Young German woman who made several trips to Japan, did one year Working Holiday and started living in Japan again since Oct' 2016. Love music, cats, traveling and food.
Also take a look to my blog and my daily updated FB page → https://www.facebook.com/yokolostinjapan/
- Area of Residence
- Chuo-ku, Sagamihara-shi, Kanagawa
- Area of Interest
- Blog Title
- Yoko Lost in Japan ♥
- Blog URL
Universal Studios Japan on Christmas Eve
As I mentioned in my Christmas theme post before, we went to Osaka as a short trip for Christmas. On our second day there we visited the Universal Studios Japan (USJ). For sure many other people had the same plan, so the theme park was pretty crowded this day. But how is it like to be at USJ at Christmas time? Our first way brought us to the Harry Potter area. To enter, you need to get a timed entry ticket first for which we had to line up. Luckily, we could already enter the area around half an hour later. The magical village Hogsmeade was decorated with Christmas ornaments and it looked very beautiful with the fake snow on the roof tops. However, this was the only “Christmas special” at Harry Potter area we could see. We lined up for an hour to ride the Hogwarts rollercoaster, bought a souvenir, took some photos and went back to the main area. Around the park Christmas music was played around you all the time what really brought you into Christmas mood. The buildings had Christmas ornaments on their walls, too, and for sure, a huge colorful Christmas tree was set up in the park. Some unique Christmas dishes were offered at the different restaurants (however, we went to the Minions restaurant). Four special Christmas shows were held all around the day. We first watched “Santa’s Magical Surprise" which was held at the big stage close to the Christmas tree. The USJ characters like Elmo, Hello Kitty and Snoppy were preparing everything for Santa together with their friends. The show includes a lot of music and watchers were animated to dance. The around 25 minutes show was really fun. In the evening the shows “The Voice of an Angel” and “Joy of Lights” were held. Indeed, people were already waiting and reserving places for theses shows up to three hours before. That’s pretty crazy. We have been to a restaurant before the start of the first show, because it was cold and we were exhausted. When we came out to watch the show, the waiting crowd was so huge, we hardly could see anything. I have a good video camera, with this we could at least guess what is happening at the stage. At the end, the Christmas tree was lightening up with a firework – this was very touching moment. But we decided there is no meaning in watching the next show from such a distance. It was a great and memoriable day we spent at USJ on Christmas Eve, however, if you have a chance you should go there on another day. We just rode one rollercoaster (at Harry Potter area), because most others had waiting times of over two hours. But we could enjoy the some shows and Minions stuff. The Christmas event is held for several weeks before Christmas and even some time after. So it’s enough time to visit it on non-holiday-days.____________________________________________________________________________ If you want to see more of out day at USJ - I uploaded a video on my Youtube channel. English subtitle is available.
FURUSATO MATSURI - Experience Traditions of all over Japan
Every year in the beginning middle of January a special festival is held in Tokyo. The FURUSATO MATSURI (ふるさと祭り) is a festival about traditional perfomances and food from all over Japan. I visited it last year and want to give you some information. Because the festival is located at Tokyo Dome where is a lot of space for presentation. Inside you will find several stalls selling you a variety of food and drinks from the different Japanese prefectures. You have the chance to try Yakimanju from Takasaki and Oyakodon from Akita at one place – isn’t this great? Japanese people love to travel around and eat regional food, that’s why food is very important within this event. Another big point are the festivals (matsuri) held in the different areas of Japan. Some of these are present every year and the schedule is changing nearly every day while the event (the reason I visited the festival for two days). You can see a part of famous festivals like the Nebuta Matsuri (ねぶた祭り) in which a colorful lighted float is carried through the stage area including music and dancers. However, also other festivals are presented often connected to dance performances. If you don’t have the chance to watch a certain festival at the origin area, maybe you at least can get a feeling of it in Tokyo. My personal highlights are the prefecture mascots meeting up at the festival. Often you need to travel to all these areas to have a chance to meet the mascots - but now you have them all at one place. Be sure they appear only on a few days while the festival. With some of them you even have the chance to take a memorial photo. So, if you come to be in Tokyo around the festival time, I totally recommend going there. The ticket prices around ¥ 1,600 on weekend and ¥ 1,300 on weekdays. There is also an evening ticket for ¥ 1,100 which allows you to enter after 4 p.m., but be sure you gonna miss a part of the program with this. Better visit the Furusato Matsuri on a weekday, because it is a little bit less crowded. The festival is held from 7th to 15th January this year. I made a video about my visit to Furusato Matsuri. You can watch it with English subtitles on YouTube. The video of the second day I visited the festival will follow soon on my YouTube account. For more information you can visit the Official Website (Japanese) or the English Website of the festival. Have you ever been to such events?
