If you’re not familiar with AKB48 let me take quick second to briefly break it down for you. They are a girl idol group from Akihabara, Tokyo that has a massive and cult following and is also one hell of a marketing machine. There are also “sister” groups from other parts of Japan such as SKE48. It’s a group of roughly 48 girls broken into “teams” and perform many catchy songs that you see in the Top 10 around Japan.
Many people do not care for them due to how it portrays women, but I am not going to get into that. That’s a whole other topic within itself. I’m here to talk about my experience with what is called a Handshake Event, where you literally get to shake hands with your favourite members from AKB48.
Tickets to the Event
To obtain a ticket to the event you must buy their CD, which will come with only one ticket. This is where marketing comes into play. There is no limit on how many tickets you can get, so there are people who will buy quite a few CDs just to shake hands with their favourite idol numerous times. This is part of the reason why their songs seem to jump to the top of the charts more often than not.
A good friend of mine wanted to go to the Handshaking Event in Yokohama, and asked if I wanted to come. This is not something I would normally do, even though I do enjoy their music. It’s typical throw away pop music, sometimes you need that. I figured, since I’m here I might as well experience as much as I can.
The event was at the hugely impressive Yokohama Stadium. Before the event started, members from the group put on a very short show performing one of their popular songs. After they would do some more marketing by promoting their newest album.
Afterwards the tickets we got from the CDs would be turned in for another ticket that gave us a number. This is when we could come back and get in line to shake hands with our favourite idols. We had three tickets each. There were some people who had well over 1000 tickets, and I wish I was joking. That’s how far some people will go to meet their favourite idol. In fact if you have 10 or more tickets you can spend more time with the idol of your choosing at the end of the event.
Waiting in Line
Our ticket numbers were about 14000 and the idol we wanted to shake hands which had an incredibly long line up. Her name is Yuko Oshima and is currently one of the fan favourites from the group, she also recently announced her “graduation” from the group. Meaning, she is leaving. There were already rumours of her departure so that was another reason for her long line.
Shaking their Hands
Where you shake hands was in tents that were setup on the baseball field in Yokohama Stadium. The names of the idols were above the tents where you knew where to line up. The line we were in was an hour and a half long. Once you got up to the front of the line there were security guards who checked your hands. I asked why this was and it was to ensure the safety of the idols, since they actually do shake your hand. Making sure you have nothing that can hurt them such as weapons or open cuts.
You enter the tent and there were more security guards who would grab you by the waist as you rounded the corner. They would guide you through the line up so you did not spend too much time with the idol as she shook your hand. You got to see them for maybe 2-3 seconds at the most. It was like a human conveyer belt as the security guided you along.
It shocked me at first to have some huge Japanese security guard grab my, not so tiny, waist and guide me along as I tried to conjure up what to say to the girls. When I saw the girls, they all gave me the same reaction, which was something along the lines of “Wow, a foreigner!”. A couple of them even asked me where I was from. While, I’m sure I was not the only foreigner there, I did not see any other ones.
The entire experience was pretty unique in itself and somewhat overwhelming. The whole AKB48 phenomenon is rather interesting and I am happy to have been able to see what it was all about. Here I leave you with one of their biggest hits of 2013, 恋するフォーチュンクッキー (Koisuru Fortune Cookie).
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Everyone has heard the stories about how crowded trains can get here in Tokyo, especially during rush hour. People cramming onto trains and employees pushing people into the trains. I wish I could say that this is an over exaggeration, but it simply is not. Here’s a photo of how crammed it can get on my train on my commute to work.
Where I am located I have the luxury of choosing between two different train lines. One line I can take into central Tokyo, while the other helps me get to work that is north of my location. I take two lines to get to work in the morning, which only takes about 30 minutes total, which is a bonus. The first line is relatively older and during rush hour there are still seats left for people to sit on. Once I transfer over to the Chuo Line, that’s where the cramming begins.
Once the train gets to me, it’s also full to capacity but there are still a couple hundred people at this stop that need to get one. While a few people get off the train, most stay on board. But some how, every morning, we all manage to squeeze onto the train. So much, that I do not have to hold onto any hand rails and I can easily read the article the person in front of me is reading on their smart phone (usually it’s Puzzle and Dragons).
There are a few times where people that have less than ideal hygiene beside me, which can make the train ride rather long, but for the most part everyone just wants to get to work without any fuss. Thankfully I only have to endure the sardine can of a train ride for two stops. Which is nice because I wouldn’t have much choice but to get off the train anyway, since the wave of people getting off there’s not much you can do but go with the flow.
