Naruhito: Japan’s Crown Prince and Next Emperor

Naruhito is expected to succeed his father as the new Emperor of Japan on May 1, 2019.

Here are some facts that you might want to know about him:

  • As a crowned prince, his title is Prince Hiro.
  • He will become the 126th emperor of the world’s oldest monarchy.
  • He will also become Japan’s first emperor who was born after World War 2 (Birthday: February 23, 1960).
  • He is the first in about 200 years who will ascent the Japanese throne due to an abdication of a current living emperor.
  • It was announced that he will reign over the Reiwa (令和) era.
  • He proposed three times before his wife, Masako Owada, agreed to marry her.
  • He and his wife have an only child, Aiko (Princess Toshi).
  • He is interested in environmental issues related to water policy and water conservation.
  • He enjoys jogging, hiking, and mountaineering in his spare time.
  • His birthday was named “Mount Fuji Day” by Shizuoka and Yamanashi Prefectures because of his reported love of the mountain.

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Japan: New Era and October 2019 Enthronement Ceremony

The new Japanese Era, Reiwa (令和時代), will start this May 1, 2019.

With the Abdication Ceremony happening on April 30, the new Emperor Naruhito will start his reign the next day with the ceremony for Inheriting the Imperial Regalia and Seals (Kenji-to-Shokei-no-gi) where he inherits the Imperial Regalia, the State Seal and the Privy Seal upon his accession to the throne.

Following this is the First Audience after the Accession to the Throne (Sokui-go-Choken-no-gi), in which the new Emperor Naruhito meets with the representatives of the people of Japan.

The actual Enthronement Ceremony is now scheduled to happen on October 22, 2019. The new Emperor Naruhito will proclaim his enthronement at the Enthronement Ceremony at the Seiden State Hall (Sokuirei-Seiden-no-gi) and receive felicitations from representatives from both Japan and abroad.

Events related to the Abdication from the throne

  • April 30, 2019
    • Abdication Ceremony
      • Ceremony to announce the abdication to the people and for the Emperor to receive in audience the representatives of the people for the last time before the abdication.

EventS related to the Accession to the Throne

  • May 1, 2019
    • Ceremony for Inheriting the Imperial Regalia and Seals
      • Ceremony for the Emperor to inherit the Imperial Regalia (Sword and Jewel), which are treasures inherited together with the throne, as well as the State and Privy Seals, as proof of his accession to the throne.
    • First Audience after the Accession to the Throne
      • Ceremony for the Emperor to receive in audience the representatives of the people for the first time after the accession to the throne.
  • October 22, 2019
    • Enthronement Ceremony
      • Ceremony to proclaim the enthronement and to receive felicitations from representatives from home and abroad.
    • Imperial Procession after the Enthronement Ceremony
      • Procession to show the new Emperor to the people after the Enthronement Ceremony and to receive their good wishes.

Source: https://www.gov-online.go.jp/eng/publicity/book/hlj/html/201904/201904_06_en.html

Japan Life: Helpful Websites and Mobile Apps for Foreigners in Japan

Life in Japan is not easy for foreigners who are not fluent in Japanese. Even after my seven years here, I still struggle to remember the train schedules specially the last train.

Here is my list of helpful websites and mobile apps that will make your life here in Japan a little better.

Google Translate

https://translate.google.com

Google Translate is definitely a must have application if your Japanese language skill is still rusty.

Here are the reasons why I like it:

  • Aside from text translations, you can do image and Augmented Reality (AR) translations with the use of your mobile phone’s camera.
  • You can type in romaji and it will still try to translate it to your desired language.
  • You can download the translation data so you won’t need to be connected to the internet while doing the translation.

Excite Translator

https://www.excite.co.jp/world/english_japanese/

Excite Translator is a translation tool just like Google Translate (with only limited feature). And while they have the same purpose, most of the time, Excite Translator uses more appropriate or more formal translation than Google Translate. This is good when you’re writing emails and messages to your colleagues.


Jorudan – Japan Transit Planner

https://world.jorudan.co.jp/mln/en/?sub_lang=nosub

I know there are a lot of apps and website where you can check train schedule but for me, Jorudan, will always be my go to website for checking train schedule and transfers.

It provides a simple UI to input the starting station and destination station. You can also input the date and time you want to ride from the starting station or arrive in your destination.


Trip.com

https://www.trip.com

Trip.com is my go to website for finding cheap flights. This one saved me a lot of money when I travel for a Philippine vacation.

Our usual round trip flight fare from Tokyo to Manila is around 40-70,000 yen during off peak season but with Trip.com, you can find fare for as low as 20-30,000 yen.


