Meet Honor Dargan, a British expat who has been living in Tokyo for nearly a decade. What started off as a break from reality soon became an unbreakable reality. Read on to learn about “TokyoTopia” and why Dargan made it her home away from home.
Where in England did you live and what brought you to Japan?
I have lived in a number of different places in the UK including Durham, Yorkshire and Nottingham. Nottingham was the last place I lived before making the decision to move to Japan in 2001. Originally my intention was just to take a year out and then come back to the UK refreshed and ready to take on a new challenge. I’d just split from my fiance and I’d decided that now was my chance to go and live overseas if I was ever going to do it. Before I knew it though, that one year had turned into two, then three, and you can guess the rest!
I’ve been in Tokyo since that date – with time out for travel of course – so now it’s coming up to 10 years. Hmmm, what made me decide to stay? That’s a good question. Tokyo is a funny place. Time can seem to slip away from you and before you know it, a month has passed, then six months, and so on. At first that’s really what happened to me. I was at the one year mark before I knew it and I’d had such a ball here that I didn’t want to leave. I was happy with my work and my company wanted me to continue so it was easy to stay.
At the three year mark, however, I did realize it was time to take stock of where I was and decide if Japan was the place I wanted to stay. I didn’t want to just drift without a clear direction. But after assessing the pros and cons and choosing the direction I wanted to take, I consciously decided that Japan was the place I wanted to be. I had a good network and could see many possibilities for the future. It was exciting to stay and try to develop my life outside my home country.
You have a website with a very interesting name – TokyoTopia. Tell us a little about it and the inspiration behind it.
I’m glad you like the name Thanks! TokyoTopia really started as a hobby. After living in Tokyo for a few years, I was often surprised by the misconceptions my family and friends had about Tokyo. I was often asked questions like, “How can you afford to live there? It’s so expensive!” or “It’s just a big ugly city. Why do you want to live there?” This is really how the idea for TokyoTopia was born. I love living in Tokyo. It’s a truly vibrant city and I wanted to share that with other people and hopefully encourage them to come and try Tokyo for themselves.
I came up with the tagline “Tokyo made simple” as a result of feedback from readers on the site. The biggest concern that many people mentioned was that Tokyo was just overwhelming. Where should they start to plan a trip to Tokyo? And where should they look for the right information? That feedback became my mission – to make Tokyo simple and take away the overwhelm so that visitors can get on with the fun stuff when they arrive.
What is the “hardest” part about being an expat? What do you miss most about home?
I think that the “hardest” part of being an expat is really down to each individual. How easy or difficult it is, is really all in our heads. OUr attitude and the way we deal with the unexpected or the unknown will have a huge influence on how “hard” the experience is. I think those who find it truly hard are people who visit another country but expect to be able to live as they do in their home country. I wanted to learn about Japan and its culture so I didn’t this hard at all.
I think I’m a pretty flexible person. I was warned about the culture shock I was going to experience and how I might get depressed, frustrated, etc. after the initial excitement faded. In my case, this honestly didn’t happen.
The best part about being an expat has been the chance to see the world through a different set of eyes. I hope it’s broadened my thinking and I think it has made me a more tolerant and compassionate person. I’ve also had the opportunity to see and experience so many things that I otherwise would have no idea about. I’m thankful for the chances that have come my way.
For anyone considering moving to a foreign country, I would say go there with an open mind. Don’t judge your experiences against your home country. They won’t be the same and you’re setting yourself up for disappointment if you expect this. I know it sounds obvious, but I’ve met many people over the years who complain about how they don’t do this or they don’t do that in the country they are visiting and they allow that to colour their whole experience. Just make the decision to accept the differences and have fun!
Such a terrific story, Honor. Thank you for sharing part of your experiences with us and for being such a vibrant addition to the Tripping Community. Please keep us posted on your travels and adventures in TokyoTopia!
photos by Lauren