I will admit, I have fallen asleep a couple times while standing up because it was so warm and oddly comfy.
As a Canadian from the arctic prairies of Saskatchewan, you would think I would be able to handle the mild cold weather here in Tokyo. I thought that my winter clothing would be sufficient. How wrong I was. I quickly learned how to keep myself warm as the humidity and wind, chill you right to the bone if you are not dressed properly. While it only gets down to maybe -2C at it’s coldest, it can still feel miserable. Japan does not have central heating, so I have to use my heater to keep my living area warm. This only affects the small room where I spend the most time in. It does not heat the kitchen, toilet, or shower room. Waiting for the water to warm up while standing in the show is the longest 30 seconds of my day. Also, you spend a lot of time outdoors walking places such as to the store, train, or work. It’s not like being back in Saskatchewan, where we can run from the house to a warm vehicle then into the office. Therefore spending a minimal amount of time outdoors. Here are some of the things I’ve learned about keeping warm here in Japan …
Tea, Soup, or Anything Spicy
Drinking hot green tea or having miso soup keeps your insides nice and warm. It is almost like having a blanket on your insides! Also, having anything spicy. I recently had Taiwan Ramen, it was so spicy that I completely forgot how cold I was because I was too busy sweating, coughing, wiping my nose, and wiping the tears out of my eyes.
I am not a fan of fleece, only because everything sticks to it. Dust, hair, small pieces of fluff, pet hair, etc. But, I put that all aside and bought myself a lounging set made of fleece. The best 3000 yen that I have spent. I even bought fleece socks. I wear this around my box sized apartment and also sleep in it. While everything does stick to it, the fact that it keeps me completely warm outweighs my dislike of the fabric.
Heat Tech from Uniqlo
Uniqlo is a cheap clothing store in Japan (it now has stores in the US) that sells decent quality clothes are reasonable prices. For winter they have thin shirts called “Heat Tech” which will keep your body heat. A long sleeved shirt will run about 950 yen and a t-shirt version about 750 yen. They are worth they weight in gold. Not only do they keep you incredibly warm, they are so thin you can wear it under pretty much anything. I have three pairs and there’s no way I could go without them now. Another famous item from Uniqlo is the “Ultra Light Down”. This is an incredibly light jacket or vest that will cut the wind from chilling you to the bone. They come with a small bag so you can take it anywhere and pull it out when needed. A vest/jacket will run you about 4000 yen. Not only do the keep you warm and are incredibly light, they look pretty stylish too. They come in a variety of basic colours so you can easily work it into your wardrobe.
This is a small table that has a removable top so you can put a blanket in between the top of the table and the legs. The heater inside keeps you nice and toasty. While I do not have one in my place, as it’s too small, I have used them at other people’s houses and they are fantastic.
Onsen (温泉) or Hot Bath
The onsen is the traditional Japanese Public Bath. Where you bathe yourself in an open room with a small shower and stool then relax in the natural hot springs. All while being completely naked in front of everyone. While that is intimidating at first, you quickly realize that most people are not paying any attention to you. John Himpe gives a really good and in-depth explanation of our onsen experience. After the onsen you are left nice and toasty for the rest of the evening. Now, I cannot get to the onsen every night so most nights I opt for a steaming hot bath, which leaves me just as warm for the evening. I quickly shower (because you never go into the bath without washing yourself first), turn on Saskatchewan’s Largest Morning Show on TuneIn Radio, and relax in the bath for about 20 minutes each night. While it was pretty miserable the first month, since I had to figure out how to stay warm, I now am able to keep warm in the mild but humid Tokyo winter.
My obligatory New Years post talking about the past year. However, I do find it quite enjoyable to reflect on the previous year in a few paragraphs. Looking back at your accomplishments, failures, ups, and downs.
2013 was the year I decided to make some huge changes in my life. I realized that I was beginning to become complacent, which is something I didn’t want to become just yet. My move to Tokyo, Japan started in January 2013 when I began the application process for my Working Holiday Visa. April was the month I applied for the visa in Calgary. The visa was granted to me the following week. September I gave my notice at my previous job. Then finally in November I moved to Tokyo, Japan. It was quite the process but all that hard work really did pay off.
