Rey comes from New Jersey but has lived in different States. Following his retirement, he moved to Yokohama three years ago with his Japanese wife. Nowadays, he enjoys writing and publishing his articles about Japan online.
Moved from Buford, GA to Yokohama October 1, 2013. Originally from Stratford, NJ. Have lived in Seattle WA, FL, SC, NC, VA, OR and TX. I retired from the High Tech Industry as a CFO and currently work as a travel writer. Married to a lovely ...
Where are you from, Rey, and what are you doing nowadays?
I am originally from New Jersey, but during my career in the high tech industry, I lived in 11 different States and have visited all of the the lower 48. Prior to becoming an expat, I owned and operated an art publishing company. As I grew closer to retirement, I wanted a change, so I enrolled in a Travel Writers course and published my first article in 2012. I now have been published in many newspapers, magazines, blogs, web sites and travel companies. (To date I have published 49 articles about Japan at japantravel.com)
Why did you choose to expatriate to Japan?
My wife's father was up getting up in age and we decided to move to Japan so she could be near him.
As an American expat, what where the procedures you had to follow to move there?
First, being married to a Japanese made it easier to apply for my residency. After one year, I applied for a permanent resident card. The process was very simple and easy. My wife and I are very organized to a fault, so we had all the documentation and then some available when we visited the immigration office.
How long have you been in the country?
I've just completed my third year.
What has attracted you to Yokohama?
My wife was raised here. I love this city and the people. Yokohama is the second largest city in Japan and there is always something going on during the week, festivals, beer events, Jazz events and plenty of diverse museums to keep me occupied. I like the Bay area and the very nice parks throughout the city.
What has surprised you the most at your arrival?
I had visited Japan several times prior to my move and did not experience any big surprises. I will say the order of the society and cleanliness were very noticeable upon my arrival.
Was it difficult to find accommodation there?
We stayed mostly at salaryman hotels while waiting for our condo remodeling to be completed. They are clean, relatively inexpensive and usually in communities that we like to explore.
How do you find the Japanese lifestyle?
I love self discipline, and the Japanese are the epitome of living a disciplined lifestyle. For the most part, they are gracious, kind, and enjoy the company of foreigners. I especially like the transportation system that is almost always on time. The food here is second to none. I recently visited the States and had a difficult time digesting food that I grew up with. Finally, Japan was recently rated the safest country in the world. I can go anywhere at any time without fear for my safety.
Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?
Yes. My only regret is that I have not been able to learn the language. For an older person like me, it has been difficult, but I am making slow progress.
What does your every day life in Yokohama look like?
I walk everyday, trying to take new routes, finding interesting things and people around every corner. Last year, I walked 3,500 kilometers in an around Yokohama. I will reach almost 4,000 kilometers at the end of 2016.
Any particular experience in the country you would like to share with us?
It is difficult to point out a particular experience since my wife and I travel around the country four to five times a year. We have visited almost all the regions and I have not had any negative experiences along the way. My favorite area is Hokkaido.
What is your opinion on the cost of living in Yokohama? Is it easy for an expat to live there?
My very first article for Japan Travel was about our living cost for 2014. Overall, our spending was comparable to that of Dallas, Texas in the United States. After my recent trip to the States, I found food had increased so much that the cost in Japan is either the same or less. Most people outside Japan compare expensive Tokyo as the barometer for the cost of living in Japan, but once you leave the city it can be quite reasonable. Real estate is expensive in comparison to other countries. However, health insurance, car insurance and even our utilities are significantly less than the last place we lived in the US (Atlanta, Georgia).
How do you spend your leisure time?
I travel a lot and look for things to write about. I attend American Football games (favorite team is Obic Seagulls). After learning about sumo wrestling, it has become another fun thing to occupy my time. I also enjoy regular visits to the multitude of museums and attractions in Yokohama and Tokyo.
Your favorite local dishes?
Wow! This is hard to answer. When I first moved here, I was hesitant to try food that was not in my comfort zone. Now, I will eat almost everything Japan has to offer. I love Sushi, Ramen, and especially knife cut noodles.
What do you like the most about Japan?
First the people, the lifestyle, and the beautiful scenery. Even the most remote countryside has colorful festivals, temples, shrines, and special localized food offerings.
What do you miss the most about your home country?
My family! This recent visit, it was hard saying goodbye to my children, grandchildren, mom and sisters. Even though I keep in contact via Skype and Face Time, being with them in person is different.
What has motivated you to write your blog “Japan - An Expat Life in Yokohama”? How does it help?
Originally, my mother was hesitant about our move, and so I wanted to keep her abreast of our life here in Japan. Because I read a lot of back home news, I realized that most people have the wrong impression of my adopted country. So, now it is to share what life is really like here in Japan.
Would you like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates in Japan?
First, you need to be ready to adapt to the Japanese lifestyle and not expect to change them to what you are used to. Secondly, I waited almost two full years before seeking out other expats. This was on purpose because I wanted to make Japanese friends in order to immerse myself into this society. After 8 years of marriage and three years in Japan, my wife says I am now thinking and acting like a Japanese. I joined several meet-up groups and have met many foreigners who enjoy living here. It is good to make foreign friends. I now have several American friends and we get together often.
What are your plans for the future?
My wife once volunteered with JICA for two years in Costa Rica and we both would like to do perhaps a one or two year stint in another country as volunteers. Once that is achieved, we plan on staying in Japan indefinitely.