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.

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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!

Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral is now available Netflix Japan

Here’s the official trailer of the movie.

Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral is now available in Netflix Japan.

The movie is about our hero, Heneral Gregoria del Pilar (played by Paulo Avelino), who died in the historic Battle of Tirad Pass. It is a sequel to the critically and commercially successful 2015 film Heneral Luna, which tells the story of Antonio Luna (played by John Arcilla).

There’s not a lot of Filipino movies in Netflix Japan right now but hopefully in the coming years, we’ll see more of them available in this streaming service.

Sign up in Netflix if you don’t have an account yet. Get 1 month free and watch movies like Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral.

PS: Here’s a short film titled Angelito. It bridges the gap between the two movies (Heneral Luna and Goyo).

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 Utilities Cost in Yen
Apartment Rent
2DK layout; 35sqm
90,000
Electricity (in winter time) 5,000
Water 2,000
Gas (in winter time) 3,000
Mobile Phone
Sim Only Contract
3,200
Home Internet
FLET’S Hikari fiber; 1Gbps
5,000
Total per month 108,200
B) Meal Expenses (Work days) Cost in Yen
Breakfast 300
Lunch 1,000
Dinner 800
Total in 21 days 44,100
C) Meal Expenses (Non Working days) Cost in Yen
Lunch 800
Dinner 800
Total in 9 days 14,400

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

Hakuba
Hakuba

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.