Tag Archives: Japan

Retrospect

I feel a bit guilty about not writing more about 2014. There is a non-trivial part of me that feels I should have shared more about my adventures in the moment.

There is absolutely no arguing that 2014 was an EPIC year for me. It was my first year of marriage. I traveled the world, met more amazing people and lived in Japan. I admit that I’m a bit impressed that I was able to pull it all off. There were a number of times when I thought it was all going to fall apart.

As amazing as last year was, it was also hard. Impossibly hard. And impossibly hard to describe because it was impossibly hard to do. Hard in ways I couldn’t have even imagined before the fact. Hard physically – on average I got on a plane every four days. I only slept in my own bed for three or four months of the entire year. I have a chronic illness that requires  It was emotionally draining – when I was in Japan the only person I could really walk to was Will (who is great, but can’t and shouldn’t be my everything). When I wanted and needed to see friends and family I had to do so in giant tours that I was so exhausted by only a few stops in that I couldn’t really enjoy my time with them fully. I never felt like I really had a home. I couldn’t quite get comfortable in Japan – I was away too much and even if I had, I would have had to just given it up shortly anyways. And that would have been for the second time in two years.

2014 was amazing and utterly exhausting.

Talking about it while it was all happening, without some perspective would have been terrible and I’m glad I didn’t though I did take endless notes so I could later. And it’s starting to be later. It’s still too soon to talk about some things though there are things about last year that I could go on about for ages. For instance, the joys of the Japanese rail system. I’m not much of a train fan, but even I could see the beauty of that system’s precision.

Having an introduction to the blogging of my last year seems impossibly dramatic, even for me – but the truth is, I need to take this slowly. I need to process this with time – which is exactly what I couldn’t do last year.

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In Limbo

Will and I are home. Sort of.

We’re in Kansas City until Monday, then Chicago for New Year’s, and we finally move back into our permanent residence in New York City on January 5th, 2015. Even though we’re not quite done yet, it feels like I’ve been able to release half a breath I didn’t realize I was holding so tightly. Of course with Christmas Day festivities I felt out of breath all over again. I loved every minute of it. This holiday season is going to be and already has been a blast.

Though being back has been wonderful and we were ready for our adventures to be put to rest, I found myself dragging my feet about leaving. No doubt that some of it was due to the actual packing process. It shouldn’t surprise anyone to find that I procrastinated as much as humanly possible and was still in fact, putting things into suitcase when the packers came to deal with everything that we weren’t taking with us on the road. It took the company only four hours to pack up everything we had brought with us and accumulated over the year. I was grateful that it was someone else packing our stuff instead of me, but having eleven people in my apartment, touching my things, when I didn’t speak enough of their language to communicate was a deeply uncomfortable situation. Living in a country where I wasn’t able to talk and be understood was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Our apartment had become my safe zone. I didn’t have to pidgin my way through conversation or emphatically gesture to be understood there. Even though it was my last day there, having that taken away, and in fact, having that be part of how we left was difficult. But, it had to be done. After they finished putting our things in boxes we went to our last dinner at my favorite yakiniku place (well, the only place I knew of…) a short train ride away. We made one last S’MORE in our awkwardly empty kitchen, shut off the breakers, and then I was in a car to a bus to a plane to Kansas City. Kansai, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Kansas City. Seventeen thousand, eight hundred and eighty-seven miles down, one thousand four hundred and forty-six miles to go.

I’m finding myself relaxed in a way that I had forgotten that I could be. My trips home to see friends and family were always refreshing but they were always also exhausting. While shy about meeting new people, I find myself sliding into depression without a certain amount of socialization that couldn’t be had in Japan. Most people combat this by hanging out with friends, usually so do I, but last year hanging out had a slightly longer commute. With a bit of jet lag. And the gas prices were just a little steeper. Now that I’m back, I’ve already started planning dinner parties and outings with friends and it’s fun in ways that it never was before. I’ve always loved getting friends together but never been crazy about the logistics. Now the logistics feel like a piece of cake.

The downside to being ‘almost’ back is dealing with the fallout from the false feeling of home. I’m staying with my best friend so it’s just enough home for me to relax, but just enough off for me to feel like I have to re-find my place in life. I don’t, or maybe I do, but I’m not actually home yet so I don’t know.

My life in New York City will be more than a little different this time around. I’m moving back with the knowledge that we’ll be there for the foreseeable future. I’m going back to school and I’ll have time to pick up hobbies and meet more friends. It’s easy to meet new friends while seeing the world, but it’s not so easy to maintain that friendship by actually hang out with them when your life is going 100mph. For the first time since college, I’ll be living somewhere without knowing when I’ll be leaving. We have an 18 month lease, but unless we find our neighborhood unbearable, we’ll probably extend it. New York is going to be home for a good long while.

