This is it, folks – the 5th and final blog in my 5 part series chronicling my crazy journey to start a new life in Japan . Because you made it all the way here, I presume you’ve already read the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th parts. If not, it’s all good – I needed an excuse to repost those links anyways. Not like I planned that or anything. Nah. 😉
OK, where did I leave off? That’s not a rhetorical question, btw – I’m checking to see if you actually read the my previous parts. Because, I, uh, kinda forgot. And I’m too lazy to go back and check. Ugh! So much work. I really should start a business where you can hire people to go back and read your previous blogs so you don’t have to remember where you left off. Actually, no – I really shouldn’t. That’s an awful idea. But it’s not a bad idea for helping me remember…
Yes, yes – it’s all coming back to me now. At the end of my last blog, I was inspired by Elizabeth’s super informative and insightful blog to start my own business. OK, so I knew I wanted to do my own thing. Now I just needed to figure out exactly what I wanted to do. So I went back to the question I asked myself in my first blog:
What makes me happy?
Only, to help guide me in the right direction, I tweaked it to this:
What makes me happy when I visit Japan?
Pretty simple question, right? I thought so, too. So I started rattling off some answers:
- Eating all the foods.
- Seeing/learning new things.
- Aimlessly walking around and discovering cool shops/restaurants.
- Going to theme parks.
- Saying “ありがとう” a million times because it was the only phrase I knew.
- Searching for cool gifts to bring back home to my friends.
- Wondering why I always get 10 bags when I buy something yet there’s no trash cans ANYWHERE.
Then it hit me… 2 of these answers are pretty closely related: Going to theme parks and searching for cool gifts for my friends. It’s a tradition, really – every time I go on an international vacation, I ask my friends/co-workers what they want me to pick up on my trip and then I challenge myself to find whatever what they ask for. Within reason, of course – on my last Japan trip before I moved, my former co-worker Andrea told me to bring back “all of Japan.” Wow! Greedy much? Well, I tried, but it turns out getting all of Japan through customs is a bitch and a half. So I just brought her back some soda and vanilla froyo-flavored popcorn instead. Sorry, Andrea!
But when thinking about more about this, I remembered how the merchandise in Japan is generally way cuter and cooler than the stuff found in the States. For instance, Japan is all about collector sets that you can buy at almost any major site/landmark/theme park. These sets are usually crazy cute and/or artistically packaged and (usually) contain small, individually wrapped snacks, sweets, or mochi. These are the kind of things you’d not only never find in America, but also never have access to. And when you factor in the stupid amount of rad merchandise that’s released in Japan every month, it got me thinking… What if there was a way for me to find and curate all these exclusive Japanese finds and then deliver them to people back home to enjoy on the regular?
OMG! OMG! OMG! That’s it! Every month, I’ll book a flight to America, deliver exclusive Japanese merch to people back home, and then turn around and fly right back to Tokyo. Brilliant! Or, y’know, I guess I could just go to the post office and send the stuff from here instead flying back-and-forth. Yeah, that sounds like a better idea. Double brilliant!
The concept of a monthly subscription service isn’t new, of course. There’s a ton of popular mystery subscription boxes/crates out there (ex: Bark Box, Loot Crate, etc.). So I started to research to see if my idea was viable. After asking my friend Google (nice guy, btw), he let me know there’s actually a few Japanese subscription services out there. The only difference is they mostly focus on candy/snacks. But the stuff that interested me weren’t really represented (ex: some of the rad stuff you can find at the Tokyo theme parks). This made me realize there’s a lot of people out there who dig this stuff, would love an easy to get it delivered to them every month, but just don’t have someone to be the middle man. Oh, I know! I can be the man in the middle of an American-Japanese business sandwich. Mmm… Delicious!
Yeah, so that’s pretty much how I came up with the concept of my business, Tokyo Kawaii Club. Is it a revolutionary idea? Nah. Nor is it a million dollar idea (I don’t think?). Instead, it’s an idea that should (hopefully) allow me to live my dream of starting a new life in Japan.
To give you an idea of how long I’ve been working on this, here’s a rough timeline:
- January 21, 2017: Read Elizabeth’s article, came up with Tokyo Kawaii Club concept
- January 25, 2017: Started Business Plan
- January 27, 2017: Finished Business Plan
- March 3, 2017: Sent emails to immigration lawyers
- April 2017: Rented an office space
- May 2017: Business officially incorporated, opened a corporate bank account
- August 2017: Received my Voltron documents: Certificate of Eligibility and Business Visa… Together they combine to give me a residence card (needed to rent an apartment, open a bank account, etc.), and an official status that’ll keep the Japanese immigration folks from telling me to GTFO.