Japanese New Year – between traditions, events and shopping
The beginning of the New Year is celebrated everywhere in the world. And every country has its own traditions. For sure Japan has its special ways to celebrate the beginning of a New Year, too. It’s one of the most important times in the year, where a lot of Japanese workers have days off and can spend their time with family. Get to know some of Japan’s traditions in my article today. Traditional food around New Year in Japan Do you have special food you always eat around New Year? In my home country Germany lately people come up with making food on raclette grill for New Year’s Eve and eating carp on New Year’s Day. In Japan you also have some food which belongs to the New Year’s time. Starting with Toshikoshi Soba (年越しそば) or also called year-crossing noodle. These buckwheat noodles are likely to be eaten on New Year’s Eve and should bring long life as well as health and energy for the upcoming year. The costume and name with this is a bit different from area to area.Also very important food in Japanese New Year is Osechi Ryōri (御節料理) which normally is served in bento-like wooden boxes. The dishes inside the Osechi each have a special meaning. For example: Kuromame (黒豆), simmered black soybeans, are standing for health and sake steamed shrimps go for a long life. Earlier house wives made Osechi Ryori by themselves, however, now it’s also common to buy a prepared box at special shops or departments. Countdown Events at New Year’s Eve What would be New Year’s Eve without an amazing firework? But wait – stop! In Japan – the country famous for their colorful and beautiful fireworks in summer – is exactly like this. When all other countries around the world start the New Year with wonderful artworks in the sky, Japan traditionally starts it in silence. If you want to see a firework on 31st December, it might get hard to find one, but probably you are lucky around Odaiba, the American base in Yokosuka or Tokyo Disneyland. However, for people who don’t want to sit at home with their families and watch the famous music program Kōhaku Uta Gassen ( 紅白歌合戦) on TV, there are also some countdown events around the big towns. In Shibuya the famous scramble crossing was closed for cars this time, so people could celebrate around there. Some musicians hold New Year’s Eve concerts, just noticing Ayumi Hamasaki who’s Countdown Live concerts are sold out every time since more than 10 years. For sure, you also can celebrate into the New Year in theme parks like Tokyo Disneyland or Universal Studios Japan which are opening their doors over night for this special date. Just prepare to get your tickets for this as soon as possible. Another alternative is the Chinatown in Yokohama. You can hear firecrackers blow up the silence, around Kanteibyo Temple lion dancers make their performances and locals sell food and drinks on the street. The first shrine visit of the New Year At Buddhist temples the New Yyear starts with 108 bell rings which are symbol for the 108 human sins in Buddhist belief. With the bell ringing it is believed to get rid of the 108 worldly desires regarding sense and feeling. This process is called Joyanokane (除夜の鐘). The reason you can find big crowds of people at shrines and temples around midnight. Many connect this event with the first shrine visit of the year, which is called Hatsumode (初詣). Normally, you should make your prayers for the New Year within the first two days of January, but still after this time at least famous shrines like the Meiji Jingu are still crowded. It is a good time to get new Omikuji (御神籤), fortune telling papers, which will tell you how the New Year will be going for you. And don’t forget to get new Omamori (御守), Japanese amulets which will protect you. Let’s go shopping! Hatsuuri and Fukubukuro So, enough traditional things now. Certainly also department stores want to make money around this time. Some shops are still closed on 1st January (for sure, not all), but latest on 2nd January the famous Hatsuuri (初売り) starts. At the so called “first sale” of the year many shops give pretty big discounts. Some other sell Fukubukuro (福袋) which are lucky bags, filled with unknown items but mostly worth twice or three times the money you have spent for them. Many people line up at department stores early in the morning to get started into the New Year with the best bargain. And even more… For sure there are even more Japanese traditions about New Year, but it will get too much to write everything down here. Just saying words like Otoshidama (お年玉), Nengajo (年賀状), mochi making and Kadomatsu (門松). Probably topics for next year. With this, I wish you all a happy New Year! あけましておめでとうございます！Have you ever spend New Year’s time in Japan? What are you experiences?
