It's been a while

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted a big update. I have excuses, but let’s just jump into it instead.

What has happened since my last post

These are the cliff-notes of what has happened. I’ll go into more detail further down the post.

  • I moved into a new place. I was previously living with a host family, but in August I moved into a share house. I now have 9 other roommates who are all really nice.
  • I’ve continued to go to Japanese school. What had originally been a 6-month study plan turned into a 9-month study place, which has now turned a full year of studying. I will be in school until mid-march.
  • I wrote a Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT N2), which nearly killed me and I doubt I passed. So I’ll write it again in June!
  • I participated in a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat. It was my second time, but first time in Japan. I wrote a post about this immediately afterwards. Here’s a link.
  • I’ve had visitors! Including my parents, sister, and a few friends.
  • I released an app called When To Chat, link here.
  • I post on Instagram sometimes, here
  • And more…

The new place

I live in what is called a shared house. It’s very similar to a university dorm, but with adults. I have my own room, but the kitchen is shared. The public areas are cleaned twice a week.


I have 9 other roommates. 1 is Canadian, 1 is from Myanmar (though he’s been in Japan for almost two decades), and 7 are Japanese.


I chose my place because of it’s traditional aesthetic. It’s an old house and the landlord lives next door.



Continuing with Japanese studies

This is where the bulk of my time has been spent. I’m enrolled in a full-time Japanese school program for “business Japanese.” Admittedly, I’ve seen huge improvement. As much as possible I’ve dedicated myself to studying.


(drawing by Kaho)

I entered the school at level Intermediate 1. My original plan was only to study for two semesters, but I felt that my level wasn’t where I wanted to be and there was so much potential to learn more. I completed Intermediate 2, and now I’ve completed Intermediate 3. Next semester I will enter the Advance 1 level at my school. The focus will stray from business meetings, company mergers, interviews, etc. and move more into news stories.

I will never have this much time or freedom to study with this much dedication so I want to make the best of my time.

Extending my studies by two more semesters has meant that I’ve gone a bit into debt (cost of living is not cheap in Japan), but when I look back at this period I won’t regret spending a bit more money to get closer to my dream of speaking Japanese.

I’ve learned a lot. I’ve made a few good friends (with Koreans and Vietnamese people). I’m very happy and thankful that I’ve had the luxury to study for a full year.


Our class went on an outing to an origami museum. There are 3 Vietnamese students, 2 Koreans, myself, and a Japanese teacher.

More studies: Japanese Proficiency Test (JLPT)

Whilst studying for school, I’ve also been studying for a major language test. It’s a resume booster, but also a good excuse to level up. I studied about 6 months for it, many weekends, but studied super seriously for the last 2ish months.


My November was waking up every day at 5 or 5:30, studying for an hour before going to school, then studying after school, and then starting school homework in the evening.

I wrote my JLPT level N2 on December 1st and it was difficult. I really tried my best and basically burnt myself out, but I don’t feel like I passed. Either way I intend to rewrite the test in June (it occurs twice a year).

Meditation: Vipassana

I participated in a 10 day silent mediation retreat. I encourage those who are interested to read this blog post for some insight and theory about the practice.

Meditation: Smallville Story

There were about 60 participants in the mediation retreat (half female and half male). One of the older Japanese people stood out because he had a bunch of shirts with English phrases. This guy had glasses, grey hair past his shoulders, probably late 50’s or mid 60’s.

On day 8 he wore a shirt the read “SMALLVILLE,” which I immediately recognized as the hometown of the superhero superman, but also the name of the television show my Uncle David was a producer for.

Of course I couldn’t talk to any of the participants until the last day, so on day 10 I asked him about his shirts.

“You had a North Carolina shirt. Have you been there?”

“No. I’ve never been to America.”

“You had a Smallville shirt. Is that because of the TV show?”

“Oh yes. I liked Smallville very much! Actually I was the translator for Smallville in Japan. They would send me the scripts in English and then I’d write them out in Japanese. They gave me this shirt with some other things.”

It suddenly struck me how strange this occurrence was. I had met an old man at a meditation retreat in the middle of nowhere Japan who was the translator for the show my Uncle worked on. In fact, I had even worked on Smallville as a production assistant a few times.

Of course I couldn’t help but say “wow, small world,” but then I thought.. oh right: “smallville.”


A number of people have visited me since I’ve been here.

My parents

We went to an area called Shirakawa.


My sister and her boyfriend


Cousin Amy and Bruce!


Sudha and her husband Richard


My Canadian roommate is much more sociable than I am (she’s great) and she hosted a Canadian thanksgiving. Most of the people in this photo are people she knows through her English training program and/or my roommates.

I released an app: When To Chat

In my spare time I’ve been programming.

Most recently (since March) I’ve been working on an app/plugin called When To Chat which helps people in different time zones find a good time to chat.


The app was based on a tool I made (of the same name):

The difference with this app is that it’s integrated into a chat program called Slack, which is used by many companies worldwide. My hope is that with the increasing number of remote/distributed teams that it will be useful.

  1. First, type /whentochat [names of people] in slack.


  1. Then you’ll receive a link to a page that shows what times overlap:


Here’s a link to the tool! (there’s more explanation and a video)

Ten Japan: β˜• Cafes and 🍜Ramen

I’ve still been exploring Tokyo a lot. One of my classmates is really into coffee (like me) so we’ve visited many places together.

I’ve created a Google Maps list of Cafes, about half of which I’ve visited. Here’s that list

I also post about my experiences on my Instagram here.

More photos and things

My father and my roommate Min

My birthday cake! (Thanks Min and Kaho)


Coffee with Hajae

Tonkatsu treat for my birthday

Until next time..

The next steps for me are to finish up with school and find a job. I’m already in contact with a number of companies and recruiters so we’ll see what happens. Fingers crossed! 🀞

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