I can’t wait to be home.

Countdown

Today started my last week in Japan. A week from yesterday I will board a US bound plane for the last time this year. I don’t know when I’ll come back here, though I know that I will. I know that I’ll miss this place. There is a more than small part of me that doesn’t want to leave. It’s the part of me that has come to know this place as home.

I’ve refrained from writing about my time here for a number of reasons but the biggest being that I  knew I couldn’t do justice to my experiences without the perspective only gained from time. Big adventures look awesome in hindsight. In the thick of things there is lots of angst, frustrations and pain. It would have been far too easy for me to fill posts with all of the hard stuff and forget to share the good stuff.

one of the hardest things has been my health. It’s no secret that I have a mystery chronic illness (to be clear, it’s a mystery to my doctor and me, too), but I haven’t done much to explain what that actually *means.* It’s a huge part of my life – something that I deal with almost every day. Life here has certainly complicated and exacerbated things, and it’s something that I probably should have been sharing about.  Figuring out what exactly to share is the tricky part. I want to loop people in, but not gross them out.  I’m working on finding that line. As much as I’d like to pretend that my health problems are minor annoyances that are an infrequent issue, they aren’t. I feel that I owe it to myself and my loved ones to be clear about what I’m dealing with. My medical stuff takes up a lot of spoons, and keeping it close to the chest takes up a few more. Time to change that.

While I’d love for this last week to be no work and all play, our apartment isn’t going to pack itself. Our movers will take care of most things but I still have to sort where our daily personal items are going, (with us for the holidays, dropped off by Will in NYC, plane shipment or sea shipment) do a crap ton of laundry and make a list of absolutely everything we own for insurance purposes. Prepare yourself for lots of before and after pictures and plenty of moving-related complaints. Moving sucks no matter what.

I wish I could find the pause button for life.

The Long Road Home

Today I will fly seven thousand miles to my home, but it won’t be my home for very much longer.

I spent a little time yesterday firming up my travel calendar for November.  I probably should have done this sooner, as November starts in two and a half weeks, but there are always so many places to go and people to see that I like to make the list as late as possible so I can try to fit everything in. Yes. I know this makes me a certain kind of crazy. But in looking at my travel schedule for the month, and really the rest of the year, I realized that I only have five weeks left in Japan. This is wonderful and sad-making and exciting and terrifying.

I cannot wait to be back living in the States. In fact, dear reader, you may have noticed that I spent a significant amount of time as a Japanese resident coming back to the US to see friends and traveling in Europe. Some of you may think that’s a waste of the wonderful opportunity that I’ve had to live here and that’s cool. Move to a different country on three months notice where you don’t speak the language and live in a community where you are ostracized and then let me know what you think. Until then, please don’t be offended if I don’t take your opinion too seriously. Also, living in a country where you are 99% illiterate does not for a good time make.

All of that said, I will miss parts of living in Japan and I will always appreciate the fact that we were given this opportunity. There are perspectives that can only be gained by living like we have this year. I would not trade those for anything. I will miss the strange beauty of this country that you can only find here. It is clean here, and they value natural beauty which reminds me a lot of living in the Midwest – it is very green. And while I wasn’t crazy about the quarantine rules that ended with my cat living with my in-laws for the year, being able to pet the deer in Nara and go to an owl cafe pretty much made up for that. I will also dearly miss the bathing culture. Our bathing room with a not even standard soaking tub is a million times better than a standard bathtub in the States. I will miss the shit out of the trains here. I’ve always loved traveling by train and Japan has spoiled me with its efficiency in this area. Amtrak, get your shit together.

I’m looking forward to finding our next home. In both of the places that Will and I have lived together the living situation wasn’t a decision that we made together, it was a matter of circumstance. In the first, I moved in with him to an apartment that I learned to love but never would have picked for myself or us. The Financial District of New York has some amazing apartments, but not much of a community around it. In Japan neither of us had any say in our living arrangements. Panasonic has for years, rented the same place in Mikage. It’s a beautiful residence very close to a train line that can easily deliver their liaison to work, and also potential children to some of the international schools somewhat close-by. It was perfect for the family they originally rented it for. Not so much for us. I cannot wait to find a place for us to live that will work for us, instead of finding ways for us to work with the space that we have.

