A New Kind of Start

This is Stephanie of IMS.


The start of this month marked the end to my second year living and working in Tokyo. In late February 2014, I arrived in Japan for my second time, ready to start what was originally a short-term internship. It’s amazing how quickly these two years have passed!


Having studied once already in Sapporo back in 2011, I was already familiar with the basics of getting around—different city, same concept of public transportation. The Sapica IC card wasn’t yet available for buses in Sapporo when I was there, so coming to Tokyo and having access to Pasmo and Suica was a godsend! (I grew intensely familiar with Sapporo’s With You cards; I still have one as a souvenir of the now-obsolete system.)


When people ask me now, “What things surprised you about Japan?” I find it hard to answer. There have been cultural differences and things I’ve had to get used to, but there’s not much that stands out. Things like renting an apartment—with all the attached fees—were a bit of a shock, but I have no experience renting an apartment in my home country; so what do I have to compare it to?


I think the only time culture shock took its toll was during my month-long study abroad in France. I was studying the language, but I was completely unfamiliar with its culture. I did not watch French TV or movies, so everything was simultaneously Familiar but Different. Starting to study Japanese, however, was out of a love for the pop culture that I knew, so by the time I arrived in Sapporo I already felt comfortable with cultural expectations.


My roommate is Japanese, so there’s plenty of opportunity to learn about each other’s culture in an informal environment. She explains what she can, and I do the same; overall total immersion in both my working and personal life has been more beneficial to getting used to Japan than I ever expected. (I knew immersion works, but now I can see results.)


We’re already three months into 2016—where has the time gone? These first four months have been amazingly busy, but past Golden Week my schedule is a mystery. Who knows what my third year in Tokyo will be like?