Resolution: preparing to leave Japan

A guide to my preliminary stages of leaving Japan

Sorry for my long hiatus, when uprooting your life (after taking quite a while to establish it), it is quite a stressful time and writing and blogging (even though I do love doing it) did fall be the wayside. But I’m Back!

Anyway, when preparing to leave Japan, one does need a checklist or an escape list that one needs to go through and I thought that for people in a similar situation, it may be helpful to go through my provisional one.

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Money

Money means everything and nothing and this is the case when preparing to leave.

The main money worries that I am facing is an income in the UK (i.e. I need to find a job). But not being able to walk into a job upon my return does not mean that my money issues are just starting- I still have bills that I am paying (a credit card for example- hint for those leaving the UK, pay off your credit card before leaving) and I will be facing bills after I set up a new place to live.

After establishing myself, there are further bills to consider: rent, council tax, water rates, gas, electricity, food, and internet- these are the essentials. Following this, there is gym membership, insurance, buying a car etc- all of which I need to do seemingly yesterday but without the cash to do it.

Once I have set all of this up, even if it means getting a job that I need and do not necessarily want, I then will start to think of longer term ideas and plans- which again require money.

The leaving checklist

Photo by Content Pixie on Pexels.com

Once I have learnt just how much I have to do once I arrive- let’s consider leaving Japan. Now remember: just because you can jump on a plane and leave doesn’t mean things won’t follow you if unprepared. Starting from the top: apartment.

Apartment

Firstly is your apartment company leased or self leased? Did it come furnished or all self furnished and what about utilities? These are the first questions that you need to ask. If your answers were mostly company provided- rejoice your life is suddenly much easier. Here’s a quick OMG please help me guide:

Company provided
  • Inform the company (if not already) of your intention to resign (if not already done so)
  • ask the company if you will need to pay a termination fee for the apartment or utilities
  • be prepared to pay the final bills on move out day in cash
  • Ask the company about the provided furnishings: are they to say for the next person or are you to get rid of them?
  • Ask about leaving anything for the new person e.g. rice cooker, cleaning supplies etc
  • get rid of things early that are not wanted
Self-provided
  • Contact the housing company about your intention to move- there may be a contract cancellation fee (usually 30,000 JPY) and a closing fee and cleaning fee (an extra 20,000 JPY+)
  • Contact the utilities companies (there may be a cancellation fee in addition to the final bills)
  • Internet: there may be 2 companies to contact if you have fibre. You will need to contact the line holder (e.g. NTT) and the ISP (e.g. AU) to cancel. There may be termination fees for both contracts.
  • Find out how to get rid of everything that you do not want to keep- follow local garbage regulations- if you do this wrong, you will be fined!
  • Clean the apartment to perfection to reduce the change of getting charged an extra cleaning fee
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Apartment advice
  • Hold a “sayonara” sale either on Facebook or on other apps to help provide a little extra money for your journey back
  • Sell things to a second-hand store e.g. Hard-off (for electronics), book-off (for books, CDs, and DVDs), Off-House (for anything household) or another thrift store.
  • If all else fails, try giving things away to friends, colleagues, acquaintances etc.
  • If that fails, bin it!
  • Regarding apartment cleanliness: would you be happy to move back in if you walked in now? No, get back to cleaning! Yes, go for a walk and ask the question again? No, clean and yes move on.

Finally, ask your company the following questions:

  • When is my last work day?
  • What items do I need to return?
  • How much vacation time do I have and how/ when can I use it?
  • Is there anything that I should focus on during these last months?*

*The usual resignation period is 3 months notice. Contract termination must be at least 1 month prior- unless other arrangements have been made (severance package etc).

City hall

City halls or 市役所 are at the heart of every Japanese town and city that there is a lot you must do there. Firstly, you must give your moving notification at least 1 month before moving (I’ve not yet done this), additionally you must cancel your “my number”, your health insurance, your pension plan and find out how much tax you owe. Finally, you need to get the forms to appoint a tax representative. To put it another way:

  • Moving out notification
  • cancellation of health insurance
  • cancellation of pension plan (KEEP THE BLUE BOOK)
  • appoint a tax representative (a native who you trust or a tax lawyer)
  • cancel your “my-number”
  • find out how much tax you owe- if possible
  • get extra paperwork to apply for a police certificate (better to have it…)

Got it?

