How I chose to settle in Fukuoka

5:22 AM Béné (ベネ) 2 Comments


Last week, I read an excellent article which explains how the French girl Nemuyoake chose to settle in Iwate Prefecture. At the end of the blog, she asked these questions:

How did you decide where you live?
What criteria do you think about to make important choices ?

I was about to write a comment when it made me thinking about my own situation. After all if Iwate is a rare choice, Fukuoka is far to be the first idea of everyone either. Those who follow me since the very beginning of the blog (well, I talk for the French one) must remember the journey I did to chose Fukuoka but, as I removed most of the blogs on this subject and my English speaking readers don't know the reason of my choice, I will try to explain what make me come to Fukuoka, Kyushu.

Béné no Fukuoka, Mojiko, Fukuoka

First choices : from Saitama to Kagoshima

Toda city, Saitama
Toda city, Saitama

August 2009. I was studying Japanese for a month at the Tokyo school Sendagaya Japanese Institute and I was housed in Toda city, Saitama Prefecture .This is a very nice little town with a large river banks and some greenery. From almost the very beginning, I didn't like Tokyo too much and Saitama seemed like a pleasant alternative. So I decided to go settle in this city with a working holiday (WH) visa after obtaining my vocational baccalaureate .
Two years later, in spring 2011.
I'm still in France because I decided to pursue my studies. My project is anchored in a corner of my head but it has evolved since the Tokyo area is not a possible choice anymore. My desire to get away from it has become stronger.
I went again to Japan a few months before and my travle in smaller Japanese cities, coupled with a few days in the capital and Toda city have confirmed to me that I didn't want to live in Kanto: too crowded, too much foreigners and not so friendly people : not for me. There was also the Fukushima disaster, I wanted to get as far as possible of the affected area.
Then I changed my mind about WH as I thought that my Japanese level wasn't sufficient enough to get a job so I  wanted to perfect it as much as I could first by attending some lessons in a Japanese school.
I then began to think about an island that had always intrigued me: Kyushu. Luckily, I was planning to go precisely that year. Being passionate about volcanology since childhood, it is natural that I thought of Kagoshima which had two schools. One didn't have a proper and updated website (a very important criteria) so there was only one left. I contacted them and we agreed to an appointment once I'd arrived in this city.

Kagoshima, Kyûshû
Kagoshima city view
Once in Kagoshima, I visited that school. I was able to attend a lesson that really was not the most exciting one ever, with no friendly students and teacher in fairly dilapidated classrooms. As I really wanted to come and live in Kagoshima, I decided to go fro this school without really thinking further. My trip ended like that.

 

Hesitations

Back in France, I began to think more seriously about my project and the Kagoshima school. I started to doubt : "maybe should I search about other schools ? Maybe Kagoshima in't such a good choice ? After all, I'd be away from my friends in Tokyo, it will be difficult to travel from this city".
Just for fun, I searched about other establishment everywhere in Japan that I liked of I am intrigued in : Matsumoto, Beppu, Hokkaido , and so on, keeping in mind that I didn't want to go in a school full of Westerners where English would be the communication language. I had to go in less sexy places for that.
I kept the school in Kagoshima in mind but in my head, I knew I wouldn't go there. Following a question list that I made, I eliminated the schools one after the other, as well as the Kagoshima one.

 

It's decided : I am going to Shikoku !

Parc Ritsurin, Takamatsu, Shikoku
Ritsurin park, Takamatsu, Shikoku
After the fruitless search, I looked again a Japan map to find a place that I liked and I remembered Takamatsu in Shikoku Island. While seeking schools, I came across a college group offering a Japanese course in a perfect environment : studying on a real Japanese campus among Japanese student. I couldn't ask for more. The school documentation made me excited and I sent my application form. At that time I was sure to go to Takamatsu, I began to look for housing and to think about the future because after I would finish the course I would went back with a WH visa. If I wouldn't be able to find a work in Takamatsu, I would go to Osaka which is not very far.

The euphoria didn't last. I started to realize over some things that bothered me and that cut some of my enthusiasm.
When the school received my application form, I had to explain by e-mail a big part of my education background, especially my studies after high school which I made while working (we call that "alternance" in France). The coordinator didn't know this principle and thought I was just missing school. Despite my explanations, she founds it suspicious and she even accused me lying about my education background. All this calmed down when a Japanese friend kindly wrote me a proper explanation.
But it was not over. The school had several residences, furnished or not. I obviously asked to be enrolled in one of the furnished residences but was told this was not possible, that foreigners should go in the unfurnished and more expensive residence. I admit that this illogical reasoning left me puzzled. Froeigner came from abroad, they even don't know if they could stay in Japan after studies but they have to buy all the furniture ? Weird way of thinking.
I had it a little in the craw when I got alumni and a former professor opinions : all strongly discouraged me to chose this school.

In parallel, I also had serious doubts about Takamatsu, thanks to the advice of Japanese  friends and acquaintances who all were very surprised that I would to go to, I quote, " this godforsaken corner of Japan".
It's fine to want to live in a small town but the post-graduation worried me because I finally had no desire to go to Osaka. Then, I thought that if I kept the Takamatsu school, I could always come to Kyushu, why not in Fukuoka because it is the largest city on the island and therefore a good place to find a work. And finally, why not look for a school there ?
So I  went back too google, looking for a school in Fukuoka.


The last change : let's go to Fukuoka

Parc Ohori, Fukuoka, Kyûshû
Ohori park, Fukuoka, Kyushu
If I wanted to find a school, I had to act quickly because we were in April and deadlines for enrollment receipts for October were approaching. I searched on my favorite websites, got information on the web, especially from the famous blogguer Micaela which answered me in a depleasant and agressive way at that time (I don't know if she would read that but I have to say that I just give my feeling of that time. The few times we talked on Twitter after, she was nice and friendly).
Finally, a friend told me about Aso College Group which looked like in every way to the Takamatsu school. I checked their website, received documentation, had a good feeling with the coordinator and the choice was made. I canceled my application at the other school , sent all my documents and the machine was launched.

So that's how I landed in Fukuoka. At the end, I went to my dream island.
Three years later, it is no longer a secret that I 'm happy and fulfilled in my little part of southwestern Japan. I am so glad I took the time to think and have changed my mind at the last moment .
I remember that after I published the article on this decision (on my French blog only, it was back in 2012), I received some very harsh comments, almost insulting, especially from a French blogger from Takamatsu.
Before, I was very impressionable and I religiously listened to every word from a person living in Japan as he/she would be more experienced and knew better than myself, but this time I have listened to anyone but my desires. I think I made ​​the right choice . If I hadn't made ​​that last minute change, I would probably be back to France now.

For those who are / have gone to Japan , and more generally those who have to move somewhere in their country or in the world for a long time, I am curious to know the reasons for your choices.

How about this posts?