Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Inaugural Post

Well, it has been a long six months since applying to this internationally-recognized teaching program called JET, and it has been a wild ride so far. After waiting first for months to find out whether I had been given an interview with JET, and then waiting again for months after that to find out whether I had been accepted, and finally to now, after having waited since about mid February to find out my placement, I now know my destination in Japan. I found out last Monday that I would be heading to the town of Shinano in the mountainous prefecture of Nagano (Nagano, as many will remember, was the venue for the 1998 Winter Olympics). Nagano is located in central Japan.

Shinano town (in Japanese, Shinano-machi) is a small town of about 9,000 north of the capital city of Nagano. It is surrounded by mountains and lakes (well, a lake). Shinano has many claims to fame (believe it or not), among them being a fairly popular year-round resort/gateway town. Canadian missionaries looking for a summer holiday spot apparently were among the first to settle the area which is now Shinano. They came and built cottages around lake Nojiri (the town's lake) which to this day still remain around the lake. The town has become a popular destination for both foreign and local summer vacationers looking for a respite from the summer heat of the rest of Japan. There are also many ski resorts nearby, boasting some of the best skiing in Japan. Needless to say, I am very excited to come to this town. When I applied to the JET program last September I had requested the north island Hokkaido, followed by the other Northwestern prefectures, simply because I wanted to be able to ski in the winter. So even though I didn't get any of my preferences, it looks like I lucked out bigtime because Shinano has everything I wanted (small, rural, near ski resorts), and to top it off, there is even a lake in the town where you can go water skiing and wakeboarding in the summer. Additionally, I am only about 3 hours train ride to Tokyo and Osaka, and even though I don't really like big cities, it is nice to be relatively close to major urban areas.

Here are a few links to videos produced by the town, and if you can overlook the corny music, I think you'll get a better idea of the place I'm going to be hopefully spending the next few years of my life.

As for where I am going to be working, I cannot say for sure, but from the research I've done it looks like I will be teaching at the local Junior High School, and possibly some of the nearby elementary schools. I've talked a bit with the person who was teaching in my position before me (my predecessor) but unfortunately haven't found out that much about the specifics. I have been told that I will be receiving a package from the town in a few weeks detailing my work contract and what not, so I'll wait until then to press my predecessor for more details.

More to come soon!