If you Google Iwamizawa City, chances are there will be a few pictures of Hokkaido Greenland Amusement Park. It looks super fun, but this park was not the first thing I had in mind when I thought of Japan. Yet the Ferris wheel and ski slopes in the background became my first impression of the place I currently call home.
The incredible thing about being on JET is that program participants are placed all throughout Japan, typically in the countryside (田舎 or inaka), rather than in cities.
Even some Japanese hadn’t heard of Iwamizawa. There are roughly 89,000 residents in the city. However, each year about 1,300 leave for nearby Sapporo. I see mostly older people, school-aged children and their families. There are a lot of convenience stores (コンビニ or conbini), and right now I’m depending on them for food, even though I never did this back home. I think it’s because 7/11 always just meant Slurpees growing up. But here, 7/11 and Seico Mart (another conbini) mean lunch, dinner, snacks, whatever! On my first day of work, the vice principal took me to lunch, and where did we go? Seico Mart!
Fortunately, there’s a bus that travels everyday to a nearby grocer, and on my second day here, a fellow ALT showed me how to get there.
So now it’s been three weeks and my “image” of Iwamizawa has gradually grown beyond that fateful Ferris Wheel. To be honest, I haven’t even been to that park, but I have seen some other neat places around town.
Welcome to Iwamizawa!