Back in the UK…

It’s been 3 weeks since I’ve come back from my one year adventure in Japan. The last few weeks have been very quiet, and I’ve slowly been adjusting back to the British way of life. I’m from the Northern part of England, so hearing the Northern English accent took some getting use to! But there’s always a sense of comfort hearing it, as it really does remind me that I’m back home.

I’ve been dealing with my move back pretty well. I really thought that moving back to England would be really tough, and my heart would be aching from missing Japan so much. But in all weirdness, I think the climate has helped me. I’ve noticed that the climate in Japan is almost identical to England. Usually I feel a huge difference in the air from the moment I step off the plane after being abroad. But the air almost feels the same, and in a strange way it almost seems like I haven’t left Japan.

Missing Japan has been unavoidable. Seeing the pictures my friends in Japan post on Facebook and Instagram makes me wish I was still there living in my tiny town. How I miss the simplicity of life over there! But, it’s back to reality now. I need to find my next path, and the journey continues!

It’s been nice returning home to a big kitchen! I got so use to using my tiny kitchen back in Japan. I’ve been making use of it as much as I can. Eating clean and healthy!

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It was also nice finally being reunited with my oven! I do wonder how I managed to survive one year without an oven, haha! The first thing I made was melon pan. Crispy on the outside, soft in the inside. It takes quite some patience to make, as the bread has to go through a few fermentation stages. But it’s worth it when the final product comes straight out of the oven. I almost feel like I’m still in Japan when I eat it and close my eyes!

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It was also my girlfriend’s birthday the other week. So I set myself a task to make rilakumma cupcakes for her. It’s been a while since I last made something like this, but it was fun! Not perfect, but points for effort I guess!

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Like they say. Good food, good mood!

Have a great week guys!

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Home, sweet home!

This summer has been a busy one! July was all about summer school and kids clubs which was really hard work. Summer school involved taking care of hundreds of elementary kids and being responsible for running the same activity around 3-4 times a day. Playing games like cat cat dog, musical chairs, fruit basket for an entire day was exhausting! But it was nice to spend time with the kids, and I saw a lot of students from my school.

Kids club was insane! I had to go to a small kindergarten right beside my school and was greeted by many students from my school. Before I had even entered the building there were kids shouting through the windows ‘Tim Sensei!!!!!’ and before I knew it, I found myself with a kid hanging from each of my arms, and kids hugging my legs. I knew from that moment that kids club was going to be hard work! I spent most of kids club on edge as I was constantly being chased by kids holding huge rhino beetles. I still have not warmed up to insects in Japan, and it has come to the point that if a kid is stood behind me my immediate reaction is to scream and run. This really doesn’t help things, as this kind of reaction only motivates them to keep doing it. I’m hoping once winter is over these bugs are harder to find so I can go to work at ease!

Once we completed summer school and kids club, we had to take part in an exchange program with a group of junior high school students. These students will be making a trip to Austria as part of a cultural exchange program, so our job was to help them with conversation practise. It was really nice as we got to go to a little campsite, and we had a barbecue. It was nice getting to know the junior high school students a bit more, a relationship which is harder to form when working in an elementary school.

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The campsite

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This month has been hectic to say the least! After a few weeks of sweaty hard work in the intense humidity of Japan, it was finally time to enjoy summer break. With just over 2 weeks of summer holidays, I decided to go back to England to visit my family. I did so much travelling within those 2 weeks with constant time changes and recovering from jetlag.

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The journey back home was quite a task! I had to fly from Japan to Hong Kong as my return flight back to England was from Hong Kong. With there only being morning flights from Narita, I had no choice but to stay the night prior to my flight at Narita airport. The journey from my apartment to the airport takes over 2 hours (and that is using the fast speed bullet train!). I decided to stay in a capsule hotel, something I had no idea what to expect.

The capsule hotel was quite an experience. Conveniently located in the airport and very clean! I’ve only really seen these places on TV, and I wasn’t really sure how I would feel sleeping in what seemed like such a confined space. But the experience overall was quite pleasant. The beds were a lot more spacious than I imagined. I did find it slightly strange being given a grey coloured gown to wear. Wearing this gown whilst brushing my teeth in a huge white room, and seeing other men wearing the same gowns, made it seem almost like I was in prison! It was pretty bizarre!

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The capsule hotel in Narita airport

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So I took the morning flight to Hong Kong the next day and stayed with my cousin for the night. I had a list of things to eat whilst in Hong Kong as I had not eaten any Chinese food whilst being in Japan. On the top of my list was dim sum. I’m not sure what it is, but whenever I land in Hong Kong my tongue always craves some good dim sum! So my cousin did some research and took us to a michelin star dim sum restaurant in Yau Ma Tei called Tim Ho Wan (添好運). The crispy char sui pork buns were soooooo good!