However, for the second year in a row, I find myself not knowing where I’ll be living in three months. I don’t mean which neighborhood I’ll be in, I mean which time zone. I asked Will to look around at other cities he’d like to look in and we’re now waiting to hear back from a great firm that interviewed him in San Francisco. Will really wants this job. I really want him to get this job. Waiting to hear back on a job is hard. Waiting to hear back on a job that is keeping your from planning your immediate future is really hard. If Will doesn’t get that job, we go back to New York. To be clear, here, New York is a perfectly acceptable option. I have a great collection of friends on the East Coast that I will be happy to see on a semiregular basis. If we do end up in San Francisco, well…at least the flight back to see them won’t be as rough as it is now.

For now, a day of trains, planes and automobiles.

Two Weeks Notice

Today marks living in Japan for two weeks. If I had it my way, Will and I would probably never leave. 

I don’t like change. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve has so much of it in the last year. Either way, I dragged my feet quite deeply about moving here. I was scared. I was scared of moving to another new place. I was scared of not being able to speak the language. I was scared of missing my family even more than I normally did. I was so silly. 

I love our neighborhood. It’s perfect. And I do mean perfect. If you had ever asked me to describe my dream place to live, Mikage is what I would have told you about. It’s quiet, but still urban enough for my tastes. There are flowers and trees everywhere, with a train a block away that takes me swiftly to the heart of Osaka. Our apartment is a dream. Hard wood floors, floor to ceiling windows, and a soaking tub that I can actually cover myself with water in. Even if I hated Japan, I could hide in this little slice of heaven forever. 

The language barrier isn’t as high as it was when I got here, and it’s getting shorter every day. I admit, I’ve lost a little bit of momentum in my learning, but that’s due to how much of the day I spend exploring the area. It’s a trade off I can happily live with. I’m starting to track words that I see out and about. Even if I have no idea what anything means, I can still sound words out and that gives me a certain amount of pride. Most things can be communicated through hand gestures and pointing, and enough people around here know key phrases in English than we can have a short conversation. 

With the exception of the first day here when I was fighting hard against jet lag and total culture shock, I haven’t ever felt alone. I miss my family, sure, but not any more than I usually would. And the constant stream of traveling I have planned (off to England on Thursday) will help keep any feelings of isolation at bay. It’s hard to mope about missing family when you’re planning a trip to the Great Wall of China with your brother and then a week in London with your mother in the same month. 

The only thing I wish was different here was that I had more time to write. I’ve been keeping a paper journal with me so that I can write down what I’m doing with each day, but I always run out of time at the end to transfer all of those thoughts online. I want to share all of my experiences with all of my friends right as they happen! Instagram is helping with that, but I really need to find a way to get everything online. Will has gotten the hang of it over on G+, we’ll see if he has any tips for me. 

Tonight more adventure are in store. I’m about to catch a train so I can meet Will in Kobe. We’re going to a ramen shop that he’s been trying to drag me to since I landed. There will also be some furniture scouting (our place is still a little bit bare) and most likely another pilgrimage to Lush for more bath bombs. The daily soaks here are really eating into my stash. What a hard life. There will be pictures of our evening, promise. 

Not Quite Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood

Life in Japan is beautiful, though not without difficulty. 

I have never lived in a place as breathtaking as Japan. Had I known what it would be like to live here, I don’t think I would have come. I’m very glad I didn’t know. Too often fear of the unknown keeps me from doing amazing things. 

I cannot read, speak or understand most of the language here which is a much bigger deal than I could have understood it be. Will wrote about how isolating it was when he got here, but he has several years of Japanese, even if he was a bit rusty. I had no idea, but I’m not sure you can really grasp a feeling like this until you experience it. Not being able to read? Man, I just don’t even know what to do with that. It’s the most basic skill that so much of my life is built upon and it’s so easy to take it for granted. Even going grocery shopping yesterday was a trial. I only picked up some basic things, the house was unsurprisingly void of food when I arrived, but grabbing vegetables and hangers took me about three times as long as it would have at any other store because I couldn’t read the basic signage, and I certainly couldn’t read the map. 

I also wasn’t counting on being stared at so often by so many people. I did some exploring of the neighborhood and found some parks and inquisitive children. They weren’t so bad, mostly they just tried their basic English on me, but the teenage boys who stared and then pointed and laughed were harder to deal with. I didn’t realize how much the stares and laughs would bother me, but looking back, I’ve never really had to deal with much of that. Even being a sci-fi fan, I got to skip most of that phase as most fannish things were in the mainstream pop culture by the time I came around. 

