5 Ways To Survive Winter In Japan From A Native Floridian

Winter in Japan varies where you are visiting, but most of the country gets consistently to 0 degrees Celsius of colder during the winter, so it gets pretty cold… at least to me. I went from not knowing anything about how to survive winter being a native Floridian to being thrown into the Kyoto cold when I first moved to Japan, so here are 5 tips from a native Floridian on how to survive winter in Japan.

Layering Clothing and UNIQLO Heattech

This may seem obvious for some people, but I was never taught layering or even how to “winter” properly being a native Florida and in fact, I never even owned a “proper” coat until about last year. When I mean proper I mean investing in a coat that is thick and made to last years…. I always bought cheap under $100 USD coats that didn’t last very long and weren’t very warm. I now have a coat from my favorite clothing brand NOELA that is a short duffle that doesn’t button but zips up in navy with a fur hood and I am in love with it! It goes with everything and the next coat investment I want to make is a medium size single breasted coat that is a bit more classic, but that will be probably for next winter.

Layering is extremely important to survive the winter here in Japan as when you are outside you want to bundle up but in the harsh heater inside you don’t want to bake and sweat like a pig. I ALWAYS check the weather in the morning and see how cold it will get is the first step. I practically live in jeans and sweaters during the winter with the occasional skirt and dress if I feel like dressing up, but in those cases I will make sure I have a thick cardigan and wear UNIQLO Heattech.

In the west we have “long johns”, or undergarments made to keep you warm but in Japan UNIQLO has heattech technology that is similar but so much more light weight and is extremely affordable at around $12 or 1000 yen. They have all different of types, such as tank tops, short sleeve, long sleeve, boat neck, crew neck, turtle neck, everything you can imagine! They have socks and bottoms as well for those who’s legs get cold easily. Another key element for me in winter in Japan is cashmere, which once again I find cheaply at UNIQLO. Cashmere is thick and soft sweater material that keeps you super warm and its quite expensive. UNIQLO has good quality cashmere for a great price, normally 8999 yen (USD $88) and on sale it can get down to 6999 yen ($68 USD). Not just sweaters, but scarfs too. I get cashmere infused socks for 1000 yen for 3 pairs at TUTUANA, a socks and tights store here and they are my favorite socks to wear during the winter.

Kairo Hand Warmers

Hand warmers are a LIFE SAVER and I had no idea they existed until l moved to Japan, as I don’t even think they are a thing in the US (although I didn’t live in a area that got real winter weather… Florida is either hot or HOT HOT…) I don’t like wearing gloves unless I’m outside for a long period of time, which is not on a daily basis for me. BUT my hands get extremely cold and having a hand warmer on me during the winter is a must for me. I buy a huge pack of them at the beginning of the season and normally I use a few a week so a pack of about 24 lasts me for the entire winter season. There are two types: Stick (貼る) and non-stick (貼らない). I always get the non-stick because I like to hold it in my hands, but the stick kind you can stick on your cloths or body under your clothes to keep you warm or stick them inside your shoes. I prefer to control by body temperature through layering my clothes, so I do not use this option usually.

Onsen

Onsen are hot springs in Japan and I cannot survive winter without them! There are so many local onsen around the Kansai area where I live and I like to go on a day trip out there and eat a nice meal and hop into the hot spring, especially the outside ones called Rotenburo「 露天風呂」. I love the contrast between the hot bath and the cool air; I always feel refreshed afterwards! Some places in Kansai I recommend for a day trip are Arima Onsen in Hyogo and Awajishima in Hyogo, they are both day trips and you can find day-trip plans that have food included. One last tip is that to go into these hot springs you will have to go to a hotel or ryokan. There are normally many options in the area for budget and for splurge so I recommend researching a bit before going and book ahead of time for the best trip.

Now and alternative for people who do not like to get naked is foot baths that most of these onsen have as well. Warm up by soaking your feet in the warm hot springs!