Completely uprooting myself from my comfortable lifestyle in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was the biggest risk I have taken thus far. Did I have my doubts? Of course I did. Did I question myself day in and day out? You bet I did. Were there days that I wanted to give up? I can’t count how many days I felt like that. Thankfully, I have the most supportive family (Hi Mom!) and friends in the world. I couldn’t have done it without you guys, it’s that simple. You’re all a big reason why I made it this far, I don’t think I could have done it without you. So, if I haven’t told you already, thank you.
I never want to be that person who asks themselves “what if?”. After being in Japan for close to three months now, I know I made the right choice. Was this an incredibly risk move? Of course it was. I left my job, family, friends, and comfort back in Canada to set off on an adventure. Now I’m visiting Disneyland every week (damned rights I’m making use of my annual passport), making new friends and reuniting with old, improving my Japanese, and working. Who would of thought that a small prairie boy from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan would be working for an IT company in Tokyo? I certainly didn’t think so.
2013 was the most challenging but also the most rewarding year of my life, so far. You never get anywhere unless you are willing to take risks and work your ass off. Opportunities are almost never handed to you, they present themselves after you have put in the work, if you’re willing to do so.
In closing, 2013 was an incredible experience. Whatever 2014 has in store for me, bring it.
Another week of random happenings here in Tokyo. If you haven’t read my previous entry then I highly suggest that you do.
First up is a piece of graffiti found near Hachiko in Shibuya. I’m unsure of the significance of this sticker. Wonder what the commentary is supposed to be. Clearly Santa isn’t the typical white bearded old man. He’s also not bringing the typical toys to all the boys and girls. This year he’s opted for AK47s and who knows what else I’m really curious to find out what this all means. If I find out, I will for sure let you all know. But, if you happen to know what the commentary is behind this I would love to hear it.
I’m always willing to try new food. Being here in Japan I’m getting many chances to do so. This past week I went to a small traditional Japanese sushi restaurant in Yokohama. The one plate of sushi that was ordered was easily one of the most beautiful plates I’ve ever seen. The sashimi was incredibly fresh and delicious. It was clear that the sashimi came from the fish was that on the plate. The dipping sauce was made from the contents of the fish’s stomach. Normally, this would gross me out but it was fantastic! Little did I realize though, the fish that we were enjoying was still alive. It’s lips were still moving. So, the poor little guy was watching us eat his insides. Now, that’s was something else. Afterwards, the fish’s head was cooked and put into our miso soup. I did not realize this and the head was stuck to the bottom of my bowl, so I didn’t not see it. When I went go sip the soup the head floated to the top and I was greeted with this black eye. It was safe to say it scared the me pretty good. That was quite the experience and the food was great. But having the fish still alive while we ate it was certainly something else. Wonder what next week will bring? You should subscribe to find out.
I’m a movie buff plain and simple. Going to see the latest North American blockbuster on opening night is a past time of mine. My favourite movie food is the classic popcorn and coke. I prefer layered butter with salt and vinegar shakers and a coke zero. The layered butter preference is thanks to John Himpe, who introduced me the buttery goodness that is layered butter. Being able to see movies opening day I’ve taken for granted, I’ll admit. After moving to Japan there is a noticeable lag in when certain North American movies are released here, if at all. For huge blockbusters the release dates vary wildly it seems. Ranging from same day worldwide release, a few weeks, or even months. This is comparing to North American releases. I’ve done some quick research and nothing really comes up to find a reason behind the delays in some releases. My educated guess would be it has to do with translation, in either subtitles or dubbing of audio. This obviously could be completely wrong or just a small piece of a bigger puzzle. If you have any insight, I’d love to hear it.
Watching North American Movies in Japan
I’ve seen a few movies since I’ve been here, which were just released. These included Red 2 and The Family. If you’re from North America you’ll notice that these have been released earlier this year during the summer. I had the choice of seeing it with Japanese dubbed audio or English with Japanese subtitled. I opted for the English just so I could hear something I could fully understand.
Major Releases in North America & Japan
The holiday season in North America is one of the best times of the year for movie releases (summer is the other). Here is a non-comprehensive list of some of the biggest movies that have been released or are being released this 2013 holiday season:
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Saving Mr. Banks
Thor: The Dark World
Just to put it into perspective for you, the only movie that has been released so far has been Gravity. It was released on December 13th, 2013. The next will be The Hunger Games: Catching Fire on December 27th, 2013. A movie such as Last Vegas will likely not see a Japanese release as I do not think it would have an appeal to the Japanese audience. Just due to the premise of the movie and type of humour that would be involved.The rest of the films are coming out in 2014.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
The one that really has me is The Hobbit. I’m a Tolkien fanatic and originally the movie was supposed to be released on the same date as North America. Somewhere that changed to February 28th, 2014. Which is incredibly disappointing, while all my friends are enjoying the next installation of The Hobbit trilogy I have to sit back and wait. It’s not the end of the world by any stretch but I’m sure some of you can relate.
