I’ve been in Tokyo for just under a month now. Seems like much longer. There have been so many logistical details to overcome since arriving here. Paperwork, government papers, bank account, cellphone plan, language school entrance exam, etc.. And that was the just first week.
I’ve since had some time to settle in and find my footing again. I always find arriving in Tokyo to be super overwhelming. The contrast of my lifestyle here compared to Canada is quite drastic. This time I was so busy for the first week that it didn’t really hit me until the second weekend I was here. Now I’m starting to get a rhythm. 調子が良くなってきて、うまくいってます。
It’s Golden week in Japan, which is to say a full one week holiday for everyone. It’s due to unique circumstances that people get the whole week off (the emperor is abdicating). Anyways, I have a lot of free time finally.
My Daily Routine
I’m currently living with a homestay family. They’re actually a family I stayed with 3 years ago. They’re very nice. There are three young boys (5, 9, and 11 years old).
A normal day for me is as follows:
Get up super early. When I arrived in Japan my jetlag meant I got up at weird hours. I’ve since made an effort to not correct it and thus have enabled myself to get up around 5:30-6ish in the morning. It’s nice. The Japanese word for work you do in the morning, before your really starts is 朝活 (asakatsu) which symbol-wise is morning and life.
Breakfast — usually toast and coffee, then leave at 7:25 for the train station.
Arrive at the station around 7:50, then squeeze into the train with other commuters. It’s basically like jumping a mosh pit and being spit out the train at each stop, then forcing your way back on until you get to where you’re going.
Arrive at Yotsuya station by 8:25 then get a siphon coffee at a fancy-ish coffee stand.
School starts at 9, we have two ten minute breaks, then it ends at 12:20. My scheduled routine is not over.
Lunch: I usually grab a nice sandwich at Yotsuya station. There’s a really bakery/restaurant there with a baguette + cheese + cured ham sandwich that I really like. It’s ¥550 or around $6.50 so it’s kind of within my budget. Sometimes I go out with fellow classmates or I’ll eat at a Japanese place, but I’m doing my best to live frugally.
Explore: At this point I have the entire afternoon off, but really I use it for exploring and for homework. I’m usually looking for cafes or libraries where I can study from or work on some programming. On a really good day I’ll interact with some Japanese people. Maybe have a conversation. I did meet a Japanese programmer the other day who I’m going get lunch with next week. Exciting.
Study a lot: Homework for school takes about 3 hours. Kanji test. Written homework. Usually there’s a script I have to memorize. I proactively do my kanji flashcards first so that I can review them for the rest of the day (while walking.. on the train.. etc.). Then I move onto other stuff. I also have my own self-study. In particular I’m talking a class about Japanese pronouciation right now. I have books I’m working through, articles that I try to translate, etc.. I have to make the best of the time I have here and let my brain absorb the language. It’s super hard. I’m a quite self-motivated person when it comes to language learning, but most of my studying is spent alone and that’s hard.
Climbing: Once a week at least I try to go climbing in the afternoon. There’s a really good gym in Akihabara that I like. It even has an outdoor rooftop that you climb at.
Dinner: I try to get home by 5:30ish and my homestay family makes me dinner.
Evenings: Play with the kids a little bit, but mostly just study more. I start to hammer on the script memorization (it requires me to speak out loud so I don’t really do that at cafes or libraries), etc..
There’s variance within this schedule. Meeting the odd friend on a weekday or whatever. But I’m mostly dedicating myself to learning Japanese and not spending money.
A collection of cool or odd things I’ve found in Japan.
I’ve had a decent amount of free time here. Or at least I’m studying at my own volition so if I don’t feel motivated then my mind wanders; I have more time for ponderings than I’m normally used to.
I like interacting with nature. Tokyo is hard for that. I don’t want to look at beautiful grass behind a fence. I want to roll around in it.
I am never recognized as having Japanese ancestry. Actually, that’s not true. One person today noticed, but she was a Canadian from Montreal and she herself has children (who are Japanese mixed) in Tokyo. I am ambivalent because I don’t necessary want recognition, but I’m also treated as if I know nothing.
It’s very important for me to blend in here. I’m not sure why.
I crave acknowledgement. It’s something I never really noticed until I came here and had basically no friends.
I am extremely fortunate to have the time and opportunity that I have. Very thankful.
Integrating into a city is hard.
Thanks for reading my blog. There’s a lot going and I’m sorry that I haven’t been in contact with everyone.
My sister asked me today if I am more spiritually fulfilled here. I would say yes, but I will be really fulfilled when I have a better grasp on the language and don’t feel embarrassed all the time. I am super grateful to be working towards that goal. In many ways I don’t know what else I would want to be doing right now.
Oh, thank you to my parents and family for helping me (especially my mom). The logistical bureaucratic details of getting settled here would be impossible without her.