British Expat Living in Tokyo, Japan - Interview with Matthew

Published: 30 Jan at 12 PM
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Filed: Interviews,Japan
Matthew, a British expat living in Tokyo, Japan, blogs about getting the most out of Japan without burning all your money away. Great for backpackers, budget tourists, ex-pats and cheap students. Matthew's expat blog is called Cheapo Japan (see listing here)

Meet Matthew - British expat living in Japan
Meet Matthew - British expat living in Japan

Here's the interview with Matthew...

Where are you originally from?
I'm from Guildford in England.

In which country and city are you living now?
Currently I'm living in Tokyo, Japan.

How long have you lived in Tokyo and how long are you planning to stay?
I have been here about 5 years, and will be here for many more years!

Why did you move to Japan and what do you do?
Life in London was OK, but I needed more of an adventure. I came to Japan on a Working Holiday Visa and fell in love with the food, culture and people.

Did you bring family with you to Japan?
I came here by myself, and was lucky to make a few good friends soon after arriving.

I enjoy taking Cherry Blossom photos every year
I enjoy taking Cherry Blossom photos every year
How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
I was quite a quiet person back then, so Japan fitted me like a glove. Apart from when people are drunk, Japanese are quiet and sensitive people. Finding a guesthouse was simple (I used Sakura House) and people were very welcoming.

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
If you want to meet expats, it's very easy to make friends if you stay in a large guesthouse, which is what I did. Actually, I stayed in several different guesthouses, so I met a bunch of people. But now that my Japanese has become better, I usually socialise with Japanese people and bilingual expats.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
The hiking has to be some of the best in the world. Routes are easy to follow and well signposted, there is no garbage and the cherry blossoms are stunning. I would recommend Mount Takao and Mount Mitake as they have multiple routes, so you can make a route best for you.

What do you enjoy most about living in Japan?
It has to be the food! I eat out every day. Highlights include Japanese curry (at CoCo Ichiban Curry House), Sukiyaki (pork in a sweet soy sauce soup) and of course the sushi. Some restaurants also serve there food to look like a cute character, for example Hello Kitty Curry!

Hiking is great in Japan.  Clean, safe and beautiful.
Hiking is great in Japan. Clean, safe and beautiful.
How does the cost of living compare to home?
If you stay in guesthouses and know where to shop, it's not at all as expensive as people say. You can eat out for 3 dollars, 100 yen (about 1 dollar) shops selling almost anything are everywhere and the train fares cost about a third of back home.

What negatives, if any, are there to living in Japan?
Though things are getting better, finding food from back home can be tough. I recommend a chain called KALDI if you are in Japan and need some food from back home.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Japanese people are frankly rubbish English speakers, so getting help or reserving things in English can be a hassle. Therefore you really need to learn Japanese. It's a fascinating language, but can be difficult so get started before you come!

Shrines or temples are amazing in Japan
Shrines or temples are amazing in Japan
What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Learning Kanji, the Chinese characters used in Japan, can be a real pain. About 2000 are used in an average newspaper, in different combinations. This can make things like completing a medical or tax form really challenging.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?

  1. Stay in a guesthouse on the west side of Tokyo, there's more to do here.
  2. Do some language exchange or lessons before coming.
  3. When in Japan, Google for one of the countless free volunteer Japanese classes.
  4. Use night buses, rather than the expensive Shinkansen (bullet train).
  5. Don't order drinks in restaurants, free water is always given to you without asking.

There is so much bad English in this country!
There is so much bad English in this country!
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
Cheapo Japan is about traveling and living in Japan on a budget. I talk about and show how to visit places cheaply. I have spend many years going all over Japan, often without any money! My blog will tell you the best tips to enjoy your holiday or life in Japan.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Please feel free to contact me on Twitter or on the contact page of my site (see links below)

About the author

Expat Blog ListingMatthew is a British expat living in Japan. Blog description: A guide to getting the most out of Japan without burning all your money away. Great for backpackers, tourists, ex-pats and students.
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