This year, Miyazaki will be welcoming 21 new JETs to our sunny home. There are still a few days before your flights and we remember how stressful those last few days were for us. So we did some research and compiled a list of the biggest worries we had before departure. Here are 7 of our biggest worries about moving to Miyazaki and how to combat them!
Packing and Clothing
One of the first questions we all ask ourselves after we find out we’re coming to Miyazaki is ‘What do I bring/wear?!’ In case you missed it, you can check out our blog post with all sorts of advice here. In addition, MAJET has an extensive description of appropriate clothes, shoes, accessories, and seasonal wear here to sate your curiosity! Most JETs say they brought way too much with them, so pack as lightly as you can. Ladies, don’t bring any sleeveless corporate clothes, as it’s not appropriate at schools/the office. Above all, bring what you love. Don’t worry too much about clothes; focus on the things from home you can’t get in Japan. Bring the vegemite, Hershey’s syrup, Yorkshire Tea, Quebec maple syrup, a copy of Harry Potter, English picture storybooks, photos, and stickers. These items are what current JETs wish they’d brought.
At pre-departure orientations, a lot of emphasis is put on having the perfect omiyage (souvenirs from home) which can stress out a lot of incoming JETs. It’s not something that should be worried about though. Many current JETs found that it wasn’t the colossal deal it was made out to be. Just KISS: Keep it Simple and Sweet. Edible and individually wrapped omiyage like candy, biscuits, tea, jams, and chocolates go down a treat every time. Avoid mint flavoured sweets though as the flavour reminds our Japanese colleagues of toothpaste. Don’t spend a fortune on omiyage. Just KISS.
Toiletries and Medications
Miyazaki is hot and extremely humid and Japanese deodorants are rather weak. It’s the same with pain killers, sunscreen and toothpaste. Unless you already know a Japanese brand that works for you, you should bring a supply of these things with you or organize for them to be regularly sent to you. If your medication is over one months’ supply, you will need to fill out a yakken shoumeishou. Lastly, Sudafed is unfortunately illegal in Japan, so bring Vic’s Vapor Rub instead.
Don’t speak fluent or even conversational Japanese? You don’t have to! That’s why you were hired (unless you’re a CIR, in which case that’s exactly why you were hired, sorry). There are hundreds of JETs who came to Japan with as little as ‘konnichiwa!’ under their belt. Some knuckled down and studied while others didn’t and relied on their Japanese Teachers of English (JTEs) and charades skills to get by. MAJET has two suggestions. The first is learning a handful of phrases like ‘Where is ___?’ or ‘How much is this?’ and the second is at least learning how to read katakana, the Japanese script that is most commonly found on packaging and closely resembles English pronunciation: chocolate becomes ‘chokoreto’ (チョコレート) when written in katakana. Learning this script will make supermarket visits so much easier.
Also keep apps like Imiwa?, JEDict Lite, and the Google Translate app handy on your phone.
Cars and Driving
There are two types of cars in Japan: white-plated cars that are the same size and engine power as western cars and yellow-plated ‘kei’ cars which resemble a box with wheels and have half the engine power. Unless you’re going to be driving all over Japan or up and down mountains, you will probably only need a yellow-plate car. The mandatory, biannual roadworthy test ‘shakken’ is also cheaper for a yellow-plate. Your predecessor should allow for a discount if the shakken will need to be paid within the first few months of your arrival. The fact of the matter is, unfortunately, most predecessors overcharge for their car. Don’t let your predecessor bully you into buying their car. Do your research and compare like model cars in the area. It is easy to buy cars over here so don’t feel like you have to rush to buy a car.
In regards to driving, other than being a left handed drive society, the only thing you’ll be surprised about is how narrow the roads are. No stress, you’ll get used to it very quickly. Check out MAJET’s in-detail guide to all things cars here!
Most ALTs and CIRs don’t have teaching experience before coming to Japan. For ALTs, giving classes will be the main component of your job and even some CIRs will be required to lead a presentation or class at some stage. Ask your predecessor whether you will need to prepare lesson plans and if so, don’t worry. You’ll learn on the job. Lesson planning is not easy to jump right into but it’s easy to pick up over time. If you’d like to give yourself a head start, consider taking the free TEFL course provided by CLAIR or check our MAJET’s teaching resources. Even knowing the basics of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) will help in the long run.
Culture Shock and Homesickness
You’re moving your entire life to a different country with a completely different culture. No one expects it to be all sunshine and daisies. Give your body enough nutritious food and sleep to avoid falling into a rut. But when the going does get tough, JETs are experts at finding activities that turn even the darkest days into a sunny one in Miyazaki. Talking to other ALTs in your area, calling home, cooking family recipes, joining a club, planning your next trip, attending local events or festivals, singing at the top of your lungs at karaoke, or even just putting on your favourite T-shirt from home are all great ways to beat the low days. Also remember you are coming to Miyazaki, possibly the most naturally beautiful and culturally rich prefecture in Japan. Get out and explore your area to chase your blues away. If all else fails though, CLAIR offers eight therapy sessions a year to JETs in need. We’ve all used them sometime.
To our soon-to-be new friends, have a safe flight and we’ll see you soon!