JLPT N2 + Exchange

Thanks, I definitely will!

In case you (or anyone else) wants, here’s the blog I’ll be using when I’m on my exchange year in Japan. I’m trying to write in Japanese in it, the idea is that after a week or so has passed I’m not allowed to improve the Japanese in the entries, so readers can easily go through my history and see how much I’ve improved over time. At this point I’m not sure if I’ll translate it into English or not, it just takes too much time to make the entries in the first place. I’ve already shown it to Japanese people and they’ve gotten really excited, saying things like “come to my prefecture, I want to show you around my town like you’ve shown me in your blog!” and I think it’s giving some Japanese people confidence in making their own blogs in a foreign language, so I really recommend for other people to have this kind of blog too!


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I’m a bit new but I read some of your posts in the past.

How long are you already learning Japanese?
Is the N2 the first test you’ve taken?
How much vocabulary do you estimate that you’ve learned till this day?

Good luck with the test results! I wish you all the best.
Don’t stress about it.

Haha, I’m glad you remember me! As long as it’s a good thing that you remember me…

I’ve taken 3 semesters in University here in Sweden, but I’ve also self-studied for about one semester (when I couldn’t take classes) so I’ve been learning for about 2 years really. This was my first test. I’ve never been to Japan, don’t have any Japanese friends (or any friends who know Japanese better than me in general) to talk to in real life, I’ve never studied Chinese or Korean, there’s no Japanese bookstore anywhere near me that I can visit, I’m really poor so I don’t have the money to buy software or certain really useful books etc. But I have studied Esperanto, Swedish, Faroese and Chinook Jargon to a good degree so I have grammar help and general “language comprehension help” coming from those languages.

I’m estimating that I know (really well) around 1,500 kanji. Open up any modern fiction novel for adults and there’ll be around 5-8 kanji I don’t know per page, and maybe 10-20 actual words i don’t know. There’s usually 1-2 words i don’t know (or only halfway know) per sentence. The unknown kanji usually repeat themselves page after page so they’re not a big problem because I’ll learn them if I just read 5 more pages.

As for word-count, I’m at something over 14,000. 1st & 2nd semester I learned around 2000 words each, 3rd + the beginning of summer was around 10,000, then I stopped counting because I’m not learning vocabulary via SRS anymore and instead I’m just learning as I go by writing and reading texts with a dictionary.

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Did ya get your results, rice pudding-sensei? @risgrynsgrot

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Not yet, sadly! The JLPT site says they’ll be available online from August 23 to October 31st, so in just 3 days from now I’ll find out.

My Japanese has really improved even just since I took the test; now I’m reading short stories (mostly fanfic but also some general amateur stories, and Aozora Bunko), writing to Japanese people online, watching anime (I’ve finished Psycho Pass and just started on Death Note, which I consider to be N1 level and which were too difficult for me when I took the JLPT), playing videogames (.hack//infection - it’s almost completely voice-acted; I recommend using an emulator and speeding up the gameplay to save time, then “un-speeding” whenever dialogue appears) etc. every day and it no longer feels all that difficult. I’m also making an Esperanto pop-up kanji dictionary for myself with definitions that I look up/figure out on my own (rather than Jisho.org/Edict’s awful ones). My goal’s still to get to N1 in reading before I go to Japan, which should be around October 3rd. I haven’t started practicing handwriting again yet but I think I will starting in September.

I’ve been posting a lot on a DreamWidth community, most of the entries are still works in progress but you guys feel free to come join/post/comment/whatever. In particular, I’ve written this post about how kanji work (how to read compound kanji words):


And this is the post where I’m slowly gathering example sentences for all the JLPT grammar points:


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Got my results: I just barely failed. You needed 19 points in each section to pass, which I got, but also needed extra points in each category so your total was at least 90, mine was 80.

Considering 1/2 of the way through I completely gave up due to my eye pain and was just answering at random (especially the listening and long reading parts; how in the world my highest score was listening I have no clue), I’m surprised it even got this high really.

Vocab, Grammar: 27 / 60
Reading: 23 / 60
Listening: 30 / 60
Overall: 80 / 90
Reference Grade: B

But this DEFINITELY means that if I take the exam again in December (or whenever the next one is) it’s 100% guarenteed I’ll pass even IF I have eye pain! My plan is to just go around looking for part-time work during my exchange and if it seems like I can’t get anything without having “proof of Japanese knowledge” like this test, I’ll sign up for N2 again. I’m assuming that once you get your first job, any later employers can just call those first guys and confirm that you actually know Japanese so it shouldn’t be a problem after that, right…


Totally missed this.

