29 March 2011

Sadako says: 7 days!

You're probably wondering what I mean by the title of this post but I am simply referring to the character from the Japanese movie Ringu (aka The Ring) where the deceased character Sadako says to you on the phone "7 days" after you watch the cursed video tape! So basically today makes it exactly 7 days before I leave for Japan!

I have been watching BBC News as well as NHK World nearly every day since the events of March 11th happened. The situation at the Nuclear Plant and the radiation being emitted from there makes me slightly nervous at times. But I know once I get moved from Nagoya to Kumamoto City I will be very far from the plant in Fukushima however I still wonder sometimes if Kumamoto is far enough!

My mother has her own ideas about me going on this trip. But I keep trying to reassure her that after the two weeks I spend in Nagoya I will be even further from Fukushima and the Nuclear Plant. But the fact that I am surround by active volcanoes doesn't help my case about me being safer in Kumamoto. But I know that if things do become too serious I have enough money put aside to leave the country at the drop of a hat.

When I haven't been worrying about my safety in the country I have actually been researching a little more about Kumamoto and the surrounding areas. There seems to be a fairly large community there for expats most of them being teachers participating in the JET Programme. I have also managed to find a few websites with more information about the area. One of the main ones being Kumamoto International which is a wiki page all about things in Kumamoto in English that people living in the area have written.

There seem to be many recreational activities to do in the city such as swimming, ice skating, karate, tennis or working out at the gym. As well as the things I just mentioned there are also the standard things you will find such as bowling, the cinema, restaurants and many bars and clubs. I am sure that I can find something in the city to occupy myself with when I am not busy teaching!

I also found out that I can take a ferry from Fukuoka to Busan, South Korea for around 25,000yen (£188) return. The journey takes about 3 hours one way and the company JR Beetle makes several trips to the city per day. Hopefully I will be able to make this trip at some point of me being in Japan. But for Golden Week I hope to go to Osaka since I can't seem to find a cheap guesthouse in Fukuoka.

In regards to actually getting to Japan I believe by the end of this week I will have completed everything that is on my to-do list. Although I haven't actually started packing yet due to me waiting on some clothes I recently ordered to be delivered as well as some other small things. But like I said, hopefully by the end of this week I will have everything sorted.

16 March 2011

Kumamoto City here I come!

After much waiting myself and the other teachers have final been told our tentative placement locations. Because of the recent events in Japan we were told that all over our placements had to be re-jigged and so we were either placed in the Chūbu Region or further west in the Kyushu Region.

My location is Kumamoto City in Kumamoto Prefecture which is on the island of Kyushu. Riaz and Loren who are two of the other teachers that are attending the same training session as me were placed in Gifu Prefecture and Aichi Prefecture which are both in the Chūbu Region. Helen another teacher was placed in Wakayama Prefecture which is in the Kansai Region. The last teacher Peter was placed in Ehime Prefecture on the island of Shikoku. So as you can see we have all been spread out across the country.

When I first heard about my location I was a little disappointed because I had hoped to at least be placed somewhere near my 2nd choice which was Osaka in the Kansai Region. Or at least somewhere that I was more familiar with. But after doing some research about the area and watching some videos it seems that Kumamoto City may not be such a bad place after all. Originally I thought about asking to be moved somewhere else based on the fact that the city is situated fairly close to two active volcanoes. But later I realised if they did move me somewhere else I could end up in a place that is better or a lot worse! So I decided to just stick with this placement.

Micaela riding around Kumamoto City with her bike

From looking up Kumamoto City on WikiTravel there seems to be quite a few interesting things to do. I will be able to see the Kumamoto Castle, Suizen-ji Gardens and visit Mt. Aso which is about 1hr40mins from Kumamoto City by local train. There is also an amusement park in Arao City called Mitsui Greenland which is not too far from Kumamoto City.

One of the many festivals in Kumamoto City

There also seems to be quite a few places to shop as well as nice places to eat in the city. One of the traditional foods in Kumamoto City is Basashi which is actually raw horse meat!!! I am fairly adventurous when it comes to food but the idea of eating raw horse meat does not appeal to me at all! But depending on how long I am in Kumamoto City I may end up trying it!

