Interview by Chris Simmons
This week the spotlight shines down under (does that sound dirty?). We met up with Towada’s Auzzie, Simon Davis. Check out the interview to learn more about how this cheese and steak aficionado spends his days in the heart of Nanbu inaka.
Why did you choose to join JET?
I wanted to come work in Japan. As my language skills aren’t up to working in a typical office, teaching English seems liked the best idea. JET had a great community and excellent support compared to the other organisations that brought teachers over.
What do you hope to gain from JET?
I hope to greatly improve my language skills. For less selfish goals, I’m hoping the friends I make here will be ones I keep in contact with for the rest of my life and maybe, just maybe get some of the kids I teach to develop a bit of an interest in Australia.
What are your plans after JET?
They’re very nebulous right now… And I’m trying not to think about it too much for fear of reality shock. Really it will depend on my language skills. If I can use Japanese at a business level or even translation level, I’ll probably find a job, either in Australia or elsewhere in the world. Otherwise, it’s probably back to university so I can do a degree that makes me employable.
How long do you plan on staying in Japan?
Three years at this point. Longer would be nice, but I probably need to get back to real life and start a career before I hit thirty.
Do you participate in any clubs or extracurricular activities/hobbies?
Other than AJET events, not many formal things. But I try to organise onsen trips with other JETs, play board games semi-regularly, hit the slopes as often as possible (well, as often as my body has recovered from its previous bout of snow themed abuse) and do some language exchanges with a few Japanese friends.
What are a few things you like about Japan?
Onsen. If there was ever anything that could convince me of a higher power, it would be Japan’s onsen. The snow here is also great. Actually fluffy like snow’s meant to be, not like the icy stuff back home. Finally, Japanese internet. They set up fibre connection to my apartment and I’m clocking download speeds literally a hundred times faster than back home.
What are a few things you dislike about Japan?
The cheese. I miss even normal, everyday cheddar. Japan seems to have a taste for partially flavoured plastic. Insulated buildings. The reasons I’ve been told for Japan’s lack of insulation are as thin as the walls here. Kitchen space. I like to bake, but it’s been a whole new set of challenges figuring out how to do everything in the thirty square centimetres of space I have available to me. And in that same vein: accessibility to baking ingredients. I didn’t realise how much I took for granted being able to find whole grain flour at the supermarket. Though, the silver lining is that if I can make something here, I can make it anywhere.
What do you miss the most from your hometown/country?
Friends and family mostly. Once settled in here, living in Japan doesn’t feel that different to Australia. But not being able to share some of the big moments of my friend’s and family’s lives has been disappointing. My brother was injured pretty badly my first week in to JET and my best friends are currently preparing for their wedding. I only hear about how these things are going from sporadic emails & occasional skype calls.
What was it like growing up in your hometown?
Relatively quite. Canberra is small by city standards, so hanging out with friends between classes and playing video games on the weekend was the order of the day. Canberra is one of the closest Australian cities to ski fields though, so ski trips definitely featured in my childhood.
What are your family and siblings like?
I’ve got divorced parents who both remarried and gain extra children, so family can be a very busy thing. I’m probably closest to my little brother though. He’s a typical bloke, likes his hockey (field hockey for the Canadians among us) and tinkering with things (originally toys, now cars and motorbikes). While he’s always ready to stuff around and give his friends a hard time, he’s got a hidden caring side that’s there for when things aren’t going so great (really hidden sometimes).
Do you have any interesting or embarrassing stories about adjusting to Japanese culture? It was during my first week of properly working at my primary school. I’d just been shown my desk and after poking around, found a few odds and ends that I assumed had been left by my predecessor. Amongst these was a set of standard issue blue case chopsticks/spoon (ubiquitous in Towada) and a toothbrush/toothpaste set. I washed off the utensils and used them the first few days… until day three, when my JTE’s came over just before lunch and explained that they belonged to one of the other staff members who didn’t have a desk, so kept it in the ALT’s. Thoroughly embarrassed, chopsticks were returned, apologies were made and hopefully the staff member has stopped spitting in my kyushoku. I’m just glad I hadn’t gotten around to throwing out the toothbrush yet…
Do you have any plans for Golden Week?
Possibly brave the crowds and go see the sakura in Hirosaki, assuming it coincides. Otherwise, hunting for anyone else not traveling and hanging out.
How did you spend your Rabu-Rabu Day (Valentine’s Day)?
I’d forgotten all about it until the excess of couples reminded me. It was spent hanging out with friends and not really paying attention to it. Maybe next year it’ll be more important.
go back home to visit friends and family or travel somewhere new and exotic?
Travel somewhere new and exotic. Visiting would be nice, but it’s no substitute for being around friends regularly and skype gives the same effect. New and exotic experiences are what living abroad is all about.
wear a suit and tie to work or a track suit?
Suit and tie. I look damn good.
go out for yakiniku or okonomiyaki?
Yakiniku all the way. Hands down the best food Japan has to offer.
tabehoudai or nomihoudai?
Nomihoudai. Nothing says Australian like drinking to excess.