Heated Blanket and Kotatsu

Heated blankets aren’t revolutionary either, but in Japan the heater and air conditioning are not central air conditioning so it gets very drafty and cold easily. At night most people do not sleep with the heater on and opt to use a heated blanket instead. I slept with the heater on the first few winters in Japan and it was way too dry and didn’t help at all so I decided to pick up a heated blanked instead. They are easy to find on Amazon or at your local Bic Camera/ Yodobashi camera and are normally decently priced at about 5000 yen, or $49 USD and I have had mine for over 5 years not and its going strong.

A kotatsu is basically a heated table with a blanket over it to keep the inside warm and a lot of Japanese people live in them during the winter to save on electricity. I actually prefer the heated blanket to as in my apartment we do not have a lot of space to sit under it even though we have one. If you want to try one out there are actually restaurants that you can sit under a Kotatsu and eat a nice mean, usually nabe!

Take the Underground Passages

If you are in a big city in Japan there are almost always underground passages in the main parts of the city. I live in Osaka and the entirety of Umeda is basically accessible underground, which is perfect when it is a bitter cold day. Shibuya in Tokyo is also another good example of where a lot of main attractions, like Shibuya 109, are all accessible via underground passages. They can be a bit of a maze, but if you read the maps and follow the signs carefully you can successfully navigate almost anywhere, while staying toasty!

How do you survive winter in Japan or winter where you live? Are there any special things that you do to keep warm? Let me know in the comments below!

5 Realities of Living in Japan as a Foreigner

Living in Japan as a foreigner is such a fulfilling experience. I have been living here for over 7 years now and can’t imagine living anywhere else, but with the good comes the bad and there are some realities of living in Japan as a foreigner that some people might not be aware of before they move here. There are so many realities of living abroad, but the ones I wanted to talk about this time are Japan specific. So let’s take off those rose colored glasses for a few minutes and discuss 5 realities of living in Japan as a foreigner.

1. Life in Japan is NOT an Anime, Manga or J-Drama

Japan is the land of anime and manga, but it is not the reality of daily life here. I grew up watching anime and dramas and reading manga and it taught me a LOT about how life in Japan was, but the reality is that it’s a stretch of the real day-to-day life here. It’s the same as watching Friends or Disney channel movies and shows to learn about the US…. it shows only a snapshot of real life in Japan. In fact, real life is probably more boring and mundane than you think and and not so different from other countries. We all commute to school/ work, go grocery shopping, have friends and family etc. After a while the novelty of the convenience stores wears off (though I still think they are convenient and use them every day), riding on trains with people sleeping on you starts to annoy you and your foreign “charm” wears off on the people around you. So please… don’t expect to come to Japan and think real school life or work life is like in an anime OR that everyone reads the same manga here. If you do want something that is relatable and pretty accurate I highly recommend “Wota Koi” as an AMAZING slice of life anime about adult life as an otaku though!

Speaking of liking anime and manga, there are so many options of entertainment in Japan and everyone has their own preferences here, so not everyone will share your same interest. Of course you will find people with similar interests if you look for them, but please don’t assume everyone likes what is “mainstream” outside of Japan.

2. Foreigners will always be outsiders

Now this one is for the non-asian foreigners in Japan, but I’ve been living in Japan for over 7 years now and am fluent in the language and yet I still get treated as a foreigner… because I AM one and look like one. I know the culture pretty well (though not an expert) and know how to navigate society here decently, but I still get talked to like I don’t understand. I still get spoken to in English a lot when people first talk to me, in which I politely respond to them in Japanese. I will always be asked “foreigner questions” and will always be told “your Japanese is so good!” when they have only heard me say 1 phrase. Yes, I know this is them being polite, but for someone living in Japan for so long it can be disheartening when you have spent so long learning the language and the culture. I am always polite because I know that the Japanese people don’t mean harm but its something to be aware of as a foreigner here.

