Felt like writing a blog post, so here we are.
Since moving to Japan a lot has changed in my life. I mean really I could never have fully anticipated how everything would go. I’ve made attempts to go out and do more, learn more, experience more. And compared to how I was in Canada, I’d say I’ve managed to do much more on that front.
But anyways, there have been some unexpected changes, some of which I could never have expected.
So I’ll share some of those with you all.
I’m going to format this as a list, from least unexpected to most unexpected, because it’s more fun that way.
9. Using cash.
Now, I knew that Japan was a cash society. I bought a new wallet with a coin pouch in anticipation. But I didn’t expect to come to appreciate cash as much as I do.
In my life, I’ve gone from using cash as a child, to using a debit card for everything, and now back to using cash. Honestly, while you have to go to the bank occasionally to top up on cash, I really do like using cash. There’s just an element of freedom to it, knowing that I can use it anywhere. And that it’s not tracked or anything.
At first it felt annoying and inconvenient, especially the coins, but I’ve embraced it now. It’s great to be able to just pull out cash whenever you need it, in any sort of situation. I didn’t carry any cash at all back home, so this was a big change.
Whenever I go back to Canada, I’ll probably continue to use cash and just drop by the bank here and there. Even if I know it’ll annoy many cashiers who are definitely used to just taking cards now. Sorry, I just like using cash again!
8. Learning to make pizza.
To be honest, this is something right up my alley regardless. But I just never had the incentive to make my own pizza dough back home. Why? Because I absolutely love the cheap frozen pizzas that you can buy in grocery stores in Canada – Delissio baby! For $3.50 CAD, I can get a pepperoni pizza that will feed me for two meals. It’s the definition of value.
In fact, I used to always compare prices of things to Delissio pizzas, because not very many meals can compete in terms of value. Even now, I miss those pizzas.
But yeah, after coming here, I decided that I’d have to learn to make pizzas myself, so that I can keep up my weekly tradition of having pizza. It’s my favourite food after all. There is no Dominos in my city, which is the biggest pizza chain here. But Dominos is expensive, so even if there was one, I couldn’t justify the price. For the price of one pizza here I could buy like 4 Delissio pizzas…
7. I got a concussion.
I’ve actually never had a concussion before in my life. But last winter, I got one for the first time.
I was invited to go skiing by the vice-principal of one of my schools. Him and two other teachers were partaking in a tournament that’s held between the faculty of the schools in the area. Me, being an idiot who hasn’t skied in many years, but was once decent at it, decided to join in.
So we went to the ski resort, skied a few hills, and then when it was time went to check in for the tournament and get our numbers. Unexpectedly, the principal from my other school was one of the organizers. Anyways, we go to the hill for the tournament, which started halfway down the toughest hill in the resort. The top half was very steep, and then it levelled out a bit. Well, I completely wiped out on that top half, hit my head and rolled a bit down the hill before thankfully stopping.
I had a gash in my head and was real shaken up, but felt okay enough. Not enough to want to continue with the tournament though, haha. So I skied down the hill and hung out with the principal from one of my schools while the contestants were all timed going through the course twice.
I didn’t ski very much after that. I didn’t realize I had a concussion at the time, but it’s a good time I didn’t ski much because I guess you’re not supposed to exert yourself after getting one. But I did have a headache for a full week, with accompanying scar over my right eye, so there’s a first time for that.
6. Winter is just so cold.
They say that the first winter in Japan is the worst, because you don’t know what to expect till you live through one. And I’d say that was pretty accurate. There is no central heating in Japan, so you are forced to rely on other means to stay warm – none of which will heat your entire apartment. Here in Nagano, most people use kerosene heaters because they’re very quick and effective at heating a room. I never bought one though, so I mostly relied on a small electric heater, my kotatsu, and my aircon to keep me warm, in my living / bedroom.
Thing is, it’s just so cold all the time. I’m from Canada, and I used to walk an hour to and from school on a daily basis, even in the occasional -30 Celsius weather. But to actually live in the cold is much different. Only my living room has any heat, should I choose to use it (once I’m in my kotatsu, I’m not moving). Doing anything in the kitchen or washroom is awful – especially in the morning.
Getting out of the shower is torture, and to shave I have to close the door to my shower room and crank on the hot water so the steam will warm up the room. Plus, something else I didn’t expect, is that my hot water pipe would freeze overnight, meaning I’d have no hot water in the mornings. I’m going to have to get something to deal with that for next winter, because that was also painful.
It’s funny because people would always say to me “It’s cold… but you’re from Canada, so you’re used to this right?” But Canadians don’t have to deal with this kind of winter. We have central heating. We don’t suffer like this.
The one thing I will say that’s nice is that I don’t have to open any windows at night in the winter, because the apartment is already freezing. So I did enjoy sleeping under my mountain of blankets, even if I had to literally pull them over my head some nights. I never left my heater or aircon overnight, so I can at least say I managed that.
