Showing posts with label Living in Japan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Living in Japan. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Out of Japan, for Real


It's been more than 2 months since I left Japan and returned to the Philippines. Just 3 days ago, my residence card expired. This means, I'm completely, irreversibly out of Japan.

I'm still looking for a job and still looking for an apartment. There are days when I get frustrated. I'm 30 and I'm jobless and homeless for the first time in my life. A few more weeks of being like this and I'll be broke. (Thankfully, I got a husband now to feed me at least.) It's also not easy reestablishing friendships so I mostly spend my days playing with my chubby niece.

There are just two things that I still have difficulty adjusting to. The public transportation in the Philippines sucks the energy out of me. Traffic is horrible, the buses are terrible and the train system is just pure horror. Whenever I take public transport, I miss Japan.

Then there's the lifestyle change due to economic reasons. I wasn't living grandly in Japan but my life was really comfortable. Back here is a different story. Every peso counts. Every cent counts. Partly because I don't have a job yet. And largely because living in the Philippines seems more expensive than in Japan. Whenever I have to spend on something, I miss Japan.

All these things sound bleak but I'm actually okay most of the time. Surprisingly, I don't regret leaving Japan where I have an apartment, a job and friends. I'm happy to be in familiar surroundings. I'm happy that I can strike conversations with strangers. I'm happy I can easily get what I want from the supermarket. I'm happy I can attend church minus the Japanese translation. I'm happy I can  have my favorite comfort food again. I'm happy to be back. And I'm saying this even though I don't have a job yet or a home. It just feels good to be home.

All the apprehensions I had before leaving were gone. I'm in the Philippines. I'm out of the orderly and comfortable Japan. And, I'm okay.

PS: This will be probably my last post on this blog. But if you still have questions that I can help you with, feel free to send me a message. 

PPS. Someone asked me if I'm really homeless and jobless. In a way I'm jobless and homeless but not in a depressing way. I just had to find a job and a house when I moved back to the Philippines. It's like starting over again. :)

Friday, March 4, 2016

FAQ's on Living in Japan

photo credit:

Here are the most frequently -asked questions about living in Japan.

Check here for: FAQ's on Teaching English in Japan.
Check here for: FAQ's on Working in Japan

1. Do I need to learn Japanese if I live in Japan? 

Life would be so much easier if you can speak and read Japanese. But the language should not stop you from coming here. You'll survive (and you'll eventually learn some Japanese) if you move here.

2. Is Japan an expensive place to live? 

I used to think Japan is an expensive place because I keep on converting everything to peso. Eventually, I realized that Japan is a reasonable place to live in. The bulk of your expenses will go to rent especially if you live in big cities. I think housing is the only expensive thing in Japan.Other than that, you can buy affordable clothes, food, things and necessities if you know where to look.

Check this post, Just Moved to Japan: Where to Buy Affordable Things

3. Can I migrate to Japan? 

You can work in Japan but becoming a permanent resident is difficult. And, becoming a citizen is almost impossible. The Japanese government grant citizenship to those who have "Japanese blood," such as children or grandchildren of Japanese people who intermarried.

A lot of studies have cited that Japan needs to ease it's immigration policies because of the aging population. But as of the present time, it seems like the "no immigration"policy is as solid as ever,

4. How are foreigners treated in Japan? 

There is no straight answer to this except it depends on what country you came from.

The Japanese are not overtly discriminatory nor racist but there's a difference in their treatment among different colors. I'm Asian so the Japanese are not as interested with me as when they see an American or European.

Check this post for more details, Is There Racism in Japan?

With these being said, the Japanese are generally polite and helpful to foreigners. But it's rare to find a Japanese who will not make your "not being Japanese," a glaring detail.

5. How is the radiation problem in Japan? 

Because of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, some people are still afraid to come to Japan. The radiation and nuclear meltdown are still issues 5 years after the Big Disaster. However, these happened in the northern part of Japan. If you're planning to live in the Central Area or South Area, you are less prone to these problems.

6. Where are the best places to live in Japan?

This question is hard to answer. It really depends on what you want to do in Japan.

