Adapting to life in Japan

Hey there. Been MIA for a while but I’m back again! Aaaaaaaand it’s summer in Japan again T~T Well, being born and bred in the sunny island that is Singapore, maybe that kind of explains why I’m better at piecing together summer fashion pieces… BUT I STILL HATE SUMMER. THE SCORCHING HEAT. THE UNSTOPPABLE PERSPIRATION. THE HUMIDITY. THE UNWANTED TAN. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

so fucking hot and humid in Japan. Everyday is burning. The perspiration won’t stop!

But summer also means that it’s a break from school!!! Yay! Not that I have anything to do until I depart for Singapore on the 23rd anyway. And I still have summer homework T~T. Damn. I have a brain block, I don’t really wanna do it…. I’m supposed to let my brain rest and rot and die during break! It’s not supposed to be working hard and thinking about school work during this period. Damnnnnnn.

But somehow, this year’s summer is kinda manageable… maybe cos I’m used to the lifestyle here already? Well, it also helps that I had moved in with ze boyfriend in a bigger apartment which is much cooler (well, ok, I turned on the air-con), unlike my previous shithole of an apartment where I felt like I was squeezed into a tiny pigeon hole. No heatstroke this year! Yay!

Photo 13-5-12 4 27 45 PM

My previous apartment…. kinda nostalgic. Wonder who’s living in there now…

Well, I’ve only been here in Japan a little more than a year, there are still lots of things I haven’t seen or not used to.  Most people get bored in Japan after like, 3 months? Honestly, I was like that as well. Not too long ago, I had desperately wanted to get out of Japan. I thought I had enough. I was just doing the same thing everyday. Wake up, go to school, go to work, go home, eat, sleep. Meeting the same people everyday as well. Damn, everyone has the same routine as well. I meet the same people everyday at the train platform on the way to school -_-

But somehow I feel like, there’s something to look forward to everyday. It sounds silly but yeah, I love dressing up everyday to school! I’m not exactly the most fashionable girl in town, but I do observe what people wear on the streets, and while I do not imitate their styles, I do try to keep my own fashion in check to make sure that I’m not an outdated dinosaur. Although I’m not exactly doing significant things in my daily life, dressing to kill sure makes me more motivated to go through my mundane life! Of course, being a student, finances is a huge obstacle in obtaining all my wants, but hey, a little perseverance go a long way. Soon I will graduate and have a job and then I can buy whatever shit I want. I also believe that being a student is an important phase to go through in order to learn how to manage finances. So. Tahan!!

I have thought about living in another country many times during the first 3 months I had started school. But, somehow, my thoughts will always come back to Japan. A part of my life must always be linked to Japan.  Even if I’m gonna live elsewhere, my heart will always be here…. I can’t live without Japan.

There are a lot of things I don’t really like Japan, but you know, all that I have ever dreamed of since I was a child, they are all here. This is the only place where I can be myself.

There's nothing special about my attire but people will stare me down to death if I dressed like that in sg!

There’s nothing special about my attire but people will stare me down to death if I dressed like that in sg!

So ok, let me just ramble about what I love and hate about Japan.

Food – a little more expensive and not the same kind of food I’m used to, albeit still Asian food. Learnt to just appreciate whatever food I have and not be picky. And hey, Japanese cuisine is delicious so no complaints (though I really do miss chicken rice and the cheap hawker food sometimes).

my beloved chicken rice… it is possibly my biggest sacrifice in moving to Japan.

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Transport – more efficient but so much more expensive. Being in a new country, I want to explore many places even if they are not tourist attractions but transport is just too expensive. I hope railway companies will just cut down on the money they pay to the staff to apologise for 1 minute delays so that tickets will be less expensive… Like seriously, who cares about 1 minute delays?? Would not be a problem in sg – I can get off any station anytime and explore as much as I can. Though, frankly speaking, there’s nothing much to explore…

Also, so hard to get their ez-link card equivalent in Japan… is it because I’m a foreigner?! I hate this discrimination… why is it so fucking difficult to just get a train pass?! It’s just a fucking train pass!! Would never happen in sg… you can get a ez-link card in less than 5 minutes!… but oh well. at least I have a commuter pass.

why is this card so fucking hard to get?!

