Interview by Peter Underwood
As the JET year winds to a close, GMA goes through a few staff changes, what with veterans moving on to new pastures and fresh writers making new and exciting content for us. This month, we sat down (at a computer, over email) with Kat Skarbinec, the cracking lady taking over duties as publishing manager. Soon, she’ll be making it her mission to root out faulty punctuation, set “Read More” tags, and generally make the head editor’s job easier.
Why did you choose to join JET?
This is an interesting question, and I’ll let you in on a secret: I was struggling to find a job, living at home with my dad, and applied on the off chance thinking I’d never get in. Somehow I did (yay!). That was now three years ago, soon to be four. XD
What do you hope to gain from your time on JET?
When I first started, I don’t think I had any real idea of what I hoped to gain. Even now, I still don’t. But I always hope that I can keep improving so that I can be a better teacher for my kids. I basically started from the bottom in terms of knowing how to be that, so the only way to go is up!
How long do you plan on staying in Japan?
So far, only for one more year. I couldn’t stay here forever. Japan is beautiful and there is so much that I love about it, but I think the daily 9-5 (more like 7-10 here) would eventually be the end of me.
What extracurricular activities/hobbies do you participate in?
I’m a really big RPG lover, so I’m still trying to kick butt in Dragon’s Dogma and failing. I tried snowboarding once and absolutely adored it even though it nuked my ankle, so I’d love to do that more. Writing is my favorite hobby and has been since I was a kid.
What are some things you like about Japan?
I like that it’s clean and safe for the most part and that the scenery is so beautiful. I love the area I live in because there’s a forest pretty much on my doorstep. As far as the school system goes, I like the camaraderie that it encourages among the students. Kids in England don’t really have that, which I think is a bit sad.
I love kotatsu. I want to take my kotatsu home with me.
Also, Aggressive Retsuko.
What are some things you like less about Japan?
1. You can’t buy real cheese anywhere near me. T_T
2. The long hours that people have to work, and society’s attitudes towards people who don’t fall in line with that.
3. Restaurants with the Japanese squat toilets that are half built on a step. If you don’t know what I mean, consider yourself lucky you never had to experience one!
What do you miss the most from your hometown/country?
I miss that buses come less than every ten minutes on average; public transport in Nottingham is amazing. There’s a cosy teashop that I miscalled Thea Caffea which sells a lot of really nice flowering teas. I miss mature cheddar, dairy milk and ovens that can fit more than one item.
What was it like growing up in your hometown?
I grew up in an area that was notorious for its crime–someone’s head was bashed in with a hammer right around the corner from where we used to live–so I was a pretty sheltered child and didn’t really play outside with other kids. As I got older, my best friend and I would always go into town on Saturdays and look around the shops. Our favourites were Ice Nine, a gothic clothing shop with some really funky earrings, and Fopp, a CD/DVD store with a small but awesome book section. As we got older, we would hit up Rock City (an infamous rock music club), Pitt and Pendulum (a pub where the toilets are hidden behind a wall painted to look like a bookcase) and Ye Olde Jerusalem (allegedly the oldest pub in England, half of which is built into a cave). Notts is a strange mix of modernity and history, so it’s an interesting place to live.
What are your family and siblings like?
My mother died of MS when I was twelve, and that left me and my dad. We still don’t really get on a lot of the time. My friends tend to think he doesn’t like them because he always looks stern/uncomfortable. I have one half-brother on my mum’s side, but I haven’t seen him for a long time and we were too far apart in age to be close (I’m two years older than his daughter XD). My favourite family member was my cat. My cat was called Pepsi and would be almost sixteen years old. She had a lot of health problems, and unfortunately died a few days ago. I miss her horribly, my fluffball.
What’s your favourite part of sakura season?
My birthday! My birthday so far has fallen around Aomori’s hanami season every year that I’ve been here and it’s exciting in a way. To misquote Gilmore Girls, it’s like the flowers bloom just for me. XD
Netflix or NHK? Netflix, hands down. It’s an addiction. I love all the choice.
Mos or McDonald’s? Mos. There was an incident involving a cold burger which sullied my love for it, but I would always pick Mos over Mac. I think the fillings are nicer, and the chips are thicker.
Hanami or tsukimi (blossom viewing or moon viewing)? This is… surprisingly hard. XD I think that I prefer hanami overall; no one seems to await tsukimi with the same kind of excitement as they do hanami. Hanami also means getting to sit under a beautiful tree and hang with friends, take pictures, go rowing (my personal favourite thing to do at Hirosaki Castle) and so on.