I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’ve officially lived in Japan for a week. I know this, because I own a calendar. And a watch. Without both of these, I would have thought I’ve lived here for about, mmm… 10 years. Because, man, things have flown by fast.
And what a week it’s been. In fact, you can pretty much insert any adjective to accurately describe it. Exciting? Of course! Scary? You bet. Fun? Duh! Stressful? Understatement. Enlightening? Totes. Emotional? All of them. Humbling? You have no idea. Worthwhile? 100%.
See, I went into this experience knowing it was going to be a roller coaster ride (hey, I love those!) with lots of ups (higher, go higher!) and, of course, some downs (oh, crap!). But every moment of this first week (both good and bad) has made me smile. Yes, I was even smiling (laughing, honestly) last night when I discovered my US bank account doesn’t allow outbound international transfers, meaning there was no way for me to transfer my US money to my new Japanese bank account (I’ll talk more about this later).
But my point is this: I’m just so happy I made the decision to let life guide me for once, even if it means I have no goddamn clue where it’s taking me. Having said that, I hope life has Google Maps something. ‘Cause if not, I’m scrrrrrrewwwed.
Now to make sure I remember everything that happens during these crazy first few months, starting today, I’ll be writing a weekly blog post recapping my highlights and lowlights of the week, along with some goals for the following week. Hopefully it’ll give y’all an insight on what I’m going through and show you exactly what it’s like to completely start over in a foreign country. Wait… I did that? Man, I’m crazy… OK, let’s get to it!:
Reading (stupidly limited) hiragana/katakana: Even though I’ve been to Japan 3 times before moving here, it wasn’t until this trip that I fully learned both hiragana and katakana. If you’re not aware, hiragana is the Japanese alphabet for words that originated in Japan, while katakana is a separate alphabet that’s used mostly for foreign words. Yes, Japan has 2 alphabets. Nope! Just kidding. There’s actually 3. And the last one is so stupidly hard, I’m not even thinking about mastering it for a long, long, loooooooooonnnnnggggg time. Oh, and that was one is kanji, btw.
But I love that I’ve been able to walk around and translate some basic, primitive stuff. It’s almost like being on a scavenger hunt and using a decoder to unlock hidden messages. Everywhere I go out, I make an effort to phonetically speak out the words I see, even if I had zero clue what they mean (and that’s 90% of the time).
Staying in the same Airbnb from my first Tokyo trip: Yep, in a rad going-full-circle moment, I’m staying with the same Airbnb couple (Hiro & Natsu) who hosted me when I visited Japan for the first time in April of 2015. I’m fortunate, too, because they have an awesome place that’s centrally located in-between the Shibuya and Ebisu subway stops.
One morning, I was talking to Natsu very primitively in Japanese. And by that, I mean I’d literally just say a word here or there. But she was able to understand what I meant. She was super impressed, too! And I could understand some of the stuff she was saying as she was talking back to me (even though I had a hard time responding). This sounds so silly, but it left such a strong impression on me.
I can’t even BEGIN to talk about how much empathy I have for people who move to foreign countries and try to learn the native language. It’s so, so hard and it takes MAD guts to put yourself out there, knowing you’re prolly gonna screw up (in my case, screw up A LOT), sound weird, and generally look like an ass. But y’know what? When someone DOES understand you. And you’re able to understand what someone is saying… OMG! It’s CRAZY rewarding. At Facebook, they used to say the journey is only 1% done. Well, I’m not even at 1% yet! But I can’t WAIT to learn more. Which leads me to…
Enrolling in a 3 month, 5 days a week Japanese language school: It all begins on October 2. From that point forward, I’m going to (hopefully!) start to become part of this culture. And that’s too exciting. I don’t expect to pick up the language easy (nor fast), but I’m so goddamn determined. It’s hard for me to really explain what this means to me. So I’ll save it for a later post (and I touch a little bit on this in my future Becoming the Nihon Nerd posts). But I’m so happy I’m growing as a person. Learning a new language is BY FAR the the single most CHALLENGING and REWARDING thing I’ve ever attempted. I can’t recommend it enough.
Starting my 1,000 Yen Meals series: Not so much because I’m vain and like to post stuff (lol!), but more because it’s the PERFECT excuse for me to ACTUALLY stick to a budget. No joke, that’s the sole reason why I started it, actually. Because I tried budgeting myself when I first arrived, but since there was no accountability for it, I was really wishy-washy with what I spent. But by making this a public series, I now must OBEY THE RULES. Because, y’know, I’m in Japan now, and they’re STUPIDLY strict about rules. Ugh.
Even though it’s forcing me to breakout my calculator every time I wanna eat, I love that it’s making me think creatively about living here. If I didn’t set a budget, I’d prolly just eat curry every day. But with this limitation, I’m always searching for fun, unique, and, of course, DISCOUNTED bites. Only negative? I may waste away by the time I stop this. But that’s the price you pay! And luckily for me, I’m hardly paying anything. Cha-ching!