Something that all foreigners here can Japan can relate to the string of extra paperwork and procedures that you have to go through because you are a foreigner. Some phone companies won’t give you a contract for monthly payments for a phone unless you pay for the price of the phone upfront if your visa is shorter than the contract amount. You will be discriminated for renting places (though in Osaka I have never had that experience) because you are a foreigner and you have to jump through hoops to get a loan from the bank and credit cards from banks are almost impossible to get at times as a foreigner. Unless you get permanent residency you will have to deal with most of this for the entire time you live here in Japan.

Random fact: You can’t actually become Japanese unless you give up your own country’s citizenship because Japan doesn’t allow dual citizenship. Also, something I learned recently that people born to non-Japanese parents (both are foreign not just 1 foreign) are not Japanese citizens. They are given a special “zainichi” visa but not citizenship.

3. Japan will NOT change to accommodate you

Japan has its own unique culture and ways of doing things and just because you are foreign doesn’t mean it will change to accommodate you nor should you force Japan to change itself. Foreigners are still outsiders in their eyes and telling them something is wrong or they should change an aspect of their culture is not respectful. When in Rome, do at the Romans do. There are rules and regulations in place for a reason, so before raising up in arms and try to change it, take a minute to ask why it is in place and to understand why first. Of course there will still be things that make absolutely no sense, but at least you know the reason why. If it is too hard to do this and understand why, then Japan might not be the place for you.

4. Its hard to build deeper relationships with Japanese people (but not impossible)

Japan is a very heterogenous country… only abut 2% of the population are foreigners as of 2017. With this comes the automatic barrier and pride of being Japanese. Now, not all Japanese people are like this, but it’s very common for Japanese people to approach you to “learn English” or have you be the “token foreigner friend”, or just be plain cold to you because you are a foreigner. They will be nice and polite to you, but it will stay at surface level or “drinking buddy” level and rarely go deeper than that. There is also the element of not haven’t known them for very long; In fact A LOT of Japanese people still have relationships with people from when they were in grade school that they still keep up with. There is the final element of that they are just plain busy. Working in a Japanese company means long hours and not much time for rest and days off can be all over the place depending on your job, so Japanese people a good majority of the time can’t meet up because of work obligations sometimes.

Now, its not impossible to make friendships with Japanese people and though most of my close friends here in Japan are not Japanese at all, I do have a handful of Japanese friends that I can ask for advice or contact to hang out with if needed. Also, when you are in a Japanese company your co-workers are decently close to you so you have a support network there most of the time too. In the end though, the reality is that the people I make the most connection with are my foreign friends because they understand what I am going through and I am most comfortable talking to them in my native language.

5. Bureaucracy and following strict procedures are the norm

There is hardly any bending the rules here and you are always filling in tons of paperwork that is inefficient. Foreigners may come from different countries where things are more efficient and the corporate structure is looser, but in Japan when there is a rule set the rule is going to be abided by come hell and high-water. The littlest things are checked down to the most minute detail and corrections are made over and over again until it is perfect. Even if you go to a restaurant it is rare to be able to customize and substitute something in your meal and if you even ask for what is inside of it or to change it you will get a blank stare from the staff and they won’t do it. Banks are a nightmare sometimes with tons and tons of paperwork you have to fill out and very strict guidelines on how to fill it all out or you have to re-write it all over again. Despite being perceived as one of the most technologically advanced nations, they are still mostly living in an era of paperwork and paper money and ancient computer systems.

I say this particular point inside of realities for foreigners because this is a HUGE point for some people for leaving Japan and not staying for the long term, they can’t adapt to these procedures and some of the “ridiculous” bureaucracy and they eventually go back to their own home country. It can be quite annoying when it seems you have to jump over hurtles all the time and I don’t blame people for turning back and heading home. This just serves

All in all, I love living in Japan and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but there are some downsides to living here. What are your thoughts on these? Would these be deal breakers for you to live in Japan? Let me know in the comments below!

