☆ i heart japan,  ☆ life

Living Tall in Japan, part 4

☆ Continued from part 3.
☆ To see all of the parts in this series, click here. 🙂

On my first full day in Japan, I woke up at 4 in the morning.

Wide awake, I sat in my room, an entire day in the land of anime stretching out before me. Oh. My. God. Oh my goooooooood. JAPAN. JAPAN!!!

Oh my god! It was this little fangirl’s dream come true, and it had only just begun! As of now, I had an apartment, a job, around $2,000 in cash that was supposed to last me until my first paycheck advance in two weeks, and three days of freedom before orientation. The world was my oyster! Or, well, Japan was. More like my sushi, really. Heck yeah.

Japan was my sushi. ♡

Today I had a task, though. Both of my roommates had other plans, so I was left to puzzle it out alone. Namely, I had to find the regional ward office and register myself as a working resident of Japan.

Of course, this meant that today, I was going to have to brave the trains alone.

I contemplated this fact as I munched on my breakfast of yogurt and cereal, and my heart filled with dread. …Couldn’t I just stay home, and wait for another day? One where my roommates would be here to help me if I got lost, or got on the wrong train. To help me buy a ticket!

Suddenly I wanted nothing more to do than sit around at home all day. I mean, my suitcases were coming this evening. But…. NOVA told me to get this done before my orientation in three days. They were very specific in the information packet that I needed to get my residence card application submitted in order to open a bank account. Or have a cell phone. And I had to have both if I was going to work for NOVA.


Okay. I took out the map of the train system in English that NOVA had given me. At the time, I knew nothing of express trains, or local trains, or anything. I didn’t know how long anything would take. The train system was just a scary entity in a foreign language that I had to figure out in order to live here. I could do this.

I’d been on planes before, and they had all spoken English. Trains, however. Until the day before, I’d never even seen one in real life. In fact, I’d only ever seen a commuter train on Japanese dramas. Maybe. I’m not even sure. Trains are no big deal for me anymore, after years of riding them, I have complete confidence (not to mention apps!). But at the time, it was a wondrous, strange, really scary machine.

Ang took me to the train station on her way out. Thankfully! I might have gotten lost otherwise. At the station, she helped me buy a ticket and taught me the basics (it’s actually very easy. The hardest part was knowing how much your fare was going to be), and got me heading in the right direction and how many stations to ride before I got off. Then she gave me directions to the ward office.

Armed with her directions, NOVA’s directions, an a furiously-beating heart, I set out to find the ward office.

But, you see, Japanese streets are confusing, especially to a newcomer, used to streets that go more or less in a straight line, and more or less in a grid-ish pattern. In suburban Japan, and in this area in particular, not a single street went in a straight line for more than a few blocks.. I was getting lost, scared, and frustrated. I couldn’t even ask anyone for help because I only spoke English.

I wandered up and down streets, with no GPS and no idea where I was anymore. I backtracked, and then backtracked again. I tried to follow one map and then the other, and THEN..! Then, I spied a street sign, written in Japanese AND Engish. “Ward office, this way.”

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!! I was sweaty and strung out with worry, but I MADE IT!

Most of the clerks didn’t speak english, so I couldn’t really say anything. I just handed a poor, bewildered-looking clerk the note that had been in the packet from NOVA. It was in Japanese. It probably told them that I was a scared, helpless, clueless person who they had somehow deemed worthy to get a job in Japan, and I needed to be treated nicely. Whatever it was, it got me sorted out! The funny thing is, there were actually two other new hires from NOVA there, too, registering for their cards at the same time as me!

It was weird not being able to talk to any of the staff, though.

The way back was much easier, thankfully. I thought that I would go home and pick up some food on the way back, but by the time that I reached myy station, it was all that I could do to run home and spend the rest of the night curled up on the sofa watching the Queer as Folk DVDs that I’d smuggled in in my carryon, and wait for my two big suitcases to arrive.

When they arrived, I was too tired to even put them away. After making sure that my PC was alright (I had just bought a new computer a little while back and so I took it all with me to Japan. Don’t judge. 😀 Actually, do judge! I packed that tower in my suitcase well, nobody thought it was a bomb, and it made it to Japan safely! I used the same PC for 6 more years, through a plane flight overseas and 6 subsequent moves. It was a good little pc. I loved it well, and it loved me back.

My next day, I found the Kinokuniya in Shinjuku, and you can just imagine what happened then! The honeymoon period didn’t last forever. In fact, the down that came after the initial high in Japan hit me nearly as badly as when I was almost fired from my assistant job years later. Almost as badly as all of the things that happened with T. You won’t believe it, I don’t think, unless you were there when I wrote about it the first time.

