I LIVE IN JAPAN / Nic Flynn / English Teacher and photographer

August 2023 (VOL.190)

Nic Flynn

  • Home country/state /city:San Diego, CA
  • Occupation:English Teacher and photographer
  • Duration of living in Japan:1 year
  • Why do you live in Japan?:I always liked Japan, and after graduating and then getting married, we chose Japan because it is full of opportunities for my career path.
  • Youtube: @thenicflynn
  • Instagram: @TheNicFlynn

What do you do in Japan?

I work a few different jobs in Japan, including as a part-time English teacher, photographer, and media assistant, while working on my own side projects with photography and video work.

What is the distinctive lifestyle difference between your country and Japan?

The difference that sticks out to me the most is how the two cultures perceive their space.  

In America, people don’t like others getting too close to them as we see them as not only possibly a threat, but we just aren’t comfortable with that.  I don’t know them, so I don’t want to share space with them.

In Japan, there is often no way to avoid it, and I find myself packed into a train or people just simply standing too close for comfort to me.  I got used to it and went to Japan expecting it, however, I think most Americans would not enjoy having to deal with that.

What do you miss about America?

I think it is a given to say I miss my family and friends, but outside of those two things, I really miss the ability to get around freely.  What I mean is that in America, where I am from, we don’t have a great train system, so I didn’t grow up riding them.  I always had a car and sometimes would just take long drives around the city in my car on the freeways, but in Japan, the freeways are all toll roads which does have its benefits, however, it can quickly add up in price just like the trains can getting around a lot in Tokyo.  So I either take the town roads around or walk a lot, which I feel has limited me somewhat on where I can freely explore around.

What do you find different about living in Japan over the term compared to when you first arrived or came as a tourist?

Traveling to Japan was such a fantastic experience that I was convinced I had to live here.  The country felt so convenient at every turn, but living here has made me realize it isn’t always the case, and in many instances, America can be more convenient when it comes to accomplishing many tasks involving paperwork, banks, or government facilities.  Many of these things can be done online in the United States (of course, online always includes a risk).  But, a lot of things in Japan must be done in person, for example, with forms you have to get to different locations in person, which all take time, and it often starts to feel very redundant and inconvenient.  However simple the process is, adding so many steps to it can be frustrating at times.  Living in Japan is still fantastic, but compared to traveling as a tourist it feels like a lot of the conveniences of being here were replaced with more “gritty” feeling steps.  It isn’t enough to make me want to return to America, but it is something I did not expect when moving here from America.  It can sometimes feel like I took a few steps back in time.

Which places in Japan do you recommend that foreigners see?

If you’re looking for a day trip out of Tokyo in Autumn or Winter, I highly recommend going to Nikko, Japan.  It is a beautiful spot, especially when the leaves are changing colors.  I highly recommend taking the bullet train up to Nikko!

What are your favorite Japanese foods?

One of my favorite dishes I have had in Japan is Nishokudon (2-colored bowl).  It is a really simple dish, but I absolutely love it.  It is made from just scrambled eggs and ground-up turkey meat put over a bowl of rice.  I could eat it every day, and adding some karashi mentaiko (spicy cod roe) to it makes it even better.  I crave this all the time for dinner and usually eat the leftovers again for breakfast the next day!

Next on my favorites is something I recommend everyone gives a try: Monjayaki!  Monjayaki might not look like it tastes good to many foreigners, but looks aren’t everything in a delicious meal.  I really love the mentai-mochi-cheese monjayaki as it is just too delicious, and I also like mentaiko, which has it in it.

Writer: Minobu Kondo
Photojournalist in Tokyo, writing for Japanese and American magazines. Publishing an essay “101 of green stories” with the other Japanese artists such as Kosetsu Minami. Languages: Japanese, English and French.