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。