My tough moment of 2016 – the Japanese Immigration Office
Looking back on 2016, this year was a pretty great one for me. I started it in Japan, celebrating the New Year’s Eve at a big concert hall with around 10.000 other people together with my favorite musician Ayumi Hamasaki. Back then, I was on my New Year’s trip to Japan which lasted three weeks. I got two more weeks to travel around, meet friends and experience the country. This trip ended with a proposal and much bureaucratic stuff to do for preparing our wedding. Luckily we could handle everything without any bigger trouble and so we got married in July in Germany. A great day with wonderful memories. Finished with this point, next was the process to get my visa for moving to Japan. The plan was to leave Germany in October, so less than three months after our wedding. For a German native like me, now the normal process would be going to the Japanese Embassy in Berlin, giving them all the required documents and getting a spouse visa for Japan. Actually, that was also the way I wanted to do it. However, I phoned the Embassy about my issue, because I first wanted to know which documents they need and how long it will take to get the visa. You know, I live over 250 kilometers away from the embassy, so I wanted to have everything with me when doing a one-day-trip there. My phone call ended up with the following information: “As German native it is ok to enter Japan on a tourist visa, which you will get for 90 days at the airport in Japan. With this you can go to the immigration office in Japan and change it into the spouse visa.” Ok, that seemed nice. I asked some other people on Facebook and some told me they went the same they. And because Japanese natives have the same rights in Germany, I didn’t see any problem. Everything should work out fine, I thought. I went to Japan on 9th October, already got the first small problems at the airport in Frankfurt. My booked flight back was nine month after my flight there and I didn’t have a visa. I told the staff of ANA airlines my situation and they accepted it. Actually, I read a blog entry of another person with same situation a while ago and ANA didn’t let him fly and he had to book another expensive flight. I was relieved they accepted my situation as it is and believed me I will get a visa inside Japan. Only their PC didn’t want to accept it. Around 10 minutes and two other ANA staff later they finally found out how to get my visa statues into their program, I got my flight ticket and everything was good. Shortly after arriving in Japan, my husband took a day off and we went to the Immigration Office in Yokohama, because we were living in Kanagawa prefecture. The way there was long and somehow I didn’t feel well that day. Probably my body already knew something will happen. With all our documents we went to the officer. He checked them and told us, it’s impossible to get a visa in Japan. 「これは無理です。」 I should go back to Germany as soon as possible and get my visa there from the Japanese Embassy. I was shocked. I told them what the Japanese Embassy told me. Another officer came to us, saying the same. I tried to discuss with them, however, this was not really possible, because of my poor Japanese knowledge. Furthermore the officers seemed to ignore what I was saying. For them it was clear: no visa, go back home and apply from there! I ended up crying, shocked, didn’t know what to do. That was tough… But we didn’t give up. I talked to some people on Facebook again, getting clear of the situation and getting told again that nobody had problems with this way of visa issuing before. We made the decision to first try everything else before I go back to Germany – because this would only cost useless money and time… Yokohama Immigration Office kept our documents to give us the Certificate of Eligibility (CoE). I got it around one month later by mail, getting told again in an information flyer that I should go back to my home country with this to apply for a visa. I didn’t. I went to the Immigration Office in Shinagawa, hoping they will tell me something else. I was so nervous on this day, I felt horrible. Luckily everything went well there. Nobody wanted me to return to Germany. It didn’t take an hour and we could leave the office again – me having my residence card as spouse of a Japanese national. Yokohama Immigration Office gave me a pretty tough moment this year and even Shinagawa staff was lightly confused when we told them what happened there. Even I live in Kanagawa prefecture now, I decided to not go to this office again – there is another one around here at Tachikawa which I want to try for renewal next time.
Strolling around the Yokohama Christmas Market
Last weekend my husband and I went to Yokohama – first for getting some Shinkansen tickets, second for doing some Christmas shopping and third: to visit the Christmas market in Yokohama. As you may know there are some Christmas markets held around Japan right now. One is situated at Yokohama's Red Brick Warehouse, the so called Akarenga (赤レンガ倉庫). This year is already the 6th year in a row the event taking place there. It's held from 26th November to 25th December 2016. For me as German native I'm used to visit Christmas markets in my home country more than once every year. So also the tradition of Christmas markets original comes from Europe. In Yokohama you can find German-styled Christmas market with pretty nice looking huts having Christmas figures like Santa Claus and snow men on their roof. Even some snow was brought there this year and someone built a quickly melting snowman close to the entrance. For sure you also could find a big Christmas tree there which was shining in bright lights. People were lining up for taking a memorial picture in front of it. At the stalls they were selling food and drinks – some typical and not so typical stuff for a German-styled Christmas market. You even could buy some (super expensive) Christmas ornaments if you want. They had sausages, schnitzel, Christmas cake (Stollen) and more. For sure you could drink hot wine (Glühwein) in different tastes like the traditional red hot wine, but also white wine version or apple one. I decided for the apple version within a super small papercup. Indeed, be prepared you might need to wait in long lines if you want to buy something. That’s why we ended up without eating something there…There is no entrance fee, however, the prices of food and drinks alone are expensive enough in my opinion. If you want to go there: the Christmas market is opened from 11 am to 11 pm every day until 25th December, light up starts from 4 pm. Find more information (in Japanese) on the official website. If you finished looking around the stalls you can go ice skating at Art Rink. It’s directly next to the Christmas market and will stay there until 19th February 2017. As adult you need to pay 500 yen for entering the ice rink and additional 500 yen for rental skates.
