Hi there! I’m excited to share my personal experience about moving to Japan as a Japanese citizen who grew up in a different country. I made the big decision to move to Japan on November 30, 2020, to pursue my career as a programmer/developer. My journey wasn’t without its challenges, but I persevered and found ways to adapt to my new environment.
When I first arrived, I settled in Utsunomiya, Tochigi, which is a lovely place with friendly people. Initially, I thought having Japanese citizenship would be enough to get by, but I quickly realized that not speaking the language was a significant obstacle. I encountered difficulties in many areas of daily life, such as shopping, job hunting, and legal document processing like registering my residence. Nevertheless, I remained positive and determined to overcome these challenges.
One of the key tools that helped me survive in Japan was transportation planner apps like Japan Transit Planner and Google Maps. These apps made it easy for me to navigate Japan's public transportation system, which can be confusing and overwhelming at first. However, it’s important to be punctual and not underestimate the importance of timing in Japan. Trains, for example, run on an incredibly tight schedule, and if the app says that the train will depart at 10:30AM, you can expect the train to leave precisely at that time.
Another valuable resource was mobile translation apps like Google Translate and web browser translation extensions like Google Translate. I used them to communicate with locals and navigate Japanese websites. However, it’s worth noting that these apps aren’t always accurate, so it’s essential to start learning Japanese as soon as possible. I found that when translating Japanese text to English, DeepL provides a more accurate translation.
Aside from these tools, I continued to seek out more resources to help me adjust to life in Japan. That’s when I discovered the Saitama International Association (SIA). This organization goes above and beyond to assist non-Japanese speakers with their daily struggles. Whether you have concerns about immigration-related topics or need help communicating with government offices or hospitals, the SIA can provide intermediary interpretation services over the phone in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Korean, Tagalog, Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Nepali, and, of course, Japanese. It was a huge help for me, and I’m sure it can be beneficial for others as well.
While these resources were helpful, I knew that if I wanted to stay in Japan for the long term, I needed to learn Japanese. Thankfully, many cities offer low-cost Japanese language lessons, and there are also volunteer classes available in some areas. It’s worth reaching out to your local city ward/office or searching online for available classes. Learning Japanese not only helps you communicate with locals, but it also opens up more job opportunities and allows you to fully immerse yourself in Japanese culture.
In conclusion, my experience of moving to Japan was challenging but ultimately rewarding. There are plenty of resources available for foreigners to help them navigate Japanese society, and with a positive attitude and a willingness to learn, anyone can thrive in this beautiful country.