I wonder…

What will Japan really be like?

I mean  living in Japan. Trying to really learn how to speak with people. How quickly will I get frustrated by the language barriers? (I’m sure it will happen eventually).

What kind of place will I live in? Will it be a tiny studio that my boyfriend and I will have to squeeze into? Will we get the luxury of having an apartment with a room or two? Maybe a view even? (“dream on” I tell myself).

I have so many questions swimming around my brain. It’s like being 4-year-old during the month of December, just waiting for Christmas to finally get here already!!!

Trying to get my questions answered online has produced some results. But not enough to satisfy me.


For example, wondering “what necessities I should bring,” I found several pretty good answers. A suit. Totally reasonable. Although, as a woman, do these suits need to be pant-suits? Do they need to be matchy-matchy? Don’t get me wrong, well tailored, matched (like with pants and a jacket) suits can look fantastic… but that’s quite a bit of cash to drop… because I’m not about to go buy a crappy suit from a mediocre store that I hate 30 seconds after wearing it for the first time…

I have great black pants (A.P.C’s and a fantastic pair of cropped, straight-leg blocky black suit pants  from this little shop in Yaletown that imports apparel from Korea). I have some great black and navy pencil skirts. And I also have some very modest, nice work blouses/shirts. But blazers… blazers… I’m going to try to find a good one before I get there… but if I don’t have one and wear a nice work-appropriate sweater, will that be good enough?!?

I’m not bringing any sort of extended supply of toothpaste. That’s silly. People obviously brush their teeth in Japan, I’ll figure that out over there.

I’ve read “bring you hobby stuff,” so O.K. That’s easy enough. I paint and draw – that’s how I relax. So a nice assortment of my favorite brushes, and maybe ONE drawing and writing pad (for the plane and the train… because one stop to Tokyu Hands or Itoya and I’m set) are all I need. Fine. Easy.

What about slip-on indoor shoes? I’ve heard it’s good to bring some with you. BUT then figuring out what style/type of shoes will be appropriate is hard. I can’t seem to find a satisfying shoe description.

Should the shoes be close-toed? How important is that? Are we talking ballet flats type-of-thing? What about low, slip-on heels  like these Maryam Nassir Zadeh Sophie Slide’s in white:


Or would they need to be closed-toed like these Rachel Comey Seneca’s in black:


So yea. I’m a tad confused about the shoes. I will continue to scour the interwebs for more advice, any is welcome. Because I’m not really a “ballet-flat” kind of gal. So there’s that.

In the Classroom.

What about materials for the classes I’ll be teaching? (Not gifts, I know about gifts, that’s a separate issue all together).

But I’m so curious – what kinds of English abilities will my students have? Is it more common to be put into super beginner classes? Will they know the alphabet? Should I bring my favourite kids books? Should I bring basic English materials with me?

Or should I prepare for more advanced levels of English knowledge? Will I be able to set up peer-peer conversation practice?

I had this idea the other night, based on a technique my professor used in University when I was taking second year German in Ontario. My instructor (who was German) had been in Germany over the summer and had connected with a former colleague (or something) in Berlin who was teaching English classes there to her German-speaking students. The two instructors matched students up; one German student in Berlin with one English student in Kingston,ON. We shared our e-mails and Skype information and part of our class homework was to connect over Skype and practice simple conversations and phrases with each other.

It was such a great way to learn! It made me work much harder at trying to think about the right phrases and words to use. In those Skype conversations, I pushed myself more than I ever did in class because in class, you know that everyone else is struggling too, so when I didn’t know something I’d often throw a glance around the room to gauge how stuck everyone else seemed. If everyone else looked stuck, I’d just give up and say what I needed to in English and my instructor would casually fill-in the words I didn’t know and continue with the lesson. Over Skype, it was just the two of us so if neither of us could figure out how to communicate something, that dead air would make me work, make me look it up at least!

Is it worth it for me to try to set something up like that before I leave for Japan?



Yes sure I know about gifts. (O)miyage as I understand they’re called. I’m really not sure what’s best. And also – where should I pack the gifts?

From what I’ve gathered, essentially you can bring all the suitcases you want to Japan (obviously I don’t want to be in charge of lugging around too many massive suitcases) but once you arrive, you keep one for Tokyo and then at the airport you can forward the other suitcases on to your end destination.

So my question really is: will I need gifts for people in Tokyo, or can I keep most of that stuff packed away in my Katano luggage?? Because I don’t want to get caught without gifts for people!!!


Here are some of the types of gifts I’ve thought about:

  • Canada Pins
  • Little Canada Flags
  • A Canada mug or two
  • Salmon Jerky
  • Maple candies
  • Maple syrup (maybe not though, because an explosion would be THE WORST)
  • Tea towels with pictures of Vancouver or Aboriginal artwork
  • A small print/water colour painting of Vancouver
  • Canada key chains
  • Canada pencils
  • A nicer Canada pen
  • Letter opener

Actually now putting all these ideas on a list, maybe I have enough options. But I’m always open to suggestions.


