For those who may not know, my family recently moved to Japan. Due to my partner’s job, we’re able to travel which definitely has its perks. We are beyond excited about this opportunity because Japan has been on our travel wish list since we were teenagers. Zeke is a huge anime fan, who does not miss his Sunday marathon (Any One Piece fans out there?). We both love everything we’ve read about from the food, the culture, and even history! So, this opportunity is a dream come true.
I thought I was prepared for this major move after spending almost a year on YouTube, reading travel blogs, books on kindle, and even messaging people on Facebook. Some tips were helpful to know ahead of time like the “No tip in Japan” rule ( tips are included in the total amount), carrying cash for daily errands, no eating while walking in the street, and the servers bring the meal and the receipt at the same time. Even though these are great tips to know ahead of time for tourists and even non-tourists, they did not prepare us for the challenges we would face once we arrived in Japan.
Things I wish I knew before moving to Yokosuka, Japan
I wish I had taken the time to do some research on the different phone providers before moving. One of the challenges we faced once we arrived was with our phones and communicating with families back in the States. When we came to Japan, we expected the same phone plan options as we had in America. Japan’s phone plans are completely different from what we are used to, so we had to do research to find the best plan to meet our needs.
Tip: If you are moving here or just visiting, first decide if you want to keep your American telephone number or would rather get a Japanese number. For those who decide to keep their number, Sprint has an international plan which allows you to add an international plan for just $5 a month. This is a popular option for those who like to keep things the same and hassle-free.
*SOFA families who choose to live on base qualifies for a free DSN number free of cost. your DSN landline number can be used to call families back in japan with a DSN number
The Transit System
To say we came to Japan with our Western ways of thinking is an understatement. The second thing I wish I knew before coming is, I wish I had taken the time to research and learn about the transit system. I grew up in Virginia, went to school in New Orleans, and moved to California in my adulthood so I’m not very experienced with train systems. Zeke, on the other hand, grew up in France so he has plenty of experience. On our first day using the train we were lost and ended up in Yokohama. That’s approximately 30 minutes away from our ideal destination! It was a disaster!! Thankfully we found our way back to the hotel.
Tip: Download apps aside from google maps for an accurate itinerary. Do not be intimidated by locals, ask them for help especially the train conductor and they will gladly assist. I’ve learned that the itinerary/schedule inside the train is more accurate and updated than the map so follow it.
Are you familiar with the phrase “it doesn’t rain in southern California?”Well, the same goes for Central California. The three years we lived there it only rained a handful of times, so we came in our late summer attire and were not prepared for a typhoon season at all… especially with a toddler! I wish I had taken the time to do research on Japan’s four-season weather.
I also wish I knew about the humidity. Japan is very humid! We arrived during the typhoon season, so it is extremely humid, rainy and hard for us to breath. Unfortunately, we got sick as soon as we landed, Yannis is still adjusting to the humid weather.
Tip: Invest in a high-quality dehumidifier for the home/ hotel, or even a portable one. We didn’t bring one with us, however, my partner’s job allowed us to borrow one during our temporary stay until we got into our home.
“A person is a person no matter how small”– Dr. Seuss
I strongly believe the Japanese culture lives by this quote on a daily basis. I did not know they were so child-friendly and extremely accommodating to younger children. In California, I always took child-size utensils and drinking cups everywhere because most places don’t have the items to accommodate a younger child. Out of habit, I took the utensils and cup to lunch but did not use it because the server brought our food with a child-size plate which was not a foam plate, utensils or a cup. Japan has amazed me by easily accommodating to my child and creating an environment for him to feel included during our mealtime. We live in a rural area and not touristic, so this isn’t an uncommon practice or special treatment.
Also, there are play parks all over the city for young children. Some businesses even have designated play areas while parents wait to be serviced. I was impressed by their product books, wooden toys, selection of colors, and their interactive materials.
African-American Hair Products
There is a limited stock of hair products for the African-American community. I wish I knew how expensive my basic hair products were before moving to Yokosuka. The average price for a single pack of braiding hair is $8 instead of $2-3 before tax.
Tip: Purchase all your hair care products before arriving in Japan. Buy in bulk if possible. Jam, gels, edge control, weave/wig, braiding hair, favorite hair cream, if you need it then bring it with you.
I wish I had taken the conversational practice more seriously in California. The language barrier has made our first couple days extremely difficult, to say the least. Even in simple tasks like communicating with the locals and the elders. It could be due to being located in a rural area away from the city, but the majority of the people don’t speak English so even finding a taxi is not easy at all.
TIP: Yokosuka MWR offers free Japanese language series for beginners. This language course is for twelve weeks on Tuesday from 12 p.m. -1 p.m.
No Street name
I wish I knew Japan has a different address system than most Western countries. The Japanese street in our town doesn’t have a street name. They are labeled with numbers and some are written in the Japanese alphabet, Kanji.
I’ve learned that Japanese mailing addresses in Japan, after naming the province and city, consist of three numbers: district number, block number, building number. I haven’t seen any street names in the majority of cases.
Expensive Fruits/ Affordable vegetables
Living a plant-based lifestyle, we are always on the hunt for fruits and vegetables. However, I was a little shocked to see a small melon priced at $15 and a Mango was priced at $3 each! I wish I had taken the time to do more research on surviving in Japan on a Vegan/Plant-based lifestyle.
Soft-spoken and quiet
I wish I knew the Japanese culture is soft-spoken and quiet before moving to Japan. I’m soft-spoken and very mellow naturally, so I was shocked to find the Japanese are even quieter than I am. The busiest street or train station is so quiet you can hear a pin drop. Based on my experience so far, I find that the women are softer spoken than the men.
It has been such an adjustment moving to Japan, but we are extremely excited about this new adventure. I hope these tips and things I wish I had known will help you as you plan your own travel trips to Japan or anywhere else in the world. I’m looking forward to sharing our new routines, discoveries, and life in Japan.