Doing what you want to do”… Escape from a “wacky country” as quickly as possible? A couple in their 50’s moved to Thailand for 10 years. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Doing what you want to do”… Escape from a “wacky country” as quickly as possible? A couple in their 50’s moved to Thailand for 10 years.

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Not waiting for retirement…using 100 million yen saved from dual income to fund the project

When I look at Japan these days from the outside, I wonder if the country is doing all right and has fallen far behind.

I wonder if Japan is doing all right when I look at it from the outside.

Looking back on my time-crunched life, I would like to spend the rest of my life abroad, taking it easy. Many people dream of moving abroad in their old age, but at the age of 52, Mr. Hirose put an end to his life as a company employee and moved his base of operations to Chiang Mai.

There are about 30,000 temples in Thailand. Pilgrimage to temples is a way to accumulate merit and virtue.

It has been 10 years since he moved to the city. Currently, he and his wife live together in a rented house in the suburbs of Chiang Mai.

Despite the fact that he is still before the pensionable age, he has never worked a day in his life.

He has decided since he was young not to engage in any “productive activities” after he retires. He has been determined since he was young not to engage in any “productive activities” after he retired.

I had been thinking about living abroad since I was in my 30s, but I strongly felt that if I lived in a country I loved, I would not want to work there. I felt that if I lived there for work, I would end up hating the country and its people. So I thought, if I move to Chiang Mai, I would like to live “off the grid” (laughs).

In Chiang Mai, she lives off her savings.

I got married in my mid-twenties, but I was a dual-income earner until I moved to Chiang Mai. I started saving money systematically with an eye on moving there after I retire. I also wanted to secure a base in Japan, so I was paying off the mortgage on my house, but I was able to pay off the loan at the age of 48, partly because I had no children.

Since I finished the loan earlier than planned, I considered moving forward with my emigration, but I was not sure if I should work until I was 60. Just then, my brother-in-law suddenly died. That made me determined; there was no guarantee that I would be alive until I was 60, and I should do what I wanted to do.”

At that point, his bank balance was approximately 100 million yen. Mr. Hirose decided to retire at the age of 52.

He lives in a house in the suburbs, about 15 minutes by car from Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai, where you can be “free

He chose Chiang Mai, Thailand, because he was strongly attracted to the country and culture of Thailand, the streets of Chiang Mai, and the people who live in Chiang Mai.

I majored in history and Indian medieval history at university, so from my 20s I often stayed in Thailand for short periods of time as a stopover point on my trips to India. Later, when I lived in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, with my wife for two years, I frequently visited Chiang Mai to procure daily necessities, and Chiang Mai became my favorite city.

I don’t like Bangkok because it is a big city with many people, but Chiang Mai is rich in nature and has few people. Besides, Chiang Mai is a historical city. It was full of charm, with many historical buildings and other remains.

It is also convenient to travel to neighboring Southeast Asian countries. It is only an hour or two away by plane, and depending on the time of year, the fares are cheaper than domestic flights.

In Chiang Mai, you can be free,” Hirose says.

In Chiang Mai, you don’t have to worry about what people think of you no matter what you do. For example, in Japan, if a man in his 50s who is in his prime quits his job and hangs out during the daytime on weekdays, his neighbors might get suspicious.

But in Chiang Mai, if you say, “I am retired,” it is over with, “Hmm, I see. You will not be pursued deeply. In a good sense, they don’t care about other people (laugh).

That’s why I myself am free. Nevertheless, they are friendly and have a strong sense of camaraderie. If I have a problem, they help me. When I was sick, my neighbors even brought me medicine (laughs). I think that here, there is no such thing as “Hachiboku,” which is a common saying in Japan when living in the countryside. My wife and I are comfortable with a moderate sense of distance.

Inside our home in the suburbs of Chiang Mai. Despite the depreciation of the yen, the rent is still a little over 40,000 yen.

Although a visa is required to move abroad, the fact that Thailand offers a retirement visa (NON-O) was also a deciding factor.

I thought about moving to Nepal, but when I looked into it, I found that it would take a lot of time and money to obtain a visa. On the other hand, Thailand has a retirement visa system (*Long-stay visa for people over 50 years old), which can be obtained if you have 800,000 THB (about 3.3 million yen, as of December ’23) saved in a local bank.

Although it must be renewed every year, it was easy to obtain because there are no strict requirements for obtaining it other than deposits.”

At local museums, which are rarely visited by foreigners, staff members are always available to explain things to visitors.

Monthly living expenses range from 150,000 to 200,000 yen.

The monthly cost of living is about 150,000 yen, including rent. Even with the weak yen, it is still around 200,000 yen. He thinks he cooks his own meals, but he eats take-out Thai food.

In Thailand, there is no custom of cooking at home, so there is no stove. Most people either take out or eat out. My wife and I also cook rice in a rice cooker, but most of the time we eat Thai food bought in the neighborhood as a side dish.

We both love Thai food so much that we eat Thai food half of the week in Japan as well, so there is no problem (laughs). To begin with, it is too hot to cook at home. By the way, today (early December), the lowest temperature in the morning was 23 degrees Celsius. During the day it got up to 32 degrees.”