Note on tax, if you’re staying in Japan for 1 year or less, your tax rate is set at 20%, if you stay longer than 1 year, your tax rate is set at 8%. Please set up a way to pay- it will follow you no matter where you go.

A police certificate is proof that you were very good during your stay in Japan. If you are looking to go into a job which requires the handling of certain data, it is a very good thing to get before you leave.

Shipping

Now you have some idea of what you need to do- what about sending things back? Japan post have a few different options and to keep costs down, start ASAP!

The most cost effective way to ship thing back to your country is via surface mail i.e. ship. A typical box will set you back 5000 JPY and takes at least 2 months to get there- but during your move out process, it’s nice to have the extra space.

If you have the money, or need to have these things back with you, a typical box via airmail will set you back 13,000 JPY- this is for the cost effective solution. If you want it to send a lot back, it may be cheaper (depending on how much you want to send back) to get a company ship everything back to you. Typical prices are 4000 USD+ and while there are many options, please do some careful research and do it ASAP.

Airport

Fun fact: even though airplane is spelt aeroplane in British English, Airport is still airport not Aeroport (like in French).

Moving on, you need to book your trip back and I highly suggest you do it sooner rather than later. Even though there is little evidence to suggest that you get a better price, it does allow one to plan one’s life that bit more.

Please get the best flight you can! I say this because even though there are some extremely cheap flights to the UK- they have downsides e.g. 35 hours journey time or self transfers (think arriving at London City and the next flight leaving from Heathrow) or airline companies which offer no baggage etc.

Once checked in there is security and immigration. When leaving, Japanese immigration officials will ask are you sure you want to leave? This will be asked multiple times before the visa is cancelled- at thing point Japan has washed its hands of you.

Quick note, don’t forget that you may have to stay at a hotel for a few nights and that you still need to travel to the airport- budgeting is key!

Finally, healthy living

Just because I’m leaving does not mean that any current resolutions/ plans have stopped- it just means that I have to be more aware of everything I do and be aware how much time I have to do it in.

2020 is a leap year which has given me an extra day in Japan and I simply cannot waste it. Simply put, a usual New Year’s Resolution puts pressure on one to start on 1/1 and while may fail (doing too much too soon), you have to realize that it is a marathon (not the chocolate bar) not a race.

But there is still a lot I want to do before I leave, so perhaps time management has become even more important than before- including making time for blog posts (and I do have a lot to post). What I am trying to say here: life does continue even though are leaving. You still need to clean, to cook, to work, to live: it does not matter the eventual outcome- life continues regardless.

Thank you for being so patient with me. As always: thank you for reading and happy exploring.

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Resolution: not a sprint…

Part of the resolution series looking at the entire journey- not just the start!

Photo by Breakingpic on Pexels.com

Japan, it seems, does lend its self to the concept of New Year’s resolutions due to the fact it is an obsession here. There are many products which promise to help with one’s health, or elixirs that “are a ground breaking innovation that well help with X and Y and you won’t believe that you have live without it before”- like every other country!

But no matter how much you are willing to change, it is important to note that “good things come to those who wait”- the irony of using a beer tag line to promote healthy living is not lost on me. However, that it is important to know that a New Year’s resolution is a promise to change your lifestyle- for the better and from now on.

The point is, no matter if you are constantly failing to keep your New’s years resolution, if you are determined to see through to the end, you must work on it each and every day. That is not to say that if your goal is to develop the body of your dreams, it means going to the gym each and every day- not is an impossibility when just starting out.

No matter where you are in your ‘New Year’s resolution journey’, it is important to know where you are up to and what you actually know. What I will always recommend is research (and research allowed me to fix my laptop- which means I can use more than 1 tab at once- woot!).