On the upside, there are quite a few of Japanese movies here that I would never have known existed. As they would be DVD only releases back in North America or would never be released at all. From Lupid the 3rd vs. Detective Conan: The Movie (an anime crossover movie) to Roommate (thriller). I will have to check out a few of these titles at my local Toho Cinema.
What do you think?
Having to wait longer for movie releases as a movie buff, while it is a downer sometimes, it is just one of those things you have to accept when moving to another country and culture. That just means when I do finally get to see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug it will be that much more satisfying. To all you movie buffs out there, how would you deal with the delay in releases here in Japan? I want to hear your thoughts. Also, if you haven’t already make sure to subscribe so you can have new posts sent right to your inbox.
After being here for over a month, I’ve started compiling all the random happenings I experience when I’m out and about in Tokyo. Since they happen frequently I figured gathering the best ones of the week would make for some great entertainment.
These are events that I find to be strange, unusual, random, and unexpected.
Haircut Vacuum and Comb Gift
Finally finding a place that offers a decently priced haircut (1000yen or about $11 CND) I was excited. All of the places I’ve looked at were around 2900yen or more. You purchase your ticket from a vending machine then stand in line.
When it was my turn the hairstylist took my coat, bag, and glasses and stored them in the closest behind the mirror. I then sat in the chair and explained how I would like to have my hair cut.
After he was finished he pulls out this vacuum from the ceiling and gets all the loose hairs off my head and neck. He then proceeds to wipe my face with a nice cloth to get the hairs off my face.
Once he finished cutting my hair he gave me the comb he used on me as a gift. He put it into a small plastic bag then handed it to him. I’m really not 100% sure as to why this was given to me. I never comb my hair, so I’m really unsure what I should do with this.
I was able to find a video that shows the vacuum, make sure to check it out.
My Local Grocery Store and King of the Hill
My local grocery store is conveniently located right beside the train station. Usually on my way home I will stop there to pick up discounted fruit, vegetables, and meat if I’m getting home after 9pm. Anyway, going home one night I stopped to pick up some bottled water and the theme song from King of the Hill randomly started playing over the speakers in the store. I honestly have no idea why, they don’t even sell propane (that I’m aware of anyway).
Sleeping on the Train
While sleeping on the train is common practice, this one instance left me in suspense. This one gentleman was having a nice snooze on the train with his expensive Smart Phone, sans case, balancing on his palm and index finger. Waking him may have resulted in the phone falling to the floor. So I sat there for about 4 stops while he slept and the phone balanced ever so delicately. My stop finally came and I got off. I never did find out if the poor guy had his phone drop onto the floor.
That’s it for this week, if you want to keep up to date on my happenings here in Japan make sure to subscribe.
It’s been quite the month as I settle here in Tokyo. My tiny apartment is about 30 minutes outside of Shinjuku and I’m paying roughly $750 Canadian a month, including utilities and fiber internet. Which if you’re from Saskatoon, that’s pretty cheap. Granted the space much smaller (~220 square feet) compared to Canadian standards, it’s more than enough. Here are the photos that everyone has been asking me about.
This month has been full of learning and frustration as I check items off my never ending list. Here’s just a small sample:
Figure out how to ship all my bags to my apartment (I recommend Yamato)
Get a pasomo card (Japan’s equivalent to a cash card that can be used for trains and other stores)
Find the post office in Narita airport to pick up my BMOBILE sim card. This is my iPhone will function.
Take the correct train to my apartment
Register with my local city office
Open a bank account (Ended up going with Shinsei Bank)
Purchase items for my apartment to make it feel like home (Daiso or any 100 yen shop is a haven for the small items)
Figure out how to separate my garbage and recyclables
Translate my washing machine and rice cooker
While it has been incredibly stressful it has also been a great learning experience. How else are you going to learn if you don’t get out of your comfort zone every once in a while? Even with having lived here back in 2003, it’s a lot different this time around. With the simple fact that I have to do everything myself. The best way to explain it is that it feels as if I’m living on my own for the first time, again.
