I was talking to a couple of friends about living in Japan, and what they told me was this: In the first year of living in Japan, you’ll fall in love with it. Then in your second year, you’ll go through an intense period of hating it. And after a while, you’ll develop into a kind of love hate relationship with it.
Now, obviously everyone’s experiences are different so I wouldn’t dream of assuming everyone’s experiences are the same. I thought what I would do is review my second year in Japan, what I love, what I don’t, and how life has been in this country!
2017 has not been the easiest year for me, but one thing that I am very grateful for is the opportunity I’ve had in doing the things that I wanted. I travelled Japan a little bit more. I became more exposed to Japanese culture, and met more locals. My view became a little bit wider after not just living in my expat bubble.
The second year in Japan was a lot more frustrating than the first – mainly because of all the paperwork I constantly had to do. Here’s a list of things that drove me insane:
I Couldn’t Get A Credit Card
This was EXTREMELY annoying. I applied to over 10 companies and was constantly rejected. Plus, forms were all in Japanese so I had to depend on the goodwill of my Japanese friends to help fill them up. There would also be times when the person from the company would call to verify my identity, but because I didn’t have the command of the language, I blundered my way through this. Once, I went to Isetan with my friend Shizuki to try applying for a card. Shizuki was helping me fill the card up, but the salesgirl said that no, she could NOT help me, and I was to do it myself. Urgh, annoying!
(OK, there’s a reason for this. There is a law in Japan that you should be able to read everything that you are signing for. I think it’s there so that there is no chance of you saying you didn’t understand and got conned or something). Understandable, but drove me crazy.
I finally managed to get a credit card in the last few months with SMBC. Now, the challenge I have is figuring out how to PAY my credit card…
I Had To Pay An Additional One Month’s Rent Just To Stay In My House
I switched jobs this year, and my apartment was under my company’s name. The good thing with this was that I managed to keep staying in my apartment, but I had to do a name switch. The act of just switching names cost me one month’s salary. In total, I actually had to give a lump sum of five months rent – two upcoming months, two deposit months, and one month for the name change. This was very painful to my bank account!
This year, I’ve had the misfortune of meeting more xenophobes. The bulk of the people I meet are still great, though. It’s a bit of the Pareto rule, isn’t it? 20% of the nasty xenophobes you meet can really ruin 80% of your day. Meeting xenophobes have been very interesting, because I always thought they were more of a myth than anything, but sadly I’ve been proven wrong.
I Can’t Read Anything
This means I can’t read my taxes, my bills, whatever that comes to my house. After a while, this does get a little bit old. Sometimes, it would be nice to be able to read a billboard and understand what I’m being advertised at.
Unplanned Travelling Can Be Really Expensive
My boyfriend and I both wanted to travel Japan a little bit more this year, so one day we decided to go for a spontaneous weekend trip. First we looked at hotels in Kanazawa, then Karuizawa, then finally, Hiroshima. Basically, we looked at what was near to Tokyo, and then moved further out because the hotels were just so expensive! Think about 50,000 JPY a night (500 SGD). Finally, we settled on Hiroshima because the hotel rate was more reasonable, about 25,000 JPY (250 SGD) a night. However, we completely forgot to factor in the cost of the bullet train, which was about 50,000 JPY (500 SGD) for a two way trip. So we were quite shocked when our little weekend trip cost us about 100,000JPY (1,000SGD) each when you include food and sightseeing!
Above were the parts which were really ridiculously frustrating. I would have been driven crazy if not for the following good parts though!
Really Awesome Friends (Obviously Not the Xenophobes)
I have met SO many amazing people in Japan, from all kinds of nationalities. It’s going to get too maudlin if I start going into the details, so I won’t. I’ve just met a whole bunch of people who have been fun, supportive and inspiring, all at the same time. I’ve also met a few more people that have exactly the same interests that I have – from writing to figuring out side hustles to reading the same books. It’s been really, really great meeting people where you can bounce ideas off and help you get un-stuck when you hit a wall.
Food & Service
I still think that food in Japan is incomparable. I mean, hello, even the food at the kombini is so good. It’s really pretty hard to find bad food in this country and I feel like I’ve spent a good part of my year just trying out new restaurants. Good service is also something that I’ve gotten to used to that when I go outside the country, it is now a bit of a rude shock!
Things To See And Do
I don’t think you will ever get bored being in this country, because there are just so many things that you can do! From summer festivals to hikes to check out the changing leaves, Japan offers so much. Of course, not just from a seasonal point of view, because there are so many prefectures to visit, with each offering something different and special. Best part about travelling, obviously, is being with good people! 🙂
I’m hoping I get to travel around Japan more. So far I’ve been to Kyoto, Osaka, Ishigaki, Atami, Nagano, Yokosoka, some parts around the Izu peninsula (I forgot what they were called), Hiroshima and Miyajima. There’s still so much for me to explore, though! I haven’t been to Hokkaido and haven’t tried skiing yet. I haven’t even been to Hakone, which is so near to Tokyo.
So, thanks Japan for my second year here! I think I’ve learned a lot, and I can’t wait to see what 2018 brings for me.
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