Japan Italy: Next stop: Japan! Interview with Stefania Sabia

“An Italian in Japan” the series – Stefania Sabia

The brotherhood between Italy and Japan in recent years has become increasingly close and supportive. It is not rare to find our compatriots wishing to move to the land of the Rising Sun, but few succeed in realizing this dream. Today we want to share with you the experience of Stefania Sabia, a very Italian girl who has been living and working in Japan for about two years!

JIB: Hi Stefania, first of all thank you for agreeing to have this interview with us.
S: Thank you for contacting me and thinking about my blog!

JIB: Tell us a little about yourself and what you do in life.
S: My name is Stefania, I graduated in Japanese language and literature and I have been living and working in Tokyo for about 2 years.
I’m the creator of the Prossima fermata Giappone (Next Stop Japan) blog, which I opened together with the Facebook page 4 years ago, during my first study trip to Tokyo, followed by Instagram and Youtube about a year ago, which I update daily.
Since then I continue to share my travels and my daily life in Japan through articles, photos, videos, with all the love that I have.
I have a particular passion for the Shitamachi of the capital, the ancient places of Tokyo mixed with the modern urban fabric, but which retain a unique atmosphere, often accompanied by incredible small cafes.
I love the explosion of colors of the Japanese blooms, and the cute themed restaurants that invariably snatch you a smile and, when I have the chance, I love to wear the kimono.
Exploring and sharing this wonderful country always fills me with an immense joy.

JIB: How and from what your passion of Japan was born?
S: The passion for Japan arises as a result of the curiosity about the culture of this country. I have always found fascinating its history, folklore, literature and even the language. I could spend hours listening to the smooth sound of Japanese, relaxing as gurgling water.
One of the first legends to have enchanted me, I still remember that now, was that of the Tanabata.
As a child I dreamed of being able to participate in the festivities one day, to wear the yukata and see the sea of shimmering decorations above my head, typical of this occasion.

JIB: And in the end you made it! You have been living in Japan for a few years now, tell us something about your experience and how you got to today.
S: Living here in Tokyo is an incredible experience, sometimes difficult, but that in any case I would not change with anything else in the world. It can be a challenge, a trial, a surprise.
Living so far away from home there are many first times, you learn so many things about yourself and others, and what perhaps in Italy I had never done alone I found myself having to face it.
The part that I love most is undoubtedly the exploration, having the opportunity to know Tokyo deeply and calmly, to reveal the layers of the city first hand, all his anaba // the small locations, the secret corners, the places of heart. I love this city with all of myself.
I came to Japan for the first time 4 years ago, during my second year of university, thinking that a study period could help me with the language and the following exams. So I enrolled in a 3 month course at a language school in Nippori (one of the areas of Shitamachi I mentioned above) and have literally been struck by the capital.
With a heart full of feelings, I returned to Italy knowing that once I graduated I would have absolutely wanted to come back.
After graduation I left again as a student, with the intention of improving my Japanese as much as possible and try to get a job visa.
I got my 3-year work visa about 3 months ago and now I work in a Japanese company, I especially take care of helping other Westerners find jobs in Japan.


JIB: Which Japanese city has captured your heart?
S: Maybe you can already understand that from other answers, but I love Tokyo with all my heart. I think it’s a unique city. A “patchwork” city, made of rainbow remnants of every kind and shape. An extraordinary interlocking of modern and ancient. It doesn’t have the typical beauty of traditional Kyoto, it has more the charm of the places that you live at the fullest. those places that are able to tell you a story at every corner, to amaze you again and again without ever failing. This city is a whole universe, you never stop understanding it, learning it.
If we talk about extraordinary places for beauty and memories, then I must mention Takaragawa Onsen, one of the most magical places I’ve ever been in Japan. I have wonderful memories of this ryokan with onsen, which seems to come from another era, lying in the middle of the forests of Gunma, very far from the city, next on the course of the river Takara. I also talked about it on the blog. It’s just pure marvel.

JIB: Your story is really exciting and we are sure that you can have unique experiences every day and create many memories that will always be in your heart. Would you like to share with us one of the most amusing or significant moments that have happened to you since you live in Japan?
S: One of my favorite experiences was to bring the mikoshi during the matsuri o my neighborhood. The feeling of community cohesion and the meaning of festivals is something fantastic.
It was incredible to be able to see a matsuri in its life, from the gathering of the participants, to the toast and prayers and have the opportunity to bring the divinity, inside the mikoshi, so that it could be thanked by everyone and therefore guarantee luck and prosperity to the district and its inhabitants.


