My Year in Japan

Can you believe it has been one year since I moved from the small town of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to the Megatropolis of Tokyo? Neither can I. This past year has been quite the growing experience, both professionally and personally. From finding a job in mobile/web development to climbing to the summit of Mt. Fuji. There have been no shortage of challenges. Here is my first year in Japan, in a nutshell.

Landing a Developer Job in Tokyo

Shinjuku at night
Who would have thought a prairie/reserve boy would end up here?

Initially, I came to Japan on a Working Holiday Visa, which allowed me to stay in the country for up to 1 year and do various types of jobs. Before I even arrived in the country I was applying and searching for jobs. Only after 2 months, I landed a web development position. Which was something I was not expecting to happen so quickly.

Now, just under a year I am the Lead Front-End Developer for the Japan team. Who would have thought a small prairie town boy would be playing in the big leagues?

Unique Experiences

Japan has no shortage of things to do. While not every weekend I have been climbing Mt. Fuji, I have tried to keep myself busy by trying out new and exciting things.

One of my best experiences has been climbing (aka trying not to slip and hit my head on the rocks) to the summit of Mt. Fuji. That had to have been one of the most rewarding, yet challenging, experiences of my life. Starting at Station 5 and climbing over night to the summit was exhausting but the view was spectacular. Not everyday you get to say you were on top of a volcano. You would swear that we were in a completely different world.

Mt. Fuji Climbing
This was me thinking about “What have I gotten myself into?”
Summit of Mt. Fuji
The summit was breath taking.
Mt. Fuji was quite the experience. Not sure if I would want to repeat it though.
Mt. Fuji was quite the experience. Not sure if I would want to repeat it though.
Summit of Mt. Fuji
The summit of Mt. Fuji was something like out of a video game. This reminded me of Final Fantasy.
Climbing Mt. Fuji
The descent of Mt. Fuji was worse than going down.

Another “only in Japan” experience was my AKB48 Handshake event back in December. Love them or hate them, Idol groups are huge. It was fascinating to experience this event first hand (pun totally intended). Also, I like being able to say I shook hands with some of the members from AKB48.

The fun and beauty that is Harajuku will never disappoint you on a Sunday morning. Especially during Halloween, which is slowly catching on here, you never know what you’re going to see …

Halloween in Japan
Halloween costumes and cosplay are not taken lightly here. At all.

Visiting Hiroshima was a great experience with John. It was a grim reminder of the terrible events that have happened here in Japan. Lets hope that something like this never happens again.

Hiroshima Dome
Paid a visit to the Hiroshima Dome. It was quite the site but a grim reminder.

John and I had the chance to attend a Sumo Wrestling Tournament. The arena itself was worth admission. What’s there not to like with oversized almost naked men throwing each other around?

Sumo Wrestling
John and I got to experience professional sumo wresting. How amazing is this?

There is always coming happening in and around Tokyo. From Pikachu invading Yokohama to Ultra Japan 2014. A week rarely goes by without something exciting to do.

Pikachus Everywhere
What is Japan without a little bit of Pikachu food? This one was a limited time item for the Pikachu Attacks campaign in Yokohama.
Odaiba Gundam at DiverCity
Care for a little Gundam with your shopping? This huge guy can be found at DiverCity in Odaiba.
Ultra Japan 2014
One of the biggest electronic music dance festivals was in Tokyo this year!


Winter adds for everything in Japan
We are reminded of what season it is and the offerings that come with it. Photo from Tokyo Five

Japan has 4 distinct seasons, and the advertising makes sure you do not forget this. From seasonal drinks to food. You’re constantly reminded that “it’s incredibly hot outside!” or “Man, its freezing you should try this NEW hot coffee”. Summers are hot and humid and the winters are windy, wet, and cold. Spring and Fall are comfortable. The summer humidity took a lot to get used to, and some days I did think “Why am I here? How can anyone live in this?” But, then a quick trip to my nearest 7-11 to get a frozen alcoholic drink quickly reminded me that “Hey, it is not that bad I got alcohol in a bag”.

The beauty that is the sakura (cherry blooms) in the spring is something you need to see in person. Photos do look gorgeous but experiencing them first hand is something everyone should do. We have nothing like this back home in Canada.

Sakura in Japan
We have nothing like this in Canada, so this was a beautiful treat during the spring.

