Settling in Japan

Hello everyone,

I hope you’re all having a fantastic day. Today, I wanted to discuss what I found difficult about starting up in Japan. This will, of course, include the notorious – Wifi; but, I believe there are more important things that need to be discussed as they will consistently arise as one lives is in Japan.

So first, my year of JET participants had a particularly difficult time beginning their placements because the 在留カード/ Residence Card system had crashed upon arrival. This meant that there was a huge delay in us receiving our residence cards for up to a month.

“Well, that’s fine. You have your passport which you can just carry around with you.”


A passport is well and good, but for many official documents and procedures you are required to have the Japanese Residence card which should have been given to you at the airport. Therefore, basic startup tasks that a supervisor is required to help you with become even more tedious and require a higher level of Japanese if they asked you to try and figure out these processes alone (Good luck). Even when you do have your Residence card, there are certain mistakes you can make when filling out official forms that will cause difficulties. For example, I personally would have written my middle name on every official document form since it is on my passport and residence card. If you mistakenly have not filled out your middle name on an official document, your process may go from being a 2 week process to a 4 week process. Is Alex John Smith, the same Alex Smith filling out these forms? A little bit of an annoyance, but it is something to note as important nevertheless.

So, with all of these processes delayed I did not receive my Japanese SIM card till about a month and a week after I arrived here. Luckily, I had some of the most supportive people standing here in the wait for me and my fellow ALTs as we arrived. I won’t use her name her, but let’s call her K. K was super helpful and lent me her Wi-Fi for about a month, which I was overjoyed with. After about a month, I returned the her pocket Wi-Fi device to her, but I probably would have been super bored without it. Now onto my Wi-Fi, if you do not know how to speak Japanese well enough to immediately order your own Wi-Fi – ASK YOUR SUPERVISOR IMMEDIATELY within the first week. Why? When you first send your request for Wifi as well as your living arrangement information, they will take some time to reply back to you and ask for verification documents (確認物). Then, after submitting those documents it may take a few weeks for the internet company to reply back to you about a date. Furthermore, that installation date they will give you MAY be 2 more weeks later after they just informed you 3 weeks after you initially applied for your internet. So, apply for internet ASAP if you want the high speed wired connection which has the same monthly costs as the wireless router that you could buy instantly. The benefit to this internet is that it has unlimited downloading and uploading, it just takes longer to arrive and has a start-up cost as well.

Note: The start-up cost may be from $100-300 if you did not receive a special agreement from your predecessor or whoever lived in your apartment first. Get this done ASAP, otherwise you can always just get the portable wireless router – but, sometimes that router comes with some limitations (Throttling Internet after using up 10GBs in 3 days and then it resets afterwards). I got my internet 2 months after I arrived, it is a bit of a pain.

Now, besides all of these logistical issues, the real difficulty you may come across is – the Culture. After moving to Japan, I personally believe, no matter how much you may have learned about Japan before coming here whether that be through reading blogs, watching anime, studying in school or watching Youtube – Japan is a whole different ball park. There are multiple cultural normalities which are extremely different compared to North America or other parts of the world. The Japanese people are extremely respectful to a point where when you try to adapt this cultural into your own behaviour, you may have the thought of “Wow, I’ve been a rude a** b**** my whole life.” You may become hypersensitive to all acts of apology and inconvenience in the area. Now, whether the Japanese people mean it or not,  I have no clue. What I do know, is that this is just one of the ways you will start to see the fault in your stars. Get it <3. Another part of their culture that I had experienced only the tip of the iceberg, is the Japanese idea of perfect body image. With Japan having the best lunch system in the world, I can see why they may be concerned about such issues. Nevertheless, I do believe it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to be the size of a model. Following that expectation up with their ability to shame and discuss every unflattering extra pound of fat on someone’s belly makes an extremely disheartening situation. The levels that some people will go to make sure you know you are fat, yet they just see it as encouragement and a healthy scolding of showing you that your life choices are wrong. It is not fun and the person who observed that first hand was one of my fellow ALTs, S. S and I didn’t quite get along perfectly at the start, I always liked him as a person, but we definitely had some rifts in our harmony. Due to many uncomfortable situations and stress accumulated during the weekly routine, I let S have it when he crossed me the wrong way. It really was not directed all at him, but basically I let him be the target of my culture shock. By the way, not every Japanese person I have met it like this, but there is a very strong standard of body size, in my opinion.

We were able to move past this incident and now we are friends – thank goodness. Though, the moral of my story is that I have been confident with my dream of going to Japan for a few years now. Even, that desire and hope could not protect me from the stress of culture shock and the pain of being overwhelmed by it. So my advice would be – be careful who you lash out at and why you do it. I could have completely went rampant on a man who called me the equivalent of a pregnant pig, but that would have had so many reprocussions on my image as a foreigner to the community that there may have been no coming back.

These trials are unavoidable as a foreigner moving to Japan, but I feel each person handles their troubles different. Does anyone have any stories? I would love to hear about your experiences and if there is anything else I could have included to make this post better – please let me know.

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