Japanese trains are still more fun to ride on as there are so many things to see all the time, unlike sg with its unchanging scenery (buildings and buildings and buildings… MBS is still a building ok!) Japan has a wide and accessible train network and so there are a lot of places to explore (if you have the time and money). Somehow the atmosphere here is different and it can be more… romantic. Seriously. You just cant feel that in sg when it’s hot and humid and people are generally so uncultured -_-

just some beautiful scenery you can see while on a train towards Tokyo…

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Fashion  – so many more choices albeit a little expensive. But there are bargains available every season (with summer bargain the biggest and greatest but I have too many summer clothes, duh. wish prices will be slashed for other seasons too…) AND I totally enjoy the changing of seasons when I can experiment with new fashion styles, something that’s obviously impossible in sg, though buying new clothes can be expensive and troublesome. And I’m not an expert in fall and spring fashion, so it can be quite a headache. Well, still beats summer all year round I guess!

ok I admit, I’m much more into Korean fashion than Japanese fashion, but still, you can experiment with neither in hot hot sg!

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Making friends – Yes, it’s well-known that Japanese people are the most polite people in the whole wide universe. Tourists are always impressed by the politeness of the common people and the professionalism of the service staff. But those are about the only people they impress – the tourists. If you are trying to be friends with the Japanese, it’s overwhelmingly difficult. All of them have an innate system that categorizes people into inner and outer circles. People whom they’ve just met, people from work, or people from other countries usually fall into the outer circle category. They will always be polite and keep a distance from those who are in the outer circle, since they are not regarded as “one of them” or “the same”. And it’s extremely difficult to cross over to the other circle. It’s heavily guarded and closed up. Unfortunately, most foreigners fall into the outer circle. We will always be outsiders. Well, ok, should I be glad that I’m in the gray area, since I am an Asian and look Japanese outside but come from a different culture? I do have a number of Japanese friends but my really good friends in Japan are mostly Asian non-Japanese like myself (ok I’m good friends with a Swedish girl as well).

The annoying inner and outer circles. They are wired into every Japanese.

It’s not really an issue about nationality but rather personality. In general I do find Japanese kind of closed up and hard to talk to, but there are some Japanese who are much more open, I believe. Culture really shapes a person’s personality, eh.

People (in general) – Japanese are polite usually of course,  but people in West Japan where I live have a unique slang which is Kansai dialect which is quite thick and can sound rather annoying. It’s starting to get on my nerves cos I don’t understand much cos of their strong accent and god-knows what slang and they sound really annoying. Like seriously, shuddup la.

Singaporeans used to be equally annoying but given that there are probably more foreigners than locals now in sg, I’d die to hear more of singlish….

Bureacracy – in sg, everything can be done online and it’s very convenient and efficient. So that means people can still get things done even after work or school hours. And registration and stuff like that that do not require signatures can be done at home in under 5 minutes. Even tax declaration can be done at home. In Japan? Nah. Everything must be done on paper. There are a lot of people who actually DO NOT KNOW HOW to use a computer in Japan, because, you know, they are still living in the pre-internet ages. We have to go through so much trouble to get things done (ie paying the bills – every kind of bill must be paid separately. so mafan >< and banking. it can’t be helped that banks close early but it doesn’t help that there isn’t much internet banking available.) And they charge administration fee for every single fucking thing because you need to pay all those inefficient aunties to do all the paperwork. Aiyoh, why not just digitize everything and save everyone the trouble?!

Just look at the mountain of paperwork – the horror!

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Shopping – Japanese shopping areas make sg look so undeveloped with their wide range of brands available, both foreign and local, branded and not. You name it, H&M, Forever 21, Topshop (only in Tokyo), Zara,  LV, Prada, Coach, agnes b, Polo etc, they have it all. And they have no lack of good, fashionable local brands, thanks to their thriving fashion industry and renowned fashion schools, unlike sg with a dead fashion scene. Sometimes young Japanese people can be a fashion disaster, but that’s besides the point.

Sometimes it’s strange and weird but you know, that means everyone can just be themselves. You can wear whatever shit you want and no one will judge you. In sg… you can’t even dress like that in the first place, you’ll melt in the heat!

