08 June 2012

Diary of an ALT: How NOT to live in Japan

Three days ago marked my first calendar month in Japan and although I haven't been here very long, and still don't know much about living here, I have picked up a few bits of info on how NOT to live here. Through trial and error, day-to-day interactions, but mostly through stupidity.

1) Do NOT leave your apartment without locking the door before you go to school (several times!) Japanese people are incredibly honest and law-abiding but that doesn't mean there isn't one out there somewhere who won't rob you blind for your stupidity. There's always one...

2) Do NOT lose the key-card to your apartment on your second day in your apartment. (This one's a no-brainer.) And especially do not rediscover your "lost" key in the front pocket of your bag 2 days later after having suffered a slightly distressing mini-adventure to get an expensive replacement.

3) Do NOT be a drunken salaryman magnet. (This one is hard not to do as it's not exactly something you can control). I, it would seem, am one of said magnets. One night while waiting for a train with my new friend Dave I had a tipsy man stand directly behind me, smiling drunkenly at the back of my neck. When his friend came over to stand beside him neck-starer gained enough confidence to present me with the gift of a bottle of Yoo, a yoghurt drink, he had just purchased from a vending machine. (It's sitting in my fridge, unopened. Haven't the heart to throw it away). His friend then drunkenly demanded "Where you from?!" before insisting that Dave was my boyfriend. He is not. Not half an hour later we were waiting for a street car, chatting away, when another sozzled salaryman began to shout "Lovely voice!" in my direction. He then approached us and insisted that Dave was my boyfriend and that he propose to me immediately. Which, for a laugh, he did. In front of a crowd of people waiting for a street car. Mortified. (Which means embarrassed for those of you not familiar with Irish lingo).

4) Do NOT fall asleep on public transportation. The Japanese are experts at it and I have seen manys the person sleeping while standing and still holding onto their briefcase/school bag/iPhone and maintaining a semi-upright position. It is pretty funny when their head starts to nod and they begin sliding towards the floor. They always wake before they fall over though, it's like some sort of instinctual thing. They have it down to a tee. I, on the other hand, end up in my go-to position for napping on public transport which is head back, mouth slightly open and falling more open with every passing minute, and eyes twitching. I twitch and make little noises when I'm falling asleep. Further mortification.

5) Do NOT go to an all-you-can-drink bar and actually drink "all-you-can". These places exist throughout much of Japan and prices and time limits vary depending on location. For example there is one here in Hiroshima where you pay 3000yen for 5 hours if you're a man and 2700yen if you're a woman (take that men ha ha ha!). Once inside you can eat as many nibbly bits from the nibbly bits corner as you like and drink as many beers as you can stomach and patiently queue for. However, if you are like me you have a greedy western brain and you will want to capitalize on this offer and get more than your moneys worth. And if, like me, you have a woman's tiny liver and weak constitution it will do you no favours. Put down that plate of tiny cakes Ciara and step away from the bar! (I'd like to tack onto this point, since it is sort of related, that you should steer cleer of Chu Hi. Cans of 8% delicious lemon-y poison for less than 200yen. No good will come of it.)

6) And finally do NOT become addicted to mini kit-kats. They're everywhere here and schools usually have a few floating around the staff room that they are kind enough to present to a naive, new ALT. It may seem like a kind little gift, especially when the vice-principal writes a thoughtful message and draws a heart in marker on the back of the wrapper, but next thing you know you're buying 2 or 3 multi-packs a week and getting withdrawal symptoms if you don't have one every few hours. It's a slippery slope from there and it only leads to more sugary, adorable things. An ALT's salary can't keep you in Studio Ghibli themed buns and cakes forever you know.

One of the cutest buns ever baked. You almost don't want to
eat his smiling face. Almost...


  1. I told you, it's that Irish accent!! ;)

    I actually had a girl fall asleep on me on the train. About 20 times. She kept trying to pull herself back upright, but no joke it was only 5 seconds later and she was falling back onto my shoulder. I had to try really really hard not to snort with laughter throughout the whole ordeal. Poor thing.

  2. like your blog!
    keep posting and go for it!


    1. Wow thanks!
      Fanned you on Lookbook :-)


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Maira Gall