A New Cultural Exchange

This is Stephanie of IMS.


Recently, I moved back to the Tokyo area after living in my first apartment of my own of 1.5 years. Not counting the apartment I lived in during my study abroad in 2011, this was my first place where I had personally signed the contract and dealt with the hurdles of real estate. It was small, but it was mine, and the town was quaint if not a bit far from the office.


A few months ago, my Japanese friend asked if I would consider being her roommate. She wanted to move closer to her office, and since that was something I wanted for myself, too, I agreed and we started to look for somewhere to live.


I’m not sure about other countries, or even Japan, but having a roommate in college is pretty common in the U.S. if you live on campus, and my experience was no different. For the first few years, I was assigned to a room with someone I did not know; but somehow or another, it always worked out all right. Sharing a place with a friend this time around sounded a lot more relaxing and less stressful, since we already knew that we got along well.


I had forgotten how long and arduous the process is to move: finding a place, securing the contract, transferring utilities, actually moving. And even though it’s only been a few weeks since the move, the apartment is starting to feel a lot more like home. My bedroom isn’t crammed into my living room, I have room to relax and put furniture, and I can actually cook meals for once! The town itself is very “Tokyo suburban”, and since we have a very long shotengai next to our apartment, it’s overall quiet, calm, and convenient.


That’s nothing to say of the cultural and language exchange living in this new apartment, too. Having a Japanese roommate is helping me communicate outside of the office and learn things about Japan I didn’t otherwise know (“What’s on TV? Why are they doing that?”), as well as being able to explain my own culture from an American upbringing. It’s interesting to see where the surprising differences are, and sometimes very amusing!


Moving was obviously stressful—moving is always stressful! But my quality of life has increased tenfold, and despite the challenges during the initial apartment hunt, I’m really very glad to start this new chapter in my life.