In fact, The Prince of Tennis is sort of what saved me. Exactly how, you will find out soon enough! 😀

Before I go, have a short tour of the 20-minute walk to my very first apartment. <3

Leaving the station.


Walking along the canal. The first part was easy because, canal. Can’t miss it!


We lived down the street from an elementary school. So cute! I didn’t know this at the time, but i must have been a private school as it’s unusual for public school elementary students to wear uniforms.

It all felt very foreign and exotic, how narrow the streets were and how closely-packed the houses were. Not to mention the style of houses. Now, that feels normal, and the expanse of the streets in America and London seem so wide and such a waste of space. Time has sure changed me. <3



Our apartment was in this building, on the fourth floor Actually, I think that’s it on the left there, the top leftmost apartment.





Room 707.

I cannot tell you how much fun it is writing these! I usually do it in the evening, when only Sansa and I are awake and the whole house is quiet. Then, I lose myself in the memories of these days. How I felt, too, as if the world was full of wonder, comes back to me in a wave, and I remember all of these details that I’d not thought about in years. It’s amazing. I’ll definitely be continuing soon. <3

(485 geeks have read this)

Hi! This is Jamie Lynn Lano! I am a Washington State (USA) native who: ☆ Holds a Bachelors of the Arts in Media Arts & Animation from AiPx. ☆ Worked as an assistant mangaka in Japan for Konomi Takeshi on The Prince of Tennis. ☆ Was an essay columnist for Asahi Weekly from 2008-2013. ☆ Was the star of Asahi Pop'n Press on Asahi TV (Japan) from 2009-2013 ☆ Was a write for Metropolis magazine in 2010. ☆ Has kept a blog foreeeeeeeeever! First and Current blogs.


  • Gino Wilson

    Im new to your page my friend showed me because I really want to move to japan one day and make manga myself I was just wondering what all does it take to live there I dont mean crime wise im kinda used to bad neighborhoods but like cost of living wise

  • Sam

    I moved from my home country 6 months ago, and I NEVER went further as the mini market, literally next to our house… The thought of having to communicate with people, without my husband, makes me crap my pants.

    I am sure that looking back, you’ll say that this kind of experience (where you don’t always have people to rely on) is one of the best… Because after 6 months I am still at square 1, a coward who can’t even take her walks anymore. xD
    Perhaps I should put on my big girl panties and go out, by my self, after all.

  • zoomingjapan

    I’m amazed! You remember so many details!
    I can’t, but I also didn’t write that much when I first arrived here and now it’s all gone, I fear.

    It’s so much fun reading about your first experience in Japan from today’s perspective. ^^

    I didn’t know you had no previous experience with trains!
    I had to use them ALL the time even back home in Germany!

    I guess I had a little advantage as I already was able to communicate a little bit in Japanese when I arrived here, but at first I also needed help from co-workers. ^^;

    • Jamie Lynn Lano

      I credit it mostly to the B vitamins that I’m taking. I started taking supplements a few months ago after reading that most people are deficient, and my concentration improved immediately. After a few months, my memory became razor-sharp. I can remember a lot already, but when I have a reference (like old livejournal posts), then when I start thinking back to the day, all sorts of little details come flooding back. 😀 I wish I could remember EVERYTHING, but I think I’m doing pretty good!

      It’s soooooo nostalgic to think about these things. Oh, and I see your comments on my lj when I’m checking the old entries quite often. ;D That’s fun!

  • Skay

    Hey Jamie,

    Amazing update, I loved reading it and as always can’t wait for more.
    Moreover, I have a question for you~

    Was it your first time visiting Japan or have you been there before as a tourist ?

    Most of people say it’s better to go there as a tourist first to see if you really like the life there before thinking about moving in for life.

    • zoomingjapan

      Actually I’m one of those people who insist of coming to Japan as a tourist first.
      I did it myself and I will recommend it to everyone!
      That goes for any country one wants to move to!

      So many people have a false image of Japan and I’ve seen so many who got frustrated and left Japan. Some even hated Japan.

      Of course, what you experience as a tourist is rather different from the daily life here in Japan, but at least it will give you a rough idea! 🙂

    • Jamie Lynn Lano

      Thank you, Skay! 🙂

      It was both my first time in Japan, and my first time in a foreign country at all! I’d never traveled outside of the US, unless you count once when my family drove to Tijuana, Mexico and walked around for about an hour.

      I agree that going as a tourist is a good precaution. You’ll get a taste for the environment and transportation, and familiarize yourself with the city, at least. But I firmly believe that if you’re open-minded and resourceful, you can adapt to pretty much any living situation. 🙂

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