5 Ways To Start (And Finish) Your New Year In Japan Right

Make 2018 Your Best Year So Far!

By Hilary Keyes
January 5, 2018

You've made it through the first week of 2018. How do you want to spend the rest of the year?

Happy New Year everyone! Now that most of us are back to work, and getting into a routine once again, it’s time to put into practice some of those resolutions that you may have made on New Year’s Eve. I, like many of you, know that I have some big goals I want to accomplish this year, many of which require a lot of habit-changing and persistence.

Or maybe, you aren’t sure what to focus on? Living in Japan brings about a lot of changes itself, so you may be wondering just what to do to get back some control in your life. Here are five proactive tips for what you can do differently in 2018 to spice up your year and end it with a feeling of accomplishment!

1. Improve your Japanese

Although the average English ability of the Japanese has improved over the past decade and there are incredible numbers of services, signs, and information centers to help you along, we all know that improving your Japanese is, well, the only way to make life easier in Japan.

You can join a conversation school, take private lessons, find someone to do a language exchange with or try studying on your own. There are plenty of great self-directed learning textbooks to choose from at bookstores like Kinokuniya, some of which only require 15 minutes a day to help build your skills. In my case, I needed to work on my kanji skills and picked up some of the writing textbooks for kids — which were a great help! Savvy’s sister website GaijinPot also offers a special student placement program at some of the best Japanese language schools across Japan. Read here to find out more.

You can also learn some practical vocabulary from former articles on Savvy, such as the Kanji cheat sheet stories or Easy Japanese for … series. 

2. Add some life to your Japanese apartment

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Japanese apartments are notoriously spartan — white walls, plain floors, and of course, the occasional tatami mats to contend with. Most apartments also have strict rules when it comes to decorating as well — no furniture on the tatami, no hanging pictures, and potential cleaning fees for carpeted rooms. 

Making your apartment yours is a great way to start the year, and it doesn’t have to break the bank — nor the walls. Head to Daiso or any of the 100 yen or 3 Coin shops, and you’ll find nice dishes, curtains, paintings or posters, and picture frames that you can put up with non-marking hooks and clips that attach to expandable curtain rods to hang up anything that might be too heavy for a hook. Add life to your desk by buying a plant and new stationery. Change the room layout. The Bunbougu cafe in Omotesando, Loft, Tokyu Hands and online furniture store Paradiddle, for example, are wonderful stops for new discoveries that will surely add some novelty to your environment. Last but not least, this Pinterest page has a lot of creative ideas to steal from!

3. Start a new activity or sport

One of the most common resolutions out there is to “get fit,” which is a really vague goal to work towards. Making a concrete decision to lose weight, gain muscle, or just be more active, will give you more focus and make your next steps easier to figure out. Joining a gym is an option, but one that many people abandon after a few weeks for various reasons.

Instead of the vague “get fit” idea, why not choose an activity or sport that will work with your goal instead? Yoga, pilates, pole dancing, kickboxing, bouldering — there are so many options to choose from in Tokyo, and many of them are available at English speaking gyms or centers. You can find many articles about them here on Savvy too, so check them out.

4. Find a place of your own to relax 

Daily life can be both tedious and stressful all at the same time. New Year’s break is likely to have brought this into stark focus, but what can you do about it? Having to bring stress home with you can start to make your apartment feel smaller than it may already be, which is why it may be a good idea to find a place to spend time when you need to de-stress.

It could be a local cafe, izakaya, or even just a park bench nearby that you head to when you need to soothe your soul. Take a stroll around your neighborhood and you just might be surprised to find some little cafes and restaurants that could be the perfect place to escape. Becoming a regular at one of these spots can have other benefits too — in my case, it helped me work on my Japanese, and I learned how to cook some Japanese dishes from the owner too. This article gives you a few ideas of places to get some work done outside the office.

5. Appreciate culture regularly 

Many of my friends back overseas like to ask whether I’ve become a tea ceremony master or learned how to wear a kimono, while in Japan. Unfortunately, I’m terrible at tea ceremony and lack the right frame to pull off a kimono, but I have learned a lot about Japanese architecture and European art, and many other topics that I might not have otherwise encountered overseas.

Japan has a great number of art galleries and museums to choose from, so if you are hoping to learn more or become more worldly in 2018, why not challenge yourself to see a new exhibit or visit a different museum each week or twice a month? There are just so many things to take in each week in Tokyo alone that you’re sure to find at least one thing that really catches your eye. Who knows, that one trip to a museum or a show just might get you hooked on an entirely new hobby or even introduce you to a new group of friends. You might even meet someone special doing it too!

While it can take about 66 days for any new habits to really be formed, getting started on them right away in 2018 means that you will be able to do most of the things you may hope to by the spring, or at least be well on your way to your goals. You can do it!  

What are your New Year’s resolutions and how do you plan to stick to them?