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Recap 2023 - Part 1

If I had to summarize the last year in one word, I think "turbulent" would be very appropriate because it was. So much has happened that I would never have dreamed of. There are so many experiences that I can now say: I made it. Or rather: "I've experienced it! No one can take that away from me!" 
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The year began with the kimono contest for the Kanto region in Chiba, where I came third in the foreigner category. It was a unique experience that gave me confidence and showed me that practice and repetition make a difference.

The year then continued with my move to Yugawara. I started my new job, for which I originally came to Japan. For so long, I had dreamed of working in a Japanese hotel (ryokan). Now, I could finally realize it.

I don't want to say that the start or the work itself was easy, but I can say that I learned a lot in the ten months I worked effectively. Linguistically, in business, and interpersonally. I am so grateful for the friends I have made during this time and for the experiences I have had. I learned that the Japanese working world is still very rigid and inflexible, especially in the hotel industry. People here are overworked and underpaid. I gained an insight into the finances and how the hotel manages them. I saw how priorities are set here and how long it takes to make decisions and implement them. I learned that "concept" is fundamental here and that all processes revolve around it. Changes and associated improvements must go through various levels before being implemented under the given circumstances.

I like the principle of how things are communicated in meetings, but when it comes to implementation, the processes here are too rigid, too slow, and too complicated. 
I will incorporate all these experiences and insights into my business start-up, doing things differently or adopting them.



Alongside the new job, I pursued my passion for tea ceremony and kimono. I enrolled in the second kimono course at the school where I had already taken the beginner's course and arranged it so that I could go to tea ceremony classes at my old language school afterward. This meant the three flexible weekend days I had available from work were scheduled from September to December. Now, my months looked like this: I took the train to Tokyo on my days off to attend the two classes. Two hours by train to Tokyo and then two hours back in the evening. Often in overcrowded trains and with no room to sit down. Was it exhausting and energy-sapping? Definitely! Was it worth it, and did it bring me much joy and certifications along the way? Yes!

I am grateful I allowed myself to go off the beaten track, as it gave me views I could never have imagined.

Then, at the end of September, I decided to quit my job at the hotel at the end of the year. Why? Wasn't that my dream? Hadn't I taken on all the hardships for this? 
Yes. And nothing has changed. But I was at the point where I realized that this ryokan in Yugawara didn't meet my expectations of a good workplace. I had reached a point where I was working and not learning anything new. There are no new challenges, new, or shifts to understanding new work processes. I was at the point where I got up early and went to work, thinking about the next break or the end of the day. And that was something I wanted to avoid. The feeling of only working because you "had to." Because you had decided to do it and signed a contract and not because you enjoy your work. Of course, moments with guests or colleagues brightened up the day or even weeks, but the overall feeling I had when I went to work had deteriorated dramatically. I only lived for my job, had no free time, and when I had a day off, I had to use it to recover from work. There were days when I didn't see the sky and was at work from 10 am until 10 pm. Of course, with a 4-5 hour break in the middle, but that made those days so exhausting. So, I decided to leave this workplace with gratitude and beautiful memories.


 

This gave me the opportunity to search again. To move forward again and stop running in circles. The thought of doing something new filled me with so much joy that the fear of not finding a new job faded into the background. 
I knew I wanted to continue to live out my passion for kimono and the tea ceremony and expand my knowledge. And what could be more evident than going to Kyoto, the cultural capital of Japan? To work in a kimono store, rental shop, or a tea-related company. I applied occasionally, stressed out all the Japanese platforms, and initially only received rejections. Then, at the end of October, I received my first acceptance from a company that has two small stores in Kyoto and has developed a new kimono concept. But more about that in another post. I was invited to a job interview, which took place online because I was still living and couldn't travel to Kyoto from Yugawara. I met people who, like me, love kimonos and Japan's traditional clothing in their hearts. An international team that communicates in Japanese. That is precisely what I was looking for. A few days later, I received the confirmation that they would like to hire me full-time, and of course, I accepted. It was time to find an apartment in Kyoto that would allow me to store my motorcycle and was not too far from my new workplace. Again, it was time to stress all Japanese platforms and contact real estate agents in Kyoto. I will explain how this process went in another post. I will explain in more detail.

After a few weeks and a trip to Kyoto, I had an apartment that met my requirements and didn't cost the earth. It was time to do the same here: I had to gather documents and money to pay the deposit and other one-off fees. Once that was done, I had a clear head again and could start preparing my visa change. By now, some of you may be wondering: Visa change? Didn't she get a new visa in July? Yes, I had. But in Japan, some professions can only be carried out with certain visas. For my job at the Ryokan, I needed a visa to handle food. Now, in Kyoto, at the kimono store, I need a visa intended for international interactions. So it's all a bit more complicated than I thought. But there will be an extra post about that, too.

At this point, thanks to everyone who has read this far. November, December, and the turn of the year were so full of events that I think an extra post would be appropriate. So, if you want to read on, you can continue here.

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