Life of an ALT: Moving Into My Apartment

Art credit

Moving day was loooooong.

I got up to pack at 7am and only sat down for my dinner at 9pm after not stopping all day.

I had to get up earlier than I’d have liked to pack as I’d spent the previous night drinking and listening to Billie Eilish with my pals from training – Josh, Sam and Faith in Sam’s hotel room (NOT recommended before a moving day…) and as usual I’d left everything to the last minute.
Checked out of the hotel at 10:30am and we were all taken to a clinic around the corner for our chest x-rays. This is mandatory for all new ALTs to check for tuberculosis.

We were taken in one by one, and it was awkward as I had to strip from the waist up and put on a tiny Japanese-size top for my x-ray which was VERY indecent. The doctor vaguely spoke English, but by the end I just let him and the ancient nurse manhandle me into position.

We said goodbye to our pals Josh and Sam, and me and Faith had a wander around the May One mall until we were due to be picked up by our ICs – the helpers hired to help us move.
Kyoko-san arrived bang on 12:30 as expected. She’s really friendly and speaks wonderful English as long as I slow down (I talk really fast in the UK let alone Japan, so it is something I’m working on).

We first went to my apartment, I’m on the third floor so only two flights of stairs – however this was quite a task with two heavy suitcases, and we’re 5’1 and 5’4 respectively.
It really was a struggle but luckily the gas man was already there to turn my hot water on and kindly gave us a hand.

I really do love my apartment – more photos and video will follow soon!
But for now, you can see how close my quiet residential neighbourhood is to the city centre. It’s about a 15 minute walk.

Skyscrapers in the distance

Bags dropped and first stop – Daiso, the ¥100 shop for some essentials. I just got some small bits like wipes, hand soap, cutlery (my spoon has Gudetama on it!), sponges, tea towels etc.

Next stop – beauty/drugstore for shampoo, conditioner, face stuff, toilet rolls and laundry detergent.

Next – homeware, and it’s here I spent a frigging FORTUNE. My futon was my big purchase as expected, and ended up being well over £100/¥10,000 by the time I bought everything for it. I also bought an iron, towels, kitchen utensils, a mop, a pan etc.

(Kyoto appreciates my ‘ALL PINK ERRYTHING’ taste and exclaimed “kawaiiiiii!!” when I picked out pink futon covers.)
I also felt like shouting when I saw the total on the cash register.


Finally – the supermarket! Just a few essentials – noodles, rice, pasta, sauces, condiments, vegetables, and of course a few bags of crisps and chocolate slipped in there too. I’m not a monster.
It should see me for the rest of the week as I start getting school lunch from Thursday.

Dropped off back at my apartment, feeling exhausted.
If anyone fancies a new workout routine, I can 100% recommend moving to Japan and being quick marched around for 5 hours by a tiny Japanese woman. Not a single muscle in my body didn’t ache.
She should give up this helping-stupid-gaijin-move-in lark and change careers to a personal trainer.

I don’t know where she gets her energy from in 32-degree heat.

Mentaiko: a Japanese pasta sauce made with fish roe. It’s actually really good!

I’ve never lived by myself before and had no help unpacking, so it took me well over three hours to put everything away.
I could only manage a quick dinner – pasta with mentaiko sauce (my mother is Italian and would have a FIT if she saw it) and edamame.

But I was glad to be eating something that wasn’t from the konbini.
(The next day though I bought three salmon steaks reduced to ¥300 and made real food.)

Salmon, rice and furikake (rice topping), edamame and miso soup

So that’s it, it’s been a few days now and I’m staring to feel settled. I’m just eager to start at my schools now and get these first few weeks over with, so I can really feel like I’m getting into the swing of a routine.

I did go to my schools today to meet everyone, and everyone seemed very nice and eager to meet me which has settled my nerves a bit.

But tomorrow I have to get up on the stage in front of the entire school and introduce myself in English and Japanese. HELP.

~ Carla

Eikaiwa · Teaching

How To Pass Your Eikaiwa Interview

I want to preface this post by saying that I actually didn’t end up taking the position offered to me by the company I interviewed for – I’ll explain why at the end.
(Or you can skip to the end if you want, I’m not your mom.)

