Hey there and Welcome to Hasami & Glue!
My name’s Gwyneth. This is me 4 years ago on the day I left the U.S. to move to Japan:
And this is me about two weeks ago – the day I left Japan to move back to the States:
I’m starting a project and I want to invite you to join me. But, first let me tell you a little about what I’ve been up to for the past 4 years.
I was accepted into the JET Program in the spring of 2011 and 2 1/2 months after graduating from college, I flew roughly 6,800 miles across the world to Toyama Prefecture. I was to spend at least the next year teaching English in public schools in Kurobe City (pop. 43,000) – a rural town sandwiched between the Japanese Alps and the Sea of Japan on the western coast of Honshu. At the time, all that I knew about Kurobe I had discerned from the little geographical and demographic information I had been able to find on the city’s website and wikipedia page and some odds and ends I picked up from a couple of blogs written by other foreigners living in Kurobe.
I now know that in the summer, everywhere you look in Kurobe is green. When the sun is out, which unfortunately is a rare occurrence, you can sometimes catch a glimpse of your own reflection in the pools of water that collect in the rice paddies. In winter, green turns to white as the mountains, the barren rice paddies, and the sea are blanketed in a thick layer of snow. I know how to navigate the back roads effectively – avoiding all traffic lights. I know the cheapest place to put gas in your car, at which grocery stores you can find what foreign foods, and which bars serve the most watered down drinks.
I worked in 9 of Kurobe’s 14 public junior high and elementary schools. A couple of the schools were tiny – nestled up against the mountains with no more than 60 kids total. A few were large, located in the center of town, and had almost 500 kids.
I planned lessons, made speeches, ate with chopsticks, and smiled…a whole lot (I like to call it my ALT smile).
I learned not to hold back when a child or co-teacher asked me, “How are you?” (I’m happy! I’m hungry! I’m excited! I’m sick!)
I got used to typing on a Japanese keyboard at work everyday (now every time I go to add a quotation mark on my Mac, I get an @ instead).
I sang “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” more times that I could ever attempt to count (although there one very memorable time that stands out, but I’ll save that story for later).
I traveled. I went to Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Nagoya, Matsuyama, Okinawa, Kanazawa, and more. I went to Thailand, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao.
And…I collected a whole lot of stuff.
Not to be too sappy, but it was a once in a lifetime kind of experience. But, 4 years after I moved to Kurobe (yes, not the one that I initially planned on) it was time to move on. As of July 28th I’m back in the U.S. with four years of experiences packed into my head – the good, the great…the bad, the ugly – and four years of stuff.
SO, this is the project: Turn all the stuff I have received and/or hoarded into an aesthetically pleasing book of memories. Part scrapbook, part journal, part self-indulgent reflection on what I was was able to conquer…and what I wasn’t. You could call it my 振り返り (furikaeri n. refection, reminiscence, review)
I’ll go page by page – sharing my amateur designs, personal stories, and information about living, working, and traveling in Japan, as well as whatever I can work in on Japanese language, culture, and history.
So, grab a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine) and join me as I unpack and scrapbook my four years as a JET in Toyama Prefecture.