Women will be spoilt for choice when it comes to cosmetic and skincare in Japan. Most big names like Shiseido and Fancl are much cheaper here in Japan than in sg. But would totally appreciate it if Sephora or Boots opens a store here as well. But I guess it’s kinda difficult even for big names to break into the Japanese market because it’s saturated enough here with their local brands. Carmex used to be sold in Japan, but it got kicked out cos its just that competitive. Gosh what are these Japanese thinking. Kicking out a perfectly good brand in favour of those lousy lip balms that feel like crap on the lips? I’m gonna faint.

Japan, why you no like Carmex?!

In sg, both the fashion scene and young people are a disaster. The end.

… ok we depend a lot on imported brands like those above to supply our wardrobe and dressing table but local brands? Nah. I mean we do have them but these brands try their very best to not let people know that they are actually local, because then people would not buy them… Like how sad is that? Maybe things are improving now but unless we have super genius local fashion designer open a world-wide selling label here, the fashion scene is still as good as dead. And what’s the point of having big names open stores in the city when people don’t have a good fashion sense in the first place? What a waste of resources. And don’t tell me that the hot weather is the reason hor. Summer fashion is beautiful and fabulous but oh people with bad fashion sense don’t even know summer fashion exists.

But then again, I remember our local fashion magazines endorsing either fall items, or items straight from the runway that are not meant for common people, on their glossy pages for most part of the year and I’m like, hello, since when does Singapore snow? And how can regular people wear that kind of over-flashy glitzy stuff when there’s almost nothing exciting happening in sg in the first place? With our local magazines dishing out fantastic fashion advice like that, it can’t be helped that people dunno what to wear.

Let me show you some proof….

Yes, the model looks great. I applaud the stylists for their effort; they did a great job. But did they forget who their target audience are?

Compare and contrast Japanese fashion magazines…

Ok I’m sorry the image is tiny. But it’s clear enough. Aren’t these much closer to reality and what people are most likely to wear?

Back to Singapore brands. We do have local brands like GG<5 (talk about good naming, can you even read the brand name?) but it’s hardly my cup of tea…

Boring….

Don’t even talk about make up and skincare, they are highly overpriced and so limited in range. Gosh.

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Weather – I think I’ve grumbled enough about it at the start of the post. I just hate summer here, that’s all. It’s insane man, the whole of summer should be a public holiday. Every morning when I wake up my bed is always burning. That’s right, even my bed is hot. Everything is hot. My shampoo, facial wash, toner, everything. And my carmex is melting so much, it’s so oily. I have to put it in a shade where the sun doesn’t reach it. If you put coffee out there in the heat, it will become hot coffee. Ok that’s a bit of a stretch but yes it’s so hot it’s unbelievable. And the Japanese are self-claimed eco-friendly global citizens, and they love to cut down on energy usage. So yes they blast the air-con heater for 3/4 of the year and turn off the air-con from time to time during summer because they want to save energy. Makes sense?

Of course! When people are dressed up like bazhang (chinese dumplings) you still need to blow them more with hot air cos they are still cold!!

for people who dunno, this is a bazhang, or zongzi, a chinese dumpling. dress like bazhang means you are wearing a lot of layers of clothing. Mirage’s official vocabulary hehe.

But what if I told you, heating takes up more energy than cooling? So much for being eco-friendly.

Other than summer, I totally love Japan’s weather, but why they no have any damn heater? By heater I mean this:

I want a heater where I can turn on all day all night and not worry about the bills (ok I know it’s kinda dangerous but still). I want to come home to a warm place. Ok my bf does have a heater but it only warms up like an area of 1 meter square right in front of it. So if you are outside of that area you won’t get to feel the heat. I want a heater that warms up the whole house!!!!

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Housing – rental apartments are totally tiny and makes my parents’ 4-room HDB look like a palace. This is the one thing I hate most about Japan. The malls are huge and they DO have enough land but as for living space, oh people just need a tiny pigeon hole. Well, it’s probably because Japanese people are tiny but still, we are humans, not rabbits in a rabbit hole.