I have found that my Japanese is not as terrible as I thought, but I have a long way to go. Being forced to speak it every day while I’m out is great practice. I have bought some children manga to help with my vocabulary and kanji. I can only read a textbook for so long before I become incredibly bored and unmotivated. This way it stays interesting and fun. If you’re curious I bought Super Mario and Animal Crossing manga. They were only 150 yen (~$1.50 CND) at Book Off. To keep the stress levels down I’ve taken the time to go and enjoy Autumn in Tokyo.
Seiyu & Daiso
To make my apartment feel like home (it came with basic furniture) I have been making multiple trips to Seiyu (which is Walmart in Japan) and Daiso (the dollar store). I simply am not able to do everything in one or two trips. I have the choice of carrying items home or having them delivered. There are still most things I wish to buy, but it’s really starting to feel like home.
My Disney Resort Mishap
One item that oddly caused me the most grief was obtaining my Annual Passport for Tokyo Disney Resort. I went to the ticket purchasing center at the resort. Told the lovely Cast Member that I would love to purchase an annual passport. Everything was fine up to that point until I went to pay. She tried my credit card about five times before she called someone else to help her out. They punched in my number and they told me, in a very vague way, that my card did not work. They instructed me to phone my bank. Being a little flustered I went to a pay phone to see if I can make an international collect call to my bank. No such luck, so I went and asked another Cast Member if there is anyway to make an international call. I don’t think the girl understood me clearly as she just pointed me back to the pay phones.
By this point I was tired, hungry, and flustered. I went to the Tokyo Disneyland Hotel (which is gorgeous by the way) and asked the front desk if they had anyone that spoke English. I couldn’t really think of a good way to explain my exact situation with my elementary Japanese ability. Thankfully there was a Cast Member who spoke English and she was amazing. She wasn’t sure how to make a collect call to my bank, so she tried a few times, then she called an operator to get me through. About half an hour later I finally got through to my bank only to find out that my credit card is completely fine and the issue is on their end. I thanked the Cast Member for assisting me and went back to the ticket center. The Cast Member tried it once more and still nothing. This time I asked her what the exact error was, she told me that my limit had been reached. Which was impossible, but by that point I told her that I will come back another day. By that point I was incredibly embarrassed and flustered that I could not think of a way to solve the issue.
In the end I did get my Annual Passport by paying with cash a few days later. I’m still not 100% sure what caused my card not to work, as it works every where else in Japan. But, regardless it made for a good story.
Chris & John’s Japan Extravaganza
Being here just over a week John (aka @himpster) came and visited for two weeks. While that time frame seems sufficient, in reality it went by too quick. There are a few things we had to skip but that means there’s more things to do when he comes back! John was brave enough to take the Narita Express into the core of Tokyo on his own. Have to say I was quite proud of him for doing that, it was really outside of his comfort zone. Thankfully Japan makes it relatively easy for tourists who do not speak any Japanese to get by.
Instead of going into detail what we did (I will let him do that with his own blog), I will simply give you the run down:
Shibuya, Shinjuku, Akihabara, Ueno, and many other neighborhoods
Ate amazing sushi at a place a friend knew
NHK Studio Park
Visiting our friend Jane in Osaka
Experience Tokyo trains during rush hour
Shinkansen (Bullet Train)
Experience his first earthquake
LINE APP & Help from Friends
In Canada we use messaging apps such as Whatsapp, iMessage, BBM, Snap Chat, etc. The most popular messaging app in Japan in LINE App. It was created shortly after the earthquake in 2011. Along with being able to message and phone through the app they have a never ending list of “stickers” you can send in your messages. They range from popular characters in Japan to familiar western characters such as Mickey Mouse and Snoopy.
I have been using this app with my friends who live in Japan and it has become invaluable. If I ever have an issue with something my friends are only a quick message or phone call away. I have relied them on a few times. One instance where I was unsure of what type of rice to buy and how to prepare it. Sent off a message with a photo of the rice and got the answers I needed. Sometimes when there is a lot of Kanji (Chinese Characters) I run into issues.
If you want to get line, simply visit their website and download it to your device of choice. Ask me for my ID and you can add me!
One of the other reasons for coming to Japan (besides improving my Japanese and experiencing this beautiful country) is to find a job. With my Working Holiday Visa I am able to work. I have been receiving daily emails from sites such as GaijinPot for jobs matching web development and other related jobs. I have sent my resume (or CV) out to a few places.
