Odawara Living

Serving: Minami Ashigara Shi, Kaisei, Oimachi, Hakone, Yugawara, Manazuru, and Hadano.

 "All about this great area of Japan. On the coast, near the mountains and Izu, Odawara has the best of everything. This is not a boast."

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Why Live Here?

  by Shawn Thir

I think we’ve established that the Odawara area
is no hot bed of excitement. It begs the question:
Why are we here?
I found Odawara by fluke. I
originally came to Japan to work as an English teacher at
GEOS(blood sucking vampires!) and they asked new teachers
where in Japan they would like to work. Being an avid
outdoorsman, I chose, in order: Hokkaido(for its nature),
Kyoto(for its history) and anywhere near Mt. Fuji(looking
at a map, I wanted to be near the nature that was
around there). In the end, I got sent to Odawara, in the
shadow of Mt. Fuji.
It’s a great place to live.
I’m only 40 minutes from Tokyo by bullet train. I
live in a valley with the mountains of Hakone on one
side and the Tanzawa mountains on the other. I’m
close to the hot spring heaven of Hakone-Yumoto. There
are numerous places to hike, camp and mountain bike.
The beaches of Izu are an hour or two away. It’s
quiet out here and the locals know me(it can be bit of
pain too because they all ask me when I’m going to
marry my girlfriend). I know my neighbors. I live near
a river and am surrounded by rice paddies. In the
summer I like walk among them and gaze at the stars and
look for fireflies. My 1st floor apartment has
spacious patio and I’m constantly trying to fight off the
neighborhood cats from eating my tulips. I think this summer
I’ll have a BBQ out back- you’re all invited. Most of
all, it’s quiet. There’s something to be said about
some honest peace and quiet after coming home from
work- no trains or traffic. There is something sublime
about listening to the cicadas or crickets on a hot
summer night.
I think it is the slower pace of life
and proximity of the mountains and ocean that do it
for me. I love Tokyo; it’s one heck an exciting city
but I simply would mad if I had to live there. A good
friend in Yokohama always urges me to move there- move
out of the boondocks and into civilization he says. I
contemplated the thought. More imported food, theatres,
restaurants and shopping. I can’t argue with those creature
comforts. Ultimately, it’s a lifestyle choice. This is
where I choose to hang my hat and I’m happy. What else
do you need?

Originally posted to the Odawara Bulletin Board

Quest for a Better Lifestyle 

by Kevin Burns

Originally published in the Vancouver Sun.

For many readers, children and adults, the brain drain is more than an abstract theory.

Minami Ashigara Shi, Kanagawa Ken, Japan

I am lucky to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. At this moment, I am sitting on a hill top,
looking out at miles and miles of trees. It is so green, beautiful and only 10 minutes from my home.

I don't live in the Great White North anymore. It is sad that in Canada today, you often have to move
somewhere else to do what you want to do. Yet it also angers me to hear people complain that there's no work
in their home town and that is why they are on welfare or employment benefits--as if that explains everything.
I want to scream at the TV: "Move then! Go to where there's work!" There are many displaced Canadians
in this country. They cannot get a decent job back home.

I decided that I would be a teacher when I was 26. If I liked it, one day I would own my own school. People
laughed. With a Bachelor of Arts in theatre, I landed a job at one of the biggest English language conversation
schools in Japan. I learned enough to open my own school two years later. I now have a small chain of four
schools, an hour and a half south of Tokyo, and one of them is in my Canadian, Victorian style house.

Teaching English in Japan is a funny business and not easily defined. It is part entertainment, part modeling
and part education. Studying English week after week can be incredibly dry and progress slow. But if you
liven up the classes with humour, and make them into your own David Letterman or Larry King Show, the
students keep coming back for more. I sometimes don a funny nose and glasses for my class of high-powered
business executives. Sometimes I am not sure if I do it for them or for me. It keeps me sane.
My first school grew to more than 100 students in the first eight months. So I hired two part-time
teachers to help, a Canadian from Victoria and an American from Missouri. I believe in free trade.
After work, I kick back with a Labatt's Blue, watch Kids in the Hall on TV and , if I get bored,
a Mike Myer's video. Is this Canada or Japan? Would you like a Canada Dry before we go further?
That Scott Thompson is funny, eh?

My Japanese wife is great. She owns a small boutique and manages our schools. We have three beautiful children,
Jonah is six, Sennah, four, and Shanaya two- who all have the blessing of Canadian and Japanese citizenship.

Although I miss my family very much and can never really go back to the home I left, I like it here.
Where I am at this moment is quintessentially Canadian. What could be more Canadian than sitting among
tall cedar trees, listening to the birds, on a hot, sunny summer's day?

Kevin Burns
Editor of How to Teach English in Japan

Kaisei`s Progressive Mayor Responds to Questions about Kaisei Town 


"Kaisei Town is one of Japan`s great ones.    When a new shopping mall or an apartment building is built, it comes with a garden.    Unfortunately this is all too rare in Japan, but hopefully is a growing trend.  (Pun not intended!)  Kaisei Town truly is a garden city. "

--Kevin Burns

Photo of Kaisei Town by Sandra Isaka
(Mayor Tsuyuki`s letter was also edited by Sandra Isaka)

This was in response to some questions Kevin Burns
asked at the Odawara Bulletin Board.

Mayor Tsuyuki has written a response IN ENGLISH,
and has asked me to correct it and post it for him.
Here is what he wrote:

Ques #1: Why have
factories been built right next to neighborhoods?