As for the self-introduction classes, I did find a super fantastic article written by one Verity Lane for Tofugu, about Mastering the ALT Self-Intro Class.

Basically I’ve decided to steal all her ideas because they’re gold.

I’ll need to prepare my introduction still, but I’ve been thinking some good topics to hit on will be things like:

  • Where is Canada? (Kanada ni doko desu-ka?… Am I right? Or is it Kanada wa?)
  • Where is Vancouver?
  • How BIG is Canada really? – 4.5 time zones instead of only 1… (is it cool to talk about how many times bigger Canada is than Japan, versus how many more people Japan has than Canada? I was thinking about touching on this with a simple cute picture/infographic)
  • What else is around Vancouver? Mountains, the Pacific Ocean, Forest, Wild Animals like Moose, Bears, Wolves, Cougars, Beavers, Elk… Raccoons, Coyotes?
  • I’m from Vancouver and my father is also from Vancouver (Burnaby), and my mother is from the Netherlands
  • I like sailing, painting and math (give ’em simple and varied interests so I can connect to as many students as possible)

I’m nervous about my first impressions. Hopefully I can suck it up and deliver something fun and friendly.

Me no know English. (O.K. I do but…

I taught sailing at a sailing school (not a yacht club) for 5 years, so I feel lucky that I have some teaching skills to fall back on. I know the feeling of honing a lesson plan. I know the trial and error that is simply reality when dealing with little kids and their attention spans.

But I always found teaching sailing easy, because all the material is there for you. There’s a skill: how to sail. There are steps one needs to learn before one can approach that skill: what makes you go? WIND! How do you know where the wind is coming from? etc. etc.

I don’t think teaching English will be nearly as easy. I’m not afraid or anything, but I do get a bit nervous about it… thing is… I’m a late-French-Immersion kid. For any of you who went through it – (and I’m not saying the early Frenchies don’t experience the same or similar thing, I just don’t want to speak for something I don’t know) – you hit grade 6, and essentially stop learning English. Late Frenchies as we called ourselves, already had to be doing well enough in school that when we started Immersion in grade 6, disrupting our learning in other subjects would be something we’d easily be able to overcome.

Grade 4, honestly I remember learning cursive that’s about it, and grade 5… I don’t even know if we did English. I guess we would have… but I don’t think we were learning particularly complex English grammar rules. We just spoke it automatically and didn’t learn about why.

So then for grade 6 and 7, English is cut. We had to focus on catching up in French, so a lot of subjects fall to the wayside. Sure we did a tiny bit of social studies in French… I guess we might’ve done some Science units… really it was all about learning French.

And in my first year of high school, I applied to be in the English Enriched classes, and got in. I guess though, by getting into that class we were deemed as having already advanced capabilities in English and so learning real grammar was seen as unnecessary. We never did grammar, I was never tested on grammar, my teachers were never concerned that we knew to call something a conjunction or an antecedent, it was just right to novels, poems, short stories, plays, and long essays. (Is a conjunction like and? or like? or with?

So I went all the way through my education without ever really learning what a proper adjective, a definite article, or a reflexive pronoun really are. (Like really, I just looked up all those terms and have no idea what parts of a sentence they refer to).

I’ve gone on too long.

Point is, I’m freaking excited. I’m incredibly curious. I research Katano every day! (They have a Canadian sister-city, Collingwood, ON. I wonder if that means there’s a bigger interest in learning English??)

In the mean time, I’m focusing on learning as much Japanese as I can before I go.

Watashi wa Nihon ni shichi-getsu niju-ichi-nichi o ikimasu.

I’ll keep at it.

– K









6 thoughts on “I wonder…

  1. Mchan says:

    I’d say shoes yes because “big” sizes are hard to find and expensive… and underwear too since it seems 76cm is the “normal” bust size. Japan has lots of toothpaste even weird ones with charcoal. There was an article I think in Japan Today the other day about what new employees should wear, down to the colour of the girls’blush.I guess it’s a little bit less strict for teachers though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • kirstinadhj says:

      Thanks so much for your comment!
      But for the shoes I’m curious – do they need to be “closed-toe”?? Or is open-toed allowed?
      And also, would you recommend flat shoes or is a small heel okay??
      I don’t want to get a new pair that ends up being inappropriate for school!! 🙂 Thanks! 🙂


  2. Nicole Readman says:

    Hi Kirstin! I have stumbled upon your blog while trying to find information on Katano. I too am moving there as a JET this July! I am coming from the Toronto consulate! I am excited to join you on this adventure 🙂


    • kirstinadhj says:

      Hi Nicole! Hilarious!! That’s awesome though! I’ve heard there’s 4 of us – 2 girls and 2 guys, plus another girl who’s already there and staying for her third year. I’m super excited! I guess I’ll meet you in Tokyo?


      • Nicole Readman says:

        I have met the two guys at the Toronto events, and they are super nice! I have been in contact with the girl staying as well, and she is super nice too! I guess so! 🙂 I am so excited :p


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