Researching allows you to know what is (in this case) good for you and what is not- is eating pizza forbidden if you want to lose weight and gain mass? No, but you need to eat everything in moderation and ensure that you are otherwise healthy. Is drinking soda bad and thus forbidden? Yes, but you can still enjoy the occasional glass of soda in moderation.

Having the opportunity to know or learn to know what is good and bad is invaluable and will help. It is not yet 2 weeks into the New Year- so don’t worry if everything has gone awry- it does not matter. As long as you are trying and intending to change- that is all that matters. If your resolution takes 6 months to really start- it takes 6 months- don’t worry about it.

If you move to Japan in that time, don’t worry they have (seemingly) an entire culture surrounding health living and a health life style- from gyms, to products, to well-being services etc.

It’s going to be interesting once I move back to the UK and I believe that it’ll take more effort in being healthy and maintaining my now healthy lifestyle- perhaps that should me my New Year’s resolution: preparing for my life post-repatriation (starting on April first).

Don’t worry- I will not stop posting about Japan- I have so many experiences and things to research and post that content will not be stopping anytime soon.

Thanks for reading and keep up the resolution. Happy exploring.

Resolution and awareness: vaccination

An awareness and resolution post, looking into global vaccinations including proving Karens of the world wrong! Also, vaccinaion programs in Japan

While scrolling through social media, there have been several posts suggesting that a pandemic is to occur this decade. There have been major epidemics and thus pandemics in the 1720s, 1820s, 1920s with the 2020s to possibly follow. But what disease if any would be the probable cause?

Firstly: terminology. An epidemic is when a disease affects a great number of people in an area or country. A pandemic is a global epidemic- simple. Previous examples of pandemic diseases are SARS, avian influenza, Ebola, small pox, yellow fever, TB, leprosy, Spanish flu etc.- there are an awful lot of examples.

While many countries are doing a lot to combat this, there is certainly more that can be done. However, not every country is able to prepare to a similar level- which is part of the problem.

In some LMICs (lower to middle income countries), are more prone to starting a pandemic due to very high contact with animals along with poor access to medical facilities. In addition to this, these countries are usually unable to invest large amounts into epidemic preparedness.

There are many challenges facing the global community with regard to pandemics and one of the more worrying examples is increased antibiotic resistance which a disease can develop if, for example, a person does not complete a dose of antibiotics correctly, if antibiotics are over prescribed and if the disease mutates.

I do have to note that antibiotics will NOT work for viruses at all- if you have influenza antibiotics are as useful as tick tacks- but at least tic tacks will freshen your breath.

Immunization 101

One thing that increases the risk of an ID (infectious disease) mutating is lack of immunization. Immunization helps protect a population from a disease by introducing them to either a dead or ‘live’ disease via an injection. The body’s immune system then works to counter act the disease and produces antibodies which are then ‘saved’ in the body. Some time later, if a person comes into contact with the actual disease, their body is already ready and prepared to fight off this disease.

Many people suffer or die from preventable diseases because they are not immunized. A 2015 case in Japan featured a 10-month-old boy who caught Japanese encephalitis and although he did live, his arms and legs have been severely paralysed. There are many cases of people catching and dying from measles.

The elephant in the room

Some people (we’ll call the Karens) are against immunization because of several reasons including: possible side effects including the adverse medical reactions, the introduction of harmful chemicals (including aluminium and mercury), and there being “no point” in being immunized because the diseases that people are immunized from are ‘no longer a risk’.

I know that I have set up a straw-man argument against the Karens of the world but I shall enjoy using this argument flaw method regardless.

Number 1: immunizations cause adverse medical effects

Most people will cite the study that “showed” a link between the MMR vaccine and autism. Simply put there is NO link between the two- in any way. The review into this study was produced by the WHO (World Health Organization) who’s only bias is the promotion of global health.

Other people may look at the “link” between the DTP vaccine and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and while it seems to be directly related to one another, this is again false. If there were a true link between the 2 factors, the number of SIDS deaths would be astronomically higher. The SIDS deaths were by chance but people have a need point to a cause of death and the vaccine was chosen.

In fact, several studies have shown that the DTP vaccine actually reduces the chance of SIDS deaths.

