This blog attempts to give you an idea of what it is really like to live in Japan.

During my many years as a Japan-o-holic, I have browsed the web for all things Japanese. While I found stores of information about how weird the Japanese are, and all the subcultures they indulge in, it was very hard to find any information about the simple reality of day-to-day life in Japan. Hence this blog. Over time, I have also started including articles about traditional Japanese culture. As I write, I hope to deepen my own understanding of Japan. I try to remain honest and nuanced, while at the same time adding some humour and self-mockery.

Haruko-chan (not my real name) is a Belgian national who has spent a year living in Toyota City, Aichi prefecture, Japan. After returning to Belgium, she started practicing Japanese tea ceremony and studying kimono.

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  1. Konnichiwa Haruko-chan,
    Perhaps this blog is finished, but I thought I’d say “Dag.” …and, arigato. I found your page on a Google search for stinging centipedes in Japan. I think I was bitten by a mukade while staying at a wonderful organic farm about an hour out of Kyoto. While that wasn’t my most pleasant experience in Japan, I am completely smitten with the country and her people. Planning my next visit now.

    I’ll check out some of the other stories on this blog, having bookmarked it. Seems like insightful material, and wanted you to know that it’s appreciated.

  2. Always loved Japanese culture. A friend of mine, her dad is the country’s ambassador to Japan so I never get tired of hearing about life in Tokyo. I really enjoyed your blog, hard to believe that you spent just a year in Japan. You really really learnt a lot!

  3. Hi I live in the South of England, UK. I am eating a bowl of noodles and wondered if the Japanese at noodles for breakfast, so I googled it and came upon you’re site. I like you’re site and what a good idea to ask people who they are, a great personal touch.

    1. Thank you so much! I’m glad you like it πŸ™‚ I haven’t seen noodles for breakfast in Japan, but then again, since there is such diversity when it comes to food in Japan, it is highly likely that somewhere in Japan there is a small town where noodles for breakfast is a local speciality πŸ™‚

  4. Wow, I enjoyed reading through your blogs. I’m a long-time resident but I find your blogs filled with information even I did not know about. Example: The sauces in supermarkets. And the love hotels? Well, we won’t go into that. Look forward to reading more.

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you like it πŸ™‚ It is my dream to make a ‘sauce guide’ on this blog, but I think that I would have to learn a lot more about the different sauces myself before I can do that. I only know a few right now.

  5. Haruko-chan, How are you ? I found out Blog roll is disappear in my site. I will fix sorry.
    If you don’t mind, could you e-mail me? I would like to message you privately. Thanks!

  6. Thanks for stopping by my blog! I lived in Nagoya for about seven years and I’ve been to Toyota-shi a few times as well. I’m currently in Tokyo but I do miss Aichi. I’ll be looking forward to your future posts πŸ˜‰

    1. Thanks for the comment. I love your blog! You know, when I first visited Nagoya, it seemed like such a big city to me. But then I visited Tokyo, and after that it felt so nice to return to the ‘small-scale city’ of Nagoya and the ‘calm countryside’ of Toyotashi. It’s funny how relative those things are. After thinking of Toyotashi as calm countyside, I realized that it still has more people than the second biggest city in Belgium. So relativity strikes again. πŸ™‚ I look forward to following your blog as well!

  7. Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I am delighted to discover yours! A good friend of mine is from Belgium. He is an antiques dealer who travels a great deal. As you can see from my work, I’m also a Japanophile. How nice to meet you!

  8. はるこけゃん、
    Great blog! Your photos make Toyota City look very beautiful!

    My company (probably the same company that moved you there) will be moving my wife and I to the Nagoya area in November 2014, and we are preparing for a house hunting trip. My Japanese colleagues are strongly recommending Meito, Chikusa, or Showa. All of these are a significant commute to my office in Toyota City. My wife will be at home during the day and I want someplace where it is convenient for her and has things for her to do while I am at work. I was wondering if after living in Toyota City area you would still choose Toyota City.
    Thanks for your

      1. It depends if you have kids. Meito is an area where a lot of expat families with kids live. It’s on the outskirts of Nagoya. It is easy to meet other moms there. But for someone without kids, you might easily feel left out. Likewise, Nagakute is a residential area between Toyotashi and Nagoya where a lot of families live. In Nagakute there isn’t much to do. In areas like Nagakute, that are far from the cities, you can get a bigger apartment or house for less money than in Toyotashi or Nagoya. You do need a car to get around if you live in Nagakute. Personally, not having any kids, I would totally live in Toyotashi city centre again. It was an easy commute for my husband (by bike when the weather allowed it!) and there was plenty to do for me. We lived really close to the train station (something I highly recommend, although it will cost extra in housing price) and it was only a 40 min. train ride to Nagoya if I wanted to experience the big city. But being from a smaller city in Belgium, for the day-to-day life, I preferred the smaller scale of Toyotashi to Nagoya. I couldn’t tell you about Chikusa or Showa, never heard of those places. Of course all this is just my personal experience. Perhaps someone else will tell you differently. Feel free to contact me if you have any other questions. I would love to help you out!

