For those of you who are just now following my journey, Jason has accepted an offer with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows! We have packed up from our home in Imperial Beach, CA and said goodbye to the Tijuana Toros.
It was bittersweet, if I’m honest. And if I’m real honest, I was a little nervous in the beginning when I heard the news. I had just moved to the beach from Arizona, a place where I’ve always wanted to live, to be with the man of my dreams. I had friends there, I wasn’t far from my home in AZ, life was just peachy! Talk about being thrown a curveball. It took some time to process, we were moving across the WORLD. Well babes, that is the baseball life for you. This opportunity was HUGE for him, and as his #1 fan, my support is needed now more than ever! It’s not just me making sacrifices, he is too. We are a TEAM. Baseball isn’t forever, but the memories made along the way will last a lifetime. Adios, Cali. Kon’nichiwa Japan!
After two long weeks of stress, packing, moving our stuff from CA to AZ, then AZ to Japan, we were mentally and physically exhausted. No one plans for this stuff! This is our new home, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. We made it people!
We had to fly from Arizona to Los Angeles first where Jason had to get is visa for Japan. We flew from LA to Tokyo, which is about an 11 hour flight. You can either fly economy or business class (a lot like first class), and I HIGHLY recommend flying business class for such a long flight. It is expensive, but it was well worth it. You get free meals and drinks of choice, the seats turn into beds, and free TV or movies to watch on the way there if you don’t take a nap (I watched 4 movies and took a nap). We were told it’s best to fly red eye because of the time difference, but we left around noon AZ time, and got in the following afternoon, Japan time. We were feelin’ it, straight jet lag! Tip: If you travel to Japan, I recommend to fly ANA.
We are 16 hours ahead here in Japan. Our sleep schedules were completely off, wanting to go to sleep in the middle of the day, but we forced ourselves to stay up until it was technically bed time. I’d say it took about 5 days for us to adjust to the time, but it’s still not perfect! We’ve become early birds here, what is that?!
Like I said previously, Jason had to get a work visa, which is good for six months. Me on the other hand, I didn’t have to get one. BUT, I am only allowed to stay in Japan for 90 days. So as of right now, I have a tentative plane ticket to go home when my 90 days is up (depending on how the season goes), but if I stay longer, the rule is to leave the country overnight, usually a plane or ship ride to Korea or Guam, then I can re-enter with a new 90 day visitors visa. Japan is strict if you come to visit or live, so follow what you’re told!
If you’re traveling out of the country for a short period of time, I wouldn’t be too worried about what I’m about to talk about. If you are going somewhere like Japan for an extended period of time (like us) and don’t have international coverage, I recommend keeping your phone on airplane mode (P.S. if you’ve tried calling or texting and haven’t heard back from me, I cannot receive texts or calls from those without an iPhone! I get charged). This way, you can use text and FaceTime on Wifi. There is also an app called LINE that they use here in Japan. It’s like WhatsApp, and it’s free. Download it! (I can get these texts anytime).
We were able to get pocket Wifi through our translators. I highly recommend getting one if you’re going to live here. This way, wherever you go, you have your wifi. It’s around $20/month and works on multiple devices.
Things are very, very different here. Literally everything is opposite of the states! Cars drive on the left side of the road, with the driver’s seat and steering wheel on the right side. Even when walking, you walk on the left and people pass on the right!
We don’t have a car here, but if you’re planning on coming to Japan and driving yourself, you must get an International Driving Permit (IDP) ahead of time in your own country. The permits allow you to drive for a maximum of one year. After one year, you cannot drive in Japan until returning home for at least a consecutive three months in between. Also, the legal age for driving here is 18 years old, instead of 16.
There are many ways to commute here if you don’t have a car. Walking, train, or taxi. So far, I’ve only walked to places nearby and took a taxi once to dinner. Jason has used the train, but I haven’t gotten the chance to yet! You can either pay for the train each time you use it, or get the PASMO train card, which works like a debit card. You load it up with money (¥en), swipe your card every time you enter/exit, and it charges the card. You can even use it in some grocery stores, vending machines, and more.
Where we live, they told us we’re in the “Beverly Hills” of Tokyo. Our apartment is in the midst of many restaurants, shopping areas, grocery stores, and so much more! I’ve noticed it’s expensive here (ex: ¥1000 = $9.00). For example, I went to the grocery store, bought a single chicken breast (if you can even find chicken there! I had to go to 3 different stores), one avocado, bananas, and 2 bottles of water and spent around $50.00. Another example, Jason and I went to Shake Shack (our new fave spot in Tokyo), each got a burger, fries, and a shake for ¥4,763 ($45.00 ish). I will say it’s actually better than In-N-Out, BUT $45.00?! Not so peachy. Hello, home cooking!