Yeah, you have the right mindset. Next time you’ll crush the test, no worries. From what I’ve heard from expats in Japan 8~years+, there are a lot of job opportunities for people even without four-years of college, but in order to get the visa, you need the four years. SO. I’m assuming it won’t be too hard for you to get some job offers once you find out where to look.

Congrats on your self-study getting you to basically N2. I know plenty of people who are Japanese majors/have been studying for three years and can’t pass the test.

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A fail on the test doesn’t mean you didn’t greatly improve your Japanese skills, and you definitely now have enough of a foundation to live your life in Japan comfortably ^- ^ I think you did a great job & you’ll definitely still improve onward.

I think that getting a part time job probably also won’t be hard, I knew at least in Tokyo that they were looking for people all over the place. As for applying to jobs in Japan, I think writing a resume might be a big challenge for you since they usually expect it handwritten.

I took my N2 when I was in Japan; was the only JLPT I took so far. The experience might be slightly different if you take it in Japan (also I think it’s slightly cheaper?), but the way of testing & everything is definitely the same (I was a supervisor at this summer’s in my own country). Have fun in Japan & best of luck next time!

Thanks guys! I’m really not upset about failing the N2, since it was just job security anyway, and because now I’ve been looking at job ads over on this site where you can specifically filter the ads to only jobs that accept exchange students:

I found it by literally just searching “仙台 バイト 留学生” (Sendai part-time job exchange student). I didn’t plan on really having a resume, since I’ve never had a job in my life there’s not much I can put other than what classes I’ve taken and what languages I know (if it needs to be handwritten I can just practice handwriting those specific kanji over and over haha). There’s more jobs on the FIRST PAGE here on this job search that I could try for than what I’ve found in two years here in Uppsala, and they’re way different from Swedish/American job ads (they actually seem to realize that you’re a human and not a robot for example). If I just pick the places that seem “nicest” (most flexible), they should be fine with hiring almost-blind people too…


My “COE” (paper you need in order to get a VISA to go to Japan) is coming in the mail, and when I looked at the PDF copy, there’s kanji/words I don’t know. This really affects my feelings: I can’t even read my own papers. So I’m currently on a self-challenge to watch as much N1-level anime (on animelon) as I can before I go in the hopes of making my Japanese jump up really high again.

Just last night I read a whole manga volume (without furigana) and there was only actually around 5-10 words I didn’t know in the WHOLE VOLUME! It was an easy genre, but still. I’m doing well when playing .hack//mutation too, though there’s more unknown vocabulary than in its predecessor .hack//infection. And I’ve started reading kid’s books at the library and am doing fine there too, I don’t have the patience to read a full adult novel right now but I need practice reading from real books and not electronic ones before “school time” comes around.

I have 1 1/2 years left in my 3-year degree, so I’ll definitely make N1 by the end of that! My long-term goal has always been to be native-level in Japanese (though not in handwriting).


here’s how i’m practicing handwriting right now. take an erasable pen in an eye-catching colour and write:

• pronunciation of unknown words (hiragana for japanese, katakana for chinese-derived pronunciation)
• if i know a synonym in japanese, the meaning of unknown words in kanji or “fake kanji words”. ex. if this word means “not full”, even if “not full” isn’t a real japanese word i write it anyway.
• if i can write a single kanji hint to the meaning (“this is an abbreviation that’s missing x kanji”) i write that instead.
• when i can’t do either of those i write in the meaning (in esperanto)

it’s really hard for me because in order to write so small i have to get 2cm away from the paper, but i can do it so i’m doing it. next time i read this book i’ll just erase the writing i don’t need anymore. it takes a long time (for me) but if i just do a little every day it’ll be good i think. my problem with handwriting is i don’t ever need to handwrite (not even the grocery list) so then i don’t practice since there’s no point. but if i get to the point where i can write class notes and stuff in hiragana/katakana/kanji fast, i’ll be handwriting a lot… i think.

when i do this so far it’s been late at night using my phone (yomiwa) as a dictionary, but that dictionary sucks so it’s really frustrating… i need to use sanseido on my phone or something…

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Hi guys, I’ve now been on my exchange in Sendai for about a month and a half.