I’m, like, official and stuff: No, seriously! I have a legit office space. I have a corporate bank account. I met with an accountant. But the best part? I have company stamps (inkan)! Of course, this is customary for all businesses in Japan (and soon for myself as well), but it’s really rad to know I get to stamp important documents moving forward. They should really bring this tradition to America. Waaaaaay cooler than scribbling your name.
Seriously, though – I still can’t believe I made this happen. It’s a little surreal.
Oh, and the real best part? They misspelled my business name in my office.
It’s supposed to be Tokyo KawAii Club. Lol!
I’M LIVING IN JAPAN: One word to describe this: AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!
Logistics: This. This x 10! Even though I was fully aware how difficult it was going to be to set everything up, I couldn’t help but laugh (and contemplate crying) about how annoying it is to get things done here. Want a Japanese phone number? Get an address first. Want an apartment to get an address? Need to get a Japanese phone number. Want to open a Japanese bank account? Need both a phone number and an address. Ai-yi-yiiiii!
But I went in with this mentality that I just gotta keep my head high and get everything done regardless of how annoying it is. And that’s what I’m doing. The worst was yesterday…
So I open my Japanese bank account (super easy!). I’m all happy. I’m so official. I’m so… Broke! Uh, sure, I have an account, but it has no money it. No worries! I’ll just transfer my money from America into my Japanese account. Because it’s gotta be that easy, right? Hahahhahahahahahhahahaha… No.
Instead, I find out that in order to transfer money internationally, I gotta get this thing called “my number” that’s printed on your residency paper you get when you register your address at your local ward. Ooooh boy. See, I already did this a couple days prior so I can get a Japanese phone (I’m temporarily using my Airbnb for this). But at the time I did it, I didn’t know (nor think) to request this special paper (that costs ¥300, btw!) just so I can receive money from overseas. Doh! So after thinking I was done with my bank account, I had to go allllll the way back to the ward, get the paper, pay ¥300, and then return allll the way back to the bank to do it again. Totes fun times! Luckily, once I had my “my number,” it was super easy to set everything up. So by this point, I thought everything was good, right? Ahem. Cue uncontrollable fit of laughter #2 in 3…2…1… HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA… No!
Y’see, I discovered, my checking account back home (Capital One 360) doesn’t do outbound international transfers. That means there’s NO WAY to transfer all my money to Japan unless I write a check to myself. Say whaaaa?
OK, so I think… What else can I do? Aha! I can wire the money using the service I used to set up my business. Only problem? They call you to confirm the transfer and the website wouldn’t let me input my new Japanese phone number. And I can’t call them because I purposely set up a super cheap Japanese phone plan that charges a TON for outgoing calls (did this thinking I’d never use my phone).
Uhh… Alright. I’ll just use Skype then! Load up Skype. Put in my email/password. Wait… What’s this? You want me to verify my identity? Ugh. Oh, and you wanna text my US number that no longer exists? Yeah, that’s not gonna work. OK, email me. Click the email. Wait… Now you want me to answer 15 random-ass verification questions about the history of my Skype account, the one service I used like once back in 2013? Fine! Answer all the questions. Get an email back. And I… FAIL to verify my own identity. OMG! By this point, I was laughing hysterically.
This whole situation was just so preposterous. Here I am, living in Tokyo with a bank account with literally ZERO dollars in it, yet having no way to fill it with my American bank account that just so happens to have LITERALLY ALL MY MONEY in it. Such an amazing story!
Luckily, I ended up creating a new Skype account, calling the wire service, and transferring over some money. So (hopefully) all will be good in a few days. Lol!
Weather: It’s hot here. But y’know what? It’s not nearly as bad as the last time I was here. So this is a low, lowlight.
Next Week’s Goals
Renting an アパート: This is my #1 priority right now. Not only is time ticking on my Airbnb (*gulp*), but I’m also getting SOOO antsy not having my own place. Living in this weird, vacation-y limbo state is taking a toll on me. Looking forward to really settling down.
Buying my annual Tokyo Disney Report passport: Awwww yeahhhhh! Sooooo can’t wait for this.
Finishing up my business website: With the help of my best friend (she’s seriously the best person EVER), we’re almost done setting up shop. Just need to test some things out, tweak the copy, and work on some images. But other that, mostly done.
Shooting more videos: I’m hoping to do a video a week on my YouTube channels, so hopefully I can get that going next week,
Meeting up with my all my friends (foreign and native): I have a bunch of awesome friends here I’ve yet to meet since I ‘ve arrived! Looking forward to seeing them now that I’m officially here.
Aight. This blog is over 2,000 words. Jesus. If you made it this far, you must be REALLY bored. Go outside or something. But seriously – thanks for reading. It means so much to me for y’all to follow my journey. And you don’t know how giddy I get every time I see a new comment on my social pages. I love this. I’ll try to keep my future updates waaaaay shorter. Cool. That’s it. See ya らいしゅう!