Before my departure to Japan, I bragged to anyone who would listen about my awaiting job. I wasn’t stupid - I had read the contract carefully, investigated online about the company well in advance of the interview, and braced myself for any slight mental tweaks I’d have to make in order to successfully adapt to Japanese culture.
The job was simple:
And I thought, in my overly-optimistic mind, it would be the easiest job on the planet; I turn up, I play games with kids in English, I go home to my own apartment in the centre of Kyoto, and I maybe dip my toes into the Asian dating pool in my free time.
Needless to say, it was nothing like that.
First, the meeting point where I was to greet the company representative and sign the employee contract was almost two hundred kilometres from the airport I was flying into.
Second, I came to understand the importance of ‘packing light’ after trying to lug fifty kilograms worth of luggage with a bag which had a broken wheel.
Third, maps are deceiving. Japan is a big country when you can’t speak Japanese.
And fourth, I soon came to realize that some kids are demon spawn hell-bent on crushing teachers’ souls.
After spending almost ten hours on a plane flying through a typhoon with what can only be described as a few choice examples of demon spawn kids, I landed in Osaka with almost no idea of how to get to my hotel. In Australia, I had mentally mapped out a route to my accommodation, but I had a memory lapse after having to tolerate the screaming, violent high school students who had sat beside me on the plane (they also liked to shriek 'We’re all going to die!’ every time the plane changed altitude by a few feet).
I rushed from station to station, dragging my ridiculous mountain of a bag behind me. I had left Australia at the beginning of winter, and was sporting a heavy coat. Osaka was experiencing a pre-summer heatwave, which left me sweating, sick to the stomach, and shaky.
Luckily, as I was leaning against a pole trying to get my breath back, a local caught amid a social gathering asked me if I was okay. The champion listened to my mangled Japanese, and then walked me to my hotel. His friends tottled behind, making our adventure look like an unprepared parade. It earned him and his friends a packet of TimTams.
Feeling alone in an unknown country, not being able to communicate, and cut-off from my friends and family half a world away, I sobbed myself to sleep that night.
The next day, I managed to make it to the meeting point at least two hours before the designated time (Ha! I was already thoroughly conquering the 'don’t be late’ rule). Of course, that victory dance was short lived when the man I was meeting snapped, “I wasn’t expecting to see you for two hours. Now I have to change my schedule for you.”
From there on out, things quickly went from mildly problematic to disastrous.
Hiding from Japanese Ghosts
Ghost stories are the least frightening thing about Japan when facing culture clashes, mystery food, language barriers, and - scariest of all - marriage.