Japan: Making the Decision

“It all starts with you, and that which never starts, also ends with you”

– Anthony Liccione

Believe it or not, I have been toying with the idea of moving to Japan for more than 10 years. When I was 12 years-old my family moved to Brazil, and it was there that I was first introduced to Japanese culture. Not many people know that there is a huge Japanese community in Sao Paulo, where we lived for two years. My friends at school introduced me to the world of manga and anime, as well as sushi. Most of my classmates were of Japanese descent, with last names as Tomida, Yoshino and Uehara.

As the years went by, Japan always seemed to find its back into my life. I continued to devour manga and anime, started to learn the language and studied printmaking. Later on, I met my boyfriend at university and Japan’s impact in my life just grew as he is half-Japanese.

However, no matter how much of an impact its culture had on me and no matter how long I had dreamed of living there, I never really considered the idea of moving there. There were many factors against it: I would be far away from my family, my boyfriend and friends, no to mention my fear of earthquakes. Japan was merely a distant dream, always floating around in the background of my mind. I would always tell people that I was planning on moving there for a year, but never truly mean it.

It was only later,  last year actually, that it started to become a real prospect. It took meeting two wonderful teachers to make me realize that if I didn’t move to Japan now, I would regret it later on in my life. And it was that fact that made me reach my decision.

Believe me, I’m not a spontaneous person. I plan life decisions like this meticulously and slowly. Compared to other decisions  though, it was made much faster. It was like a light bulb had suddenly turned on in my brain and everything was clearer.

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I remember immediately calling my boyfriend and telling him about it. How I was definitely going to do it the year after (2016), no matter what he decided to do. Of course, he wasn’t thrilled. The first two years of our relationship had been long distance and the prospect of going back to that wasn’t appealing, but he supported my decision. After that I informed my family, but of course they didn’t say anything much about it, as it wasn’t a sure thing then.

What I’m trying to say with this post is that moving to Japan is not a decision you should make lightly. And you definitely don’t make it on your own. No matter what your situation is, it will affect other people as well, and you should keep that in mind.

Another thing you should consider is if it will be good for your career. Is it a step forward or backwards? I made sure of making it a step forward when I was applying for positions, looking for anything that would give me experience teaching young children as that is the only gap in my CV.

Also, never underestimate the power of culture shock. Japan has a completely different set of rules and mannerisms that you might consider rude, cold or distant. And I think this happens a lot at work. Japan has a different work culture than that of western countries and that can be a huge obstacle when trying to get used to a new country.

I would suggest you visit Japan before you decide to move there, if you have the means to do it. I think it would help you make up your mind. Try and see if you can imagine living there or not, and keep in mind that a lot of companies will locate you in more rural areas where people don’t speak English. That’s what me and a fellow teacher did, and I think it helped us realize how much we wanted to move there.

 And, most important of all, you have to realize that Japan is a country like any other. Japan is incredibly awe-inspiring, but it isn’t magical. All of your problems will not disappear once you move there.

I might be sounding a bit pessimistic or like I’m trying to discourage you from moving to Japan, but that’s not the case. It is a big life decision and it should be thought of carefully. I’d recommend asking other people what their experiences were like. There’s a huge community of JVloggers on Youtube that has gone through this experience and they are more than willing to talk about it and give you advice. The internet was my greatest resource when looking for stories and advice, and you should use and abuse it too.

Next time I’ll write about the application process and how I decided which companies I should apply for.

Until next time,

Ines

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