Life in Japan. The first month.
I’ve been living in Japan for 6 years now. I remember when I first decided to move to Japan and the almost constant feeling of being high on dopamine. Here is what the first month living in Japan was like for me.
Why I moved
After finally landing my dream job in New York, I was disappointed to find that my life didn’t suddenly become colorful like the scene in the Wizard of Oz. In fact, the only time I remember being truly happy after 14 years in New York was during the short vacation I took to Turin, Italy.
I decided I wanted to leave New York. And if I was going to leave New York, I might as well move to the only place I have ever wanted to live.
I signed up for a student visa using GoGoNihon. (Amazing service btw, 100% recommend it). A student visa is the easiest visa you can get as an American. If you aren’t American, you can get a working holiday visa. It takes about 6 months of preparation, so be prepared.
The day before my flight I woke up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. My plane ticket had 2 different dates. The date in my timezone and the date in Japan. So I ran in my pajamas in the middle of the night to JFK airport with all my shit, terrified that I had missed my flight. I didn’t.
The next day I really went to the airport. My friends saw me off and I was on my way. I can remember the excitement so clearly. I’m not sure why but the idea of living in Japan was the most excited I had ever been.
My idea was to live in Japan for 2 years and study Japanese at a school in Osaka. I figured that after 2 years I would be able to speak Japanese and I could go back home with the ability to watch anime without subtitles.
Boy was I f**king wrong. But that was a problem for future Jason.
Not in Kansa anymore
After I landed at KIX airport someone from GoGoNihon picked me up and drove me to my homestay. I met the kind old lady who would be my host for the next 6 months or so.
Homestay in Japan has extreme highs and lows. Check out my blog if you wanna read about Japanese culture shock.
Suddenly living with a traditional Japanese woman was an extreme change from my single twentysomething NYC lifestyle. In Japan you must always be very conscious of your effect on other people. To make things more difficult, Japan people are very indirect. It is considered rude to confront someone, so people have a way of suggesting things passively. However, this does not mean they are passive, this is just a form of communication used in Japan and it is demanded that you understand it. It would work like this: My host would say something like, “You hands must be a little dirty”, which means you need to wash your hands right now and make sure you wash them before every meal. Japanese people can get very frustrated when you don’t understand the undercurrent behind what they are saying. Coming from New York, it took awhile for me to catch on. All in all, my host was a wonderful woman and I learned a lot about the culture.
For the first month after I landed in Japan my mouth was literally salivating every time I walked past a restaurant. I’m not joking. I was drooling every time I smelled food.
I’ve always loved Japanese food, but authentic Japanese food in Osaka makes NYC’s Japanese taste like garbage. (Actually I went back to NY last year and I literally couldn’t eat the Japanese food there anymore). The food alone is worth the trip.
I studied Japanese at a school called Arc Academy in the heart of Osaka.
School started off with a kana placement test. I didn’t know a single character which was okay. They placed me in the JLPT N5 class. The classes are separated by JLPT level. Every 3 months you take a test and you can graduate to the next level. All courses are taught in 100% Japanese and you are encouraged to not speak your native language in class. Every lesson was 3 hours and attendance is mandatory. Missing classes will cause your visa to be revoked and you will be deported. My class started by teaching the kana, starting with hiragana. Everyday we would also study a different grammar piece. After learning kana we switched to kanji. The school even published its own material -> here.
Here is how Japanese school was like for me. I’m a high school dropout. I never did well in school. During class I would spend as much time as possible reading books under my desk. I was always able to skate by and pass tests but after becoming homeless when I was 16 I didn’t care anymore and just quit.
If this sounds like you then Japanese school may be difficult for you. These school are strict environments revolving around constant testing. You are taught material for 4 days, then are tested on Friday. In my case that was learn about 10 kanji per day, including the onyomi (Chinese reading) and kunyomi (Japanese reading) and several vocabulary per character. For example:
好 (Suki • Like)
Kun: この.む、 す.く、 よ.い、 い.い On: コウ
- 好 【コウ】 good
- 好意 【コウイ】 kindness, favor, favour, friendliness, goodwill, affection, liking (for someone), love
- 友好 【ユウコウ】 friendship
- 同好 【ドウコウ】 similar tastes
That’s one kanji. Everyday you learn about 10. Then a test every week. So 10 kanji * 4 days * n (amount of readings + words) = a shit load of stuff you MUST memorize every week.
Then on the same day is a grammar test for all the grammar pieces you learned. My school taught several per day.
Failing these tests means you can’t graduate. Everyone in my class had a difficult time with two exceptions. Chinese students and anime nerds (god bless them). If you want to be successful in language school you better be prepared to spend 3 hours in class + at least 5ish hours of independent study per day.
P.S. My school is considered to be one of the easiest Japanese language schools.
I didn’t study 10 hours a day
Don’t do what I did. I had no experience studying anything in a school environment at this point in my life. I didn’t know how to study for 8 hours a day. Instead I had fun.
I studied hard for the first month. I spent all my time at my homestay learning to read Japanese.
After the first month, I made some friends and started getting up to no good. I have a lot of crazy stories so subscribe to the blog if you wanna read more. Thank for reading. 🐶
You are gonna need 460000円 every semester or every 6 months. All together, if you wanna stay in Japan for a year at the bare minimum you need is $15000. Tuition is 7–8 grand, rent is about $700/mo, and food, books, etc, plus the $2000 plane ticket. You can easily find a part time job when you get here if you want/need extra cash. Don’t expect to make more than $500 a month working part time though. If you make friends easily, you can easily get a job as a bar tender here. But anyone can get a job teaching english if that is your native language. Message me on twitter if you wanna ask me anything.