The week and Tokyo

I had basically been confined to work or my apartment from last Saturday as I completely ran out of cash. My English bank card has stopped working again so I could not get out anymore money, although my lovely Japanese bank card arrived, as of yet, it does not have any money on it. So I decided to live a simple but pleasant life, scrounging what food I had in the cupboards, reading and trying to get my obstructive TEFL course out the way, waiting for payday to come on Wednesday.

My Japanese bank card

On Sunday I had to get up and go to the city plaza for my next Japanese lesson. I tried to go through all the stuff I had been shown in the previous lesson the night before to make it go a bit easier. The class was a lot more packed than last time, although I still seemed to be the only English person there trying to learn Japanese. The other students were from Taiwan or China. I was taken to another room as my teacher had brought a tape recorder so she she could record words I had trouble pronouncing, and wanted to avoid extraneous noise. This made me feel a bit under pressure to perform, although the lesson still went OK. I surprised myself how much I knew but was reminded how much I needed to learn.

Monday and Tuesday were both really relaxed days. On Monday we just had one lesson that was not scheduled until in the evening. Teru had brought Shunsuke into work so I spent most of the day playing around with him and trying to teach him some English. He is actually quite good for a 3 year old. He is definitely going to grow up bilingual. The planned lesson was with a private student, Sachiko, a middle aged lady who is very much a beginner but is very eager to learn, which made it go quite smoothly. Unlike normal Tuesdays there was no lessons at Kuki Kindergarten. So Teru invited me for lunch round his before we went to work. This was very welcome as my food supplies were dwindling. Komiko, Teru`s wife, was keen to answer my questions about Japanese food and showed me lots of interesting ingredients. For lunch we had a medley of dishes, as such like a typical Japanese meal. It included Japanese style fried vegetables, tofu, miso soup, pasta salad and rice. After lunch we played some games with Shunsuke, although he was more interested in throwing the pieces around. I also had the chance to practice my hirigana and Japanese with some of his books and games. This relaxed afternoon carried my mood through to the lessons in the evening.

It was an early start on Wednesday as we were scheduled to teach at the daycare building of Hiromi Kindergarten. It was a very different type of lesson as the students were very small, as young as 1 and as old as 3. There was around five children with their mothers. As everyone was so young it was mine and Teru`s job to be as animated and full of expression to keep the lesson rolling. I was told just to keep talking in English whether it was understood or not. It was more of a show than a lesson making it actually a lot of fun. The mothers seemed to enjoy it even if the kids did not. Back at school, after the lessons and day was over, Teru gave me my first pay check that was well needed. He quickly debriefed me saying that he was impressed by my ease of adapting to a new environment and was glad with the way I was teaching and how hard I was working, “please keep it up” he said. Thus I rode home later with a smile on my face.

On my day off on Friday I braved it and went to Tokyo again. This time starting at Shinjuku, one of the busy and bustling parts. I headed here to make amends of my failure to find a book shop on my last trip. I had been recommended to go to Kinokoniya, a 7 story book shop located in Shinjuku, which I was bound not to miss. After successfully buying some books, stopping for some tempura and udon noodles, and browsing the many shops in Shinjuku, I was stopped by a man from Ghana. He obviously targeted me as I looked like I could speak English. He told me that he had just arrived in Tokyo and was trying to meet with his friend. He was trying to find a hotel simply named, “English guest house”, and all that he knew was that it was in Shinjuku. All he had was ¥5000 and one phone number to call his friend. He was in Japan to find work. I told him that my Japanese was limited but I would try help him, so we headed for a tourist information booth.  After baffling the staff there, a Japanese lady who could speak English quite well got caught up in the situation. She tried to phone the number for him but there was no reply. We were stuck to what to do as Shinjuku is a massive part of Tokyo and trying to find somewhere as vaguely named as “English guest house” is impossible. We set him up with a phone card so he could wait and try phone his friend again but told him that we could not help more. He was pretty much a lost soul in the middle of one of the busiest parts of Tokyo, trying to find a job legally or illegally.

After an awkward departure from the Ghanian man, I headed to Shibuya for my final tourist destination of the day. Shibuyu is probably the most famous parts of Tokyo as it posses one of the busiest crossings in the world, where about 3 million people cross everyday. I stood there taking pictures for about 15 minutes just watching the green man appear and thousands of people swarm across the street. It really is quite an amazing spectacle. I crossed it around 4 times and I can say that it is the most fun I have had crossing a road. I started to explore a bit and it is impossible to get your head around Shibuya. Everything is crowded, piled high, cramped and all the lights everywhere confuse you even further. Although it is a crazy maze it is exciting and nothing like anything else.

Shibuya crossing

Saturday was a completely contrasting day to the previous one in Tokyo. It was back to work although there were no lessons scheduled. So me and Teru hopped on our bikes headed to pay the gas bill, but after this Teru treated me and took me to one of the temples in Kazo. I was quite surprised that I had missed it until then as it was wonderful. He told me that it actually quite a famous temple across Japan and in early February they hold a festival here in which, among many other things, the leading sumo wrestlers are invited. Back at the school we spent the rest of the day decorating in preparation for Halloween, as the kids love it and we are holding our own Halloween party at the end of the month. He gave me a quick Japanese lesson concluding an easy and relaxed day of “work”.

3 thoughts on “The week and Tokyo

  1. Such a shame for that man from Ghana, I wonder if he ever found the elusive hostel? Good to hear that Teru thinks highly of you. AMAZING bank card as well! Did you choose the design yourself?

  2. Noice one on kicking ass at work man. Your travels sound so amazing, got to skype you soon. Got paid finally ;P you always go through skint stages hehe x

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