10 year anniversary of living in Japan

Ten years ago I hopped on a plane heading to Tokyo to start my life again on a different continent for the second time. Today 10 years later looking back is simply wonderful, because in no way I regret the decision to choose Tokyo as my home. After living in Los Angeles (California, United States of America) for about 6 years, plus being exposed to how much the US society is changing after the 911 incident, the time felt right to follow my heart and move to the city I was so badly homesick for: Tokyo.
As it was not my first trans-continental move, I felt better prepared on what I might have to face. As my preparation I got a place to live and a job lined up, but after having given notice to my then employer that I will not extend the yearly contract, the company I was supposed to work for in Tokyo decided not to hire me at the last second. Here I was in Los Angeles without a job in Japan or my present location, having sold off or given away as much as possible of my possessions: Should I take the risk and jump into the unknown or try to re-establish myself in a known environment???
As you can guess, I took the risk and jumped into an unknown future. Getting a job and rebuilding my life in Japan was not easy at all, but worthwhile to do. For sure I learned my lesson that although I had adjusted to a different culture in the past, redoing it in Japan does not mean that I am better prepared for or that I can speed up the process. Adjusting to a local culture takes at least a year, no matter what.
Looking back now, let me list the top 3 best and worst experiences of living in Japan:

Best memories/plus points:

1. Found a home with heartful friends and the best hubby on the planet (!), a place where I feel accepted as a foreigner, plus Japan is giving me much freedom to be myself without too many questions asked
2. Although I complain from time to time about the climate, having so much sunshine in Tokyo is just wonderful. I cannot help but feel happy and optimistic.
3. Actually a constant process: Being forced to reconsider my viewpoints or perception on what I perceive as “correct” daily. There is not a day going by when I am not learning from Japan or the Japanese society to keep my mind open and consider a totally different viewpoint as “correct”, even though it might be completely incompatible with my own view of what is “correct”.

Worst memories/minus points:

1. Realizing how naive I have been about personal safety and health, because I expected someone to look out for me in a worst case scenario (March 11, 2011). Lesson learned: There are limits on what a country or society can do to protect its citizens, I have to do my own share as well. Safety and health protection of myself and the loved ones is my job!
2. Being laid off overnight from my dream job, exactly 2 days before moving in with my partner, now hubby, facing the situation of ZERO income for the near future. Lesson learned: Being truly grateful for having had the chance to experience my dream job. Looking back now, although the “plusses” of my dream job were great, considering all the drive needed to make it work, plus the responsibilities took a toll on my personality and health. I had paid my price to fulfill a dream of mine, but learned it is not worth for me. Further being forced to live off your savings solely has changed my approach to financial security.
3. Sometimes it can be hard to remind myself that I am a visitor in a foreign country and that unless I am a citizen of the country, there are topics or viewpoints that can be only discussed as local nationals. What I can say in our own four walls is not always appropriate outside.

Overall I am very happy for the 10 year anniversary in Japan. Tokyo is my home and a lot of Japanese culture got permanently absorbed in my heart. For sure I am open and curious what the future will bring.

Brought to you from a very happy Sibylle Ito (伊藤シビル)

10 thoughts on “10 year anniversary of living in Japan

  1. Hi Sibylle, Congratulations on your 10 years in Japan. I spent just over 10 years in Japan myself before moving back home to Australia and loved every minute of it. Japan is such a wonderful place to live and work and is full of amazing experiences.

    • Dear Japan Australia,

      thanks for taking time to comment. I am happy to hear that you had enjoyed your time in Japan. I guess after 10 years you have no choice but stay closely connected with everything Japanese. For sure it changed my life and I hope it had a good inpact on your life too.

      All the best from sunny, cold Tokyo,


  2. Sibylle san! So it’s been ten years since I met you! WOW!
    I’m sure you’ve been through many more things that you can’t even describe in words during those ten years.

    Let’s get together sometime soon; we’ve got lots of things to catch up, don’t we!

    Unitl then…STAY WARM (that’s all you need during this season…) 😉

    • Dear Akiko san,

      so good to hear from you. For sure time flies and a lot has happened in past 10 years. Personally I perceive Tokyo as a rather easy city to life in. There are only a few things that I cannot find, but most likely these goods are not so important or can then be ordered from abroad. Chances are that I got used to Japan too much, so things that had been “normal” to me in the past from abroad seem strange and the Japanese approach became my “new normal”.

      You are right it is for sure cold in Tokyo. I am freezing and dreaming about summer,


  3. Wow! 10 years that’s a very long time!

    It was very interesting for me to read about your experience.
    Some of them are very different from mine, but I live in the “inaka”.
    Actually I’m in my 5th year here in Japan and for the first time I’m moving into a new city and a new job is awaiting me. Very exciting.
    Eventually I want to go back to Europe in the next few years (my home country being Germany).

    • Dear Zooming Japan,

      thanks for taking time to visit and comment on this blog.

      Definitely the experience in the countryside must be so different from Tokyo. I grew up in the countryside, truly out in nowhere in Switzerland and I cannot imagine myself living in such a very nice green and quiet environment anymore. As a consequence I have escaped to the busy, crowded Tokyo, which feels more home to me now.
      Congratulations on your new job. I hope it is a full success to you in anyway.

      I am sorry to hear that you will be leaving Japan one day – I am sure Japan will miss you – but I know sometimes time is calling that we have to move on.

      All the best,


  4. So very pleased at how things have worked out for you returning to Tokyo on a wish and a string, so to speak! The negative points of your experience have also turned how to be postives as you have wisely used them to build your new life there in Tokyo with your wonderful husband. I especially liked the part about how the Japanese respect your individuality. That is also one of my own favorite characteristics of that culture.

    • Dear Granbee,

      for me the biggest lesson learned in Los Angeles: Everything has a positive side and you can change ANYTHING into something positive. Without having lived in California, I guess I would never be so happy now in Tokyo. I needed to learn and grow in Switzerland and US to become more openminded for the next environment.
      I need to add that I have so much freedom here, because I am a foreigner. I would not have the same leeway if I were a Japanese national. I guess I am lucky to live in some niche world.

      All the best,


  5. Happy anniversary. It’s the best that you could get best partner “on the planet.”
    10 years must be both short and long for you. (10年という歳月は、短く感じることもあるし長く感じることもあるでしょう。)

    • Dear Cocomino,

      thank you for your kind words for my anniversary.
      There are days when I feel I still don’t understand my Japanese environment at all and there are days when I feel so pleaceful because Japan is my home. I guess having both at the same place makes me so happy.
      I have shown in the meantime my hubby my blog post, but he does not seem to be too impressed 😉 I guess he already knows that he is the best 🙂
      All the best,


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