Today I shall unpack the rest of our luggage that arrived via courier last night. I was 300% done with the world by the time we landed on Monday so we decided to not try and drag the several large bags with us on the trains. It meant lacking clean jeans yesterday, but I survived. It’s been decided that much like the NYC apartment, we’ll just each have our own closets. Will get’s the one in the master bedroom and I get the second bedroom which is good with me because it has much more shelf space. Once the weather clears up, and after I’ve killed some more zombies I’m going hunting for furniture. Will and I found a great antique place when we were out on Wednesday and he told me this morning about another one. 

I still appear to be a morning person and that’s just fine with me. I get up an hour before Will which means I get most of my inbox cleared out before I wake him up and we get more time together that way. On the downside, I’ve been crashing out really early, though that may be the con crud I’m still fighting. We’ll see if this lasts. I hope it does. 

 

Japan – First Blush

For the first time in my life, I am a morning person. 

To be clear, I don’t think this will last, but waking up and being cheerful an hour before Will is a very odd experience. It was nice to watch the day break in our neighborhood and start cataloguing all of the differences between here and the other places I have lived. I watched the fog burn off of the mountains (which are much closer than I thought) behind our building. The range arches around behind us and around the train station (only a block away) so that we can see both ends of it from our two balconies. 

This may be a function of the neighborhood we live in, but I was very surprised by how much space we have and how far apart the buildings are here. Our apartment has three extra rooms we’re not entirely sure what to do with yet other than stuffing friends and family inside when they visit. I also spent an hour rearranging things in the main room (living room/ dinning room/ office) because Will has many skills, but furniture layout is not one of them. Also, the trees, grass, and bushes are all very expertly manicured around here which is very different from the forests surrounding the airport in Tokyo. From the air, Japan doesn’t look drastically different from any other place that I’ve flown to (except that NOWHERE is as green as the UK), but as we got closer to the ground I noticed just how full the forests looked. The trees seem to grow right on top of each other. I plan on doing some hiking of the mountains behind us, so I’ll find out just how real of a thing that is. 

The buildings in the neighborhood look like they’ve been thrown together with very little thought to the general aesthetic, which I really, really like. There are no standard buildings, each one is a different design (there are few – countable on my hand- repeats) and different color. It gives the area a personality that I’ve never seen anywhere else. The streets are wide, and oddly empty. I’ve got a wide balcony next to my desk that allows me to look easily at the street. I only see a few people every couple of minutes, and there didn’t appear to be any sort of morning rush. 

That’s all I’ve really had time to discover, but a representative from Panasonic is coming to meet us in a few hours and I’m sure I’ll learn and see more then. I can’t promise pictures (If I do, I’ll be sure to not do them) but I can promise to try and remember. 

Going The Distance

I feel like I’ve been going about 100mph for the last month and a half. This certainly isn’t a complaint, as I’ve been having an absolutely wonderful time going places and seeing people, but I’m very glad to be in the middle of a recovering week in Chicago. 

I love traveling and I always have. I think there is a little bit of personal magic in traveling. Yes, I know how corny that sounds. You get to learn more about yourself when you travel. How much of you is you and how much is your situation or your location? And of course, this things that are dear to you become immediately apparent. For instance, it isn’t my computer that I need, but more the ability to easily communicate with my friends around the world, and the ability to create. Of course, those things pretty much require a computer, but details and all…

I’ll admit that while traveling is awesome, being away from Will isn’t all that great. We haven’t spent this much time apart since before we were dating and it sucks. The major difference in the time zones wasn’t something we could really have prepared for. Our daily schedules have very little overlap, and we’re only awake at the same time for about nine hours. It’s more like having a long distance co-worker than anything else. 

I’m also missing New York, which I wasn’t expecting at all. Going back to the city brought great relief even though not having an apartment of my own was weird. Not having a home base is weird, in general. I had gotten used to the pace of the city even if I wasn’t going as fast as everyone around me. Now every place I go – except conventions – seems a little slow. Everything and everyone is so much closer, there. I used to hate being packed so closely, but now I feel lonely when I’m in the big empty house that I’m staying in. And how could you not love the convenience? Having three Duane Reades on our street was pretty nice. Especially since one looked sorta like a gutted, gold cathedral. 

I’m not nearly as prepared as I should be for living in Japan. I’ve been studying one of the read and point books that the wife of another liaison lent me, but until recently that had been it. Then the other night the friends I’m staying with brought me to get sushi. 

Previously I hadn’t been a fan of sushi. Until Wednesday, I had only ever had spectacularly bad rolls. I got quite the education on different types of sushi and how the different fish taste that I think will be enormously helpful for day to day life. I enjoyed most of what was ordered, but did actually have issues with the huge proportions which seemed to be specific to the place we were at.  The texture of raw fish doesn’t actually bother me, but too much of anything is a bad thing. 

