Today I want to introduce you to Alex, one of our foreign Tour Guides, and our HR and Training Manager here at Arigato Travel. Many of us wonder why foreigners decide to come live in Japan. Despite having interviewed expats in Japan before on our blog, I am intrigued to know more from our company’s very own expats (*giggles*).
1 – So before we dive into it, can you first introduce yourself to our amazing readers and let us know where you are originally from?
Of course Sarah! Well, my name is Alexandro Serrano, as you mentioned before I am part of the Arigato Travel Team, I am a Visual Artist, Model and Performer and I am originally from Tijuana, México.
2 – I’m amazed with the ways people become attracted to Japan, so I’ll let you know for myself personally it began after viewing my first Anime. If you can let us know, what first struck your interest that grabbed your attention to learn more about Japan?
There were many reasons actually. The first approach to Japan was when I was around 5 or 6 years old. My uncle came to Japan on a work trip and he brought back a video he took in Tokyo. I was amazed by what I was looking at. A few years later I saw my first anime and I fell in love with it. Then I got super attracted to samurai stories, the Japanese culture and language, and since I used to participate in drawing for comic books back in Mexico and the US, my dream was to come to Japan and become a Mangaka (Japanese Comic Book Drawer).
3 – Was your first trip to Japan the winner or did you make continuous trips until you finally decided this is where I want to be? How did you choose what neighborhood to live in?
The first time I visited Japan was in 2007. I came with a friend and I can say that from the moment I got out of the station, I felt this was the place I was looking for. I waited almost 10 years to go back again, and even when my first idea was to stay one year, when I came back in 2015 with my ex couple, both of us felt at home and found the way to stay. It has been 7 years already!
I remember there were only two accommodation options at that time, Ueno Area or Nakano Area. Fortunately we chose Nakano and thanks to that we could stay. However, sometimes I also wonder what would’ve happened if we chose Ueno, and how different the story would be thus far.
4 – How did you go about communicating with people? Did you encounter any problems in language barriers? If so, how did you work on this ?
Learning the language of the country you live in is always very important, Sometimes it is not just the language barriers, but the cultural ones. It has been a very interesting experience learning to speak Japanese but even more, learning how to properly blend into Japanese Society.
I joined a Japanese School for a few months, but unfortunately because of my work schedules I had to quit, so now I study by myself at home.
5 – Are there any other challenges you think foreigners living in Japan will face when they first move here? If so, can you explain how you overcame them?
There will be many challenges indeed. Japanese culture is very unique, that is why it would be super difficult not to have a cultural shock, which in turn would be completely different depending on where you are from.
I don´t know if there is an exact and effective way to overcome them, but my biggest advice is always to observe how Japanese culture works, their behaviors, their traditions and customs, and then trying to emulate them the best you can. The biggest mistake for many foreigners is that they want to keep being and behaving the same way the society does in their hometowns, but we all need to realize that we are not in our country anymore, so we need to learn how to become a Japanese citizen without losing our own identity.
6 – I know you very much enjoy giving tours as I can see your passion. I really enjoy your Online Tours! How did you get into Arigato Travel to eventually become an amazing tour guide?
Thank you for considering me an amazing tour guide, and I am very happy to know that you enjoyed my online tours. So this is precisely why I am so passionate about guiding. When you get these kinds of comments from your guests, you feel recharged, and realize that you are doing your work well!
I used to be a teacher in Mexico. Sharing knowledge with people and at the same time learning from them is something that I really love. So while I was living in Nakano I started doing different tours by myself and the main one was an Otaku Tour, sharing with my guests my passion for pop culture and Japan. I heard about Arigato Japan through a friend and I didn’t hesitate to get in touch with them. That was around four and a half years ago.
7 – Since you currently live in Tokyo, can you share your favourite spots that you would highly recommend to our readers and future travellers?
It is impossible for me to pick a specific area for delicious food because Tokyo is full of restaurants and eateries everywhere. But I would say the Shinjuku area is usually where I go to eat Yakitori, Ramen, Sushi and many other amazing dishes.
Well it is actually difficult to choose just one favourite area in Tokyo, but I’ll do my best. I think my favourite spot in Tokyo is the Koenji Area. I always say that it is another dimension hidden in central Tokyo. People are so chill, the atmosphere is unique as there are a lot of places for eating or drinking. It is full of rockers, punks, anarchists, artists, skaters and street performers. Every weekend (almost every night during summer) it feels like a carnival outside the Koenji Station, full of people gathering with friends, playing music, and just having fun.
8 – Can you name one food item you dearly miss from your country and why? Also can you name one Japanese food item you totally fell in love with and why?
When I am in Japan I deeply miss Tacos (all kinds of them). Tacos are a part of our identity and daily life in Mexico, and even when there are a few places in Tokyo where you can find tacos, I am still missing the authentic Mexican flavours.
My favourite Japanese food is Sushi. The authentic traditional one (not the fried rolls you can find in western countries). But there is a specific dish from a specific place that I totally miss when I am out of Japan, It is Abura Soba. Very similar to Ramen but served without soup. It’s delicious! And sometimes, even Japanese people do not know about that dish.
9 – Thank you so much for your time Alex! I honestly enjoyed this and I hope that to everyone reading, with dreams to one day visit or settle in Japan can learn a thing or two. Is there anything you would like to share with our readers?
Thank you Sarah, I always enjoy talking to you.
Yes, I would say “Welcome to Japan” to everyone who is planning to visit soon. “Welcome back” to those who have been here already and understand why we love Japan and to the people that haven’t been, I can just say “Yes, Japan is that place that you need to visit and maybe you didn’t even know”.
Thanks, arigatou and gracias!
Follow Alex on:
- Website: www.inksstore.com (coming soon)
- Instagram: @reneearss /@inksdementerrota/ @pinshichenlon
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/renee.serrano.96558
- Youtube: Inks de Menterrota
Book Alex for a delicious food tour in Shinjuku in English or Spanish!