Wow, has it really been 6 years already?
I’ve always been interested in Japan, but never had a chance to visit until the summer of 2007. That was right after graduating from university. I had a great time in Japan, but I remember clearly that I also was glad to be back home in Germany again.
But then, something strange happened that I really didn’t see coming.
I missed Japan! I was suddenly craving for Japanese food, I had the urge to go back, to experience MORE of what Japan is truly like.
Shortly after that I was sitting in a plane to Japan again, with a “working holiday visa” valid for a year, and I was sure that I would leave again after that.
My First Year in Japan (2008) was ALMOST also my last:
When I first came to Japan, everything was still so new, exciting, but also weird. I was exploring new things on a daily basis.
I couldn’t speak Japanese fluently yet and I had to learn a lot about the culture. It was interesting, but also very challenging.
When that year was coming to an end, I already made up my mind that I wanted to stay another year. Clearly that first year wasn’t enough. There were still so many things I wanted to learn and explore.
The only problem – and that was a huge one – was obtaining a “work visa“. I had to change from a “working holiday visa” to a “proper work visa”.
As I was working at an English conversation school, more commonly known as “eikaiwa“, I needed a “specialist in humanities visa“, but being a non-native speaker of English made it difficult.
When I first applied, it was rejected and I thought I had to leave Japan. That was a horrible time!
I always wanted to be the one to decide when it’s time to leave. I didn’t want to be forced out!
Luckily, everything went well on my second try thanks to the help of great people such as my former boss.
I got a 1-year visa and could stay in the land of the rising sun.
The Years 2009-2011 and The Great Earthquake and Tsunami:
In the following 2 years, I studied Japanese even harder, passed N2, won a prefectural speech contest, attended a Japanese wedding and travelled some more.
At the end of my 3rd year I was thinking a lot. I never planned on staying in Japan forever, but when would be a good time to leave? Would I regret leaving now?
I just couldn’t bring myself to leave. I still had things I wanted to learn, places I wanted to explore. So, in early 2011 I decided that I’d stay another year.
However, as we all know something truly horrible happened then. It had a huge impact on our lives.
I’m talking about the Great Earthquake and Tsunami.
That was a tough time! And a lot of people I knew considered leaving Japan.
Actually, many left – and they never returned. I stayed. And I’m so glad I did!
The Years 2012-2013: Travelling Spree
My interests slowly changed and travelling became my passion.
Although I did travel a lot from 2007 to 2010, I explored even more places from 2011-2013.
By the end of 2012 I had been to all 47 Japanese prefectures. Originally that was never a goal of mine, but when I noticed that I was very close to accomplishing it, I was insanely happy.
And in 2013, I finally managed to hit the 100 mark of Japanese castles I’ve visited.
As I had a lot to share about my life here in Japan and also about all my trips, I decided to create this blog which went officially online in November 2011.
6 Years of Living in Japan – Reflections:
If you told me 10 years ago that I once would live in Japan and that my interests would completely change from manga / anime to travelling and Japanese culture, I would have called you CRAZY! *g*
In the past six years, I’ve seen a lot of good, weird, funny, but also bad things happen.
After living in Japan for some time, it got kind of annoying that Japanese people kept complimenting my Japanese after a mere “arigatou” (thank you). People often assume that I’m American, although I’m German. The daily staring got really to me as it made me feel like I didn’t belong here. Although, I considered Japan as my second home, I always felt – and still often do feel – like an outsider.
It’s not exactly easy to find “true” Japanese friends. Many just want you as a “free English lesson” or an “exotic accessory“. And even the ones who don’t, won’t open up easily, so it hardly feels like a “real friendship”. Of course, there are exceptions, but don’t expect it to be like back home.
Dating in Japan can also be challenging, especially for foreign women.
Crime-wise Japan is a relatively safe country, so I feel comfortable living here.
However, there are a lot of weird guys out there, so as a girl you need to be careful. Stalking, grabbing on trains and stuff like that is very common. Luckily I never had a problem with that in all the time, but I’ve seen weird guys.
I’ve seen a male student sitting in a train, licking his cellphone displaying a photo of a girl, for example.
Living in Japan also taught me a lot about myself.
I never thought I could move to a foreign country and take on so many challenges!
I mastered yet another foreign language, one that isn’t particularly easy, and I can manage my daily life in this foreign country that has become my second home.
I can handle a conversation in a Japanese hospital, I can somewhat deal with the freaking insects and the bad insulation of Japanese houses.
I noticed that no matter what it is, I can do it by myself.
In Japan I discovered new interests and new sides of myself.
Let me finish today’s celebratory blog post with my greatest and worst memories of my time here in Japan thus far:
Some Of My Greatest Memories While Living in Japan:
- Swimming with dolphins on Mikurajima (Tokyo)
- Scuba diving and exploring the mysterious underwater ruins on Yonaguni Island (Okinawa)
- Climbing Mt. Fuji with my brother
- Visiting Mt. Koya with a German friend who was totally fascinated and thanked me later
- Seeing Himeji Castle for the first time in 2007, thinking how nice it would be to live nearby (and later actually living not too far away from it)
- Finally obtaining my work visa, securing my stay in Japan
- Winning a prefectural Japanese speech contest where a lot of other foreigners also took part
- Visiting the snow monkeys in Nagano (it was so much fun!)
- Having an outdoor onsen (rotenburo) in Shirahama all for myself as it was raining cats and dogs
A Few Of My Worst Memories While Living in Japan:
- March 11th, 2011
- Experiencing my first Magnitude 6 earthquake
- Visiting Ishinomaki and seeing the devastation caused by the tsunami
- Bats invading my apartment, frogs robbing my sleep and monster insects everywhere
- Being stuck on Mikurajima and the crazy trip in a fishing boat to nearby Miyakejima
- My application for a work visa in Japan being rejected, thinking that I had no choice but to leave Japan
- All the events that come along with being an “ame onna“
- A Japanese kid pointing at me, screaming “gaijin” (foreigner) in a loud voice, all the people turning around to look at me – and similar situations
It’s so great to see that I have your support. You have no idea how much it encourages me!
This awesome graphic was made for me by Denny Aryadi expressing his gratitude.
I can’t even tell you how happy I am!
Thanks so much Denny and everyone else who keeps supporting me!
I’m glad I’ve been in Japan for 6 years now and I hope to continue sharing my experiences here with all of you.
Thanks for taking this journey with me and I hope you’ll stick around to see what the next few years will bring!