Japan is known for everything and anything cute (kawaii) and of course I’ve had to buy a few things that I simply could not resist. Some of it was editable and some dangles off my bag.
That’s my first month in a nutshell. I’m happy to answer any questions about things I’ve glossed over, just ask them in the comments. If there are any topics you’d like me to go more in-depth please leave them in the comments as well. Don’t forget to subscribe to get my updates sent right to your inbox, less effort on your part right?
Depending on the questions you guys leave for me, my next entries will pertain to my Working Holiday Visa and job hunting in Japan. Also there will be posts just about everyday items.
As many of you already know, I’m moving to Tokyo, Japan on a Working Holiday Visa. I’ve explained my reasons in my previous post. Since announcing my plans, I have had a few people ask me “What got you interested in Japan in the first place?”. Having an interest in the culture, language, and people has been with me for so long that it feels completely normal. I had to really think about what things really peaked my interest in this fascinating country.
Electric Mouse on YTV
YTV is what every child who grew up in Canada watched (Snit anyone?). Early to mid-90s is when you saw such anime shows as Sailor Moon and Dragon Ball Z aired daily. While I did watch these on occasion after school I was never a huge fan of them. Don’t get me wrong, Sailor Moon was entertaining (watching it now makes me cringe, at least the North American version) along with Dragon Ball Z.
Pokémon is the show that I watched religiously, at the time, and knew every single word to the Pokémon Rap. As many children of the late 90s, this was the hottest things around. Then came the trading cards, which my brothers and I really got into. Then Christmas 98′ is when I got my hands on Pokémon Blue.
At the time, I knew that Pokémon did not originate from North America. With the limited internet access we had back in 1998 I did what every kid did, I used Yahooligans to do my research. Quickly found out that it came from Japan and it was known as Anime and there was tons of shows done in the same style. While I’m not a huge fan of anime, learning about this unique animation style got me interested to look into other shows such as DOTHACK, Azumanga Daihou, etc.
A Music Video by the Vengaboys
One of my favourite songs of the late 90s was Kiss (When The Sun Don’t Shine) by Vengaboys. Now, it was not this song in particular but more the music video. This is when they still added extra content to the CD that could be accessed via your CD-ROM drive.
The video was filmed in Tokyo and there is one part where they are in a club and everyone is doing synchronized dancing. I watched the “Making of” on the CD-ROM (man that’s so weird to say now) and it was explained that this dance was called ParaPara, which was a hot craze in Japan in the 80s then again in the late 90s. Let’s marvel at the unique dance that is Para Para.
This crazy, to most people, dance was so mesmerizing that I just had to find out where the music used came from. Which leads to the next item.
Eurobeat & JPOP
The type of music that is used for ParaPara is called Eurobeat which originates from Italy. This music gained incredible popularity in Japan with the Para Para boom. The music is also used in Dance Dance Revolution, Para Para Paradise, and Initial D.
I could only buy the music compilation CD (called SUPER EUROBEAT) online and was incredibly expensive. I did not care what it cost so I would buy the $35+ CD monthly just to feed my addiction to the music. This is how I learned about the Japanese currency YEN and the exchange rate. Also how incredibly easy it was to order items from overseas. Remember this was about 1999, so ordering online was not as easy as it is today.
This all lead me to looking to JPOP (Japanese Pop). After trying my best to navigate Japanese webpages (there was no Google Translate then, get off my lawn) I found great Japanese Artists such as Ayumi Hamasaki (浜崎あゆみ). JPOP has ever since been a part of my regular playlist you’ll hear my blasting out of my headphones.
Exchange Students in High School
In Grade 12 I became really good friends with three of the Japanese Exchange students in my high school. We had quite a few classes together and was really impressed with how amazing their English skills were. I would always ask them questions about Japan, which they were always happy to answer.
I always admired how they were able to move to a completely different country and graduate high school. It was hard for me to comprehend how they were able to do this. But thankfully, I was able to find out exactly how they did it.
Becoming an Exchange Student in Japan
Nothing better to fuel my interest in Japan than living there. Back in 2003 my English Teacher (Hi Sherry!) presented me with the opportunity to apply for a high school exchange to Japan for 6 months and live with a host family. At the time I was just finishing high school and typical of most people that age, I had no idea what I wanted to do afterwards. I figured this was my best shot for going to Japan and applied. After the 25 page application, DNA test, first born, and $3000, I was accepted. Then in August 2003 I got on a plane with a few Canadians and made my way to Japan.