NEWS – “Topgun/ Love Story” Single Review

Top Gun/ Love Story is Double A-side single released on June 12th, 2019 with a pure love ballad paired together with a passionate, upbeat song about longing after an elite, hard to get woman. On release day, it just scrapped by their 4 member comeback single Chankapana in number of copies sold, making it their best selling single as 4 members. Love Story/ Top Gun sold 121,842 copies and Chankapana sold 121,097 on the first day of sales.

The Songs

Love Story

First let me give a bit of background of this song:
Johnny’s and Associates (NEWS’s management) released a dating simulator game app in March 2018 in collaboration with Gree, a game application developer here in Japan called 「NEWSに恋して」, or “Fall in love with NEWS”. For the 1 year anniversary of the app launch in March 2019, they released a series of commercials, which featured Love Story in it, and was the first time us fans had heard it… or so we thought. NEWS fans were surprised that they actually recognized the tune. It had originally been part of the series of New Year’s concerts “EPCOTIA – encore-” that NEWS held at the beginning of the year where NEWS had the fans hum the melody at one point, recorded it, and then put that recording into the single as a surprise for the fans. When I mean surprised, we really were surprised! During NEWS concerts, to transition between different parts of the show NEWS has the fans do all kinds of things to keep us distracted, such as a quiz game, stomping and clapping to the rhythm of something related to the show theme, etc. So this time they had us do the same thing to help everyone “escape from inside a blackhole”, but to the tune of Love Story. So the fans didn’t suspect a thing!

So, Love Story is actually a love song from NEWS to their fans, but it can be interpreted as a love song in general as well. I love how its a ballad, but has a really nice beat and seriously gets stuck in my head. 12/10 would love another song like this again!

Top Gun「トップガン」

Top Guns is a fun, upbeat song with lots of brass and string sounds and old-school disco-esque guitar, making it have a 70’s sort to feel to it. The first few times I heard this song though I wasn’t impressed with it as I had only heard it as the ending song of the drama …… Even after I saw it during the WORLDISTA tour, I wasn’t a fan of it until I heard the studio version of it. I am a fan of brass sounds combined with other modern elements so as soon as I heard the sounds on the studio version I fell in love with it, and the music video just made me love it even more. My favorite part of the song has to be when Massu raps towards the end in a kind of rap-dubstep breakdown.

The Music Videos

Love Story

The music video for Love Story had 5 different versions; 1 for each member and 1 combined video. Each video was made in 1 cut (with the combined one taking cuts from the individual ones) and the theme was a “date” with them. I like cute, but this really took it to another level but it was very tasteful. It was very well shot and reminded me to Tegomassu’s video “Moshimo Kono Sekai kara ○○ ga nakunatara”. I liked Koyama’s look the the most in this video with his hair and the necklace he wore. It was still sickly sweet and I did squeal at some points, so if you are looking for something overly sweet then this the video for you!

Top Gun「トップガン」

The Top Gun music is a piece of art. I love so much about it I don’t even know where to start. The aesthetic of the boys laying in the flower and the transitions between the dance scenes and the “portrait” flower scenes are phenomenal. Massu’s costumes were really a vital part of the video with the red, black and white combined with the white background. I have to point out that only Massu would make them wear Christian Lou Boutin slightly heeled dress shoes to dance and make it work fantastically. This music video really made me fall in love with the song and has to be one of my favorite NEWS music videos to date, only second to Kaguya. I could watch this video over and over again, that’s how much I love it.

The Verdict

Overall I rank this single as one of my top NEWS singles as 4 members, right next to Ikiro and Kaguya. I like how they have 2 different sounding songs on one single, plus the surprise with Love Story and recording the fans at the concert. Because they released a double A-side single, they will probably only release 1 more single or no more singles before their new album “Story” comes out (production is in process and confirmed by the label) probably sometime in Spring 2020. I highly recommend this single to anyone getting into NEWS, as both singles show different sides of NEWS.

What did you guys think of this single? Did you like Love Story or Top Gun better? Let me know in the comments below!

