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SAMURAI HOUSE HIGASHI UENO

Interview: Damien (Samurai House Higashi Ueno)

Resident Interview: Samurai House Higashi Ueno)

8th working holiday interview!

This interview subject is quite interesting. He did a 3-month bike tour up to Hokkaido, met lots of wonderful people along the way, and took in Japan's nature! Let's find out the details of such an interesting journey.

Please introduce yourself!
I'm Damien, and I'm 30, and I'm from France. I've been in Japan on a working holiday visa since May 2019.

I did a bike trip from Tokyo to Kyoto, and it took about 2 months. Then I did another 2 months to Yamanashi, and then went all the way up to Hokkaido on a bike.

What was the trip like?

There were some difficult spots, and it can get quite lonely, but I met so many wonderful people along the way. They were always giving me things, I felt bad! They'd run in to a convenience store and come out with water or onigiri, wishing me good luck and that sort of thing. Just incredible people everywhere.

That's so kind of them!
Sometimes people even invited me out to restaurants. You meet great people every day. Even though I can't speak Japanese, we're able to communicate, with things like Google translate or gestures.

Did you have any difficulties on the trip?
Not really, no. There's Google Maps, and that's so useful that it's starting to not really feel like an adventure anymore. Especially in Japan, there's a convenience store at least every 5 kilometers, so food, drink, restroom, internet, electricity are never too far away. And I never felt unsafe.

I'm curious, where did you sleep?
In a tent. I'd find some place sort of hidden and set it up. I've even slept in some unorthodox places. Like in Hokkaido one time the wind was so bad I stayed in a bus shelter!

What are your next plans?
The next plan is to go to Okinawa in 2020. Right now I do part-time work at a moving company. But actually I fell off my bike last week and hurt my arm...

But anyway, I'll spend the winter working in Tokyo. I can't wait to get back on the bike and ride.

Basically my plan is to save up some money, and head out again. I had enough money to saved up to travel right when I landed, and then when I got low on funds, I'd settle down and work. Summer is way too hot in Japan so I don't want to bike too much then. So for summer I work inside, and then in September I'll head out again.

How did you find Oakhouse?

I got to Tokyo 3 months ago. I was looking for rooms online, and I found this place. I stayed in the dormitory for 6 days, and made Japanese friends who helped me out a lot. Oakhouse is great. When I tried to contact other share house companies, they'd respond very quickly to my Japanese friends, but not so fast if I contacted them in English or French. Or not at all. Then my friend found Oakhouse and recommended it to me, and it was a no-brainer decision.

How are you learning Japanese?
I only work part time so I have lots of free time, so I use the library to study. There are great apps you can use, with good lessons.

How do you feel about Japan?

I like everything, really. The culture, and especially nature. I like the cities too, but just for sightseeing. Tokyo seems so busy. I don't want to see the sad faces of commuters during rush hour! But that's also part of the culture, you know? But for me I don't want to be a part of that, so I prefer the inaka (countryside) life.

Anything else you've discovered?
The way of thinking, I suppose. Japanese people are so nice, I think because there's a cultural focus on hospitality. They're always saying 'sorry' or 'thank you'. Even when I go to a bar or something, and someone buys me a drink and I thank them very much, they say 'no no, thank you!' Wait, what?? Even though you paid for my drink, *you* are thanking *me*?

Eileen's thoughts
His travel stories were so interesting. I wonder where he'll bike off to next! I'd love to travel too, but I think I'd rather take the bullet train!