Where have you been living as a Kiwi expat?
What took you there, what do you do?
I initially came to teach English for a year, but I was having such a good time I extended my contract for a second year.
After that I decided that, while teaching was fun, I really wanted to get back into PR again. However this is almost impossible if you can’t speak Japanese, so I’ve been studying the language for the past two years, and am almost finished.
How do you find living overseas on your own?
When I first came, I lived alone in a company-provided apartment, which had its ups and downs. The good part was that I didn’t have to deal with nosey parents or messy boyfriends. If I wanted to do the vacuuming at 2am, I did it. The downside was that it got lonely sometimes. But it taught me how to be comfortable with being by myself, which was a valuable lesson.
Now I’m living with my boyfriend and my toy poodle, and I couldn’t be happier.
Your favourite spots?
I like Shibuya because it’s convenient, always buzzing and has everything you could want; shopping malls, restaurants, bars etc. It’s also where the famous Shibuya Crossing is that you always see in movies. Nakameguro River is also really beautiful especially during cherry blossom season, when the river is lined with the trees in full bloom. I also like Daikanyama. It’s got heaps of cute cafes and shops hidden down little side streets and is perfect for walking my dog after Sunday brunch.
I definitely my family and friends. It can be hard only seeing them once a year (I usually go back for Christmas). But I try to keep in touch as much as I can through Facebook, WhatsApp and Skype.
Worst thing about living there?
There can be a lot of unnecessary rules sometimes that make no sense to me. For example, if you go to the pool here, you must wear a swimming cap. You must cover up your tattoos. You can’t wear sunglasses even if you’re just sitting in the pool. And once an hour for about 10 minutes they get everyone out of the pool so that the lifeguards can scan the pool. For what, I’m not quite sure… Needless to say, I don’t go to the pool so much these days.
Best thing about living abroad?
I’m very fortunate to be able to travel abroad a lot. Being a student means that I can basically take time off whenever I want so the boyfriend and I head off overseas about six times a year. Just in the next few weeks we have trips planned for Vietnam, Singapore and Italy. I also love the food here in Tokyo. Everything is made with quality ingredients and with such care that you have to be careful not to gain weight when you first arrive. Everything just tastes so good!
What to do in Tokyo in with only a weekend?
One of the things I love most about Tokyo, is it’s perfect combination of modern and historical – you can see both sides even in just a weekend.
Start with the famous Shibuya Cross then walk over to Harajuku to spot the infamous Harajuku girls, get in some shopping and try the best ramen in town at the popular Ichiran ramen shop. In the afternoon you can go to the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi and then pop over to the Tokyo Tower to watch the sunset around Tokyo. For dinner, I would recommend New York Grill in the Park Hyatt. It has an incredible view and was where they filmed Lost In Translation.
The next day, I would focus on the traditional side of Tokyo. Explore Asakusa where they have rows of little stalls selling Japanese street food and souvenirs. You can also visit the temple and get your fortune or ‘omikuji’ written in English. Finally, you can’t leave Tokyo without trying sushi. Stay away from the sushi train joints and head to a proper sushi restaurant that serves quality ingredients. Gonpachi or @Sushizanmai are both good choices.
What’s the best experience you’ve had in Tokyo/Japan?
That’s a tough one but I guess if I had to narrow it down I would say learning the language. Although it’s tough, it really has made my life in Japan so much more enjoyable and it’s a skill that I will have with me for life.