We have been here for almost a month and finally starting to feel settled in. With the jet lag (14 hour time difference) and large language and cultural differences, Japan is a difficult place to get used to. I really enjoy experiencing new things and thought the process has been fun. Nadia, and to some degree Owen, have a different personality and have been more challenged with the culture shock and language barrier. Oliver and Ocean made an easy transition, much in part due to their younger age.
Japan is extremely organized and has a culture that values order, tidiness, and documentation. This made finding a house, setting up bank accounts, phones, internet, etc. all the more time consuming. One by one, however, we knocked down the list of errands we needed to do and we are at the point now, of almost settling in to a routine. A few advice points for newcomers to the OIS Community that we learned:
1) IKEA has the best prices for furniture and household goods. It is not too difficult to get to the store, as they have a free shuttle from the Namba Station, one of the major hubs of the Osaka Train Network.
2) Nitori is close by and good for futons (Japanese beds) and kitchen ware, although, is more expensive than IKEA.
3) Be careful with the internet from a wireless satellite provider like Wi Max. It depends on your apartment or house. If there are big buildings near by or you are on a lower floor, the connection speed will be slower. If you want a guaranteed connection, go with a cable version, although you will have to wait for 1-3 weeks.
4) You need to get an address first, before being able to get a phone, bank account, etc, therefore your energies will be focused on finding a place to live.
5) Shinsei Bank is the best because they have English service and on line English service.
6) The Minoh local government is full of good resources for newcomers and you should visit the MAGFA Community Center early from your arrival if you live near the school. They have free Japanese lessons, cooking classes, a restaurant, and many other events.
7) The Kansai Scene is a great English-language resource for things to to in the Osaka/Kobe/Kyoto metro region.
8) Ask veteran expats and locals at the school lots of questions, from who is the best cell phone provider to where can you buy good cheap vegetables.
9) The Japanese want to be helpful and will try to do their best to assist you, language barriers aside. The percentage of English speakers is low, but we always found someone who speaks enough to get us through our predicament. Someone always comes to the rescue when sorting out trains, shopping, etc. People in Osaka are very empathetic to newcomers.
Thank god I brought my tool kit that my Dad and brother Andy, bought me five years ago. It really helped in assembling shelves and tables we bought from Nitori.