From Jamaica to Japan and Back


It was July 26, 2014 that I embarked on a journey that would forever change my life, I would be living and working in the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’. Twenty-four other Jamaica JETs and I left Kingston, Jamaica on July 26 and arrived in Tokyo in Japan on July 27. The orientation process in Tokyo was fun as I got to roam the streets of Tokyo with my fellow Jamaican JETs and this honestly helped to soothe some of the homesickness and heartache I felt. One of my most memorable moments in Tokyo was going to a Japanese ramen shop and ordering food not speaking a word of Japanese. Thankfully the Japanese menus are equipped with pictures that looked like the actual meal I received.

In Japan I lived in the Kansai region, more specifically Nishinomiya City in the prefecture of Hyogo. My location in Japan was very ideal as I lived 15 minutes by train away from Kobe – Sannomiya and 18 minutes from Osaka city. I worked at the Nishinomiya Senior High School, which was very close to my home. Working in Japan was at times very bittersweet as there were days when classes would be so upbeat and fun and then there were some classes where the students were so shy it would drive me crazy. I devised a plan though that would help my shy students to communicate with me by creating a letterbox. Creating the letterbox was the best thing I had ever done as it allowed my students to write to me as well as gave me a chance to write letters to them. Even though at times my responses were delayed due to the numerous letters I received.

My most memorable moments of working in Japan included; my time spent walking to work, as my journeys were always interesting especially being the only black person that lived in my area. I met interesting persons and at times got strange stares from curious onlookers. At first the stares felt strange but soon it became a regular part of my life.

Sports day in Japan was another unforgettable work experience, as it was nothing like l have ever seen before. Yes, they had the regular track and field, but it was in Japan I discovered that jump rope (skipping), kumitaiso (which is the making of human pyramid) and tug and war were legit sporting activities. Sports day was also very organized. It started on time and ended on time and all activities ran smoothly.

One of my favourite experiences in Japan was wearing a tradition Japanese outfit (a kimono and the Japanese slipper) while touring the Kyoto area, all this while riding in a rickshaw. Another memorable experience for me in Japan was attending Hadaka Matsuri (Naked Man Festival) in Okoyama prefecture in the winter.

Hadaka Matsuri was unlike any festival I had ever attended and I was a bit discombobulated seeing Japanese men and foreigners barely clothed fighting to get a sacred object in a shrine. The men lucky enough to get scared objects were often deemed to have good fortune. My Japanese lifestyle would see me attending many more festivals like Hadaka Masturi and travelling to many prefectures.

For the most part living in Japan was an amazing experience but homesickness was always a major issue for me. I missed my family so much that after two years on the JET Programme I decided return home to Jamaica. Leaving Japan and coming back to Jamaica I had this big dream of coming back to save the education system in my country, as my Japanese had concretized the fact that I loved teaching.

I arrived home in July 2016 and being back my first month was blissful. However, as soon as I became reacquainted with the Jamaican culture I missed the efficiency in Japan such as the awesome customer service and no lines in the banks. Readjusting to the Jamaican culture took some time. I spent several months complaining to family and friends who would often wonder why I spoke so much about Japan. This I realized became a problem as my friends and family often could not relate to my experience. This situation was eventually remedied by me only speaking of Japan with persons who had the experience of living in Japan.

Being back in Jamaica I am currently working on my dream of saving the education system in my own little way. I am now a teacher of Mathematics and without my Japanese experience I strongly doubt that this would have been possible. After my Japanese teaching experience I made the conscious decision to get certification as an educator by pursing a postgraduate diploma in education and training. Without my JET experience I do not believe this would have happened. For now, I bask in the memories I have of Japan and in the future, I hope to visit with my family.

Contributed by Rochelle Robinson-Lindsay


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