Just in case this is something you’re just starting to look into – a quick note on the two main routes you tend to go down if you want to teach English in Japan,

ALT: Known as an ‘Assistant Language Teacher’, this role is of an English teacher in a public Japanese elementary, junior high or high school. The most well-paid and popular way of doing this is applying to the JET programme, which is a government scheme.
However you can also apply through ‘dispatch’ companies such as Interac, Altia and Borderlink and directly to the BOE (Board of Education), however the latter is very competitive and usually requires a high Japanese skill level.

Eikaiwa: An ‘eikaiwa’ is essentially a language school, where anyone can pay to learn English. Major chains are Aeon, Nova and ECC and found all over Japan, but there are also smaller ‘mom-and-pop’ eikaiwa too.

It would be a completely separate blog post going over the pros and cons of which route to take, and this is essentially up to you at the end of the day depending on what sort of experience you are looking for.
However there is already a wealth of information on this online already, especially on Youtube and Reddit.

OK – back to me!

I think it’s also important to note that I’d already had a group interview for my ALT position, which had been a very positive experience, and at my one-to-one interview I’d pretty much been assured that I’d be offered a job.
However they were experiencing delays due to an overload of work, and a new system they were implementing.

So as I’m not a girl to put all her eggs in one basket (except if I’m on an Easter Egg hunt, I suppose. Or on a tour of the Kinder factory) I thought I’d go to the eikaiwa interview as a backup just in case there ended up not being a job for me after all.

This post may be a little long, but I want to cover everything that I think is relevant and potentially useful.

A short disclaimer:
– Please note of course that I am not affiliated nor employed by any eikaiwa companies.
– I interviewed in the UK so unsure if interview processes or experiences differ elsewhere.
– All opinions are mine and not necessarily shared with my current employer, or any future employers.
– This post is purely based on my personal experience, and this information is correct to the best of my knowledge as of April 2019.

All names have been changed.

PART 1: Pre-Interview

When you submit your application, you’ll asked for two things: your current resume/CV and and sometimes an accompanying essay.
For your resume/CV, double check everything is up to date and there are no spelling errors or typos.
Don’t forget to put on there any extra-curricular or volunteer work you’ve done – it all helps!

For you essay, don’t overthink it.
They’re not asking for something the length of the Bayeux Tapestry, keep it pretty concise. Mine was around 700 words.

Personally, I began with writing a short paragraph about how I first got interested in visiting Japan when I discovered the magazine ‘Fruits’ in the early 2000s, and also how I’d visited three times on holiday which made me realise I wanted to experience Japan for an extended period of time.

For the bulk of the essay, the most important thing they want to know are your practical skills and experience that would benefit the role.
(ie: They don’t want five pages of spiel about your favourite anime.)

I briefly wrote about:
– My current job in travel (flexible working hours, comfortable working weekends)
– Customer service experience (friendly, personable and professional)
– Student Ambassador role while a university student (Comfortable meeting new people and public speaking)
– When I backpacked around Australia and the USA (Already have experience with moving to another country)
– Briefly about my hobbies – blogging, reading and the theatre. (Tells them you’re a nice, sensible, genki gaijin who isn’t going to roll into work hungover.)

I submitted the above Friday evening, and had an email back on Monday morning inviting me to a Skype interview.

PART 2 – The Skype Interview

The email asked for a timely response on when would be a good time to arrange the Skype interview as soon as possible, and also to read all the information on the website as we would be asked some questions regarding this in the interview.

You’ll also be asked to wear business attire, in line with their dress code (also found on the website.)

When the day rolled around, I spoke to one of the recruiters Bella who was really nice and friendly. She asked me to stand up and give a little introduction about myself.

(NOTE: Dress in their uniform from head to foot – they want to see if you’re wearing pyjama pants!
I wore a black blazer, light pink shirt and skinny black work pants.)

I kept it really short and sweet – no longer than 30 seconds or so.
I stood up, waved and gave my name as if I was meeting her for the first time, told her where I lived (“in beautiful rainy England” make her chuckle), and recapped some of the key points from my essay.

She then asked me to sit back down, and asked me some simple questions from the information on the website.
(No I’m not giving you the questions and answers, it’s not difficult I promise!)

Overall it was a very positive experience, and was told I was immediately being put through to the group interviews.
(Be sure to look excited – I was of course pleased, but we British people can be a bit stoic with our expressions. Bella smiled and said “Good, always a reaction we like to see!”)