My little Christmas in Japan
Every year you come up with the same problem: what shall we do for Christmas? For me, coming from Germany, it was never a big deal because in Germany you normally have 3 days off for Christmas and mostly spend all the time with your family. But in Japan, Christmas is not a family festival – this will be one week later at New Year. In Japan Christmas is more a special day for couples and for little children. You don’t even have the Christmas days off. 24th and 25th December are normal working days, so if you are unlucky you gonna spend the day at work. At least the day before Christmas is a public holiday, even if it’s not for Christmas – it’s the Emperor’s birthday. But who cares if you can have a day off? My little Christmas in Japan so far Actually, it’s only the second time for me to spend Christmas in Japan this year. I often made trips to Japan for New Year’s Holidays and arrived here a few days after Christmas. But I’ve been here for Christmas in 2013 while my Working Holiday, already three years ago. Let’s have a little flash back! In 2013 Christmas Eve was on a Tuesday, my boyfriend and I had to work. We ended up with nothing special, just having the traditional food of the Japanese Christmas Eve: fried chicken and a Christmas cake. Japanese people often get the fried chicken from KFC, you also can make preorders for it several weeks before Christmas. We just got normal fried chicken from the supermarket nearby. The cake was a tiny delicious strawberry shortcake which I enjoyed very much. So no special activities – we had to work again the next day anyway. Back to the topic: What will we do for Christmas this year? My (now) husband and I had a talk about Christmas around two weeks ago. Thanks to the calendar we gonna have three days off this Christmas, so we both decided we should do something special and not just sit around at home. But what? We had a few ideas which we could choose from: 1) Romantic Christmas dinner 2) Go out to see illuminations or Christmas markets 3) Make a trip somewhere 4) Go to Disneyland or another amusement park Let’s take a closer look to all the choices. What would be your favorite? 1) Romantic Christmas dinner Going out together with my husband for a little more expensive dinner was a pretty nice idea. We didn’t really visit a fancy restaurant so far – only kind of this at a French-styled hotel in Nikko over one year ago which had around 5 courses for dinner. However, I’m a little bit difficult with food and on Christmas Eve, for sure, all restaurants are even more expensive just because it’s Christmas. Maybe we should do this some other time a year, maybe for wedding anniversary. 2) Go out to see illuminations or Christmas markets Winter time is illumination time in Japan. Everywhere you can find tons of lights and it’s simply beautiful. Having a walk around with your loved one is really romantic – maybe also good for a date on Christmas. But luckily the most light ups will stay until February, so let us keep this up for another time. Another option is visiting one of the Christmas markets which are held at some places around Japan. For me as German Christmas market really belongs to Christmas: having hot wine, some delicious food, decorated sheds around you and even some snow. Ok, at least the first three you can get easily around Tokyo. I really like the Christmas market at Akarenga, Yokohama. Even so I have to handle with the high prices at Christmas markets in Japan when I know the prices of everything is in my home country – and I already think it’s expensive in Germany! However, we gonna go there before Christmas and not on Christmas Eve itself. 3) Make a trip somewhereI really love onsen and my husband found out about a cat ryokan at the onsen prefecture Oita. We thought about making a short trip where, but when taking a look to some flight websites, we were shocked about the high prices around Christmas and New Year. Also the ryokan was booked out for our preferred date. If you want to make a trip somewhere you should probably prepare some months before. So, no trip with an airplane somewhere for us. 4) Go to Disneyland or another amusement park My husband knows how much I like amusement parks. And we haven’t been to Disney Resort for two years. So how about celebrating Christmas with Mickey and Minnie? However, there are a lot more amusement parks around Tokyo and all over Japan. It’s also great to visit Yomiuri Land or Sagamiko Resort with their own illumination paradises, which are really romantic. However, with this we are back to point 2. For this year, we ended up with a mix of all the points. We gonna make a 2-days-trip to Osaka from 23th to 24th December. On the first day we want to go to Rilakkuma Café in Osaka and watch some illumination around the city. The other day we will visit the Universal Studios Japan and go back to Yokohama in the night, to have Christmas Cake at home on 25th. I’m looking forward to these three days. Hope you all gonna spend a lovely Christmas time! ☆彡
Moshi Moshi Nippon Festival 2016
