- On this show, Anthony is joined by Fabian Hoshino, who runs the website Get to Japan. He cites ways to go to Japan from virtually anywhere in the world and effectively learn Japanese. He also gives insightful information about Japan from those who have “been there and done that” in the country.
- Anthony also looks back on his first 6 months in Japan and compares the differences between Bangkok and Tokyo when it comes to setting up.
Talk between Ex-pats
On the show is Fabian Hoshino who offers all sorts of advice on how to move to Japan. There’s a lot of work in Japan and people need help setting up a new life in it.
Anthony shared some of his concerns before moving to Japan – and how things are for him now that he has been in the country for 6 months. Compared to Bangkok where he was able to settle in the place within a week, living in Japan can take some time to set things up. Anthony had three main concerns before coming to Japan: the cost of living, housing, and the language.
Cost of living in Japan
Tokyo is said to be an expensive city, but it can be hard to get accurate figures since it may vary for people. One good source Anthony recommends is YouTube where there are breakdowns on living expenses in Tokyo. For Anthony, it’s not as expensive compared to Canada or Germany. What he considers to be costly is transportation. While the train can conveniently bring one anywhere in the city, the debit on one’s train pass can go down fast. In Bangkok, he spent an average of $10-$20 dollars a week – but the same amount is only good for a day in Japan! However, taking the local train can also help reduce this cost.
For Fabian, he pointed out that it all depends on one’s expenditures. He managed his expenses by taking some part-time jobs aside from teaching English. The biggest expenditure is definitely for the apartment’s rent, especially when living close to downtown Tokyo. In his case, other expenses such as transportation were shouldered by the company. One just needs to be frugal of one’s money. But one can already anticipate that it is quite costly at the start.
Cost of Renting an apartment in Tokyo
Japanese apartments are priced similarly to the ones in Canada and America – only that these are quite smaller. One factor people should consider when selecting a place in Tokyo is the location. Despite the small size and its price, it’s a good deal if it is close to the train station as well as other establishments. Tokyo Rent specializes in getting foreigners apartments without a lot of requirements and hefty fees compared to other Japanese renting agencies. The actual apartments also look better than the photos.
Utility bills may cost a bit more than usual since buildings use gas, heaters/coolers for the apartments. For furnishing the apartment or buying other items, one can budget accordingly. Look for cheap or free items online in the website Craiglist. Head out to the hyaku yen stores. Or avail of Nitori’s free delivery to lower cost in furnishing your apartment.
How to learn Japanese quickly
Anthony embarrassingly admits that one can live in Bangkok without speaking Thai. Ex-pats usually live together in an area where signs and services are in English and people can speak the language. But in Japan, one would hardly hear English. It was hard for Anthony to deal setting up the internet or having furniture delivered without relying on friends to translate. Now that he has somehow settled in the country, it’s been a lot easier. It makes sense why many foreigners rely on their school and their companies to set things up for them because it can be more convenient.
One needs to learn Japanese before coming to the country or make Japanese friends, otherwise, it will be hard. There are people very willing to help out but one must be able to speak the language in the least. Anthony recommended studying the language beforehand. He also plans to continue studying while already in the country.
Moving from Germany to Japan
Fabian agrees that moving to Japan for the 1st time can be pretty difficult. That’s why together with his friend Drew, they created a single site where gaijins can get all the information they need when in Japan.
But how did Fabian get to Japan? During his summer vacation in the university, he volunteered for an elderly home in Gunma Prefecture. For a month, he ate with the people, did their grocery shopping for them, and learned to speak Japanese albeit not fluently. There would be 2-3 German volunteers like him in the area but not many foreigners. Thus, high school students would freak out when they saw him while the elderly would ask him lots of questions. Traveling across Japan and seeing Shibuya in all its blinding lights and people blew him away. He went back to Japan for his internship where he had a great experience with fellow interns from other countries.
Fabian realized that even after 2-3 years, foreigners like him may still not be able to fully read Japanese texts. There is also a big gap between what books teach and what people can see and hear on the streets. Some Japanese people would automatically think foreigners don’t speak Japanese and would automatically refuse to talk to them.
Working in a Japanese company is also an interesting experience. There is a hierarchy in which one can only do what top management would say – no opinions, just stick to rules and do it. The Senpai-Kohai relation is also strong. People pay respect to the seniors because they provide the networks while the juniors are taken care of. The ones who have been with the company for a long time are given the utmost respect, regardless of age.
Fabian also adds that when reaching a level of fluency in Japanese, people would expect one to behave like a Japanese. Japan has a rigid culture, regulated by many rules which may be hard for others to understand.
Getting to Japan
With his experience working in Japan, Fabian lays down some of the options to get to Japan. These may be through the following: the JET Program, study through one’s company or a university, and scholarships given by one’s home country or by the Japanese government.
Studying Japanese is very important; having a motivation for learning will help one get through it. There are options to go to regular classes, through online classes or offline resources such as textbooks. Fabian recommended watching drama rather than anime since these portray how people talk in real life. Memorize a few, basic things to show respect for their culture. Try to interact with an actual Japanese person. These approaches break the ice with the people.
On the other hand, Anthony’s top tip would be to get a phone number. Almost everything in Japan requires a phone number first. Getting a phone line typically depends on the visa one has, but Fabian mentioned that renting a phone number upon arrival at the airport is also an option.
Fabian is working on e-book collecting more information from local people and from those who live here, but his website can be accessed at fabianhoshino.com.
Next podcast on getting to Japan: A guy who has a cooking show! How did he get to Japan and how did he manage to have his show on Japanese TV? Tune in next week!