Surviving the JET Programme: 6 months in

Hey JETsetters!

Another milestone update here on life on the JET Program. It’s officially six months into my contract on the JET Programme. Been an interesting ride so far. Check out what I’ve been up to for the past half year in Ishikawa, Japan!

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Daily Life

I have mostly settled into a routine and am slowly but surely figuring out Nonoichi and Ishikawa.

I’ve gone out to Kanazawa and Hakusan City a few times since moving here. I don’t go to Kanazawa too often because the public transit system here is not too convenient nor reliable, but I go out to meet friends every now and then or when I need to go shopping at major chains. Check out my thoughts on the transportation system in Central Ishikawa here. I have words.

I’ve been to Shirayama-hime Shrine two times now. I went there with some of my neighbours for hatsumode (first shrine visit of the year) and back in August. It is a beautiful shrine and it feels very serene. I wish it was easier to get to without a car so that I could visit any time I wanted.

I had a staycation this past Winter Holidays. I took 5 days off on top of the regular free time off, so I had 2 weeks to relax. I met up with some of my co-workers for dinner at the end of December but mainly just relaxed at home. I cleaned my apartment because my best friend was going to visit from Osaka during the 3-day Coming of Age Day weekend in January. I also spent a lot of time drawing, gaming, and just catching up on sleep.

My working hours are 8:15-16:00 M-F usually. A lot of JETs typically work 8:00-16:00 but there are some that work various hours throughout the week. Some work at night schools some days, others get Wednesday off on top of their weekends (looking at you Tokyo JET ALTs), and others get some random start time, such as 10 or 11 depending on their schedule. I’m not a morning person at all, so I kind of wish that I had a later start and finish time, but it is nice to get home relatively early.

I’ve gone out to a few different local restaurants and cafes but still need to explore more. Nonoichi has a few small shrines to visit but none of them do goshuin, or calligraphy “seals” or sutras of that shrine. I collect goshuin so it is sad that my own city doesn’t do them. I’ll have a post on goshuin in the coming months! Stay tuned!

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ATTENTION: RARE BEAN SIGHTING In Japan, yuru-chara are extremely popular. These mascots are everywhere. Not only cities and towns use them, but also private businesses. Every prefecture has at least one yuru-chara. For Ishikawa, mainly Kanazawa, Hyakuman-san is the best bean of all. Spoiler alert: He's not really a bean. Hyakuman-san's history is pretty recent, yet he still has faced so much hardship in his short life so far. He was created in a contest by the people of Ishikawa to be used for the opening of Hokuriku Shinkansen line to Tokyo in 2012 for PR purposes. His design is that of a “Kaga Hachiman Oki-agari,” an Ishikawa folk doll lucky charm. Many think see him as a traditional daruma or Russian doll as well. He is filled with colourful traditional designs from all over Ishikawa. There are drawings of Kenrokuen Garden’s stone lantern, Mt. Hakusan, Noto Kiriko floats and other places of interest from Ishikawa. His entire body and soul is dedicated to the people of Ishikawa. He is literally a man of the people, yet his own people turned their backs on him. Why? Hyakuman-san had 1 job. And he failed it. He failed the people. (Plus, some people don't find his design cute enough? #rude) He was created to be the mascot for the opening of the Tokyo route on the Hokuriku Shinkansen and yet… he couldn't even fit past the ticket gates. Ok, not too bad. He could slide past the regular gates and use the accessibility gates instead. But then… he couldn't get onto the shinkansen itself… Hyakuman-san, how are you meant to lead your people to Tokyo (for supreme domination of Japan) when you can't even get onto the very thing you were designed for?! How?! You have failed the people. And yet, in recent years his popularity amongst the locals has started to grow bit by bit. You will find a plethora of goods with his likeness around the prefecture in souvenir shops and even regular stores. He's even on a jar of sake which you can commonly find in any conbini! There is still hope for you yet, dear Hyakuman-san. Your mission will one day be complete. Until then, continue to regain the hearts and loyalty of the people.

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I went out to Kyoto with some other JETs mid-October. It was super nice to be back “home”. We did a lot of temple and shrine hopping mainly, along with feasting on food that we don’t [easily] have in Ishikawa.

I had a Halloween work party in Tsubata, a town north of Kanazawa, for the town’s elementary students. It was a nice little event and a good chance to get out and see other towns. Seeing Tsubata does make Nonoichi seem like a huge city, which makes me appreciate it more.

