30. | One Year in Japan

お久しぶり~~~ Long time, no post!

One thing is for sure, it’s been a busy seven weeks since I last updated. I wanted nothing more than to sit down and write but between work, social commitments, and studying for my next JLPT exam, that just didn’t happen. After all, adult life doesn’t care about what you want. It’ll happen regardless of whatever embellishments you’ve added to it.

My routine has largely remained the same, but in those seven weeks, I hit a milestone in the life that I’ve made here.

As of the 5th of November 2018, I’d lived in Japan for a whole year, and in my opinion, that’s a pretty big deal.

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Yokohama ❤

I started this journey with more than a few doubts, not knowing if I was making a mistake, not knowing if I would be able to handle the change, and not knowing if I’d stick with my decision past the initial five month contract. But, as some would say, I am my own worst critic and I surpassed all of the expectations I had set myself.

Regardless of the challenges I’ve had to face, I can honestly say that this has been one of the best years of my life.

I’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing recently, so I figured I’d collect some of the stories I haven’t really shared to my blog yet…

 

Shiba friends

Round the corner from my apartment is a house with a beautiful shiba inu. When we first moved here, we didn’t know his name, so I decided to call him Yacchan as an abbreviation of his family’s name.

I would see Yacchan every day on my way to work and he very quickly warmed up to me. He’d run up to the gate when he saw me coming and he’d press his head against the bars for me to pet him, struggling against the barrier trying to get as close as possible. My heart broke when I changed schools and had to go a different way, as that meant I rarely saw him.

Fortunately he hasn’t forgotten me, because a little while ago we were walking past the house and I made an offhand about how I missed him. Almost like he’d heard me, Yacchan came running, pressed himself up against the gate and let me stroke him like nothing had changed.

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Mameshiba

Shibas are for sure my favourite dogs, and one time I was able to hold one – a small Mameshiba puppy in a pet shop in Motomachi.

Japanese pet shops make me feel a little guilty seeing as oftentimes the cubicles are too small for the animals but sometimes they’re too cute to resist taking a look. In this pet shop, they offered to let us hold a pair of puppies, and I was not going to object. Once the puppy was in my lap, I absolutely melted.

He was so tiny, and shivering from the wintery draft from the open door. I’ve never been one for dogs in general (growing up with a phobia will do that) but I’m not scared anymore, and I’ve definitely never wanted one more than in that moment.

I should probably check out the Mameshiba café in Kamakura once I get the chance.

 

An afternoon in Naka-ku

On my last day of my first contract, I was feeling kind of bummed.

Don’t get me wrong, work was fantastic, but I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that I wasn’t going to be coming back to that school as soon as I left the grounds. I’d grown to love the school a lot, and during their nomikai, they told me that the kids loved me too and everyone wanted me to stay. But that decision wasn’t entirely theirs to make.

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Chai Tea Cafe, Chinatown

As a treat to myself, I decided to take myself on a little date to say ‘congratulations on finishing your first contract in Japan’. It wouldn’t be anything fancy, just some quiet ‘me’ time. I was within walking distance of Chinatown, so I decided to pay the panda café a visit. Unfortunately it wasn’t there anymore so I explored the rest of the Chūkagai to find a suitable alternative. It was then when I found my favourite café where I occasionally go to write. I had my chai latte, read my Kindle, and listened to the jazz music in the background. I felt the tension leave my body as my eyes passed over the words, only stopping so I could sip my drink.

Afterwards, I found myself by Yamashita Park. I’d had some time to sit and relax, so I decided to take advantage of the nice weather to go for a walk. Starting at Marine Tower, I wandered past Hikawamaru and along the coastline to Sakuragichō, fully appreciating the view of the Minato Mirai area.

I love Yokohama and this was one the times that reminded me how much.

 

Pikachu Outbreak

I’d first heard of the Pikachu Outbreaks a few years ago via J-vloggers on YouTube. It wasn’t until last year when I was researching Yokohama that I realised that I was moving to the city where the event was held. I was determined to go and nine months into life in Yokohama, I was desperate.

My friends would post things online about seeing the Pikachu and this year they were joined by Eevee for the first time. I needed to go; I’d kick myself if I didn’t.

I was just about coming out of bed rest, but I didn’t care. I stuck a mask on my face, put medicine and plenty of fluids in my bag, and off I went. In fact, I made it just in time as I reached Sakuragichō shortly before a show started. I found a spot on the bridge and the music began to play.

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Pikachu Boat Greeting

To the beat of a dubstep song, out came the Pikachu, including a boat full of them dressed as sailors. Then came the water buses driving into Tokyo Bay. They sailed around for a while, and then the show came to a close.