Hirose, who does not have a job, has plenty of time for herself. Over the past 10 years, he has visited not only Nepal, which he loves, but also Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, Taiwan, and other neighboring Asian countries many times.

He says, “I aim to visit during periods when airfares are inexpensive and see many sites, including World Heritage sites in each country.

In Chiang Mai, too, I can see old temples, broken chedis, and other things that look like ruins when I ride a motorcycle or drive around. I enjoy these things and my excursions have increased. Fuel costs are high in Thailand, so I could cut down on my expenses a little more if I stayed close by, but I can’t help it (laughs).

The other day, I took a couple on a road trip to a World Heritage site in Thailand that was just registered this year. Since it was before it became a tourist attraction, there were few people and we were able to enjoy it. Being able to do this kind of thing easily is probably the best part of moving to Thailand.

The reason why he is able to live in Chiang Mai “on the road” is because he decided to move there when he was in his 50s. Looking back over the past 10 years, he says that his early retirement was a great success.

Considering my physical strength and energy, I think it was a good thing that I moved here in my 50s,” he says. I was able to move as soon as I wanted to. If I had emigrated after I turned 60, I don’t think I would have been able to do the same things I have been doing for the past 10 years.

Quickly going to see the site of Siethep, which was just registered as a World Heritage site in September ’23.

Inconveniences I didn’t understand until I moved here…

Although Chiang Mai has all the good things going for it, Hirose says there is one inconvenience that he didn’t understand until he moved here.

The medical system in Chiang Mai is weak, unlike in the big city of Bangkok. Even big hospitals in Chiang Mai don’t have the kind of testing equipment that even doctors have in Japan, and even if they do, they are old, and the doctors and nurses are inexperienced.

I have travel insurance in Japan, but since there is no medical insurance system in Thailand, many Thai people do not go to hospitals but use medicines to cure their illnesses. In Japan, you can easily buy medicines that require a prescription at pharmacies in Thailand. Therefore, I feel that the number of cases I have treated is extremely small. In fact, I was once misdiagnosed.

Since then, when I feel something is obviously wrong and I am worried, I go to Japan to see a doctor.

Although Mr. Hirose says that Chiang Mai is now his hometown, he has no intention of giving up his home base in Japan, considering the fragile medical system in the country. Recently, he is also considering leaving Chiang Mai in the near future.

My father passed away last year, my mother-in-law this year, and I’ve been going back to Japan every few months for the past few years because of the COVID-19 crisis,” he said. My wife’s life is still centered on Japan, and I also return to Japan twice a year to see my mother who is in an institution.

Considering my own health problems, I think I will return to Japan in the near future.

Floating lanterns down a river at “Loi Krathong,” one of Chiang Mai’s representative festivals

My immediate goal is to do what I have not been able to do in the past 10 years so that I can leave Chiang Mai at any time.

I would like to experience the Lanna culture (a unique culture of northern Thailand built through the interaction of several ethnic groups). To do that, I need to go to Myanmar and Laos more.”

Some people live only with Japanese people and eat only Japanese food…and return to their own country after one or two years.

There are many seniors who yearn to live abroad but are unable to take action because of doubts about whether they have enough money or not, or whether they can live in a foreign country even though they cannot speak the language. What is the source of Mr. Hirose’s energy? When asked, “Isn’t it just selfishness? He laughed and continued, “It’s just my opinion.

It’s just my opinion, but I think many Japanese people don’t really think about what kind of person they are happy to be. Whether you are happy or not is up to you to decide, but some people think that being someone that other people envy and say, “You’re so happy!

(laugh) I think it is partly because I felt suffocated by life in Japan when I was in my 30s and 40s, but I have come to realize that my happiness is in doing what I want to do. I think my wife felt the same way as she spent time with me. By the way, my wife also studied history at university. She fell in love with Thailand before I did.”

In Chiang Mai, where the origin of rice is close by, various kinds of rice are sold, and it is fun to compare them.

Finally, I asked him what he could say to those who are seriously thinking about moving to Thailand.

I think it is faster to come to Chiang Mai than to think about it (laughs). (Laughs) No matter how many stories you hear from people with experience or how much information you search for on the Internet, you can only really know what it’s like by experiencing it for yourself.

Nevertheless, you should decide carefully where to move to. It is an absolute requirement that you like the culture and people of the country.

Thailand is very popular among Japanese seniors, and many Japanese people live in Chiang Mai. However, there are many people who only interact with Japanese people, eat only Japanese food, and eventually return home after one or two years because they do not get used to the local culture. If you choose a country you don’t like very much as a destination, you tend to shift the blame to the country and the people living there when something happens.

If it is a country you love, you can stand your ground and reflect on yourself to see why things are not going well. So I hope you choose a country you love.”

Ganesh Hirose was born in Tokyo in 1961. After traveling to Chiang Mai, Thailand in 1988 and falling in love at first sight, he continued to visit the city on a travel basis three to four times each year since his working years, retiring in ’13 at the age of 52 and moving to the city. Currently, he rents a single-family house in the suburbs where there are almost no foreigners, and enjoys a relaxed lifestyle while occasionally traveling around Thailand and other Asian countries.

Click here for Ganesh Hirose’s blog “Sawadee Chao Chiang Mai

  • Interview and text by Keiko Tsuji Keiko Tsuji

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