Into the Mountains: A new life in Totsukawa-mura!!

*For confidentiality, all teacher and student names will be abbreviated to the first letter of their name… I will continue to share my stories but I will not give out the details of my co-workers and students for the sake of privacy. Thanks for understanding!*

I arrived in Totsukawa village Wednesday night. One of the first things I thoughtย during our voyage into the mountains was: “Holy crap, these roads are suuuuuper twisty-turny! And narrow!!! Omg how am I going to survive. I’ve never driven in the mountains or any sort of terrain like this before. Oh no… Oh no.”ย Despite my apprehensiveness, I continued conversing with one of the JTEs (Japanese Teacher of English) who I’ll be working with throughout the year. K-sensei had picked me up from Nara city and the 2 1/2 hour drive to Totsukawa gave us plenty of time to talk with one another. I found his English to be exceptionally amazing- he sounded very fluent despite not even having English as his major! We got to know each other very well during the drive. Our conversation topics made one another laugh and I was happy to know that our relationship as JTE and ALT wentย off to a very good start.

Along the way, we stopped at a gas station... You could see the mountains from where we were... and we were definitely heading into it.

Along the way, we stopped at a gas station… You could see the mountains from where we were… and we were definitely heading into it.

We stopped in Gojo city to pick up groceries for myself. K-sensei told me that normally, the residents of Totsukawa would go into Shingu to do their shopping. Shingu is a port city in Wakayama, the prefecture south of Nara, about a 45-50 minute drive from Totsukawa. Because Totsukawa is technically closer to Wakayama than the cities near northern Nara, most of the villagers head to Shingu for any errands. However, a typhoon had occurred before my arrival and landslides had caused road blockages to Shingu- hence, Gojo becomes the place to do grocery shopping for the time being. I was at a loss on what to get food-wise, and spacey on what essential items I needed. The busy schedule of Tokyo orientation combined with my recovery of jet lag and the sweltering Japanese summer heat didn’t exactly make me the most prepared person… I wish I had written up a list of everything I needed beforehand!!

A reminder of home: CRAFT BEER!!

A reminder of home: CRAFT BEER!!

Around dinnertime, we decided to stop and eat somewhere. Earlier that day, those who were heading to Nara left Shinjuku very early in the morning, and because we were moving non-stop, we only had time to eat a smallย bento meal on the shinkansen… which was around noon. Needless to say, I was starving… I told K-sensei that I had never tried oyakodon (chicken and egg over rice bowl) before, and he went out of his way to try and find an authentic Japanese restaurant that sold it. Sadly, many of the family-owned Japanese restaurants had closed for the day, so we settled at eating at a chain restaurant called gasu. Good food, but probably not as good as somewhere family-run :3

By the time we were in the mountains, it had already gotten dark. We had about an hour left to go until we reached the school and the apartment so we continued on talking about random things and about Totsukawa itself. This was when I learned that Totsukawa’s vast size really did make a difference on where you were placed. Prior to my arrival to Nara, I had always thought that the famous Tanize Suspension Bridge was right next to the high school- apparently, the bridge next to the school was in fact a normal suspension bridge, and that Tanize was actually 40 minutes away from where I would be living. When I asked how far Tamaki shrine was, K-sensei replied back laughing that it too was 40 minutes away.

K-sensei: Everything is 40 min away! Me: *see above picture*

Despite these unsettling news, I vowed myself to not take the village for granted, and to always find a way to explore a part of it; even if it means for the time being, hanging around the school and witnessing the club life for Japanese students- which by the way, is very intriguing!

More exploring will be done when Trevor arrives and when we get the hang of driving… which I’m still nervous about…

But hey, I’m really grateful for being placed somewhere so beautiful. I mean, come on, I get to wake up to freakin’ mountains everyday. It’s so gorgeous here- you really can’t get a view like this in Minnesota.

Landslide on the mountain...

Landslide on the mountain…

Mountains~ If you can't tell the river is a blue-green color. Very pretty~!

Mountains~ If you can’t tell, the river is a blue-green color. Very pretty~!

The school and dorms nestled along the mountains.

The school and dorms nestled along the mountains.


If you look closely, you can see houses on the side of the mountain! Also, you can see our balcony! It’s the third one from the left with the futon hanging off the side.

Totsukawa's mountains with the sun setting behind it.

Totsukawa’s mountains with the sun setting behind it.

So, I know that many of you must be anxious to know what the apartment is like- I assure you, we will post up pictures and a video, but the place is a mess right now as I’m currently in the process of cleaning it and I would like to record it with a nice camera *cough*Trevorbemycameraman*cough*

You’ll hear more soon!! I’m very excited to be here in Totsukawa and can’t wait to share adventures with everyone! ๐Ÿ˜€


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