On the last weekend of November the Moshi Moshi Nippon Festival 2016 was held at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium (Tokyo Taiikukan, 東京体育館). There you could experience some of Japanese pop-culture and some traditional Japan. And most of all: the entry is free for all foreigners!!The event was held for public on Saturday and Sunday. On both days there were music acts, Saturday was a little bit more exclusive with some Japanese models. However, I went there on Sunday to see the performance of famous Kyary Pamyu Pamyu at the evening. A list of the complete line-up and the timetable you can find on the Moshi Moshi Nippon website.Already outside of the Tokyo Taiikukan you could find a lot of stuff. They had a food area with different food to try out. Surely, the prices were not really cheap. Some of the sponsors had information booths. On a small stage DJs and girlgroups were performing. You had the chance to climb on two robots of Shinjuku's Robot Restaurant which were exhibited there. Also Mari Car was there, which makes it possible to go through Tokyo by go-kart costumized as Super Mario characters. At the booth you could take photos inside costumes or reserve a go-kart tour.But let's take a look inside the hall. First you have to get your wristband which allows you to go in and outside as often as you want. As foreigner you could register before online and just needed to show a QR code at reception. Or you simply fill out a form with your data at the venue. Japanese have to buy a ticket for ¥ 2,990 at the ticket counter.Inside you could experience a lot of things. Getting dressed into a kimono or lolita dress and taking photos or making some special origami and so on. I especially liked the Oiran - a beautiful Japanese courtesan. Taking photos at some booths and uploading it to your SNS account made you get some stuff for free like a printed version of the photo or small goods. At kawaii room you got a bag with Japanese beauty products after filling out a survey. You also could try flying a drone or play Resident Evil with VR. All was pretty interesting.While not so many people were around in the afternoon, it got pretty crowded at the evening when performances of CAPSULE and KYARY PAMYU PAMYU were held. Many fans went there and enjoyed the short shows which lasted around 25 minutes each.Because the event welcomes many foreigners at nearly every booth at least one staff spoke English. Some bilingual stuff were also walking around the venue. You can get a lot stuff for free from the sponsors, so we ended up with Aeon x Gudetama shopping bags, vegetarian instant ramen, a lot of stickers and even some discount coupons we can use in the future.The festival was held third time now and will probably take place again next year. So if you are in Japan at the end of November, don't miss it. You can get a lot of stuff for free!!
Getting prepared for the JLPT N4
As you may know: being good at Japanese language is important for living in Japan. To find out about your Japanese skills there is a test called Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (日本語能力試験) or shortly JLPT.The JLPT takes place twice a year - once at the begining of July and once at the begining of December - in Japan and a lot of other countries. The test has five different levels, starting from N5 as lowest and N1 has highest level. Mostly, if you want to go to Japanese university or want to work at a Japanese company, you need to have passed at least N2 level. What this means, you can see in this table (info from Wikipedia) So this is what you need on Kanji and vocabulary for each level:N12.000 kanji + 10.000 vocabularyN21.000 kanji + 6.000 vocabularyN3650 kanji + 3.000 vocabularyN4320 kanji + 1.500 vocabularyN5120 kanji + 800 vocabularyI applied for N4 level and the test will take place on Sunday. I'm kind of nervous and worried if I can make it. Sure, compared to the 2.000 kanji and 10.000 vocabulary you need to reach N1 level, the 320 kanji and 1.000 vocabulary don't look much. But they are!! Especially if you are learning Japanese by yourself without a teacher or a language school.Luckily there are some books you can use for studying. So mainly, I made this post to show which books I used for preparation *laugh* First there is a book series called Nihongo Challenge (にほんごチャレンジ) which I enjoyed to use. Unfortunately I can't finish all the books before the test. I have the three books for N4 Grammar and Reading practice (文法と読む練習), N4 Vocabulary (ことば) and N4-5 Kanji (かんじ). All books costs between 1,200 ~ 1,400 yen (+tax) and include explanations, practise tasks and solutions.Another book I got interested into when I saw it in the books store is 日本語能力試験対策Ｎ４漢字・語彙・文法 ２０日間で合格力を身につける！ It includes many tasks in the sections kanji, vocabulary and grammar which have the same structure as the JLPT test. At the end of the book you also can find some test examples where you can find out if you are ready for the test. Even so the book costs 1,500 yen (+tax) I can totally recommend it. I enjoyed practising with this book.I also used the Offical JLPT Practice Workbook N4. With only 700 yen (+tax) it's cheap, but there is only one full test inside you can practise with. It's good to get to know the structure of the whole test and how the test sheets will look like. Here also you can try out the listening part, because a CD is included. I wasn't so bad with this test - hope it will be good at the real one, too.My last book, is a book I bought in Germany. It's explaning Japanese grammar in German language and it's pretty usefull if I don't understand the explanation in the other English books. Maybe you also have such book in your homecountry? In addition, I also practised a lot vocab with apps like Memrise, Kotoba and Obenkyo on my smartphone.Is anyone else taking the test this time? How did you get prepared for it?