Here’s a glimpse of a typical Japanese apartment:

But if you have enough money and a stable job, it’s totally possible to get a big bungalow. There must be a big market for these types of housing cos I see it being advertised all the time on TV. So if your dream is to get a big house, I’d say it’s much more possible here than in sg.

Sekisui house, an architect/construction company. Always see this on tv and the jingle is always stuck in my head.

 

Need I say more? Even an HDB flat costs a bomb nowadays. And it’s supposed to be public housing?

Introducing…. public housing that costs you half a million dollars (doesn’t matter what currency, half a million of whatever dollars is a huge sum for a shoebox in a sky anyway right?)

With public housing like this, who still needs private housing?

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Working hours – ok, this baffles me a lot. Japanese are a bunch of people who would follow rules by the book like a robot programmed to act accordingly to its input. But when it comes to labour laws, nah, who cares? That book regarding labour laws, it’s been thrown out of the window and it’s probably in a trash bin now. Everyone works and works like as if they are really robots. My boyfriend only has like, 1 week of leave per year. I’m like wtf?! How to go on holiday together like that 😦 And whenever I see energy drinks/energy suppliment/energy bosting whatever thingy commercials on tv, I feel so disgusted. Like, for fuck’s sake, stop overworking people and stop encouraging people to overwork! If you are tired to the point that you need an external source of energy to perk you up (and that coffee alone is not enough, gasp!) THEN IT MEANS THAT YOU ARE TIRED. STOP. WORK. ALREADY. Don’t fucking ignore your body’s signals and what it’s trying to tell you.

If I can I would sue all these energy drink makers until they are bankrupt so that they would stop torturing and destroying people’s lives. But then again, they are not the cause but the effect of the problem….

You know, I have a rough idea why people have to work such long hours. Because they have to plough through mountains and mountains of paperwork in order to get their work done. Please lah, tolong lah, there’s nothing scary about the computer, just digitize everything already! Save money save time save effort and everybody gets to go home on time. If the computer is so scary then get an expert to back up files and do everything la. Then have him/her standby when things go wrong. So difficult meh?

I swear if I ever own a company in Japan I will NEVER overwork my employees. I will force them to go home at 5pm sharp everyday because I don’t want to pay them OT (and I also want to go home on time, haha). And no point overworking them because that’s just being counterproductive, duh.

…But before that I guess I have to be part of the system first eh. Work long hours like them… eeeew.

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Ok this is like a SUPER long summary of my observations and life here in Japan. And there’s gonna be more to come, of course. Life in another country, and especially Japan, is just too interesting to not note down.

Please understand that these are just my personal thoughts; I do not represent anybody else and certainly not all foreigners living in Japan. Sure, we do have similar experiences, but all of us lead different lives after all. And if you are a Singaporean or a Japanese reading this, please just take this with a pinch of salt ok? Just laugh it off and close the window. You may even think that I’m silly and ignorant, a stupid girl rambling nonsense, and that’s ok, because at the end of the day, I’m really just writing nonsense to (try to) add humour to an otherwise boring reflection of my life here in Japan. Believe it or not, even after writing this post, I still love Japan very much, and look forward to my future here. I took a leap of faith and flew over here with no regrets. And I’m never turning back.

Thanks for reading this ultra long post!!

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About Kimono Party Girl

I was born and bred in Singapore for the first 20 years of my life, and then I decided that even after flying all over the world as a flight attendant, life is still too boring. So, in search of more adventure and add spice to my life, I quit my job, packed up, and left for Japan - which is, to me, the promised land. I've always been fascinated with Japan ever since I was 8, thanks to Ayumi Hamasaki, aka the Britney Spears of Japan. She's the first J-pop singer that I have been obsessed with, and my first contact with the Japanese language was through her lyrics. Yup, I first learned my Hiragana from her song 'I am'. But what really sealed the deal was my first trip to Japan in 2010. The fresh air, the beautiful cherry blossoms, the endless fast fashion trends and the awesome food was what made Japan the land of my dreams, and it had since become my goal to one day live, work and party in Japan. So after working like a horse as a flight attendant for 2 years and saving up a decent amount, I made a big leap of faith and moved to the land of the rising sun. I have studied one year of Japanese and two years of graphic design. Currently, I'm in the midst of shukatsu (就活 - job hunting). Wish me luck!
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