Bought a Nintendo Switch as a “treat yourself” once I had my finances in order. I originally sold my old Switch a while back as I never used it. I didn’t really care much for most of the games when it first came out, especially for games that were not Switch exclusives. If I could get it on my PS4, then that’s where I would get it for. Fire Emblem Three Houses sold me on getting a new Switch and I have not regretted it. This game is a life ruiner and I am all about that. I also got Pokemon Shield when it came out. I’ll eventually post reviews for these games. Eventually.

I played Persona 5 Royal in Japanese when it came out and did love it even with some issues. Happy to see more of best boy again. I want to get it in English when it comes out, along with Persona 5 Scramble. Eager to play them both.

Debating on if I get Animal Crossing when it comes out but currently my finances are a bit tight because of an unexpected expense. More on that later.

November was our school’s cultural festival. High schools tend to be the ones that go all out with public events and booths—the ones that you would see in dramas/anime/manga. Junior high schools and elementary schools typically will not be like that. For the most part they are a chorus/choir contest in the mornings and then an internal “festival” at the school. Usually parents can come see this event and see what their kids have been up to. For us, it was a couple short performances from the various performing arts clubs, such as brass band and baton twirling (closest thing to cheerleading you’ll find in most schools). The other clubs had a representative from each give a short presentation on the club and what they did this past year.

The kids had to record a video of their class in relation to the theme and it was shown. The student council had petitioned to have some teachers sing a j-pop song at the front and it turned into a mini concert for bit. I luckily avoided it.

There was also a bit at the end where the kids could “confess” something to the school, such as their goals or thanks (mainly 3rd years). The kids were all selected ahead of time by the student council and the general contents of their confession was vetted by the SC and teachers on the festival committee. Still had some random kids come up to join their friends. I got a confession from a male 3rd year student ahaha, as did one other female teacher. How that got approved, I have no clue. This all took place during the regular school day, so no need for daikyu for any staff for having to come in on the weekend outside of regular duties.

I went to Kenrokuen for the autumn night illumination during late November. It did take 2 attempts, as the first time we got there just before they closed and weren’t allowed to enter. But it was all worth it! It was gorgeous! I have a ton of photos of it up on my Instagram! Check them out if you get the chance.

My best friend Lauren visited me finally on January 11th-13th. (Check out Lauren’s journey in Japan at Nihon Chique!) We went out around Kanazawa mainly because when I asked for recommendations around Nonoichi every single person said, “There’s nothing to do here”. It was ironic considering my 2nd years had to give a presentation the week prior on what they recommend tourists to do in Nonoichi and the JTEs kept criticising them for not having enough content.

We went to Kanazawa Castle two times, Kenrokuen Garden, Higashichaya Street, Omicho Market, and around the shopping districts. Unfortunately, the 21st century museum was closed until mid-February, so we couldn’t go. It was a very rainy and cold weekend, which pretty much sums up Ishikawa in a nutshell. However, there was no snow thankfully. We managed to get decent weather the first day out and had mild rain when out the 2nd day. The last day we spent a mix between a lazy morning in Nonoichi at the local ramen joint and ate taiyaki at a famous shop before the rain started again and then back to Kanazawa for early dinner before Lauren headed back to Osaka.

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I love ramen and I love spicy food. So, spicy ramen is the perfect combination! ⁣ ⁣ This spicy ramen had 4 levels and I only went to the 2nd level this time, but I plan on going up to the highest in the future!⁣ ⁣ There are two very famous ramen chains in Ishikawa, Rai Rai Tei (来来亭) and Hachiban Ramen. Every since I moved to Ishikawa 6 months ago, everyone has been telling me that I need to try them out. As far as ramen chains go, I'm so used to Ichiran or Ippudo from Kansai/Kanto, so it is interesting to try out other famous chains. ⁣ ⁣ I finally checked out Rai Rai Tei when @nihonchique visited last month! It was absolutely delicious! There are actually only 3 branches in Ishikawa, yet they are super popular! There is usually a huge line at them. The chain originates from Shiga Prefecture, but I never heard of them until moving here! I'm surprised considering how often I would go to Shiga before!⁣ ⁣ I'm very lucky that there is a branch in my little city of Nonoichi, and even luckier that it is literally right behind my work!⁣ I definitely plan on going there more often after work, either by myself or with coworkers!⁣ ⁣ Have you every tried Rai Rai Tei? What ramen chain do you like?⁣ ⁣ #Japan #japonia #travel #ttot #jetprogram #jetprogramme #tokyo #tokyolife #tokyocameraclub #japan_of_insta #gaijin #visitjapan #japanlife #lifeinjapan #tokio #polkawjaponii #instagrammersjapan #kyoto #capturetheworld #ishikawa #visitjapanjp #tokyostory #nonoichi #jblogger #japanblogger #visitishikawa

