I started this blog about 6 months ago to narrow down some of my interests and also to offer helpful information to others who might be in similar situations. A lot has happened changed since then. Putting the knowledge that I learned to use along with the confidence that I gained, I have quit my job in Tokyo and am moving to a tropical island next month to start my own company. This post is about how I came to this decision and the things that I learned along the way.
I guess I should start with how I got to Japan in the first place. My interest in Japan started with my fascination of Karate as a young child. In high school I had a chance to study karate and also began studying Japanese culture. I was particularly impressed by samurai and their sense of honor and respect and tried to incorporate many of their philosophies into my own life.
Upon graduating high school I had no idea what I wanted to do, and so I enrolled at Sierra College (the local community college) to try and find my interests. I had my first chance to study Japanese and absolutely loved it. It was quite difficult, but it was also fun to learn. Realizing how much I enjoyed learning languages and learning about the foreign students I was meeting, I choose international business as a major and minored in Japanese. I had a chance to to travel to Japan with one of my Japanese friends and decided I wanted to go back. After 3 years at Sierra College and 3 associates degrees (yes, it took me a while to choose a direction), I transfered to CSU Sacramento with plans to study abroad in Japan at Waseda University.
I focused all of my energy on making sure that I could get into the program. I continued to take Japanese and even took two classes outside of my major to qualify for the program. Spending a year in Japan was expensive and I was a student attending school on financial aid and part time work. I applied for every scholarship I could find and also applied for loans through financial aid. Luckily, I didn’t need the loans as I received a scholarship that covered the majority of my costs.
After one year in Japan my Japanese skills improved immensely, and I returned to the US to finish my degree. After being in the states for a few months, I realized that I missed Japan and wanted to continue to improve my Japanese to a business level. My girlfriend (the Japanese friend I traveled to Japan with the first time) also wanted to return back to Tokyo and we began making our plans.
Now I can’t say that our my first experiences working in Japan were great, in fact they were horrible. The horrible positions I put myself into were my own fault. I was very excited to work in Japan and this unfortunately made me very naive. I originally came to Japan with plans to join a small Japanese auto company I had been introduced to by a friend. A chance to work in the automotive industry (I am a car enthusiast), use Japanese, and work with international customers. It all seemed to good to be true and it was. I got here and realized that I most everything I had been told was a lie. I was so excited to join this company I didn’t even bother to look at others. I was then left extremely disappointed and searching for a job.
I wanted to work in a position where I could use and improve my Japanese, but even began interviewing for recruiting and English teaching jobs since I was running out of time. Money and time were running out and I was fighting an inner struggle. I was looking for jobs I had no interest in just to stay in Japan. It was defeating my whole purpose of being here. After three months of not being able to find something I felt I could be happy with, I returned to the states.
It was great to see my friends and family again and be away from the problems I had created in Japan. Feeling I had still not accomplished my goal of working in Japan, I returned to continue looking for a job. After being offered a few positions at English teaching schools and recruiting offices, I decided that I would rather return home than do something I had no interest in at all.
Eventually, I found a small American University (who’s name I will not mention) and started working there as a program coordinator. I wasn’t particularly interested in the company, but the job position seemed interesting and fun. I soon found out that I had made mistake. I needed a working visa to stay in the Japan made my decision without learning more about the company. Once I started I found the school was not only financial broke, but that the manager was verbally abusive and they were breaking major labor laws. But the worst was that they wanted me to do a completely different job than I was hired for.
There were some positives though. Even though I didn’t like the job I was asked to do, I was able to do it very well. This gave me back some of the confidence I had lost. The second was that I was introduced to the manager of Admissions Counseling at Temple University, Japan and was hired as an admissions counselor. I was in a position that was a little over my head and decided that I needed to build on my work skills to get better at my job.
I began reading everything I could find on time management, business, management, sales, communication and writing, marketing, finance and investing, and self improvement. I purchased an Ipod Nano and began buying audio books to listen while I commuted. Having a two and a half hours round commute I was able to listen to a several books a week. I would listen to many of them twice. I also began to join various clubs and seminars to learn more.
My work performance increased dramatically and my job got easier and easier. I was able do more work and take on more responsibilities and finish it all in much less time. This motivated me to work even harder. I was also enjoying the work. I was helping students come to Japan as I had once tried so hard to do.
However, the entire time there seemed to be a struggle going on inside me. I felt that I had achieved my goal of working in Tokyo, and now starting considering if this was the lifestyle I really wanted. I realized that I could successfully work my way up the ladder, but to what end. Would it really make me happy? Did I really want to put in more hours just to make more money? How much money did I want? Would it ever be enough? Would it make me happy?
Help to some of my answers came in the form of a book. I started reading The 4 Hour Work Week and found I wasn’t the only one that felt that way. There was someone else. And more, he seemed to have an amazing life doing what he wanted. In his book he had basically outlined the entire process how he did it. I started looking at other options for work and lifestyles and eventually applied for other jobs. I left Tokyo for a trip to Miyakojima (an island of Okinawa), where I got a chance to get away from everything. I spent four days enjoying the weather and trying to decide what I wanted to do. I felt I could get a better job which was more secure, but may not make me very happy. Or I could try and start something myself, but what if I failed?
After I went back and forth with all the positives and negatives, I came to one simple fact. I would rather fail doing my own thing living on a tropical island, than succeed on my current path. Upon returning to Tokyo I decided to interview at a large Japanese company and was offered a position with a much higher salary than I was previously making. My fiancee (I proposed to my girlfriend in Miyakojima) discussed our options and both decided that the potential benefits were far greater than the negatives.
We have both quit our jobs, are selling almost all of our stuff, and move to Miyakojima in mid October to start our own business. If all goes well we plan to do a world tour in a year. If not, then we have had a year vacation and can find new jobs at anytime.
There are two very important parts that have made this possible and relatively low risk for us. One is that we have been very good about saving and investing money. Over the last 18 months we have been able to save a considerable amount of money and we also have no liabilities. No car payments,credit card payments, or loans of any kind. The second is that we will be moving to an area with a lower cost of living. Living in Tokyo is very expensive and we will be moving to an area with much lower costs allowing our money to go much further.
For the first time in a while I feel absolutely happy and positive. What would have seemed too risky to me a year ago now seems like the only right choice. You can find pictures of the island here.
Also, I would love to hear any feedback or comments you may have or your own similar experiences.