JIB: It must have been a really intense experience. Also, from what was our blog born, prossimafermatagiappone.com, and how did you develop the concept until you got to what it is today?
S: The blog was born from the desire to put into words the boundless love I feel for Japan.
I have always loved to write since I was a child, and I thought that telling stories about this country could connect and help many other lovers of Japan.
It’s a travel blog, but it’s often the feelings for places that dominate, a genuine and total enthusiasm for what I see or what I do.
The sincere affection for certain districts, the fascination that the ancient and the traditions exert over me, the places that sing to my heart. One thing, which I think and hope can be understood by reading the blog, is that I don’t write just for the journeys themselves, but for the emotions and the paths that I share.
I actually think that often, even a day-to-day and less visited or less famous place can reserve great discoveries and a lot of wonder.
The blog was born like this, from the sincerity of my feelings for Japan, for 4 years, almost every day I published stories, photos, itineraries, tips for those who are preparing to leave for a trip, to study or to live in Japan .


JIB: This feeling that moved you to create your blog is really beautiful, and that’s another thing we have in common. So many people like us dream of living in Japan and walking the same path you followed. However, as we all know, all that glitters is not always gold, and even Japan, like any other country, has its ups and downs. What are the difficulties you encountered in the early days in the Land of the Rising Sun?
S: I have to say that I have never encountered enormous difficulties since I moved. Or rather, nothing that I could never overcome with a little commitment or anything that I consider particularly negative.
It’s funny and of uncertain result the first times you find yourself having to do things that in Italy would have been considered normal and easy, but which instead represent the unknown here. For example going for the first time to the doctor, making a phone contract and later embarking alone in the contract for the house and having to call the services to connect the utilities.
The most difficult moment was the search for a job, those were really tough and challenging months, made even by many “no thanks” and many “Will I be able to do this? I won’t give up! “. The job market for a foreigner is not always easy.
Last but so obvious was the distance from home, I would certainly love to have the opportunity to see more often my family.

JIB: What are your plans for the future?
S: Even if time is scarce at the moment, I would like to work more with the blog. Collaborate more with local companies, propose more activities to do on holiday.
It would be nice to be able to show Japan more and more and I hope to have the opportunity to do this.
Another dream would be to write a guide, particularly on Shitamachi, the ancient preserved areas of Tokyo, survivors of fires, earthquakes and bombings, these areas still not very famous are of a unique richness. They are my favorite part of the city and I would like to talk more in depth if I ever have the chance.
Work wise, in future I would like to do more tourism experiences in Japan, I would really like to work in this direction.


photo credits: @georgeyajima

JIB: It’s really very interesting what you’re sharing with us, and we too from Italy are convinced that we need more information about these particular areas of Japan, which are very often put aside by the masses . What do you think are the strongest connections you can find between Italy and Japan?
S: I think we are dealing with two deeply different countries, but surely both of them carry a thousand-year-old history, culture and traditions that are very great and fascinating. In both countries there is a great love for food, a great love for their artistic and historical background.

JIB: Do you think there is a future for an even closer collaboration between the two nations?
S: I hope so, especially from a tourism point of view, I think there is an increasing interest in Japan.
Italian tourists have been increasing for a couple of years and I hope that this mutual interest, this curiosity of travel, will open the door to new possibilities.
It would also be nice to have the working holiday for Italians in the future.

JIB: Do you ever miss Italy? Do you plan to come back here permanently?
S: As I said before, I miss Italy, my family, Italian friendships. If I didn’t have good Italian friends here it would be doubly difficult.
The other serious missing is the cured meats and cheeses (more than pasta and pizza that are very well done here), there is a very scarce and expensive selection for the most part. The sadness of not being able to make a mega salami sandwich!
Perhaps sooner or later I will return to Italy or Europe anyway, but for now it is difficult to say what the future holds for me. For the moment I would like to stay in Japan.

JIB: And we too hope you can stay in Japan! Thank you so much for your time and for the beautiful words and moments you shared with us. One last thing, send some greetings and advice to all our readers.
S: I thank you first for the interview, you were very nice to host me and it was amazing to have the chance to talk with you.
I would be really happy if more people could read the blog and find ideas, whether they are traveling or living in Japan, I am always available to help anyone who is looking for answers on the subject.
To those who would like to study or live in Japan I say not to abandon your dream, it can be a difficult country in some aspects, but if you love it and want to try, why not?
The only suggestion is to come here ready, Japan gives a lot but also asks a lot. And if the life of a student can be quite calm, that of a full-time worker has often a very hectic pace.
A work visa also requires a degree in 99% of cases, without that immigration is unlikely to issue a visa. Many office or tourism related jobs also often require a spoken ability that is business / N2. Come to Japan with these things in mind and persevere until you have achieved what makes you happy!
A hug to all readers!


Follow Stefania

Blog: prossimafermatagiappone.com
Facebook: facebook.com/Prossimafermatagiappone/
Instagram: @prossimafermatagiappone