In 2017, I saw that a new airline called Scoot was going to be coming to Honolulu. It had been a long time since a new carrier had come to Hawaii and the press made a big deal about it. They also advertised that for the first flight of Scoot from Hawaii to Osaka - the fares would be incredibly cheap.

I’d only moved back to Hawaii a few months before and had brought my wife and six-year-old daughter with me. We emigrated from Morocco back to my country of birth in 2013. I’d left Hawaii in 2008 amidst the financial crisis and a disgust at U.S. policy and trajectory. Even with the hope that Obama’s election brought, I didn’t think the U.S. would ever become the shining beacon that it could have. The global industrial war machine and the culture of consumption, exploitation, and media mind-control was too powerful - but I don’t want to get into that here.

I’d left with no intention to return, built a life in Morocco and Turkey, gotten married, and become father to a beautiful baby girl - who I realized would have far more opportunities growing up as an American than as a woman in a Muslim country. So, I made sure she got her citizenship, got my wife a green card, and back we came. The trials of getting the green card could be a whole story itself - but we got it and eventually she got citizenship - just as Donald Trump became president. Thankfully, the video they showed at the citizenship ceremony was still Obama.

Shortly after that for a variety of reasons, mostly having to do with politics but also with quality of life and gun violence - I sold the business I’d built (for a trifling amount) and moved us to Honolulu. A few months later - Scoot Airlines was in the news. Money was tight, work hadn’t quite been regular, but I’d made a little money buying Litecoin, my first success in crypto. It was enough to book a room in Osaka and pay for the very cheap roundtrip flight ($299!) while still leaving me with a thousand dollars to play with in cryptocurrency. I only had three days to spend in Japan because I had to get back in time for Christmas with my daughter - but it was the beginning of a love affair with this country.

Looking back, I find it fun that my experiences with crypto and Japan began at the same time. The days before my 46th birthday, I spent getting to know Japan a little bit and checking crypto prices on my phone frequently. I was also able to bring home Japanese Christmas presents. This trip was my birthday present to myself. It was a great one.

I fell in love with Japan right away. Everything about it. The history, the culture, the aesthetics, the transportation - everything. Okay…maybe not the whole work until you die of a coronary thing - that didn’t really apply to me as a gaijin. It especially didn't appeal to me as the radical free-thinking, creative, anti-wage-slave, person that I am.

On that trip, I was blessed to explore Osaka and to spend time weeping in Hiroshima as I felt the true impact and evil of what my country had done there. Back in the U.S., I regularly took tourists to Pearl Harbor - the contrast between the two places and how they were presented was stark. Again - that’s another story.

In 2022, after having more success with crypto - I brought my now 11-year-old daughter to Japan with me. We went to Mt. Fuji, explored Tokyo, and went to the Disneyland parks here. Again, I was in love with this place. We spent Christmas and my 51st birthday (2-days later).

Now, here I am again - it’s not my birthday this time. And this time - I’ve come to Hokkaido. I’m also going to explore the possibility of buying an ‘akiya’ - a cheap house in Japan. I want to spend a lot more time here, maybe the majority of my time.

Post-Covid, my marriage fell apart. My then-wife would never have agreed to living in Japan - it was hard enough to get her to move to Hawaii, believe it or not. I’m grateful that our marriage ended in a friendly way and our daughter hasn’t been negatively impacted by it. I’m grateful that I can choose to explore this possibility.

The cheap houses situation is a result of an aging and dying population, a sharp decline in the birth rate, and a younger population that wants to live in cities. This creates an amazing dynamic where akiya, abandoned houses, can be bought for not very much at all. I’ve seen them as low as $3000 - not livable and probably not where you would want to live, but still.

In the time at the beginning of the pandemic, I finally was reaching a point in life where I thought I might be able to buy a home. My life has been non-traditional (to say the least) and while I may have qualified for mortgages at some times in the past, mostly that hasn’t been the case and until 2020, I never had enough to put a down payment. There was no way I could afford to buy a home on Oahu, where I live. Minimum price for a crappy home is $1 million there. So I began looking on the Big Island of Hawaii where shacks could be bought in lava zones for $10,000 - $25,000. Apartments in Hilo could be bought for as little as $100,000. Finally feeling ready to own a place of our own, I consulted with a realtor and began making offers.

Every offer I put out got outbid with cash offers from the mainland where people with lots of cash had realized that inflation was going to take a bite from their bank accounts. My wife and I qualified for a mortgage and put an offer on an apartment - above market. It was accepted but then the bank pulled our qualification because we would need to move islands and change jobs!

From that point the cost of real estate (and everything else) in Hawaii and the USA has just gone up and up and up. I don’t have a chance to own a home in the US unless I want to move to West Virginia, Mississippi, or Alabama. I don’t.

So here I am…and frankly - even though on my first two trips to Japan, I felt like the prices for food and other things were pretty expensive - the double whammy of a strong dollar here and insane inflation in Hawaii and the USA (which would have probably caused a revolution in other times and places) - I am finding the cost of living, eating, drinking, travel, and everything else in Japan to be more than reasonable. In fact, in comparison, it feels cheap.

I spent a couple of days in Tokyo and while my body was catching up to the time shift, it was still so easy, so comfortable, so challenge free. It feels so safe here in Japan - though there was just an earthquake that literally just shook my hotel room as I write this.

Here's one example of why I love Japan. There are millions of unlocked bikes parked everywhere with no guards, no thought of them being stolen. It’s wild - those bikes would all be stolen overnight in Honolulu - I have no idea where the homeless dudes that steal bikes would put them all, but every one of those millions of bikes would be gone by morning.

Today, I'm in Sapporo, Japan's fifth largest city, on the island of Hokkaido. I took the bullet train up here yesterday - whizzing across Japan at speeds of up to 200 mph. While I’m here, I will look at an akiya in a nearby town that I think might work for me. I’ve consulted with a few experts on buying an akiya and I think I can make it happen. There is no law barring foreigners from owning houses in Japan, getting residency is a more difficult matter. I think half the year needs to be spent elsewhere - but I’ve got some ideas for figuring that out too.

Next week, I’ll hopefully be able to share more information about this journey I'm on. For now, just know that I am very happy to be here.