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Monica Narang - Osaka (2008-2022)

["A JTE and I teaching an English class in the new World Room at my main school. The principal of the school and I developed an idea to start a World Room where the students could learn English along with other languages."]

Where were you in Japan as a JET and when?

I lived in Osaka City from 2008 to 2011 and Izumi City from 2016 to 2022. Both Osaka and Izumi are in Osaka Prefecture.

What sparked your interest in applying for the JET Program?

Right after graduating from The University of Denver, I visited my sister who was an Assistant Language Teacher through JET at a school in Gifu, Furukawa and I loved the culture, beauty, and vibrancy of Japan. It was an eye opening experience traversing the mega cities like Tokyo and Osaka for the first time and exploring the quiet and peaceful inaka (countryside) and mountain towns of Furukawa and Takayama. I was grateful to have the incredible opportunity to visit the school where my sister taught English and connect with all of the wonderful students and teachers there. I appreciated the thoughtfulness of everyone and of being welcomed into the community of Furukawa.

Afterwards when I returned to the United States, I always knew I would return to Japan to communicate with students and build close friendships with all of the teachers. Also, in Denver, my family hosted a wonderful student from Takayama with the sister cities homestay program. It was such a wonderful experience talking about Japan with our homestay student and exchanging amazing stories and cute souvenirs with her. I felt connected to Japan on a deeply personal level and really wanted to experience living and teaching English to students in Japan.

["I had a wonderful experience teaching and playing fun interactive English games with the students. It was great collaborating with the Japanese teachers of English at all of my schools."]

What are some of the things your prefecture is known for? e.g. food, hotspots, etc.

Osaka is definitely known for its food and for being the kitchen of Japan! Osakan's created the word kuidaore, which means, “ruin oneself by the extravagance of food” both by spending lots of money and walking around with a completely full stomach! Think flour battered balls cooked on a multi circular shaped grill and stuffed with octopus, which are the famous takoyaki stalls throughout the bustling Dotonbori area. Okonomiyaki is one of the most famous dishes of Osaka. This dish is comparable to a pancake, but is made of cabbage, mixed with eggs, veggies, and various meats grilled at your table right before your eyes. There are okonomiyaki restaurants on every corner in Osaka. Ramen, sushi, gyoza, taiyaki, curry and rice, yakitori…the list is endless and Osaka has it all!

Majestic Osaka Castle Park was one of my favorite places to go for long walks and admire stunning views. I have fond memories of walking in the park surrounding the glorious castle every week! The best seasons to visit were during the fall when all the maple leaves (momiji) and ginkgo leaves turned a vibrant shade of gold, yellow, and red and during the spring for cherry blossom season. All the pink flowers bloomed and people celebrated spring together with festive hanami (group picnic) gatherings under the lovely pink blossoms!

["I really enjoyed attending festivals in Japan, especially night light ups with stunning lanterns glowing on every street corner at the Gion Matsuri Festival in Kyoto."]

["One of the most impressive activities that I got to participate in at my main elementary school in Izumi was to hold the actual beautifully designed Olympic torch as part of the Olympic Torch Relay!"]

Did you pick up any of the regional dialects? What are some of your favorite words or phrases?

Kansai-ben is the super fun and casual dialect of Osaka! Omoroi is a short form of the word omoshiroi and means fun or interesting! Meccha is another useful Kansai-ben phrase and means “very” so “meccha omoroi naa” would mean “that is very fun!”

If you were to return to live in Japan, would you choose to live in that same prefecture?

I’m extremely grateful to have lived and taught at different schools in Kansai twice! If I returned to Japan again I would enjoy living in Tohoku or Hokkaido, so that I could explore all of the stunning national parks and see incredible mountain ranges covered in shimmery snow during the winter!

["The principal/co-teacher and I at my main elementary school presenting English language books to the students. These books were a part of the new English Language Library which I created with funding I received from a USAJETAA micro grant."]

How has your connection in relation to Japan changed since living in Japan?

I talk about Japan with my friends, family, and colleagues all the time! I want others to experience visiting Japan, so I provide insight about Japan through my photos and reels on Instagram (you can follow me @mopica), my radio stories about festivals in Japan, and by sharing my experiences on social media sites. As a writer, I often think of ideas and stories related to Japan which I then present to an international audience. Living in Japan and meeting co-teachers and students every day opened my eyes to an extraordinary culture and wonderful people. I hope to keep sharing my experiences in Japan with everyone around the world!

["My main elementary school threw a fantastic farewell party for me after I taught there for six years. On my last day of school, I was touched when the teachers built a farewell tunnel and clapped for me as I walked through."]

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