  1. As to be expected, you don’t actually learn all THAT much when you’re living in the country. The bulk of the work still has to come from YOU picking up a book and reading, YOU studying on your own. I’m learning new words without studying them, but it’d go a lot faster if I studied. The average day without special study is just spent reading ex. advertisements on the bus, food names, your receipt; not exactly novels or newspapers that’d increase your vocabulary fast.

  2. Classes at MY school aren’t very serious at all; N4-N3 people are taking classes together with us N2 people, and the class lessons are generally speaking N1 level. We’re allowed to sit in on (audit) normal classes meant for Japanese students; I was doing it with 4 (Braille, International Culture, Teaching Japanese) but cut it down to 2. At our school the teachers don’t care if you use casual language with them, there’s no kanji writing homework etc, but I’ve heard that Tohoku University and other Unis are a lot stricter and with a lot more homework.

  3. Japanese people don’t care if you use casual language with them or do really stupid/weird foreigner stuff, and they’re super patient. Occasionally someone will rush or correct you when you talk but that’s not the norm. Many people don’t ex. know that キャンセルする “to cancel” means exactly the same as 止める “to stop/cease”, in that way they don’t know how to reword what they’re saying in case you don’t understand. (Other people are fantastic at rewording though.)

  4. “Alphabet” (as in “you can write in the alphabet if you want”) means roman letters; “海外” (overseas) means “your country”. Ex. “Do they have this overseas?” = “do they have this in YOUR country?”. There’s a bunch of stuff like that that’s how they actually use the word but isn’t written in the dictionary.

  5. People do speak in dialect to you, but especially if you’re outside the city itself. A lot of old people (and some young people) NEVER use any kind of polite language, so no “です、ます” etc not even to strangers or teachers. Some bus drivers even speak in dialect. Otherwise the shops tend to use keigo that even if you have no clue what they’re saying in the beginning, you understand it all after a month or so because they all basically say the same stuff.

You can find jobs everywhere but the average pay is 800 yen an hour; shifts are usually 4 hours each. I found one selling food out of a mini van thing that’s 900 an hour with shifts of 3 hours each, and got hired without an interview and without showing any kind of CV/resume (it was literally “show up to the info meeting and now you’re hired!”). These low-level places seem to hire even people who speak NO Japanese (I’ve talked to a few people who got hired at a point where they didn’t even know how to say ありがとう), it’s just that even if they say they’re a “bilingual workplace” or they’ll “translate the work info for you”… that’s probably not actually the case, it’s all going to be in Japanese and you’ll need a friend to translate for you. I also saw a flyer for a job convention thing in Tokyo and to attend it had the requirement that you have N2 or N1 level equivalent Japanese.


Update: (Jan 2018; 4 months after coming to Japan)

• I found out that after my exchange year, I can continue at the same Japanese school taking more or less the same classes but I’ll be a “research student” (研究生) instead of an “exchange student” (留学生). The difference is, I’ll be paying something like 900 USD a year in tuition (=much cheaper than any language school, or so I’ve heard) and I’ll have to do “some kind of research”. Normally you have to take the JLPT and/or TOEIC to get accepted as a research student, but since I’ve already been here as an exchange student and they know I know enough Japanese, I won’t have to.

I’ll be setting things up so that if I can’t find a job, I can at least stay in Japan that way. Before I can finish my 3-year Japanese degree I have to take a “bachelor’s thesis writing prep course” and then the semester after that, “bachelor’s thesis writing course” so I signed up for that prerequisite one and am taking it now (starting in January; meaning I’m doing 150% studies so I can graduate January 2019 instead of June 2019). It’s basically a course geared towards people who’ve never written an essay before and can’t fathom that maybe you should check out a few example theses before you write your own, so it’s not hard work at all. Anyway, if I can’t find a job I’ll just stay at my exchange school for one more semester, study 200% or so and that’ll be that, I’ll be able to apply for real jobs.

For the bachelor’s thesis, I’m restricted to only being able to write about “Japanese literature” because I haven’t taken the normal “linguistics” or “translation” courses thanks to being on exchange. But I realized that my Japanese is way better than these other guys because I HAVEN’T taken those courses and instead have just taken “more grammar” etc. Ignoring the whole exchange part I think that’s the better choice; I don’t really know how people can get degrees in translation when their Japanese isn’t actually good enough to do translations…

• Almost done with the 1st semester of studies here in Japan. 5 of our courses are geared towards learning JLPT N1 vocab/grammar/kanji, 2 are more like N2 listening/reading, 1 is cultural stuff (field trips, games, writing essays). I got a Netflix subscription and have been watching stuff in Japanese dub + Japanese subs a few hours a day, and studying unknown vocab/grammar from class whenever I’m on the bus (=40 minutes a day or so). My Japanese’s improved immensely since October and I now feel like I’ll definitely pass N1 without trying, by the time it comes to it. In fact I feel like I could probably barely pass it right now as I am, but I’ll try not to get too full of myself.

