Interview by Chris Simmons
This week GMA stuck around Hachinohe to interview another ALT in the area, Hannah Sheppard. Lucky for us, she has decided to stick around Nihon a while longer. Watch for her at upcoming JET events, drinking with reckless abandon and enjoying every minute of it. Check out what else this Hachinohe Auzzie had to say in the interview below.
Why did you choose to join JET?
Basically I’d always wanted to live in Japan, ever since I was a little girl who idolized Sailor Moon, and when I got to university I finally decided to ~pursue my dreams~ and major in Japanese. After I finished my degree I did an extra year of Honours (because I had nothing better to do) and that’s when I learned about JET. I ended up writing a very long and boring thesis on JET and whether or not it has effectively promoted kokusaika in Japanese communities. (The conclusion I came to was ‘well, sort of.’) After I graduated from university I took a year off and did nothing because I was in the midst of an existential crisis, and I spent many months questioning my existence and wondering what I was going to do with my life. Then a week before the deadline for the JET application I thought ‘oh, what the hell’, dashed off an application, and I somehow ended up here.
What do you hope to gain from JET?
Despite halfheartedly dedicating four years of my life to the study of the Japanese language, my Japanese is atrociously bad and utterly incomprehensible. If there’s anything I want to get out of JET, it’s better Japanese skills. Oh yeah, and the increased personal and emotional growth is just a bonus.
What are your plans after JET?
I have NO IDEA. My plans change every thirty seconds because I am extremely indecisive. So far this year I’ve thought about going back to Australia and getting a teaching degree, or doing my Masters, or becoming a proper certified English teacher and finding more work here in Japan, or moving to another country (preferably one with lots of Blonde People, like Sweden.) Ultimately, I’d really like to work in the media (my first failed degree was in journalism, and I studied radio production at tech school for six months before I came to Japan) but I don’t know how I’m going to get there.
How long do you plan on staying in Japan?
I THINK I want to stay for a couple more years yet. I want to move to Osaka or Sendai, though. Because I love to shop and Hachinohe is severely lacking in decent shopping (except for Donkihote.)
Do you participate in any clubs or extracurricular activities/hobbies?
I do a radio show with a few other ALTs once a month, which I really enjoy, and that is the extent of my community participation.
I don’t participate in any club activities, but if school finishes early, I’ll hang around and watch some of my students do their club activities. I like to hang out with the Japanese culture club, who insist on making me lots of Matcha, or the Brass Band, who think it’s hilarious when I try to play their instruments.
I do competitive drinking and competitive internet shopping as much as my liver (and/or VISA card) will allow. I enjoy writing mind-blowingly bad poetry, cross-stitching, building Nanoblocks, and sleeping. Occasionally I go to karaoke and blow everyone away with my rendition of AKB48’s ‘Heavy Rotation’. Also, some of you may have seen my international television debut on some random primetime TV show back in February, talking about Japanese appliances; the truth is, I am secretly a pop idol, like Hannah Montana.
What are a few things you like about Japan?
I love the Japanese music scene. There’s some incredible stuff out there. I’m also a big fan of Japan’s cheap and abundant liquor, the Japanese postal service, glossy Japanese fashion magazines, takoyaki, gyoza, and how beautiful the natural environment is. I think my students are awesome and I love teaching them.
What are a few things you dislike about Japan?
Japanese bureaucratic fuckery, the lack of decent cheese, omotenashi, ATM closing times… I could go on a bit here, because I am a champion complainer (as anyone who knows me will tell you). But I love Japan really.
What do you miss the most from your hometown/country?
Kebabs. The mere thought of eating a kebab will generally bring me to tears. And I miss blending into a crowd of people.
What was it like growing up in your hometown?
I grew up in inaka Western Australia, in a very small town called Mundaring (population 1000-ish) about an hour out of Perth. I lived at the very end of a long dirt road, on five acres of bushland, surrounded by kangaroos and snakes and birds and deadly Australian spiders.There is basically nothing in my home town (it was a big deal when we got our first set of traffic lights) and if you want to do anything you have to go into Perth.
Perth is okay. It’s ridiculously expensive and everyone who lives there wishes it was more like Melbourne.
What are your family and siblings like?
I have two parents and a younger brother. My younger brother is a nerdy archaeologist. He came to visit me in January and literally spent two weeks in my apartment making the most of my Super Fast Japanese Internet. Then we went to Tokyo together and he dragged me to Yasukuni Shrine and a Maid Cafe. My dad’s an archaeologist as well. In his spare time, he writes bad pulp fiction novels, listens to Led Zeppelin, and paints nudes. My mum is an adorably genki primary school teacher who struggles with the pronunciation of ‘Hachinohe’.
I also have a fat blue dog. Her name is Yuki. You may have seen me pull her photo out of my wallet from time to time. She is my perfect little treasure, the light of my life, my raison d’etre, etc. I speak to her at least twice a week on Skype.
Do you have any interesting or embarrassing stories about adjusting to Japanese culture?
In the eyes of Japanese people, I am extremely weird looking. I had one five-year-old ask me if my boobs were real once, and her friend rolled her eyes and said “Duh, of course they’re real! She’s a gaijin right?!” That was … really awkward.
Do you have any plans for Summer Vacation?
I think I’ll be spending a decent chunk of my summer vacation sitting in a stifling hot staff room reading pretentious Russian literature on my kindle. Oh Japan, making teachers go to work when there are no classes! Ha ha ha!!!!
cool off with a cold beer or a frozen margarita? White Russian.
eat ice cream or a popsicle? I like ice cream, but for some reason in summer popsicles give me life. I ate five the other day after work. Now I have none left in my freezer and my prospects for the future are looking bleak.
get tan at the beach or crank up the A/C? I’m happy to go to the beach, provided there are ten gallons of sunscreen and a handy sun protective tent for me to sit in while everyone else is outside. And I have a fan and an esky full of ramune chu-hais.