[Johnnys 101] So You Have Begun to Stan A Johnnys Group – All the basics you need to know

So… you have begun to stan a Johnnys group. Welcome! It’s going to be a very sparkly and emotional ride, but let me give you some tips to help you start out.

This is a new series on my blog called “Johnny’s 101”, where I answer as much in depth about the infamous Japanese boyband agency Johnny’s and associates as I possibly can. As a bit of background, I have been a Johnnys fan for over 10 years now, and have also written my graduate school thesis on the business of Johnny’s. I don’t know everything (as Johnny’s can be mysterious in a lot of ways) but I hope I can give an insight into Johnny’s that you might not know yet.

But first… What is Johnnys?

Johnnys is an all-male talent agency founded in the 1960s by Johnny Kitagawa. The agency is mostly known for training boys (called Johnny’s Juniors) in different parts of the entertainment industry (singing, dancing, acting, etc.) from a young age by having them back dance for the debuted groups, seeing which ones are popular, and then debuting a select few. They aren’t just simply boybands but are involved in many different activities in the entertainment industry in Japan, such as television, movies, fashion, and even novel writing and newscasting. Some of the most popular groups that have come out of Johnnys are SMAP and Arashi.

Now with that out of the way, let’s get to today’s topic which is basics of the agency and the fandom that you should know as a new fan (and maybe a reminder or refresher for those OG fans out there!)

1. Johnny’s is extremely strict (as are the fans) and behind the times

Johnny’s hasn’t digitalized yet (even worse than the rest of Japan… which is saying something) which means there are no YouTube videos or digital music downloads. Hard copies only, my friends! They are super strict with what is uploaded to social media and media sites as well. Around 2014 or so is when they actually put their artist’s pictures on their OWN website and their fan club was super analog until about 2 years ago (hard copy tickets, paying via bank transfer and all) Shocker isn’t it? In my opinion, this is a huge barrier to growth for them, especially internationally. BUT! With that being said recently they have made some huge changes, like Johnny’s official shop goods being sold online within Japan, revamp of the online fan club system, and especially so with the juniors YouTube channel, which is promising. My question though: is it too slow? Let me know what you think!

As for the fans, concert manners and sharing media online is policed pretty strictly. This varies from group to group though, as each fan base has a different “culture” so to speak. An example of this is with my favorite group NEWS, concert spoilers during the tour are kinda a big no-no, as NEWS themselves said a few years back they prefer all the fans to be surprised, so…. you won’t see the set list and hardly any detailed spoilers until after the final show is finished. It’s not to “end game” level, but we protect from spoilers as much as possible. MC is perfectly fine to spoil so bring all the weird things they say!

2. Johnnys is based in Japan and caters mostly to a Japanese audience

Johnny’s is based in Japan and caters to Japanese fans within Japan. I see a lot of fans getting upset that Johnny’s doesn’t do much for international fans and say “Johnny’s hate international fans” but at this point in time with the current stage of the agency, I think these thoughts are misguided. I could make an entirely separate blog post about this (comment below if you want it!), but to sum it up the Japanese music industry is #2 in the world only after the United States. Because of this, Johnny’s can make enough money just within Japan no problem only catering to Japanese fans. Why should they spend the money to expand overseas when they dominate the Japanese market and make enough money anyway? Even fans inside of Japan have a hard time getting concert tickets even when they are in the fan club and the artists only have enough hours in a day, so how can they expand and think of going overseas when they are at capacity inside of Japan? If you think about it that way, you can see why Johnny’s wouldn’t want to cater to foreign fans, as they have their hands full inside of Japan already. Does this mean they shouldn’t share media outside of Japan? No, I think YouTube and social media is essential, but in terms of an international fan club and translating things into many languages, it’s not going to work for a long time and not a good choice business wise. They first need to get the digital infrastructure up and running in Japan first.

3. The Twitter community is probably the strongest to find fan friends (Japanese and foreign)and get the latest information.