The big cities are great for party people. There are also plenty of jobs there.
The smaller cities like Hamamatsu are calmer and perfect for starting a family.
The more rural places are more peaceful and more closely-knit.

I live in Hamamatsu and I really like it here. It's a small city bordered by the sea and the mountains. I love nature so I like it. There are also plenty of jobs here since there are many factories in the area.

7. What should I prepare before to Japan? 

Cash and patience.

For practical reasons, you'll be needing cash to rent a place and buy the things you need.
Patience, and understanding too, because the Japanese are not entirely easy to deal with. Some banks and shops don't want to deal with foreigners, especially the newly-arrived ones. Rental can also be a problem.

Check these posts: Living in Japan

8. What bills should I pay when I live in Japan?

The bills are the most annoying things for me. There's two taxes you have to pay,  residence and prefectural tax, There's also the income tax which your employer will deduct from you, There's health insurance but you still have to pay 30 percent of your medical bills. There's the national pension. And the NHK payment if you own a TV. There are many bills, basically.

Japan is a generally nice place to live. It's convenient, safe and clean. But it's not perfect like any other place in the world.

Good luck if you're moving here!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

A Break-Up Letter to Japan


Dear Japan,

I'm sorry but I have to say "Sayonara" soon.

I wish I could have been gentler and less direct, but you know me. I don't like beating around your lovely cherry blossoms tree.

Please believe when I said that "It's not you, it's me."

You, Japan did nothing bad to me. If anything, I should be grateful for the 4 years I've been here. You attracted me with your amazing anime even before I hit puberty. You excited me to the promise of a comfortable life with you. You let me experience your sensational 4 seasons. You never kept me from meeting wonderful people. You encouraged me to discover my love for cooking and rediscover my passion for writing. You showed me that life can be lived safely, conveniently and comfortably. Staying with you helped me grow in my faith and helped me defined my values more. You have been nothing but great to me, Japan.

But living with you is like summer romance. It's nice for awhile. But at some point, summer has to end and give way to fall. We can't stop the passing of time. When I came to you, I was just 26. I was a know-it-all, ever curious big girl who wanted to see how it is to be with you. But I'm on my 30's now and I feel like this is the best time to go and move on. I can't be that 26 anymore. Whether I like it or not, I have to grow up and face life's realities.

I have to face that death is real. I lost a grandfather last year without me saying goodbye to him. When he died, I realized that during my stay in Japan, I rarely talked to him. My grandmothers are already in their late 80's and 90's. I want to spend sometime with them in their last years. They've been great grandmothers to me. If I stay with you, I might not be able to say goodbye to them. I'm sorry, they're more important than what you can give me.

I have to face that I'm now married. My husband is a wonderful man. He waited for me for 11 years. It's about time that I should be the one to adjust to his wishes. Staying here with you feels unfaithful. I don't want to trade the comforts you're giving me to the life my husband is planning. He loved me when you wouldn't accept me. And I believe he loves me enough not to provide me with my needs.

And I have to face that I'm not meant to be here with you. I'm too restless, too ambitious and just too much for your gentle constant character. I like to try other careers but I can't do it here with you. I wanted to excel as a teacher but you just wouldn't let me. I tried being happy just like this but I can't. I told you, it's not you, It's really me.

I'm sorry for the times I've taken you for granted, I'm sorry if I sometimes complained. I'm sorry if I can't stay with you. I'm sure you'll find other loves who would love you in return. But though you're not my forever, you'll always be my sweet sweet summer romance.

Saying Goodbye with Love,
Purple Pen

Friday, February 5, 2016

Garbage Disposal in Japan

Even the garbage bins are cute
photo credits: Around the World in 80 Jobs

A jetsetting friend told me how Japan has the most "advanced" waste system. Citizens actually follow the the acceptable and "lawful" way of waste disposal. I'm using lawful because it's almost a crime not to follow the system.

When I first moved in to my place, the Japanese person who helped me had to ensure that I'm properly oriented with the Japanese waste disposal system. She took time to show me a chart of how to dispose household waste properly. She also accompanied me to a shop to make sure I buy the correct disposal bag. That's how serious they are with garbage. 

