Mar 16, 2012
Francesco Agresti

Resident Interview: Sophie

Sophie and her family have spent the last three and a half years enjoying the city life in the foreigner-friendly area of Moto-Azabu. We hear what she has to say about life in her third Japanese home, as well as her thoughts and experiences on living in the urban jungle.

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What really impresses you about your apartment?

The huge outdoor space we have here is a winner for me, especially since it’s so rare to have in Tokyo. The wide space allows us to have several guests over and enjoy a barbecue when the weather is nice. Also, my husband’s company often has corporate events in the house so it’s spacious enough to allow friends to gather and be entertained. Finally, the icing on the cake is our reliable security system, which is reassuring to have when you have three young kids living with you. We have a Secom system installed as well as a lobby officer who is around from 8am to 8pm six days a week.

 

Could you tell me what your neighborhood is like?

I find it very easy to live here in Moto-Azabu even though I don’t speak much Japanese. Important places such as banks, post offices and hospitals all have English speaking services due to the high concentration of foreigners living in the area. We also love walking everywhere and it couldn’t be more convenient, as we can walk to all kinds of restaurants and shops from our house. I think the convenience coupled with the English support makes life a lot easier for my family and I in Japan.

 

What has helped you to settle into your new home?

As foreigners, we relied on foreign networks whether they be the Australian society, the American Club or my kid’s international school itself. I think if you rely on those networks and try to gain as much knowledge from those established facilities, you will definitely feel a lot more comfortable in Japan. This area in particular is very geared towards helping foreign communities so it really is an ideal location for us.

 

What difficulties did you face when moving here and how did you overcome them?

I think first and foremost was the language barrier for me. We’re Australian and we also lived in Singapore, so we were used to speaking English all the time. I try to learn Japanese as often as I can but you will always find people who will help you out when in need of help. Just try to get out there, be productive and try to stay positive!

 

How is life in Japan now compared to when you first came?

I first came to Japan about ten years ago and back then there wasn’t much support for foreign communities. However nowadays it’s a lot more foreigner-friendly due to all the communities and services aimed towards foreign residents. Even simple things like finding imported products in your local super market can make you feel more at home. In short, things have vastly improved compared to ten years ago with regards to foreigner friendliness.

 

Which aspects of life in Japan do you prefer when compared to your home country?

I think the big ones are the ease of walking and close-knit community because you just don’t get that in Sydney. For us personally, we have become much closer as a family because we do so many things together, which we might not have done back home. Another thing is that the safety here keeps my mind at ease when my children are out and about, which can’t be said for many other countries. The culture here in Japan is so rich and deep when compared to Australia, so we can really appreciate all the cultural festivals and traditional temples. My girls still get so excited when they see a lady in a kimono walking down the street. In fact, I’m glad my kids have the opportunity to be exposed to a vastly different culture than their own.

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Could you tell us how Ken Corp provides their services to you?

The twenty-four hour hot-line service first comes to mind. At any time we can call them up if we need any help and they’ll usually send a handy man to assist us within a couple of hours. If they aren’t available at the time, they will let us know when they’re next able to come so having the ability to contact them at any time is wonderful. Our agent has even helped our friends find places here, which just shows they will always go the extra mile to keep their customers satisfied. Most people don’t even know where to start when coming here so Ken is always there to guide you and listen to any requests you may have. Other than that, they help to maintain the buildings beautifully and occasionally check how we are doing.

 

What would you tell people who are interested in moving to Japan?

Having a point of contact in Japan to ask questions can make the transition a whole lot smoother. Just go ahead and email the contact to ask for as much advice as you can such as; where’s the best place to live, what are the best schools, what’s your recommendation on the train systems, and so on. As for finding that contact, you can ask Ken or someone within the company who is relocating you.

It can be really overwhelming when you first arrive in a foreign country so having some knowledge under your belt can really make the whole moving and settling process a whole lot easier. Once you’re here, I advise you to just get out there, go to the festivals, visit the temples and get involved. You’ll find life really enjoyable once you manage to pass the first hurdle.

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