So it's official - I'm staying in Japan until at least August 2014.
To say it was a tough decision to re-contract would be lying as frankly I love my life here and who wouldn't want to live in Japan?
Apart from the threat of mukade (Japanese "killer" centipede) which apparently have been found in my apartment during summer, and my boyfriend living in New Zealand, there is not a lot drawing me back to the motherland.
So I thought I would share with you five reasons for staying in Japan.
5. The "what the . . .?" factor.
Japan is so forward in some respects and yet so backwards in others. Take the toilets, for example. Yes, a lot have crazy buttons that every time you use the toilet you make another discovery as to just how sophisticated toilet technology is, but the majority are really porcelain long drops (that flush).
However, toward the end of last year toilet maker TOTO, in collaboration with sports-based lotteries company toto, released a toilet I can't begin to describe without asking "What the . . .".
Aptly named the Super Great Toilet Keeper (SGTK), this toilet acts as a goalkeeper. It's a collaboration between the companies to show their commitment to "going green", although I'm not sure how.
The toilet can calculate the destination of any ball kicked at it at speeds of up to 160kmh in less than 0.1 second. It uses high speed cameras placed on either side of the goalpost surrounding the toilet to do so, then tilts and shoots a ball out of its bowl to stop the oncoming ball from getting in the goal.
This toilet does not want to get dirty. On the TOTOxtoto collaboration website, the SGTK warns potential users: "Girls will be fascinated with my clean, beautiful body that shines whenever it is. As they might burst into tears, please do not target my body"; and "I'm shooting out gloves so not to get my body soiled. Please do not target my body. I mean it."
Since its launch, the SGTK toilet has spent its time travelling around Japanese football fields, and people will be able to hire it for about NZ$7880.
Here is a YouTube clip of it working
4. My principal and one of my teachers have just invested in a translator phone application that translates Japanese into Australian English (Australian English was the closest they could get to New Zealand English). This means I can spend another year having awkward lunchtime conversations with my principal such as this:
Principal: How do you like life in Japan?
Me: I love it. I don't want to go back to New Zealand but I have to as my boyfriend is still there for now.
Principal: Oh, your boyfriend is still in New Zealand? How is bed time in Japan? I think it must not be that fun.
Me (turning bright red): Um . . . it's fine.
Principal (with cheeky grin): I think it is not fun for you.
Me: Lost for words.
3. You can buy crazy gifts for your friends such as finger sacks and disposable panties for NZ$1.30. At first I didn't understand what finger sacks were - they look like condoms for your fingers - and my friend and I were embarrassed and baffled by the fact they appeared in the stationery aisle of the 100 yen shop. Turns out, they are used to cover cuts or plasters on your fingers. Rather handy if you were working in the food industry. I bought some to send to people and had the awkward experience of trying to explain to the guy at the post office what they were, using gestures.
It was only when I showed my friends how I gestured to the post office guy that I realised why he looked at me oddly. I suppose it also didn't help that in the same package I was sending disposable panties which, in broken English, declared that they would provide a "night of passion".
2. The godsend that is the kotatsu and bath.
It's winter now and I am living under my kotatsu. A kotatsu is a table with a heater underneath. You put a blanket in between the table top and base and it heats up, making it super warm. It is a must-have in any home.
I interchange living under my kotatsu with living in my bath tub. I never used to have baths because I could never stand the heat. Nowadays lying in a 45 degree bath, wearing a face mask and reading a book is the ultimate luxury. I am converted.
1. My students.
I love them. I never imagined how much joy I would get out of seeing my students learn English and how invested I would feel in each one of them. I practically cried when my third graders finished learning how to write the full alphabet.
One of my proudest days was when some of my fifth graders came up to me to tell me how much they enjoyed English. Even if I am having the worst day, my students quickly make me realise how lucky I am to be here.
Tania Butterfield is a former Express reporter teaching English at two schools in the Shiga prefecture of central Japan.
- The Marlborough Express