Lucky for me Kumamoto City is about 2hrs away from Fukuoka by train or bus both costing around 2,000yen one way. So if I can't find something interesting to do in Kumamoto City i'm sure I will find something to do in Fukuoka. Also during my investigation I found a couple clubs in Kumamoto City that play Reggae. So some Reggae is better than no Reggae at all so I can at least get my fix. If not I can always go to Fukuoka because they have a lot more going on there. I am a bit disappointed there doesn't seem to be any type of sports team in Kumamoto because I would have liked to have gone to a Baseball game. But again I can always visit Fukuoka for that type of entertainment.

I have just a few weeks left before I am supposed to fly out. Luckily I received my suitcases and all the other stuff I ordered. All that is left is really to buy my travel insurance and also some new clothes/shoes for my new job. Luckily for me I can wear casual clothes in the classroom so I do not need to bring many shirts and ties. It looks like my suitcase is going to be fairly light...I hope!

12 March 2011

...almost there! prt 3

Today in the post I received my external hard-drive, hair clippers and camera bag. I decided to open up the hard-drive first and to my surprise the hard-drive was a lot smaller than I had initially thought. I was under the impression that it was quite large in size and this was the reason I decided not to but the blue model instead of the white one. I felt that the blue version would look ugly compared to everything else I own. But now, I am thinking maybe I should've bought the blue one for an extra £5 since that model has an extra 110GB worth of storage!! Well I guess I just have to be satisfied with 640GB and delete things I do not need when its filling up.

The hair clippers are quite small too and feel nice and comfortable in my hand. My friend thinks I should use them before I go just in case they can not cut afro-hair but I believe they will be alright. However if I do find that they are not that great whilst I am in Japan I can feel easy knowing that I only spent £20 on them.

I am happy now that I actually have a bag for my Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF2! The bag which I bought will allow me to carry around the camera with the 14-42mm lens attached and have the 14mm pancake lens in the bag also. But I think I may also get another bag just to hold the camera when it only has the 14mm lens attached.

The only thing I am really waiting for to be delivered are my suitcases. Hopefully they will come on Tuesday/Wednesday next week. Once I get that I will pretty much have completed 90% of the things on my to-do list for the trip.

Yesterday I received a letter from my old employer stating that there had been an overpayment in my last wage of £135. They paid me from the 1st - 31st December when I should have only been paid from the 1st - 28th December. This is actually the worst time to hear that I owe someone money when I am supposed to be preparing for my relocation to Japan. I have until the 7th April 2011 to pay the money back!

I think I will contact them next week to sort this out as well as the Lufthansa to confirm that my booking was made. I will also need to explain to the Student Loans Company that I will not be paid until the 25th May and so will not be able to make the repayment date in April. Hopefully they will be able to sort this out since all of the information about my pay was included in the copy of the contract I sent them!

11 March 2011

Latest Earthquake in Japan recorded at 8.9!

I'm sure everyone has already heard about the Earthquake (recorded at 8.9 on the richter scale) that has hit North-Eastern Japan. Shortly after the Earthquake that area of Japan was with by a Tsunami with a height of up to 10 meters (32.8ft). The aftershock was felt in Tokyo and as far as Beijing in China.

Originally when I first heard about the Earthquake it was on the radio during their news segment. I didn't think much of it because I know Japan is a place that is used to receiving many Earthquakes. It wasn't until I started to watch what was happening on the TV that I began to realise it was quite serious.

Whilst I was watching the events unfold on TV it did make me think that I could had possibly been involved in this disaster if my start date was slightly earlier. I spent the majority of the day tuned in to BBC News to find out as much information about this disaster as possible. I also thought about my friend who was in Tokyo on holiday but luckily I found out later he was ok.

I just hope that all of my friends and their families in Japan are safe. But I believe this Earthquake will be remembered by the Japanese people and the world for quite some time.

10 March 2011

...almost there! prt 2

I received confirmation from the Student Loans Company regarding how much I would have to make in repayments of my student loan. It seems I will only have to pay £39 per month towards it based on how much I will be earning in Japan. Luckily like here in the UK the repayment threshold is £15,000 in Japan and so I only have to make repayments based on anything I earn over that at 9%.

