Bowing

いらっしゃいませ〜

I need to stop bowing to my students… In Korea they are technically “lower” in status and you only bow to those above you of a higher status.  I just have the habit from when I was in Japan as a student because you can’t go wrong with showing some respect.  But now it’s just a bit weird.

As you may or may not know, in Japan there are levels of bowing to show respect to certain people of a certain status.  There’s a good satire on it here.  In Korea, it’s similar I think but not quite too sure.  What I do know is that it is common for students to give a full 90 degree bow to teachers in the hallways.

So you can only imagine them bowing 90 and me bowing like a 10?  Either way, I think it’s weird for them to see a teacher of higher status bowing to them at all.  It’s just automatic!  It’s like when we thank people over the phone, we even bow then!  And I know others can definitely attest to doing the same thing, or even seen a Japanese person do it before!

Anyone want to take bets to see if I can get rid of the habit?  It’s not looking good…

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TT – How I Came to Japan

Go Go Nihon

Go! Go! Nihon is an organization that I found online that is well established on the web.  They have their own website, YouTube, Facebook, Skype and Wiki pages.  I found that this was evident enough to be legit and worth taking a risk on.  Why use an agent you ask?  Because their motto is that they’ll help you with the full Japanese visa process for free.  Considering that I was still working at the time, 50-60 hours a week to say the least, I decided to ask Go Go Nihon for their assistance.

Process

  1. Find a school
  2. Inquiry
  3. Apply
  4. Go to Japan

Before you get started…

You need to research which part of Japan you want to live in.  Do you want the city busy life?  There’s Tokyo of course but also Osaka.  Do you want something more half city, half traditional and calm?  That would be Kyoto.  Or perhaps you would love beautiful weather all year round?  Okinawa.  Maybe you love or want to experience the colder atmosphere, Hokkaido.  Japan is a little smaller than California but quite long, thus the weather and climate is different per town and city.  Beside the lifestyle and climate, can you afford to live in the place that you’re thinking of, like Tokyo?  Please research carefully; GGN has some decent material on the major cities in Japan.  This took me weeks to figure out because I’m from NYC and love the city life so it would be a nice transition to go to Tokyo, but I was worried about the expenses so I was looking at Osaka and Kyoto.  I decided to choose Kyoto over Osaka because my ultimate goal was to come and immerse myself in the culture while learning the language.  After you choose your location, you can see the available schools that are associated with GGN and decide.  They have some useful info on their website listing the differences of each school, and videos on their YouTube channel of the school, campus, former students, and teachers.

Contact GGN

After you figured all that out, contact GGN to actually start the process.  They will ask for some official documents so that they send an application to the school.  If the school decides that they’ll sponsor/accept you as a student, the visa process will start.  The visa process takes an extremely long time taking months!  So do not think you can just hop on over here.  Also something worth noting that many would not actually expect is that the government requires documentation that you have at least ¥2,000,000 ~ $20,000 so you can support your stay here.

Regarding Accommodation 

GGN will take care of everything so you’re on track to come to Japan.  You may be forced to book your flight before getting your visa because of the long process; because the price may rise if booked last minute, depending on many factors.  Approximately a month before the semester that you’re applying for, GGN will reach out to you regarding accommodation.  They will ask that you fill out a questionnaire and provide some details as to what you have in mind.  From there, they will look around and provide some options from which you can either accept, find your own accommodation, or the school’s if available.

When I used GGN, their accommodation assistance was very limited to say the least.  But they have ensured us, former GGN applicants, that they are working on improving it.  Kyoto wasn’t that popular for GGN before, but has been gaining popularity.  Thus, GGN’s staff has also increased over time.  I’m sure they’re providing better service as each day passes.

Visa

After you receive your “visa”, it’s not actually a visa yet, it’s a Certificate of Eligibility, you are to take it to the Consulate/Embassy and apply for the visa with the COE.  You’ll need a visa/passport photo, the COE, and passport to get a visa so make sure you bring it all to knock it out in one go.

Arrival

Finally, take your luggage, passport, and visa and go to Japan!  At Japan’s customs, you’ll have to provide your passport including the visa and COE.  The agent will take your COE stapled inside and you’ll be issued your residency card, your Japanese ID.  Hopefully you have some sort of accommodation and you move in.  But that’s not all!  Within 14 days of arriving, you need to go to your ward’s city hall (shiyakusho/市役所) and register your living address.  I had trouble with this because I didn’t know what constituted as a public office and such.  I decided to try the Japanese Post and yeah, you can do it there.  The written form you have to fill out is in Japanese though.  It was painful writing all the Kanji in my address that I’ve never seen before!  After many sweat drops, I got through it and handed it to the guy.  But that wasn’t actually it… During orientation for school, we went to the shiyakusho and properly registered.

And with that, YOKOSOU!

What do you think about using agencies like Go! Go! Nihon to go to a foreign country?  I’m thinking about going to South Korea as my next step, do you think I should use another agency?  I’m welcome to all recommendations 🙂

TT – What to bring to Japan

Packing for a trip is generally very easy for me, just pack the necessary clothes plus my laptop/tablet, phone and camera.  All of my trips thus far have been relatively short, or the weather was pretty constant and therefore packing was very simple.  This time around I am heading to Kyoto, Japan where they have all 4 beautiful seasons; I hear it is similar to North Carolina’s weather so it shouldn’t be too bad, but packing is a different story.  In addition to the difference in climate, there’s the culture too; Japan being quite unique.  Thus, I researched what I needed to bring; I already spent the past couple weeks researching other cultural differences, save that for another time.

As with anything unknown to me, I started to research on the Internet.  I started with YouTube J-vloggers; I spent days watching videos on random topics related and unrelated to packing for Japan.  After realizing that I spent too much time on YouTube and that I had an incomplete packing list, I resorted to a simple Google search.  I do not know why I didn’t start with Google like I always do.

Anyways, below are the most important and common items that I came across and a brief explanation as to why people included/mentioned them on their lists/videos:

  • Deodorant – it is not common to wear, and the only available products are spray
  • Shampoo – medicated kinds like for dandruff are unavailable
  • Cologne – not part of the culture nor sold in stores
  • Rice cooker – even used ones being sold are more expensive than those in America
  • Can opener – apparently can’t be found easily
  • Spices – bring favorites as not all are available in stores, even import stores
  • Presents – for teacher colleagues at schools as it is a custom, typically edibles like candy
  • Hand Towel / Hand Sanitizer / Tissues – for public restroom use
  • Bug spray – expensive
  • Apparel and Footwear – larger sizes are unavailable, if you’re larger than an average asian then prepare; keep in mind the culture too, like switching into other shoes/slippers entering buildings

You may be thinking, “EWWW they don’t use deodorant?!” Yeah, it’s true.  I heard that the Japanese only started selling spray deodorants not too long ago.  I haven’t heard any complaints about distinct body odors though; the way I think of it is it can’t get worse than the summer evening rush hour in NYC on the 4 / 5 trains from Grand Central to 14th St Union Square!

Anyways, in the end I packed everything above except the can opener.  I kind of forgot about it and did not bother because I’m sure I can find one!  Hopefully…

Might do a part two to this post in the future if there’s a need!

Feel free to comment if you have questions or concerns or just email me at humblewanderlustblog@gmail.com!  Don’t forget to subscribe for further info; won’t just pertain to Japan!  My next post may be about some magical world… 🙂