• Entry-level jobs are EVERYWHERE, the signs are just plastered all over outside shops and on walls and things. If there’s no sign, when you buy something at that shop there’ll be a “we’re hiring!” notice with a QR code on your receipt. They’re all paying 750-850 an hour. Foreigners can’t get jobs at most cafés, bookstores or certain clothing shops because they want perfect keigo or perfect reading skills etc. Convenience stores seem to hire anyone, but the work’s apparently really tough (says my Chinese classmate who works at one). I haven’t yet heard of anyone who had to write a CV/resume for such low-level work, they either just walked in or called and asked “募集していますか?” or “バイトしたいです” and got hired. Spring break starts after next week I think it is, and I’ll go job-hunting at English schools and cram schools and things then; if I can’t get a job at one of those places I’ll just ask at some grocery stores down the street from my house.

• People (weeaboos) in love with Japan should actually embrace and show that as much as humanly possible when they go to Japan. What I mean is, a foreigner wearing Japanese traditional clothes is just seen as “good-looking” or “cool” etc. and it makes people happy. A foreigner making traditional food (in my case, amazake, nattou etc) suddenly has a ton in common with every Japanese grandma, so that grandma is now going to talk to you for a lot longer and share recipe tips and whatnot. Some stuff they think is “funny” that you like or do it, but other stuff (ex. eating rice) is so normal to them that they can’t actually imagine people NOT doing it and you bridge a huge gap by doing it. Also it doesn’t matter how bad your Japanese is as long as you can make your way through the conversation somehow; sometimes (ex. me paying at a convenience store that probably never sees foreigners) even if all you’re saying is “yes, thanks” you get a huge smile since you at least tried.

Also: It’s obvious because it happens in all languages, but how young people talk is relatively speaking a lot different from how old people talk. Old people don’t say めちゃ, やばい、むずい etc (40-50 year olds might say the original めちゃくちゃ). The thing is, older people also don’t understand the younger people’s slang (as in, parents don’t even understand what the heck their kids are saying — as I’ve heard from multiple parents) so it’s good to keep that in mind. I’m only saying this because we had to explain to our teacher what “gap moe” means the other day, and she in turn explained that from her middle-school-aged kid “意味あるし” or “意味しする” or something like that means “there’s no point/meaning” : /


How’s Japan treating you, @risgrynsgrot?

It’s great with very minor bad points, thanks for asking! The bad points come up very seldomly and are entirely based on that Japan is meant for Japanese people. For example:

  1. I went to get a SIM card for my phone, and was told my 2-year-old Swedish phone is actually like 7 years behind by Japan’s standards, so it can’t work with Japanese SIM cards. The next option is to buy a new phone (cheapest = around 10,500¥) and SIM card plan (cheapest = 1,700¥ a month + calling = 40¥ a minute; minimum contract of 1 year).

  2. Throughout explaining all this, the staff understood that we aren’t “that good” at Japanese, but as the conversation went on they began speaking faster and faster, with more and more keigo, forgetting that we couldn’t understand everything. On top of that there were a lot of things we didn’t know in general because Japan’s phone network is entirely different, with different terminology and options and stuff. So after that we employed some Japanese friends to come with us as help. The phone staff also had trouble understanding that we WEREN’T planning on using our phones abroad.

  3. Then later I find out, actually you can’t pay phone bills at the convenience store, bank etc; meaning you can’t get a phone plan without having a Japanese bank account + credit card or “cash card” (they don’t accept foreign debit cards, though foreign credit cards might work, which is maybe why my debit card didn’t work when I tried to buy stuff at Rakuten though it worked on Amazon.jp). Most banks don’t want to accept foreigners unless under special circumstances, ex. my classmates who got scholarships from the Japanese government got bank accounts no problem. So now we have to figure out how to get a bank account, and it might even require special paperwork from the school or something.

But I’ve faced similar problems when moving to Iceland and Sweden so it’s really not a big deal. Relatively soon I also need to see if I can get registered as disabled here in Japan in order to get permission for special testing accommodations on the JLPT, and I heard that if you have the “disability card” you get a ton of discounts and free entry to places like the zoo, so we’ll see how that goes. Also in general I’ve found out that Japanese friends and acquaintances, if you have a problem, will always TRY to help you - even if they themselves can’t help you, they’ll try to look up what you should do, or point you to where you can go or who you can ask. It’s not a simple “oh that sucks too bad” behaviour.

