Taiken Japan

Autumn Leaves 2016

Where Next? What Do I Hope to Achieve in Japan in 2016?

Photo: Rich Renomeron on Flickr

Where Next? What Do I Hope to Achieve in Japan in 2016?

Liam Carrigan

As we approach the beginning of yet another new year, my 32nd on this Earth, I look back on 2015 as a year of ups and downs.

As a teacher, I feel I have continued to grow, and my experience and ability continues to reach new levels. As my confidence increases I have also taken a far more active role in working with my Japanese colleagues, not just to plan and prepare lessons, but to coordinate my school’s English program as a whole. I hope that in 2016 I will begin to see the fruits of these collective labours as my students begin to finally deliver on the early promise they have shown. I am also looking forward to the new challenge that will come with English being introduced as a regular subject to 3rd and 4th grade students at elementary school.

I also hope that 2016 will be the time when, finally, I can explore Japan in its entirety.


Photo: Andreas on Flickr
Hopefully, before the end of the year I will have traversed my own “final frontiers” the as of yet unexplored Okinawa and Hokkaido.

Perhaps I may head up to Hokkaido at the beginning of the year, to check out the snow festival. This marvel or architecture and creativity has garnered rave reviews from many of my friends and colleagues and I can’t wait to finally give it the once over in January, work and indeed wealth permitting.

Otaru, Lantern Festival, Hokkaido.

Otaru, Lantern Festival, Hokkaido.
Photo: Christopher Chan on Flickr
As for February, well there is but one target in my mind at the moment. One thing I had plenty of in 2015 was first dates. Here’s hoping that come next Valentine’s Day I may actually have figured out how to keep one of these ladies around for a bit longer!

All we need is Love.

All we need is Love.
Photo: Jan Karlo Camero on Flickr
Of course Valentine’s Day in Japan is a little different from the US and Europe with the onus on the ladies to buy chocolate and other gifts for their menfolk. Of course we guys don’t get off scot free, thankfully for the ladies the forces of consumerism conspired to create white day a matter of weeks later, where we men have to return the favour!

March is always a tricky month for any English teacher in Japan. With the academic year starting in April, this is the time when we will be tempted by offers to go and work elsewhere in Japan. I for one have no plans to move away from Osaka, I have come to call this city my home, and I honestly can’t see myself living anywhere else now. Of course the same can’t be said of all my colleagues and there will, inevitably, be a few sad goodbyes around this time, as some of my friends depart Osaka in search of new challenges and new pastures.

Weeping Cherry Blossoms.

Weeping Cherry Blossoms.
Photo: Shigemi.J on Flickr
April will be a busy month, with the new school year starting. Depending on what happens workwise, I will either find myself preparing to put in place the next phase of my students’ English development curriculum, or I may find myself beginning the whole process once again from the very beginning, in a completely new school. Whatever happens, I intend to be ready for the new challenge!

May provides such much needed respite after the frenetic intensity of the beginning of the new school year.

The famous Golden Week, provides an opportunity for a much-needed short getaway, provided you can afford the borderline extortionate price hikes the travel companies put in place at this time.

Koinobori Festival in May, Japan.

Koinobori Festival in May, Japan.
Photo: Nelo Hotsuma on Flickr
For me, again if the budget permits, I might well head down to Okinawa at this time, to enjoy the clement weather before the summer heat and humidity takes a complete hold.

I just hope there aren’t any anti-US military demonstrations going on at that time.

As a man of relatively fuller figure, I am, after all, often mistaken for an American!

With June comes the rainy season, and an opportunity to trot out my beloved katana umbrella.


Photo: David Kosmos Smith on Flickr
I recall an interesting chat I once had with a junior high school teacher about rainy season. It went something like this:

“Liam Sensei, do you know when the Japanese rainy season is?”

“Yes, I do”, I replied. “It runs from June until July doesn’t it?”

“That’s right.” My colleague responded. She enquired further: “Liam Sensei, does Scotland have a rainy season?”

“Yes, it does,” I coyly replied.

“When does it start?” she asked

“The beginning of January.” I said.

“Oh, and when does it finish?” she continued.

“Around the end of December.” I responded with a chuckle.

To the two students in that class who laughed amidst the sea of blank expressions my “joke” inspired that day, I say “Thank you!”

As we move into July, the rain gives way to blazing sunshine and we prepare for a summer of heat and humidity. And what better way to alleviate some of that excess heat than with a trip to a local beer garden!

A taste of Beer.

A taste of Beer.
Photo: Austin Keys on Flickr
For the modest sum of 3 or 4000 yen you can enjoy a couple of hours of unlimited drinking and eating. Just don’t overdo it. Doing so will have an adverse effect on your inevitable drunken karaoke renditions later on!

August is the hottest month of the year, but thankfully at work its also the quietest, as no classes at school give me more time to focus on other projects. Like writing for Taiken Japan!

In September work is back in full flow and the it can be a tough time. Summer is well and truly over, but one still has a good 3 months to go until Christmas. Thankfully the “Silver Week” 4 day holiday afford us some much needed respite at this time. I’ll probably head to an onsen resort in the country side at this time for some much needed rest and relaxation.

October brings with it more Halloween madness and the joy of cosplay.

Two years ago it was Batman, last year it was Luke Skywalker. What shall I do in 2016?

I guess I’ll wait and see what the new Star Wars movie is like, but I have to say that, for the moment, Kylo Ren is an early favourite!

Kylo Ren, Cosplay

Kylo Ren, Cosplay
Photo: Chris on Flickr
November means my birthday, and I’ll turn 33 and probably start to consider penning a similar article looking ahead to 2017!

December brings with it Christmas and all the beauty and romance therein. I may, not I’m presently undecided, opt against tradition this year and go back to Scotland for a Christmas holiday, something I haven’t done in 4 years!

George Square, Glasgow

George Square, Glasgow
Photo: byronv2 on Flickr

So, that’s how my 2016 in Japan looks to be shaping up. Wherever you are, and whatever you decide to do, may this New Year be a great one for you, your family and your friends.

All the best!