TransferWise

https://transferwise.com/jp

TransferWise is one of the money transfer services I use (aside from MetroBank). TransferWise has the best exchange rate and easy to use and track because they have a mobile application.


There you go. I will update this list every time I find new useful websites and mobile apps.

Japan Life: Sending money from Japan to the Philippines

I think it is safe to say that most of Filipinos living here in Japan sends money to the Philippines from time to time. It could be for supporting our love ones or for our investments in the Philippines. Either way, as much as possible we try to get the best exchange rate with the cheapest remittance fee that we can get for our remittances.

You probably only need a single remittance service for all your money transferring needs. In any case, here are the services I used since living here in Japan:

Metrobank Easy Transfer Service (METS)

METS is a service provided by Metrobank Japan. It’s my main mode of sending money to my parents for quite some time now.

What I like about this service is that the customer service is really great. I never had an issue with any of my remittance and in case of problem, you can always call them.

Their customer service accepts Tagalog, English and Japanese inquiries so we are pretty much covered even if our Japanese language skill is still not good.

Here is a link to METS website.

TransferWise

TransferWise is a UK-based money transfer service and among the remittance services that I use, this has the highest exchange rate from Japanese Yen to Philippine Peso all the time.

Since this is a global company, customer service is a bit slow to respond. They take hours or a day to reply to emails and I don’t really like calling them for inquiries about my remittance.

I mainly use TransferWise to send money to my personal Philippine savings account.

Here is a link to TransferWise website.

Western Union Money Transfer

I don’t really use this service anymore since the other 2 above are good enough to accommodate all my remittance needs. This was my main mode of remittance to my parents before I use METS.

Basically, it’s a bit troublesome since you will need to go the Western Union agent’s location personally to do the money transfer. You fill up a form and hand over the money physically. On top of that, exchange rate is not really that good.


So there you have it, these are the services I use to send money from Japan to the Philippines. Do you use a different service? Do you think it’s better? Comment below and let us know.

Japan Life: Do Not Forget 3.11

It has been 8 years since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake happened. You won’t see the effects of the tragedy around Tokyo anymore but it is still fresh in the mind of some of the Japanese people.

Yahoo will donate 10 yen for each person that searches “3.11” in Yahoo Search. The donation is for the reconstruction effort of areas affected by the 2011 earthquake.

You will see more information on this page. It is all in Japanese so you’ll need to translate it.

That’s all for now and don’t forget to search “3.11” in Yahoo. 🙂

Travel Japan: Cherry Blossoms 2019 Forecast

The forecast of the first bloom of Sakura in different places in Japan are now available.

Hanami (花見; literal meaning “flower viewing”) is the Japanese tradition of going to parks and enjoying the view of Sakura trees in full bloom. It is an outdoor party where people gather beneath Sakura trees during the day or even at night. Hanami at night is called yozakura (夜桜) which means “night sakura”.

From the end of March to early May, cherry trees bloom all over Japan, and around the first of February on the island of Okinawa.

The Japanese National Tourism Organization provides a forecast of the first bloom and full bloom of Sakura all over Japan. As of the moment, only the first bloom are available.

Sakura First Bloom Forecast 2019:

  • Tokyo: March 20
  • Osaka: March 22
  • Kyoto: March 23
  • Sapporo: May 1
  • Fukuoka: March 16

You can checkout the whole information in Japan National Tourism Organization’s website.

Since I live in Tokyo, one of the nearest and most popular Hanami event place near me is in Meguro River.

Every year, a lot of people go to the Meguro River to see the beautiful Sakura. The place is packed of people every year since Sakura trees are beautifully stretched along the sides of the river. The place is busy until the evening even until 9-10 PM. You can also eat street foods since there are a lot of vendors selling different food and items along the river.

Before I end, here are pictures of the Meguro River Sakura during the day and night.

That’s all for now. Feel free to comment below. 🙂

Japan Life: My Experience Working as a Software Engineer in Japan

It’s been almost 7 years now since I started my career here in Japan and so far it’s been great.

Company 1: The Stepping Stone

I came here the Summer of 2013. Working as a Software (Bridge) Engineer for an IT company in Shin Yokohama; which mostly do printing related software.

This is your typical Japanese company but with most of the employees (Software Engineers and Testers) being Filipinos. The high ranking employees are mostly Japanese with a single Filipino manager. We were like 30 to 50 Filipinos working in two offices; both are in Kanagawa Prefecture.

Pros:

  • No urgent need for Japanese language since most of the employees are Filipinos.
  • There are company dormitories so no need to worry about your accommodations and utility bills.
  • Our HR lady handles all matters related to Japanese ward office and immigrations.
  • Sponsors working visa and basically the one who will fly you to Japan.
  • You feel less home sick since you are around with a lot of Filipinos who you can talked to most of the time.
  • Do company outing like Philippine companies once a year.
  • Provides flight fare money for a Philippine vacation once a year.