The only other bad part that I really notice in everyday life is how freaking expensive it is…. to eat out at an actual restaurant compared to cooking at home. This is true for all countries though. Say you go out with some friends to a diner, and order a meal — like, yesterday I got spinach fried in butter with bacon (less than half a strip of bacon!), and a bowl of rice, for 500¥. What you actually get is 5x less than what you’d get if you made it yourself (where a big bag of spinach is 110¥, 5 strips of bacon might be 200-300¥, that bowl of rice is like 10¥). So while I don’t understand the culture of “going out to eat with friends” because it’s just a huge waste of money, for the most part I don’t have friends who do that so it doesn’t normally affect me. However I’ve seen a LOT of threads where people ask “how much does it cost to live in Japan?” and the number they list is insanely high, probably because they’re living in a nice apartment in Tokyo and eating out every day.

In terms of my Japanese, I’m not worried one bit about surviving in real life anymore because even if I DO go to a doctor or someplace without a translator, we can get by somehow thanks to the smartphone dictionary etc. Even at the phone place, the guys actually pulled out a speech-to-text translation app just in case our Japanese bad enough to need it. But I’m getting increasingly annoyed over what I don’t know compared to what even native-speaking kids know, because ex. everyone expects you to know “words they knew as a little kid” and then NOT know “words they didn’t know until middle school”, but my Japanese education is entirely different and is more like the opposite.

I found out that if you write with a BRUSH PEN (毛筆ペン), your handwriting looks a ton more native-like and accurate compared to using a ballpoint pen, pencil etc; writing is a lot easier on your hand and stroke order actually starts to make some sense because you don’t have to change the angle of your hand in order to write a stroke or the next stroke. So I bought a COPIC Multi Liner Brush S (BS) which cost I think 900¥, it looks the best and makes my handwriting the most native-like in general but has a bit too thick lines for writing in class. Then I bought a generic 1.0 毛筆 from the 100 yen shop Daiso, which is a bit harder to use but has thin enough lines for homework. And I bought a white-out pen since they’re not erasable of course. My handwriting is absolutely horrible in general so the brush pen magically improves it a ton.

I bought some 100¥ handwriting practice books for kanji aimed towards elementary school grades 1-3 at Daiso, which are also full of extremely simple sentences and “kid vocabulary”. Ex. “The monkey has long arms and legs”, “I look up at the blue sky”, where you draw in the kanji for “legs, sky” for example. Some of the words you’re supposed to know are really surprizing to me as a native English speaker, like “mountain shack” or very specific types of forests or fields, which solidifies my thinking that people should really start practicing Japanese by reading books meant for 1st graders’ reading practice (not with picture-books, which are meant for parents to read aloud to their kids!). Each book is around 70 pages I think and I manage to do about a third of a book a day.

I also bought a 1,000-yen book called 冒険のお話を読むだけで自然と身につく! 小学校で習う全漢字1006, where throughout the book you read a fiction story aimed at teaching you the 1006 kanji taught in elementary school grade-by-grade. Each chapter bolds the kanji and removes the furigana for that grade level, with the kanji you’re going to learn in later chapters left with furigana on, and kanji you don’t learn in elementary school at all are written in hiragana instead. Because it’s meant for teaching kanji, it repeats words a ton just so you’ll see ex. the kanji for “white” 20 times in quick succession. At the bottom of each page is the pronunciation of the bolded kanji, and at the end of the chapter is a tiny amount of writing practice for the kanji. This is also full of “kid vocabulary” and “story vocabulary” (ex. “…he said, she replied, and then”), the sentences are pretty short and it’s probably really good for someone’s first novel in Japanese because it seems to have really clear context so far. Like, an adult novel might say just “her eyes turned crescent” to mean “she smiled”, but this kid’s book literally says “she smiled happily, which made her eyes turn crescent” kinda thing. I mean, it’s more or less a book meant for young kids who hate reading. I’m gonna look for a similar book for middle school and high school kanji.

