Asia · Somewhere Else

Somewhere else – Tokyo, Japan

Now that I’ve got my blog ‘functional’ again, I’d like to play around with it a bit and try out an idea I had for a series a few years ago. I did some leg work on this but never got to posting anything.

After spending a few years away from home, I’ve met so many people with interesting lives and stories, many of them living in a foreign country a long way away from they were brought up. I’m interested in what life is like as an expat in each country, how things differ living abroad and what they miss from their past lives.

My first interviewee is Jordan Bradbury. We went to university together in Cardiff, Wales and graduated in 2011. Since then Jordan has lived in Thailand and Japan and travelled extensively, including driving from England to Mongolia in a beat up car as part of the Mongol rally! He’s now living in Japan and I had a few questions for him.

Where are you from originally: England

Where do you currently live? Tokyo, Japan

What job do you do in Tokyo?  I’m an English Teacher

How did you get the job there – did you apply for the job before you got to the country? I applied online and did a Skype interview. It was important for me to get a job and accommodation sorted before arriving in Japan, as renting a place can be quite expensive, and I was coming from Thailand – so I didn’t have a lot of money to burn.

What was the visa application like? Painless and easy. I had to go to a consulate and I was done in less than an hour. Never in all my visa experience has it been so easy. I was suspicious.

What’s your accommodation like? I live in a small, one room apartment. Walk in and you’re in the narrow kitchen, beyond that is the living room, directly above is a platform for the bed, which you reach via a ladder. It’s very small, as most Japanese places are. But it’s nice.

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How often do you eat out in Tokyo? Eating out can be a little expensive, so I normally do it only once or twice a week. Most of the time I cook at home, which I enjoy doing.

Where would you go for a drink? If I was a drinker, I’d go to an izakaya (kind of bar), where alcohol is cheap and you can get ‘all you can drink’ sets with meals. Something that would not be able to be supported in most other countries. Because I’m not a big drinker, I just have some wine at home.

Where’s the best coffee around? You can buy coffee from any vending machine (hot or cold), with the machines being on every street corner, pretty much. They’re not bad, considering that they are canned coffee. As for GOOD coffee, you’d have to go to a proper cafe. There are lots of little places all over Tokyo. Japanese people enjoy coffee.

Have you tried new foods in your new home? The most interesting new food I tried was fugu, that fish that can kill you if the chef doesn’t cut it correctly. I’m writing this right now, so I feel pretty confident I’m OK. The taste was ever so bland, but the experience was fun.

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How do you spend your spare time?

Videogames and movies (at home because cinema is expensive). Drinking is a legitimate hobby in Japan, with a huge number of people being functioning alcoholics, but because I don’t enjoy that stuff, I normally end up just chilling out at my home.

How did you find it adapting to a different culture – what are the striking differences between your hometown and your adopted city? My hometown is a small place in the countryside of England that is home to about 5,000 people. That’s five thousand. Tokyo is made up of 26 cities together and has a population of 13 million.  So….it’s very different!

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What are the transport options like in Tokyo? Public transport is insanely efficient and affordable. There are stereotypes about Japanese trains for good reason – they’re on a whole different level. One minute late is appalling, three minutes late and the station staff can give you a ticket to give to your boss to explain why you’re late.

How does the language barrier affect you? Have you learnt a new language? I’ve learnt the basics like hello, thank you, etc… but I struggle with learning languages (teaching them comes naturally though), however that isn’t really a problem in Tokyo, everyone is helpful and most people speak at least fundamental English.

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Are there many free/community events? Japan loves community events, with stuff going on all the time. However, I live in the suburbs and all the posters are in Japanese and I’m too shy to ask about them.

Have you learnt any new sports or skills that you might not have known about before moving to your new home? I’ve learnt leathercraft. I’ve been making wallets and phone cases. Crafts are really popular in Japan, especially among women (who are typically housewives), so it is easy to find craft shops to buy tools and materials.

How much is a loaf of bread in your new home? About 150 yen – $1.20.

What is the climate like in Tokyo? It’s quite seasonal, with hot and humid summers, warm and pleasant springs, wet and cold autumns and snowy winters.

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Are there any customs in Tokyo that baffle or irritate you? The love of the Nazis that a lot of people have. You see people dressed up in full Nazi uniforms walking down the streets in Akihabara (the nerd/hobby district), with replica guns and swords. There are shops dedicated to Nazi paraphernalia and clothes. It’s crazy.

Have you picked up any local habits that you are likely to carry on if you move away? I can eat rice with chopsticks now. I’m not catching flies yet, but I don’t frequent restaurants where I’d need to do that.

Could you see yourself living there long term? Probably not in Tokyo, as it’s very stressful and career-focused. I’d prefer to live in another city, like Kyoto, which is more laid back.

How easy is it to get food from England? Lots of supermarkets sell imported goods, but obviously they’re expensive. I even found Marmite. So I don’t need anything else.

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If you are an expat and would like to take part in this series, send me a message – I’d love to hear from you!

Would you like to visit Japan? Leave a comment below.

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