Cons:

  • The technology stack is pretty much outdated and you work most of the time with printer related technologies.
  • Low to mediocre salary which is not much of an increase from your salary in the Philippines.
  • Long and unnecessary meetings.
  • The dreaded Japanese trademark overtime work. Like 9AM to 10PM work hours most days of the week.
  • Taking long paid leaves is frowned upon.
  • No good coffee.

Overall, it’s not a great company but somehow tolerable. I left the company after a year and 10 months of working there. I still hang out with former colleagues specially during winter because we snowboard as a group.

Do I regret working for this company? Not really. It was an easy way to get a working visa and I had great company with my friends there (Nothing beats movie and karaoke nights with fellow Filipinos). I just had to leave at some point because it’s a really not a good place career-wise.


Company 2: The Good Place

The second company I worked for in Japan is an e-commerce company whose Engineering team is mostly composed of foreigners. This company really helped me develop my software engineering skills and gave my career a great push. This company has good business relationships with Rakuten, Google and Yahoo.

Pros:

  • Little to no Japanese language requirement since the team communicates in English.
  • Good salary and great salary increase every year.
  • Good and skilled colleagues. I enjoyed a lot of our technical discussions. Even our non work related talks and lunch conversations were nice.
  • Great Manager and Head of Engineering. Tasks and schedules were rarely a problem since both of them are very knowledgeable with software development.
  • Meetings are only held when necessary. We use Slack for communications.
  • Great work life balance. You can work at home 1 day per week if you want.
  • The technology stack is good and as long as you can properly document and do it, you are free to use any programming language and framework you like.
  • A year before I left, we started working on Machine Learning and Blockchain related projects.
  • Free good coffee.

Cons:

  • The business model of the company started to go bad. This is mainly because our e-commerce website is pretty much dependent to paid traffic from Yahoo and Google. In our defense, we did try to improve our organic traffic but it just didn’t help a lot.
  • The Sales and Engineering team has a cultural difference. It doesn’t happen all the time but sometimes you feel there is a communication issue.

I stayed for this company for 3 years and 6 months and I learned a lot while I was there. The company allowed me to do my tasks how I want the them to be done which is a great thing for a software engineer.

So why did I left this company? I would stay if I like and the company did try to ask me to stay. The thing is, I felt like it was the right time to move. Both my manager and our Head of Engineering already left the company months before I did and it felt like I have no one to learn from anymore.


Company 3: The Better One

Aside from the above mentioned reasons for leaving my previous company, my current also gave a generous on-boarding package to persuade me. Basically all the benefits that I am receiving from my previous company plus more paid vacation leaves, higher salary and nice modest working environment where I’m free to do whatever I want as long as it’s aligned with the business goals of the company.

Being a FinTech company, most of our projects requires extra security considerations. Right now, we tackle finance problems with the use of Machine Learning, Blockchain and Cryptography. Kinda nice set of technologies to work with specially nowadays. Japan is laidback in terms of using newer technology, most of the companies I know are using Java and PHP/Wordpress for their systems.

Pros:

  • We are a start up company but backed by a big company.
  • We work with the tools and technology that we want and we are free to do Research and Development.
  • Great benefits and salary which surpass the package I received from my previous company.
  • Same work life balance and no unnecessary meetings so far.
  • Great boss and colleagues.
  • Nice coffee machine where I can drink much needed coffee.
  • Office is in Central Tokyo. Restaurants are a little pricey but we have a great selection for lunch outs.

Cons:

  • We are a start up company so it is a bit risky. We need to make sure that we can create services that the Japanese people will want to use.

I have been working for this company for about 5 months now and it is still going great. We had an issue with our first project related to Japanese regulation but we have a great team so I believe we will be able to finish it on schedule.

We’re only a few people working in our team here in Tokyo and we share the office with our sibling company. I’m new to the company but they have been very welcoming and helpful. We had company brainstorming sessions held in Karuizawa Prince Hotel last November 2018 which was a nice experience.


So there you go, this is the summary of my Software Engineering life here in Japan so far. Do I like working in Japan? Hell yes!

Language barrier and cultural differences will always be a nuisance at first but I think as long as you are openminded, you will have a good time working here in Japan.

I am really lucky to have worked in these companies (even in Company 1) and I hope you find a good working place here in Japan too because it’s really nice in here. Enjoy working but enjoy exploring Japan at the same time. We need more work life balance here for everyone.

If you have comments, questions or suggestions, feel free to comment below. Have a great day!