Out and about in Tokyo: A Canadian Expat's Thoughts about Living in Japan

Learning about the way of life in the Japanese capital city of Tokyo is something that Canadian expat Jason is intent on doing. He and his partner have been living and working there for almost a year already, and though some things take getting used to, there is much of the city and its people that he fell in love with.


-Where were you born?

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

-In which country and city are you living now?

Tokyo, Japan

-Are you living alone or with your family?

With my partner (we are a gay couple).

-How long have you been living in Japan?

For 9 months so far.

-What is your age?


-When did you come up with the idea of living in Japan?

My partner and I had been living apart for two-and-a-half years, he in Shanghai and myself in Vancouver. The long distance was tough for both of us and we desperately wanted the chance to reunite again. We had visited Tokyo in April of last year and I instantly fell in love with the city. I asked him casually if there was ever a possibility of him finding work there, and to my surprise, there was, although the negotiations took longer than we had hoped - long enough that I had almost given up on the idea when suddenly, everything had been confirmed and I found myself having to prepare for the move of my life in only three weeks time.

-Was it hard to get a visa or a work permit?

It was difficult to figure out my options on such short notice. Although my partner and I were married in Canada, our marriage has no legal recognition in Japan, so I could not obtain a spousal visa. There was too little time to apply for a visa to study or work, so I opted for a Working Holiday Visa that would allow me to travel and live in Japan for a maximum of one year.

-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?

No. My partner's company was able to take care of medical insurance and many other aspects of our relocation upon our arrival.

-How do you make your living in Japan? Do you have any type of income generated? 

I am essentially a housewife so I am financially dependent on my partner. However, shortly after arriving here, I began teaching piano at my home. After about half a year of living in Tokyo, I was also recruited as a proofreader by a Japanese translation company, so I'm able to supplement our household income. Both of these opportunities were found via Craigslist.

-Do you speak Japanese and do you think it's important to speak the local language? 

I did not speak any Japanese when I arrived here. I now have a private tutor and I am making some progress in learning Japanese, but I still find speaking and listening to be very difficult (partially due to my own insecurities). I consider it quite important to be able to speak or understand some Japanese simply because very little English is used (if at all) outside tourist areas.

-Do you miss home and family sometimes? 

I do miss my family and friends back at home. I was raised in Vancouver and, up until now, lived my entire life there. I also had a band and was active in the local music scene as well.

-Do you have other plans for the future? 

At the moment we are still deciding where our next destination will be, but I do plan on doing more travel across Japan while I am still living in Tokyo.

-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it? 

We are renting an apartment here in Tokyo. The rent is paid for by my partner's company so I am not entirely sure how much it costs (however, we are allocated roughly $5000USD a month for rent).

-What is the cost of living in Japan?

Cost of living in Tokyo is quite high. Local grocery stores sell food in small portions than we are used to in North America, and prices are quite high for imported goods. We have to keep a budget because it can be quite easy to overspend.

-What do you think about the Japanese? 

Most of the people I've come across here in Japan are friendly. Japanese people are generally very respectful and mindful of your personal space. Servers at shops and restaurants are always warm, considerate and very detail-oriented. I am aware there is a small percentage of Japanese that have negative views of foreigners, but I have not had any problems so far.

-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Japan?

Japan is one of the most livable countries in Asia in terms of air quality and cleanliness. Healthcare is of high quality as well.

My only complaint is that Japan, like most Asian countries, have very hot and humid summers, which can lead to cockroach sightings.

-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Japan?

I would encourage people to try to learn and understand the culture here. It is very different from what we are used to in other parts of the world and a better understanding would lead to a better living experience here.

-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Japan?

www.hyperdia.com is my favourite site to find out how to get around in Japan.