The second week of training seemed to roll by very quickly. Sunday was a day off, which I spent mostly recuperating. On Monday we learned about teaching elementary school students, on Tuesday teaching adults, and on Wednesday teaching teenagers. We also had more peer observation, Adam and I watching classes in Ginza and Shin Urayasu.
I had been told I needed smarter shoes, but after a cursory look through a couple of Japanese shoe shops, I realised that the population of Japan has considerably smaller feet than me. It seemed that there were only two shoe shops in Tokyo that catered for my size, and one of them was on the orange Ginza metro line. So with a little time before my peer observation at Ginza itself, I went the other way up the line (from Monzen-Nakacho where it crosses with my blue Tozai line) aiming for a station called Akihabara, from which I had worked out directions to the shoe shop.
I realised quickly that Akihabara wasn’t on the Ginza line (I think it is a JR station – the “proper” railway), so I improvised and got off at the station before my back-up station, which I had calculated would be quite a long walk back down the tracks. When I came out of the station, I first had to find the tracks, but I kept track of which way was north (the direction of the train) and figured the JR line would be to the west. I took the first crossing across the main road I had come out at, then the first right turn towards the railway tracks, then I turned north again to just follow the track until I found the shoe shop – I had not been able to find it on Street View but I found some nearby landmarks and figured I would find it by wandering around.
No need. As soon as I turned onto the road running by the tracks, the very first shop I saw was a shoe shop, the exact one I had come to find. It only sold shoes of 27cm or longer (UK size 9 and up). I found my size 29s, picked out the cheapest pair that I hoped wouldn’t shred my feet, and bought them (just under 10,000 yen). The salesman didn’t speak any English but I’ve been in this situation often enough to know the drill.
Proudly carrying my new shoes I headed back to the Ginza line and made my way to Ginza station, and then the Ginza school where I met Adam. We watched a couple of interesting adult lessons with a teacher who seemed to have a talky-style much more similar to mine, which reassured me that I would be on familiar ground with at least some of the lessons here.
The next observation was at Shin Urayasu (basically “New Urayasu”) which would be one of the schools where I will be teaching. Getting there was a bit complicated – it has a station but it is a JR station, so while getting there from Ginza was quite direct, from Nishi-Kasai it will be very much round the houses. Urayasu is on the Tozai line but Shin Urayasu is further south, hugging Tokyo Bay.
The school is in a big shopping mall and while we had plenty of time, we made a few wrong turns before we found it. I also had time to put on my new shoes. We waited in a windowless teaching room while the teacher was finishing his previous lesson. This was another children’s lesson, with four kids whose different characters came out during the lesson – there were three boys who were respectively indifferent, competitive and uncertain, and an enthusiastic little girl. This was the first observation where the teacher involved us in one of the games – just throwing a ball around and saying colours, or animals. Much more fun than just watching and taking notes!
Getting home might have been problematic – I didn’t want to go on a long, circular rush-hour train journey, and figured there would be a bus from the large bus station outside the mall that went through Kasai or Nishi-Kasai. Maybe there was, but I couldn’t find the names on any of the listings, though I did spot a bus that was going to Minami-Gyotoku which is on the Tozai line. I got on and used my Pasmo card after realising I had to tell the bus driver my destination, and must have managed to pronounce it well enough first time! It may be that the bus route is quicker and cheaper than the train route when I have to go back to Shin Urayasu.
When I got home I finally took the plunge and cooked a meal in the sharehouse kitchen. To start with I had it to myself but I was soon joined by Alain, a French engineer working at an apprenticeship with a Japanese company at Narita airport. He was quite talkative and introduced me to some of the other residents, two Italian girls and a Swiss guy. I had to improvise a bit with the cooking – there was no oven as such (just a microwave and a tiny oven-grill) so I pan-fried my chicken. I’d been gradually gathering both kitchen implements (I prefer using my own pan and chopping board that I know are clean) and ingredients (tortillas and salsa were the hardest to find!) but the fajitas I made ended up being perfectly passable.
Thursday was our final day of training, mostly spent with our Directors of Study and their assistants planning our lessons for Saturday, the first day of teaching. We could take copies of relevant pages from textbooks and teachers’ notes. I took the opportunity to speak to Oli, the ADOS about the programme called CSD (Corporate Sales Division) where I will be travelling to client locations to teach every Monday. This will involve a kindergarten and a private company.
Sadly, it would probably be the last time I would see most of the other teachers on the training. They would all be working in different districts and it is unlikely that our paths will cross again professionally. The others were all connecting to each other with various smartphone apps, but I was still stuck with the company phone that I barely understood how to operate.
Before we all went out separate ways, we all got to know each other a little better as the trainer, Gavin, treated us to a meal and free drinks (unlimited alcohol, a surprisingly cheap option) in a nearby izakaya. These are traditional Japanese pubs, basically, though you can usually get food at them too. Of course I settled for ginger ale and cola but the others were enjoying various beers, spirits, and a plum wine. Soon the food began arriving too, the first dish put in front of us was apparently seaweed in vinegar which I didn’t go near but most of the others gamely tried. Some salads appeared and then a noodle dish that I felt comfortable enough to try – I would have eaten more of it but this was my first time in earnest using chopsticks and I just couldn’t get any significant sized mouthful in one go – I was picking up each noodle individually! Fortunately Gavin had also ordered some fried chicken and French fries so I was able to nibble on those.
Our meal seemed to have a time limit, quite a caveat on the “unlimited alcohol” perk, and we were soon invited to make our last orders. After we finished up, Gavin said his farewells, but 8 of the 9 teachers decided to keep going. We found another izakaya a short distance away and once again ordered various drinks and had long, meandering conversations. The Irish teacher, Jack, talked to Adam and I about Irish history, while the various Scottish teachers compared notes on Glasgow drinking establishments. One of the Scots, Caitlin wanted to get the full experience and practice her Japanese so she went up to some random people at the bar and started talking to them (apparently she didn’t start well as her greeting “ohio” means “good morning”).
One of the other customers at the bar was smoking a cigarette, another example of cultural differences. I haven’t seen very many people smoking in Japan, it is considered impolite to smoke (and indeed eat) while walking so the ones I’ve seen have mostly been stationary, outside offices and shops. It just doesn’t seem as common here as in other cities, which for me is a great advantage of living here!
Adam left early, leaving money for his drink, the rest of us hung around for another hour or so, some getting progressively more merry. Samson wanted to head into Tokyo centre to keep drinking, some of the others seemed willing but others were worried about getting their trains home in time. We all made our way to the station, some headed in the other direction and I left the four remaining teachers at Nishi-Kasai, what became of them after that I do not know!