Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Happy New Year!

あけましておめでとうございます!Happy New Year, everyone! Hopefully this year I can post more regularly. Please leave some comments on my posts to help motivate me! When there're no comments it's easy for the lazy little devil sitting on my shoulder to say "No one's reading anyways, why bother posting?" You caught me: I am a very, very deeply lazy person.

However, I can't possibly procrastinate any longer. I have way too many things to tell you guys! So many good things have happened for me lately. I'll just list them out all at once and then go into a bit more detail about each one after.

1. Kazu and I got engaged shortly after my last post, in June 2015
2. I got an engagement ring while I was in America for Christmas 2015
3. Kazu and I will be moving in together next month, February 2016
4. I finally passed the Japanese Language Proficiency Test N1 level

Engagement: We were at Kazu's house one night, sitting on his bed talking about random stuff after dinner one night. Suddenly he hugged me tightly and said "結婚しよう" ("Let's get married.") Since we'd often talked in a 'far-off future' kind of way about getting married, it didn't occur to me at first that this might be a proposal. About a week later, when it finally occurred to me I asked him and he was like "Yeah, I guess it was!" I don't think it really occurred to him either, but then he said that we were no longer dating and now "engaged." I was a bit self-conscious about the fact that although we were engaged, he never gave me an engagement ring. I knew the reason: we're both dirt poor, and it didn't really occur to him to go out and get a ring. I think he just intended for us to get wedding rings once we actually got married.

Engagement Ring: When I went back to America for Christmas, my dad had a proposal of his own for me. He really wanted to secretly conspire with Kazu about it, but since Kazu can't speak English and my dad can't speak Japanese, it ended up being me and my dad conspiring. When my grandmother passed away 5 years ago, she left me her engagement ring from her marriage to my grandfather. My grandparents divorced many years ago and remarried other people. When my grandmother remarried, she had the engagement ring from her first marriage remade so she could continue to wear it without offending her new husband. When I received it, it was a white-gold band set with a diamond surrounded by sapphires to look like a flower. My father and I took the ring to the jewler's and had it re-made again. We took the diamond (the only original part of the ring from my grandparents' engagement) out and had it reset in a gold band, to match the gold bands Kazu and I were planning all along to get for our wedding rings. Of course I discussed all of this with Kazu and he agreed completely, so I've been wearing the ring ever since returning to Japan. Of course I wanted to receive an engagement ring from Kazu in a grand romantic gesture like a fairytale princess, but this way we managed to save almost $2000.

Moving: We've been talking about it for a while, and I've been scheming for even longer (if you've ever lived in a Leopalace, you'll understand my haste to move out of mine) but we're finally moving. Kazu's parents are semi against it because they want him to change jobs to a better paying job with a bigger, well-established company. If we move now, he can only change jobs to places within commuting distance of our new apartment, whereas if he waited to move, he could get a job anywhere at all and we could drop everything and move there. However, my lease on my current apartment renews automatically in April, and if I don't move out before then I have to pay as much as $1200 in cancellation fees for leaving mid-contract. No, thank you! We also have no idea when or even if he'll be able to get a job he wants, and I'm really not good at waiting for things without knowing exactly how long I'll have to wait. If there's an end in sight, I can look forward to that and bear with it, but I can't stand waiting indefinitely.
Although I said that Kazu's parents are somewhat against our move, they aren't entirely opposed to it, just hesitant about the timing. Still, they've very generously agreed to be the guarantor for our apartment. For those of you know don't know, a "guarantor" (保証人 - hoshounin) is a co-signer who agrees to be responsible for any expenses you fail to pay (unpaid rent, damages, etc). Recently there are companies that you can pay a few hundred dollars to be your guarantor, but because Kazu's parents are Japanese citizens with a house and decent jobs, we were able to save a nice little bit of money by having them sign for us instead. If it were my own parents, I would just say thanks and forget about it, but it means a LOT to me that his parents did this despite not being totally convinced about me or our moving.
Our new apartment is a 2LDK (2 bedrooms and a large room that is a combination kitchen, dining and living room) and the rent is just under 65,000 ($650) a month total. The rent itself is only 50,000 yen ($500) but we also have to pay 3000 yen ($30) for 共益費 (a maintenance fee for the grounds and other common areas), a  500 yen ($5) fee to the community association (a group of neighbors who do activities for the good of the local community, such as crime prevention and public awareness campaigns) and 10,800 yen ($108) for parking for two cars. Even with all of this, it's only about $100 more than I'm paying for rent now, and if either of us were to lose our job, the other could afford to pay for it until the fired partner found a new job. This was one of our goals when moving. Also, since we'll be splitting the cost of one apartment, instead of each renting our own apartments, we should be able to put some decent money into savings. I'm just happy that we'll have a spare bedroom for when my friends and family come to visit. I majored in Japanese in the US and also studied abroad at a Japanese university, so my university friends are spread all over Japan, and we often travel for cheap by staying at eachothers' houses.

