Moving to Japan — Part 1: My mistakes, and preparing to move

October 15, 2018 3:29 pm Published by Leave your thoughts Japanese CoE

So, as you may know from the previous post, I am about to move to Sapporo to work with a company called AD-Interactive in software development.

It all started this year while I was finishing my bachelor’s degree, I thought — why not try to get a job somewhere in a different country, though that was mostly impulse and just for fun. I went with Japanese companies because I haven’t been to any other countries, at least not to any that impressed me as much as Japan.

And despite it being just for fun, in the end I actually passed the interview and got a job in ADi.

So, that is mistake #0: going to job interviews without actually looking for a job.
Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. I’ve been fairly happy doing an occasional project for Senticore or other companies in here, and just get along with life until I run out of cash again, as living here is extremely cheap when you get paid in USD, but pay for everything in RUB 🙂

And now, all of a sudden, I have to give up the (not so many) local friends, my very own lab with multiple grand worth of equipment and tools, my whole comfort zone to go and live in a different city where I barely know anyone, can’t speak the language fluently, get paid about the same, but pay more for the accomodation, the utilities and all this and that.

Of course, I could have refused their offer, but it all went so fast, it was too late to realize. So now my only hope is that it’s gonna be actually interesting and awesome in general! (As, yeah, though the occasional projects here were quite well-paying, most of them were just plain boring)

Then goes mistake #1: having property without being sure you’ve settled in the place you’re in for a long period of time.


pic: My HiFi rig I will miss a lot 🙁

Throughout the last few years I’ve gathered quite a bit of things, including my own flat (not rented, yay!), which I’ve stuffed with pretty high-end audio and video equipment, as well as different tools for my hobbies. But the fun thing is, I barely got to even use it all. I moved in last year in the middle of winter 2017, equipped everything by mid-2018, but was busy writing my grad paper, then spent the whole summer in Tomsk, and now I gotta leave already.

And you know, living without a proper desktop computer and a HiFi is hard, not even mentioning any of the tools for various hobbies.

The good thing in that, though, is that if I will have to return before it was planned, I have somewhere to go, rather than having to start from scratch yet again.
Plus I can let someone live here for a bit of time and have them monitor my server infrastructure (lab mem 006 hint hint).

It makes packing a lot harder too! (Can I fit a 27″ monitor in my luggage? Need I take my Wii or just buy one at the place if I need one? Which one of my dakimakuras should I pack with me, or locally made ones are better anyway? and more and thousands more of those questions…)

Mistake #2: not leaving ASAP.


pic: Japan Airlines JL-422 docked in DME airport (Moscow, 2017)

I got the contract back in July, all the documents on hand mid-august, and the visa early September. Yet I’m only leaving in less than a week from now.
This breaks down to multiple points.
Point one is that it’s simply harder and harder to leave the more you live somewhere, knowing you will have to leave.
Point two is the soviet legacy of Russia everyone is afraid of, boys and men alike: the Russian army.
In Russia, all men 18-27 y.o. must go through a year of army service, which is quite a thing you’d not want anywhere near you.
They gather everyone twice a year — once in mid-April and ’til mid-July, and once from October 1 ’til New Years. And on top of that, they have a specified quota of recruits they must supply per every period (the current one being 900 recruits from my local area).

Thinking back, what I should have done is:

  1. Once I’ve got all the documents, immediately file a request for a visa
  2. While the local army recruiting dept. is not around in the streets on their hunt, legally notify them in a way, like: “Hey guys, I gotta leave for work here, so just in case, I’m out of your legal access area, I’ll get back in touch with you when I return, but for now you may try reaching me in Japan, in case anything”
  3. Hand in my documents for storage and get along with it, all clear
  4. When I return, start the process of all those medical checkups and stuff

(an even better way would’ve been not getting into any databases of the government since my school years, but that is hardly possible, and doubtfully legal at all)

However what I did was:

  1. Wait for the recruiting period to start, and shell out a whopping $1200 for a full medical checkup
  2. Bring all my checkup documents to the recruiting dept. to confirm that I am totally not eligible to be recruited
  3. Spend a couple weeks proving that, reading out printouts of the federal law to various employees of the recruiting dept.
  4. Having no result from the above operations, come and notify them of my departure, only to have my notification refused, because:
    • My documents are now locked in the process of deciding whether I really should be recruited or not
    • If I am not to be recruited and they can decide that without me, it’s all good, but they might want to perform another checkup just for good measure
    • And so if I’m here when they ever get around to that, and I confirm my medical condition, it’s all good once again, BUT if I’m not, then I just have to start it from scratch when I return
    • …unless I have problems returning at the airport passport control, because they didn’t give me any proof of having my official request and copies of my visa and passport filed to my other documents
  5. Thus, probably having to go and press them into obeying the law once more, because I can’t believe what they said, and there is no actual restriction on whether you can work overseas or not despite whether you are in any process of army recruitment.
  6. (unless you’ve been hiding from them for long enough to get on the nationwide law violators list, because acknowledging your obligations but not complying anyway would be an actually illegal thing to do)

Though I hope and suppose there won’t be much problems while leaving, as I’m not on the nationwide wanted-list yet, but I would love to be able to actually return occasionally as well. I doubt it would get any worse than that since Interpol probably has better things to do, but being stuck away from home for 10 years is not something I was aiming for in my life.

Mistake #3: not studying well enough.


pic: This happens too often when going somewhere you barely know the local language.
credit: itchyfeetcomic

Whereas having my bachelor’s degree was a requirement to get a work visa and a CoE, the level of Japanese I know is still stuck somewhere around the level of 2012-2013 where I started.
I might be able to buy me food and get around the city a bit, but for many things it might cause a problem where I can visually understand something, but not read it out loud; or know how to say something, but not write it properly.
Which makes me wish I’d spend less time on some silly stuff like videogames and movies, and more on actual skills I will need.

Mistake #4: not saving up enough.

I guess I could’ve went along fine without that monthly vacation in Tomsk, which I spent nearly $700 on, as well as without some things like a Wii, or a dual channel 25MHz video grade oscilloscope, which I didn’t even get to using at all!
(Though I got the scope for about $20, which is a bargain for such a device anyway 🙂 )
And going on the crypto currency hype everyone was all about last year was a bit fun but still more of a loss overall.

So now that I have to move, I bought the tickets and now am left with roughly $150 at hand. Of course, the company will return what I paid for the tickets, but that will be all my cash for at least a month before my first paycheck, which will be smaller than the further ones due to paying for 2 months of accomodation and utilities instead of just one. The company also lends their new employees $1000, which is then split in 12 parts and returned off your first year paychecks automatically, but since most low- and mid-range Japanese apartments come unfurnished, all of this will go to buying things like a fridge, a bed, or whatever.

Mistake #5: not using my infrastructure to it’s full extent.


pic: With proper enough server configuration, you can even make it send your inbox onto your pager

And by infrastructure, I mean, my servers and NAS and whatever else. Throughout many past years, all the purpose of it all was just serving web pages and playing YouTube/movies to my big screen TV. A couple years ago it also started monitoring the mains power with the help of a UPS.

Last year I’ve also added a SIP host and 2 GSM trunks to it, which allowed me to call friends and family from overseas using my local number (and paying just for the internet abroad, plus my usual local phone provider charges), call some other friends from other cities via SIP directly, as well as get mains outages and other status updates via SMS.

What I however did not use it for, is a way of having all my multimedia stuff centrally stored in just one place.
So when I wanted to install Debian on my Macbook, it was painful, but worked. However when I wanted to move my music library onto it…
All the things ended up being about 67 GB after compressing into MP3 V0. But it was a PITA to stuff it all onto the Macbook’s 128GB SSD. And after compressing the photos to JPEG, they also ended up at about 40 GB. So in the end I had to upload it all to my server and sort it all by hand, much more tediously than if I did that right from the start.
Hopefully it will all work right from now on, though! Especially since I’ve moved to Debian everywhere, as it’s so much easier to use than OS X for some things, and it can look very close to Mac OS 9, too 🙂

In conclusion:

  • Always keep a plan of what’s ahead for a couple steps ahead and don’t forget about it at any time
  • Cut down on collectibles and overall purchases if you haven’t decided where you want to settle for the rest of your life
  • Don’t drop studying anything even if it seems to be not useful right at the moment, who knows when you may need it
  • Always keep at least 2x your peak monthly spending in your hidden cash stash
  • If you have a NAS or a Server, try to put as much data onto that rather than client machines, and always keep backups and different versions (clouds are bad, though)

So… Let’s see how it goes next!

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