Living in Japan

Your Friend in Tokyo

When I moved to Tokyo I was all alone. I had head east to seek my fortune. No connections, no guide, no idea what I was doing. If only I’d a friend in Tokyo for

When I moved to Tokyo I was all alone. I had head east to seek my fortune. No connections, no guide, no idea what I was doing. If only I’d a friend in Tokyo for much needed help.

Well my dude, this column is a small attempt to help out all the good readers looking for advice in lonely Tokyo.

It turns out people write to my editor Charlie all the time with non-job questions. He is this immigrant employment wizard and has helped thousands of wide eyed (not in a racist way) new comers find work in Japan. He’s got that fame so he also gets that fame attention, such as demands for his Line ID, book signings, and random life advice.

That’s where I come in. I’m Kip, super to meet you. Chuck and I have have been tight since small times and he knows the only thing I love more than a ‘05 burgundy with low Django lilting from the living room hifi is shooting my mouth off about what’s what.

Last week, Charlie and I were at some artisanal ice cream lounge sampling something from Malta, trying to ignore the marketing speak booming from our neighbors when he gets a work email. Some faithful reader has written him asking for advice, again. Here is the question, paraphrased anonymous like to protect the innocent:

“I love your book, bla bla bla, I’m tired of swiping for love and have started steady seeing a lovely lady. This past week she has been staying over my place and I noticed she does not brush her teeth. In the morning her mouth smells like Dansey Place in the hot sun. How can I get this otherwise good person to clean her mouth without ruining the bond?” –Cyrano

Charlie looks thoughtful, then light bulbs. That is how your Friend in Tokyo was born. Every week, or whenever, your friend Kip (me) tackles the trials of living in this megalopolis. I’ll start with Charlie’s readers’ random questions, keeping them anonymous, and then I’ll answer the questions you send my way.

Dear Cyrano,

Life moves fast, doesn’t it? One second you’re choosing a mate like online shopping, the next you have to listen to their opinions about microwaves or where doorstops are stored in the winter. Those first moments together are built on the straw foundation of online profiles and buttressed only by past failures. The two of you sit there, doing what you can to have agreeable opinions and wondering who pays what for dinner in 2018. These are the relationship moments absent of smell, and they do not last.

Incidentally, try to pay the whole bill, as a man or woman. One of the longest traditions my friends share is finding a way to pay for everything before someone else does. Once I had to call ahead a week in advance for a dinner with twelve friends to beat them to the bill. If you have friends who have ‘arrangements’ with their landlord or spend a lot of time on craigslist, just pay for them, their friendship is worth it. If you’re not sure what a Yukichi looks like, then cook at home and invite your friends for a share-house party (buy cheap shochu and tell them it was expensive, your friends can’t tell the difference… possibly no one can).

In every relationship odors of the natural sort are inevitable, and from your email I can’t tell if the problem is her mouth or your nose. However, you seem to think it is her mouth, which is totally possible since no one has had good breath in the morning. But you came here for advice not affirmation so here it goes: buy her a tooth brush or two (one for your place, one for hers), some mouth wash, floss picks, and other oral scrubbers. Gift them slowly, maybe one per sleep over. No need to talk about it, if asked, just say you thought she said she forgot hers or some other hand wave.

Really, just be nice and give her the supplies and support to be the girl of your dreams. If she has some moral objection to cleaning her yakisoba hole then maybe it is time to get your supreme hoodie back and new weekend plans.

Hi, I just got a promotion and broke up with my boyfriend, so my life is in this major flux and I’m 8,000 km from home. I’ve decided to use my new found free time and money to learn an instrument. What should I choose: Bass Guitar, Trumpet, or Drums?Future Kim Deal

Dear Future Kim Deal,

Wow, you sound like you’ve really got your life together. Breakups are never fun but once they are over you are free to be this new person who would never hang out with old you. You are working hard and living life, and now you’ve committed to learning some music (except drums, but I’ll get to that). So first off, congratulations on being someone worth knowing.

Now, on to your canorous dilemma. There are a few considerations beyond the obvious when selecting a new instrument. These are: What type of person will be teaching me? When and where can I practice? What kind of fans will I have when I do a show?


The bass guitar is the most underrated of the standard rock quartet. The strength of character of an average bassist can be assessed by the simple fact that they knew they were not going to be lead, yet did not take rhythm guitar or drums. This is an honest choice for most, yet few have the character to make that choice.

Your teacher will have this character as they have been playing bass long enough not to stop, yet need supplemental income between their shows at Guinguette or Ongakushitsu. A good, solid, person to know. A bass makes almost no noise without an amp so you can practice with headphones instead of sleeping. Finally the boys who notice a bassist are the kind of boys who are realistic about their lives, essentially platinum self-awareness club members.

So if you want a teacher that is trustworthy, no excuse to put off practice, and quiet confidence is what you want in your men, choose bass.


I lived in New Orleans for a couple of years and love the sound of brass. The trumpet can be played a million ways so pithy generalities about the people who blow into them are almost impossible.

But it is safe to say that those who toot are persistent. Trumpeters sound terrible for a long time before they don’t. You’ll be spending a lot of time in parks or roof tops to not annoy those around you. Then when you get good, you’ll still have to practice in a studio because of the, well, noise.

Your fans are going to be doctors and lawyers. These individuals, like you, decided to go for something and just worked at it until they made it. You’ll probably get lots of invites to do guest melodies on Japanese trip hop albums. In general if you can make a trumpet sing, you are better than most and will be rewarded for it.


Have you considered piano?

Seriously, drums are for people who stay in broken relationships and don’t get promotions. It is not music, and frankly beneath you.

Ok, that’s two of so many questions in the pile. I had fun, I hope you did too. I hope I helped, I mean sometimes you just need a friend to give it to you straight.

There are so many people just trying to get by in Tokyo and life is hard enough at home in your first language. Yet here we all are, taking it one day at a time.

Send me your life-in-japan question: [email protected] I’ll give them a read, anonymize them for safety, and write up my best thoughts to help you solve your problem.

Until then, this has been Your Friend In Tokyo, -Kip

I'm Charlie and I've been in Japan since 2012. I started Live Work Play Japan to help foreigners in Japan to find their own version of success. I also wrote "The Smart Guide to Teaching English in Japan" which you can get on Amazon as a paperback or Kindle book.

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