Winters are nothing like back home in Saskatchewan. It does not even get close to -50C here. If it did, I would be concerned since central heating is non-existent. Having a shower in the morning when it is -1C outside is worse than you think it is. Back in February Tokyo got to experience the most snow it has seen in years. The city was a complete mess but I was dumb enough to go venturing out.

Summer in Japan
Summer in Japan is hot and humid but everyone knows how to stay cool and stylish.
Summer Matsuri
Plenty of summer matsuri (festivals) to take part in. This one was in Yoyogi Park.
More Pikachu
Seriously, you cannot go anywhere without running into them.

Achieving Life Goals

Ayumi Hamasaki at A-Nation 2014
Ayumi Hamaskai at A-Nation 2014. One of the best days of my life.

Everyone has items on their list they want to achieve or experience before the end. Being here in Japan, I have been able to cross some of those items off the list.

  • Ayumi Hamasaki in Concert at A-Nation
  • Experiencing ParaPara at a Nightclub in Tokyo
  • Holding an Annual Passport for Tokyo Disney Resort
  • Climbing Mt. Fuji
  • Sharing Japan with my Mom & friends
  • Eating at a Maid Cafe

Ok, maybe the Maid Cafe wasn’t exactly a life goal and we just happened to stumble upon it in Akihabara and figured I would include it. I have been a fan of Ayumi Hamasaki since she debuted in 1998 and was one of the many reasons that sparked my interest in Japan. Being able to see my inspiration was nothing short of satisfying.

Meiji Shrine
Meiji Shrine and using my mom for scale.
Mom Enjoying Quality Coffee
Mom has always been a coffee drinker, so I took her for some of the best espresso in Tokyo.
Mom and I at Tokyo DisneySea
I got to share one of my favourite places in the world with my beautiful mom. She loved every minute of it.
Mom takes on Shibuya
Mom takes on one of the busiest and famous shopping areas of Tokyo. Shibuya.
Tokyo Tower Thunder
While visiting the Tokyo Tower, we got to watch a huge thunderstorm roll int.
LOVE in Shinjuku
Mom and I found this huge sign and of course we had to get a photo.

Turning a Hobby into a Serious Thing

A year of Tokyo Disney Resort
Made full use out of my Annual Passport for Tokyo Disney Resort

I have always been a huge Disney fan, so naturally going to Tokyo Disney Resort was high on my list. Recently I changed my “Fat Hobbit” website from talking about various topics on Disney Parks to “TDR Explorer” where myself and a small team publish English information about the resort. I noticed there was a huge gap in English information so I figured, why not turn my hobby into something people can find useful.

Not only do we have a website but also a podcast called TDR Now. The reception has been very positive and has motivated us to continue doing it!


Moving to another county, it is challenging to find friends. While I cannot say it has not been easy. Getting outside of my comfort zone, I have been able to meet fantastic people! They make those days where I miss home, just a little bit easier. I mean, who does not love having KFC for Canadian Thanksgiving?

Team Fuji Survival
We made it to the top of Mt. Fuji alive. That’s what friends are for right? Ensuring we do not die on a mountain.
Brunch in Tokyo
Mom, Shannon, Hiro, Aya, and I having brunch in Tokyo!

Struggling with Japanese Language

Japanese Language Struggle
Reading and speaking is taking me a while, but I am slowly getting there.

Now, I will admit my Japanese study has slipped since the summer. Meaning my ability has not been improving as much as I would like it to be. I did write the JLPT N4 over the summer, which I sadly did not pass by only a few points. My goal in the next year is to be at least at conversation level. It is my own fault for not studying and speaking as much as I should.

Whats next

Japan, you’ve been quite the experience so far and it is far from over! It is uncertain at this point how much longer I will be here. As I have many good things going for me at the moment. But, I do know one thing. I will be making the most out of every moment.

A-Nation 2014
Full filled one of my goals of being able to see Ayumi Hamasaki perform live at A-Nation 2014.

Dealing With Homesickness & Culture Shock in Japan

If you have ever traveled abroad for any extended period of time, you know how hard culture shock and homesickness can hit you. Everyone deals with it differently and it shows up at the most unexpected times.

Culture Shock

Fresh Sashimi
Food can be the biggest culture shock. This was still delicious by the way.

Having lived in Japan previously, I am used to most of how things are done in Japan. Granted that was over 10 years ago. Now I am an adult who has to take care of everything myself. If I told you that I did not experience culture shock this time around, I would be lying.