What an incredible experience, I met so many people from around the world (many whom I still keep in contact with, even after 10 years) and naturally learned about Japan. I even had a blog from 2003 that I updated on an irregular basis. The internet connection at school was spotty at best and makes Sasktel High Speed Lite look like a viable option. My writing has improved tremendously since then. Also, I seemed to complain a lot, guess that is normal for an 18 year old.
Everyone has their reasons for why they become interested or passionate about something, these were mine. Thinking about it now, it’s weird to think about all these influences that completely changed my life. If you sit and think about how you became interested in your passion, you’ll surprise yourself to see where it all began. If you do that, please let me know as I would love to hear it!
If you wanted to sum up this entire article with one simple sentence:
The first of many entries that will talk about my journey in Japan. I will do my best to have posts in both English and Japanese. If you’re able to read Japanese you can see the Japanese version of this post in my incredibly poor attempt (I am trying though). Let’s get onto why you’re here, to find out why Christopher Nilghe is moving from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to Tokyo, Japan.
It’s no secret that I am moving to Japan. Those closest to me have known for quite some time, while everyone else was recently informed. This was one of those decisions that I had to keep under wraps until I knew for certain it was going to happen. I find the less I talk about something, the more likely I am to do it.
There is one month left before I leave for Tokyo to start my Working Holiday Visa, and there is still so much left to get done. Thankfully the major tasks are done, such as securing an apartment, plane tickets, funds, and my Visa. It has been quite the process and I’ve been documenting every step along the way. Even started keeping a journal starting at the 100 day mark. There have been a lot of emotional highs and lows, all of which are recorded in this journal.
I have been asked many times why I have made this decision to move to Japan. If you didn’t already know, I lived in Japan once before as an exchange student in Ujiie, Tochigi (which oddly does not exist anymore). This was in 2003 after I graduated high school. I made a lot of great friends and completely fell in love with the country. It was one of the best decisions I made in my young adult life. I made a promise to my 18 year old self that I would one day return. That is one of my main reasons for returning.
The other reason is timing. The Working Holiday Visa has an age limit of 30 and I turned 28 this year. My window is closing to have an easier entry into Japan. Not that I couldn’t go after I turn 30 but being able to stay for a long period of time would be a lot more challenging. I am fortunate to currently have the freedom to move around easily. This won’t last forever and if there was ever a good time, this would be it. I always go with my gut (after torturing myself with logical reasoning) and it has not steered me wrong, most of the time.
Speaking of timing, today is my last day with the Saskatchewan Indian Gaming Authority where I have been a developer for the past 3 years. It was my first job in my field right after University. I have learned more about myself and development in those short 3 years than I could have ever imagined. It helped me figure out what I want to do with my career and where my passion lies. Which if you’re wondering, it’s with web and mobile development.
The people I worked with were one of a kind and I enjoyed every moment of it. From arguments about who had to sift through legacy code to which Firefly character was the best (Kaylee). We always had a blast while ensuring we got our work done the best way we could. I am truly sad to leave behind such a great group of people but I know they will carry on without me. I’m sure they have already picked out who got my nice window desk with a beautiful view of College Drive. I am grateful to have worked with such a unique group of individuals.
Not only am I leaving my job but also my friends and family. While this isn’t forever, it’s still tough. So, to make it easier on myself I am offering everyone a place to stay in Tokyo so they can come and visit. It’ll be fun and we will go to Disneyland!
Speaking of Disneyland, everyone knows I’m a Disney Fanatic (shameless plug to my Fat Hobbit Disney Blog). One of the first orders of business once I get to Tokyo, after I get all the essential things taken care of, is purchasing an Annual Passport for Tokyo Disney Resort! That way I can go every single day, but don’t worry I have Duffy to come with me! OK, I really won’t be going every day but likely a few times a month at the very least. Currently the closest Disney Resort is Disneyland. Which is about 2788km from Saskatoon according to Google Maps. You can’t blame me for wanting to have an Annual Passport while one of the best Disney Resorts is only a train ride away!
I’m excited to move onto this next chapter in my life. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared or uncertain of what’s going to happen. One thing I do know, is that I will do my best.今年僕は日本への移動です。東京で住んでいます。１ヶ月で僕は日本に行きますよ。