I’ll never take central heating for granted ever again, that’s for sure.
I’ll also be more prepared for next winter.
5. Watching less anime.
And consequently, writing less here on the blog.
It’s hard to say exactly why, I guess it’s just a routine change that stuck if anything. I used to watch at least an episode or two of anime every night, so I would go through one season every week, or sooner if I was really hooked. But now, I’ve just enjoyed watching YouTube and such. And I generally go to bed pretty early, around 10pm. One thing that hasn’t changed is that I love sleeping, even if these days I can’t sleep in even if I try on weekends.
The funny thing is that I actually should be watching more anime, because my understanding of Japanese has vastly improved from last year. I recognize and understand so much more of the language that it would actually benefit me to watch more anime and pick up new vocabulary, phrases, and ways to say things. It’s much easier to remember how to say something when you’ve heard it before in anime, in my experience.
4. Onsen, onsen, onsen!
I LOVE going to the onsen. Before I came to Japan, I wasn’t sure how I felt about public bathing. I figured that I’d try it, but I was nervous about the idea. There are all these videos and articles online that make it seem like there are so many expectations on “what to do / what not to do” in an onsen. And I guess they’re a good idea to follow and all, but really all you need to know is that you wash yourself before going in. There’s not much else to it.
Anyways, there was a nice indoor bath at the training facility where I stayed for a few nights for training with the company I work for. The training was worthless, but I did have fun spending time with the friends I made there, who I am friends with to this day. I had my first public bathing experience there, and then many, many more as we went on a trip through Nagano last summer and had many great baths.
Plus, there’s some great hot springs in my area, so I’ve gone to them with my Japanese friends as well. We pretty much always end up going to one, because we’re lazy and you can’t go wrong with an onsen. I will pretty much never turn down going to an onsen.
I even considered going to the nearby onsen if my hot water pipe never thawed out whenever I needed to shave. Because you can shave in there, too. It’s only around 500 yen, so cheap enough. My favourite place nearby is usually pretty empty and has a great open-air bath (露天風呂 – “rotenburo“). It’s amazing in the winter. And unlike a hot tub back home, there are no chemicals in the water. It’s just an all-around great experience.
If any of you come to Japan, I definitely recommend going to an onsen, or two, or three.
3. I started writing a book.
I know I’m not the only blogger in the community that’s done this sort of thing. It’s funny because I used to always think to myself “I’m a blogger, I could never actually write a story”. But then, I have so much free time at work, that when I’m not studying, I can do other things. Like write a book. Which is what I started to do last year, after I had a vivid dream that sort of inspired me to do so.
It’s actually been a lot of fun, and I’ve sort of been experimenting with things. I’ve learned a lot and there’s a lot to do and go through, but yeah. I never expected I’d be writing a story, let alone a novel.
2. I started learning French.
Technically, I learned French back in school, up until grade 9. But I’d basically forgotten everything, and recently I decided to take a gander at re-learning what I knew and moving beyond that.
The reason? Because several times while I was studying Japanese, I couldn’t help but think about how much easier it would be if I didn’t have to learn so many kanji, and I could just read words as they are without needing that prior kanji knowledge.
And so, just for the hell of it, I decided to spend some of my free time at work studying French, in addition to Japanese. And as I thought, it is easier. Not only because French and English share an alphabet, but also because they share so many words, and use a similar grammar structure.
Seeing as my mind is already sort of geared and open to learning one language, it didn’t take much for me to pick up French on this journey. It’s been fun learning both languages, and when I get tired of one, I can switch to the other to keep things fresh.
1. Buying and listening to CDs.
That’s right. Since coming to Japan, I have not only purchased CDs, but I also listen to them. I don’t have a CD player, even. It’s just for my car, because my car doesn’t have an auxiliary port like my car in Canada does. And while I could listen to the radio, I really like listening to music I can sing along to while I sing.
The CDs I’ve purchased are:
- Cascada – Discography (4 CDs)
- Rise Against – The Sufferer and the Witness
- Rise Against – Appeal to Reason
- Red Hot Chili Peppers – Stadium Arcadium
I’ve also been given 5 AKB48 CDs by a friend in Japan, and my dad sent me some of his old Rush and Styx CDs for my birthday.
Honestly, I just never would have expected that I would actually shell out money on CDs in 2021.
But, at least for the CDs I bought, I’ve listened to all of these songs to death in my high school days. So if anything, this is me finally paying for the countless hours I’ve spent listening to them.
And those are some of the unexpected changes that have taken place in my life over the last year and a bit since coming to Japan. It’s been a fun experience so far, and we’ll see what the future holds. I’m sure there will be plenty more unexpected things to come, one of which is already potentially in the works.
Until next time,
Thanks for reading.