Congratulations! You've finally done it! You've sold everything you own, said goodbye to your loved ones, packed your bags, and survived the gruesome flight that you swore would never end. What's next?! Who knows! That's the awesome part. You're in Japan now and that's all that matters.
You're now free to hit up all the arcades you want. Time to spend all your time in Akiba drinking milk tea and eating onigiri from Family Mart. You've spent all your loose change in every gachapon machine you pass. Maybe you hit up Harajuku and buy some super kawaii shirt or something with Engrish blasted all over it. Or better yet, you head over to Yoyogi park, lay under the trees and wait for something spark your imagination. Everything is bright and shiny and new! This is the greatest. Man, Japan is just like your animes!
Then, one day you wake up and you hate everything. You realize your Japanese isn't all that great. You question why you have to fill out the same form nine different times. Fax machines are still a thing. You now own waaay too many plastic figures. And to top things off you are starting to think that living abroad might not be your thing. You hate your job, you hate your one room apartment, you hate seeing vending machines everywhere (What is Pocari Sweat anyway??!!) and what's worse you hate Japan. These are just some of the things I've seen people go through. I've seen people flake out after less than two months in Japan. They just couldn't handle it.
The honeymoon stage of Japan happens to us all. And adjusting to a new culture takes time. To some degree or another you will experience the highs and lows of living in Japan. I don't want to see you go home hating Japan or your experiences here. I'm fairly certain that you don't either. So, what can you do? How can you fight culture shock and get past the honeymoon stage in one piece after some of the shine starts to wear off Japan?
The best advice is to not let it stop you. If you let it stop you it will break you. You need to get out. I know for some people that's easier said than done. But you need to allow yourself to break out of your shell in Japan. Think of it this way. You might only be in Japan for one year. Try to experience all the culture and history Japan has to offer. Don't just get caught in the glitter and glamour that is Tokyo. Sure, it's a great town with a lot to do but there are so many other amazing things to do while in Japan. Explore as much as you can. Visit local temples and shrines, eat at local restaurants and challenge yourself.
Most importantly, surround yourself with good people. Find people you can trust, find people you can be honest with. As foreigners we're all in this together. We are all hundreds, or even thousands of miles from friends and family. Find those people you can trust and share with them if you are having a hard time. That way when it happens, when you feel the pressure of living abroad you won't feel like you have to deal with it alone.
Certain people can't handle living in Japan. That's OK! Living abroad isn't for everyone. It takes a strong person to admit that they can't do it. Sometimes, that means giving up your dream of living in Japan and that really sucks! But, you owe it to yourself to keep trying. When the honeymoon stages ends (and it will) you need to be able to find what you love about Japan. Find what you love doing in Japan and do it.
Finally, if it gets too bad there is support for foreigners in Japan. Tokyo English Life Line is an NPO that provides free and anonymous counseling by licensed professionals over the phone as well as over Skype. If you need to get in contact with them check out www.telljp.com
While I'm no counselor, If you have questions for me feel free to contact me at facebook.com/HigginsInJapan I would love to talk to you about what it's like living in Japan.
Photo courtesy of Kazz Takahashi Photograhy
...check out his work!!