Chronicle of a young woman in Japan
Ok in this post I had an interview with a friend of mind, she used to live in Japan and I really wanted her to share a little bit of her experiences living there. She is also managing and writing for the mecha genki bento blog
And why not follow her on twitter! Here is her page:
Let’s get this interview started!
Hello Nichola how are you?
I am really good today! how about you Yugo?
Hihihihi Super great
How’d you first get interested in Japan?
The year before I started high school I had to decide what language I was going to study (we had to study a language for the first two years at my high school). Making such a big decision when you are 12 is a bit hard! We had the choice of Japanese, German, French or Maori. I was tossing up between Japanese and German. My Dad phoned his cousin who had also studied Japanese at school. He is a lawyer, and at the time I also wanted to be a lawyer. He said having Japanese had been useful for having Japanese clients, so I decided to do Japanese (I did not end up being a lawyer though!). After studying Japanese for two compulsory years, I figured I might as well continue on because I’d put in that much effort already, which was the same reason I kept studying it right up until my second year at university).
When did you first go to Japan?
My first trip to Japan was in 6th form (when I was 16). My high school did an exchange with our sister school in Matsuyama, Ehime. We had two weeks in Matsuyama and then another week going to Beppu, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Nara and Tokyo. 30 girls between 14 and 18, with just two teachers!
Where have you been in Japan?
Matsuyama, Uchiko, Beppu, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Kurashiki, Matsue, Okayama, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Koyasan, Hakone, Himeji, Yokohama, Tokyo.
What was it like living in Japan?
AWESOME!!!! I lived in Osaka and taught English by video conferencing (it looked a bit like a call centre). There were about 450 on the English team, and about 750 altogether in my building, working three shifts (it was 24hrs and we had six languages).
The whole move was so easy because the company I worked for (NOVA) arranged all your visas and stuff. They rented apartments to teachers (which they charged you wayyyyy more than market rents, but that is another story, and I figured the ease of it made it all even out in the end).
The week I started there was about 30 of us, the same started the week before and the week after. I have heard stories of some people going and being stuck in a small town, having to be friends with people just for the sake of it and not really enjoying it. I was lucky there were so many of us – I lived in the same city for university but I can imagine it would be a bit like going away to university.
I worked one early shift (7:30am – 3pm) and four lates (3pm – 10:40pm). Life was very easy because you pretty much had the whole day free. I could get up and go to a gym class and then be back home by 8:30 and still have almost a whole day before work! Because I can speak Japanese things were quite easy, and Osaka is such a big city that you can always get food from home/watch English tv/buy NZ wine etc. Day to-day living is very cheap in Japan and I used to ride my bike everywhere (one day I even rode to Hyogo prefecture!!). Ignorance is bliss in some ways too because it always seemed like the really important stuff was translated into English, so if there was anything I couldn’t understand I didn’t really mind.
My first flat was with two girls from work, and then I moved to another flat with a Japanese girl. Quite often my friend Amy and I would have what we called “I can’t believe we’re in Japan” moments where just the coolest stuff would happen and we couldn’t believe we were experiencing it. Sometimes we used to sit on the 15th floor break room at work and look down at Osaka (we were the tallest building for miles) and just stare.
What do you think is the best thing about Japan?
Japan is the land of extremes – to me that is it’s best point and worst point. There are just so many things to do, everything is just so different, you could be in Osaka 100 years and always find something to do. I used to love just riding my bike around all day and exploring new neighborhoods because it isn’t like suburbia here. It’s like so many villages together.
People are so friendly and helpful – every time I’ve been to Tokyo I only have to open a map and people have rushed up to help!
Going to the doctor used to amaze me – it seemed the smaller your problem the better the treatment – once I had an insect bite that went yuck. I went to the doctor but didn’t see a GP like at home, it was a proper dermatologist who gave me this amazing cream. Another time Amy had an eye infection and I went with her to see this proper eye doctor!
You can drink in public too. That is pretty cool!
What do you think is the worst thing about Japan?
Sometimes Japan isn’t flexible and there seem to be rules that can’t be broken for no reason. People don’t think outside the square sometimes, and if there are two ways of doing something you can often guarantee it will be the long way! My gym used to shut two random days each month for “cleaning”. ATMs used to shut on weekends, even though they are automated! (not sure if this is still the case).
How’d you get into bento-ing?
After I joined weight watchers I was googling healthy lunch ideas and thought I’d see about bento ideas, because I bought a Hello Kitty bento when I went to Japan at high school. I was expecting just boring normal stuff – I had no idea about what bento are like nowadays! I like cooking and baking, and needed a new hobby (cupcakes aren’t weight watchers friendly), so pretty much just decided to start making bento. Then I got onto twitter and started making bento friends and started getting inspired by them all. My friend Sarah then suggested I make a blog to keep track of them all. I live by myself so it’s hard to buy lots of ingredients and use them up before they go off, but I’ve learnt that all it takes is a little thought, and making things and freezing where possible. I can’t wait until I go to Japan in July and can buy lots more bento goods!
When is the next time you will go to Japan?
July this year! I can NOT wait! I’m going with my friend and her husband for just under a week, and then I have just over a week by myself.
Hope you liked this post, hoped it will show you a little bit more insight into the life of foreigners in Japan!