Visiting a rural JET friend in Noto

I quit my English teaching job to teach music but when I was an English teacher it struck me how different the ‘English teaching in Japan’ gig can be depending on the situation. I’m glad I live in Tokyo because it would be difficult to do my new job elsewhere and I like being in a place where there are lot’s of opportunities and lots going on, but to be honest sometimes it feels very similar to my lifestyle when I lived in London. Huge capital cities are kind of the same in a way.

I sometimes envy my friends who are living in remote areas of Japan, for having a more unique experience than mine. The way they can become truly immersed and how participate in their area’s local culture is really quite special. A friend on the JET Programme lives in a tiny village on the Noto peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture. No I didn’t know where that is either, but when he invited me to visit him I thought it was best to find out.

cat-kotatsu
A kotatsu is a heater you curl up under in the winter and it’s great. Unfortunately my friend didn’t provide the cats. Photocredit: buzz net news

It turns out the Noto peninsula is vaguely near Kanazawa. Well, Kanazawa was where we took the night bus to, then it was another two hours to my friend’s house. There are several differences between the life of a country JET and mine. Firstly, while my boyfriend and I share in a perfectly nice but boring and small apartment my friend has a gorgeous traditional Japanese house to himself. I particularly enjoyed experiencing his built in kotatsu for the first time. Honestly, if I had had one of those I probably wouldn’t move so maybe it’s for the best. What also really struck me was the warmth and friendliness of the local community. Everywhere we went people knew who my friend was and greeted him warmly. Their generosity extended to us to – we were even given a bottle of Noto sake for free! Some people have the stereotype that Japanese people are insular and unfriendly but honestly I think this speaks more for Tokyo than anywhere else.

It rained the whole weekend we were there, proof that traveling can not always go your way, but we still had a great time. I spent a lot of my childhood holidays climbing wet hills in Wales so I’m pretty much steeled against rain by now. The countryside in Noto was  beautiful and the sushi was absolutely fantastic. My favourite part of the weekend was attending a late night festival on the waterfront. I’ve no idea what the symbolism of it was but there were these huge floats and they were not only paraded but also crashed into each other, while the bearers where chanting at the top of their voices (the video should give you some idea). I love finding these pockets of Japanese culture.

 

Sometimes you just to unplug yourself from the city a bit. I enjoyed experiencing Noto and fully intend to go back there for its famous Fire and Violence festival in 2017!

 

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