I can’t believe that one month has passed since moving to Japan. (For a bit of background context, I’ve moved here to work as an English teacher.) I decided to move to Japan first and foremost for the job, but also for personal experience of living in a completely different country, immersing myself in a new culture and of course, just what everyone in their 20s is searching for, a chance to travel.
And so far, what can I say? It’s been a month of highs and lows but I feel proud of myself for pursuing what I wanted to do despite it being so hard. Leaving behind a comfortable life and starting from scratch to make a new one in a place where I have never been before, don’t really know anyone and can’t converse or read in Japanese has been seriously tough, but hey I’m trying my best to settle in.
One major difficulty I’ve faced is being a Coeliac in Japan – I need help! It’s really hard when eating out, as soy sauce sneaks its way into everything. I’ve learnt the kanji for wheat and barley 小麦,大麦 but it’s still a struggle to just pick up a quick snack. I’ve found a few delicious things that I can eat though, including sashimi, sushi, yakitori (without soy sauce) and soba noodles (however, there’s no guarantee that they are 100% gluten free). Luckily, I have a great Mum who sent me a huge parcel of gluten free goodies from home, which has been helpful as I am so sick of eating sticky rice with a tin of tuna shoved on top. I am seriously jealous of everyone who doesn’t have coeliac disease, because there is so much food here that looks and smells great and I can’t touch it!
Anyway, enough about food and being homesick, what’s kept me strong is remembering what I came for – to explore and enjoy the world before a career gets in the way. And there really are some great things I love about Japan! Firstly, the transport; from living in a village in England where the bus runs like twice a day (no joke) to being in a place where trains are so efficient and regular gives me a sense of freedom! Plus, no fumbling for change in the ticket queue, you just swipe your Passmo card and off you go. In Japan they do know how to make life easy and convenient, and I appreciate that they accommodate their working culture very well. There are places to eat in every station, vending machines everywhere and the shops don’t close ridiculously early – yay!
Moving abroad alone means you need to be savvy and careful – and sometimes I fail at this, but I did my research and apparently Japan is one of the safest places in the world. And it is safe, I don’t feel threatened at all when I’m out, and after a night of booze and cringey dancing, I’ve fallen asleep on the train (like a true jap) and nothing has gone missing; people respect that what’s yours is yours. Also, most people are really helpful and go out of their way to help you even though there is a language barrier, which has been really comforting.
Exploring Japan has been really fun too, I’ve been to Tokyo every weekend since being here; there’s so much to see and do!
First stop was Shibuya – famous for its ‘scramble crossing’. I love this place it’s got great restaurants, shops, arcades, izakayas – the list is endless! It’s busy, loud and vibrant and looks even cooler at night! Yoyogi Meji shrine
Japan has many contrasts, and this shrine in the middle of Tokyo is one of them. You get off the train at Harajuku (a bustling area full of shops) and go on a short walk to this huge shrine, which is surrounded by nature. It had a really calming atmosphere when walking through, I was feeling all zen afterwards and for a moment you forgot I was in concrete jungle. Hanami at Ueno Park
Spring is cherry blossom season in Japan, and they sure do love it. ‘Sakura’ season calls for drinking under the trees (hanami) – which I as a Brit love, any excuse to rekindle the teenage days of drinking in the park! There were street food stalls present too, and the waft of fried chicken, a tinny in hand and a beautiful view made me feel right at home. Shinjuku
A new experience eating in a restaurant whilst standing, but this place was reasonable, quick and you could see the chefs making sushi with their hands right in front of you. Presentation was on point. Odaiba
A reclaimed island which you can reach by train. Features: a great view of Tokyo, plenty of restaurants, a Ferris wheel, museums and a statue of Liberty (God knows). Purikura – pretty much in any arcade!
KAWAII! These little photobooths which makes your eyes bigger and you can add cute stickers to your photos. Japans Kawaii culture (basically, hello kitty and cutesy stuff everywhere) is every teenage girls dream! I would have loved these photobooths as a youngen, but there is no limit on enjoying them now!
Yokohama is Japan’s second largest city, and it has some fabulous views! I didn’t have a chance to explore anything specific, but I’ll be back, there’s plenty to do here and below are some quite snazzy photos. I’ll be posting more stuff about my adventure soon – hope you enjoyed reading about Japan!