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.

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.

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!

Cost of Living in Tokyo 2019

No doubt the cost of living in Tokyo is one of the highest in the world. It even ranks as #1 in Asia for Highest Cost of Living Index (2019) according to this site.

Here is an estimated breakdown of my current expenses so you’ll get the feel of how much you are expected to prepare every month. I live alone but I have friends who visit and stay sometimes.

A) Monthly Rent and UtilitiesCost in Yen
Apartment Rent
2DK layout; 35sqm
90,000
Electricity (in winter time)5,000
Water2,000
Gas (in winter time)3,000
Mobile Phone
Sim Only Contract
3,200
Home Internet
FLET’S Hikari fiber; 1Gbps
5,000
Total per month108,200
B) Meal Expenses (Work days)Cost in Yen
Breakfast300
Lunch1,000
Dinner800
Total in 21 days44,100
C) Meal Expenses (Non Working days)Cost in Yen
Lunch800
Dinner800
Total in 9 days14,400

Total Monthly Expenses = A + B + C.

= A) 108,200 + B) 44,100 + C) 14,400
= 166,700 yen (or ~80,000 pesos) per month

Remember the estimate above doesn’t include recreational expenses like travel, dining and drinking out with friends, and buying furnitures and other stuff.

Note: In Japan, drinking parties with colleagues could happen a lot more often than you expect. You can refuse to join but joining helps to “build” team spirit.

Living in Tokyo

I’ve been living in Tokyo (in Suginami and Setagaya) for about 4 years now (and another 2 years in Yokohama). It definitely costs a lot more to live here in Tokyo specially when you compare it to living in Metro Manila. Before I moved here in Japan (Mid 2013), I remember I could live with a monthly budget of 30,000 pesos.

I live in a residential area of Tokyo but I work in Central Tokyo (Nihonbashi). Lunch in Central Tokyo on work days are expensive but I work as a Senior Software Engineer on a great international company so it’s not really a concern for me right now. That’s also a reason I have some leeway on the size of my apartment even though I live alone.

My apartment is 2DK which means I have 2 bedrooms, a dining+kitchen (DK) room, and a separate area for bathroom and laundry. It is 7 minutes from the nearest station.

Reducing the estimate above is very possible. For example, instead of renting a 2DK apartment, you can also rent a smaller studio type one (e.g.1K or 1R) which costs from 50,000 yen to 70,000 yen. Even cheaper if you are willing to walk more from the station. You can also go for a sharehouse which is also cheaper than having your own apartment. A sharehouse is like dormitory. You rent your private bedroom but the living is shared. You may or may not have your own private bathroom.

You can also cut expenses by preparing and cooking your own food. Buy ingredients in supermarkets and prepare your lunch and dinner ahead of time. I’m not sure how much you will save from this but I guess it will be about 20-30% on your food expenses.

Living in Tokyo is financially hard specially for us Filipinos since most of the time we have families who we need to support back in the Philippines. I’m single but I send money to my parents every month.

There you go. You now have an idea on how expensive living in Tokyo is. If you have questions, feel free to comment or send me a message.

Snowboarding in Japan

We, Filipinos, don’t experience snow and winter in the Philippines. This is the main reason many of my foreigner friends here in Japan would usually be surprise when I tell them I love snowboarding.

I live in Tokyo for about 6 years now and every winter season, I find time to go to ski resorts on weekends. I will usually go on weekend snowboarding together with friends or former colleagues.

We book group ski/snowboard packages online which come with the following inclusions:
Round trip bus ride from Tokyo / Yokohama to the ski resort
– 2-Day Ski Lift Pass/Ticket
Rental gears (jacket, pants, ski or snowboard, and boots)
– Overnight stay on a Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn; with dinner and breakfast)

Some of our usual snowboarding destinations are:
Hakuba in Nagano Prefecture
Zao in Yamagata
Naeba in Niigata
Myoko in Niigata

We’ll be organizing some group snowboarding trips this February and March. We’re not sure where to go yet but I know we will enjoy the snow again.

Feel free to comment or send messages.

Japan Holidays: 10-Day Golden Week 2019 and New Emperor’s Coronation Day

Yup, you read that right.

Starting April 27 (Sat) until May 6 (Mon) 2019, there will be a rare 10-Day non working holiday because of the annual Golden Week celebration and because of the new emperor’s accession to the throne.

This will be the first time in about 200 years that a living Japanese emperor will step down from the throne.

