Apartment · Life · School · UK

Leaving Japan: Resignation Timeline

I’ve found in my personal experience that there is a wealth of information online about the process of coming to Japan (I wrote about my own experience here), but a lot less about what happens when the time comes for you to leave.

As of writing this, this is around the time ALTs are submitting their intentions to stay or leave as it’s coming up to the end of the school year, so I hope this is somewhat helpful.

I remembered to log a lot of what I did with dates, so you can tell from making the decision to actually leaving took six weeks – and this really was a tight schedule. Most people make their decision months in advance. So please heed my warning and take more time than I did to get your life in order.

Nevertheless, this is how it went for me working for a dispatch ALT company.
Dates are in day/month order as is standard in the UK.

06/11: Booked flights home to the UK and told my family. Start advertising furniture and appliances for free on Facebook expat groups and our ALT group chat on Line.
08/11: Sent letter of resignation to my company giving the minimum 30 days notice. Received a call in the evening from my manager asking if I’ve thought this through, but he was very kind and understanding as he knew that I was recovering from surgery. Company sends through a ‘leavers pack’ with a bunch of forms to complete and return.
15/11: Tell my teachers I am leaving and advise my final day. Arrange leaving parties with my favourites.
26-27/11: Leaving parties with teachers:

06-10/12: People come to pick the items I’ve been advertising up from my apartment. (IMPORTANT: Work around YOUR schedule, not theirs. If they’re too busy or flake, immediately offer to the next person or make other arrangements ie. take to the thrift shop or dispose.)
08/12: Last day at junior high school. I’m shadowed by my replacement.
09/12: Last day at my elementary school. I’m shadowed again by my replacement.
10/12: Representative from the company comes to survey the apartment for damage. The actual landlord will do an inspection after I move out. Go to city hall with representative to do leaving process. This includes notifying the city that you’ll no longer be a resident, and to set up a proxy to receive my pension/partial tax refund when I return home. There are various resources online about this and it’s way more complicated than it needs to be.
10-12/12: Leaving parties with friends.

13/12: Clear the last of my stuff out of my apartment. Finish packing and forward luggage to airport hotel using Yamato. Gas is turned off in the evening.
14/12: Water is turned off in the morning. Move out of my apartment and catch the shinkansen for a farewell weekend in Tokyo.
15/12: Check into airport hotel at Haneda, reunited with my luggage.
16/12: Residence card and visa are voided at the airport. Fly home.

N.b. one of my suitcases arrived at Newcastle International with only one of it’s four wheels but しょうがない British Airways were pretty great at coughing up for a replacement.

BACK IN THE UK: Receive final pay after two months, minus 20% tax and mandatory apartment cleaning fees. Also receive my sickness benefits from when I was recovering from my operation. Applied for pension/partial tax refund and discussed with proxy still in Japan.

~ Carla

Apartment · Life · School

Life Of An ALT: What I Packed For Japan

Are you preparing your life to be packed into two suitcases and need some advice on what to bring?

Here’s what I brought:


A few things to note:

  • You probably don’t need to bring as many clothes as I did if you’re a UK size 10-12 or below. You’ll likely be able to shop in most Japanese stores.
  • If you’re tall, note that a lot of Japanese arm and leg lengths in clothes are shorter than back home.
  • UNDERWEAR: Bring bras if you’re bigger than a B-cup otherwise you’ll struggle.
  • SHOES: I’m a UK size 5 in shoes which is pretty average back home, but here I’m at least an XL! Half-sizes are rare. You’ll be fine with Western brands like Adidas, Nike, Converse, Vans etc. but it’s something to keep in mind.
  • WORKWEAR: You’ll have to wear a suit at training and special events, but REAL TALK at a lot of schools you can dressing more business-casual like the rest of the teachers do, especially elementary schools and kindergartens.
    I can’t say however what your situation will be like – if in doubt, ask! I do plan on a longer blog post in the future about what an ALT generally wears.
  • If you forget anything – don’t worry. Online stores like ASOS ships to Japan for a very reasonable price, however if you need to send anything back it’s pretty pricey and you’ll need to pay out of pocket unless the item/s are defective.
  • 4 pairs of jeans (2 black, 2 blue)
  • 10 t-shirts/tops
  • 4 jumpers
  • 1 pinafore
  • 1 skirt
  • 6 dresses (3 casual, 2 party, 1 formal)
  • Jewellery
  • 4 pyjama pants
  • 4 pyjama tops
  • Plenty of socks, hosiery and underwear.
  • 4 bras (2 black, 1 white 1 nude)
  • 1 pair heeled boots
  • 3 pairs of trainers
  • 3 pairs of flats
  • 1 backpack
  • 1 handbag
  • 2 occasion bags