A short time later, an Eevee show was starting so I made a beeline to the Red Brick Warehouse. Seeing as the Eevees were a new addition this year, I knew I needed to see them. On a grassy area near the Warehouse, the Pokémon danced a kind of barn dance and they were absolutely adorable.

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Eevee March

I was going to see the “Super Soaking Splash Show” too, but it was ridiculously hot and I was sick so I ended up just sitting down to rest and take my medicine. I thought I saw a YouTuber I recognised while trying to find a seat, but I was in too much of a daze to stop and say hello.

Once I’d had chance to recover, I wandered around Minato Mirai to see what was going on. By the time I’d got back to Landmark Tower, it was starting to grow dark, which meant it was almost time for the light show. I made a detour to re-hydrate at Starbucks before heading towards the MarkIs shopping centre. I thought I was early enough to get a good spot but I was so wrong.

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Pikachu March

It was already busy so I had to stand on a raised area further back to be able to see. But I could still see, which was the important thing. Several Pikachu in sunglasses and light up suits came parading outside and one even had a glowing afro. They danced up and down the path, and almost too soon, they retreated back inside.

By that point, I knew it was time to go back home. I’d pushed myself pretty hard, but I didn’t even regret it.

 

Hakkeijima

Other than my brief outing to see the Pikachu, I’d pretty much had to stay inside this summer. But a couple of friends were leaving Japan and I knew I had to go to their goodbye celebration. I mean, how could I not?

A group of us met at Hakkeijima, home to Hakkeijima Sea Paradise, but we weren’t there for the theme park. There’s also a Marine Park with a beach, and that night there would be fireworks over the sea.

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Summer fireworks

The afternoon started with a chill out on the beach before it got too crowded. A sheet had been put down under a couple of trees and we spent time chatting and playing card games away from the direct heat. Occasionally leaving the shady respite of our picnic area, I went to enjoy the beach while I could. I really hadn’t planned ahead and was wearing jeans so I rolled them up as far as my legs would allow before dipping my toes into the water.

A few of my friends had decided to join me and we walked along the shore while talking, punctuated by me ducking down to pick up any perfectly shaped shells. My friend helped me look for them and I now keep that collection in a tiny jar on my bedside table.

Once the sun had set, the beach had become very busy. We’d moved our sheet out onto the sand, and in amongst the crowd, we watched as the fireworks exploded above us, their reflections glittering in the water below. It was sad to say goodbye, but after being stuck in bed for so long, I was just glad that I could be there and see my friends before they moved away.

 

Escape Rooms in Tokyo

Is there anything more team building than locking yourself in a room together? Probably, but my friends and I survived our initial training so we’re probably already at an advantage there.

The guys had tickets to the Tokyo Game Show so us girls decided to hang out until they arrived in the evening, exploring an area of the capital that we’d both never been to before. After grabbing lunch and doing a spot of shopping in Ikebukuro, we went in search of the weeby 90s kid Mecca: The Mega Tokyo Pokémon Center in Sunshine City.

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Sunshine City in Ikebukuro

As we got closer, we could tell instantly that we were near due to the sheer amount of cosplayers walking around.

We navigated our way to the Pokémon Center and it wasn’t long before we found it. I’ve visited the one in Yokohama quite a few times but this was bigger, busier, and arguably better.

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Tourist alert!

I ended up buying a few things, and it was getting closer to when were supposed to be meeting the boys, so we decided to head there with plenty of time to spare… but not before taking touristy photos in front of the Pokémon Center sign.

We caught the train, and on our way to our destination, it stopped at the area where we stayed in our first week in Japan.

It was nostalgic, and after remembering how scared and stressed I was back then I can certainly understand those emotions, but now they just feel so far away.

Arriving in Asakusa with enough time to grab a drink, we were shortly joined by the others.

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Nazobako Escape Room

Once we entered the building, we were greeted by the same staff member that operated our escape room a few months prior. Surprisingly enough, he actually remembered us! Either we’re just that awesome or escaping with a single second to spare was memorable enough.

We’d chosen a more difficult room this time, a samurai-themed one that was the next level up. Despite that, we got out faster. I’m not going to go into detail because I don’t think the venue would appreciate me giving out hints to other people, but I had a good time. I hadn’t done any escape rooms before coming to Japan so I can’t give an accurate comparison but I would recommend Nazobako for how friendly the staff are.


I’ve made some amazing memories during my first twelve months in Japan and I’ve met some amazing people. I feel very fortunate to be in this situation and I’m not planning on leaving just yet, so I’m looking forward to having even more great experiences.

See you in the next blog post!


What’s something that’s made you happy this year? Let me know in the comments!

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