My wife has also started studying kanji seriously now, both reading and writing, and is looking at if you can submit to manga magazines while being a foreigner. It seems like even if you can’t find full-time work you can still get a work permit if you just find multiple part-time jobs that have a clear contract, also there’s no real problem with earning money online or whatever - it’s just that after you earn a certain amount of money on a dependant VISA you have to file separate taxes from your spouse but that’s all. If you earn enough money for x amount of time (3 years or something) and can prove you have clients in Japan, you can sponsor your own work VISA. Otherwise even if you haven’t been working for long, if you have a huge portfolio (books published in Japan, proof that you have skills that must’ve taken years to learn etc) you can apparently bypass the time requirement for work history when getting a work VISA.

I’m currently having problems with my Swedish university, in that I was admitted to the BA thesis preparation course by mistake, and your BA paper topic is apparently always decided by one or two courses you’ve taken at the end stage of your degree but I haven’t taken any of those specific ones because I’m on exchange. So they’re not letting me write on the same topics as the other students, the teacher isn’t clearly explaining what I AM allowed to write about (just keeps saying my ideas are no good without changing them to what is “good”), and this teacher is prone to somehow entirely misreading what I write any time I write even a simple question and then subtly-or-not-so-subtly insulting me. So it’s gonna be a tough battle but if I can find a topic he’ll accept and pass this class, I can graduate in January with a BA major in Japanese. If the class doesn’t work out, my graduation is essentially going to be pushed back a year and a half (1 semester for the prerequisite class they want, 1 for the BA prep class, 1 for the BA class itself).

In a couple weeks when class at my Japanese school starts again I’ll ask about becoming a research student and report back on how that is. After this BA prep course ends, no matter what the result, I’ll start putting together various books for teaching Japanese or for showing how my exchange year was, which I can publish and build up my own portfolio… Even stuff like my BA thesis ideas that the teacher doesn’t like, if I just do the research and publish the paper myself it still counts as a “publication”, y’know? I’m thinking that if I can get a Japanese company to publish an English textbook for Japanese from me, even though my earnings wouldn’t be as good as in self-publishing, it’d really boost my reputation when looking for jobs.


I love it when you post big essays like this. happy you’re doing well!

Thanks, I’m always worried I’m writing way too much! Really, everything’s great except for this BA mess. Today I’ve spent the whole night working (it’s 2:30am right now) on an extra homework assignment given to me by the teacher so I can prove I have enough background knowledge on the subject to be allowed to choose a topic on it: Describe your understanding of the field, the concepts within the field, what kind of research exists in the field, etc. I have to write 3+ pages of this before he’ll even tell me if I’m allowed to write on my proposed topic or not, thus before I’m able to even start working on the final assignment for the class. The general topic is “stereotyped language in Japanese fiction” (役割語) by the way; his choice not mine…


Okay guys, just went to Tokyo (and thus outside of Tohoku) for the first time. I’ll try to summarize it:

• You can easily walk from Shibuya to Harajuku, Shinjuku etc. It’s not far at all, but Google Maps really eats up your phone battery so if you can, use a different map service. Some of the famous spots, like Hachiko statues and Shibuya station or whatever, we actually found by accident.

• Tokyo has a constant “white mist” and feeling like you’re in a rainforest, both of which is actually SMOG. People from outside of Tokyo wear masks when they go there. I’m not sure I’m really allowed to upload/link photos here so I won’t. On top of that, there’s a TON of trash all over the ground everywhere, tons of homeless people and drug addicts and drunk people. This stuff magically seems to disappear a bit during the day, but if you go in the morning (5-7am) or evening that’s all you see. For example, we went to a few parks: they smelled like pee, had trash all over, homeless people were sleeping there, the smog was awful, etc. Most parks were actually closed and gated off in the mornings and evenings. There are also almost no trash cans and no benches in Tokyo, meaning almost nowhere you can just sit and rest at after walking all day, or where you can throw away your trash from whatever you bought at the convenience store.

• All the stereotypes and stuff you read online about how “Japanese people are silent in a crowd”, “Japanese people assume foreigners speak zero Japanese and also talk about you right in front of you”, “Japanese people are shocked if you hold hands in public” etc, this is apparently true of TOKYO PEOPLE. It’s certainly 95% not true in Sendai. People were super shocked when we said basic stuff like “good morning, thanks, excuse me”. It was so bad that after I accidentally bumped into someone and said “excuse me”, they literally whispered to their friend “did you hear that?! wow, they said excuse me!!”. When I linked arms with my wife so I wouldn’t get lost in a crowd (I’m almost blind so we do this kind of thing a lot), some girls went “FOREIGNERS! wow, look at that, so cute!”. That kind of thing has never happened to me in Sendai. And Sendai people certainly aren’t quiet in a crowd. In general, everyone in Tokyo seemed really depressed.

