Traveling to Japan and living there was one of the best experiences I could have had as a young adult. I went on my own with a working-holiday visa and planned to work and travel around the country. I didn’t really have a travel itinerary and was hoping I could see some of the most popular and well know cities at the time. I was fresh out of college and hardly any experience travelling. I had to borrow money from my Dad to purchase my plane ticket. I had a few connections and the intention of finding a part-time job to help cover some living expenses.
It was the end of the summer when I landed in the Kansai airport, Osaka Japan. The weather was still warm and it was very muggy, the air felt heavy. After claiming my bags and clearing customs and immigration I made my way to the train platform. As I walked through the airport I was amazed at its cleanliness and the orderliness of the terminal. It was exactly as I expected, the lonely Planet book I studied the month prior was on par. It didn’t take long for me to find some work. Like most young adults, fresh out of college looking to make some cash, I landed a job tutoring English. I worked for a small company that sent us out to tutor English to various different areas in the Okayama Prefecture.
I was given a car, a map (in Japanese!), some gas money and a schedule of clients and class times. It was all quite daunting at first. Not only was I driving on the opposite side of the road, but I was in a completely foreign country. Driving, in what the locals referred to as “the country side”, most street signs were in Japanese. It was interesting to say the least. I did get lost a few times but after a couple of weeks I had my route mastered. In the relatively short time I spent in Japan, I was lucky enough to experience the changing of a season. To have the good fortune of spending enough time in Japan to experience the changing of a season is quite spectacular. If you’ve read about or studied Japanese culture, then you will know that the Japanese do things very intentionally. Precise placement of objects in their many art forms is thought out and there’s always something more to uncover, to get a clearer understanding or appreciation of it. I suppose this was one of the reasons why I chose to travel to Japan. I was searching for something with deeper meaning. Although I didn’t get to travel up and down the entire Island of Honshu, I did get to spend some of my time off taking day trips around the Okayama prefecture. Two of my favorite sites in the Okayama Prefecture included, Okayama Korakuen and Okayama Castle.
Considered one of the 3 great gardens in Japan, Korakuen was originally built-in 1700, during the Edo period. It is considered a touristy type of activity, and will most likely be busy. However, when you are in Japan, visiting these national treasures will give outsiders a peek into a culture that is typically reserved and composed. Each turn you take in the garden, as you leave one area and enter another, offers a completely different view or sight. It is really a feast for the eyes and the mind. Okayama Castle, or Crow Castle as it came to be known, due to its black exterior, was built before Korakuen gardens and happens to be very close to the garden. This makes it very easy to see both historical sites during a day trip in the area. The gardens around the castle are also very neat, tidy and orderly, as every Japanese garden is.
If you travel as far as Okayama Prefecture, or are in the area of Hiroshima Prefecture, then you should make the trip down to Hiroshima City. The Peace Memorial Park, the Peace Memorial Museum and the A-Bomb Dome are a must see. It will humble you to see what the Japanese people experienced; it is their account of tragic events that took place on that day in August.
One of my favorite day trips was one that took us over to Itsukushima Island, more popularly known as Miyajima, or Shrine Island. This is where the well-known Torii gate can be found, and the rogue deer.
The shrine and the surrounding garden seem to be one with the sea. On that particular day, the tide was out, and we were able to walk almost to the foot of the famous Torii gate. It was fall and the beautiful colours of the season were in full force. The red and orange of the turning leaves accented the red of the shrine. As dusk approached each of the lanterns that line the shoreline are lit and the visual effect is unforgettable. My stay in Japan lasted almost 6 months. It was the perfect length of time to explore the area, meet some people and to make a little cash to cover expenses. It was an experience I will always treasure, a period of time that taught me a little more about myself. I matured a little more that year than I ever would have if I had stayed home in Canada.
Here are a link to the Government of Canada info page. It is a great place to start, they have no bias and it’s free information. if you’re interested in working abroad or know someone who is, please share. Curently Canada has a partnership with over 30 countries!