So…off to the big scary group interview!

PART 3: The Group Interview

This is the bit that everyone talks about online.
It’s been likened to an interrogation at best and a military-style boot camp at worst.
Spoiler alert: in my opinion – it was absolutely fine!

The interview started at 9:30, but I rocked up around 9:10 and there were already two girls in business suits sitting and chatting.
I went over and enthusiastically introduced myself because other blogs and Reddit have told me that that there’s been instances where they’ve been watching from the beginning to see who is interacting with who.

After two minutes of polite chit-chat, one of them said through bared teeth: “Do you think they’re watching?”
See, everyone’s reading Reddit.

The doors were then opened – there were only two recruiters there: Bella who’d interviewed me, and Ryan who’d interviewed both of my new friends via Skype.
They were both friendly, if a little corporate and in their mid-30s.
No scary Sergeant Major types that others have described.

By the time 9:30 rolled round, there was only about 15 of us total, and a fairly even mix of men/women.

We were previously asked to be available from 9:30am to 9pm, but the main bulk of the group interview only ran from 9:30-2pm.

First we were asked to introduce ourselves to everyone else in the room, a lot of handshaking and polite chit-chat.
(Don’t be shy during this stage – they want to know who can introduce themselves confidently.)

Then was a long talk from the recruiters about the company and their policies. They also asked us questions about the video they’d asked us to watch previously, but all very simple, common sense stuff.

After the lecture, Bella showed us how to teach a kid’s class. Then she split us into small groups and asked us to recreate what she had done with new materials.
(I ended up bossing everyone in my group about because I could see Ryan hovering with his clipboard, haha! But I also made sure everyone had a proper turn presenting.)

Back to a short talk on how to teach adults, we were then given 15 minutes to plan a 5 minute lesson using a real activity from one of their in-house workbooks.
Yes, this is really nerve-wracking, but remember – everyone is in the same boat! We then presented to the small groups we’d done the kids lessons with.
(Everyone was fairly shaky but got through it OK. Apart from one poor lad in our group who fell to pieces and was teaching stuff not even on the worksheet…)

After this, we were given envelopes and told that they said inside if we’d been called back for a personal interview, but to open them away from everyone else for privacy.
By the time I opened mine (I was successful) and got to the lobby, it turns out everyone had got a call-back.
(Even the guy who didn’t do so well in his adult lesson, so there you go!)

It was 2pm by this point and I was one of the first to be interviewed at 3:30.

Thankfully there was a pub across the road, so eight of us went and had a relieved natter over plates of chips.

Then we all traipsed back to the hotel together, and I was first to be called to the firing squad.

My personal interview was with Ryan, and was back in the main room with two chairs and a table in the middle.
He gave me feedback on how he think my adult lesson went – he liked my energy, but said I needed to “personalise my praise” (this basically means you say someone’s name when you’re praising them), and also “when you’re just sitting, you can look a little serious.”
(This didn’t surprise me, my ‘resting bitch face’ is notorious in my office. It scares the life out of the apprentices.)

He then performed the lesson how it should be done, and then asked me to perform it back to him exactly the same, except he was going to pretend to be a Japanese businessman and he wouldn’t break character.
It was all a bit odd, and I’m not going to lie – it threw me a little. But when he hopped out of character, he told me it was a lot better this time around and I’d smiled more.

Then came more typical interview questions, mostly about being ready to come to Japan – any health problems you need to make them aware of, finance, etc.
He showed me a typical schedule and asked if I would be able to work to this. (Lots of nodding on my part like a doggy on a dashboard.)
I’d put in my application that I have three tattoos, and he asked if he could see the one on my wrist – but said it was fine and easily coverable.
(I’d worn a flesh covered tube bandage during the interview.)

And that was that, he shook my hand and said I’d be hearing from them within a week.

PART 3: Post interview / job offer

The interview had been on a Saturday, and on Thursday evening I was offered a position! Ahhh, exciting!!

So why did I decide not to accept?

Well – the very same day, I’d woken up to an email offering me an ALT position in my first choice of region, which I instantly accepted.

After spending the day celebrating – around 7pm UK time I got a call from Ryan offering me the job – which I politely declined.
He absolutely was fine about it, and thanked me for coming to the interview.

