Archive for May, 2018
This blog has been the story of my 3 year journey to teach English in Japan.
I originally kept a blog from 2003-2006 to keep my friends and family up to date on what I was doing overseas. Starting in 2013 I began reposting my original blog, but with all of the posts rewritten to add more detail and information that I couldn’t discuss at the time. I had the best intentions of posting everything exactly 10 years after it originally happened. Thanks to a combination of life changes (primarily new job and becoming a parent), the whole process took about an extra year and a half.
My original blog only covered my time teaching in Japan. Since that time The Penpal moved to Canada, we traveled, had some run-ins with immigration, got married, and became parents. Some of these events have already been covered, but I haven’t written about others yet. I’m planning on writing posts on some of the more memorable things that have happened after my original blog ended. Stay tuned – there’s more to the story yet!
Prior to my return from Japan to Canada, my parents had found an apartment for me. The apartment came with two sets of keys. Each of my parents took one set so they could have access to drop off my stuff.
My mom had given me her set of keys when she took me shopping yesterday, however my dad had forgotten to hand over his. Instead of making a trip into Winnipeg to drop them off, he gave them to his friend Randy who was coming to Winnipeg and would deliver them to me.
I arranged to meet Randy at the Second Cup coffee shop at the corner of River and Osborne, just down the street from my new apartment. I got there early and grabbed coffee and a window seat. As I was drinking my coffee, my friend Junk just happened to walk by the window. He noticed me, stopped, and came running into Second Cup to say hi.
Since my return to Canada 2 days earlier, I had been busy and jetlagged so I hadn’t yet reached out to any of my old friends. Junk was the last of my friends that I had seen when I moved to Japan. He had surprised me by coming to the airport to see me off when I left Canada 3 years ago. It was fitting that he was the first friend I saw when I came back to Canada; I felt like my travel had finally come full circle!
It was coincidental that Junk just happened to be walking by at the same time that I was in Second Cup. Even more coincidental was the fact that Junk and Triple D were sharing an apartment just down the street from my new place! I was happy to be living so close to some of my old friends; it truly felt like I had returned home.
I woke up in the morning 9,000 km away from where I slept the day before, my brain still 14 hours ahead of local time. My plan for the day was to buy a bed, a computer, and unpack my apartment as much as possible.
After my experiences rebuilding a used computer in Japan, I decided to spend some of my teaching money on a brand new computer that I could plug in and use. I picked one up at Future Shop. The ease of our purchase prompted my mom to buy a new computer to replace her old, problematic one. Our commissioned salesman was a happy guy.
Our next stop was Best Sleep Center, where I picked out an incredibly comfortable queen sized mattress and box spring. We managed to arrange delivery for the next day. This was my first time ever picking out a mattress that someone else would be using – it was a bit stressful! I hope The Penpal likes what I chose.
When I was giving the address for bed delivery I suddenly realized that I had made a huge mistake: my street address is 395, but when I had mailed 5 boxes of stuff from Japan to Canada I had given my address as 359.
As soon as I got home I called Canada Post to explain my situation. Because of the delivery method I had chosen, I couldn’t officially change the delivery address. Canada Post said they would contact both the Winnipeg distribution and the local post office to let them know of the change, and hopefully someone would notice before attempting delivery. This was not at all reassuring.
Remember friends: when mailing all of your stuff back home, MAKE SURE YOU ARE MAILING IT TO THE CORRECT ADDRESS!!
(2018 Update 1) A few weeks later I received all of my boxes at the correct address. Thank you Canada Post!!
(2018 Update 2) After 10 years of use, a few adventures, and several unfortunate encounters with a barfy kid, we are finally going to replace the mattress. Otsukaresama mattress-san!
After 3 years of living and working in Japan, flying home was pretty sad. Having said that, I would much rather be sad than airsick for 10 hours like the poor woman who sat next to me on my flight to Vancouver. It’s not really fair to say that she sat next to me: she spent most of the flight running to the bathroom. I felt bad for her, and thankful that I have never had serious problems on a flight.
A few hours away from Vancouver we flew into a huge storm that kept the plane bouncing. We were delayed on our landing as the storm was so bad that only one of the runways was open. I’m happy that we weren’t redirected to a different airport.
Unlike the flight to Vancouver, my flight to Winnipeg was quick and uneventful. Thanks to the wonders of international time zones, I arrived in Winnipeg about 15 minute before I left Japan. My parents and sister were waiting for me in the arrival area carrying a huge Canadian flag. It was good to be home!
My mom and sister had found an apartment for me before I came home, but since there was almost no furniture in it yet, I went back to my parents house for the evening. My parents live in the “city” of Portage la Prairie, about 70km west of Winnipeg. On the drive I got my first taste of reverse culture shock, fascinated by people driving on the right and the huge open spaces between cities. It’s going to take me a while to adjust!
After a busy morning, I had lunch with The Penpal and her family at their house. They wanted to come to the airport with me to see me off.
We took the shinkansen from Mishima to Tokyo, switched to Yamanote Line briefly (which is not fun with giant suitcases), and took the Keisei Skyliner from Nippori to the airport. The Skyliner is cheaper than the Narita Express, but the Express is much more convenient if you have large bags.
Check-in went smoothly, leaving enough time to sit and chat before I went through security. Over the past few years, I have gone from being the overseas friend to gaijin boyfriend to gaijin fiancee, and eventually part of the family. I’m really going to miss my future in-laws and I’m excited about showing them around Canada in the future.
I told them that in Canada there is a lot more crying at the airport when someone leaves. The Penpal’s father told me that Japanese people cry too, they just hold it until they get home. He gave me a handshake (not a bow), I hugged The Penpal’s mother, then hugged my wonderful fiancee before going through security. I will always remember seeing them waving goodbye as I took the escalator down to the immigration area.