Number 2: the introduction of harmful chemicals

Many Karens will also say that “vaccines contain harmful chemicals that will harm me/ my child, so I’m not going to vaccinate. It’s my choice.”

The first question for the Karens of the world is: do you drink from soda cans, or live near a road, or smoke? Yes, you already take in 4 times the aluminium that is allowed in a vaccine.

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Other harmful chemicals that may exist within a vaccine usually only exist in trace amounts which help with the bodies autoimmune response and only in certain vaccinations. However, using mercury and formaldehyde as examples- mercury acting as a preservative- in tiny amounts and in a safe compound- and formaldehyde used to render certain viruses such as polio inactive for use in vaccines, more harmful chemicals are ingested in everyday life than via vaccines.

If we look at mercury, and ignoring the fact it has been eliminated from most vaccines since 2001, 69 mcg of mercury is ingested in 1 can of tuna while 25 mcg of mercury is taken in with one influenza injection.

Regarding formaldehyde (the highly carcinogenic, environmentally toxic chemical used in embalming), is extremely common in the environment. Most apples contain more formaldehyde than in the “Hepatitis B, DTaP and polio vaccines together”- a little FYI, this includes organic apples as formaldehyde is a naturally occurring chemical and the human body produces it as part of metabolism which is then converted into carbon dioxide and exhaled.

Pont 3: there is no point in vaccinations as the diseases that are being vaccinated against are no longer a threat

This one is the easiest to disprove to the Karens of the world and can be done with just one world: measles.

Need a bit more? The WHO reports on disease prevalence and outbreaks globally and has reported such trends as the highest measles’ prevalence are in countries with low vaccination rates and there are ongoing out breaks (Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Philippines, South Sudan, Sudan and Thailand). While the data from 2019 is still provisional (to be finalized by July 2020), there were some serious trends that appeared when comparing the first 6 months of 2018 and 2019.

  • The US reported over 90,000 cases of measles at the start of 2019- the highest in 25 years
  • From 2018 to 2019 measles prevalence has increased:
    • 900% in the WHO Africa region
    • 120% in the European region
    • 50% in the Eastern Mediterranean region
    • 230% in the western Pacific region
  • Additionally, the WHO reports that fewer than 10% of measles cases are actually reported.

The final jolly bit will be just one number- the number of people that died from measles in 2018. Please remember the measles is mostly a preventable disease- so most of these deaths if not all were preventable.

More than 140,000 (…)”

https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/05-12-2019-more-than-140-000-die-from-measles-as-cases-surge-worldwide

So Karens of the world, there is no reason not to be vaccinated- not even ignorance will save you!

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Vaccination in Japan

There are 2 types of vaccines in Japan: voluntary and routine vaccinations. Routine vaccinations are free if you take your child to a clinic within the time frame. Some voluntary vaccines may be routine vaccines in some prefectures.

Voluntary vaccinations are paid for out-of-pocket- and there is quite the list (see below). It is also important to note that out of the 15 vaccinations, 5 are ‘live’ vaccines which depending on pre-existing medical conditions, you may not be able to take.

Routine VaccinationsVoluntary Vaccinations
RotavirusHaemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
MumpsPneumococcal Conjugate (PCV13)
InfluenzaHepatitus B virus (HBV) universial vaccine
Diphtheria, Pertussis, Tetanus, Polio (DPT-IPV, IPV)
BCG
Measles, Rubella (MR)
Varicella
Japanese Encephalitis
Diphtheria, Tetanus (DT)
Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

The ministry of health has a vaccination programme in place for children under 1 to be inoculated free of charge, and they’ll receive 19 shots in total (including boosters) but not every family is able to go to a clinic regally and if an appointment is missed, the remaining shots must be paid for by the parent.

An additional problem regarding vaccinations in Japan is the lack of combined vaccinations. In the UK, most children receive the MMR vaccine but in Japan the Mumps vaccine is routine while the MR vaccine (measles and Rubella) is voluntary. One way to increase total vaccination rates would be to have a greater availability to combination vaccines but Japan wants to protect domestic vaccination production rather than import vaccines which are seen by many to be better.

