Tokyo, Japan Report of what it's like to live there - 03/05/17
Personal Experiences from Tokyo, Japan
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
7th posting, lived throughout Asia, some Europe, and D.C.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Approximately 24 hour trip, various options to US hubs. Expensive to visit family. There is no R&R and tickets cost about $1,000.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Compound - easy 10 min walk to US embassy. Small by US standards but large for Japan. The units are shabby, old and run down. If you are lucky to live off the compound, the house quality is much better.
BBQ grills of any kind are banned -this makes compound life really frustrating. There are a few "first come first serve" grills on the grounds - much like living at Oakwood Falls Church - you have to schlep your stuff downstairs and outside.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
More clothes and shoes in US sizes. Spices, ethnic ingredients. But, you can get almost everything here for a price.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
So many- but pricey.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Roaches and mosquitoes.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO, and a good local services too.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Decent gym on compound.
4. What English-language religious services are available locally?
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
The more the better.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are crazy expensive, actually trains can be too, but they are very safe - but super crowded at rush hour.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Do not bring one, unless it's Japanese spec. Or, buy a secondhand car locally.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes and no. Service is very slow and seems to be that way all around the compound .
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Most use SoftBank here.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Jobs are hard to find unless you are fluent in Japanese. EFM embassy jobs pay very little.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Formal and business attire.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Earthquakes and possible radiation in food and water supply.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
I do not trust the local government to be honest about post-Fukushima meltdown radiation.
3. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Four seasons, mild winter but terribly humid summer.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Available but awkward commutes. There is some cliquishness and I would say bullying at the international schools. Academics are good but socially it can be hard for the kids. US embassy kids are not "uber rich" like most of their classmates.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Very large. Morale at post is hard to judge. It's a very segmented embassy. People don't really talk to each other-- it's very strange. Perhaps the high number of officers with Japanese partners has something to do with this- they have their own "life" in Japan and do not mix with others so much. The compound seems quiet and empty.
2. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Climbing Mt Fuji! Amazing sushi!
3. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
There are only so many kimonos and wooden dolls one can buy...the pottery is nice.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Just how weird compound life is--and that BBQs are not allowed on my balcony or patio.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
BBQ! Smoker! US car. Expectations of a close-knit embassy community.
4. But don't forget your:
Ski gear- wish we had brought our own.
5. Do you have any other comments?
Dream posting for some - meh for others. Maybe I am more of a SE Asia person.