Back in the day, LiveJournal used to be the community of choice but in the past 5 years or so that community has pretty much died and everyone is on Twitter. If you want to make fandom friends, make a twitter account and get started by talking with other fans! Japanese fans are also heavy users of Twitter (as Twitter is the dominant social media platform in Japan besides Instagram) so you can get almost any piece of information you need on there. For the most part, us fans are extremely friendly and are more than happy to point you in the direction of what you see looking for. Just be sure to respect the other fans and don’t assume that the way things are done in your country are done that way in Japan and in Johnny’s.

4. No Johnny’s talents have individual Twitter or Instagram accounts or even social media

Okay okay, there is 1 exception that literally happened when I was writing this, which is Yamapi! He was on Weibo, but then on May 16th, he made an Instagram, a Johnny’s first. In general, though, Johnnys do not have social media (including youtube… except the Junior’s channel I mentioned above!) and their “blogs”, called Jwebs, are behind a paywall and are only in Japanese. This poses an interesting dynamic, as the world has moved rapidly towards an era of social media and digital music downloads and streaming, in which Johnnys is pretty archaic. So, if you want to find any information about the group or see their music videos you will have to go on a hunt around the internet.

 

Did I miss anything? What information would you like as a new Johnnys fan or as an OG fan what advice would you give to new fans?

“When are you moving back home?” Answering the Question of Do I want to live in Japan for my entire life?


“When are moving back home?”

That phrase is something I get commonly asked when I make my way back to the US, especially at social functions. It’s almost like there is this default setting on everybody that one day you will just press “home culture” and return back.  Everyone is fascinated by the fact that I live overseas, like I am that “weird Aunt” that lives in some exotic place and is always talking about her adventures that no one can relate to, but somewhat enjoys hearing about.  Ultimately it comes down to “well, are you even planning to come home?”. Now, this question is a very valid question to ask, whether out of pure curiosity or simply they assume that you wont stay “away” your entire life but when I was younger, I dreaded this question. Mostly because I thought it was rude, but also because I didn’t know how to explain in words how I felt about the subject.

For one thing, I never felt comfortable living in the US anyway. I was a small person (4’11 or 147cm) in a place with so much space and excess, as well as I never felt like I was listened to because I wasn’t as loud and extroverted as others around me.  My formative adult years were all in Japan and I blossomed when I moved here, rather than in High School or University, because Japan gave me the opportunities to, rather than the suppression I felt in the US. On the other hand, I learned quite quickly that Japan will never accept me like a real Japanese person, no matter how much I try to culturally integrate into their society.  I never want to become Japanese, but being accepted as knowledgeable and culturally aware is something that I am passionate about, but because I am as foreign looking as you can get, I get a lot of default English and awkward questions about things from abroad.

This question is hard to answer because I feel this pressure to press that default “home culture” button eventually because if I don’t, I will be in this kind of purgatory of cultures because I wont be in my home culture, but I also will never fully be accepted into Japanese society.  At the same time, I feel the Japanese culture suits my personality more, as I am naturally more patient and don’t like as much aggression during conflict. So, I answer mostly with “For the meantime, I want to stay in Japan”, which ultimately leads to the question “Will you live in Japan forever, then?”.

To that I say “I don’t know”. Right now, I feel at home in Japan and after I get my visa renewed this year, I want to lay down my roots more, like with long term financial investments, etc. With that being said though, I am open to moving to another country if the opportunity arises and I think that it would be the change that I need in life, but I think I will always be connected to Japan somehow.

That, however, probably does not mean moving back to the US though. In my heart of hearts, I feel that the US would be the last place that I would want to return to settle down for many reasons, but ultimately I feel that it wouldn’t suit me in the long term. I have seen my home country in a very different light for all of these years and I’m not comfortable with going back into that fully again. I would rather accumulate into another culture,  than re-accumulate into American culture again. Now, will I say I will NEVER move back to the US? No. Life happens and there is a plethora of situations that would call for me to go back to the US for whatever reason, but my preference would be to not go back if at all possible.