  • 2 suit jackets (1 black, one grey)
  • 3 white shirts
  • 3 black smart-casual tops.
  • 3 white smart-casual tops.
  • 2 cardigans (1 baby pink, one grey)
  • 6 pairs of smart trousers (3 black, 3 grey)
  • 1 pair smart work shoes
  • 1 pair indoor shoes (Black Sketchers)


  • Phone
  • Nintendo Switch and games
  • 3DS and games
  • Laptop
  • Hairdryer
  • Hair straighteners
  • Electric toothbrush
  • Kindle
  • 5 x international plugs


  • Makeup
  • Skincare
  • Toothpaste
  • 6 sticks of antiperspirant deodrant
  • 2 boxes of tampons
  • Band aids/blister plasters


  • 2 x USBs
  • Union Jack flag (For self-introduction lesson and English board)
  • £5 note (For self-introduction lesson)
  • Notebook and pen (For note-taking in training)


  • My teddy bear
  • Photos
  • Journal
  • Art prints to decorate apartment
  • Medication, pill boxes and doctor’s letter.


  • SIM card for my phone
  • Sofa
  • Folding coffee table
  • Rug
  • Floor lamp
  • Shelves for bathroom
  • Kettle
  • Vaccum cleaner
  • Stationary
  • Futon/bedding
  • Rice cooker
  • Iron
  • Pots and pants
  • Kitchen utensils
  • Kitchen towels
  • Shampoo/conditioner
  • Towels/washcloths
  • Travel toothbrush
  • Travel chopsticks
  • Tupperware


  • Bowls, plates and mugs (though I eventually bought my own)
  • Washing pole and pegs
  • Clothes hangers
  • Emergency kit for natural disasters
  • Extension cable
  • Clock


  • Washing machine
  • 2 hob burner
  • Microwave
  • Fridge/freezer
  • Table and 2 chairs
  • Smart TV on desk
  • Full length mirror

I think my biggest peice of advice is: try to stick to the essentials.
While it’s tempting to want to bring all your home comforts with you, remember that Japanese apartments are much smaller than back home, and you’ll likely not know how much storage you have until you move in.

It’s also easy to accumulate stuff when you arrive here. And while of course you’ll want to make your place as cosy and homely as possible – remember that everything you can’t take back to your home country with you will have to be sold, donated, given away or carted off by the council (for a fee!) when you leave.

~ Carla

Apartment · Coronavirus · Personal

Life in Japan with Coronavirus (Covid-19)

A positive to everything that’s going on – my apartment is looking lovely!

I’m sorry for the lack of posts – for the past two weeks I have been working from home.

The students left school on the 6th March at the request of Prime Minster Abe to close all schools in Japan, although most teachers have still had to come in everyday.

However because I have an hour’s commute on public transport (an hour there, and an hour back), plus I have all the materials I’ll need at my apartment, I’ve been allowed to work remotely from home – mostly planning lessons and activities.

And while I have not been “self-isolating” per se, unless necessary I have been staying inside as much as I can.
This is mostly for two reasons – as an asthmatic, if I contract the virus I am at higher risk of becoming more seriously ill, and secondly I risk passing it on to other vulnerable groups, such as those also with pre-existing conditions and the elderly.

Cabin fever is a real thing, and in the middle of this week I felt at risk of going a bit Jack Torrence. So I’ve been trying to keep myself busy, and enjoying a slower pace of life in Japan.

The weather has been slowly warming up this week and has averaged around 12-17°C.

Although we had terrible storms over the weekend, most days I can have my balcony door wide open to let the fresh air right through my apartment, and so I don’t feel so claustrophobic.

I’ve been enjoying making nice meals like this french toast and sitting by my balcony to eat while watching Let’s Plays. (Shirley Curry’s Skyrim videos always help when I’m feeling especially anxious.)

I’ve also been cleaning my apartment and rearranging to make it as homely and comfortable as I possibly can with such a small space.
I bought an adorable pink sofa for only £80, and it has already made my living area look a lot bigger as I no longer have my dining table and chairs.

People have been asking for an apartment tour, and I promise it’s coming soon.
It’s still not looking 100% how I’d like it to, and as a perfectionist Taurus I’d prefer it to be just right before I post photos – and potentially a video!