Enjoy Autumn leaves at Showa Kinen Koen
Autumn arrived in Tokyo area and so I took the chance to take a look around. On Thursday I went to Showa Kinen Koen (昭和記念公園), which is a huge national park at Tachikawa in Western Tokyo. It opened in 1983. As adult you have to pay ¥ 410 to enter the park, but don't worry, it's worth it, because there are so many things to explore. You can easily spent 3 to 4 hours around the over 160 hectares belonging to the park. Entering the park from Tachikawa Gate like I did, you will first find a short canal with Ginkgo boulevard which was colored in a wonderful autumn yellow. The fountain also gives you a great view. Walking around you will see the Waterfowl Lake where you can lend a boat and spent some time on the water. Close to it there is the Rainbow Pool, however it's only opened in summer.You can find a lot of red, orange and yellow colored trees all around the park. And for sure a lot people walking around with cameras for taking pictures. Isn't nature something great? I took a break with grape ice cream around Children's Forest which might be a good place for families to hang out. At Komorebi House there was seasonal exhibition of the plants and flowers of autumn, unfortunately only in Japanese language. Most interesting was the Japanese garden where many people were. The red leaves together with lake and Japanese style houses are such a great combination. I even could witness a couple taking their wedding photos at this place. Just around the corner there is also a Bonsai garden. There are restaurants and little shops all around the park. Also toilets and smoking areas are easy to find. A park train operates around the park for a fee of ¥ 310 for adults for each ride or an unlimited pass for ¥ 540. You also can lend bicycles for ¥ 410 for 3 hours. There are maps of the park avilable in English. For more information take a look to the official website.Find my video about my visit there here:
10 things to know about living in Japan
Moving to Japan – many people dream about this. But is everything really so “kawaii” (cute) in Japan? Get to know ten things which I think might be important to know if you want to start living in Japan. Moving to Japan – many people dream about this. But is everything really so “kawaii” (cute) in Japan? Get to know ten things which I think might be important to know if you want to start living in Japan. 1) Getting a visa For staying in Japan you will need a visa and it’s not always easy to get one. Some countries give the chance of a Working Holiday visa or voluntary visa which makes you able to stay in Japan for around one year. In other cases you need to get a working visa which are connected with some special requirements. Often you need at least a bachelor degree to convince immigration office – and for sure a company which wants you to work for them. Be aware of a lot bureaucracy when you are applying for it. Other possibilities are a student visa (university, language school) or spouse visa, but that’s another story. 2) Working life Sure, it dependents of the field and company you want to work at, but be sure Japan is still famous for being a country with a high rate of overwork hours. Employees are meant to live for their company. So it’s also normal you just have around 10 paid days off a year. If you have a full time job it’s possible to get good payment, however, normal part time jobs at restaurants, hotels and konbini are often just payed around 1000 yen / hour. Luckily most company refund train cost completely or at least a part. Btw, trains. It’s often normal to be inside a train for around one hour one-way to get to your working place. 3) A place to live Finding an apartment in Japan is sometimes difficult, especially if you have only a small amount of money. Living in big cities is pretty expensive and you often just get a small room for a pretty high rental price. Think about getting out of the downtown and look for a bigger apartment in suburb. Maybe also getting away from big cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Rent also gets cheaper the farther you live away from main train stations. If you found your dream apartment for your preferred rent, consider there are more monthly costs that will come up, like gas fee, water fee, electronic fee and so on. 4) Differences in household Japan is a modern country, but there are still some differences in household than I’m used to know from Germany/Europe. Let me tell you just a few of it. First, I was used to have a heating system in our house, in Japanese houses you use the air conditioner for warming and cooling. It often gets pretty cold inside in winter, so take warm clothes and blankets. Another big different are washing machines. I still can’t understand why most Japanese washing machines only