  9. This is a really great blog. Thank you. It is wonderful they way you shared the common every day life of Japan. I felt like I was there. It also made me “re-think” my own lifestyle and culture. Like “what is a breakfast”, “what is a bath and shower”, and I do not like sushi, but I really want to visit the sushi restaurant and see the “sushi” train!

    1. Thank you! ^_^ I also found that living abroad made me look at my home country and own lifestyle differently. After having lived abroad, I found many remarkable things in my home country too. I hope you can see the sushi train someday! πŸ™‚

  10. I got invited to join the Writing Process Blog Tour, and I’d like to feature your blog on it! ^_^ According to the instructions, I would need a 90 word bio/blog intro by May 25, and then you’d need to answer four questions about your writing process on a June 2 post. You can email me at cir.brittany.partin AT gmail.com for details.

  11. Haruko chan, thanks for this great blog.
    We are from Brussels as well, planning to have a 3 months stay in toyota city, probably for the same reasons you guys had to go there!
    I might have some additional info about lifestyle, where to get an apartment and so on.
    I will contact you soon!

    1. Dear Jun,

      Good luck with your stay in Toyota City! I am a bit jealous to be honest ^_^ We had a wonderful time there so I hope, and I’m sure, that it will be the same for you!

      I will gladly take you up on your offer to update my information about Toyota City. I am currently working on a section of this blog called ‘Toyota City Guide’ (soon to be published) but all my information is from 2011 and 2012 so some things might already be outdated.

      Also, if you have any questions about Toyota City life, feel free to contact me! I will do my best to answer them.

      Good luck with your new adventure!

  12. Dear “Haruko” Chan!
    Greetings from Sizuoka!
    Toyota was not so far from Shizuoka, was it?
    Thank you so much for following for visiting http://shizuokagourmet.com/
    It will be a pleasure to exchange views on this great country!
    Where do you live in Belgium? As I for me I hail from Bourgogne, France!
    Best regards,

      1. I’ve been living in Shizuoka City since March 1976!
        North of Belgium! I can’t speak Flemish but can read it a little bit!
        My sister-in-law is not far from you as she hails from Hengelo in Holland!

  13. Thanking you for liking my post on Japan’s natural attractions. I see you lived in Japan or a year. I’ve been living here for 14 years now, still like it. Any plans to come back to Japan? Nice blog by the way. I love pocky too.

    1. It’s nice to see someone still enjoy living in Japan after all that time! (There are many complainers out there on the internet) I do hope to go back to Japan one day but at the moment I have no plans for the near future. It’s my dream though to someday live in Japan once more!

  14. It’s a pitty that I discovred this blog after I visited Japan. Traveling in this unique country is an experience on its own, but living there is quite different I believe. I fell for Japan at the very moment I set foot on the country and I’m very happy to be able to read the stories of someone who has lived there! I hope you still have plenty of stuff to share with us!

    1. Japan is so inspiring! Everything little experience is an adventure in Japan so I still have plenty of stories to share with you ^_^ I do agree that travelling in a country or living there is quite different. When you live somewhere, you get a chance to really immerse yourself in the culture. I always find that very fascinating, even if not all the experiences are positive (in Japan they were almost all positive for me, fortunately).

  15. Interesting! looks like Piggletino’s recent posts about Japan got us visiting each other’s blog! πŸ™‚ Just like traveling, we get to meet so many people in the blogosphere! Thanks for visiting!

  16. Hi, thanks so much for liking my post. First I thought you are a Japanese. Why did you choose Haruko? So, you are writing about Japan from Belgium. Very very good blog!

    1. I chose the name Haruko because my real name also starts with an H and because I like the sound and the meaning of the name Haruko.

      Right now I am indeed blogging about Japan from Belgium. When I started this blog, I was living in Japan. I really miss Japan and I hope I can live there again some day. Although I only spent one year in Japan, there was so much to see and experience that I still have a lot of things to write about even now that I am back in Belgium.

      I’m glad you like my blog. Yours looks very nice as well. I like your writing style. ^_^

      1. I see. The name Haruko and your profile picture artistically fit, I think. Very cool. I hear for a lot of western women Japan is a tough place to live, so I am glad you liked living there. I have been to Belgium. I had great time there. What’s that name – Grand Place? Oh I had such fun there. Belgium is a beautiful country!

