Saturday, April 21, 2012

Trains, Toddlers and Tiny Apartments: My Life in Tokyo

Last month I made the move from Sendai down to Tokyo. I had an awesome going away party with my friends and one at work where I received many wonderful hand-made presents from my students. I already miss the great community of people I knew up there, but fortunately some of them have already made good on their promises to come visit me here in Tokyo.

My new apartment is a Leo Palace, an apartment chain throughout Japan that offer small but cheap and relatively nice places to live. It's supposedly "furnished" but by that they just mean a table, chairs and basic appliances (fridge, microwave, TV, washing machine, etc.). I ended up spending a bit more than expected on stuff for the apartment when I moved in, which made me realize just how spoiled I really was in my spacious, fully stocked Sendai apartment. 

New Leo Palace Kitchen: About as spacious as an airplane bathroom.
But overall I'm pretty happy with the new apartment. It's just the right size for me and I like the location, which is on the Keisei Line to Narita about twenty minutes from Ueno Station. My neighborhood is quiet and suburban, which is nice to come home to after a day fighting the Tokyo crowds. 

The crowded streets of Ueno, just 20min. from my new place.
My new job as a kindergarten teacher has been really nice so far. I spent my first two weeks down here doing training with my new coworkers; there are about 20 of us, with a good mix of Americans, Australians, Canadians and the UK. I had a lot of fun going out after work with everyone and bonding Japanese-style over alcohol and karaoke.

I'm working at three kindergartens now. My main school is 4 days a week, and I alternate visiting the other two on Wednesdays. I'm really enjoying the chance to spend more time in the kindergarten, getting to know the kids better and learning a lot about Japanese culture and early childhood education. The job is not for everyone though: if you're not prepared to hold crying three-year-old's, encounter a variety of bodily fluids and have small children climbing all over you on a daily basis, this is not for you. Luckily, I've been working with kids since I was a kid myself, so for me this is nothing new.

Behind that adorable facade lies the heart of a wild beast.
During the day I teach about 4 classes to the kindergarteners. The kindergarten has three grades, and I only teach the youngest and oldest. Lessons are either 15min. or 30min. depending on the students' age. After school I teach 1-3 private lessons, each about 50min long. It's been wonderful having a Monday-Friday, 9-5 job after two years of working crazy Eikaiwa (conversation school) hours.

I'd really like to get back into blogging regularly again, now that I've settled into my new place. You can look forward to some posts about my recent Tokyo adventures: hanami, Yokohama, Namja Town and Ueno, to name a few.


  1. Tokyo must be exciting, so much to do so little time!

    1. True, I'm never lacking in stuff to do here; if only I could say the same for money and free time...

  2. Those Kindergarteners look so sweet and innocent I just can't picture them misbehaving! I like the airplane bathroom comparison with your kitchen, now you just need a fold-up counter :)

  3. What's sad is that I really *do* need a fold up counter. :(

  4. Great for you to find a place there in Japan! Being a kindergarten teacher looks to be a nice profession, and being together with the kids is a tiring yet enjoyable job. BTW, how's Sendai now? I hope everything's fine there as far as rebuilding from the tsunami is concerned..

  5. Thank you for the comment! Sendai is fine, it was damaged very little by the earthquake and the tsunami didn't make it as far as the city. The coastal towns that were hit by the tsunami are still struggling of course, the biggest problem being the poor economy which makes rebuilding very difficult. Sendai is a great city though and perfectly safe to visit- please do if you ever get the chance!