Profile:A Scottish woman living in Izu teaching English. After graduating from university I started to study Japanese, alongside my full-time job. In 2018 I decided to take the plunge and move to Japan to focus more on my Japanese studies and I’ve stayed here ever since.
I came to Japan as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher), teaching English in a small school in Izu. I was lucky enough that my company decided to place me in such a wonderful place. I had travelled around Japan three times before (for two weeks each time) and I had struggled deciding on where I wanted to live so I let the company decide for me. This turned out to be the best decision for me.
Due to the location, I was given a rental car and had to drive around one hour each way to school and back every day. Coming from the British countryside, I was so excited to drive every day. The mornings were early and I almost never got home before it got dark but it was definitely worth the journey. Driving through the suburb, twisting round the river, over the mountains and eventually the scenery breaking out to a magnificent view of the ocean. I really was spoiled!
Izu is home to some of the most breathtaking scenery I’ve ever seen. No matter the season, there’s always something new to make me want to explore. In my first year of living here I spent almost every day after work making friends with the locals and at weekends I was never at home, favouring exploring to see the hidden delights that people rarely visited. The peninsula is world famous but due to the limited transport links I couldn’t wait to get in my car and drive in some random direction to see what I came across. I was never disappointed! I even moved near to my school to be involved in the community more!
Living and exploring is tiring but I had the best year of my life in Izu (with many more to come). I was introduced to Japanese karaoke, batting cages, local festivals, English groups, swimming in the sea (us Brits have to go abroad for this pleasure), firework festivals and even a local sumo tournament. Every single weekend there is something happening here. And the locals are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. No matter who you are, where you’re from, whether there’s a language barrier or not, they will not fail to welcome you. I studied Japanese before I came here so I have had so many opportunities to experience life like a local here but any friends that have visited, even without any Japanese have been welcomed. They have been made to feel like part of the local “family”. I cannot recommend Izu enough, especially for people who want to experience true Japanese culture.
Living in Japan as a foreigner comes with its challenges but the benefits definitely outweigh the challenges. It can be exhausting sometimes going to the shop and everyone knowing your name/wanting to talk to you. Being one of the few foreigners this far into the countryside means almost everyone wants to be your friend. I’ve lost count of the amount of Japanese people who are terrified to speak English but they try their best to make things more comfortable for me (until they find out I can actually speak their language). People in the UK would not be this accommodating. They are always excited to find out where I’m from and why I love Izu so much, even though I can’t really put the feeling into words. And then there’s the kids. They may not be fluent in English and they may not understand you but they will find a way past this barrier. Play some “onigokko” (tag) with them and you’ll never get rid of them. Mix in some English words and you’ll soon hear the whole town echoing those famous last words of yours.
I really do think it’s a shame that such a wonderful place had so little English help but my goal is to bring English to Izu. To help promote the area and let others experience the real Japan. There may not be enough English help but you will always find someone to help you. You’ll soon notice that despite the language barrier, everyone can find a way to communicate. Whether that’s through experiences, gestures or speaking some basic English/Japanese. Don’t be scared to come and visit!
So if any of you foreigners out there want to experience Japan, Izu is the place for you. Unfortunately I have a seafood allergy but I’ve heard the seafood is so fresh it almost melts in your mouth. The views are to die for and you’ll experience so many wonderful things here.