In five days, I’ll be off to London for the week. Meetings with friends about Loncon and doing a bit of obligatory sight-seeing. If you’d like to live somewhat vicariously, email me about things that you’d like me to go check out. I’ve started a list of things to do, but more ideas will I think, make things better. 

Pretending To Be An Adult

Thank You, BuzzFeed
Thank You, BuzzFeed

Packing, no, sorting goes well. My closet has been divided into three piles. Required during travel, shipping to Will, or Goodwill. This was a lot easier than I thought it would be. Champagne and girl friends were not required.

Which is good, because I don’t have both of those things here, anyways. Guess who cleaned out the neverending stock of unused alcohol that we had this morning? I am more than slightly pleased with myself about this and allowed myself a short celebration at Chipotle. Of course, I can’t actually eat the burritos anymore, but their guac is fair game, and what a wonderful game it is.

I have once again run out of water. Notable, because a month ago, I would have been thinking about the fact that I had run out of Coke. I have almost completely eliminated Coke from my daily diet. Not just Coke, but any soda. I still have one occasionally when Will and I go to a restaurant, but they are now a special occasion treat for me. So many of the things that I’ve been used to eating over the years have been cut from my diet due to all of the unknown crappiness that I’ve decided to make this one of the things that I can enjoy every once in a while. It’s been amazingly helpful in terms of weight loss. I haven’t been directly attempting to lose weight, but I can now fit into my skinny jeans (not that they are coming with my on my grand adventures) and that means a lot more to me than fluctuating numbers. I can move my body in ways that I haven’t been able to for longer than I’d like and that’s an incredibly freeing feeling.

I am endless thrilled with having Julie here for the week. She is unapologetically herself and that’s so wonderful to be around. It’s a hard balance to find. Am I being true to myself vs am I being politically correct enough for my environment. I don’t mean she’s a dick, because that’s never cool (and I imagine it’s not a happy self to have) , but she says what she thinks, wears what she wants and doesn’t hold back to make others feel better. Nor does she get hung up on things when others express their disapproval. She listens, decides if she’s going to do anything about it, and then moves on. I don’t know if it’s a me or everyone thing, but I find that balance hard to find and maintain. It’s nice to have someone around where I can let my hair down around that isn’t Will. Not that I don’t love and appreciate that side of our relationship, but it’s nicer to have multiple people around that I can do that with. There are a couple more on the list, but none of them are visiting me at the moment, though I’ll be seeing them in my travels soon.

Back to the neverending task of moving. My original plan was to see as many museums this week, but I’ve migrated to getting as much done on the apartment during the day and spending as little time online as possible. Quite a shift. Quite necessary.

Leaving on Jet Plane

Will left for Japan this morning. At 8:30am (EST) his car showed up, his driver helped him drop his giant suitcases in the back, and off he went.

I admit, I was a little worried about how sad I would or would not be after he left. Will and I have played the long distance game before and it sucked. And of course, no newlywed wants to split up only a few months in. Thankfully, I’ve got an intense travel schedule that will keep me on my toes and allow me to see almost everyone that I want to see before I start my adventure in Japan. I’m also really grateful that I’ll have the two flights home to use. Convergence and Detcon will allow me to see pretty me to see two-thirds of the people that I’ll be missing the most, and then Worldcon will allow me to see the rest. Smofcon at the end of the year will give me the highest concentration of friends that I’ll be missing, so all in all not a bad year planned out.

I’m digging deeper and deeper into research about the area we’ll be living in and creating a long list of things to see and document in one way or the other. I’m exciting about planning a climb up Mt. Fugi. I didn’t think that climbing a mountain would be in my plans during college, but I’m happy to add it and actually get the chance to cross it off of my To Do list. To be fair, living in a foreign country wasn’t on that list, either. I’m tremendously excited about this entire opportunity.

It’s a grey day in NYC today. It’s hard to believe that I only have seven days left in this magnificent city. I’ve got a short trip to North Carolina this weekend and then I’ll be packed and ready to go. If Will’s firm wasn’t paying for movers and packers, I don’t know what I’d do. Well, whatever it would be, there would be a lot less of it. I’m going to hit as many museums this week as humanly possible. Scratch that, enjoyably possible. I always hated running ragged during trips as a kid. Wen I visit somewhere, I want to enjoy the place. Not make myself miserable trying to pack every little bit in.

One of my fellow interns from the summer is crashing with me this week, and I have no doubt that she’s helping me keep the blues away. Julie is always full of life, and I’ll be staying with her for a while in Chicago in February.

And now, back to bed for some reading. This is probably my last lazy Sunday in months, and I’m going to enjoy it.