Tokyo has been on my list of cities to visit since I had a brief rendezvous with Japanese art in high school. The cosmopolitan allure of the city combined with its traditional beauty has ensnared me since. So, my first Korean teaching wage was splurged on plane tickets. The past six months have been an excruciating waiting game. 

The pure size of Tokyo is what makes it so impressive. Over 13 million people live like sardines in apartment blocks throughout the city. Beneath this lies a tangle of subway systems twisting as they transport hordes of commuters. Consequently, I was amazed by the serenity that exudes from the metropolis. Even on a rush hour subway as the locals are crushed between a mass of strangers bodies, they remain calm and composed. In fact, the quiet is often only punctured by the tranquil bird sounds which are played throughout the subway system. 

To truly appreciate the size of the capital, I ascended to the 45th floor of the Tokyo metropolitan government building. The city reached as far as the eye could see. It twinkled seductively, outshining the stars, every inch electrified by the pure essence of Tokyo. 

In true tourist fashion, one of the first places I visited was the famous Shibuya crossing. I allowed myself to be immersed by the hoards that crossed the road in a Tetris like style. Also, the Starbucks overlooking the intersection was a must. Each time the green man flashed I watched in awe as not a single pedestrian collided. 

After dirt cheap food, drink and transportation in Korea, the cost of Tokyo came as a bit of a shock. However, it’s actually not expensive in comparison to British standards, the quality of the food will easily surpass the cost. Tsukiji fish market is where you’ll find the freshest sushi. Obviously, this will set you back more than a conveyor belt sushi restaurant, but it is well worth the cost. There is a smooth efficiency as new customers squeeze into the narrow sushi bars, quickly replacing the old. It is mesmerising to watch the sushi chef’s deft fingers moulding perfect works of edible art. 

Every meal that I ate during my stay was mind-blowing; the flavours and freshness generated a feeling of euphoria. Ramen is cheap and delicious; most restaurants have a self-serve machine so that you can order using the pictures and add extras on without any trouble. Also, katsu curry is a quick, satisfying meal that won’t cost you much. 

I am thrilled that I have finally visited the city of my dreams. However, I think that my 15-year-old-self created a fantastical image of Tokyo that was unobtainable. A metropolis where funky Harajuku girls rubbed shoulders with traditional kimono clad geisha’s. Intricately painted shrines and temples nestled between imposingly futuristic skyscrapers. To be honest, the reality is not too far off what I had imagined.


Teaching Adults

When the prospect of teaching in Korea was merely a seedling, I made the decision that I would prefer to be teaching children rather than adults. I opted for the elementary to middle school age which is common in most hagwons. So, what a surprise it was when I arrived in Korea and was informed that I would be teaching a smattering of adults alongside my children classes. Apparently, this has become the norm in many hagwons since the deterioration of the economy. Directors have branched out to accept adults in order to keep themselves afloat.
The first time that I stepped into an adult’s class I was terrified. The idea that they wouldn’t like me, which never crossed my mind with children, hounded my every thought. The fact is that children are encouraged and ultimately forced to attend hagwon by their parents, whilst adults can decide whether they want to continue attending for themselves. There is generally no exam that adults need to pass, so their perseverance at English can be slightly enervated.
My first adult who quit never informed me of their intention to do so. It was all “you’re the best teacher” one week and absent the next. I felt pretty despondent about the situation. Gradually, I learnt that adults have a far shorter attention span when learning than children. On average they last around 3 months, their attention wanes a little and they disappear. I’ve become unfazed by students abandoning the classroom; new students replace those that leave and they have a whirlwind romance with English.
Despite their short life length, adult lessons are actually rather enjoyable. These are students who choose to come to class, in contrast with many children who are unmistakably forced to attend. They are ardent with a desire to devour the English language. Also, you can step away from the rigid technique of following the book that is expected in a children’s classroom. Adults want to talk, they’re interested in your life and they will even tell you gossip about their own. A friendly attachment will form as you stumble over the precarious road of translation. Then one week they’ll stand you up and they’ll never return again.