Should I stay or should I go?

Should I stay or should I go?

I've been living in Tokyo for 3 weeks now, and I'm weighing up the pros and cons of life in Japan - including the parts I could have done better.

Published by Bryan McDowall on .

I've been staying in a small guest house in Katsushika City, just north of the Arakawa - yes, the same river (and nearby bridge) from the titular manga, Arakawa Under the Bridge. Sadly I've yet to run into any Venusians, nuns or kappa, but the area is pretty wonderful besides.

Arakawa Under the Bridge - Official Trailer

Katsushika is far enough north of the city that I can commute easily, but also enjoy a slightly more suburban setting. To Ueno by train takes about 20 minutes and costs about £1.10 each way, making it affordable and convenient. When I do get stuck in town (for example, after some late night karaoke), I can walk back to the guest house in a pinch by following the river.

My job

So far, working in the city has been a lot of fun, and my workmates are all very patient and accommodating. It's been a real pleasure working with them over the past few weeks, and getting to know them through social events.

I'm definitely still adjusting to Japanese work practices, though I think my company is far from typical as far as Japanese employers go. The business practices whilst perhaps more formal than in recent years in the UK, is far more relaxed than stories I've heard from other companies here. Not uncomfortable by any means.

"Photograph of the pedestrian crossing near Ueno, going towards Ameyoko shopping district. It's night time and there are many people."
Ueno at night - a typical scene on my way home from work.

I'm using the skills I've developed, particularly in the last couple of years to benefit their business goals at this key point in time.

Missing home

Despite living my dream, there's still a part of me that misses home, and wonders how long I'll stay.

Having recently finished renovating my house before leaving it and my loved ones behind to Follow My Dreams ✨, it feels like I still have a foot in both worlds.

"Photograph of the underpass near Akihabara station, leading towards Yodobashi Camera"
The bright lights and tech toys in Akiba have a different appeal as a resident

The question is, should I return now, whilst it's possible to transition fairly seamlessly back into the life I knew, or will I hold off a little longer and try establishing myself again in a new place? The opportunity to build better habits and challenge myself in a new situation is definitely part of the appeal, if I can overcome my doubts and fears.

I know that if I didn't have a home and family to return to, it wouldn't even be thinking about this. Whilst I had a bumpy start - that seems only natural, given jet lag and anxieties. However, I am really enjoying living here, and every so often I'm reminded why Japan is the place I choose to live at this stage in my life.

Mistakes were made

When I left, I was under the impression that I was only bringing my essentials - things I used every day, and that I had been ruthless in narrowing down what to take with me.

I realise now that I'm here, these decisions were based on my life as it was in Scotland, with a multi-room house, remote work conditions, and fairly established/comfortable lifestyle.

If I had a do-over, I'd likely pack as if I was on vacation, packing essentials I need to get by and do my job. I'd adapt to the rest, making lists of what was missing, and acquiring them over time.


It would have been affordable to replace the few items I did bring with seasonably appropriate items here. Not to mention, the layers I brought were far more suitable to Scotland's current weather.

Currently, I have 4-5 t-shirts in circulation and 6 days of underwear, which I'm able to wash on short cycles. All of my t-shirts are intentionally white, because it's very warm here, and I can justify a separate wash for these.

Tech stuff

Thinking about it, packing my Ergotron monitor arm was weight I could have saved. Undoubtedly a useful item, but probably not difficult to replace here. At 5kg it definitely could have stayed home.

My dismantled PC also could have been replaced somewhat affordably, or brought over during a later visit. As it stands, I've haven't had time to think about gaming, so my laptop has been fine for general web things.

All the smaller hubs and tools I brought are probably less of an issue, but I easily could have shipped them over later, once I confirmed an apartment.

What next?

I'm looking at apartments now, in the surrounding area. Katsushiki City is a fairly affordable place to live. It's quiet, and the people here are kind. It generally ticks a lot of boxes for what I'm looking for.

Of course, whther I decide to stay is still up for debate, but I have to consider the possibility. And I don't want to leave finding a place until the very last minute.

If I can find somewhere, I can start looking at other things to make my stay more comfortable, such as a decent desk, a local gym, and maybe even a gaijin-friendly martial arts club.

"Photograph of Mt Fuji from the top of Mt Takao in Tokyo. It appears on the horizon behind another mountain range. Taken mid-April, there is still a lot of snow on Fujisan."
Fujisan said hello during my climb of nearby Mt Takao! 🗻

Besides that, I'll continue to climb mountains when I can, and enjoying the slow life that being a resident affords me.

More soon! Until then, I'll post occasionally to Instagram and Twitter.


  • personal
  • life update
  • japan
  • tokyo

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