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Post-college wanderlust in Japan

Background: After college, I taught English in Japan for three and a half months. I participated in a program in which we were assigned to a university in the Tokyo metro area. At our university, we taught English Conversation as an extracurricular class. The classes had no homework; it was an opportunity for students to practice speaking English. In the Japanese education system, classes are large and class discussions are rare. Therefore, these classes were created to address these gaps. I shared an apartment with two other teachers, and there were about twenty-five teachers in the program. Amazingly enough, the protagonist in my novel teaches English in Japan.


Japan, for me, was an experience of contrasts. I’m very to the point and I wear my emotions on my sleeve; the Japanese are the opposite. I still remember one lesson in which I taught them about sarcasm. Sarcasm comes very naturally to me, but for them, this was strictly a role play. I tried to be sympathetic, saying to one student that sarcasm was less polite, and the student replied that he thought that it made life more interesting. He didn’t want to stand out by being sarcastic, but it was clear that he felt somewhat stifled that he had to be so polite all the time.


Although I didn’t feel at ease with the culture in many ways, there was still much to appreciate about Japan. The history is fascinating. In Kyoto, you could spend weeks exploring their temples; they are steeped in traditions of Shintoism and Buddhism. Japan has so many unique characters or traditions: geishas, sumo wrestlers, the samurai warriors, the Japanese tea ceremony, etc. Below is Kiyomizu-dera, which is one of the most famous temples in Kyoto.




-Obtained as free background image from Bookbrush.com


Geisha:


-Obtained as free background image from Bookbrush.com



Before I went to Japan, I thought that I was beginning my journey of “Asia”. My Vietnamese-American friend said to me, “Japan is an island. If you really want to get a feel for Asia, then you need to look elsewhere.” After traveling through numerous other Asian countries, I have to say now that I agree with my friend one hundred percent. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that Japan is a fascinating, extremely unique island. The world would be far less interesting without them.



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©2019 by Brent Robins.