by using english. Then again, my supervisor would never place someone that didn't have at least a conversational Japanese language ability in this placement and told me so.
3) As there are only two schools in the area, yes. I have one JHS and one ES.
4) I make the 40 minute trip into town between 2 and 3 times a week. I make the 2.5 hour trip down to Nagoya about once or twice a month, and I will go further afield on 3 day weekends. I also go to closer cities (Gifu, Seki, Mino each about 1-2 hours) about 2 times a month.
5) I actually have found the opposite of that to be true. All of my students really REALLY try in school and work harder and more seriously than those in Takayama proper. They all have big dreams of going to college outside of Gifu prefecture and work really hard to make sure they reach their dreams.
6) I sometimes feel lonely,but there are a lot of really good benefits to being a small town too... and it's far easier to make close friendships with your neighbors in a small town than it is in a city. Loneliness happens... wherever you are. But there are things you can do to make it better. Invite people over, get out of your place, go for a drive, join a club, etc.
7) Just be friendly and outgoing. They're going to want to get to know you. All you have to do is smile and be part of it. If they invite you somewhere, say yes. If someone tries to talk to you on the street, talk to them. Also, try to make friends with your coworkers... enkais are expensive, but a great way to get to know your fellow teachers better than you do at work. Just be friendly.
Internet I don't know about, cell phone was pretty easy, your pred might help you with it, if not, your supervisor probably will. Bank account will be set up with the help of your supervisor in the first week... if you REALLY want one that you can access anywhere in Japan, go to the post office and open one there... that's also really easy to do.
9) I"m not sure how to answer this... is there anything particular you are wondering about buying?
10) You might be able to eat out, but it will be difficult. Also, expect to have to eat your lunch separate from your students. Teachers are expected to eat the same school lunches that the students do, and if you are bringing your own, then you will most likely be told you can't eat with the students as your lunch is different from theirs.
11) Least favorite: It's the middle of f'ing nowhere and there's nothing to do in the evenings. Favorite: Everything else. It sounds like a cop-out, I know, but it's true. The people, getting to know my students, being part of the community, having fresh clean air and beautiful scenery, being able to perform in the matsuri, having small classes, having my coworkers and neighbors not only know me, but care about me enough to bring me food when I'm sick..... it's all awesome. I was really worried about it coming in, but living here has been fantastic.
12) I wish I knew more about cooking. My first month was the same meal over and over and over again because I didn't know where any places to eat were, nor did I know how to cook much... so it was the same meal day after day and it sucked. Since then I've traded English lessons for cooking lessons and can make a lot of different things!
Hope that helps at least somewhat.