Life as an expat coder in middle-of-nowhere Japan

Living in Japan was my dream. Being a programmer was another, and getting paid to work on my own projects directly from individual customers and advertisers was yet another, and all of these came true. Still, I felt strangely unsatisfied. Even though everything was seemingly fine, I felt I was lacking some real human connection with like-minded people. 

But not as a mere English conversation partner. I have been asked repeatedly whether I am an English teacher, or if I would be interested in doing English lessons. No, not interested. I tried it briefly as an unpaid volunteer. It's a great help to many people who want to improve their language skills and many foreigners are making a decent living off of it while providing real value to learners, but it's not the profession I want to get into.

But then I got another suggestion. Why not work at a foreigner bar? I hadn't even known such things exist, but apparently there are bars where people go to for... what exactly I'm not sure, as after a surprisingly long period of careful consideration (fueled by curiosity and loneliness) I decided not to even try the job, as the recruiter was so insisting and persuasive that I wasn't sure if I would be able to refuse from continuing it if I start. The bar owner is still even to this day calling me about that job, as apparently they really need more foreigners (one career opportunity to those of you looking for some part-time work in Japan). But no, working at a bar is not the what I want to get into either.

Finally, I was saved from these temptations by... Google. 

It turns out someone saw my previous post on this topic and tweeted about it in Japanese. An event organizer for Google saw the tweet and wanted to show that my claim of there being no IT events in Tokushima is mistaken, so to prove me wrong she invited me to one. I was very happy to be wrong.

The content of the event was watching the Google I/O event livecast together until 5 in the morning, the perfect event which tends to filter out people who are not truly interested in this stuff. Suddenly I got to meet a huge amount of people, all wanting to talk tech or online business with me, which was extremely refreshing. I brought an Oculus Rift devkit to the event, which everyone wanted to try, giving me an extra opportunity to instantly have something cool to talk about.

That started a snowball effect. Some people I met at the event I've had a chance to meet again after the event. Those people introduced me to more people. This lead to more event invitations. I was even briefly a staff member at another event, all the way on the other side of this island, giving an excuse to take a nice road trip across Shikoku. The snowball lead to one-to-one meetups to brainstorm business ideas, an introduction to a possible supplier (for Candy Japan). It lead to chances to participate in group study sessions about Git and Google App Engine. Apparently such study groups ("benkyoukai" 勉強会) are pretty common, but something I would have never thought about searching for. Yesterday we even had a little game night, killing some zombies together.

It can be tough to get a good start in a new country, but thanks to some very kind people and helpful tips from people who reached out to me after reading the blog post (thanks to Oshima-san and Paul from Doorkeeper), I've finally managed to plug in.