A full vaccination schedule (in English) is available on the further information page.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

The month ahead: resolutions

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It’s been quite a month- even if you disregard the 2 weeks when I was unable to post.

I hope awareness month did prove to be useful and don’t worry- I’ll continue to post topics that I believe need more attention but this will also include global topics- not just Japan.

Now January, and as said in the “goodbye Japan” post, I will be leaving Japan this year which is not something I planned for but is something that I must do. But don’t worry, you will only see this change in April. So, in the meantime, please expect some posts about leaving Japan.

Now resolutions: for many people the new year is a time for change and renewal but most people fail their resolutions as they try to do too much, too soon. What I will post will be a step-by-step guide to being health in Japan. It’ll start small and build up and I will be following this as well.

Resolution 1

For January 1st, the first step is simple: get up at the same time most days. A steady sleep schedule is required as a foundation for a healthy lifestyle. What I have discovered during my life in Japan is simple- Japan operates on Japanese time and most places are open during the day with few things being open outside the 9-5 life.

Additionally, a sleep schedule allows a regular sleep pattern and reduces the chances of some NCDs (non-commutable diseases) such as high blood pressure, diabetes (if you saw my previous post I’m not diabetic woot!), risk of heart disease etc. Furthermore, sleep deprivation can contribute towards loss of balance, mood changes, loss of libido (sex-drive), weakened immunity, and memory issues.

Do all of that sound like a fun time to you? No, well get some sleep! The practise of getting enough sleep is called “sleep health” and getting enough sleep is a global problem- mostly in HDCs (highly-developed countries i.e. the US, UK, Germany, Japan etc). Some things you can do improve your sleep health is reducing screen-time before bed-time, exercise daily, and have a relaxing bedtime ritual.

It is something I am working on as well- don’t worry I’m no where near perfect either!

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2019 a year in review

2019 has been a hectic year for me and a lot has happened. It was the year I came back to Japan as a working professional instead of an exchange student- which has been an interesting experience, and I am very happy I did so. However, my ambitions for my future lie beyond Japan- so it is also the year that, in some respects, I must forget about Japan.

Coming to Japan, I was a smoker and extremely overweight (read obese). When I came to Japan on the 4th of January, I was 128 kg and at time of writing I am 97.5 kg- a definite improvement but there is still a lot more work to be done!

With regard to smoking, again at time of writing, I have not smoked for 6 months, 5 days and 1 hour- and I don’t miss it. It will take a lot of time for my body to recover from the abuse I put it under, but I’m going in the right direction.

The other resolution that is popular is exercising more and again I accomplished that. Exercise has become an important part of my life because strangely, it is when I do my best thinking- about my future, about my life currently and about future posts and plot points for my stories I write.

Alas, 2019 also brought about challenges including the deaths of my Uncle Kevin and my Grandmother. I knew before coming to Japan that I could be unable to say goodbye if someone died- but facing this reality was completely different. Additionally, my last remaining grandparent, my Nana, has been diagnosed with stage 3/4 Parkinson’s disease (which is the reason for my repatriation in April).

Furthermore, there was a period of time that my father and sister faced challenges that I have been unable to help them with including hospitalization, medical emergencies, problems with hosing, social isolation and depression- things that I would have been able to help with. Finally, I would have been able to help my cousins (or at least offer help) when their father died.

While I have experienced some brilliant things in Japan, I feel I have also experienced hardships as well. So please be aware of this if you are coming to Japan- there will be positives and negatives as well.

My final note on 2019: it’s been a mixed bag but I think many other people also feel this way as well.

How was 2019 for you? Good, bad, or indifferent?

Thank you for reading and happy exploring in 2020.

What’s on: World Masters Games

Image from https://wmg2021.jp/en/faq

If you have been looking at your available vaction time in 2020 and have come to realise that attending the Tokyo Olympics will remain a dream, don’t worry Japan still has your back!

In 2021, the World Masters Games will take place in the Kansai region. This event will start on the 14th of May 2021 and will finish on the 30th of May 2021.

