Scooter vs Japan

This Week in the News! | June 1, 2015

These last almost 2 weeks (I got super delayed in finishing this post) has been rather busy, as one might expect. After I received my placement a little over a week ago, I spent most of the next two days (including some time while waiting to see my doctor) researching Kamikawa-cho, the surrounding towns and cities, and Hokkaido in general. I also christened my new travel gnome when I met up with a few other local JETS, did more research, and started speaking with my super cool predecessor. I also fired out some emails, started commenting on Reddit and Facebook posts by other JETS and hopefuls, and started trying to get ahead of some of my pre-departure.

I’ll be living somewhere near the top of the K… and nothing else

And you shall be Buttons

Let’s face it. Looking directly at a red panda is kinda like opening the Arc of the Covenant; it is just WAY too tempting, and your face is going to melt. This one requires a bit of a story though. So a friend of mine was living in Quebec for a few years, and me and another guy took a trip out to see him, ironically days before his job there ended and he was shipped home. This friend who was in Quebec is a big fan of the TV show Scrubs, and one joke from the show is that the two main had this stuffed dog that they use to troll people. Like turning it to face people when they aren’t looking, placing in front of the bathroom door, shit like that. Anyways, when we took a trip to a zoo and had our faces melted by the red pandas there, I decided to pick up this adorable stuffed toy of one, and then proceeded to leave it around my friend’s apartment a la the Scrubs dog. We had some laughs, and aside from my nephew trying to stealing it one time, the red panda mostly sat in my closet next to my puppet (more on him later)

Fast forward to recently. Year ago, my dad bought me a garden gnome who some previous co-workers named Mr. Wibbledrum. Since I was living on the top floor of an apartment building, I filled Mr. Wibbledrum with sand. Entertaining as that was, it was kind of a mistake, since it made him very heavy. He’s also pretty big, which makes traveling with him difficult. Going to Japan again, I decided that I needed a new gnome; something light, small, and not fragile. Like the speed force striking Barry Allen (NERD), it hit me; the red panda.

So my best friend sent me a message on Facebook saying that he was having a big get together at his place for his birthday and to celebrate what he later explained was his pregnant wife (I thought he meant she was sick so he was staying home, but whatever). Being a fan of whimsy and not wanting to pass up a chance to see my old game and potentially meet some of the local JETs, I hopped in my car with my red panda and drove south, taking pictures of him along the way. And a Facebook comment later, he was named. My travel panda gnome is now Buttons.

And now something not crazy and boring

Having made contact with a number of other local JETs through a Facebook group set up by one of them, I jumped on the chance to hit two birds with one stone and meet some of them over the weekend. I met with K and J, and we spent a few hours swapping war stories, telling jokes, and talking about JET. It was really great to meet them and I hope we and some other locals can meet up again before we all get ready to go. A few days after the trip, I also met with A, one of the JETs a bit closer than me and one of the JETs going to the sister town to the one I grew up in. It was at this point I was convinced that there is some conspiracy going on with our placements.

Buttons and some of the local JETs

Buttons, K, J, and attractive man who writes this

I also spent some time joining a bunch of Facebook groups, cementing the fact that I really need to start using this for more than planning Ghostbusters meetups. Between here and Reddit, I’ve been talking with some other JETs, sharing advice, and cracking out. I also started sharing some of my preliminary gaming research with the video and tabletop game JET group. Having done specifically this in Japan already, I’m hoping to help out some other gamers who don’t know what to look and may otherwise feel like leaving their dice at home.


I also met my predecessor, who turns out to be C, a former classmate and study partner of mine from early in my degree. It would appear (I could be mistaken) that he removed himself from my FB friends list so that I wouldn’t make the connection, since predecessors weren’t supposed to be speaking with us initially. He opened with saying that he’s known for at least a few weeks already, and that he was mad eager to talk with me. He told me that he’s staying in Hokkaido at least for a short time after I try and eat his heart for its power, so we’ll have some time to both catch up and talk JET. Aside from reconnecting with an old friend, not having to ask every possible question is going to make things rather simple. I don’t need to ask all the fear questions about where this is or how to do that, since he’ll be there to help and show me around. He’s also said that there are a number of things he can pass on or sell to me, including a car and his duck shaped measuring cups.

He also explained why we sort of fell out of touch. He’s been in Kamikawa-cho since 2010, which means he graduated the same year I was at Gaidai. I’d been wondering what he’d been up to, and that certainly answers that question. But it also answers another question. He’s been a JET for the fabled 5 year contract. The Kamikawa-cho BoE (Board of Education) is receptive to keeping their JETs for a longer period of time. That isn’t to say that I will also be offered renewal after renewal, but it means that the option is on the table, rather than going to a BoE that flips JETs every year or two, despite the cost and training time.

What else did I wanna talk about?

I also started on some pre-departure work. I’ve contacted the three main universities near me and offered in invite to speak with any students traveling to Japan. I also drafted some other emails and started doing various other prep. I also started looking up various stores I know the names of, like Book Off, Tsutaya, and GEO, as well as the gaming store Yellow Submarine. While there don’t seem to be any such shops in Kamikawak-cho, I got a lot of hits in nearby Asahikawa and Sapporo. I’m actually very happy to see how much is in Asahikawa, including two climbing gyms and a possible gaming store (though the intell may be old). Lots of different options and familiar places to explore, plus every new opportunity.

What’s next?

As I get my pre-departure work underway and try to start begging for free stuff from the government, pretty much all of my time is quickly evaporating. If anyone is reading this, feel free to drop me a line on what you’d like to hear me ramble on about. I do have some ideas, but I’m totally pulling at straws right now. Do you have any questions you want answered about Japan? Any questions about JET? Do you want Buttons’ phone number? Let me know.


1 Comment »

  1. have a safe and don,t worry my brother too much I know how much you wanted to return to Japan and Uncle Ron and myself are very happy for you and very proud of you luv yah lots

    Comment by cheryl deetjen — June 2, 2015 @ 1:37 am

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About author

Scooter is an ESL teacher and Japanese anthropologist. He hopes to document his thoughts of living in Japan, continued cultural studies, and to provide advice for others looking to hop the pond.







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