Ali's blog

Moving to Japan

By this time next year we will, in some form or another be living in Japan.

Where are we going?

We will very likely be living in Sendai in Miyagi Prefectiure:


Why are we going?

There are roughly three reasons why we’re moving back to Japan.

90% of the reason is that our living expenses in Sendai will amount to roughly a quarter of our expenses in North London. This means my business has to earn less money, I have to earn less money, and we can make a significant dent in our debt and eventually start saving money for ourselves.

8% of the reason is that I never really wanted to leave Japan in the first place. I’m much happier in Japan than in the UK, for reasons that are mostly boring. I like the food/drink culture, the trains run on time, and I do a reasonably good job of playing my gaijin card and milking it for all the benefits it affords me. I’ve lived in Japan for two years on JET right out of university and have been back to visit family every couple of years since.

2% of the reason is that the UK has problems at the moment and I don’t really know what’s going to happen when the March 2019 Brexit cliff hits. It could be nothing, or it could be the end of the British economy as we know it. My only real goal in life is to ensure my family is not around for any major political or economic upheaval, everything else is gravy. For that reason, I’d rather not be here (let alone have an enormous mortgage) when Brexit happens.

It is also the case that, no matter what happens to the economy and our status as a member of the EU, the UK is an increasingly unwelcoming place for people who aren’t white. No one in my family is white. Japan is not exactly a haven for racial equality, but a good majority of my immediate family can pass for the “default” race there.

Really that’s it?

Of course not. Moving to Japan is a huge decision for us and we’ve been thinking about it constantly more or less as soon as we arrived in the UK.

The reason we moved from Tokyo to London in 2008 was because I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life as an English teacher. There’s nothing wrong with teaching English, but it’s not something I felt was my true calling, or that I could see an easy way to use to achieve my longer term goals. I moved to the UK and started a career as a web developer, and that’s turned out reasonably well for me, but I’ve always wanted to go back.

There are lots of other reasons that this move is good for us, above and beyond the above.

  • I will be 2 hours away from Tokyo. It’s a short bullet-train hop to the greatest city on Earth. I really like Tokyo, probably more than anywhere else in Japan, so this is a huge draw for me.
  • The trains run on time. It’s difficult to explain the life-changing benefit to someone that hasn’t experienced it first-hand. The trains run on time so you can quite accurately plan journeys to within minutes, all the time, without fail.
  • Japanese people are good in a disaster. I feel like if the world ends with the survivors in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, Japan would be the least likely to turn into Mad Max or The Walking Dead.
  • There is demand for people with my skills/experience. I can program computers good some of the time, and I’m led to believe that there are some people in Japan willing to pay for said services.

There are also some concerns/sad things about leaving too:

  • Ryu will be leaving all of his friends behind. He’s four, so won’t take this well, and will have to build up his social circle form scratch. He’s more or less bilingual so he’ll probably be fine.
  • We will start fresh in Sendai not knowing anyone. We can walk around in our neighbourhood and run into seven or eight people we know on a trip to the supermarket. We’ll know basically no one when we arrive in Sendai.
  • I don’t really know what the work situation will be like. I currently live in London, where in the absolute worst case scenario, I can demonstrably get a contract engagement as a Ruby developer at around £600/day. Apart form the house, I have no such safety net in Sendai, and I’m not even sure about Tokyo.

How and when is this happening? Current status is that we’re looking for a

house, mostly using We’re liaising with a number of estate agents and have a few key areas staked out as ideal where we’re waiting for a house to become available. This is an example of the sort of thing we’re looking for .

If we find a suitable house in the next three or four months, then I’ll hop over to Japan, have a look at it in person, put down a deposit if it checks out, and then complete the deal.

If we don’t on the other hand find a place, the plan is to move over to Sendai and stay in a short-term let at the end of July 2018 and then spend time finding a house after we arrive.

Either way, by August 2018 we should be in Japan for good.