West Meets East: An American in Japan | All Blogs

West Meets East

By Josiah Lebowitz

As the train pulled away from the station I watched the Japanese countryside pass by, marveling at the different shape of the buildings, the fields of rice paddies, the bright flashing signs, and all the little things which indicated that I was most definitely not in the US anymore.

My first view of Japan

Soon my excitement at being in Japan, a country I’d longed to visit for years, was replaced by a growing sense of panic. What exactly had I gotten myself into? This wasn’t some two week vacation to see the sights. I was here to teach elementary school English, a job I’d never before done, in a country I’d never before visited, for eight whole months. What had seemed like a relatively short length of time back in the US was now starting to feel like an eternity and my several semesters of college Japanese seemed horribly inadequate.

Rice Paddies

But that was back in August of 2007. Fast forward to the present and here I am back in Japan for a several month stint teaching English at a jr. high school. And, while I’m currently planning to return to the US once I finish, there’s a chance that I’ll stay on or find a new job here and remain in Japan for another year or more. Because, as strange and different as Japan is, and despite the tiny apartments, language difficulties, and lack of good pizza, there’s a whole lot to love about it.

This seems like a good time to introduce myself. My name is Josiah Lebowitz and I’m a 26 year old writer and video game designer who has lived in Western Colorado on and off for the past 19 years. My interest in Japan began around 13 years ago when I become hooked on Japanese video games, anime (cartoons), manga (comics), and karate. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t long before I wanted to know more about the country that produced so much of my favorite media.

Josiah in Magome

I studied Japanese on and off on my own for several years but it wasn’t until the middle of college that I started taking formal classes. My teacher often talked about the time he spent teaching English in Japan. Listening to him, I began to wonder if maybe I should give it a try as well. Before settling down and seriously working on my career, I could take a year off and work in Japan. It sounded like an adventure and a good way to improve my Japanese so, in August of 2007, off I went.

Though I returned to the US in April of 2008, instead of renewing my teaching contract for another year, I enjoyed my time in Japan immensely and have been wanting to return (at least for a short time) ever since. And that brings me to 2009. With the economy making it difficult to find a good job in my field, I started thinking about taking another teaching position in Japan. If nothing else, it would be a fun way to spend time while waiting for the release of my latest book and game. So, when I was offered a position to teach at a jr. high school in Chiba from January through March, I jumped on it and now here I am.

During my first stay in Japan, I kept a photo filled travelogue where I talked about my job, the places I went on my days off, and all sorts of things about Japan and how it differed from the US. I’ve been doing the same since returning to Japan two weeks back and you can read all about my latest adventures at www.pebbleversion.com  And now, thanks to the fine folks at The Daily Sentinel, I’ve got this blog as well. Unlike my travelogues, which act more or less as a daily record of my activities in and comments on Japan, the purpose of this blog is to introduce people to Japan and what makes it such a different and fascinating place. I’ll also be including some travel advice (where to find hotels, what to see, how to get around, etc) and tips for those who are interested in visiting or even working in Japan. I’ll be making new posts every day or two Monday – Friday for the next few months so be sure to check back often.

Be it in the crowded streets of Tokyo or the quiet of a small mountain village, there’s always something new and different to be found in Japan. I hope you find this blog interesting and entertaining and that it inspires you to plan your own visit to the land of the rising sun.



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