What do you think? Have you felt this way about living overseas? Let me know in the comments below!

7 Tips on How to Prepare For Natural Disasters in Japan

Moving to another country can be scary in many ways, but nothing as scary as natural disasters. On March 11th, 2011 a huge earthquake shook the Tohoku region of Japan, leading to a tsunami and leaving widespread destruction in its wake. In 2018, there were 2 big earthquakes, 2 typhoons, and flooding that rampaged through the Western part of Japan (one earthquake in Hokkaido), which lead to the 2018 kanji of the year to be “Disaster”. This was a wakeup call to many, including me,  to be prepared for the worst. For the most part, Japan is a safe country to live in in terms of crime rate, but Earthquakes are a part of daily life. But when a big one hits, it’s best to be prepared for the worst. Not just for earthquakes, but for any type of Natural Disaster that can happen in Japan. Here are my 7 tips on how to prepare and cope with Natural Disasters in Japan.

*DISCLAIMER* These tips are only to be a compilation of information for people in Japan to be prepared for disaster, not a direct source of help. Please contact the respective agencies and resources that I list here for emergencies and direct help. 

  1. Know what types of Natural Disasters happen in your area

    Landslides, Floods, Typhoons, Earthquakes, Volcanic eruptions and Tsunamis are all types of natural disasters that can happen in Japan, depending on the area. Depending on where you live in Japan, there are different types of disasters that occur more often than others.  As an example, Okinawa is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, so it is one of the places in Japan that is the most prone to Typhoons during Typhoon season. If you are near the mountains, landslides/ mudslides could be a problem. Living near the sea you are more prone to Tsunami’s if an earthquake hits. Are you near an active volcano? The answers to these questions can be as simple as asking a local, or asking your local ward office what types of natural disasters occur in the area. From there you can see how to prepare in case one of them does happen in your area.

  2. Check the Japan Metrological Agency website frequently – especially during typhoon season

The Japan Metrological Agency website is the most direct source of up to date information out there on Typhoons and Earthquakes and other weather-related information. The website is in English and has a lot of good information on when a typhoon is coming, as well as information on all of the different earthquakes that have occurred. You will be surprised how many earthquakes Japan has in a day. You just don’t feel them!

3. Turn on the Television for the most recent updates during a natural disaster

The first thing I do when there has been an earthquake in my area is turn on the TV if I am near one and check where the earthquake had happened and what the damage is so far. For typhoons, most news channels will have constant updates on where the typhoon is and any urgent evacuations or new developments, so its best to keep this on in the background just in case. They even provide train line updates, as the train lines shut down automatically after an earthquake to inspect for any damages. Back in June of 2018 when the earthquake hit the Kansai region, I kept the TV on in my apartment all day to get the most recent information on damage and train lines.

4. Have an earthquake emergency kit Ready in your home

After the earthquake in Osaka in June 2018, my roommate and I decided to get serious and to finally gather an earthquake kit. You can buy a pre-made one at a store or you can look up what should be needed and make one yourself! We decided to make one ourselves and it contains basics like bottled water, canned food, first aid kit, etc.  Ideally, it contains 3 days of essentials in for the worse case scenario.

To build your own kit, check the advice HERE from the US Embassy in Japan. There are also a lot of other helpful disaster tips contained there too! Japan Info Swap also has a helpful article too.

For an already prepared earthquake kit, check HERE at Rakuten.

5. Know where your evacuation centers/ safety points are

Go to your ward office website and check where the evacuation points are, as each ward handles the evacuation points. Most of this information is in English. For example, type in “Chou Ward Osaka” and the website in English should pop up with a link for evacuation points.

6. Coordinate with Friends and talk about disaster BEFORE it happens

Its a very good idea to talk about disaster scenarios with your friends before I happens, no matter how “morbid” it sounds. When you’re living by yourself in a foreign country, it can be hard to be together with someone at the time of disaster, but make sure to talk with your friends and have a general plan on how to contact them or where to meet up in the case of a disaster. Safety is better in numbers! Someone will know if something happened to you and its another safety net to make sure you are accounted for during a disaster.