In the apartment building where I live, a staff regularly sorts out the tenants' garbage. This is to ensure that the garbage collector will get our garbage. In Japan, collectors have the power to decide which garbage to get or not. If a garbage bag is too messed up (meaning not sorted properly) the garbage man can leave it. I've read some instances where residents would rummage through the uncollected garbage to know the criminal. That is, the uncivilized one who doesn't know how to sort his trash. 

There's a stigma with foreign residents and garbage. From the internet alone, you can read numerous accounts of foreigners complaining that they were accused of being the garbage criminal, the uncivilized one. A close friend has personally experienced being subjected to scrutiny. There were only 4 units in her apartment building. She was the only foreigner. One of the residents knocked on her door a to return a garbage bag. It wasn't hers. But the old man insisted it was hers. She had to prove by pointing her garbage bag. This happened twice. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Living in a Leo Palace Apartment

My favorite corner in my apartment:
Lucky bamboo and a framed silk

Finding an apartment in Japan is not an easy thing especially if you're a foreigner. You'll need a guarantor-a local who'll vouch for you to the property owner. You'll also need key money- it's a "cash gift" to the property owner for allowing you to rent the place. There's also the language barrier which might be used to your disadvantage.

So how will you find an apartment in Japan? 

Thank your stars if your company helps you in finding an apartment. Some companies can act as guarantors for you. They'd also help you understand the leasing contract. They may even loan you the needed key money. 

But if this is not the case for you, the most convenient rental option for you is by renting a Leo Palace Apartment.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Repost: Making Friends in Japan

A display in Meiji Mura, Aichi

I came across this post a few days ago about making friends in Japan. I find it really enlightening. It made me realize why I'm not in deep friendships with Japanese people. 

This excerpt below really got me. Basically, the writer is saying it's hard to find a Japanese friend who would like to discuss things beyond the usual polite topics of hobby, weather and activities. 

I wholeheartedly agree with this insight. In more than 3 years of staying in Japan, I only met 2 people who enjoy a good discussion on politics, social issues, and other topics that need some kind of thinking. Interestingly, these two people are not the usual Japanese. One is a divorcee from an American husband who lived abroad for several years. The other is my student who refused to be part of the Japanese workforce. He's a freelance businessman who doesn't care about the society's expectations. 

Now here's the problem. These two people don't consider me as a "friend." To the divorcee, I'm just a co-worker. We don't hang out. We only get to talk when the students are doing something in the classroom. To my student, I'm a teacher. We can't be friends even though we're almost of the same age. So I've found people to talk to but they won't consider me as friends. Just great.  

Anyway, here's the excerpt: 

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

3 Signs You Have Enough of Japan

Tired woman
photo credit:

"When you stay too long in the same place, things and people go to pot on you, 
they rot and start stinking..." 
- Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Journey to the End of the Night

This quote has never been more true to me than this year. I think I'm in Japan long enough that people and this place are starting to "pot on me, rot and start stinking..." Don't get me wrong. I've dreamt of being here. I enjoyed being here. I'm thankful that I came here. But I've been here for quite sometime, it doesn't feel right anymore. 

Maybe you're like. You were once happy to be here but not anymore. Once,this has been your dream but not anymore. And maybe you're asking yourself if you're just having a rough day or it's just really time to move forward. 

These things will tell you that you have enough of Japan: 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Should You Visit Japan on Winter Vacation?

Japanese woman enjoying an onsen with monkeys
photo credit:

And we're at the end of another year. Where did the year go? Time flew so fast!
It's winter again, my 4th and last winter in Japan. How I survived the last three winters amazes me.

Anyway, a couple of people have asked me if winter vacation is good time to visit Japan. I'd like to say, it depends but I'd be required to give more explanations. So, I just wrote them the pros and cons of visiting Japan in winter. I'll share here what I wrote to them. 