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It was very nice to meet up with her again and catch up. One of the biggest reasons for me wanting to have been placed somewhere in Kansai was to be closer to all my old friends and the community I spent years building. It still feels weird that I can’t just go out for dinner after work with her or our other friends whenever we feel like it. But this past trip was a nice reminder that we aren’t too far away from one another. It might not be as convenient or cheap to visit each other, and it definitely requires planning well in advance, but it is doable. I plan on visiting her later this year in summer at some point once I figure out my work schedule and if I get any free days or if I need to use nenkyuu. We might also be going to Nagoya or another venue to see our boys NEWS during their concert tour this year. We shall see about that.

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One of my oldest and closest friends–OK, let's be real, family at this point–came to visit me in Ishikawa finally!⁣ ⁣ @nihonchique and I hadn't seen eachother for a little over a year at this point after she briefly visited me in California during her business trip in 2018. Before that, we hadn't seen eachother since I moved to the U.S. in 2016. ⁣ ⁣ We have been friends now for nearly 8 years, yet it feels like a lifetime. We talk every day and yet never truly run out of things to say. When she came by for the Seijinshiki (Coming of Age Day) weekend this January, we never had a dull moment during those 3 days. It was a long overdue visit and catch-up session. ⁣ ⁣ This girl has been there for me through some of my darkest and toughest days and I cannot imagine my life without her anymore. ⁣ ⁣ One of the main reasons why I was bummed originally when I found out that I would be placed in Ishikawa when moving back to Japan is because I would be further away than I wanted from my group of friends that I already spent the past 3 years away from. But, we all realised that Ishikawa is not too far away from Kansai and Tokyo. It does cost a lot more than it would to visit than if I were to be someone in Kansai, even the countryside, but it is certainly doable. ⁣ ⁣ While we can't have biweekly dinner dates or random meet-ups anymore, seeing eachother every few months is totally fine. Especially, since it seems as though we are never apart from one another! ⁣ ⁣ I'm looking forward to our next meet-up later this year where I will be going to Osaka or Nagoya to meet up with Lauren and our other friends.⁣ ⁣ #Japan #japonia #travel #ttot #jetprogram #jetprogramme #tokyo #tokyolife #tokyocameraclub #japan_of_insta #gaijin #visitjapan #japanlife #lifeinjapan #tokio #polkawjaponii #instagrammersjapan #kyoto #capturetheworld #ishikawa #visitjapanjp #tokyostory #nonoichi #jblogger #japanblogger

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Just before Lauren’s visit, my laptop broke… It died on me at work the Thursday before her visit. It’s an older laptop that I planned on replacing next year with a nice high-end creator one, but those plans are now thrown out the window. I haven’t gone to a repair shop in person yet, but from my diagnosis and from what my IT friends have also diagnosed, it is pretty much a goner. If by some miracle it is fixable, the costs to replace parts and fix it will be just as much as a new baseline PC. So, I ended up getting the cheapest laptop for the base specs that I needed ASAP, as I need a laptop for work because the one they provided me is a glorified brick. I am surviving with the new laptop so far. It will take some time getting used to as the layout/design of it is a bit different than what I am used to and prefer, but it will get the job done.

I’m not going to lie. I am pretty ticked off about the situation. I got lucky that I backed up nearly all my data, and all my important data at least. But now I will have to wait another few years before buying a new laptop that I really want because I’m not going to waste the money spent on this one if it works fine. I also didn’t have the money to afford this one on the spot basically. I pulled from my emergency saving to afford it, as it cost more than 1 months’ worth of rent. I was slowly saving up for the new laptop next year and didn’t have the funds ready so soon. I’ll have to be extremely frugal for the next 2 months or so to get back on track with my savings goal. Hello, instant ramen!

I want to buy a few video games in the first quarter or two of this year, so being frugal is going to kill me ahahaha. Happy that the Pokémon Shield expansion pack isn’t starting until June.

Priorities of adulthood. Adulting sucks.

Work Life

I fell into a routine at work pretty quickly. Having worked in Japan and in education before definitely helped me hit the ground running. The school is very different from my previous ones in Kyoto and Osaka, but the general premise is the same. Check out how my work life is going 6 months in in detail here.

Well, things have been going well so far after moving back to Japan and starting the JET Programme. Hopefully, this good luck continues!

I’ll be posting a lot of reviews, recommendations, and tips about Japan, Asia, and the JET Programme this year. Stay tuned for more adventures to come.


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