Tokyo is expensive. I’ve been here for a little over a month now, and my wallet is constantly hemorrhaging in a way it never did in Philadelphia. Nothing, not my classes and internship, not the distance between where I am now and home, not the language and cultural divide between me and the city I now live in, nothing is more stressful to me right now than the increasingly diminutive number in my account balance emails.
To get around this, I’ve had to adapt to living in Japan on a budget. My roommate and I spent last Saturday searching our neighborhood, which includes a large enclosed, pedestrian only shopping street, sort of like an outdoor mall, for the cheapest groceries we could find. Surprisingly, the best place we could find for stocking up on essentials cheaply was the one hundred yen shop, which is basically the Japanese equivalent to the American dollar store. However, just like how Japanese convenience stores are light-years ahead of their American counterparts in terms of what is available, the hundred yen shops we’ve seen put their American counterparts to shame. We were able to stock up on a few meals worth of noodles, soy sauce, spices, and iced coffee for fewer than one thousand yen, basically equivalent to ten dollars.
To help with the cost of living here, and to try and further immerse and involve myself in my neighborhood and life in Tokyo in general, I found a part time job. When living in Japan on a student visa, you are eligible to work up to twenty-eight hours a week, as long as the work does not interfere with your studies, and it is not “immoral” work, which essentially means that you can’t work in bars or nightclubs. I was able to find a job as a preschool teacher at a local English language immersion preschool, about a five-minute bike ride from where I’m living, in Ebara. The school works with children ages three to around six years old, providing both afterschool care during the week, and full classes on Saturdays. Meant for children whose parents want them to learn English from an early age, the classes are entirely in English, and are basically what you’d expect form a preschool in America. We play games and read books, go over the days of the week and the months in the year, talk about feelings and make simple crafts. The only difference is since the entire class is learning English as a second, or in some cases, even a third, language. As one of the instructors, I have to over exaggerate the already exaggerated speech patterns, actions, and facial expressions of a standard preschool or daycare teacher who deals with young children.
I will be helping to teach the Saturday morning class, as my schedule this semester doesn’t give me much free time during the week, but I don’t start until after Halloween, in early November. However, I’ve had the opportunity to help out in a few classes already, as sort of an orientation, and I’ve been amazed at these incredibly young kid’s ability to comprehend and communicate in English, and am looking forward to starting work!