A. Why You Should Visit Japan in Winter

1. It's a great time for winter sports.  

If you love skiing or snowboarding, then by all means, come to Japan on your winter break. The snow is simply perfect at this time. You don't need to go all the way to Hokkaido. You can enjoy winter sports along the slopes of Mt. Fuji, on the mountains in Nagano or in the northern prefectures from Tokyo. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Just Moved to Japan: Where to Buy Affordable Things

Shopping in Japan

Someone emailed me recently about where to buy affordable clothes, mattresses and other household products. Her family just moved to Japan and they're just about to start their lives in a new place. 

If you're in the same situation as hers, I'm sure you can find the following tips useful: 

For clothes: 

If you're okay with second-hand clothes, the best place to buy is King Family. It has shops all around Japan. Get a free membership card from King Family. They have regular campaigns for card holder. For example, if you get 2 clothes they'll give you 20% discount, if three to four you'll get 50% discount. If you get more, you'll get as much as 70% discount. I usually buy 3-4 items and they only cost me less than a thousand Yen.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Japanese Transportation is Not Convenient, Really

A pokemon school bus!

Japanese public transportation is not convenient.

It is efficient, reliable and even comfortable. But, it's not convenient.

How it is so?

Let's take the buses. From the main station, they leave on time. But from the bus stops, they're usually 2-5 minutes late because of traffic. Some areas also have few buses. They only pass once in an hour. Personally, I always have to take the 7:03 bus to go to work so I can arrive at around 7:45 in school. If I miss that, I'll be late. The next bus passing by my school leaves the station at 7:50.

Then there's the famous "on-time" trains of Japan. Sure, they're almost always on time. If a delay happens, it is still certain that the train operators will do their best to keep the trains running. However, most people have to walk, ride a bicycle or drive to the train station. With my own experience, I have to walk 20-25 minutes if I need to take the train. If I live near the train station, I'd have to deal with costly rent and constant sounds of the train. Also, not all local areas in Japan are accessible by trains. In smaller cities, a private car is still the primary mode of transportation.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How to Buy Eye Glasses from JINS Without Using Much Japanese

credit: JINS site on AEON MALL Fukuoka
After 2 years, I finally get to have new eyeglasses! If you're like me who needs to eyeglasses to see clearly, I bet you can understand the happiness a new pair brings. And I'm proud of myself because I bought it from a Japanese store

If you're in need of eyeglasses and don't know how to speak in Japanese, fear not.  You can still have the dazzling vision you wanted without using much Japanese.

I'll be recommending Jins because that's where I bought my eyeglasses. Also, most of my students got their glasses from Jins. It's a chain that can be found all over Japan. Their eyeglasses are affordable compared  to other stores. In Hamamatsu, there's a Jins store in the Station.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Japan and Suicide

It's no secret that Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. There are about 70 Japanese people who commit suicide everyday. Just last year alone, 25,000 Japanese committed suicide and this is only the reported number. There could be more. Suicide is the leading cause of death of Japanese people ages 15-39 and 60 and above.

Before staying in Japan, I have little sympathy for people who take their lives. My personal belief is life is a gift. But the longer I stay here, the more I understand why a lot of Japanese recourse to suicide.

Japan is not a Christian country. Hence, taking one's like is not considered as a sin. In fact, suicide is a form of honorable dismissal in Japanese history. Back in the samurai age, taking one's life by seppuku (cutting through one's abdomen) is a preferred form of death. In World War II, the kamikaze is also considered as a grand way to die. Even in modern history of Japan, suicide is considered as a means to "take responsibility."

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Why I Can't Speak Japanese?

somewhere  in Hokkaido
I can't speak Japanese. My Japanese level is probably that of a toddler. I can only utter one or two words to indicate what I want to say. My vocabulary is also limited.

I don't usually mind that I can't speak Japanese. It's only when some Japanese point out that "I should have studied because I'm in Japan", I kinda feel guilty. After all, I've been here in Japan for 3 years. My consolation is that, I'm not the only foreigner who cannot speak Japanese even after years of living here.

So, why didn't I, or we,  learn Japanese?