April 27 – regular Saturday
April 28 – regular Sunday
April 29 – Showa Day (Monday; original Golden Week day)
April 30 – Abdication ceremony of the current emperor (Tuesday)
May 1 – Accession of new emperor (Wednesday)
May 2 – Public Holiday (Thursday)
May 3 – Constitution Memorial Day (Friday; original Golden Week day)
May 4 – Greenery Day (Saturday; original Golden Week day)
May 5 – Children’s Day (Sunday; original Golden Week day)
May 6 – Children’s Day (observed) (Monday; original Golden Week day)

This 10-day holiday will definitely be a very busy week for all of us. As of writing, available flights from Tokyo and hotel accommodations are starting to run out of available slots.

Trivia:

  • The last enthronement ceremony was held in November 12, 1990 for the current emperor, Emperor Akihito.
  • After modern Japanese emperors die, their names are changed to reflect the era in which they ruled. Emperor Akihito will be renamed Heisei (meaning “peace everywhere”).
  • The emperor’s birthday is a national holiday in Japan. December 23 is the current Emperor’s Birthday (Akihito). The next emperor’s birthday is February 23 (Naruhito).
  • Naruhito will become Japan’s first emperor who was born after World War II.
  • Akishino, the younger son of current Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, will be the first in line to the throne after Naruhito’s coronation.
  • In 1817, Emperor Kōkaku was the last emperor to abdicate his throne.

UPDATE: The Abdication Ceremony of the current emperor and the start of the Japanese Reiwa Era will happen this Golden Week but the actual Enthronement Ceremony will happen on October 22, 2019.

Related Post:
Japan: New Era and October 2019 Enthronement Ceremony

OFW in Japan: How to get an OEC when you just moved to another company?

UPDATE: April 17, 2019

For some reason, I think they changed the rule again. The person who processed my papers said that “verification-only” are only applicable to those who weren’t regular employees to begin with (i.e. those who came as students, dependents, intracompany visa holders, etc.). Otherwise, since I was already registered in the bm online and only changed jobs, I was given the OEC here and don’t have to go to the POEA office in the Philippines.

Ish (from the comment section)

Source: https://thefilipinogaijin.com/2018/10/16/ofw-in-japan-how-to-get-an-oec-when-you-just-moved-to-another-company/comment-page-1/#comment-30


If you’re living far from the POLO Tokyo office, I recommend you call or email them first to check the latest OEC procedure. Here is the Tokyo POLO office’s contact page.


Original Post: October 16, 2018

Recently, the POEA just released a new resolution about changing the process of obtaining a OEC.

I went to the POLO office in Tokyo just to found out that they recently changed the procedure and now I need to go to the Philippines POEA office to get an OEC.

What are the changes?

  1. Tokyo POLO will now need to verify your employment contract
  2. There will be no issuance of OEC in Tokyo POLO. They will only verify your employment contract then you will need to present it to POEA in the Philippines to get an OEC.

Who are affected by this change?

  1. OFW who are not yet registered in the Balik-Manggagawa Online Processing System (bmonline.ph).
  2. OFW returning to Japan the first time after you moved to a new company (i.e. change employer).

What do you need to do?

  1. You need to prepare the following documents
    • Copy of photo page of your passport (original to be presented; valid at least 6 months before your intended departure)
    • Copy of Residence Card (with valid visa)
    • Copy of Insurance Card (original to be presented)
    • Signed written statement (letter form) addressed to Labor Attaché Marie Rose Escalada (indicating all necessary details how you were able to enter Japan and manage to get a job/change employer)
    • Employment Contract (signed by you and your employer; in English or with a signed English Translation)
    • Employment Certificate or proof of existing employment such as payroll slip or valid company identification card (if you’re working for more than 6 months for the said employer)
    • Release letter or Employment Certificate issued by the previous employer
    • Company Registration “Tokibo Tohon” (with English translation; signed by translator)
  2. Go to Tokyo POLO and submit the documents
  3. After they verify your Employment Contract, schedule an appointment using bmonline.ph.
  4. Submit the verified Employment Contract in a POEA office and receive your OEC (Note: there are POEA satellite offices so you don’t need to go to the one in Mandaluyong)

Yeah, I know. That’s a lot of documents, right? Shoganai 🙂

You can read the actual resolution document in here.

PS: You might notice that the documents in the resolution document is not the same with the one I listed above, but those are the list of documents Tokyo POLO just asked me to submit when I did my last visit there. Feel free to contact them if you want to make sure.