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Crispy char sui buns

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Another thing I couldn’t leave Hong Kong without eating was of course… an egg tart!

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After spending a really nice day in Hong Kong, I took a flight back to England the following day. I flew from Hong Kong to Amsterdam, then Amsterdam back to Newcastle. It was a really long journey. But I felt really excited inside as I knew I was getting a step closer to home. Getting on the flight from Amsterdam to Newcastle was very exciting, and I knew the tiring journey would be all worth it soon!

It was nice arriving back home and seeing my family. If I could describe how I felt during my time back in England, I would say it felt like I had suddenly woken up from a dream and was back to living my old life in England (but everyone seemed to be treating me extra nice…haha). From the first day I arrived to the moment I left, it was non-stop. I was constantly out travelling and seeing family and old friends. It was nice but very exhausting!

It was really nice to spend time with my family, and we organised a small trip to the Lakes (the birthplace of Peter Rabbit!) for a few days which was really nice. I think moving to Japan has really made me cherish my time with loved ones, and you really learn to appreciate your family and friends when you’re placed in a position where you can’t see them often. I could also feel that my parents were very happy to see me again, especially my dad. It’s strange how distance can set people further apart, but at the same time bring people closer together.

Spending time in Keswick with my family was really like a dream come true. There were times when I felt like a little boy again. I visited Keswick around 3 years ago when I was studying my Master’s degree. Everyone has their own story which builds them into the person they are today, and that particular time was a really difficult time for me and my family. I remember hiking in Keswick 3 years ago and seeing such a beautiful view from the place I was standing. I remember at the time thinking to myself, how great would it be to take my parents here some day to see what I’m seeing. But it seemed impossible in the midst of everything which was happening at the time. Sometimes when you see your parents work so hard everyday, you do wish that they could just travel and enjoy life a bit more. Life shouldn’t always be about working, its all about balance.

With me moving away to Japan, my parents were quite eager to go away somewhere with me when I returned to England. I was quite surprised by this. I took them on the exact same route I walked three years ago, and I could recall all the narrow and steep paths I took. It’s amazing how we change as human beings, and time and experience really changes the way we see things. Walking those same steps made me realise how much I had grown up. Standing at that exact same spot I stood at 3 years ago with my parents, it was such a satisfying experience. It was almost as though I had achieved something incredible. To see my parents in total awe of the view, was something which made me extremely happy.

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The view overlooking Keswick
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The scenery during our hike

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Peter Rabbit store

The weather wasn’t that great during our time in the Lakes, but this didn’t stop us from having a good time. Me, my dad and brother went for a little drive during the evening. We drove to a nearby town called Buttersmere, the weather was pretty bad and the roads were so narrow! We found ourselves on a long windy road, and whenever a car approached from the opposite direction, it was so difficult to make way for us both to get past.

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You can see just how narrow the roads were from this photo. My dad was terrified, and had to find an alternative route to get us back to our bed and breakfast!

I spent the rest of my time in the UK visiting friends and family. It was really nice to see everyone, and I made some surprise visits to people I hadn’t seen in a while.  I also organised a surprise 60th birthday meal for my mum’s birthday since I won’t be there next month to celebrate with her.

I travelled down to Leeds to see my girlfriend, and spent an entire weekend with her cooking in her apartment and relaxing. I brought a grill machine from Japan to have yakiniku in her apartment. Once we had prepared all of our food, we realised that the machine wouldn’t work! Good job we had a spare one to use!

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My attempt to bring a taste of Japan back to the UK
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My homemade cooking! Pan fried salmon with vegetables

Living in Japan has also made me find my love for melon pan. It’s a Japanese sweet bread bun which is so delicious! It’s similar to the HK style pineapple buns. I usually buy it from the bakery beside my apartment in Japan. It’s crispy on the outside, and soft in the inside. Anyways, I attempted to make some myself back home since I have an oven. They came out surprisingly well and tasted so good straight out of the oven!

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They were pretty difficult to make as it involved a lot of time letting the bread ferment, but it was fun smacking the bread dough repeatedly to form its soft and moist shape!

I also made sure to binge on copious amounts of good old British food! Fish and chips, pies, steaks and roasts! I had to make the most of my time in the UK, and these were the foods I had been craving for a while!

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There’s a very famous fish and chips restaurant around 20 minutes drive from where I live. It was probably the nicest fish and chips I’ve had in a while!

My time back home went by really fast, and the next thing I knew, I was already sat in the airport awaiting my flight back to Japan. My trip really taught me that home will always be home. I’m so glad that I made the decision to step out of my comfort zone and experience life in a faraway place. I really do encourage people not to be afraid to reach for their goals, no matter how scary the initial thought of it may be. I feel so blessed to have such a supportive group of friends and family. Another 8 months till my contract finishes. Who knows what will happen after that!