Japan 2010

My third trip to Japan was after university. Alex had graduated and applied to work for JET, Japan Exchange Teachers. A government program that hired foreigners with BA’s to work as assistants in English classrooms in Japan. The persons job was to provide engaging and fun lessons as well as a good example of spoken English.

Alex was hired and put in Tajimi, and area called the armpit of Japan because of how hot and humid the summers were. I knew I had to visit her and live there as long as I was allowed (3 months). So after planning and warning Alex I was off to live on her fold out couch for three months.

In the mornings I would walk Alex to work and then go for a run along the river before I went back to her house. I would wander around town and try to learn more Japanese. I would go back to the school and walk home with Alex some days. We would always walk by a takoyaki cart (octopus balls) and talk to the owner with our limited skills.

On the weekends we would go on adventures and I was lucky enough to be included easily into the wonderful group of friends that Alex had made there. We would take trips hiking, to the onsen, to Tokyo, and even a Golden Week trip to Okinawa where we rented a car.

Japan is very easy for travellers to get around. The train connects you to anywhere you could want to go. You can take local trains around the area you live to explore. You can take the bullet train to get to large cities quickly. One in the cities there are buses, cabs, trains, and subways. Everything is clearly laid out and people are happy to help.

Japan is known for being expensive, and it can be. Land is valuable, so hotels and places to stay are expensive. Eating our can be expensive if you are a picky eater. But if you find a place to stay that doesn’t break the budget the rest of Japan can be pretty cheap. If you can’t find a place that doesn’t break the budget try Couchsurfing and stay with people for free. Remember that as a courtesy it’s nice to bring a small gift for your host/ess.

I used to get a 5$ curry meal for lunch. It was a large portion of curry and a naan the size of an elephant ear. You can go to a ramen bar for a few dollars or for gyudon. Even going out to the bars isn’t that expensive if you know where to find the 300 or 500 Yen bars (or 3 or 5$ bar). The trains are inexpensive but taxi’s are expensive.

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