• Tokyo cashiers and shop staff in general basically mumbled, stared at the ground, assumed you spoke zero Japanese etc. Also there were no trays to put your money in in most of the shops, while every shop in Sendai has them. The people I thought acted like “normal Japanese people”, as in how everyone in Sendai acts, were in small, more unpopular shops, were old people or were low-level workers but not for shops - ex. street-sweepers and package delivery men. Most of the people I overheard talked fast and basically sounded like airheaded, snobby, rich brats, and this includes the foreigners too.

• Tokyo has a LOT more “foreign language” around; for example I went to the bathroom inside “Donkey Hote”, a department store, and the bathroom sign was in English, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and maybe even more languages. A ton of ads and product packaging was in English and/or Chinese. Out of the actual tourists, most seemed to be English-speaking, Chinese-speaking and Indonesian/Malaysian. Menus and stuff had English on them too. In general Tokyo felt like the actual Japanese people were pushed aside in favor of the foreign tourists; however the Japanese people still didn’t actually know English.

• We saw love hotels, red-light-district shops, maid cafés, a male host going home from work, a female “companion” going to work, a burlesque show building, a bunch of bars, etc. All of this seemed extremely… grimey and disgusting. Even me who has an interest in stuff like maid cafés definitely didn’t want to enter one. Like, the people working there weren’t cute and their acting was bad, the building was dirty, the lighting was poor, their costumes were really cheap, all the while you’re breathing in that heavy smog, it was that kind of thing for every shop.

• Stuff in Tokyo was slightly more expensive and the selection for stuff like chain shops was exactly the same as in Sendai. So-called “huge shops” were the smaller or the same size as Sendai ones. For example, Tokyo Book-Off (used bookstore) had its cheapest section as 200 yen; Sendai is 100 yen. A secondhand shop had its cheapest stuff as 800 yen; Sendai is 300-400 yen. The convenience stores had bottles of tea for 100-130 yen on average; Sendai is 80-100 yen. For the salary for part-time jobs, the average in Tokyo seemed to be 1,000 yen; in Sendai it’s 800 yen. Grocery store food, as in raw wares (raw meat, vegetables etc) seemed to be the same price or cheaper as in Sendai; we assume this is because Tokyo people eat out instead of cook.

• Foreigners in Tokyo seemed to come in three types. One, tourists (who were often completely lost or in huge groups) who spoke zero Japanese. Two, people clearly living in Japan but who spoke almost zero Japanese - they normally had dyed hair, wore alternative clothing etc. In this group I saw a lot of YouTubers who did stuff like crowded in one section of the store to gush over secondhand videogames, which could’ve also been bought at any secondhand store in Sendai. Three, people who were native-level in Japanese but they were just drunk party animals and/or drug addicts (this type was the only type we saw from 5-7am).

• Tokyo seemed to have almost no JAPANESE food. In Sendai you see grilled meat, baked sweet potatoes, Japanese-style restaurants, traditional sweet shops and stuff everywhere. In Tokyo I saw basically none of this.

Overall there seemed to be nothing actually unique to Tokyo, unless you count certain events taking place there. Gashapon etc. were exactly the same as in Sendai. We didn’t even see any “Tokyo souvenirs”, they were just “Japan-wide souvenirs”. Most shops you want to go to in Tokyo, you can actually buy their stuff online or it’s sold in a chain shop closer to you - ex. according to English posts online Donkey Hote in Tokyo sells cosplay which is “super special and not done elsewhere”, which we did see there, but when I googled it later the cosplay brand’s website claims our Donkey Hotes in Sendai also sell the same cosplay.

One last note. Online we read all about stuff like “this bookstore sells English books!”. In fact the English section is really tiny, hard to find and super overpriced. One manga volume in English cost 1,600 to 2,000 yen, when the same manga in Japanese would cost 500 to 800 yen. So in general we found out that we can’t trust what anyone’s written online about Tokyo in English, because those people haven’t ever been to other places in Japan. I’d also advise you to never go to Tokyo if you can help it in general. However if you’re looking to get a work visa, you can very easily get hired at 2-3 different part-time jobs in the same neighbourhood in Tokyo and do things that way.

Eventually we’re gonna visit Kyoto, Osaka, Sapporo (Hokkaido), Okinawa and stuff like that too so I hope those places are a lot better haha.


Is that really how people write the name out?

