What was your experience moving to Japan?
Pretty painless. I was an exchange student for a year in downtown Tokyo.
What was your housing arrangement like?
I lived in an unusually spacious apartment for the area.
Were there things that you were surprised about or had to get used to?
On my third day, there was a neighborhood shrine procession that was a bit surprising to see, but definitely in a good way, haha. Also, corn. Corn is on everything. Even hot dogs. I hope you like corn.
Where did you do your laundry?
We had a washing machine. The washing machines are also the dryers, which is handy for space, but it'll take 6 hours to dry your clothes because of the economy setting of the machine. Yes, there is actually a timer for 6 hours on the machine. For this reason, I knew a lot of people who air dried their stuff anyway, not wanting to bother with it. Dryer mode also wasn't the most careful with more fragile articles of clothing.
Did you use the public bath?
Were there things you wish you had brought or wish you hadn't brought?
No, I was pretty concise at packing.
What was it like cooking? Was it hard to get ingredients? Were there any foods you missed terribly? Were there new foods that you enjoyed eating?
Cooking was the same at home, but we only had one hot plate. Ingredients were easy to get, even american food if you knew where to look. The things I missed the most were real cheetos, and ruffles and ranch dip. I did love living out of 711, though. Lawson also has the best negitoro, ironically enough. Our microwave also doubled as a toaster, but it was a pretty lousy toaster. 7 minutes to toast one side of toast, so it took a total of 14 minutes to make toast. I'd recommend getting a proper toaster or toaster oven if there isn't one.
How about banking? I heard that banking is done at the Post Office. How does that work?
Post office is if you need to make a withdrawal from your home country's cards and can't find a 711. I prefer 711 for my international transaction needs. Otherwise I did my local banking at my local bank. They give you a cash card (NOT a debit card) and an account book, but I only ever used the cash card. I still have my account with Sumitomo Mitsui. It's got $5 in it, haha.
Are there other things you wish you had known about?
Realize that when you go food shopping, there is no going out for milk and bread. There is going out for rice, miso, and other sundries. Japanese milk is pretty terrible until you get used to it. It took me microwaving up some country ma'am chocolate chip cookies and desperate for milk in order for me to be able to drink it straight up. So don't freak out when you can't buy bread or four pieces of bread are $6 and only thick cut- see if you can make a friend and ask them what they eat on a day to day basis. I was personally stumped until I did a homestay for four days and analyzed everything my host mother gave us, then it all became easier.
Also are there any girl specific things to know?
BRING YOUR OWN tampons/pads/etc. You don't want to use the japanese ones, plus tampons are not common.
I've heard there is a lot of humidity and mold can be a problem. Did you notice that while you were in Japan?
Mold depends on how your place is made. It can be a problem. But luckily, it's also a problem for everyone else. That's why there's an entire line of mold-fighting cleaners aptly named "Kabi Kila!" (mold killer). Comes in gel and spray form, and also a ton of other forms. The only time I had to deal with mold was when a little started growing on my metal windowsil, probably from the condensation collecting there. I just squirted half the bottle of gel kabi killer all over it and let it sit for a few hours, wiped it clean, and it never came back. It's good stuff. Wish I had it in the states haha.
Are there rules to using the public bath. I've heard that you bath before entering water to relax, but what do about shaving?
There are rules to the public bath, including "do not shave in the public bath". Some places might have a separate place where it's ok to shave, but generally don't shave there. The likelyhood of you needing to use a public bath is incredibly slim, anyway. I haven't read a single account of a JET being stuck in a place with no bathroom. If you ever use the public bath, it'll probably be recreationally and therefore there will be no reason to shave. Also, no tattoos.
Awww Taco Bell... I can make some mean Mexican food, if I can find the ingredients.
If you look long and hard, you can find stores that sell tostitos salsa and chips and old el paso taco kits. These places consist of the posh grocery store in Ueno station and Donkihote in Yushima. Donki also carried cream soda and rootbeer, but never at the same time. It was usually one or the other. However, since pretty much none of us will be stuck in Tokyo, expect to find none of these things in the place you'll be assigned. If you do get in, and I hope we do, during orientation you might consider running to those places to hoard food and take it with you into the great countryside, haha.
Norsehawk wrote:the only Taco Bell restaurants in the nation are on the US military bases.
Hahaha, you heard about it, too, huh? We used to always threaten to raid the saitama base for some taco bell. We got a little desperate at the two month mark.
Norsehawk wrote:Bring deodorant/antiperspirant from home, as well as toothpaste as people have said before that Japanese toothpaste doesn't contain fluoride.
Seconded. The deodorant there might not be the best. I can't really say for sure since I didn't buy any of it, but there were definitely some people either not sporting deodorant period or used a really useless kind. Toothpaste from home is also necessary I think. The water in Japan also isn't spiked with fluoride either, so teeth are going to be pretty vulnerable if you're not anal about brushing, so bring plenty of toothpaste and use it.
Norsehawk wrote:I immediately missed was peanut butter
There's tons of it at Donki. Donki's also good for proper tomato sauce (like barilla and stuff), and other 'western' brands we're more accustomed to cooking with. Their shumai's pretty lousy, though.
Teishou wrote:since they're fresh, won't normally last more than 2 days in the fridge (meats, mostly). The expiration date on the stuff holds true - don't doubt the power of the expiration date.
Seconded. Things have a general lifespan of about four days, so forget about buying in bulk. There is also very little frozen food, and no such thing as hot pockets and tv dinners. However you can often get cheap gyoza or shumai that you just have to boil or fry, and with a little rice you've got a meal. There's also breaded shrimp, too. But yeah, when it says it's expiring on a certain day, you can bet it's gone mouldy on that day. I once accidentally ate a buttered roll I had one night in the dark because I was hungry, only to wake up the next morning to go eat the other one and found a spot of mould on it. Thinking I was going to die (oh, the melodrama!) I posted a picture on yahoo answers and a girl replied saying, "My dad's a doctor, and what you've got there is 100% pure penicillin- you're going to be fine." Sure enough I was. It also cured the cold I'd been nursing, but I wouldn't suggest eating mouldy bread hoping for a repeat performance, haha.
Also, I would suggest staying away from buying meat in Japan. Japan buys the majority of their meat from australia and they love 95% of it to be marbled with fat. I've never seen a lean cut of meat there. I advocate locating a good burger joint when feeling carnivorous or anemic and going there every so often. I'm also a huge fan of Hard Rock Cafe Ueno's beef fajitas- godly stuff, and worth the splurge. I'm not sure if you're american or not, but Hard Rock is also an awesome place to go if you're feeling homesick, haha.