Farewell Odd America, Hello Japanese Countryside

Welcome to my life for the next 4+ months.

Kaori dialing in here:

I’m leaving in a week to fly to Tokyo, where I’ll take a long train ride by shinkansen (新幹線, a train line) to a little village named after the gods in Saitama prefecture. I’ll live and work at an English Immersion language preschool called Sunnyside Elementary! (SSU!) under the direction of professional chef Nancy Singleton-Hachisu, author of the lauded Japanese Farm Food cookbook. Nancy is an Californian native, and made Japan her permanent home after marrying her egg&soybean farming husband.

I am incredibly lucky to know her, and to be joining the SSU! family. I got the job by a great stroke of luck: During my arduous finals week in my last semester at Reed College, exhausted to the bone, I wandered into the college bookstore to browse the books for sale.

IMG_0799

I chanced upon a beautifully bound and illustrated book and spontaneously decided to reach out to the author. Her life is one I aspire to, for her way of life seamlessly integrates all the things I care about the most: children, farming and the country way, cooking, and Japan.

We struck up an email correspondence and she very generously offered to house me in her farmhouse for a few months while I travelled. After I met her and her son, Matthew, who is considering applying to Reed as a freshman, at a Portland coffee shop, she offered me a teaching opportunity. It’s a great opportunity, since I will be working nearly full-time, with teachers I have already befriended via email. I’ll be immersed in a supportive working environment where children are allowed creative freedom, where I don’t have to design a syllabus or really teach except to create fun arts and science activities.

At SSU! I’ll be overseeing hordes of small bubbly children, whose ages range from 2-6. We will all cook lunch together every day, garden in the school plot, play together, and go on field trips to local historic sites, tofu and miso factories, and ramen restaurants. Psyched. (Plus! I will be able to learn Japanese, teach myself how to code, master graphic design tools, and explore Japan in my free time.)

Nancy says, “This is not your typical “eikaiwa” job where you see little progress in your students (apathetic or enthusiastic, regardless!). This is a chance to really get to know your students on a personal level. These kids will touch your hearts!” And I knew I had struck gold when I read this: “the kids will love you unconditionally if you show them your real heart and they will jump in your arms shouting, “I love you!” You will see reserved kids come out of their shells before your eyes and you will see their real beings shine out from their faces. This is truly amazing.”

darling children from the school

Like, WHAT?!??! I get paid to live in glorious nature, eat organic food, roll in fields of sushi, and on top of all this, love and be loved by hordes of kids?! I can check that dream job off my bucket list. Kind of weeping right now, to be honest. It’s too good. I’m confident that moving to Japan will present me with many challenges, but I will never forget the anticipation and excitement I feel now. Come along with me for the ride, while I learn and grow in the Japanese countryside. I might even take you to e-meet my family in Nagasaki, in the southernmost part of Japan.

Bye Bye Bye -‘N Sync

UPDATE!!!!

One month in, my work environment quickly turned toxic as I was incessantly criticized, bullied, and ruled by fear. Soon after, I transitioned to a much more nurturing workplace.

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