If you decide to move to Japan there is a ton of information online on how to do it but there is also a ton of things that nobody tells you.
Here are 5 things that I wasn’t told about life in Tokyo.
Trains Run Your Life
You will spend an eff-ton of time on trains. If you’re an ALT or teach at an eikawa, chances are you’ll be zipping from school to school and yeah… all that zipping happens on the train. For HOURS. When you first start commuting, learn your stops in both kanji and katakana so even if your train doesn’t have English, you won’t miss your stop. Download the hyperdia app to make your life immeasurably easier.
Despite Tokyo being a global hub city, you can’t get everything you want
If you’re new here, you’ll forget about some of the little things you use all the time but figure “Hey it’s Japan they’ll have it.” Stuff like vitamins and almond milk are harder to find (if anyone finds almond milk in Tokyo please message me), so sites like iherb.com and amazon.jp are lifesavers.
You’ll love the high tech and hate the low tech
Despite being a global hub city, it can be technologically obtuse. Japan is like a futuristic movie set in the year 2020… but was made in 1983. Fax machines are a normal means of communication. Flip phones are everywhere. The amount of paper it takes to get a simple project done would make an environmentalist weep. That said, there are a multitude of gadgets and appliances that make life easier for living in small spaces, and you can run a small business out of the print center at your corner conbini. You take the good with the WTF.
Ladies. Two words: Scrunchies and pantyhose
Okay you don’t need to know this but it was a shocker to me. When I (used to) think Tokyo, it meant high fashion. And it’s here, in certain areas of Tokyo, and not nearly to the extent I had imagined. Women all over dress up more, but it’s very common to see women wear pantyhose with polyester dresses and plastic open-toe sandals. If you come to teach and wear dresses or skirts, guess what? No bare legs. Not even in the sweltering heat. And the scrunchies. SCRUNCHIES EVERYWHERE. With zero irony. I thought they stopped making them when Punky Brewster got cancelled.
It’s not THAT expensive.
Maybe I’m jaded coming from San Francisco, but rent is pretty reasonable here. Yes places are smaller but you already knew that. I’m shopping for a new crib in North Tokyo right now and even the nicer places at the top of my skinny teacher-writer budget are half of what I paid in SF. Plus taxes are super low, and yeah- the no tipping thing.
The “Japan is so expensive” deal is one of the many stigmas that are vestiges from the Japan economic boom in the 80’s. Fruit and electricity are totally more expensive (think $9.00 watermelons) but seriously. Not bad. You’ll be fine. 🙂