  17. Hi Haruko-chan. How are you? I just notice you my blog move to http://loveartlab.me/
    Don’t worry, nothing changing and I would like to keep your blog roll . I need a bit time to renew. To be honest, the usability is changed and confusing a lot. Anyway, if you don’t mind, please change my blog roll address at your page as well. Cheers!

  18. Hi!
    Thank you for visiting my comic blog! I see that yours can also interests me πŸ™‚ There are many interesting and useful information about Japan and it’s well-organised. I like it! Keep writing πŸ™‚

    1. I love that you describe my blog as well-organised πŸ™‚ It is something I aspire to, so I’m really glad to hear that the efforts are paying off. Thank you so much for taking the time to drop by and leaving a comment!

  19. Thank you so much for visiting Find the Details and liking the Fish prints: I thought they were lovely too! I was interested to read your blog; and hope to have some more interiors news for you soon! FtDx

    1. Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. I also really liked your previous posts about blue and white prints. It inspired me to write a post about the use of blue and white in Japanese culture. I will probably publish it tomorrow.

        1. I’m not sure why there is no link in your name when you comment. For other people with wordpress blogs, their name shows as a link to their blog when commenting. I’ll be sure to visit your blog again!

  20. im an ex toyota guy (ttc-usa) and working on an app to help expats navigate the world of japan (and other countries) a bit easier. would love to get your input on driving in japan…

    1. Thank you so much Steph! I was trying to find some more information on the Versatile Blogger Award. Is there an actual award or is it more of a way to just give some recognition to fellow bloggers you like?

      I hope you get to go to Japan someday. It is awesome! Everyone who has visited us so far has completely fallen in love with Japan.

      1. I did a bit of research myself out of curiosity, and the award is a bit like a chain letter that allows you to recognize fellow bloggers. Someone started a blog about it (of course!) that you can find at http://versatilebloggeraward.wordpress.com/

        As for visiting Japan, I really can’t wait to do so! Aside from being fascinated by the culture and wanting to experience it in person, I’m sure it would give me tons of new ideas for posts!

  21. I would really like to meet up while I’m in Japan. Please email me so we can make arrangements. I’m excited about coming, but also very nervous about being in shock with my surrounding for a week. I’m so use to America and living in Kentucky. The food, language and etc.. will all be a shock, but exciting at the same time. Your help and guidance for a day will be much appreciated. My husband will be at work during the weekdays and I have no clue how to get around or even how to find the ladies room while I’m out… LOL!!! Look forward to receiving your email. Again will be at the Toyota Castle Hotel from March 25th late thru March 31st. So, I will have Monday thru Thursday to explore. Would be so helpful to be with someone who speaks English and is aware of her surroundings. I can’t express how much I appreciate your kindness!

  22. I really enjoy reading. I was researching some information because my husband works for Toyota and we will be coming for a visit on March 24th and leaving on the 31st. He has to go into work everyday and I’m on my own at the hotel. I have to admit I’m a little nervous. I’ve never been out of the country. We live in Lexington, KY in the United States. We are staying at the same Hotel, I think it’s called Toyota Castle.
    The only language I know is English. If you can help or give me some advice I would really appreciate it. If you live near by the hotel I would love to meet you during the day. Thank You so much for sharing your information. I hope to hear from you and wish you nothing but happiness for you and your husband.
    Best Regards,

    1. Hi Bonnie,
      It must be very exciting to visit a foreign country for the first time. Japan is a great place to visit. I hope you’ll come to love it as much as I do.
      Actually we live very close to Toyota Castle Hotel. So if you like, we can meet up sometime and I can show you around Toyota City. I’ll send you an e-mail with more information.

    1. Hi! How did you like your time in Japan? I hope you had a great time. Will you be back for another project? As a fellow psychologist, it would be interesting to know what kind of research you are doing.

  23. Hey Helena en Dennis,

    vind het heerlijk om jullie avonturen op de blog te volgen. Ben trouwens heel erg onder de indruk dat je je er zo snel aan hebt kunnen zetten! Ik kijk al uit naar het volgende nieuwtje!

    Veel liefs, van een beetje jaloerse vriendin πŸ™‚

  24. NIce blog, nice pictures and funny comments πŸ˜‰
    Have fun and enjoy the life and work in Japan !
    Looking forward to reading some more of your adventures πŸ™‚
    Read you soon,

    P.S. Natacha and I really enjoyed your wedding, thank you for that. We wish you a lot of happiness together !

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