Time for another interview! This month we are interviewing Viola, a Canadian girl living in Sendai, Japan.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, who are you, where are you from, where are you living now, etc?
I am a 25 years old Canadian girl from Toronto. Since the wander bug bit me during my university years, I travelled every chance that I got and dreamt of living in a foreign country. In 2015, I left my corporate job to chase my dream. Now, I live in Sendai, Japan, where I work as an English teacher and explore during my free time.
What did bring you to Sendai?
I had wanted to live in Japan for a long time. Although I never visited, I had a beautiful image of this country in my head. From gorgeous cherry blossom flowers, to polite people, to delicious sushi (Oh man, I love sushi!), Japan was where I wanted to be! So I applied for a program called JET that sends native English speakers to Japan and got placed in Sendai. Since then, being here has been everything that I imagined and more!
What were your expectations before arriving in this city?
When I first got placed in Sendai, I did not know too much about the city and had to do some Googling. I learned that Sendai is one of Japan’s 20 designated cities and it’s less than a two hours bullet train ride away from Tokyo. It’s famous for having a lot of greenery downtown, its signature food “gyutan” (grilled cow tongue), and several colorful festivals. It sounded wonderful and I was really excited. But I also learned that this is the area in Japan where a disastrous earthquake happened in 2011. I heard that the area is still under recovery efforts and was a bit nervous and unsure about what that entails.
What was your first impression?
My first impression of Sendai was amazing! I loved that there is way less people in Sendai comparing to Tokyo (Man Tokyo is a busy place!). The city has recovered very well since the earthquake and the impact is very much unnoticeable at this point. As a big city, Sendai has all the conveniences and fun stuff that you would want. An international airport, big shopping malls, restaurants of different cuisines, entertainment, and more! Sendai is the capital city in the Miyagi prefecture and serves as a gateway for traveling to many amazing places in this region. For example, Matsushima, an island that has been ranked one of Japan’s three most scenic views for centuries is only an hour away from Sendai! I felt super lucky to be placed here.
Did you have any cultural shock? What was that?
Having travelled for many years, I have seen many different cultures so I don’t feel shocked too easily. However, Japan definitely has a very unique culture in various ways. One of the things that I still have a hard time with is how much the people work here. As a foreigner, the same kind of expectation is not given for me and I can leave work at 4 pm and go off on my exploring. However, many of my coworkers work until late night, sometimes only has time to go home for 3-4 hours of sleep, and come back to work again in the morning. Long work time is very common across many jobs in Japan and I am just in awe of their work ethics, although I don’t think it’s very healthy.
What’s your favorite historical or cultural spot nearby?
A short train ride away from Sendai, there is a beautiful mountain temple called Yamadera. It’s famous for being spot where a well-known Japanese poet named “Basho” visited and composed a beautiful haiku. I love this place for the serene feeling I get when I visit. It also has the one most gorgeous fall foliage views I’ve ever seen.
What would you miss the most if you moved away?
I would absolutely miss how sweet and considerate the people are in Japan. In the one and a half years that I’ve lived here, I’ve experienced so many random acts of kindness and moments that moved my heart. People would walk you to your destination if you are lost on the street, or give you an umbrella if you are caught in the rain, or simply greet you with a smile even though you are a total stranger. It’s one of my favorite parts of Japanese culture and I think everyone can learn a lot from visiting Japan.
If you could add anything from your country in Japan, what would it be?
Central heating! The winter in Canada is as cold as Japan, if not more cold. But unlike in Canada, Japanese housing generally doesn’t central indoor heating so the winters can be unbearable at times. We have to rely on air conditioning heating or portable heaters which are expensive and not so effective.
You can find Viola here: