A Day in the Life of Me (Office Version)

And now, by popular demand… We are going to walk in my shoes for one day. This day shall be an office day, where I do not have any schools to visit or classes to teach. I stay in the office about 2-3 times a week, save for winter, summer, and spring vacation when I am in the office every day.

It’s winter and the permafrost has settled upon the sidewalks, so I can no longer ride my bike to work. My 10 minute commute turns into 25 minutes. But I have to say that I am doing a darn good job at walking to work in the snow. I have my long legs for walking, and snow boots and jacket for staying protected against the snow… so I can usually conquer just about anything. Actually, I end up sweating underneath my jacket if I walk at a fast pace and wear too many sweaters. Having a sweaty shirt in a frigid office is not my idea of fun!

I leave my apartment between 7:30 and 7:45 in the morning. 7:40am is a comfortable time to leave because I do not have to rush and can get there early. I have been leaving at 7:43am quite often.

Here are some shots from my morning walk…




They use bulldozers to clear the snow here, which create “awesome” rivets in the roads. Whenever I ride the bus or a car, I feel like a human maraca. IMG_0937
“Lovely” weather we’re having…

I arrive at my office between 8 and 8:15am. 8:15am is go time and I always like to be a little early so I can get some water, put away my things, and settle in.

I turn on my work computer, which is a NEC VersaPro laptop (NEC is a French company, go figure). It has the magnificent little “Windows 7” sticker on it, but by some sick twist of fate… Windows Vista is installed. Yes, Vista. Other than that, it is 32-bit system, has 2 GB of RAM, and a 2.53 GHz Intel Core Duo processor.

I have heard of many ALTs stuck with computers older than the dinosaurs and running Windows 98, so I guess I should feel lucky. But still… Vista… Pray that I do not have an episode where I do not want to hurl this thing at the wall. The Windows 7 sticker taunts me daily.

When I arrive at the office, the overhead lights are turned off. Due to the energy shortage caused by the March 2011 earthquake/tsunami, the entire building is participating in 節電(せつでん setsuden), which means energy conservation. We do this by turning off our lights at different periods of the day.

The lights come on at precisely 8:30am, when it is time for our morning meeting and the morning bell rings. It is funny how this office building is like a school in that it has morning, lunch, and afternoon bells. After the bell, everyone sits up and listens to the senior manager give the announcements for the day. He also asks if anyone has any news or something to report. And then the section chief says a couple words before we say our regular おねがいします (onegaishimasu, roughly translated to “Please do it well”). We then get back to work and the day has officially started.

So what is it that I do all day? My responsibilities at the office  include travel reports, travel forms (because I travel to so many schools and am reimbursed, this causes a bunch of paperwork), and weekly school reports. Every week that I visit schools, I have to write a fairly detailed report for that week. Here is what I have to write about for each school:

  • Comments on classes, teachers, and students
  • My roles (what I did)
  • Activities that I found useful
  • What I have learned from the school visit or in my preparation for the class (including books, useful URLs, etc)
  • Cultural observations
    Side note: these “cultural observations” sections often are reborn as blog posts. ^^ 

I also study Japanese because I am enrolled in the CLAIR/JET correspondence course. I decided to do this because I thought it would help me study Japanese more, but so far I haven’t been too dedicated to it. I did pass the first test with a B, though. So that’s good.

We work and work and keep busy until noon.

At 12pm, the lights are once again turned off until 1pm, designating our precise lunch hour. On a dark day (which is a lot of the time since it is winter now), it feels like naptime because it is so dark. A bunch of people leave and go have lunch in the cafeteria downstairs, which is efficient and cheap. I elect to make my lunch, which I bring to work in a tupperware. It usually includes brown rice, kabocha squash, green peas, another green veggie (like broccoli, spinach or green beans), and another protein of some sort (like beans or tofu), carrots, and an apple. I like a hodgepodge of things.

When I first started bringing “crazy” things like salads and brown rice and apples, my co-workers looked at me strangely. But now they are used to my “original” eating habits and no longer stare at me when I eat an apple whole with the skin. Or a whole un-sliced carrot a la Bugs Bunny, of all things! </sarcasm>


Sometimes I run across the street to my favorite little macrobiotic restaurant, Waraku. I stopped in there one day because I saw the kanji for “brown rice” (any Japanese restaurant that serves brown rice is an A+ in my book). I ordered a dessert and got to talking with the owner. It is a cute place and she cooks everything right there in the kitchen where you can see her working. It has tatami and table seating.


Since then I have become friends with the owner and she has been so kind to me! We even got together on a Sunday and cooked a vegan, macrobiotic lunch together at her friend’s house in the mountains. Whenever I go, she always makes me a special vegan version of the daily lunch set (since macrobiotic food includes some fish). It is nice to go there, relax, and get away from the office for an hour.

I usually go to Waraku when I have had a stressful/rushed morning and haven’t had the time/food (if I haven’t been to the grocery store in a while) to make my own lunch. After a lovely lunch and conversation, I stop by the nearby traditional Japanese sweet shop (where everything is made in-house) and pick up a dessert to eat at my desk. They know me there.

To be honest, I prefer lunch time at the office because I get a full hour to eat (instead of 15-20 minutes at schools) and I have time to actually relax. Plus, there is no one to stare at me as I eat. I know the students/teachers/staff are just curious about me and my food, but it makes me kind of uncomfortable. I can usually tolerate staring at other times, though! Okay, I’m done talking about lunchtime.

What else do I do at work? I talk to my co-workers when they are not insanely busy. I make/drink tea from our little drink station. They have a constant supply of loose leaf tea (usually sencha or houjicha, but for a time there was genmaicha as well). We also have a little snack table for things people buy or that guests bring to the office. It is also for omiyage gifts that people bring back from trips or vacations. I usually cannot eat the snacks that we get, but when I can, they are yummy.

I organize files on my computer. I organize and write lesson plans. I correct/edit lesson plans that I have already taught. I’ve already started this, but my project for spring break will be to go back and create lesson plans and fine-tune the documentation. I love the sight of nicely-organized files and activities. It shall be my arsenal next year!



And lastly, I do non-work things like check my email, use gchat and write blog posts. I have lulls in my work a bunch of the time, so I try to keep busy.

At 4:15pm (16:15 as I like to say, since I am on military time now), I am free to go. I am only contracted to work for 7 hours a day, which is a pretty sweet deal. I sometimes stay late if I have class prep to finish up… Plus, I don’t want to always be that ALT who high-tails it out of there the moment her hours are up.

At my evaluation meeting, my boss recognized that I often stayed late and he thanked me for working so hard. In the same breath, he also told me to mind my health and keep work and non-work life separate. I guess that was his way of saying he doesn’t want me to become a Japanese workaholic?




On Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, I like to be able to hit the gym. It is closed on Wednesdays. (Strange, yes.. but don’t get me started on that now. The puzzling ways of the Japanese gym will require its own post…) I bring my gym bag with me to work in the morning so I can go straight there. It is a little heavy, but that’s okay. I like the convenience of going straight there. I work out for a while and do whatever (I have recently started running again for the first time since November).

After working out, I shower and walk home… Warm, clean and hungry for dinner! I’ll fix something and settle down at my kitchen table that I actually can use as a kitchen table. It used to be my computer desk, but ever since I got a couch, my laptop has moved to the couch. I am happy to have an actual kitchen table to eat at, even though it does get a little cluttered at times.

Depending on what is going on, I’ll go hang out with friends or just enjoy a quiet evening by myself. In winter, I try to turn on my electric blanket between 9-10pm so that my bed is nice and toasty when I get in.

I’ve been trying to go to bed earlier nowadays (before 11pm, usually around 10:30pm). I went to bed at 9:30pm one night last week! Shock!

I am trying to change my ways and take care of myself better, which involves getting more sleep earlier in the evenings. The reason for this is that my body (of its own volition) likes to wake up between 4:30am and 6:30am. Yes, without an alarm clock. I set my iPhone alarm app every night out of fear that I will sleep past 6:30am, but this usually never happens. Yesterday morning, I woke up at 4:30am and had to force myself to go back to sleep. I managed to do it this time and got up at 5:30am. But anyways, that is normal. I’m used to it now!

So that is my full day! Probably a lot more than you wanted to know, but there you have it. Up next, the school visit version!


One Comment to “A Day in the Life of Me (Office Version)”

  1. Sounds like a pretty cush job! I know you would like to be challenged more but that will come soon enough in grad school, then for the rest of your life in your career. Enjoy it now! The pictures of the snow are lovely!

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