JLPT: Not much to say about this. I never took levels N5-N2, so my first and only JLPT certification is the N1. I took a practice test for N2 at the end of the last semester of my final year of university and got a 97%. This influenced my decision to go straight for N1 even though it was a bit above my level at the time. Indeed, the first time I took the JLPT in December 2014, I failed. I considered taking N2 this time around, just to have a certification. N2 is equivalent to "Business-level Fluency" and is both well-respected and useful in terms of finding jobs, and an N2 certificate in hand is better than an unproven self-declaration of 'roughly N1 level.' However, I ultimately decided to give N1 another try, and took it again in December 2015. This time around I passed! If people are interested, I'll write a separate post about my experience taking the N1 test and my suggestions. N1 is supposedly equivalent to "Native-level Fluency" but I know that this is an impossible goal. I can function in society and at work without handicap, can use a Japanese-Japanese dictionary to understand the meaning of Japanese words I don't know, and can learn new things *in* Japanese, so I suppose in that sense I've got the skills of a native level speaker, but my students can still talk in circles around me and I don't understand some of the terminology they use in 3rd grade math and science classes. Language learning will be a life-long journey for me.

Thanks for reading all of this! I'll be sure not to let another 9 months lapse between posts!


  1. sounds like a perfect happy ending in a shoujo manga to me! I can't remember being this happy for a stranger from the internet. I think the last time was when I read Densha Otoko lol. Congrats on your engagement! Japan was like a halfway journey for me. Hopefully I'll be able to go back someday.

    1. Thank you so much for your sweet comment! I can't remember receiving such a nice comment from a stranger from the internet. I hope you can come back to Japan again! I'd love to visit Korea someday too!

  2. Dear Ica, your stories bring happy tears to my eyes Every. Single. Time XD I'm really happy you're happy! The engagement ring is even more precious if you ask me, because it has the value of time... ^^ And you two can always play out the Grand Proposal, right? XD (well, it'll feel different alright but what the heck)
    Now. I wrote you an email but it might've gone to then junk box XD I'm coming to Japan in August (a trip with friends, 4-19th aug) and I could use a tip on where to stay in Kyoto AND we really wanna go to a ryoukan (rotenburo, preferably XD) for a night! Do you have tips?? Also you said your town was a ninja town?? *w*

    1. Hey Kai!! I agree, I'm glad I have a precious momento from my grandmother to keep with me always!
      I don't think I got your email! Sorry! I don't see it in junk mail either. It's possible I clicked on it along with a few spam mails and deleted them all at once, accidentally deleted it without reading it. I don't know too many things in Kyoto, even though we're really close. This is the onsen we always go to, it has 3 rotenburo but you need a car to get there: They have an ~amazing~ restaurant too with really good tonkatsu, but it might be a bit too far out of your way. I am free from work during your visit, so let's definitely meet up! Kazu has work, except for weekends, but I can come visit you in Kyoto during the week or we can both come on the weekend :D Definitely let me know your plans when you know more! How many friends are coming with you?

    2. You want to meet? Really? ;w; Wah! It'll be great if we can! ^^ I'll write you again then. I won't resend the mail cuz in my previous post I wrote pretty much the same.
      We're 5 people in total but 2 of them are a couple and might be kind of separately walking around. Or at least sleeping in another place.
      Thanks for Moku-moku =3 I'll check it out, it looks pretty attractive. Might be a little too far away though....

  3. Congratulations on all great developments of your life in Japan! And wishing you both more and greater ones to come! Thank you for detailed post. Indeed, it has been some time since we heard about your life in Japan (not complaining, just hinting that you and your stories have been greatly missed::)). When you have time, please share your experience on passing N1.

    1. Thanks for your comment Oloore! I'll definitely write more. Kazu's getting a "Yaku Barai" (exorcism-like ceremony to cast out bad luck for people who are in their 'unlucky year') this weekend. If I can take pictures I'll write about that!

  4. Hi Ica, im so happy to see that you're engaged and have so much positive things happening in your life! I've been visiting your blog for about two years now and i've never really commented but I wanted to take this chance to congratulate you! Im looking forward to hearing what happens next~
    Congrats on everything and I hope you have many more happy events to come!!
    Also loving your cat mug :')

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment! Sorry it took me so long to respond to it! I'll write a lot about our married life, so stay tuned~~ And I loooove this cat mug too <3