- September 2017: Quit my job at Facebook, moved to Tokyo, opened a personal bank account, got a Japanese phone
- October 2017: Started language school, finalizing shop, and finding a permanent place to live (more on that Thursday!).
With that said, all I can say right how is that it’s happened… It really happened. Excuse me while I scream for a second.
OK, much better. I’m still scared, though. Really scared. And I’m not afraid to admit it. Fear keeps me grounded. Realistic. If I was blindly optimistic, I’d be worried. Don’t get me wrong – I’m confident I can make this work. Because, I, uh, kinda have to. I’m purposelessly putting myself in a situation where failure isn’t an option. It makes me think back to the advice given by a backwards-talking green muppet:
Will this be hard? Um, duh. But the one thing I have going for me is motivation. Y’see, I’m not motivated by money. This isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme for me. Instead, I’m motivated by something more powerful than money: passion. That’s the big difference. It’s really easy to bow out if your investment is superficial. Thankfully, that’s not me. Because I’ll do whatever it takes to keep the dream alive. Even it means trying to start a new life in a foreign country where I don’t speak the language. It’s like I’m going straight to the last boss in a video game and I have nothing but a wooden sword that some old dude gave me in a creepy cave. Ahh! WHAT AM I DOING?
I’ll tell you: the right move. Succeed or fail (please, please, please be the former!), I know I made the right decision. I can confidently say that because I’ve actually had people tell me that… Just not directly.
Perfect example: more life-changing shuttle conversations (not joking!). So I’m riding the shuttle home, talking to my other shuttle buddy, Samantha. Now this is right around the time I came up with Tokyo Kawaii Club, so I’m giving her the whole spiel about it. Halfway through the conversation she knocked me silly with a validation hammer with she told me this:
“I haven’t see you this happy in months.”
I’ll let Jeff Goldblum describe how I felt after hearing this:
That’s all I needed to hear – I knew I had to do this. For years, I’ve been searching for happiness, and I think I found it. But the more I thought about it, maybe it wasn’t really happiness I was seeking after all. No, happiness almost seems a little superficial. What I was really after was this: fulfillment.
Moving to Japan isn’t about fleeting moments of happiness (though there will be plenty of those). To me, moving to Japan is about learning, growing, and becoming an overall better person. Over the past 5-7 years, I really felt like I’ve plateaued creatively and emotionally. Knowing I wasn’t going to achieve my dreams, I became content, and worse yet, complacent. And that’s what drove me to depression (but you already know that!).
So in order to tackle these new challenges ahead, I had promote myself like in the Nintendo video game series Fire Emblem. I know, I know – another video game analogy (my specialty!), but this one totally makes sense (trust me!).
In the game, you manage a team of medieval characters, each with their own job class (ex: mage, thief, fighter). Each job class has a finite stats/attributes that max out at level 20. Once you reach 20, your character is pretty good, sure, but they’ll never be as good as a promoted character. Because when you promote a max level character, not only is their job class upgraded (ex: mage –> sage, thief –> assassin, fighter –> warrior), but their stats also greatly increase. Meaning, in order to reach full potential, a promotion/class change is necessary.
This change I’m making in my life? It’s me giving myself a promotion. I maxed out my stats a long time ago; it was time for an upgrade. And everything about this change is going to do that. Just in the past few months, I’ve started to learn skills I never would have used otherwise (ex: business, design, and language), and lemme tell ya, it feels damn good when you’re bettering yourself as a person. It’s ignited a passion in me I haven’t had for years. Because it’s forcing me to break out my regimented routines and do things I never ever thought I’d ever do. And that’s worth every goddamn risk I’m taking.
Can’t end this 5 part series much better than that, so I’ll humbly bow out now. Thanks for reading all these entries (seriously – y’all rule). Even though I packed a ton of crap into these blogs, there’s a crazy amount of crap I had to leave out. Maybe I’ll save some of that stuff for another time. 😉
And, oh, I kinda lied (sorry!) – this isn’t technically the last entry. I’m doing a bonus entry about overcoming fears next week. Stay tuned for that.
OK, bye! 👋🏼