“How do girls all know how to pose like that?” ~ Felipe.

While I’m not socialising as much as I usually do – which is difficult for me as an extroverted introvert – when my pal Felipe invited me to a birthday party I leapt at the chance and had such a good night at Las Chillonas in Hamamatsu city.
(Happy belated birthday, Farrah!!)

I also managed to make some new connections on the night, I really need some new girlfriends here – especially with my bestie Faith moving away in two weeks.
Many of them were planning on going abroad for Spring break (I was going to go to Seoul), however with travel restrictions in place, everyone will be staying in Japan.

So hopefully we can organise some cute activities to do together, even if it’s just hanging and playing Animal Crossing New Horizons. (7 days away, omg omg!)

I’ve also booked myself for a SOLO YOLO to Kyoto, since tourism is apparently down 50% and I want to see it when it’s not unbearably crowded for once.

While I haven’t felt like writing here much, I’ve been enjoying other creative writing outlets – such as journalling, letter writing and working on a fantasy fiction project that has been rattling around my brain for over a year now.
(It will probably never see the light of day. I enjoy writing – especially characterisation – but I don’t think I’m particularly talented!)

I was also surprised to receive the above from my head cheerleader, Sam.
There really is no better feeling in the world – on a particularly low day – than a letter arriving with your best friend’s handwriting on the envelope.

I’ve also been stocking up on essentials from the supermarket.

I’m certainly not going crazy and buying up the entire supply of beans and pasta (I HATE beans, for one thing – the slimy bastards!) but it hasn’t hurt to grab an extra bag of rice, tins of tuna, dried noodles, bread (it freezes well!), frozen vegetables, soy milk etc. as part of my usual shop.

(People in Japan don’t tend to do a weekly “big shop” as we call it in the UK – living spaces are very small here, so people tend to buy little and often, myself included.)

As you’re all probably well aware by now, people are panic-buying toilet roll.
There seems to be a lot of confusion in the UK especially why this is a thing – from what I can gather on social media, many people think it has to do with diarrhea.

However it all actually stems from a fake tweet here in Japan that stocks were running low because the paper is made in China, and would no longer be exported to Japan. This wasn’t true at all, however people started panic-buying until stock actually did run low.

This seems to have settled down a little now, the rule of one-per-family seems to have taken effect and yesterday at my local drugstore the shelves were full.

Anyways, from next week I’m back at my schools.

We have no classes, however the students will be back to practice for their graduation ceremonies which they had already been rehearsing for weeks. As far as I can tell, they’re scheduled to go ahead as planned.

I’m already getting my tissues at the ready – I cry very easily anyway, but a few of my favourite teachers are leaving/retiring so I can already see myself bawling my eyes out.

To finish, I’ll leave you with videos from two of my favourite J-vloggers Sharla and Chris Broad, about their experiences living and working in Japan during this time.

Stay safe, everyone!

~ Carla

Apartment · Food · Friends · Life · Party

My Takoyaki Party

Well, I say ‘my’ takoyaki party – this is not entirely true.

I was out for sushi and drinks with my pals Haruna and Imada, and the conversation went something like this:

HARUNA: You like takoyaki yes?
ME: Yes of course, it is one of my favourite Japanese foods!
HARUNA: Have you ever made yourself?
ME: I haven’t, I wouldn’t really know how.
HARUNA: OK then, we would like to have a takoyaki party-
ME: Oooh really? That sounds great I would love to!
HARUNA: -at your apartment!
ME: …Wat?

So agreeing to host a takoyaki party – or ‘Takopa’ wasn’t entirely consensual, haha.
But nevertheless, I was eager to give takoyaki a go so we agreed on a date and time.

Takoyaki are ball-shaped snacks that are crisp and golden on the outside and soft and doughy in the middle.
They’re then filled typically with minced or diced octopus (tako – hence ‘takoyaki’), tempura scraps (tenkasu), pickled ginger (beni shoga), and green onion (negi).
The balls are then coated with takoyaki sauce (it’s similar to Worcestershire sauce) and mayonnaise, and then sprinkled with green laver (aonori) and shavings of dried bonito (fish flakes).

It was actually a very relaxing experience however for a host – Haruna and Imada helped me buy all the ingredients (and alcohol of course) and lugged it all back to my apartment.
And after we’d finished, Imada insisted on cleaning up, what an absolute LAD.

