Japan is weird. As I write this – I’m sitting cross-legged in a room where I’m not allowed to wear shoes, in front of a table that doesn’t reach my knees, with kids on TV dressed as samurai showing me how to cook bread – and I couldn’t be happier. I love it here even more than I expected.
I work as an English Teaching Assistant at a traditional art school in Kyoto – about an hour away from where I live. Most of my students are actually older than me and all incredibly impressive artists. I think that I was drawn to this internship through a sort of obsession with unfamiliar situations. I know nothing about wood carving, lacquer-work or architecture, but those are the things that my students are working on and learning to talk about in English. So not only do I get exposed to the unfamiliar culture of Japan, but also the unfamiliar topics of an art school.
I was surprised and very excited to find out that I’d have the opportunity to join some of the student’s other classes. I’ll be learning Japanese calligraphy and ceramics on Fridays from some (apparently) world-famous masters of their trade.
I also chose this internship because it gives me a lot of free time and allows me to be completely independent. I buy and cook my own food and get to choose how to spend all of my free time. I have already been able to visit a lot of cool shrines and temples in the area, and have a long to-do list for the coming weekends. I am able to be independent at work too – I can make my own lesson plans and class activities for my students. This kind of freedom has been a euphoric change of pace from my average school day where I had a calendar packed with meetings and obligations from dawn to dusk.
I expect to have a rather mixed experience with my students. Some of them are there because they really want to learn English and are already quite good at it, while others are just there to fulfill their requirement. It may be challenging to get the less-committed students to be active in class, but I’m excited to see if I can change their mind about learning another language.
Really looking forward to going to work tomorrow.
Feels good to say that and mean it. I don’t think that many people can do that nowadays.
Side note: I live in Sonobe – a very rural town near the middle of the Kyoto prefecture. After arriving here I learned that I had actually heard stories about this town before; it’s sort of secretly legendary. Sonobe is the hometown of Shigeru Miyamoto – the head game designer of franchises like Mario and Zelda. In fact, just down the road from me are the “Super Mario Bros. Hills” – hills that Miyamoto played on as a kid – which inspired him to create the first Mario games.
(These aren’t the Mario Bros. Hills, it’s just the only picture I have of the town I live in)