I teach an English class to a group of adults a few Saturdays a month (alternating with two other teachers) and this past weekend one of the members gave me a book to read titled How To Japan. I was intrigued by the title, as well as it's compact size (most Japanese books are small so people can read them on the train) so I devoured it in a day.

The book was written by Colin Joyce, a correspondent for the British paper The Daily Telegraph who lived in Tokyo for many years. He ended his book with this paragraph:

Lastly, I can think of no better advice than that which our illustrious countryman, the 19th century Japanologist* Basil Hall Chamberlain, told Lafcadio Hearn on his arrival in Japan: "Do not fail to write down your first impression as soon as possible. They are evanescent, you know; they will never come to you again, once they have faded out; and yet of all the strange sensations you may receive in this country you will feel none so charming as these"

So here's my attempt at first impressions...

*How exactly does one become a Japanologist?

The changing of the leaves here in Japan is referred to a "Koyo." This being my first time living in a city where the seasons actually change...I find myself staring in disbelief around ever corner. The colors are incredible. See for yourself


I had some time to spare last week since the students were all busy with final tests...so Steph and I took a walk around the neighborhood our school is in. It is a quiet, peaceful, residential area that is extremely charming and full of traditional Japanese character. 

I was surprised to find that what lies beyond the streets of our school are mostly beautifully manicured gardens and farms full of fresh produce.This street in particular reminded me of my Grandparents who always had a perfectly kept garden in their backyard.  

In the front of our school, where the bus stops, there happens to be a row of Gingko trees. They're pretty commonplace here in Japan...but to me they're magical. The most unbelievable color of yellow that just fills out any frame or photo you attempt to take. They're simply stunning.

Side note: If it looks like I have assimilated within the Japanese fashion scene that is because every item in this photo is from Japan! The shoes, the coat, the pants, the beanie..and I wonder where all my money is going..

This tree caught my eye as the owner has trained it to fall perfectly over their driveway. How cool is that? 

Behind school there is this really cool waterway. It has miles of biking path and a few cool bridges that lead to the other side of town. 

This spot happens to be right behind our baseball fields and when I walked over to it I immediately thought..."Am I in Pride and Prejudice right now!?? This is crazy." It was like I had stepped back into some old European town and I just coudlnt believe this was hiding behind my school the whole time. 

This nice man rode by and said in Japanese, "You have to come back here at sunset. It is beautiful to take photos!" Yes sir! 

This is the back (and newly remodeled) side of school that backs up right to the waterway.

Many people in Japan (out in the countryside) burn their trash...which is what was happening here. It is so surreal for me because when I lived in Gulu, Uganda I woke up most morning to the very distinct smell of burning trash. It doesn't seem like this would bring back good memories...but the moment I came to Japan and smelled the trash burning it stopped me in my tracks and I almost started crying! (They say scent is the strongest connector to memory). I was taken so clearly back to my life in the beautiful countryside of Uganda and my brain and heart was just flooded with so many memories of that time and place. So yes, call me crazy but I love the smell of burning trash.

From the widow of one of the classrooms I teach in, I could always see this amazing building not too far in the distance. I told myself I would go and find that building one day...and this day was the day it happened! I had to search in the neighborhood for some time, trying to get the angle just right of where I stand in the classroom...and boom! Found it. A local shrine; a tall wooden building with a huge glass window. Beautiful.

And to end with this last photo...cars in Japan are T-I-N-Y. I'll admit, sometimes I imagine myself just running around and pushing them over (like tipping cows?). I mean look at those tiny wheels! I am not exactly sure how Japanese cars stay on the roads without flying off when turning a sharp right, but I guess the credit goes to the engineers who developed a way to keep Japanese streets tiny... and the cars even tinier.