Thursday, May 28, 2009

And Now I Know (or Redefining Inaka)

Less than 2 hours after I last posted that I was full of wonderment and chomping at the bit to know where in Japan I'd be headed, I found out. And now I know.

If you'd have asked me before around 10:40 this morning about living in inaka (the countryside, the boonies, middle of bloody nowhere) in Japan, I'd have said that I did that last time. At any point since about 10:40 this morning, I've been realizing that while it looked like inaka where I was last time, with all the rice fields and whatnot, being a 10 minute walk from a little train station that was a less than 20 minute train ride into a decent sized city to get to a station on the main train line was actually more accurately described as suburban. Not inaka, really. This time? I do think it's really fair to say that I'm going to the inaka.

I'm going to Okayama Prefecture. Not to the part even near Okayama City (which would have been pretty OK and not very inaka), but instead I'm off to a very tiny little town of not a whole lot of people and not even remotely close to the main train line I was hoping would be super convenient for all the traveling I hope to be doing. Other than being in the same vicinity of the country of Japan as I hoped, it's not at all approaching the urban, or even suburban if it had to be, that I was really hoping I'd asked nicely enough to think I might get.

I don't have all the details, just the name of my new town in kanji and word that it is, as it appears on the map, indeed, very rural, very beautiful, very friendly and not near a goddamn thing. I spent half the day busy getting ready for my Chicago trip trying wrap my mind around the shock of this placement (I really thought I had a chance at suburban at least, I really did) and feeling a little bruised, honestly, because it's the opposite of what I requested. Then I've spent the last few hours remembering that there are a lot of folks on the waiting list who would gladly take my place if I decide to be a whiny little bitch about it, realizing that I did at least get in the same general area of the country I'd hoped and cheering myself up knowing that I'll make the best of it and will likely love it for the same reasons it scares/annoys me right now. I'll still get to travel all the places in the vicinity I want to go on long weekends, and the rest of the time I'll be experiencing a very different Japan from the one I experienced last time, which is kind of the point, anyway, and is probably good for someone like me so that I don't start thinking I know it all (who? me?).

I've told so many incoming JETs anxious about this kind of placement (or worse, there are some more rural, like on remote islands - for realz) that almost any placement is a good placement with the right attitude and a good sense of humor. I believe it because it's no bullshit. And now it's time to take my own advice. I'm getting there. I'm warming up to the idea. I'll also do better once I have specifics from the person I'm replacing, like knowing that there is a good place for coffee or a cute neighborhood bar or just a place to buy peanut butter in person (a girl can dream, right?). So, I'm in. I think. Mostly. I'll get there.

Hopefully my experience with the newly redefined inaka will translate into better stories and better pictures to share, too. Another perk.


  1. Once you're settled in, I'm sure you'll like it. I'm very much looking forward to reading your stories and seeing pictures from your new world. Japan is very unknown territory, at least to me it is!

  2. I think that it might be possible to send Care Packages, once in a while, with things like real coffee, peanut butter, oreo cookies and the like. Oh, and toilet paper. The good stuff, not the crinkly, cactus like stuff. Yes, I think that might be possible and I think I will make that a blog project - every couple of months send the accumulated stuff to our wayward friend in inaka, in Japan.
    Yeah, that's the ticket.

  3. As shocking as it might be, you've got the right attitude about it! I guess you're just gonna have to get yourself a real sturdy bike for those longass trips to the train station!! :)

  4. I know we are totally different people Maggie, but I am still SO excited for you! Honestly, think of the opportunities! The locals won't be all 'westernized'! Oh, think of the pictures, and the friends you'll make, and the homes you'll visit - that are all still real 'Japan' like, rather than all westernized! I would kill to be in your shoes! I know, I know, I love living in the boonies, but you'll find a happiness, and a serenity, and a calm, and a peace that you just won't find in urban Japan. You'll see the "real" Japan!

  5. ugh, right next to Hiroshima! nuclear explosion. radiation. omg.

  6. I can't wait to hear about your many adventures!

  7. It definitely sounds interesting! I think I'd be a little hacked off too if it was the opposite of what I requested, but you sound like you've got the right attitude.

    Can't wait to hear about it!

  8. It sounds exciting, I'm sure once you get acclimated, you will love it. If you need an emergency peanut butter shipment, just let me know!

  9. Wow, well I've finally caught up! I agree with LceeL - care packages will spruce up ANY placement! ;-)


  10. Why would they send you there? I mean, it's not like people from the inaka (no offense intended!) are itching to learn English!

    I've lived in Okayama for a month on my final year of the university there. But at least I was living near Okayama station!

    Good luck Maggie! On the other hand, I find that Okayama folks are truly friendly and warm people and the kibi dango is delicious!

  11. BTW, at least you are near can visit that war museum if you haven't. And get on a ferry perhaps to Miyajima to see that grand Torii.

    I really hoped to meet you when I go to Japan in October but we'd be too far! I'll be in Nagano, Niigata and Tokyo.

  12. The people you teach and touch and those that touch your lives will all become so special and integral to who you'll be a year from now! I am sure you will make the best/most of this experience and will be so much wiser and richer, too. I'm a tab envious and hope to read of you adventure. Be well!


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