work with cold water. Getting rid of stains in your clothes is difficult sometimes. Also washing habits are different – living as couple we use our washing machine nearly every day. In Germany, for two people, it might be only once or twice a week. 5) Language barrier Imagine going to the supermarket and standing inside a chaos of kanji and you don’t know what is the right thing to buy. Welcome to the everyday life in Japan! As a tourist you can handle a lot things with English or body language, but when you start living in Japan there are many new things where you definitely need Japanese language – or at least a helping hand. Filling out forms at resident offices, getting a contract for your mobile phone, renting an apartment, going to a doctor, … So start learning Japanese as early as possible, it will help you a lot, not only in communication. 6) Shopping time Many say Japan is a very expensive country. On the one hand – yes! If I see prices of fruits and vegetables in some Japanese shops I would like to cry. But you have no choice. Just try to stay away from buying stuff at Konbini because they are mostly pricy and take a look for a supermarket near around. Also stuff like cinema, theater, concert and DVDs have pretty high prices in Japan. On the other hand – there are places you can save money! Starting with the last topic – you can get CDs, books and DVDs pretty cheap at second hand shops like Book Off. When you need stuff for your household or even gifts you can find a lot of stuff at the many 100 yen shops around Japan. And even if it is cheap, it has a good quality. 7) Eating out Instead of cooking at home you sometimes should go out to have food somewhere. A lot small restaurants are giving the chance to have delicious dishes for a small amount of many. Tabehoudai (All you can eat) fills your stomach often for not too much money. At family restaurants you can have several dishes alone or with friends and there are Izakaya to hang out at night. And you can find typical Japanese food like Ramen, Soba, Udon and Sushi all around. For sure, there are also expensive restaurants in Japan, but you can keep them up for special situations. 8) Sightseeing everywhere You like Japan? Temples, shrines, castles, gardens? You are at the perfect places! How could it be better to explore a country and its sights while living there. You will be passing by special places every day. Just stop and take a closer look. There is so much to see in Japan you can never finish in a lifetime! 9) Crazy cafés and events Especially big cities like Tokyo are famous for their crazy cafés and events taking place. You can visit different animal cafés to see cats, owls, penguins, hedgehogs and more. Or how about entering a café themed as prison or Alice in Wonderland? You can experience maids taking care of you with cute food or have gay students making a rollplay for you. A lot of fun with one bad point: all of these are often quit expensive and have a time fee for your stay.10) A country like every else?In the end, Japan has its good and its bad points, just like every other country. You have to do a lot of preparations before settling down. The daily life has its differences, but it is up to you how you create it. You can go on with the same live style like in your homecountry if you want to, but shouldn’t forget to get connected to your new neighbourhood and everything around. Just try to enjoy every day in your life, doesn’t matter where on earth you are.
Koraku-en - one of Japan's best gardens
The Koraku-en (後楽園) is one of the best known sightseeing spots in Okayama and ranks within the three best gardens of Japan (日本三名園 Nihon Sanmeien). The garden was already commissioned in 1687 by feudal lord Ikeda Tsunamasa. Construction finished 14 years later in 1700 and is still remaining in its form except some small changes. The garden was used by the ruling to entertain their important guests, but also was opened to the public occasionally. In 1884 the garden became property of Okayama Prefecture and was completely opened to the public. With 130.000 m² Koraku-en is a large landscape garden, including many Japanese elements, just like ponds and streams, koi carps, plum, cherry and maple trees or tea and rice fields. You also can find tea houses, small pavilions and bridges. Okayama castle, which is just situated next to the garden, can be seen in the background. Take some time to walk through the whole area and enjoy the whole scene. Koraku-en is around 1.5 kilometers east from Okayama station. You can walk there within 25-30 minutes or take public transportation. The entry fee is 400 yen, however there is also a combination ticket with Okayama castle if you plan to visit both the same day. So, if you come up to be in Okayama one day, don’t miss to visit Koraku-en!
