Tokyo to San Francisco: savouring suburban solitude

Tokyo to San Francisco: savouring suburban solitude

Everywhere I turn, people are speaking Spanish – America’s unofficial second language. I’m surprised that I can still understand the language fairly well – considering that I haven’t spoken it in some four years. I learnt a lot of new languages in my twenties – but Spanish is my still my favourite. I hear a whole plethora of other languages, too. Some I recognise. Others I don’t. I breathe in and out. It’s my first time in San Francisco, but I feel at home for the first time in a while.  Continue reading Tokyo to San Francisco: savouring suburban solitude

The Dysfunctional Senpai Kohai Relationship: when the hierarchy fails

The Dysfunctional Senpai Kohai Relationship: when the hierarchy fails

Navigating the complexity of the Senpai Kohai relationship is one of the stepping stones of working in Japan. Senpai = senior. Kohai = junior. In theory, this is a two-way street that has its roots in Confucianism. The elders pass on their knowledge and experience to the younger ones. Seems fair, doesn’t it? Those with more experience and knowledge lead the way for those with less experience and knowledge. Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that these things are often determined by age and rank – not by ability, intelligence and capability. Continue reading The Dysfunctional Senpai Kohai Relationship: when the hierarchy fails

Banking in Japan for Foreigners: JP Bank vs Shinsei Bank

Banking in Japan for Foreigners: JP Bank vs Shinsei Bank

Despite incredibly advanced technological advances in robotics, the banking industry in Japan is painfully traditional. Japan is still largely a cash-based society, so be prepared to walk around with a wad of cash to buy things. Paying by credit card is only available at major department stores and at some restaurants. Most people pay their bills with cash at a convenience store or at the post office. If you can’t be bothered with that, direct debit is also available. Now onto the banks… Continue reading Banking in Japan for Foreigners: JP Bank vs Shinsei Bank

Six of Cups: Back ‘home’ in Japan (Part 2)

Six of Cups: Back ‘home’ in Japan (Part 2)

Japan is probably not a place where most foreigners would ever truly feel at home. But after three years here, I can safely say – it’s not exactly ‘home’, but it’s become very very familiar. After five weeks on the road for both professional and personal reasons, I’m back in my messy apartment that I never quite have time to clean. What an anticlimax… Continue reading Six of Cups: Back ‘home’ in Japan (Part 2)

Kobe Indians: Four Generations as ‘Gaijins’ in Japan

Kobe Indians: Four Generations as ‘Gaijins’ in Japan

In 1904, my great-grandfather moved to Kobe. He had three kids. My paternal grandmother was one of them. She grew up in Hyogo Prefecture. She wasn’t Japanese – but the Kansai dialect of Japan was her first language. It’s rare to find born-and-bred ‘gaijins’ in Japan now. It was even rarer then. Since coming to Japan, I’ve been curious about grandma’s life here. Continue reading Kobe Indians: Four Generations as ‘Gaijins’ in Japan

Ms. 9 of Pentacles: Commuter Heaven in Tokyo

Ms. 9 of Pentacles: Commuter Heaven in Tokyo

I’m riding the Green Car. It’s unbelievable that this train is so empty. There’s legroom. Empty seats. Food on sale. A tray table to eat my bento. Would I truly be able to enjoy this if not for the slow and steady ascent I’ve had? I was Mr. 8 of Pentacles not so long ago, packed into commuter hell; sharing my midnight misery with the masses. I didn’t like it – but I accepted that it was part of my journey from the ground up. Continue reading Ms. 9 of Pentacles: Commuter Heaven in Tokyo

Top 3 Indian restaurants in Tokyo: recommendations from an Indian ‘Gaijin’

Top 3 Indian restaurants in Tokyo: recommendations from an Indian ‘Gaijin’

Don’t you dare put anything on my plate that my mum won’t approve of. Food that is heavily catered to the Japanese palate is not for me. I’m also not a fan of the greasy takeout type restaurant. I want soul food. You know what I’m talking about. I want a meal that takes me back to my thousands of years of heritage with that first bite. Continue reading Top 3 Indian restaurants in Tokyo: recommendations from an Indian ‘Gaijin’