I’ve been to Tokyo a couple times in the year and a half I’ve lived in Japan. Had a good time each time, mostly going to museums/planetariums that sort of thing.

Nah they write it out as Don Quixote I think?? I also saw “Donkey Hut”. I dunno, I never remember how I’m supposed to write it.

I think going to Tokyo is fine if you have something you’re completely sure you’ll fill up your entire day with, like if we’d managed to go to Kabuki or Rakugo, which we can’t normally see in Sendai. But the stuff we thought would fill up our time ended up not being as exciting as it had seemed, plus we were tired from not having slept all night (thanks to the night bus) and then walking all day. I mean, out of all that we did, the memorable stuff to me was visiting “Mandarake” where I bought 5 rare books from Go Nagai, “Q-Plaza” where my wife went to a magazine event, and going to “Sojo” the Esperanto café.

A lot of our info about shops was wrong too, like searching for “used kimono shop” ended up getting us used western-clothing shops, so maybe if we’d’ve had better info it’d been more fun. Also if we had decided beforehand to stay the night for sure, we could’ve caught a movie or something (which is also something we can do in Sendai but whatever), but as it was we made it home on almost the last train and then the last subway. Next time we go we’ll go to Akihabara, Otome Road and some other places that will hopefully be more interesting, or we’ll go to an anime convention or meet up with friends who actually live near Tokyo or something. I don’t like going to museums (though I end up going to them a lot for school and with friends) because I’m almost blind so I can’t read the tiny text and stuff that actually explains what I’m looking at.

hi guys, long story short.

• the situation with my swedish school is only getting worse. i keep doing extra reading and extra assignments for this guy, and every single time he says “i doubt you read anything!” “that’s not good enough!” “you’re being lazier than the other students!”. and basically calls me an idiot, without ever explaining what he actually wants. i’m now officially complaining about him to the student council and we’ll see how it goes. i’ve already read the textbook used in the translation course, one 600-page book in english and 5 books in japanese for this guy, and he keeps saying stuff like “i bet you just skimmed wikipedia” and ignoring when i prove i have read something.

• i can’t be a “research student” at my exchange school because, due to being sister schools, i’m not allowed to be enrolled as a normal student both there and at my swedish school. the workaround is if there’s no such rule at NON-sister schools; meaning instead of miyagi university of education i’ll try to become a research student at tohoku university or some other school; the cost is the same between the two as far as i know (89,100 yen per semester) but tohoku has an entrance fee of 100,000 yen that the other doesn’t seem to have, and for Tohoku i’ll have to take the JLPT and possibly TOEIC (despite being a native English speaker); i’ll email them to ask.

i can’t graduate from my exchange school because to do that i’ll have to take the normal entrance exam (in japanese) and pay the normal tuition fees (much higher) that japanese students do compared to foreign students. i can’t pass a math test in english let alone japanese so uhh yeah. not to mention, the entrance exams are already over.

being a research student means you do NOT get university credits, and from what i’ve read online, you basically sit around all year doing nothing (you don’t even have to prove you’ve been working because you’re not getting credits!). “japanese language schools”, which is the normal route for getting a student VISA in japan, cost a ton more and i can’t afford them. my only goal is to stay in japan until i graduate from my swedish school and/or find a full-time job in japan, it doesn’t matter HOW i stay as long as i’m not dying of starvation or something.

• it might be possible to get a work VISA by doing part-time work for 2-3 different english conversation schools. you can’t get one by ex. having jobs at 3 different convenience stores, but english schools might count as special “educated work”.

• if i fail the current class from my swedish school it means i can’t get any student loans in autumn. but if i fail, i might be able to do extra work and pass the course in summer, and then i can get loans again. the problem is, the same one guy runs everything so if he doesn’t let me pass now i don’t see how he’ll let me pass in summer. the problem isn’t that i can’t do the work, the problem is he doesn’t even tell me what the work IS.

• i also basically can’t take any OTHER courses in summer to ensure i get a student loan no matter what, becasue sweden sucks.

spring semester starts tomorrow at my exchange school; it ends around next month at my swedish school. i’ll keep trying my best to figure out how to graduate and stay in japan. i’m still studying japanese every day as usual, i use memrise on the subway and collect words i don’t know from manga and conversation by bookmarking them in the smartphone dictionary. this week i started trying to write fiction in japanese for the first time, but i’m still too low-level for that so it’s really difficult! writing definitely makes your brain work in a different way than just reading, since i can’t remember how to write stuff i’ve read a billion times…

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