Our time in Tokyo was short lived as on the third day we all split up and headed to our prefectures. Kumamoto left relatively early in the morning which meant I had to get up relatively early, which meant that everyone else in my room also had to get up early (sorry guys!) I actually woke up at 2am and couldn’t get back to sleep – we’d apparently had a small earthquake which may have had something to do with it. Probably because of being exhausted, I felt surprisingly emotional at breakfast as I’d got used to spending my time with my lovely roommates and leaving them to spend all my time with folks unknown was a bit daunting. Luckily the melon plates helped, and after stuffing myself I went to meet up with the other Kumamoto folks in the big hall. The hall had signs all around the edges for the different prefectures and it was odd to see people lining up and leaving in streams behind their signs. Everyone looked like they were somewhere on a scale between excited and petrified as they introduced themselves to the other people who would be flying out with them. I felt lucky to have previously met Yasmin in London and throughout the Tokyo orientation as it gave me a friend to talk to while we waited. Eventually we were ready to go, and we followed our sign out through the hotel and onto our bus to Haneda.
Kumamoto is about 6.5 hours from Tokyo by train, so Kumamoto JETs fly to their placement because the flight is only 1 hour and a half and reasonably priced (often cheaper than the train). We were bussed to Haneda and checked in with ruthless efficiency. It was seriously weird to those of us used to UK or American airports to be waved through with full water bottles and liquids, security for internal flights seems very relaxed. We grabbed some coffee and waited for our flight. On the bus to the airport, Laura and Johnny had told us that we would be heading straight from the airport to our CO (after being fed) and we’d need to have our aisatsu (greetings) ready to go. This meant that any time we were waiting and even on the plane, all you could hear around you were “hajimemashite’s” and “yoroshikuonegaishimasu’s”.
We boarded the plane which actually had a lot of room on it and we were all sat in the tail (yay – super bumpy ride incoming). I was sat next to another JET going to Tamana (Ginger Snap is his alias here) so we were able to get to know each other a bit on the flight which was nice. We came down (very bumpily) into Kumamoto and collected our baggage without incident. We then headed through the gates into the crowd to meet our supervisors and senpai JETs.
We were met at the airport by two supervisors and two senpai JETs (Rainbow Sunshine and El Presidente – they wanted aliases and chose their own..). I think my brain was starting to stop working because of being awake for a LONG time and the stress of flying so my introductions were basically “Hi..stutter stammer…death..”. We went for lunch at a really nice vegan place in the city (Ginger Snap is vegan) and talked about a lot of things to do with Tamana, Kumamoto and JET. I had some sort of pasta salad which was delicious but very spicy, so that shut me up for a bit.
After lunch we headed back to Tamana to the Board of Education where we would do our formal introductions to our “big boss” then would meet our homestays and do a couple of other jobs. I have to say that my formal introduction to our boss was an absolute shambles. I think I nearly cried with the stress and definitely messed up all my Japanese. Ginger Snap was a lot more composed and managed to carry the situation very well, but I like to think the experience at least gave me a baseline to work up from! Luckily he’s a very nice man and was very kind about my appalling Japanese and nerves and decided not to immediately fire me. I also nearly managed to flash him as one of the buttons on my shirt came undone immediately before meeting him but thankfully my Rainbow Sunshine and El Presidente JETs came to the rescue and made sure I was appropriately dressed!
We then got a chance to meet Ojiichan and White Black Thunder (two more ALTs who wanted to choose their own aliases). After our meetings we went home with our homestays. Mine was an absolute delight and I had the best few days with them. That evening I actually went to a little eikaiwa which my homestay sister attends with her friends. That was a lot of fun and the lady running the eikaiwa actually gave me a gift of a beautiful hand painted Japanese style fan, covered in irises which are the famous flower in Tamana. I was past the tiredness by this point so I didn’t notice the time and we actually went to bed at about 11:30, which is quite a long time to be awake considering I was up at 2am, but I was having a lot of fun! It was really nice and reassuring to be surrounded by friendly people my first night in Tamana and I’m very grateful to my host family for looking after me so well.