At immigration, I had to turn in my gaijin card and they cancelled my visas and remaining re-entry stamps. I had dutifully carried my gaijin card everywhere for the past 3 years, so it was strange to leave it behind permanently. My 3 year adventure was over, and it was a fantastic experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. Good bye Japan, and thanks for the memories!
Leaving day! I woke up early, ate breakfast, and then realized that despite a few weeks of packing, I still had more stuff to send home than suitcase space. I still had one moving box available, so I speed packed it and took it to the post office with The Penpal. We also stopped at Hard Off to sell any electronics I had left: my stereo, my computer, and my giant monitor that I had bought from Hard Off. Yes, they were going to get a chance to sell the same monitor twice!
I returned to the apartment for one last check of my room. The only remaining items were all big and bulky, including my well worn futons and my floor couch. Disposing of large items in Japan requires you to pay for a special pickup. I left some cash behind with my roommates to cover the costs, and then said by goodbyes.
In my entire time in Japan, I was lucky enough to have some really great roommates that I got along well with. I’m really going to miss Azeroth and Klaxman – they are both good guys. It was sad to leave my keys behind and walk out of Ooka City Plaza for the last time.
(2018 Update) It turns out that I gave my roommates way too much money for garbage disposal. They used the remaining funds to buy a Nintendo Wii.
As someone who has moved several times in both Canada and Japan, I have developed a rule of thumb about how long it packing will take.
- Take a look around and determine how much stuff needs to be packed
- Estimate how long packing might take, assuming breaks, interruptions, and time spent looking for tape and boxes
- Multiply your guess from the previous step by 5. Congratulations – it’s going to take longer than that.
In addition to packing and cleaning, I also got out of the house to run a few errands. First, I picked up a few souvenirs for anyone I hadn’t already gotten something for. Next, I went to a bank machine to transfer all of my remaining money back to Canada. Finally I went to Vodafone and cancelled my phone service. Giving up the phone service was hard – after 3 years of having my phone with me at all times, I felt completely naked without it.
Just before cancelling my phone, I had made arrangements with Christopher Cross to sell my Playstation 2 and all of the games. My Playstation got a lot of use both as a game system and a DVD player over the past few years. Time spent in front of my PS2 meant less time and money spent at izakayas. This allowed me to pay off some student loans, and probably saved some additional damage to my liver. My PS2 was one of the best investments I made during my entire time in Japan!
Christopher and I took all of the gear to his apartment, then went out for dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant. I had never eaten Indian before. Christopher was British, so he knew his way around the menu and made sure that everything we ordered was delicious. This would be the last dinner I ate in Japan, and it was a good one.
I eventually found my way home and finished up a bit more packing. I can’t believe I’m leaving tomorrow!!
Before finishing off the stories of my teaching adventures in Japan, I’d be doing a disservice to my blog to not talk about one of the most interesting parts of life in Japan: love hotels. Note to readers: if you were expecting pictures you will be disappointed – this isn’t that type of blog.
Japan is a densely populated country with living spaces that would be considered “small” by North American standards. Also, it’s not uncommon for older relatives to be living with the children’s families. This creates a situation where privacy for some, um… quality time with your significant other is not always easy to come by. The same problems exist for English teachers, who often live in small apartments together where you can hear almost everything that is going on even behind closed doors.
Fortunately Japan has a solution for the lack of privacy: love hotels! They are specifically designed as a place where people can go for some intimate time together. Rooms are available for a “rest”, usually 2-3 hours, or a “stay” which lasts overnight.
The typical love hotel room is MUCH bigger than a regular hotel room. Love hotel rooms are also more fun, featuring bigger beds, adjustable music and mood lighting, and extras like video games, karaoke machines or even tanning beds. The bathrooms contain nice deep tubs big enough for two, usually with jets. Due to the purpose of the rooms, you will always find condoms, a sex toy vending machine, and 3 channels of free porn on the TV. Be warned: one of these channels is usually terrifying ( depending on your personal tastes).
Love hotels are also built for privacy: check in can be done without any face to face communication. Food can be ordered from nearby restaurants and the delivery comes through a tiny door in the wall. I have even seen love hotels where each parking spot has it’s own entrance to the rooms.
Overall, love hotels rooms are bigger, better, and more comfortable than regular hotel rooms, often at a lower price. If you’re for a fun cultural experience in Japan, or you don’t want your roommates to listen in, I highly recommend taking a rest at a love hotel* – they’re fantastic!
* You will need to provide your own partner
After a few weeks of trying to decide which of my things were going to stay in Japan and which things I wanted to bring back to Canada, I have ended up with 5 boxes of stuff to send and my 2 giant suitcases to accompany me on the flight.
About a month ago, my mother and sister started apartment hunting for me in Winnipeg. Vacancies are usually pretty low, so it took them a while to find a nice, spacious 1 bedroom apartment in Osborne Village, the same neighbourhood I lived in before I moved to Japan. The area is filled with cool stores and restaurants all within walking distance, and is served by several bus routes. Having a place to live also means that I have a place to mail my boxes.
There was no way I could get 5 boxes to the post office by myself. Thankfully, my helpful future father-in-law had the day off and gave me a ride. He waited patiently while I filled out the parcel forms several times. The one thing I wasn’t prepared for was the customs forms where I had to list all of the contents of each box. This took a little memory work, a little unpacking, and a lot of time. In total it cost me 40,000 yen to ship my stuff home (about $400). Ouch!
Shop sensibly when living overseas for a few years – you’ll thank me later.