Interview by Chris Simmons
This week the Spotlight met up with Aomori City’s Tony Nelson. He may have avoided us his first two years here, but we finally tracked him down to get the skinny on his life in Japan. And to you first-years, if this Hawaiian native can get through the Aomori winter, so can you.
Why did you choose to join JET?
I wanted to join JET for the opportunity to live and work in Japan. Also as a way to work on my Japanese. I knew about it since I was in high school. A couple of the teachers at my school were ex JETs. I only heard good things from them, so I knew its something I wanted to do too.
What do you hope to gain from JET?
I think I want to teach English in the future so this is my trial run. If I figure out that it’s what I want to keep doing, then I hope JET will give me some good experience.
What are your plans after JET?
Not too sure yet. I would like to travel the world, teach/work/live in different countries. All I know is that I’m not ready to go back to America.
How long do you plan on staying in Japan?
I’m thinking of staying for 5 years with JET and then taking off. I love Japan, but I couldn’t live here forever.
Do you participate in any clubs or extracurricular activities/hobbies?
With winter comes the curling season. I’m on a curling team with four other JETs in Aomori city. I also tried kyuudo for awhile, but my schedule got pretty crazy so I stopped, but I would like to start back up again. In the summer I started to learn how to play the flute for Nebuta. I played on the last day this year and would like to keep getting better.
What are a few things you like about Japan?
I like the food. I like how everyone in the service industry is (fairly) polite.
What are a few things you dislike about Japan?
Continuing with the service industry thing, I don’t like how “polite” everyone is to you. The words they are saying, I feel, have lost their meaning because it’s what has to be said. Not because they mean it. The use of keigo is just a little ridiculous in my opinion.
The lack of cheese is also almost enough to make me want to leave the country.
What do you miss the most from your hometown/country?
I miss the food, the amazing weather, and the beach.
What was it like growing up in your hometown?
I was one of about five white kids at my high school of 2500. Whenever I told people where I went to school, they told me I was the wrong color. Everyone was scared that I would always get into trouble or get hurt, but I never had a single problem. It has really helped me to understand that there is a big, if not complete, difference between what people think about a place and how it actually is.
What are your family and siblings like?
My family is big and crazy. I have so many aunties and uncles, but coming from Hawaii, I don’t know which are blood related and which are not. (We call everyone aunty and uncle and we are all ohana, even if its not by blood) I’m the middle child with two sisters. My older sister is living in Hawaii and my younger sister is off in Kansas for college.
Do you have any interesting or embarrassing stories about adjusting to Japanese culture?
I forget how hyper aware of everything people are especially with me since I’m the foreigner. Sometimes I start whistling without realizing it, and it was never a problem back in the States, but one day in the teachers room I started whistling without realizing it. Then a teacher from across the room asked me (in Japanese) “ Tony, what’s whistle in English?” So I said, “whistle.” I was pretty excited that another teacher wanted to talk to me finally, so I was getting ready to say something else and she just turned back around and sat down. I was so confused. It took me awhile to realize that she was just telling me to shut up.
Did you do anything exciting over summer vacation?
I went to Tokyo to explore and meet some of my boyfriend’s friends. I’ve never really spent too much time in Tokyo even though I’ve been to Japan a bunch of times.
drink coffee or tea?
Coffee of course.
visit a science center or art museum?
Science center. Just looking at things is kind of boring. I like to be hands-on.
bake or fry?
Bake. One time, I fell into a fryer so I don’t really trust them. But that’s a story for another time…
test the waters or dive right in?
Dive right in!