Let me tell you first, that I tried studying Japanese. Before coming to Japan, I took an intensive Japanese language course for month. I learned how to read hiragana, katakana and a few kanji. I learned basic conjugation and syntax of the Japanese language. On my first few months here, I also attended free Japanese classes every Saturday night. My point is, I tried learning Japanese. And most foreigners I know have tried studying Japanese too.

Then, reality sank in:

And these are the realities about studying (or not studying) Japanese:

Friday, September 25, 2015

How the Japanese Contain their Emotions?

Small floral diorama of the Clock Tower in Sapporo, Hokkaido
Yesterday was my school's Sports Day or Undokai in Japanaese. It's my fourth time to attend but I'm still amazed by how the Japanese control their chaos. 

What do I mean with controlled chaos? 

It's like this. During the games and the cheering competition, the students are full of enthusiasm and noise. They'd be cheering ever so loudly and running around in circles. Then as soon as the games finished, everyone will be quiet, behave and disciplined. There was no cooling down of emotions nor fading out of voices. It's just like a rock music that ended abruptly. 

Even in the classroom, the students would be all attentive when I'm presenting the lesson. I learned not to expect any reactions, just attentiveness. Then, when I say it's "Game Time!", the room would suddenly erupt with cheers. The students would do the games or activities with surprising energy. As soon as I say, time's up, everybody would just quietly go to their seats with very few and very rare hushes. The shift of emotions is so distinct, it's worth thinking about why.

Monday, September 21, 2015

To Be a Filipina in Japan

Beer Museum in Sapporo, Hokkaido
There are numerous posts on how foreigners are treated in Japan. They're usually from the white people, you know the Americans and Europeans. The tall blue-eyed blondes with high noses. And yes, I'm stereotyping because really, that's the concept of ''gaijin'' in Japan. Actually, in this side of Asia, that's the perfect poster image of a ''gaijin.''

So anyway, I'll throw in my share on the blog-o-sphere on how foreigners are treated in Japan. Although I'm Asian and my features can pass as a Japanese, I am a foreigner. And not just a foreigner, but a FILIPINA. I can probably say that the experience of Filipinas in Japan is different from the white, yellow and black ladies outthere. (No racism intended just being literary.)

As a Filipina in Japan, here are the most common assumptions about me. Other Filipinas, I'm sure, can relate too. 

1. I was an entertainer before being a teacher. 

Before the bubble economy hit Japan, Filipinas came to Japan to work as entertainers. There was a massive industry for dancers and singers in Japan. In fact, one of my late uncles was a trainer for dancers who are bound to Japan. Then the economy slowed. Suddenly, the entertainers' wages got lower and so the women had to resort to other entertaining activities. Hence, the term ''entertainer'' got a different connotation. 

Fast forward to now. Most Filipinas in Japan have been an entertainer but now doing other things including teaching English. I was very young when the entertainment industry boomed but some people think that I used the ''entertainer ticket'' before becoming an English teacher.  

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

(Guest Post) Battle Scars: 7 Signs You've Survived Japan

This is a guest post by Claire Lovesti, a travel nut who has been to 48 cities in 26 countries on 4 continents! Read more about her on Traveltio. 

In the meantime, let me share her post which I totally agree with. It made me realize, I'm surviving Japan! Read on and see if you have survived Japan, too. 

The land of Sailor Moon, Hayao Miyazaki and those deliciously surreal Murakami novels is every bit as fascinating as you can imagine. From the top of Mount Fuji to the waves at Shirahama Beach, it’s not just manga series and sumo wrestling; Japan is a veritable smorgasbord of ancient tradition and modern technology, and it’s definitely worth a trip.

If you’ve been, nothing on this list will shock you in the least, and if you haven’t, this list might just shock you enough into buying a two-way (or even a one-way) ticket to the Land of the Rising Sun because surviving a trip to Japan is really all play and no work.

I’ll get reminiscing and you can get travelling!

1. You love culture shock.

I don’t think it matters where you hail from, be it London or a small town in North Dakota, the first time you experience Tokyo, Hokkaido, or Okinawa, you’re going to be jolted into a sea of incredible food, fashion, architecture, art and customs—it’s just going to happen. From the amazing (and ancient) live auction fish markets at 4:00 am to an evening with the Osaka Philharmonic Orchestra, there’s excitement around every corner by way of neon-lit city streets or snow-topped ski slopes, and it won’t be long before you fall in love with the traditions and diversity of this Pacific nation.  

