栃木県の佐野市or Sano city of Tochigi prefecture. It’s a pretty decently sized city with somewhat reliable transportation and plenty of areas to go shopping and explore around. It is however much more inaka (rural) than I expected. Being so close to Tokyo, I expected there to be a much stronger metropolitan influence here, but things are pretty quiet. It reminds me a lot of Columbia, SC my high school city. There’s a lot of young kids and old people here but no one really around my age. I assume that much like my town high schoolers graduate and move out to in the bigger cities for school and work. I can’t complain too much though, there are plenty of JETs that were placed in very isolated areas where the nearest convenience store is thirty minutes away.
My apartment is conveniently located right next to the bus terminal and train station so it’s the liveliest part of the city. Tochigi prefecture in general, is known as a religious cultural hub so all around Sano there are several temples, churches, mosques, etc Some nice parks around me, one in particular is right behind the train station is pretty locally famous. And two rivers that are about a 30 minute walk from where I live.
Sano in particular, is very famous for its ramen and imofurai. Ramen of course what everyone knows as Japanese noodles (they’re actually from China) and imofurai is just fried potato with some sweet BBQ like sauce on it. There are several ramen shops around town including one that directly underneath my apartment (which I’ve been told is the best ramen in the city). As for imofurai I’ve only been able to find one stand so I’m not sure how popular it is. I guess since I live in the more livelier part of town, there are plenty of restaurants and local food markets.
There’s a super market called Aeon Town, where everybody goes for groceries and typical home needs. In there is a clothing store, book store, gym, and this great 100円 ($1.00) store called Daiso, makeup store and I think a spa. Around here, there is a McDonalds, Pizza, Japanese, and curry restaurants. This is probably the area I’m most likely to see my students.
Further down maybe a fifteen-minute bus ride is the Aeon Mall and the Sano Outlet. Aeon Mall feels like your standard American mall except everything is just Japanese. You can find just about anything you need here from groceries to clothes, to random trinkets. I can’t speak for men but as far as clothing size for women Japanese sizes are really made to fit a smaller framed women. I wear a size 8/9 in jeans in America which is maybe a Large or Double Large over here and that doesn’t take into account how the clothes fit my waist and hips. Even though I can find somethings to fit me, I will probably avoid buying a lot of clothes here in Japan or at least in Sano.
The outlet mall is the same as any other outlet I’ve been too. This place has a lot of American brands such Polo, GAP, Addidas, Nike, Levi, etc. along with some Japanese brand stores. It’s pretty popular, there’s even a bus that comes from Tokyo just so people can come and shop at this mall. I don’t really spend a lot of time here, simply because it’s too expensive and I’m not really into name brand clothing. Even though I found my sizes in GAP and Levi the fit was still pretty weird and didn’t compliment my figure at all. The outlet does have some pretty good restaurants around.
Despite it’s set backs, I do actually like Sano. It’s fairly close to Tokyo (about a two-hour train ride) so I can easily go there on weekends for a day trip when I want to get away. I’m placed in an area that I’m forced to speak and read Japanese in order to get by unlike more populous cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, etc. Now that I’m moved in I officially start my new life in Japan, wish me luck (^_^)