So what happens if you don’t get an offer?
Don’t be discouraged, most ekaiwas allow you to reapply after a certain amount of time has passed – usually six months.

So my top tips to take away from this post:

– Be yourself. Well, yourself on a really, really good day.
– Be enthusiastic/get involved with the interview,
– If you are asked you to do something, follow without question.

Any other questions, please feel free to leave in the comments!

~ Carla

Food · Tokyo

Kawaii Monster Cafe | Harajuku

(This entry was originally posted on my main blog Droogette.com)

After our wild night at the Robot Restaurant with my friend Hiro back in 2014, I had my bets on him booking us a table at the Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuku when we met again the following year.

Lo and behold, he came up trumps!

The brainchild of Harajuku legend Sebastian Masuda – best known for being the founder of the iconic Harajuku brand 6% DokiDoki and the art director behind my queen Kyary Pamyu Pamyu.

It’s without a doubt, the craziest restaurant I’ve ever visited.

Not to everyone’s taste of course, but if you’re like me and can appreciate the creepy, cute plastic-y world of kawaii then you’re in for a treat.

Hiro also brought his friends Marcel and Eddie along, who were adorable.
(Marcel has kindly allowed me to use his photos since I got distracted and pretty much forgot!)

Upon entrance, there is a huge wiggly red carpet which the host explained (and Hiro translated) is the tongue of the monster and we are entering the belly.


I had stalked seen several of the hosts online, and they are dressed in stereotypical Decora-influenced Harajuku get-up.

But we hit the jackpot and got a ‘Harajuku boy’ (aka ‘Monster Dolly‘) who was utterly adorable.

There are several areas in the restaurant to sit, all with a different theme.

We selected an area covered with plastic almost-kinda-sexual red lips and milk bottles hanging from the ceiling because why not?

The menu itself was an ipad encased in a big plastic cake. There is an option for Japanese and English.

It’s incredibly easy enough to understand, but the very cute waiter still took us through everything.

And of course the food is absolutely mental.

Everything is brightly coloured and looks like something Rainbow Brite would have for lunch.

Hiro went for the rainbow pasta in a creamy sauce, but he reckons it was less of a pasta and more like ramen in cream cheese.

Me and Eddie went for the egg sushi which was pretty standard, not the best or worse I’ve had in Japan – however the brightly coloured smears of wasabi mayonnaise were actually pretty delicious.

What really stands out are the desserts, which don’t even look real.

We chose a huge ice cream parfait to share – and even for four greedy people, it was more than enough!

Packed with ice cream and cake which was delicious but the real surprise was the rainbow frosting – each colour had a different flavour, and reminded us of the lickable wallpaper from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

You are supposed to stay in your allocated area and there are rumours online of being thwacked with another charge if you go on a wander, but it was fairly empty when we went and nobody batted an eyelid.

There is also a huge merry-go-round shaped like a cake with lashings of whipped cream, fruit and creatures.

Apparently the Kawaii Monster girls (and boy, I guess) put on a show on the merry-go-round, but most likely due to the restaurant being almost empty when we went this sadly didn’t happen.

Our waitress asked where we were all from and was delighted we were all from different countries (I’m from the UK, Hiro from Japan, Marcel from Brazil and Eddie from Vietnam). When she returned with the bill, she presented us with colourful chopsticks to take home for free, decorated with our country’s flags which was a lovely touch!

There is also a merchandise section, but nothing particularly caught my eye.
The usual though: pens, mugs, badges etc.

I think the price was quite reasonable for the experience – there is a Y500 (£3.50) cover charge per person, but you then receive a ‘Fall In Stomach Monster Card’ which means if you return your group gets in for free.

Mains are approximately Y1500 (£10.00) each and desserts between Y750 (£5.50) and Y2800 (£20.00) if you get something to share like we did..

It certainly doesn’t break the bank – especially for Tokyo!
Note that some evenings, the place has more of an adult vibe – including hosting fetish nights.
So if that’s not your bag baby, best to check the website before planning your visit.

Overall the food is fair for what it is – the mains are not incredibly tasty, but the desserts are to die for.
The overall experience? Unmissable!

~ Carla

DISCLAIMER: Most photos (aka the good ones!) by Marcel Ferragi.