The arduous work of moving in to Tokyo

I've come to realize just how much of a struggle it is for a foreigner to settle down and build a long-term life in Tokyo. To be honest, this isn't the most foreigner-friendly country to move into and I've relied heavily on other people's kindness as I went through my own ups and downs in the past month. Many things are still unresolved but I guess it's about time I give an update to what's been happening so far.

First, I FINALLY found permanent housing. (Yay! Happy dance!) For a while, I had been drifting between hostels and guesthouses in the middle of high tourist season, which is the absolute worst! Since I never knew how long I'd need the housing, I could never reserve in advance. So I'd stay wherever there was vacancy until the point I got kicked out and had to start the moving cycle all over again.

The current situation has been so much better for my own sanity. I'm in a sharehouse where I just get a room and I share the bathroom and kitchen with housemates - a very common setup in space-starved Tokyo. It's an international house so it won't do me much good for learning Japanese but at least it will keep me connected to the outside world. 

Windows galore in my new bedroom

And ofcourse, I've spent a small bit of time exploring Tokyo more. A California friend came out recently for a work visit and we got to hang out and check off all those tourist sites I had been neglecting to get to before.

Visiting the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku
So random...
This is not a real robot! There were no real robots at the Robot Restaurant!
CUTE!! Overpriced omelette rice brunch served at a maid cafe
Taking in a panoramic view of the city at Tokyo Skytree Tower
Care package from the US!! My favorite brand of potato chips!

I even found an art class conducted in English! It's been so long since I've had the chance to draw and it's been a painful endeavor trying to unrust myself on this skill. Initial attempts are far below where I should be but I'll find my groove again eventually.

5 minute pose
5 minute poses
20 minute pose
Hours long pose - Glad I drew in his facial expression early. By the end, he was literally falling asleep!

Otherwise, a lot of my time has been spent trying to navigate through Tokyo without knowing enough Japanese. Eating at restaurants in itself has sometimes been a challenge. Especially since my face would suggest to people I should know something of the language. I'm sure I've been judged a dunce all throughout Tokyo's restaurant worker population.

Grilled fish for lunch. Don't ask me what kind though. I don't know what I ordered.
Eventually, I learned the Chinese character for donburi and the Japanese characters for meal set. I've been going crazy ordering this type of meal ever since. Yes! No more starving because I don't know how to read the menu!
After some time spent memorizing (or at least writing down) the names of various dishes, I was ready to visit the Japanese yakitori bar! I went wild sampling all the different kinds of skewered meats in Tokyo's most famous yakitori district, Memory Lane.

Finding work has been a whole other beast and the interview process alone taught me a lot about the Japanese concepts of 'tatemae' and 'honne' - the mask you put on for other people and the honest self you are inside. What is said overtly is very much a censored speech and may be completely unrelated to what's going on in reality. Obviously, it's a concept that exists to some extent in every society around the world but the Japanese version is something to get used to.

But this is probably the least interesting part of the recent moving process. I'll sign off for now and devote more to the job hunting experience later.


  1. Kelly I'm glad you're settled in your new apartment. I love your blog. It's so informative. Your photos tell the story of what Tokyo is like and they're really good!

  2. And I'm blown away with your artistry. The standing male nude and the seated figure are fabulous. You've got talent!