I am Singaporean and will be flying over to Japan (XXX ken, XXX shi) for work purposes this coming Monday (29/8/16). I just graduated and it is my first job so it will be a challenge for me. As such, I was just hoping that you can help me with a few questions.
1. I am an engineer and within my plant I am he only foreigner. As such, I am worried about the social life that I need to rebuilt. Are there any ways that you would recommend to make Japanese friends or just to connect with Singaporeans over in Japan?
2. I am required to take the JLPT examinations up to N2 level. Do you know of any good reference books that have English explanations?
3. I read your post on phone subscription which was embedded in the cost of living in Tokyo. I noticed that that post was written some time ago. Therefore, I was wondering if anything has changed. I am planning to get an iPhone 6s.
Thank you for writing in. First, I need to apologize to others who wrote in before KJ. The reason I’m answering him first is because he will be in Japan in a couple of days and responding any later would be useless for him. But I believe readers here are all understanding people and so, I thank all of you for that too.
1. I think it’s important to build a good relationship with you co-workers. If they can speak English, all the more better. If not, being friendly is always a good way to make new friends. I suppose getting some simple food souvenirs from Singapore (e.g. bakkwa) is a good way to break the ice and makes it easy for them to strike up a conversation with you as well. They could be curious what the food is and ask you about it and they’ll thank you again saying it’s delicious after consuming
regardless of whether they find it tasty or not. If you would like to connect with Singaporeans, you can search online such as Facebook communities or Meetup.com groups. I’m sure there are plenty around although I haven’t done much of that.
2. Some 15-16 years ago when I was starting to learn Japanese, my friend introduced me this book with English explanations which I find very good. I’ve never actually used it much since I had been attending Japanese class that uses other Japanese only books (i.e. Minna no Nihongo) but given the amount of trashy stuff out there, Japanese for Busy People was amazingly well-written and easy to understand. You might want to give it a try. Bear in mind though, that the last time I saw that book was over 15 years ago. I hope it’s still as good.
3. To be frank, I don’t remember what I wrote and had to go read it again. I’m currently using Docomo and pay around 6,000 yen upwards depending on how much I call. That is an old plan which gives me 3 GB data and it no longer exists. New users will be on the new plans which starts from 7,000 yen per month for 5 GB data. But the good thing about Japanese phone plans is that, exceeding 5 GB for the month does not cost you extra. The first 5 GB will be on the fast LTE network and after the 5 GB, the speed will drop drastically to slower than the 3G network, but it does not cost you anything. You can choose to buy the iPhone and pay the cost of the phone upfront, but you can also choose to pay by installment over 24 months, which will bring your monthly phone expenses to a little over 10,000 yen.
All incoming calls are still free for all lines and I believe the Softbank-to-Softbank call system hasn’t changed. Au-to-Au calls should also be free although that doesn’t seem available for Docomo users unless you sign up for the slightly more expensive unlimited call plan. Please verify the phone call system and pricing when you sign up yourself because the past several years have seen a huge number of new competitors to the likes of Y! Mobile, Rakuten, Aeon, etc. so phone plans have changed quite a lot. I’m only slightly more familiar with Docomo because that’s what I use now.
Phone mails, though, are pretty obsolete now since people typically use Line messaging. If you don’t already use it, I’d suggest you download it just in case the Japanese people you meet here use that (which is highly likely). It’s like the WhatsApp of Japan.