Odawara Resident Talks about Life in Japan
by Cristina Zamora
Kanagawa Resident Talks about Life in Japan
Cristina Zamora is from California but lives in
Odawara, Kanagawa now.
Odawara is a fairly large city but with the convenience and sometimes inconvenience of being about two hours south of Tokyo. There are tourist attractions within a 30 – 45 minute train ride that you can visit on the weekends. Big chain department stores, family restaurants and movie theaters. All within a relaxed atmosphere, but every so often I miss the big city lifestyle. And that is when I wish I lived closer to Tokyo.
What sort of challenges have you had to overcome while living in Japan?
By far and foremost my biggest challenge has been the language. I had no previous Japanese studies, zero crash courses or anything in that area. All my Japanese knowledge came to pointing at a dictionary and a phrase book. I have been able to get by with body language and gestures at stores and restaurants.
But meeting people and making new friends has been more difficult than being the new kid in school. Through another ALT I was introduced to a Japanese couple who speak English and now I consider them my very good friends.
What have been some of your interesting or positive experiences while in Japan?
The best experience has been making new friends with different nationalities and different mindsets; friends who will always be part of my life.
Definitely living outside my comfort zone has given me more confidence and trust. I keep surprising myself by the challenges I am able to take day by day. In particular in my job: I have enjoyed observing teenagers behavior.
As a psychology major and having worked with my students’ counterparts in the States, I have realized how much they are alike. Sometimes I think they teach me more than I could ever teach them.
Is daily life easier in Japan or in your country?
Riding my bike in the rain I think it evens out with a stress-less job. I cannot complain.
I have a secure job for the next two years. I get all my bills (from back home and here) taken care of and still have money left to have some fun.
What should people bring from home before going to Japan?
Unless you are a size S in your county, a must is to pack clothes and shoes for at least three different seasons.
Pack cotton and breathable tops for summer and warm, very warm sweaters for winter (well I’m from San Diego). Even if you have to pay extra at the airport it is worth it. I had a package ready to be sent from San Diego with all my thick sweaters, boots and winter jackets.
For women, bring your shoes. All kinds of shoes, flats, boots, tennis shoes and comfortable and decent shoes you can use for school. Outside shoes are not aloud inside school some teachers ware sandals. I use a pair of flat back shoes. Personal care items can be found in most drugstores but do bring your deodorant and toothpaste.
Refill all of your prescriptions before you travel, it could be difficult to find an English speaking Doctor. Or you can ask a Japanese friend to go doctor’s appointment with you and help you translate. This depends how comfortable you feel sharing your medical history with this friend.