It’s the small things

Shopping in Japan
We easily take for granted being able to do everyday things such as shopping for curtains.

It is not the big things that get to me, such as having to speak Japanese on a daily basis or figuring out the trains. But rather all the small everyday items that really hit me hard. A perfect example is going to almost any coffee shop, Starbucks in particular, you usually have to get a seat before you order. That is if you are wanting to stay. This is not typically the norm back in Canada, so I was not aware of this. The first time I went to Starbucks I went to order and the lovely barista asked me if I was staying. Which I replied with a simple “hai” (Yes). She then asked if I already had a seat. Which I replied with a simple “iie” (No). She then politely explained to me that I must have a seat before ordering, and that I had to wait in another line to get a seat.

While this was a small thing, I was completely embarrassed and felt foolish for not knowing what to do. But, how would have I known? We learn through doing, and when you make a mistake, hopefully, you learn from it and never make the same mistake again. Now when I go into any coffee shop I make sure to have a seat before I order.

Sushi at the Grocery Store
Simple things like reading a label on food becomes a challenge.

Grocery shopping has been quite the challenge. I am particular to what is in my food, so reading labels is something I always did back home. Being in Japan, I am learning quite a few different Kanji (Chinese characters) for ingredients used in food. Grocery shopping becomes much more than a chore since I have to figure out what a lot of the ingredients are. I will admit, I have bought some items not caring what was it in, because I could not be bothered to figure out the kanji for the ingredients. Those are on some of my off days.

The Hobbit Desolation of Smaug in Japan
The Hobbit Desolation of Smaug in Japan finally comes out in February 2014

Another example are movie releases. Most movies are not released at the same time here in Japan as they are in North America, unless it is a HUGE blockbuster but that rarely happens. You can read my previous post about being a movie geek in Japan. While it may sound completely silly, but when I found out The Hobbit Desolation of Smaug was not going to be released until February 2014, it made me upset. More than something like that should.

I am a huge Lord of the Rings fan and I wanted nothing more than to see it with my best friend, who loves it just as much as I do. Most people would say “Hey, it is just a movie”, which is true. But it was just one of those things you take for granted.


The only time I ever felt homesick was Christmas Day. That was by far the hardest part of this entire journey, so far. We are not a religious family, but not being able to see them Christmas morning hit me fairly hard. Thankfully, technology allows us to see our loved ones even when we are thousands of miles a parts. I woke up very early on Boxing Day, because of the time difference, and was able to see my family over Skype. That was the best Christmas present I could have asked for.

Best Christmas Present
The best Christmas present anyone can ask for. Seeing my family.

It Gets Easier

Living in a different culture does not get easier, you just get better at it and learn. There are still many things I do not know or understand about the Japanese culture, but I am taking every opportunity to learn. Making silly mistakes along the way, but that is the best way to learn. Most people are incredibly polite and understanding.

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Reactions to my Japanese Ability

I do not claim that my Japanese is amazing, because it simply is not. But I do try everyday to speak to at least one person in Japanese, even if it is simply asking how much something is. I am trying though.

Depending on where in Japan you go people will react differently to you when you speak Japanese to them. Some will have a look of relief on their face (I’m guessing cause they think their English isn’t good or non-existent) and some will speak English with you even if you speak Japanese (mainly touristy areas).

Super Mario Manga

My favourite coffee shop is on the way to work and I will stop there a few times a week. The first time I went in there, the employee greeted me and you could see on her face that she was thinking something along the lines of “Oh my god, my English is really terrible what do I say if he cannot understand!?”. Once I ordered, completely in Japanese, you could see the relief on her face.

Another time was in a Shibuya, which is a very touristy area. Being a typical Canadian, I wanted some McDonald’s. So, I went to one close to Shibuya Crossing (they are everywhere much like Starbucks). The lovely girl behind the counter greeted me and I started to order in Japanese. I thought nothing of it. Then when I was done ordering the girl has this look on her face like “Holy crap, seriously you can speak Japanese, that’s awesome!”.

Hatsune Miku
Naturally, there are plenty of opportunities to improve my reading ability.

I find it interesting being foreigner and talking to Japanese people from different parts of the country and/or city. The reactions you get will be vastly different. Which I think it pretty awesome in itself.

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Morning Commute in Tokyo

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.

