January 16th, 2013, was our one year mark here in Japan.
(One, maybe Two more to go)
(One, maybe Two more to go)
Crazy how time flies! It's hard to believe until I realize that Avri is almost 8 months old.
After the initial month or so, living in Tokyo has been a lot easier than I originally thought. I think our 4-5 years in Union City helped prepare us. Lots of Asians everywhere, and most of our neighbors didn't speak English (Vietnamese). The main difference now is that I am the one who can't read or speak the language. Also, I've really been spoiled having Kurt work from home. He came with me to all of my doctor appointments except for one, he takes the kids to school most of the time, attends meetings, reads all of the paperwork that comes home, etc. There is no way my kids could attend a Japanese school without his help. Kurt also does a lot of the grocery shopping for me, which is helpful because I can't read most of the bottles! Remember when I came home with drinking yogurt instead of milk?
It's also been a year since we've owned a car. I miss having a car a couple times a month. Sometimes I get an urge to drive to the beach or out to the country, places that aren't convenient by train. I miss just being able to escape. As far as city living - it's way easier not having to worry about driving on the left side of the road, pay parking, etc. There are very few free parking lots in Tokyo - church, Costco, and other random big box stores. That is about it. The trains are super convenient and ALWAYS on time. I've been delayed on a train once. The only annoying thing is when I am out taking the kids to modeling appointments and I have to meet someone at a specific exit. I never know if that exit has an elevator or escalator, so I can't take my stroller along. Well, I could, but carrying it up and down stairs isn't fun.
Other random things I've noticed/learned:
Note: Most things we find strange at first have a logical reasoning behind them.
- For living on a crowded island, the Japanese create a lot of garbage. Everything is at least double wrapped in plastic. After the plastic is discarded in the garbage it's burned. For example, Ritz crackers are wrapped in multiple smaller packages inside the box. A lot of cookies are individually wrapped inside a bigger bag, etc. I think it is to help keep things fresh in the humid climate, also it's a cleanliness thing. People don't really touch other people's food.
- Warm towelets/wipes at every restaurant, even fast food ones. Do you know how many germs must be on the crowded trains?!?
- Very little liter for a huge city. Every one packs their trash with them and is responsible for the road area in front of their homes.
- Most stores are locally (or family) owned and can open/close whenever they want. Take 2-3 weeks off for New Years so you can visit family in the country....why not?!? I love and hate this actually. I can appreciate them wanting a break, it just would nice if they could find someone to cover for them. :)
- Single Pane Windows and No Central Heating. The windows are ridiculous and makes heating and cooling the house super inefficient. After complaining on Facebook, a friend thought maybe it's because they are cheaper to replace in an earthquake? Maybe so, but it's still ridiculous. The lack of central heating has it's pluses and minuses. I think it's cheaper because each room has it's own heater and a/c, but the hallways are always extreme temperatures and sometimes it can take a long time to heat up or cool down a room.
- Shopping every day and Lack of half-gallon size ice cream. I just can't get on board with shopping every day like the cute little grandmas do, especially with 3 kids. We moved here from Boulder Creek remember? With the exception of milk and maybe fruit, I shopped every couple weeks. They do it because they have limited space in their apartments and like things "fresh". We on the other hand have a HUGE (for Japan) fridge and have a large pantry area equipped for Costco-size purchases. I've had more than one Japanese friend comment on it. :) And about the ice cream. I'm scared to add up how much we have spent on individually wrapped ice creams from 7-11 or Baskin Robbins. The only half-gallon sized ice cream they sell at the store is Vanilla and that is IF they have it at all. During the winter, forget about it!
- The Japanese are patient. They can wait in lines for hours. Waiting for a train, a ride at Disneyland, shrines, etc. Always in an organized fashion too.
- Two-kid Families. Other than LDS families (they all have three ;) ), I've met very few families with more than two kids. Living here it totally makes sense why...train rides are hard with lots of kids, hanging laundry, washing dishes by hand, dealing with yochien mom responsibilities, husbands who work crazy long hours. It's also expensive to send your kid to music lessons, soccer/baseball practices, English tutors, etc. Also, it's pretty dang impossible to book a vacation.
Overall, we are having a great experience here in Japan. We have all made great friends and settled in nicely. Kurt has gained awesome resume-building experience (he says it's the equivalent of a MBA) and has improved his Japanese by leaps and bounds. If he is on the phone with a customer, they assume he's Japanese until they meet him in person. He has picked up several new clients and has definitely proved his worth to the company. Now he just needs to remind them that it is REALLY expensive to have us here, so they should hire a new local team and send us back to the US. :)
The kids are having lots of different experiences that they never would have had in the US. Kelsie's Japanese is improving a ton and Logan is slowly catching on. I wonder if Avri will have an easier time learning a language later in life because of her exposure now... All three have a great start on their college funds thanks to the modeling they've been able to do. I just hope that they'll be able to remember some of the experiences that they've had here as they get older.
I often feel like a failure because I can't do all of the things I want to do because of 1. The language barrier, and 2. Time- I don't have all of the conveniences I'm used to - so things take longer, leaving little time for anything else. Kurt often says how proud he is of me and how much I have grown, but I guess I just don't see it.
I have a hard time remembering what I did or didn't blog about in the past....so if anyone has any questions about our life here, leave a comment! I'll try to answer them!