Working and Living in Tsushima, Japan : My Ghost of Tsushima Lore

Natural beauty of Tsushima Japan
The bay and all its isolated islands was one of the first things I saw
after arriving on the Island of Tsushima.
I knew I was in a special place: a time capsule of the decades following the war era.

Teaching English in Japan : My Tsushima Story

Originally from the Twin Cities of Minnesota, when I was close to graduating from university I went through all the hoops to join the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET). I was fairly indifferent to where they would send me, but I knew I wanted to teach English in Japan. I have always been fascinated by the culture of Japan; perhaps that is just the nature of my generation and its fascination with anime and video games, which are a great cultural ambassador for Japan. The only thing that these cultural exports leave out is the nature of business culture in Japan; it is more formal than I was used to, but I have grown to accept and enjoy it.

When I was told that I would teach English in Tsushima I thought it was just some suburb of Tokyo, Osaka or Yokohama that I had not heard of. In fact, for better or worse, I did not bother to investigate further until just weeks before I was to depart to Japan. Then I learned the truth; I would be living and working on a tiny island between Japan and South Korea with a population of around 50,000 people. Suddenly, I was filled with concern that I had made the wrong choice. The only information about the island and its main city, Tsushima, that I could find online was related to its significance during Imperial Japan’s war with Czarist Russia and some details about its port’s significance during the post-war era. Oh man… I was leaving the American rust belt to live in a small post-industrial town isolated from civilization. I suspected that it would not be much of an upgrade.

However, once I arrived, I realized that this was a special little place. I stayed in the program for two years. During that time, while I was fairly isolated with only a dozen or so other foreigners to lean on when I needed some non-Japanese companionship, I was able to make friends with local people. I found that even though I wanted a fast-paced, big city life, Tsushima was the right speed for me. It reminded me of home. The only difference between living in Tsushima and Minneapolis was the weather. It never snows in Tsushima and it is hot and humid almost year-round. As I look back, weather is really the biggest reason why I left.

Ghost of Tsushima Lore
Finally, when I tell people that I lived and taught English in Tsushima they actually know where it is and find my experience to be in interesting.

SuckerPunch Made Tsushima a Known Location : Am I Socially Relevant Now?

The launch and subsequent popularity of SuckerPunch’s Ghost of Tsushima was a bizarre phenomenon for me. I starting teaching English in Tsushima over 5 years ago, and I have since moved to Hokkaido to teach, where the climate and culture suits me a little better. I had not really thought much about Tsushima nor had I brought it up in conversation much, because usually, when I mention it, non-Japanese and even some locals in Sapporo do not really know of Tsushima.

The internet is raving about the game, it might even be voted game of the year. Now, whenever I speak with my friends from back home or my new friends here in Sapporo, when I tell them I used to teach English in Tsushima, their eyes light up and they begin asking questions, mostly concerning the game whether or not I can find little shrines all around the island (lol).

Ancient Style Architecture in Tsushima
Tsushima Bay and Shimayama Island

I have very found memories of my brief life in Tsushima. The landscape is beautiful, the pace of life is easy, and the people are endearing. The popularity of Ghost of Tsushima has definitely been cause for many moments of nostalgia. I would walk by a bus stop and see a poster for the game and suddenly my mind is transported back there: to my favorite little hole-in-the-wall sushi restaurant, or to my assistant teacher (you know who you are) with whom I would eat lunch with almost everyday. I miss that place. There might be an opportunity for you in Tsushima, or anywhere in Japan, to teach English to children. Inquire with the JET program or here with the North American TEFL Academy to learn more about how you can become certified to teach in Tsushima or anywhere else in Japan.

My New Home : Teaching English in Sapporo

Maybe I missed the snow or maybe I was tired to sweating 10 months out of the year. Regardless, after soul-searching 3 years ago I decided to move north from Tsushima. I wanted to stay in Japan. I consider Japan to be my second home and could not image living anywhere else, except maybe back in Minnesota one day. Despite having lived in Japan for two years, I was still fairly ignorant about what cities in the north I could choose from. So, I simply asked around, “What is the largest city in northern Japan”? And that is where I ended up.

Winters in Hokkaido

I could not be happier here. It reminds me so much of Minneapolis. Sapporo has a decent-sized downtown, there is much to do, but it is not nearly as expensive or stressful as Tokyo. The weather is always pleasant: a little cold in the winter and a little warm in the summer. It is perfect for an American Midwesterner like myself.

English teaching in Sapporo lifestyle

Hokkaido Prefecture, home to Sapporo, has the best of both worlds. There is plenty of “old Japan” here. There is farm land. There are shrines. People are also moving to Hokkaido and Sapporo from larger cities in the south. The increasing cost of living and declining standard of living in cities like Tokyo and Osaka are driving many young people here, making Sapporo a traditional yet youthful and exciting city.

If you are making your way out here to teach English in Sapporo, feel free to get in touch. Good luck with your life’s travels and thanks for reading.

Drake J. – Sapporo City, Hokkaido Prefecture – 2020/09/18