• Maria Nightingale

Familiarization Trip – Week

On the 10th of June, just after all my exams had finished, my mums company funded a trip to Japan. I thought great holiday! I couldn\’t have been more wrong, of course the trip had a purpose and an itinerary; so that everything on a very long list could be done. These things included; house hunting in different areas, looking at schools and looking at ballet classes. Although we went for eight days in total it was very short lived; as you lose a day on the way there & back, and there was a weekend right in the middle, so I did get to be a tourist for a few days; which will be up soon.

Shinjuku – First impressions 

Apart from having the largest train station it is also most definitely the business district of Tokyo. I would compare it to Canary Wharf and the surrounding area in London. The hotel we stayed at was opposite the government building which is very tall and very proud that Tokyo is holding the 2020 Olympics as it had banners up everywhere, which I guess is understandable. The first thing I noticed during my walk around was that the town was centred around the train station and in fact a lot of the big shopping centres were directly on top of it, I thought this was strange but, I find out later that that is very ordinary for Japan. In fact unlike the UK, Japan build their towns around the train stations so they are always in the epicentre of the town. (Pun intended) It is also extremely expensive in this part of Tokyo, so I wouldn\’t recommend staying there unless the company is paying.

House hunting 

The first full day and we jumped full throttle into the itinerary. We met Martyn at 9, he\’s our relocation adviser from a company called Relo Japan, seriously wouldn\’t have coped without him. He\’s English but he speaks incredible Japanese which was a life saver, not to mention he looked a bit like Eddie Redmayne. Anyway seeing as my mums work is in the middle of nowhere really and my school would most likely be in Tokyo we had to meet somewhere in the middle, either Omiya or Utsunomiya, First stop Omiya, I was extremely impressed with the process, I\’ve moved once or twice in my life and of what I remember you see hundreds of properties, whereas this time we saw 3! They all fitted our criteria in some way. I\’m not sure if it was a blessing or a curse, there was so little to choose from because Japanese only tend to move in April and we are in June. We saw one apartment and two houses, totally unexpected as we were convinced that a house would not be an option in Japan. The one that stood out the most for us was one of the houses, it was incredible, it was huge and very modern the only downside was that AC and white appliances were not included which seemed to be a recurring theme. Omiya is quite a big city but not like a capital, more like Reading. Next day we went to the next destination, Utsunomiya, on the Shinkansen which is the fastest train in the world. Utsunomiya is a large town like Guildford. The search was very much like the first very concise. We saw two property\’s, both of which we liked. Making the grand total 3! Now for the hard part, deciding, the two houses were very nice, however it made commuting slightly more difficult as they were not very close to the important stations. Therefore we decided on the Penthouse apartment, which came with AC. 🙂

Things I learnt about homes in Japan

–  white appliances are not included, like fridges and washing machines which is bad when washing machines can cost up to £2,000 esh! right?!

– There is a good side and a bad side of a train station, you want to be on the West side not the East.

–  Houses can be rented in Japan

– If you want to live near the train station, apartments are extremely small and Japanese try to fit as many rooms in a space as possible. 

– The Japanese only move at a certain time of year, April, possibly because it is the start of their year

– Estate Agents give you green tea even if you only sit down for a few minutes and it is sometimes hot and sometimes cold and always tastes different, you will be sick of of green teas by the end of your experience. 


There is a limited choice for a English student, especially when you are in the middle of your A-Levels. You have three/four English speaking options, all in Tokyo, 

2) Go to the American School 

3) Go to an English speaking Japanese school, yes they exists, there a few 

4) Home Schooling/Tutoring 

Because I am in the middle of my A-levels only 1 & 4 would be applicable to me. we looked at tutoring but they were not able to meet us. So we went to the British school, which is near Shibuya, on the campus of the Women\’s University. The School goes up from Y1 to Y13 and has English Curriculum as well as English term times. So I still get my summer holiday as Japan\’s is in April. They were really nice and I met some students that were from all over the place. The only down side they don\’t quite do the same Chemistry syllabus I am currently doing.


As you know my other passion is ballet and it is my only extra curricular activity. So to me it is quite important to me that  can still train during my trip. So on the Sunday I went to watch as class, well that is what I thought. In the end I had to join in, I was totally unprepared, but it was fun. The style of dance was completely different to what I am used to and I wish my mum had told me it was a two hour lesson. The main thing I took away from the experience was that they are all so bendy and they are so young/small. I hope to look at a few more before September. 

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