THE LANGUAGE BARRIER
This is probably the most challenging part about our first week. There is English on a lot of signs and menus, but communicating with people if we have a question has been quite impossible. Clearly, we didn’t plan on coming here, or we would have brushed up on some Japanese. I actually didn’t even know how to say hello until now! Going to the grocery store has been hard, trying to find what we need because a lot of the labels are in Japanese. We can’t even buy laundry detergent because we can’t read if it’s bleach or not. I have an App on my phone to help translate, but honestly the Google translation is no bueno. We’re making it work though, and have learned a couple of phrases:
- Kon’nichiwa = hello
- Arigato (gozaimasu)= thank you (very much)
- Dōitashimashite = you’re welcome
Luckily, Jason has a translator, Go, who gets to travel with him to the field and anywhere we need, if we need him.
Grocery shopping in Japan is a daily or bi-daily thing I have noticed. People don’t shop to stock up. You can stock up on some stuff, but when it comes to fresh fruit, fish, or meat, it’s packaged and made to eat that day. The best stores around us that I found so far are the Peacock (grocery), Villa Marche (grocery), Olympic (mini Walmart) and Bio c’ Bon Gaien-nishi-dori (all organic). Because everyone walks everywhere, you carry your groceries or items home, and they even give you little ice packs if you have something cold. Also, it’s good to bring your own grocery bags with you (like Cali), they are highly known for being eco-friendly here. Even the garbage in our apartment is separated into ‘burnable‘ and ‘nonburnable‘, follow it.
Another thing, when going to pay for food or groceries, or anything for that matter, you do not hand them the money. You simply place it on the money tray and when you’re done, they will count it out then give you change. Something I found interesting!
There are a lot of restaurants, boutiques, vintage stores, and clothing stores down all the alleys here. They’re not only on the first floors either, make sure to look up in the buildings! Some can even be on the fourth floor. I can’t wait to check them out, so far we have just been walking around trying to get a feel of what’s around us!
The food has been absolutely amazing here in Tokyo. Our first night here, Koji and Michael (apart of the Swallows organization) took us to a Koren BBQ, Tonchang Akasaka, where you cook your own food they serve you! It was so cool. We cooked and ate tongue (yes, you read that right!), beef, veggies, and lots of wine to unwind from our trip. It was a great time!
A good friend of Jason’s, Wata, who played with him in Lancaster took us to a one-of-a-kind sushi spot called Roppongi Sushi Tatsumi. This place was SO interesting and highly recommend! You don’t get a food menu, you eat what they serve you. We tried all kinds of things! Sea snail, tobiko (fish roe), barracuda, tuna otoro, abalone. You name it, we tried it. I still can’t believe the sea snail, but everything was delicious! Especially the sake.
THINGS I’VE EXPERIENCED
Everyone in Japan seems to be extremely respectful to one another, for the most part (I’ll get there). The environment is fast-paced and not to mention, very clean. Everything is so green here, something I’m definitely not used to seeing being from Arizona! One thing I found interesting was when we went out to eat, you don’t tip. What! Coming from a bartender, this blew my mind. We were informed that tipping is not a thing anywhere, and that gratuity is included in the bill.
When I said “I’ll get there”, I meant I wasn’t treated so nice at the grocery store. I was in line, next to check out, the cashier looked at me, put up the ‘END OF LINE’ sign and shooed me to the next line over. I figured she was done for the day or something, so I went to the back of the line at the next register. When I looked over, she took the sign down, and took the next customer. !@#$%^. I didn’t understand at first, then later I was told it was because I was American. Some real life stuff right there ya’ll.
I found a gym here, Gold’s Gym, about a 9 minute walk! Not bad, so I walked there in hopes to get myself a membership. I was greeted by the front desk, and she spoke zero English. I was able to communicate that I wanted a membership, and she needed my I.D., which here is considered your passport. Of course I left my passport at the apartment, so it couldn’t happen. I told her I would come back after I got my I.D. to buy a month’s pass, which by the way is ¥17,000 a month! I’ve never seen a membership that expensive, but what else do I have to do. I had the cash, but they don’t take cash, only card, which not sure if it works here. I walked home one bummed chick. Someway, somehow, I will get this membership!
The weather, HUMID. Being born and raised in Arizona, never have I experienced weather this humid. I literally take a shower, walk outside, immediately need another shower. I’ve never sweat so much in my life just walking down the street! The rainy season is just getting over, but it’s 75 degrees that feels like 100. Thankfully, we missed the cold season though, that I just can’t handle.
In our first week, we visited a Buddhist temple nearby.
“Zenkoji Temple, which means “Yoshimitsu’s Temple”, is an affiliate to Zenkoji Temple in Nagano. According to the legend, it was called so because Yoshimitsu Honda saved the temple’s image of Amida Buddha. It was founded in 1601 and now represents Jodo-Shu School of Buddhism. The temple was moved to Aoyama due to a fire in 1703 where it was granted territory by Tokyguawa Ieyasu. It suffered another fire in 1862 and was rebuilt in 1916. By that time, Zenkoji was almost forgotten.” It is a peaceful place to visit, so enjoy the tranquility in such a busy city.
FOLLOW MY JOURNEY
There’s so much more to come, this was all just in our first week here! We have plans and recommendations from other bloggers and players to visit all kind of places here in Japan. We have a lot to learn, a lot to see, and a lot of games to go to! I will be uploading my journey each week to keep ya’ll posted! Hope you’ve enjoyed thus far babes! Keep it peachy. #lifespeachy