Chuo Line Rush Hour Commute

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.

Making Mochi

Mochi is the Japanese food that is traditionally eaten during New Years. It’s very sticky rice that is beaten into a paste in a wooden bowl with a mallet.

On my New Years trip with my friend Hiro to Nagoya, I got the chance to participate in making Mochi A family near the apartment we were staying at was having a family BBQ. They are friends of Hiro’s parents and they invited us over for some Mochi. Two guys were pounding the rice in a  wooden bowl while the bother would move the Mochi around each time the mallets were lifted out of the bowl. It was quite the rhythm they had going.

Once they were done, the mother turned to me and asked, in Japanese of course, if I would like to try and help make Mochi. I decided to give the family some comic relief by being the foreigner (that had no idea what he was doing) that would attempt at pounding the Mochi.

While it looked rather simple, it was a lot of hard work. By the end of it all I was sweating and my arms were incredibly sore. But the pay off was worth it, we shared the entire bowl of delicious Mochi. It was put into a soup and also used as a sweet dessert with cinnamon. It was an incredible experience that I soon won’t forget.

Making Mochi

Farewell 2013 and Bring It 2014

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.

Gifu Castle, the oldest Castle in Japan
Gifu Castle, the oldest Castle in Japan

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.

Tokyo from Tokyo Tower
View of Tokyo from Tokyo Tower

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.

John and Yuki
John and Yuki playing with various items in Village Vanguard.

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.

Hiro, Hiro's Mom, and Me enjoying Sushi in Tokyo
Hiro, Hiro’s Mom, and Me enjoying Sushi in Tokyo

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.

Utsunomiya, Tochigi, Japan
First time back in Utsunomiya after over 10 years.

In closing, 2013 was an incredible experience. Whatever 2014 has in store for me, bring it.

Chris in Utsunomiya

One Month After Moving to Tokyo

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
Recycling & Garbage Separation
Took me about 30 minutes to figure it all out.

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.

Super Mario Kun
Children’s manga is a good way to learn kanjii and vocabulary.

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.

Beautiful Autumn in Tokyo
Beautiful Autumn in Tokyo
Shinjuku National Park
Shinjuku National Park

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.

Seiyu in Chofu, Tokyo. Source:

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.

Mike Pastries at Tokyo Disney Resort
The mishap wasn’t that bad after I had one of these delicious pastries.

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.

Tokyo Disney Resort Two Park Annual Pass
Tokyo Disney Resort Two Park Annual Pass

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.

John Himpe on the train
He may look bored but he’s actually having the time of his life

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:

  • Tokyo Disney Resort
  • Tokyo Tower Tokyo Sky Tree
  • Visiting Yuki up in Utsunomiya, Tochigi
  • Nikko
  • Shibuya, Shinjuku, Akihabara, Ueno, and many other neighborhoods
  • Ate amazing sushi at a place a friend knew
  • NHK Studio Park
  • Hiroshima
  • 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!

Line App Logo

Job Hunting

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.

The Cute

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.

Cute yet disturbing
Cute yet disturbing
Chip N' Dale
These are just to rest your phone on top of. Yes, that’s all they are for.


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.

Until next time!

Relaxing in Shinjuku Garden

5 Things That Peaked My Interest in Japan

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.

Starter Pokemon Squirtle, Charmander, Bulbasaur

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.

Sailor Moon
Credit to:,Screenshot

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.

Pokémon Card Frenzy
My brothers and I had every piece of Pokémon merchandise imaginable. I think we took this for a contest.

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.

Vengaboys - Kiss (When the Sun Don't Shine)

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.

Ayumi Hamasaki

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.

Carlton Grad 2003
Carlton Comprehensive High School Graduation 2003

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.

Japanese School Uniform
Wearing my very stylish Japanese School Uniform.

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.

Global Village 2003 Tokyo
Global Village 2003 Tokyo

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.

In Closing

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:

It all started with a Pikachu.

Ash and Pikachu Hug

Why I’m Moving to Japan私は日本に移動しています

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.

100 Days Until Japan

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.

Host Family in Ujiie Tochigi
Host Family in Ujiie Tochigi

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.

Kylee Frye

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!

Tokyo 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!

Dancing Mickey Mouse

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。



100 Days Until Japan


Host Family in Ujiie Tochigi


Kylee Frye


Tokyo Disneyland