Interview: Vincent (Gran Mitakadai)
Resident Interview: Gran Mitakadai
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Vincent, and I'm 32 years old. I've been in Japan for a year now.
I worked at a bank in France, and I'm taking a sabbatical right now. Mostly I'm just traveling.
I've been to Kyushu, Kansai, and Okinawa. I spent 4 months backpacking. I haven't been to Hokkaido yet, but it's on my list. I mostly travel with family or friends. My dad and I spent 2 weeks traveling in the Chugoku region.
How was your first trip in Japan?
I first came in 2015, and I'd always wanted to go back. I've been twice before, the first trip was a 10-day vacation, and the 2nd was a business trip.
I thought that when I went to Japan next, I didn't want to be a tourist, but I wanted to experience normal daily life. Japan is a great country to backpack through. The shinkansen/bullet trains are convenient, there are buses, and share houses. Plus everyone is so helpful.
When I decided to take time off from my job, I couldn't decide whether I wanted to travel around the world, or stay in Japan. But I decided, I wanted to come to Japan. On a tourist visa you're kind of limited, and I also wanted to do both travel and daily life.
How did you hear about working holiday visa?
The first time I came to Japan I met another French guy, and he said he was here on a working holiday. I was surprised to hear about such a program. Then about 6 months later I had a friend who went to Canada on working holiday and he told me about his experience.
To do it, you go to the Japanese embassy and show your passport and bank records. Then you show them a concrete plan of what you want to do in Japan. You have to check how much everything will cost you, and they compare your budget and bank statement with your plan. It took about a month to get all the paperwork in order.
What do you think of Oakhouse?
Sometimes when people are moving to another house they write complaints or whatever on the board, so sometimes it can be difficult to deal with others who don't follow the rules.
That said, Oakhouse has a lot of houses, and they all have different levels of comfort and price, so I think you can easily find a house that fits you best. Plus I could pay with credit card so you don't have to open a Japanese bank account.
When I first came on working holiday, I talked with a friend who lived in another share house and they said that a cleaner only comes once a month! But here at Gran Mitakadai, someone comes two or three times a week! So it's always very clean and it feels good to wake up and come to a clean lounge and kitchen.
How did you study Japanese?
I knew a Japanese teacher in France, and I talked to them about how I was coming to Japan. I asked them, "I'm going to Japan for 4 months, so please at least teach me the basics!" So it was like a school. I learned hiragana, katakana, and some grammar, but it was really hard. Then after I got here I found a basic textbook and I've been learning from that. I took the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test), level N5, and started studying really hard about a month before, and I passed!
What is the "community class"?
Right now I'm studying Japanese in a community class. There are a lot of Japanese volunteers and they take the time to teach Japanese. The teaching styles are very different; some of them use textbooks and materials, and with some it's just conversation. So when you find a good teacher for you it's easy to keep going with them. It's cheap and they're very helpful if you have questions.
When I went to city hall to register my residence card one of the staff actually spoke English and helped me so much. Then they gave me a list of community classes.
The hardest part for me was to actually make the decision to move to Japan, and then do it.
In your home country you may have a family, or a boyfriend or girlfriend, and of course a job, so it's easy to keep putting off your plans to travel overseas. The age limit for working holiday visas is age 32, and I got in at 31. And now I'm thinking, man, I should have done this sooner! But it's true that it's hard to get up and act when you're comfortable.
My advice is, to make a decision and go through with it. You can think up your goals later. We only live once, so we all want to have a concrete decision in place. But you can't just wait for that spark of inspiration. First just apply for the visa! Then tell your boss, "I quit!" Then you can figure out what you really want to do. You'll find out once you take action!