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The Adventures of a TEFL Teacher in Japan – Danny’s Story: Pt 1

My name is Danny, I’m a TEFL advisor here at i-to-i, and I would like to share with you some of my experiences of teaching English in Japan, in the hope that it will inspire you to go out and experience your own adventure in TEFL.

I arrived in Japan on 13th October 2009 as a 22 year old. I’d already had a few months TEFL experience in Italy, so wasn’t completely new to it, but was still pretty green. I was about to start working for Peppy Kids Club (PKC); a big organization who used to say they had almost as many schools as there are McDonalds restaurants in Japan. Anyone who has been to Japan will agree that’s quite a lot of schools!

Feeling thoroughly jet-lagged from the long flight and change of time zones, I was picked up from Nagoya airport and driven to the training accommodation. I had met another of the new teachers on the plane; an American with a big ginger beard called Mike. We were shown around the area and introduced to some of the other new teachers. My first 3 weeks were spent exploring Nagoya and completing the company training program with 13 other newbies, most of whom had no experience at all. After the 3 weeks were up we were to be sent all over Japan.

During training we had a great time. A particular highlight was going to the Chunichi Dragons Baseball game. Mike and 2 other Americans, Will and Noah, had been trying to get everyone to go, and I was keen to see a game. Being English I had never seen one live. It was a lot of fun as the lads had insisted we start drinking early and often. We got a lot of strange looks on the subway – 3 drunk Boston Red Socks fans singing Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’ at the top of their voices with cans of Lemon Chu-hi, with 4 bemused Brits joining in the chorus! Chunichi won 2-1, which was the score after the 2nd inning (as baseball fans will know, that’s quite a boring game!), but I don’t remember who they were playing against. Will by this time was wasted, and bought a Chunichi Dragons replica shirt without trying it on. It said medium size, which is his normal size. When he put it on it didn’t cover any of his belly, and looked like a weird man-bra! We learned not to assume everyone men’s clothing sizes are universal after that!

Red Sox fans...

I also tried raw octopus for the first time, which is like eating the rubber tip from a pencil. Raw squid isn’t much better! I am not particularly keen on fish, but to my surprise found raw tuna to be quite nice. Myself and one of the other newbies, a Scottish guy called Stuart, went to a garden party with a Japanese friend of his. I tried eating something which looked like long, thin mange tout but tasted like wood. It turned out only the peas inside were edible, which gave everyone a laugh!

I learned to sit on my knees for long periods, take my shoes off everywhere, even at restaurants, never tip anyone, and how to bow properly. I also picked up some survival Japanese that I can still remember now! We visited the castle and temples, explored the shopping areas and bars, and only once encountered the crossed arms ‘gaijin no!’ that you can sometimes get from doormen at Japanese clubs. We were amazed to discover, by accident, that Japanese trains sometimes have ‘Ladies carriages’ to stop groping during rush hour! Me and Noah had unintentionally got on the train and the whole carriage was full of women, one of whom politely came up and pointed out the sign, in Japanese and English, that said no men allowed between 8 am and 9:30am or 4pm and 6:30pm.

In all the 3 weeks was a whirlwind of new experiences. When I remember now it seems as though every day was blazing sunshine.

Here’s Part Two!

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