Why do the people living in your town have to smell and
breath that polluted air?

"As you say, factories are usually built next to neighborhoods.
That's true, but now the circumstances are improving by law. Japan
was largely destroyed in WWII, and catching up with
the 'West' became the most important issue for our
country. Japan thought that developing the country was
more important than maintaining the living standards
that existed. This policy caused much pollution and
environmental disruption. Over time, Japan realized that a
healthy environment was just as important as developing
the nation. Currently, two of the top priorities of
our town is to develop a 'Recycle Society' and to
make Kaisei a 'Garden Town'."

Question #2: Are
there zoning laws now that prohibit factories from
being built next to neighborhoods?

"Yes, we now
have a bylaw concerning land zoning, but there wasn't
such a law in the past. In the past, modernization was
our highest national interest and it caused an
environmental crisis. I think that zoning laws are one of the
most important concerns in order to build a beautiful
town. The northern part of Kaisei is our 'agricultural'
zone, the center is our 'living and shopping' zone, and
the south is our 'new town'. Our current 'factory'
zone is beside the Fuji Xerox Research Center on the
border with Minami Ashigara. (The research center
actually lies in Kaisei). Kaisei is currently trying to
attract 'clean' industries, such as digital technology,
to build in that zone. Other possible developments
include are the construction of a very beautiful
agricultural park (like our hydrangea park), and the
reconstruction of a large thatched roof home to be used for
exchanges between urban and rural people. We also have
great plans for the Kaisei Station area, our 'new
town'. The 'new town' has bylaws concerning the
construction of a shopping area, living area, and factory
area. The factory area was mentioned above. The
shopping and living area is currently being built, and a
top priority is 'living with nature'.

Best Cherry Blossom Viewing in Odawara?

by Shawn Thir

Photo of Saijoji Temple stairs by Ikumi Burns

I love cherry blossoms viewing; what a great
excuse for sitting under a tree and getting drunk.
However, I’m not keen on sharing this experience with a
thousand other drunk and noisy people(the annual carnage
in Ueno Park just turns me off).
One great spot
for cherry blossom viewing is that park(does it have
a name?) behind Odawara High School- they used to
hold the Odawara Jazz festival there years ago. I went
there last year but the place had already been staked
out by 8am! Good luck.

Odawara Castle is an
obvious choice but it is crowded, of course. If you can
go at night(they have lamps set up) you can avoid
the crowds all together. One spot I like is on the
moat. If you cross the bridge where that parapet is and
hang a quick left(you’ll be facing the Odawara Police
Station), there’s a small wooded area there. In that copse
of trees, is a cherry tree that droops down into the
moat(I think everybody ahs taken a picure of it). If
you’re lucky(like I was last year) you can sit on the
edge of the moat under this tree. There’s no space to
spread out but my girlfriend and I enjoyed a few beer
together and had a superb view of the blossoms.

to the nitty gritty- my favorite spot. If you’re at
the park behind Odawara High School and start walking
down the road back to Odawara Stn., you’ll come
across a bunch of tennis courts the school uses for soft
tennis. At the end of these courts, you’ll find a set of
steep stairs. Climb theses stairs and walk to the rear
of the courts. You’ll come to a small clearing with
a picnic table /bench. I chose to spread a blanket
under a cherry tree on the edge of the path. NOBODY was
there. Just me, my girlfriend and the cherry trees.

My little secret is out. Or is it? Anybody ever been
there before? I felt like a gold miner hitting the
mother lode; I had the whole place to myself.

Originally posted at the Odawara Bulletin Board

Monjya Jin: Monjyayaki Restaurant

One of my friends has a monjyayaki restaurant in
Odawara. It is called Monjya Jin, and it is across from
Tozan supermarket and beside the McDonalds on the 6th
floor.I went there last night and ate Butakimuchi(pork
and kimchi) monjya and Mochimentai(mochi and spicy
cod roe) monjya plus 2 beer for 1500 yen. The master
is a friendly guy and welcomes foreigners.I
recommend going here.

--from Masako`s post at the Odawara Bulletin Board

Odawara Living is one site of a family of websites owned by Kevin Burns.  We hope OL has helped you!

Why Live in the Odawara Area?

by Sandra Isaka

Believe it or not, I actually chose to live in
the Odawara area. In 1993, I came to Japan on the JET
program. I was placed in a really inaka town in
Tochigi-ken. I was there for two years, and loved it, but it
was just too inaka. 

After returning home for almost 2
years and working at the Atlanta Olympics, I knew that
I belonged back in Japan. I started a serious job
hunt, which landed me about 5 to 6 offers. The job in Kaisei was just what I was looking for. 

Just like Shawn,
I love the Japanese countryside and small town
atmosphere. I also need to be close to Tokyo and everything
that is going on there. After living in Tochigi, I
knew that I wanted to be near the ocean and mountains,
and in a warmer place. The Odawara area was a perfect
match. There isn't much of a job selection here, but
with a bit of ambition and creativity, you can make
things happen. It is sometimes hard to be a foreigner in
Japan, but it is much easier when you are able to become
part of a community. Because I teach in a public
elementary school and junior high, I have a respected
position in my town. Most of the population knows who I
am, and I am treated very well. It is rare to find
such a situation in a larger city. Every morning when
I leave my house, I am sent off with 'Iterashai',
and welcomed home in the evening with 'Okaeri'. You
don't have to work in the public schools for this to
happen. The key is to become an active member of your
community. It makes all the difference.

Originally posted to the Odawara Bulletin Board