Shizuya – modern stylish hostel in Kyoto
In October 2016 I made a short trip to Kyoto, just staying for one night. However, when I finally set a date and wanted to book an accommodation, the one’s I stayed before were already booked out and most other alternatives quite expensive. I suddenly found Shizuya via Booking.com Newly opened in April 2016 the inside of this hostel looks pretty modern. There is a female only area and a mixed area. You can decide between dormitory room, private room, double room, Japanese style room and more. I ended up with the only room left: a small private room with a sleeping space reminding me of a capsule hotel. But hey, you are just there for sleeping? Anyway, it was a pretty unique style! There is a shared bath area, which was clean and also looked modern. The shower room was equipped with everything needed. Hairdryer and towels are provided inside your room and you have free internet access. They have a large common room and a small kitchen. However, there is also a restaurant belonging to the hostel just next door. Only negative thing: the futon was a bit thin, so if you like to sleep on a soft mattress like me, you will probably have a little pain in the back next morning *laugh* The hostel is only a 10 minutes walk away from Kyoto station, hidden in a narrow alley. It’s pretty quite there and good atmosphere for relaxing. I recommend it for short stays of single travelers. Website: http://www.shizuya-kyoto.com/ Note: The website is only in Japanese. I also spoke with the staff in simple Japanese, so I don’t know about the English language skills.
Traditional Japanese restaurant Aogaki
We have been invited to the New Year's Meeting of my Japanese husband's family and went to the Japanese styled restaurant Aogaki (青柿) which is located around 10 minutes by foot from the station Aobadai (Denentoshi line). The restaurant is a big building with bamboo trees outside and Japanese styled walkway. The staff is wearing kimono. Our group of ten people had an own room with tatami floor, flat chairs and tables. We had a menu with many different dishes. All were very delicous and it took over two ours to have all the food. After the staff was informed that I don't eat fish and seafood they made an extra dish for me with steak which was pretty soft. All the dishes were beautiful decorated. However, as you might can expect, it is not cheap inside. I don't know how much we had to pay in the end (because we were invited), but I think ¥ 5,000 for each person must be the minimum. We have been there for lunch time. I was told the dinner plan is even more expensive and it's normal to spend between ¥ 15,000 ~ ¥ 20,000 at night time. So if you plan to go there, take a lot of money with you.
Korilakkuma Café Harajuku (limited time)
On 1st December 2016 a new Rilakkuma theme cafe opened in Tokyo. This time it is specialized to the cute little bear Korilakkuma who will take you to its dream land. And this totally is the theme! Inside you find a lot of cute pictures, sweet music and dolls you can cuddle. The menu is pretty easy. There are three main dishes, three desserts and three drinks you can choose from. You are asked to have at least one order per person. For the main dishes we go with curry including a cute rice bear. Or you decide for a Korilakkuma burger which comes with salad and potatoe fries. The third choice is a cream stew. Coming to the sweets you can decide between fondant chocolate, strawberry pancakes or a strawberry parfait. For sure, everything is decorated with Korilakkuma. The simplest drink is a coffee latte which comes with a cute cookie. More special are the fluffy strawberry soda and sweet strawberry milk. If you want, you also can take a lovely cotton candy home. You can buy some merchandise at the café, too. If you want to visit the café you have to make a reservation online on the official website before. You can choose one of the available 80 minutes time windows. The reservation already costs you ¥ 648 for each person. However, when entering the cafe you will get one of three random microfiber towels as little present. The Korilakkuma Café is situated in Harajuku, just follow the famous Takeshita Street more downwards and you soon gonna find it. It’s around 10 minutes away from JR Harajuku station. Use your chance until 15th February 2017 when the time limited café is determinated to close again. Official website: https://korilakkuma-cafe.jp/
Grazie Gardens with Pizza-All-U-Can-Eat
On our small shopping tour on Sunday my husband and I ended up at a little Italian-looking restaurant close to the station Tamasakai (Keio-Line). The chain-restaurant Grazie Gardens (グラッチェガーデンズ) offers a lot pizza and pasta, but also other dishes like gratin, hamburger, steak and different side dishes.We mainly ended up there because of the ALL YOU CAN EAT PIZZA (ピザ食べ放題, pizza tabehoudai) which has an interesting way of serving. First you can decide if you want to have your Pizza Tabehoudai together with one main dish or two side dishes. I chose two side dishes (potaoes and corn-omlettes) and was already kind of filled up with this. My husband had pasta. But let's go to the pizza! One staff is always walking around with a pizza and giving it to the guest at their table. So she comes, asks you if you want Gorgonzola pizza and you can say yes or no. However, they are pretty quickly - you have a paper on you table. Show green if you want more pizza, show red if you want a break. I did serveral times to eat all my collected pizza pieces in peace.This menue goes with Drink bar and soup bar, so you will be definately rolling out of the restaurant. Price of the All-U-Can-Eat is 1,199 Yen (+tax) for one person - and this is pretty reasonable in my eyes.Grazie Gardens (グラッチェガーデンズ) is a chain restaurant, so you can find them at many places around Japan. Check out their offical website: http://www.skylark.co.jp/grazie_gardens/index.html