Of course a selfie under my Christmas tree was necessary!

This was back in December, so I also gave them their Christmas presents – I only give the classiest and most educational gifts:

“The Correct Way To Use Fuck” – it even comes with a helpful CD for pronunciation.

Eheheh. You can see more from this video by Abroad In Japan:

So yes, I think my first party (where I didn’t actually do anything) was a success.

The next one is going to be a ‘Nabepa’ – a nabe/hot pot party!
(Because there ain’t no party like a hot pot party…)

~ Carla


Life of an ALT: Moving Into My Apartment

Art credit

Moving day was loooooong.

I got up to pack at 7am and only sat down for my dinner at 9pm after not stopping all day.

I had to get up earlier than I’d have liked to pack as I’d spent the previous night drinking and listening to Billie Eilish with my pals from training – Josh, Sam and Faith in Sam’s hotel room (NOT recommended before a moving day…) and as usual I’d left everything to the last minute.
Checked out of the hotel at 10:30am and we were all taken to a clinic around the corner for our chest x-rays. This is mandatory for all new ALTs to check for tuberculosis.

We were taken in one by one, and it was awkward as I had to strip from the waist up and put on a tiny Japanese-size top for my x-ray which was VERY indecent. The doctor vaguely spoke English, but by the end I just let him and the ancient nurse manhandle me into position.

We said goodbye to our pals Josh and Sam, and me and Faith had a wander around the May One mall until we were due to be picked up by our ICs – the helpers hired to help us move.
Kyoko-san arrived bang on 12:30 as expected. She’s really friendly and speaks wonderful English as long as I slow down (I talk really fast in the UK let alone Japan, so it is something I’m working on).

We first went to my apartment, I’m on the third floor so only two flights of stairs – however this was quite a task with two heavy suitcases, and we’re 5’1 and 5’4 respectively.
It really was a struggle but luckily the gas man was already there to turn my hot water on and kindly gave us a hand.

I really do love my apartment – more photos and video will follow soon!
But for now, you can see how close my quiet residential neighbourhood is to the city centre. It’s about a 15 minute walk.

Skyscrapers in the distance

Bags dropped and first stop – Daiso, the ¥100 shop for some essentials. I just got some small bits like wipes, hand soap, cutlery (my spoon has Gudetama on it!), sponges, tea towels etc.

Next stop – beauty/drugstore for shampoo, conditioner, face stuff, toilet rolls and laundry detergent.

Next – homeware, and it’s here I spent a frigging FORTUNE. My futon was my big purchase as expected, and ended up being well over £100/¥10,000 by the time I bought everything for it. I also bought an iron, towels, kitchen utensils, a mop, a pan etc.

(Kyoto appreciates my ‘ALL PINK ERRYTHING’ taste and exclaimed “kawaiiiiii!!” when I picked out pink futon covers.)
I also felt like shouting when I saw the total on the cash register.


Finally – the supermarket! Just a few essentials – noodles, rice, pasta, sauces, condiments, vegetables, and of course a few bags of crisps and chocolate slipped in there too. I’m not a monster.
It should see me for the rest of the week as I start getting school lunch from Thursday.

Dropped off back at my apartment, feeling exhausted.
If anyone fancies a new workout routine, I can 100% recommend moving to Japan and being quick marched around for 5 hours by a tiny Japanese woman. Not a single muscle in my body didn’t ache.
She should give up this helping-stupid-gaijin-move-in lark and change careers to a personal trainer.

I don’t know where she gets her energy from in 32-degree heat.

Mentaiko: a Japanese pasta sauce made with fish roe. It’s actually really good!

I’ve never lived by myself before and had no help unpacking, so it took me well over three hours to put everything away.
I could only manage a quick dinner – pasta with mentaiko sauce (my mother is Italian and would have a FIT if she saw it) and edamame.

But I was glad to be eating something that wasn’t from the konbini.
(The next day though I bought three salmon steaks reduced to ¥300 and made real food.)

Salmon, rice and furikake (rice topping), edamame and miso soup

So that’s it, it’s been a few days now and I’m staring to feel settled. I’m just eager to start at my schools now and get these first few weeks over with, so I can really feel like I’m getting into the swing of a routine.

I did go to my schools today to meet everyone, and everyone seemed very nice and eager to meet me which has settled my nerves a bit.

But tomorrow I have to get up on the stage in front of the entire school and introduce myself in English and Japanese. HELP.

~ Carla