Ashley: "I was not expecting Shizuoka to be so beautiful"

Expat interviews
  • Ashley in Shizuoka
Published on 2013-07-25 at 02:00 by team
After 5 years of studying at university in Virginia, USA, Ashley moved to Japan to teach through the JET Program. Though she had studied and prepared to be a secondary science teacher, she is currently teaching conversational English at a top-tier high school in Shizuoka Prefecture.

Why did you decide to move to Japan?

I moved to Japan because of a 10 minute conversation with a stranger- seriously. He told me about his friend who taught in Japan for a year, and I had always dreamed of living abroad. I decided to go home and research teaching programs and found the JET Program. I applied, was accepted, and moved to Japan about a year later. It was a bit whimsical of a decision, but fortunately worked out great.

How was the moving process?

The program I came with made the process very easy. I did have to get a chest x-ray to screen for TB, but other things like the visa were taken care of by the embassy. I moved into my predecessor's old apartment, so I didn't have to furnish my apartment from scratch. However, once I moved to my new home, it took about a month before I went a day without getting lost.

Did you face some difficulties adapting to your host country?

Japan is a developed country, so there were many luxuries I didn't have to give up. That being said, I did have to get used to not being able to read or communicate with people, which was frustrating to say the least at times. I also had to get used to being larger and taller than most of the women here, which was harder than it seems.

What surprised you the most in Shizuoka or in Japan?

I was not expecting Shizuoka (or Japan) to be so beautiful. I used to think all of Japan was like Tokyo with bright lights and electronics and futuristic. I had no idea the geography of Japan was so beautiful. You can't look to the horizon without seeing picturesque mountains.

Is it easy to meet new people in Shizuoka? Any advice?

There is a decently-sized in Shizuoka full of teachers and exchange students at the local university which can be found easily on Facebook. I would recommend going to a community center to find out what's going on around town, and what opportunities there are for English (and other language) speakers.

How did you find a job there? Is it easy to find a job in Shizuoka?

I got a job through the JET Program before I moved. I have met expats who have found jobs here, but it's no guarantee. I'd recommend finding a job online first. Your best and possibly only job opportunity is teaching English.

Could you please share with us something you like about Shizuoka and something you don't like?

Shizuoka is famous for a lot of healthy foods, including green tea, oranges, wasabi, and strawberries. I also have a beautiful view of Mt. Fuji from my classroom and apartment on clear days which never gets old. As for what I don't like, I wish there were more of a nightlife. Other than one or two streets, the town completely shuts down around 10.

Tell us more about your day-to-day life in Shizuoka:

Living alone and having a 35-hour work week, my day-to-day life is quite mundane! After getting ready for work, it's a 2 mile bike ride to my school where I teach over 300 1st-year high school students and 10 3rd-year students per week. I do lesson plan, read and respond to their journals, and partake in the Japanese school activities that happen throughout the year. After school, I bike to the gym where work out and have an onsen (hot spring) routine with my "old lady friends". Weekends sometimes involve travelling around Japan, although I will happily stay in my hometown to enjoy a festival or local events!

What do you miss the most from the US, your home country?

Other than my family and friends being the obvious answer, I miss the array of options in grocery stores and Barbecued pulled pork sandwiches.

Which advice would you give to people wishing to live in Shizuoka?

Know what you should do in the event of an earthquake, and keep an earthquake kit in your house.

Why did you start your blog, For now Japan?

I started the blog quite late in the game, over 2.5 years after my big move. I didn't know the expat blog community that existed until 2 years in, and after following a few blogs I decided to give it a try. I have met and made friends with people in similar situations as myself, as well as helped people thinking about visiting Japan. I love meeting new people and finding new blogs through it. Blogging has been a very rewarding experience.

What are your projects for the future?

When I'm finished teaching ESL in Japan, I hope to return to my hometown and teach secondary science - a complete change from what I've been doing!

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