When I moved to Japan I thought I had packed everything but the kitchen sink… And the cat. Arriving in Japan made me realize that I was not prepared at all.
If you’re planning an extended stay in Japan prepare for all seasons. Japan isn’t like the UK where winter is a bit cold and muggy, and spring is a bit muggy and cold, and fall is a combination of both. Japan has seasons. Real seasons! Summer is very hot (like 38′ at night hot.) Winter is very cold. You can set your watch by it! When the weatherman says Summer starts on this day or there is going to be rain at 3pm today, that isn’t an estimate, he’s telling you the day the weather will change for summer or the time the rain will happen. This might be nothing new to some of my readers in America or India but to us Brits if someone had told us particular weather was going to happen and it DID we would probably burn them at the stake. Needless to say, my insulated T-shirts killed me in the summer and now 5 layers deep and I’m still shivering.
No, not that kind. I mean Paracetamol, Oxymetazoline, Codeine, or just anything stronger than the weakest Ibuprofen you have ever taken in your life. Some shops don’t even know what Paracetamol is and the shops that do stock it will tell you its actually called Tylenol and its about 200-300mg per tablet. And there is six in each pack. So to take a normal UK dose you would need to take four-five tabs. Oh! And that will be 1,210 Yen (£8.37). You can buy sixteen 500mg tablets at Boots for twenty-five pence. It really doesn’t cost much to come prepared. And if you have a penchant for the stronger analgesic don’t even think about it. Co-Codamol, Codeine, Zapain, Solpadiene, Solpadiene-Max, Co-dydramol, Tramadol, whatever you want to call our little Poppy friend in drug form is completely illegal without a prescription.
Speaking of things that are illegal, this goes out to all my Vaping buddies. E-cig liquid with nicotine in it is also not available. Its legal to have, but not to sell. So make sure you stock up. Apparently, a merchant made Nicotine cig liquid in Kyoto once and was arrested for his troubles. The Tobacco industry pretty much runs Japan so if its bad for business its bad for Japan. But that doesn’t make any sense! Because there is a vape cafe or a vape shop on almost every corner in the big cities. Its super popular here. Almost as if Japan has seen the rest of the world vaping and wondered why they can’t! But because its Japan and people don’t tend to uproar or protest for a healthier option they just get on with smoking real cigarettes and vape at the same time.
If you are on a Working Holiday Visa coming from the UK you are told to have either £1,500 and a return ticket or £2500 to last until you get a job. However, unless you go to the ward office the moment you touch down to get your residency card, have your bank application sent off the same day, have your application approved that month, apply for a job the moment you receive your bank card and get the job within the second month, work all month and then finally get paid in the third month and live in absolute squalor in the meantime, £1,500 will not last you! In fact, £2,500 won’t last you if eating every day is a thing you like to do. Tokyo is like London when it comes to prices, and the Pound to Yen at the moment is like bringing a Dollar to a Pound fight. My advice would be to bring as much money as you possibly can, have a backup credit card or two, grab either an N26 or a Revolt card to allow free withdrawals from ATM machines, (seriously wish I knew about this before I came) and get a teaching profile up as soon as possible! I recommend either hello-sensei.com or eigopass.com. This will not supply you with any kind of real wage for a few weeks and you can’t rely on it to pay your bills. However, a few thousand Yen every other day for chatting to some guy or girl to help him or her with there conversational English will help. Unless you’re a woman… You could probably turn teaching English into an empire. More on that in a later blog.
Again, Japan (specifically Tokyo) is an expensive place to live but it does have really cheap stores. I didn’t discover these until my second month but there are a few places like. Can do, Seria, Daiso, Lawson store 100 (not to be confused with Natural Lawson which is one of the most expensive places to buy food.) That sell clothes, food, containers, plates, cutlery, the list goes on!
As soon as you arrive find your closest supermarket! Don’t rely on that oh so convenient 7/11 just down the street. You will find the exact same items and more for half the price in a supermarket.
Don’t think that just because you are coming to Japan that you will pick up the language just by listening to people speaking Japanese, you won’t. You will end up getting here and feel like you’re being talked over in some sort of crazy alien arithmetic. Start studying now! When you’re here the last thing you are going to want to do is to sit inside studying. Download audio tapes, download apps, buy a book or sixteen. I highly recommend starting with Duolingo to get you started with Hiragana. When you know Hiragana you can start to actually learn the language as Hiragana is the most basic form of Japanese. Yea it’s a tough language.
It’s by rail or by bus. Nothing else! Taxis in Japan are for people who work in Japan and have money to burn. There is Uber but trust me you will order ONCE. 8,000 Yen (£55) lighter just to go down the street and you will never order one again. And don’t listen to anyone that says Japan Taxi is cheaper. Yea they are, about £5 cheaper. My advice would be to pick up a Suica or a Pasmo card from the airport machines. Top it up with a good amount of money, walk to the second closest train station and get off at the second closest station to your house. For me, I have found that each train station is about five to ten-minute walk from each other so not staying on the line for the whole journey will save you thousands of Yen per month.
Just a few things I wish I knew before I came to Japan and wanted to let others know to come better prepared than I did.