A Day in the Life

As life slows to a crawl here in Koga, things have become quite regular for me. I figured it’s time for the quintessential travel blogger post: a day in the life of yours truly. I’ll try to remember to add all the quirks of daily life. We’ll go with a Monday. Usually I wake up bright and early at 6am to the song “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye. Then, I hit the snooze, twice. I’ve been on the planet long enough to know that it’s going to take more than one alarm. At 6:30am, a second alarm goes off with the song “Parks on Fire” by Trifonic. This song has considerably more edge to it, and impossible to sleep through. Thus, my day begins.

I’m willing to adapt to a lot of strange things here, but Japanese breakfasts are not one of them. Normally, a traditional breakfast consists of fish, miso soup, and rice. My day just isn’t going to start well with those items. Much to the surprise of my students, I normally eat a breakfast of bread, sausages, and fruit. I may or may not have picked up a coffee addiction here. If such rumors were true, I’d probably put said coffee in a “Japan 2012″ Starbucks mug that I got in Shibuya. Oh yea, be jealous.

Then, I realize that I am 5 minutes behind, rush to get dressed, brush teeth, and put on a small amount of make-up. Hi-ho hi-ho, you know the rest. I drive about 30 minutes to get to my schools, but it’s always a pleasant drive. Every morning, I see the same elementary school kids walking with their brightly colored backpacks making their way to school. In Japan, students learning to travel safely to school must wear a flap over their bag that is a blisteringly bright yellow. Also, along my route, I normally pass no less than four 7-11’s. If a second coffee is needed, it’s never far away.

Once I get to school, I make my rounds of ohayou gozaimasu and settle in to my desk where a hot cup of green tea is undoubtedly waiting for me. Depending on my schedule, I may work as many as four lessons before lunch at 12:30. If I’m not teaching, I can be found at my desk studying Japanese very, very intently. That or wandering the halls.

Lunch is my favorite part of the day. First of all, it’s always welcomed because I am usually starving. Also, it’s a chance to talk to the kids since I always have lunch with them. Every day I rotate between classes. Japanese students eat in their classroom and share the assignment of dishing out food for other students. Once food had been served and everyone has laid out their Mickey Mouse placemats, we all say itadekimasu and dig in. Tuesday is bread day and Thursday is noodle day. As this fictitious day is a Monday; I’m probably eating fish, with some weird pickled veggies, and a soup that contains who-knows-what. I eat it without question. Usually. (Was that squid I just ate?)

The kids typically discuss how much English they don’t speak (wakaranai) before one of them braves a question. At first, they go easy on me, asking typical questions about music taste and favorite Japanese food. Without fail, though, I always get asked if I have a boyfriend. We all have a good laugh over it and lunch is normally done at that point. With a gochisousama deshita lunch is finished and we are all in charge of breaking down our meal so it can be cleaned.

Then, there is about 30 minutes for recess and teeth brushing. It might sound weird but it’s kind of nice. After lunch, only two classes remain, then it’s cleaning time. Really terrible, happy-go-lucky music blares over the speakers and the students come over to me and offer a broom. “Let’s clean together!” I don’t really have a choice here. Luckily, it’s not as bad as it sounds. With s0 many students and only 10 minutes, we can get the work done fast.

Cleaning is the last task of the day, then it’s time for bukatsu (clubs). I usually float around each day, observing different clubs. So far, I’ve watched Kendo, Table Tennis, Art, Band, and Soft Tennis. The last one always intrigues me as they play indoors with a squishy tennis ball. It’s quite different from the tennis I know. In between drills, I always get asked strange questions and usually am offered to try the sport. At 6:30pm, clubs come to a close and the teachers see the students off. This is usually my exit, too.

On the way home, I often stop at a shabby-looking, yet fantastic bakery. Run by a husband and wife, they sell all kinds of yummy-looking, cheap bread. I usually get their popular “Koga Bread” which is a pull-apart loaf with three flavored sections. One is Strawberry Jam, one Grape and Tea Leaves, and one Sweet Bread. It’s amazing and it also makes a great omiyage (hometown souvenir).

As it’s Monday, I undoubtedly have a blog that could use updating, or more groceries to get. Food expires very quickly here, so I go to the store way more than I would like. Dinner is typically pre-cooked noodles with either Udon soup, Yakisoba seasoning, or Ramen soup. I wish I could say I cooked an epic dinner every night, but that’s not even remotely true. Japan makes quick meals quite easy and infinitely tasty. Not to mention, I always have the option of going to a convenience store and finding a delicious bento box. While eating dinner, it’s either k-pop on Groove Shark, or cable TV with a variety show. Afterwards, I check Facebook, then decide between studying Japanese or reading a book. Finally, it’s off to bed around 11pm.

Wash, rinse, and repeat.

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4 thoughts on “A Day in the Life

  1. Sounds like the kids “say the darndest things,” as Art Linkletter would say. Plese post more of the questions! And would love to meet the bakery owners (through photos) and the see Koga Bread.

  2. Do you read Debito Arudou at the Japan Times (online)? He’s one of the few journalists who writes on the less-than-fabulous aspects of Japanese life, a unique perspective from someone living in wonderful Japan.

    Also, Jake Adelstein is very good too, if you’re into yakuza/gokudō type stuff. He was a crime reporter for many years for one of Japan’s top newspapers Yomiuri Shimbun, before having a bounty placed on him by one of Japan’s top crime families, eliciting his exit back to the States. He wrote the book “Tokyo Vice,” a great read! He now heads up the Japan Subculture Research Center (www.japansubculture.com)

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