matcha at takaragawa onsen: thoughts from an english teacher in tokyo

Jacqueline, a very dear friend of mine from Australia has been living in Tokyo, Japan for the last few years working as an English teacher and tutor.

We both share a love of travel and of Japanese green teas, and despite the distance chat all the time, something that I am so very grateful for.  There’s something about having a chat with Tokyo first thing in the morning that makes these cold, dark  Toronto mornings a little more fun!

She recently spent some time at the Takaragawa onsen in Minakami, which is about 2 hours outside Tokyo.  When I saw some of her photos from this visit it inspired me to share them along with her thoughts on tea and travel.


For me, green tea is the most spiritually satisfying thing I can put into my mouth. I appreciate tea, I savor it and I like to take the time to drink it. Usually I drink tea by myself and reflect.

tea and breakfast

Yesterday I was offered mushroom tea by an old Japanese man, in Minakami, Gunma prefecture. It tasted a little like soup but it was delicious nonetheless. I also enjoy Korean Pomegranate tea, for something a little sweeter.

I’ve recently discovered that green tea is also a great motivator. If I start my day with a humble pot of green tea, it somehow shifts my brain into nutrition / exercise / health mode.

One of my favorite things to do since coming to Japan is to visit ryokan/onsen which are Japanese inns with natural hot springs. But when it’s time to leave, I don’t go for the bathroom products, like shampoo, creams and soaps, I prefer to take the tea instead.

Right now, I’m drinking tea from an onsen I visited 3 months ago, in Yugawara, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan and it’s great. Even the instant tea in Japan is good!

green tea in japan


Well, in short I have a constant thirst for change, and the best way for me to quench that thirst is to travel.

Learning a new language, changing locations, making friends with people who have a different set of values to my own, and being able to experience a different way of life is what keeps the spring in my step.

I tire of routine quickly and in the 10 years that I lived in Sydney, I lived in 9 different suburbs and I had my fair share of jobs. I know that’s not every body’s cup of tea (pardon the pun) but I tend to get bored with the same surroundings.

Travel also forces me to try new things. For one, I’m vegetarian but when I moved to Japan I didn’t eat mushrooms, beans or tofu. You’re probably wondering how that’s even possible. Well, in Australia there is a good variety of veggie options and meat substitute products in almost every supermarket. plus I made sure I got my proteins from other food sources. But in Japan, being a vegetarian isn’t so easy so it forced me to start eating foods I ‘didn’t like’. Now I’m a total convert and I eat mushrooms and edamame several times a week.

takaragawa onsen

I also practice an Israeli Martial Art, called Krav Maga. In Australia I would never have made the time to try something like that and apart from learning some life saving techniques I’ve also met some people who I can call if I’m ever in trouble 😉

Learning Japanese is hands down, the most difficult thing I have ever done. But, I’m happy to say that I can go to my hairstylist and talk with him for as long as it takes to cut, colour and style my hair. My Japanese is far from fluent but I get by. I have a long way to go, but I am proud of where I am at.

I was able to change my career entirely when I moved to Japan. Previously, I worked in marketing in the music and television industries but now I am teaching English. It’s definitely not as glamorous but it has it’s own set of perks. I’ve met and taught English to some fascinating people from leading surgeons, actors, international company presidents, models, and housewives with an annual clothes budget more than my entire years salary.

I also teach kids and THAT is the most rewarding work I have ever done.

The best part about my job is that I can move to almost any country in the world and find a job that pays enough to support my lifestyle and save for a rainy day. I would wholeheartedly recommend English teaching to anybody who is serious about living in a foreign country.

But probably the biggest driver behind why I travel is because it’s fun. Plain and simple.

takaragawa onsen

2 Responses to “matcha at takaragawa onsen: thoughts from an english teacher in tokyo”
  1. Austin Yoder says:

    “For me, green tea is the most spiritually satisfying thing I can put into my mouth. ”

    This was the most spiritually satisfying sentence I read all day. I love this sentence 🙂 I also love the last remarks. Travel is SO fun, and that is definitely a reason sufficient to engage in it.

    I would love love love to prepare some tea with you and Deb sometime. If either or both of you are ever in DC, or I bump into you on the road – it’s totally on.

    Great post.

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