My name is Mitchell Bowie, one of the current coordinators of International Relations for the Ashoro Board of Education in Wetaskiwin’s sister-city, Ashoro, Japan.
I was born and raised in Wetaskiwin where I enjoyed playing hockey and golfing. After I graduated from university, I was fortunate enough to be presented with the opportunity to come to Japan to work in Ashoro. I arrived in Ashoro in March of 2019 and I am having a great experience learning to live in a vastly different country from Canada.
Ashoro is a small town tucked in between the rolling hills and mountains of Hokkaido, where approximately 6,500 people live and are supported by its large agricultural industry. Being from a relatively small city myself, it was a little easier to adjust to moving to a town like Ashoro. It feels more familiar than being in a large city with millions of people. Since Ashoro is such a small place, everyone in town knows who “The Canadians” are, and they try to make us feel like we’re at home in the community.
In my time in Ashoro, there have been many challenges trying to adjust. I’ve been able to learn so much about how different the working culture, social gatherings, and daily interactions with people are compared to what I’m used to back home. The most difficult part about living in Japan has been the language barrier. Not having studied Japanese prior to coming to Ashoro, it was quite difficult to learn an entirely new language. The friends I’ve made, coworkers, and even students in Ashoro have been very helpful with me learning the little Japanese I know now. They are very understanding and patient with me as I continue to learn more.
The most rewarding part of this opportunity has been being able to teach the kids in Ashoro. We are currently teaching English to students at three rural elementary schools outside of town, one large elementary school in Ashoro, and at the Ashoro Junior High School. We get to organize English classes, play games and activities, and best of all, we get to interact with the students to make them feel more comfortable speaking English! The students are always excited to see us and eager to learn whenever we walk in the classroom, which makes it very easy to teach such a great group of kids.
Working in Ashoro has been great so far and I can’t wait to see what else Japan has in store for me. I hope more people from Wetaskiwin can come here to see what a wonderful place it is. I can’t wait to share more of my stories and experiences with everyone, and I hope you enjoy reading about Wetaskiwin’s sister-city!
-Submitted by Wetaskiwin Ashoro Friendship Society