2. You can’t eat sushi anymore.

Amendment: You can’t eat sushi not made in Japan anymore. All of those great eats I used to frequent during college, and then with my friends to reminisce about college...yeah, those days are gone. I’m like a new person, a culinary connoisseur if you will, after tasting the best of the best in Japan. After hitting up Sukiyabashi Jiro (If you haven’t eaten here or seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi you need to get on that, instantly), or even just the street side sushi restaurants in Tokyo with it’s mind-blowingly fresh seafood and perfectly vinegared rice, there’s just no continental comparison. And this will never be clearer until you get home and try to grab nigiri—it’s a very sobering wake-up call. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Zero Japanese, Trains are Delayed, What to Do?

It's been raining everyday since I got back to Japan last week. Yesterday, the rain was particularly strong. This caused the trains to be delayed and some tracks became impassable.

Now, I don't usually use the train when going to work. In my 3 years here, I've never experienced trains delays. Until yesterday.

Here's a side story: I do some business classes. On Tuesdays since June, I have to take the afternoon trains going to Iwata. So, I had to take the train yesterday. But as I've said, the weather was bad. Some parts of the Tokaido Line became impassable causing train delays, wreaking havoc to people's schedule. Mine included.

If I were in the Philippines, I'd be in fits with this delay. But I'm in Japan so just like all the other commuters outside the train ticket gates I looked like I'm patiently waiting for the trains to be fixed. I didn't show I was anxious since all the other commuters were just calm. I think Japanese people are confident that somehow all will be well.

I know the trains will be fixed in one way or another. But I don't know when and if I can make it in time for my class. The train staff at the ticket gates kept on announcing things about the train. There's also a board near the ticket gates where some announcements were written. The problem is they're all in Japanese and I can't understand whatever they're announcing. My only goal was to get in the trains and go to my class!

If you'll ever be in my shoes, here's what you can do. All these require little Japanese.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Japanese Customs I Can't Apply in the Philippines

Escalator scene shot in Roppongi Hills
Riding the escalator in Japan (Tokyo style)

I've lived in the Philippines for 26 years and only 3 years in Japan. Although I've lived longer in the Philippines, it still takes time for me revert to my ''Filipino ways'' whenever I visit. There are some Japanese customs that I've grown used to.

Here are some of them:

1. Automatically bowing when saying thank you. 

It's well-known that Japanese people bow a lot. Whenever I visit the Philippines, I can't stop my head from bowing whenever I say thank you. My head seemed to have been auto-programmed to bow when my mouth utters ''thank you.'' But instead of bowing back to me, people in the Philippines probably think I'm strange.

2. Flushing the toilet paper in the toilet bowl.

In the Philippines, people throw the toilet paper in a trash bin. When I shared this fact to Japanese and other foreigners, they thought it was gross and unsanitary. They've always flushed the toilet paper in the bowl. If we do this in the Philippines, the bowls will be clogged. Even though I know this could happen, there were some instances when I would flush the toilet paper in the bowl. By the time I would remember I'm in the Philippines,  it would be too late to retrieve the toilet paper.

Friday, July 17, 2015

5 Common News Stories in Japan

Reminder in case of emergency, Tokyo Station
It's my habit to read the news since I was in high school. 
I love holding and reading the newspaper. Here in Japan, I have to resort to online news since I can't read Japanese. 

For more than 3 years of reading Japanese news, I can already predict what the news would be. 
Here are the top 5 common news in Japanese online newspapers: 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Why the Japanese Live Longer

Giant Buddha at Kanaya, Shimada
Long time no write.

I had some pains on my right hand so I gave it a rest from typing.

Now that I'm feeling a little better, I will let you on to the Japanese secret of long life.

Their secret is really no secret at all. But the Japanese are just more observant of what science says to have long lives namely- healthy food, regular exercise and a safe environment.
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