What I think I will do is add about £500 to one of my saving accounts here in the UK and then I can make my repayments to SLC of £39 via direct debit using that account. I believe if I do it this way its one less thing I need to worry about when I am in Japan and also I will not miss any payment deadlines.

I am still keeping my eye on my payment to Lufthansa via Paypal after reading online that sometimes they have been known to accept the money very late and sometimes not at all! I have read that certain travellers have arrived at the airport only to be told that a seat had been reserved for them but no money has been sent to Lufthansa. So like I said I am keeping my eye on this transaction. I am lucky that I bought my ticket a month in advance to sort out any problems like this!

I am able to cross another thing off my list today as I have just ordered my new suitcases. In total they were £69 but I get two instead of one for this price. Originally they were listed at £149 but have been reduced to £69.


I think the one I ordered looks very nice but its not very indistinguishable from another suitcase so I plan to put something on it so I can easily spot it. I decided to get two suitcase just in case I decide to visit other parts of Japan I can bring a change of clothes much easier.

Hopefully tomorrow I will receive my Camera Bag, 640GB External Hard-Drive and my Hair Clippers (all bought from amazon.co.uk). I wanted the external hard-drive because the internal one in my new laptop is not that big and if I wanted to do any video editing or Photoshop work I could fill that up quite quickly. Just in case I can not find someone to cut my hair well whilst I am over there I may need to cut it myself hence the purchase of the hair clippers.

The only thing that is really left is to buy some travel insurance to tie me over until I enrol on to the National Health Care System. The company also require me to obtain a letter from my Doctor just stating that I am fit to work in Japan. I should be picking that up new week sometime so I will keep you posted.

7 March 2011

Messing around with Vegas Movie Studio 10

Recently I've been trying to get used to using Vegas Movie Studio 10. I have made a few video clips using various effects and I have also been practising using the different titles/text available in the program. I hope by the time I am ready to go to Japan I will be competent enough with VMS that I can make fairly decent videos.

I hope to upload all the videos I make whether they are vlogs or just general videos about Japan to my youtube channel. Like this blog the youtube channel has the same name: youtube.com/journeytodaeast

I spent some time yesterday trying to create a decent background for the channel. I ended up using one of my older graphics so that I could quickly put something together. Right now on the channel there is only the test video of me messing around with key frames but I hope to upload a lot more very soon.

If you haven't seen the quick video I put together you can have a look at it below. However I think that 30sec for the intro is a bit too long and so I will cut it down to around 15sec. I will probably use the same theme with the collage to keep it clean and simple.

Once I take some new photos out in Japan I will create a new intro for my videos. Also if you didn't know there is now a Facebook page so when you get a chance please 'like' the page: facebook.com/pages/Journey-to-da-East/191209360918679

5 March 2011

Its official I am good to go!

Officially I am good to go! I got my work visa earlier this week and I bought my plane ticket to Nagoya yesterday. Luckily the price of the flight with Lufthansa was still the same as the last time I checked. I ended up paying £497 for the flight with a stop over in Frankfurt. The duration of the flight will be around 15 hours including the stop over in Frankfurt. This will be the first time I will have flown to Germany but it is a pity I will not get to see much of the country.

All I really need to do next is buy my travel insurance for the first couple of months before I enrol on to the Japanese National Health system. I also need to buy a new suitcase as well as some new clothes to fill it with. Although I still do not know what position I will have in Japan nor my location so I think I will wait a bit before I start buying new clothes.

On Thursday of this week I met some of the other teachers that will be starting the training session at the same time as me. I had been communicating with them all via email but it was nice to actually meet them in person. From having spoken to them they all seem friendly and I believe we will all be able to get on really well once we are out in Japan.

Today I have just spent my time trying to streamline this blog by adding a removing certain things. I have also added more links to other social networks so people can better follow my journey in Japan. I ended up creating a Youtube account for my vlogs, a Flickr account and a new Facebook Page. So please if you get a chance please like and/or subscribe. I will try my best to keep all of these places updated. But the main area where I will post content will be on this blog. Thanks again for reading.