Life in Japan

Written on September 4, 2010. Written by .

Kudanshita
Picture from my balcony.

I moved to Japan four days ago and I haven’t had a chance to write any updates until now. Mostly I’ve been getting setup with an apartment and cell phone, talking to a lot of people, and getting used to the subway and food options. I came here with no plans at all – no accommodation reserved for the first night even – but everything is going fine. I found a Hostel using the internet at Narita airport right after I got through immigration and customs.

I got confused many times, but the Japanese people are super helpful. I’ve been offered help in English three times already without asking. However, I don’t think they like to start full-on conversations with strangers. I’ve tried it a few times in both English and Japanese and it didn’t go very far. But I did have a really good conversation with a Japanese girl from Nagoya who I met at the Hostel. I also sat down with a group of guys eating on the ground in Shinjuku who were from Osaka. I think I was boring them because my Japanese was so bad, but they were nice about it. I also had dinner with one of my old friends a couple times. She didn’t feel like talking in English, so I had to talk in Japanese and it was hard.

Kudanshita
Picture from my balcony.

I’ve been pretty busy and I still have a lot more to do, but I’ve made some progress. I’m living in a room in a three bedroom apartment in between a bunch of skyscrapers in Tokyo. It costs 94,000 yen a month, which is a bit expensive because of the location and flexible lease terms (I can move out with a one-month notice). It’s too soon to say for sure, but the company I’m renting from seems pretty good. It’s called Sakura House. Basically, they let you circumvent the huge deposits and commissions you would normal have to pay to rent an apartment. They also handle the utilities and internet for you, which saves a lot of time.

My Japanese cell phone is really fun because I get to send texts in Japanese. It was actually cheap! I bought a stylish phone from SoftBank for 3000 yen, and the service is only 1500 yen per month if you don’t make many outgoing calls. Incoming domestic calls and all text messages are free. Plus, the way texts work in Japan is that your phone has an email address, so you can send and receive email for free. It’s crazy how many emoticons come pre-programmed in this thing!

In terms of food, I’ve mostly been sticking to grocery stores and convenience shops. Even at grocery stores, food is quite a bit more expensive than in America. Some of it is a lot more expensive, like a bunch of grapes for 1000 yen, which is about 3 times what I pay for organic grapes at Trader Joe’s, and those were the cheapest grapes the store had. But most of it seems to be 1.2-1.5 times more expensive, which is not so bad. It’s going to take me a while to figure out where to find healthy food. I haven’t found a restaurant that has brown rice yet. Sometimes they laugh when I ask for it.

I haven’t even officially started studying Japanese, but I have been learning a decent amount just from the conversations and trying to figure out what all the signs and labels mean. But I haven’t yet become fully immersed in Japanese – most of the time I’m thinking to myself in English. I think its a “rich get richer” sort of situation because the more you know, the easier it is to enter conversations. I’m going to study hard so that I can try to reach the point of being able to handle a normal conversation and interact with the people more.

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