7. Register with your country’s embassy/ consulate

Most countries run a program for people living or traveling overseas to register with them in the event  something happens to the traveler or a disaster strikes. If you register with them, they know that you are in the country and will come looking for you if there is a disaster in your area. This also gives a point of contact to family members if they cannot get in contact with you for whatever reason. They can contact the embassy and ask them to give updates on your location etc, and its more helpful for the embassy if they already have your information on file.  The USA embassy program is called STEP and it can be found HERE.

Any tips that I missed? Any other tips or information that you would like to see? Let me know in the comments below!

Questions About Living in Japan – Is It Hard to Get a Job?

Questions about Living in Japan #1

Living in Japan can be a challenge for foreigners and for people looking for information before making the leap to move over here. I reached out on Instagram and asked followers there if they had any questions about life in Japan, and I got some great responses! I want to answer each question in an individual post, so this is the first of a series of posts that I plan to make on questions about living in Japan. The first question is about getting a job in Japan and about the working attitude.

Question 1: Is it hard getting a job there [in Japan]? How is the working attitude there?

Finding a job for a foreigner can be easy for a native English speaker wanting to teach English, but outside of that it can be kind of difficult. A lot of people use teaching English as a springboard to getting a non-English teaching job after. You have to have a high level of Japanese for non-English speaking jobs, for the most part, maybe not an engineer or programmer, and you have to prove you want to live here for the long term…. as per my experience. You should also have experience in that field that you want to work in (masters degrees counting in my opinion) as with any job back in your own home country. You also have to be aware that it is competitive out there. Just because you can speak English and Japanese fluently doesn’t mean you get an easy foot in the door. There are tons of Japanese-English bilinguals out there and the competition is tough… you have to have some sort of other skill that you can contribute, not just language. 

As for the working attitude, I can only speak for non-English teaching jobs, but for the most part, Japanese people are very hard working and expect the same from you. At the beginning, they might be sympathetic to you, but they will teach you Japanese business practices bit by bit, if you don’t know them already, and expect you to follow them. Some of these include coming in before work begins to prepare for the day even though the workday hasn’t started yet, radio exercises (Yes… my first company made us do it EVERY single day), answering the phones even though you are a foreigner, etc. 

Some of these things are company-specific though. The company culture differs from company to company and the size of the company as well, so keep that in mind. I suggest when going for an interview, have a list of what you are looking for in a company and during the interview ask smart questions to see if that company is a right fit for you. For example, if you want to travel overseas a lot, a job just sitting at a desk won’t be right for you. If you want to work on new projects all the time, a job where you are taking over from someone else and the job is pretty much decided is probably not the right fit for you. If you want direct communication with your boss, ask for details about what type of working environment you’re walking into.

There are many ways to ask questions in interviews to see if you will be a good fit for that company, and don’t be afraid to…. an interview is just as much them interviewing you as you are getting a feel if you want to work for them. I made that mistake so many times because I was desperate to get out and move on to “something better” when in reality it wasn’t the best fit for me. I’m on my 4th company here in Japan and I finally found a right fit for me but it took me about 3.5 years to do so… so with that know sometimes you might not find that perfect job fit right away and you can quit if you want. 

On the other hand, I highly recommend you try to stick it out in a company for more than a year though so it doesn’t seem that you are job hopping constantly. There are cycles of liking and disliking your job, just like in your home country, and there is a difference between being harassed/ not agreeing with the company values and wanting to leave after the honeymoon period has died down. You might also be going through some tough projects or work at that moment, so I highly recommend thinking very thoroughly about why you want to quit before you do and also have something lined up before you leave so you can pay your bills.  

Let me know if you want information on how to quit your job in Japan properly! I’ll consider making a blog post or video about it in the future. Also, if you have a question about living in Japan please answer in the comments below! If you have experience with jobs here as well, feel free to comment on your experience.