Hello, everyone. My name is LaShawn Toyoda, and I’m the creator of The Yokohama Life. This website originally started out as a personal blog in March 2018. Since then I’ve focused on developing it into a resource that would be helpful to other foreigners in Japan.
Here’s a bit about my background and how I came to settle down in Japan as my permanent home.
Morgan State University 2007-2010
- I graduated with a B.A. in Political Science.
- I studied Beginner Japanese for one year prior to an exchange program in Tokyo.
Temple University Japan 2008
- I studied for one semester as an exchange student at the Minato-ku campus.
Johns Hopkins University 2009-2010
- I studied Pre-Intermediate Japanese for one year as a part-time student to continue improving my language ability.
After graduating from university, I began working as a teller for Bank of America, because it was the only job that I could find during the economic recession. Although I learned a lot, and it paid the bills, the job itself was very unfulfilling. I decided that it wasn’t for me and began looking into other opportunities.
Traveling to Shanghai
A friend of mine who lived in Shanghai, China had started a small English school and invited me to join as a teacher. I spent a few months saving up as much as I could and selling everything in my apartment. After only 7 months of working at the bank, I said my goodbyes and hopped on a plane to start a new adventure.
Shanghai was everything I did and didn’t expect it to be. I arrived in the beginning of April 2011 and spent a week just exploring the city. There was a lot to see and do, but naturally I had difficulty with the language since I studied Japanese at university.
Although I could read many of the signs, the bit of Chinese I had studied was completely useless due to the different dialect they spoke in Shanghai. That was something I was willing to work on over time and to do my best to learn it properly.
However, one thing I was not prepared for was being followed.
I don’t mean by the random people who just wanted to take my picture or stare at me. I was watched everywhere that I went, but it was something I had prepared for mentally beforehand.
What I wasn’t prepared for was men following me around the city, whispering things to me to try to get me to follow them to see whatever it was they were supposedly selling.
During one particularly scary instance, I ran into a women’s restroom inside a large mall to escape a man that wouldn’t leave me alone. He stood outside and waited for me quite some time before eventually giving up.
I decided right then and there that Shanghai just wasn’t the place for me and that I had to get out of there.
Finding Work in Japan
That night, I looked online at what jobs were available in Japan. There were many teaching positions that were open at the time, because a large number of expats moved back to their home countries after the Great Touhoku Earthquake in March 2011.
I filled out a job application and had a Skype interview the very next day. I was hired right on the spot and they asked me how quickly I could come to Japan. The new school year was already starting and they were in desperate need of teachers.
Well, within a few days I was back on a plane and on my way to Narita. I spent all that remained of my savings on the plane ticket, and my friend loaned me about $300 to get by until my first paycheck. It was down to about $200 by the time I caught a bus to Tochigi to meet my dispatch company.
I would not recommend coming to Japan with only $200!
I had no idea that it would be a month and a half before my first paycheck, and the circumstances back then were very different.
Working as an English Teacher in Japan
My first job in Japan was as an Assistant English Teacher (AET) for a public junior high school and two elementary schools in Tochigi Prefecture. Right away I felt much happier and more at ease than I did the 2 weeks that I spent in Shanghai.
I didn’t receive much training before being thrown into my first lessons, and they were quite bad! I was fortunate enough to live in an apartment building with 3 other foreign teachers who shared ideas and helped me settle into my new home.
I really enjoyed living my first year in Tochigi. The countryside was beautiful and there are a few things I really miss:
- Mashiko pottery
- Sunflower fields
- Utsunomiya gyoza
- Picking strawberries
I began looking for higher-paying opportunities after completing my one-year contract as an AET. I was hired for a position at an eikaiwa in March 2012 and moved to Kanagawa Prefecture. After a few months, I was assigned to a conversation school in Yokohama and that became my home for the next 7 years.
Meeting My Husband and Starting a Family
After a failed long-term relationship and a couple of terrible Tinder dates, I found myself single around December 2017. Christmas is a big holiday for couples in Japan and I didn’t want to spend it alone. So, I took a gamble and decided to go on one more Tinder date just for the sake of not wasting the holiday alone in my apartment.
Well, I’m really glad I did. I met my (future) husband on Christmas Eve for a dinner date night. I knew there was something special about him right away, and we immediately hit it off. The dinner and conversation were fantastic. We scheduled a second date after New Year’s and each time just got better and better.
I never thought that I’d find my lifelong partner here in Japan. However, I’m so grateful that I did, because I finally feel like everything is coming together. I had a rough couple years starting out, but Japan is definitely my permanent home now.
I said goodbye to my home in Yokohama and moved to Tokyo in October 2018. My husband and I moved into a new house together and were officially married in March 2019. This was also when I started teaching English majors at a nearby university.
Well, things moved rather quickly, and we welcomed a baby girl into our lives in September 2019! It’s amazing how drastically my life has changed since coming to Japan, but I’m so happy with the way that things turned out. Our daughter is such a sweet and loving little girl, and we’re so grateful to be her parents.
I’ve been through and learned a lot over the years of living and working here in Japan. One of my biggest goals is to use my experience to do something positive for the foreign community and to help others make Japan their long-term or permanent home as well.
If you’d like to contribute to the website or collaborate, please don’t hesitate to contact me!