What is it?

The world masters games is the largest international multi-sports event which is open to anyone of “masters” age or 25 years old and older. Anyone can enter any even if it is NOT a world championship for that sport.

There are currently 59 events to take place in 35 locations in the 9 prefectures of the Kansai region, which is said to be the cultural heart of Japan.

What is the point?

Like any sporting event, the main 3 winners (first, second, and third) get a “beautifully crafted custom designed medals” and also and more importantly, the IMGA (the International Masters Games Association) state that “the real prize is exploring beautiful new locations, playing the sports you love and making lifelong friends!”

In other words, this is the Olympics that anyone can take part in.

How to take part?

The athlete is responsible for travel expenses, personal expenses, accommodation, spending money and participation fees. Included in the participation fees are “world class venues, officials and equipment in a number of sports” or everything you need to peform!

You may be wondering- why am I promoting this? As it is the start of 2020, many people will be looking to start a new challenge (or resolution) and many people become disheartened that they have no way to show how far they have come- and this is the perfect ‘measuring stick’ to show exactely that.

2021 is far enough away to become good at a new sport but close enough to be something to motivate you to get there.

Costs

There is a base entry fee which will allow entry in up to 5 disciplines. From the 6th onward, there is a fee of 2000 JPY per discipline. Additionally, some sports will require an additional fee for either more specialized equipment or for World Championship entry.

The base entry fee for overseas participants is 24,000 JPY which includes a Kansai travel pass and for domestic participants (including foreign nationals living in Japan) is 15,000 including a Kansai travel pass.

The 2 quick notes I’ll add on are: there is limited insurance coverage during the event for participants and all events will conform to World Anti-doping code.

What’s on?

Early entry opens on the 6th of January 2020 and will close on the 31st of January 2020. General entry opens on the 1st of Febuary 2020.

The list of events and locations have not been finalized but the current list, as printed in the Asahi newspaper on the 30/12/19, are listed below. Please note, dates are not listed- for further information, please check out the official website at: https://wmg2021.jp/en/

Please note, I have not listed all events

Tottori Prefecture
Tottori CityArchery (indoor and outdoor)
Kurayoshi CityGround golf
Yurihama cycling (track and road race)
Yonago CityJyudo
Okayama Prefecture
Okayama Cityclay shooting
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Hyogo Prefecture
Tando, Yabu, HyogoForest orienteering
Shiso CityProfessional cannoing
Kasai CityTennis
Himeji CityTaekwondo
Miki CityTennis and baseball
Kobe CityBasket ball, swimming, baseball etc
Amagasaki CitySwimming
Minami-Awaji Cityvolleyball
Fukui Prefecture
Takahama Citylife saving
Osaka Prefecture
Osaka CityClosing ceremony
Higashi-Osaka Cityrugby
Sakai CitySoccer/ football
Kishiwada City BMX
Senann City Swimming
Wakayama Prefecture
Wakayama CityVolley ball, sailing etc
Kainan CityShooting- rifle
Tanabe CityLong distance relay race
Kamifukuda TownHalf marathon
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Tokushima Prefecture
Naruto CityGolf and weight lifting
Tokushima CityBowling and golf
Ishii CityBowling
Awa City and Kamiyama-choGolf
Naka Citycanoeing
Minami Citytriathlon
Shiga prefecture
Nagahama City and Maibara Cityhockey
Hikone Citytrack- 10 km road race
Higashiomi City and Moriyama Citybaseball
Kusatsu CitySoft ball
Otsu CityCanoeing and boating
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Kyoto Prefecture
Kyotango CityCanoeing
Fukuchiyama CitySoft tennis
Kyotanba TownGate ball
Nantan City triathlon
Kyoto CityOpening ceremony, Track and field, Karate etc
Uji CityFrisbee, Handball
Kyotanabe CityHandball
Wazuka TownMountain biking
Nara Prefecture
Katsuragi City and Kashiba CityTug-of-war
YoshinoCanoeing

Are there any events that you would like to take part in?

Thank you for reading and happy exploring and training!