In Japan At Last

First task today was to figure out how to get to our subway station (that’s it over on the left).

We are so happy to finally be in Japan!

While we have had a wonderful time since we began traveling last August, our arrival in Japan has felt a bit like coming home. Not only are we thrilled about being nearby to our son and his family again, but we’re going to be here long enough that we can fully unpack our suitcases and live somewhat like “normal” (whatever that is) for a while. We still haven’t a clue what most anything around here says, and we’re just getting started figuring out our way around in a new area of Tokyo for us, but it’s so wonderful being in our favorite country in the world once again. We’d still move here in a heartbeat if we could.

As we walked around our neighborhood today I took pictures of stores located at key locations – I still navigate best in Japan using landmarks since I’m otherwise mostly unable to read anything here.

We left started for the airport yesterday at 6:00 in the morning. It was pitch dark when we left our Airbnb and since I couldn’t see the two small steps in the pathway out to the street I of course stumbled and fell. It was very painful and at first I couldn’t get up because I was so twisted around, but Brett helped me stand and assess the damage. I thankfully didn’t break or sprain anything but I did bang myself up pretty well and have the bruises and scrapes to prove it. How Brett got down those steps without falling when he was taking out the two heavy suitcases to the car was nothing short of a miracle.

We had hoped that by leaving early we would avoid Auckland traffic issues but it was not to be – there was an already heavy amount of cars out on the road. The signage to the airport was very confusing as well, but we eventually found our way, got our car turned in and ourselves to the airport. We got in line and checked our bags and got our boarding passes, and departed Auckland a little after 10:00 a.m. It was a long flight (nearly 11 hours) but our seats were OK and we were fed two meals with an ice cream break in the middle. The flight also had a fantastic movie selection which helped pass the time (we both finally got to watch Bohemian Rhapsody).

Our daughter-in-law had everything ready for tacos when we arrived last night, as well as a couple of appetizers, and fresh strawberries for dessert.

Arriving in Narita Airport is convenient to nothing but the town of Narita, and there’s generally around two hours of commute time to reach any destination in the Tokyo area. Our son was at the airport to meet us, and got us on an express train (NEX) into Tokyo followed by a taxi ride to his beautiful new house where our daughter had a light dinner waiting for us.

The kitchen has an incredible assortment of Japanese dishes – this drawer is full of teacups, bowls and small plates.

Our apartment here is very nice, but it’s going to take us a few days to figure some things out, like the washing machine. We have a nice, well-equipped kitchen with loads of dishes, a very comfortable bed and a good-size living/dining room. The bathroom isn’t the most modern (it sadly doesn’t have one of those fully-automated toilets) but it’s very clean and has a traditional Japanese bath for soaking which we’ll enjoy. The apartment and the building are very secure, and just a short walk away from shops and restaurants.

Our granddaughter in full fairy princess mode. She loved the dress and wands but was not too sure yet about the wings.

We’ve already been having a grand time with the grandkids. The first thing our grandson (C) said to me was, “Grandma, you look thinner than you used to.” I love that boy! It took just a few hours for our granddaughter to decide we were OK and could pick her up or hold her hand when walking.

Lunch today came from Mos Burger, a Japanese chain that serves regular burgers as well as ones that appeal to more traditional Japanese tastes. My “burger” had a toasted rice “bun” and was filled with a medley of Japanese-style vegetables and seaweed instead of lettuce. It was very tasty – I’d order it again.
Some of our Japanese favorites from the supermarket today include miniature KitKats (including two new flavors!), peanut crackers, asparagus cookies, sakura mochi, giant strawberries, Japanese fried chicken and potato salad, yakisoba, and roasted wheat tea.

We had lunch at our son’s this afternoon and then went out with him to find an ATM that would accept our American debit card as they are often rejected, even by bank-owned machines. Today the ATM in our subway station refused the card but another one located in the back of a nearby minimart (owned by the same bank) worked fine – go figure. After we had some cash, Brett and I then headed to the supermarket with our grandson to do our first round of grocery shopping. C read labels, asked employees where to find things or translated what people were saying to us – he did a very good job and was a huge help. I absolutely ❤️❤️ Japanese supermarkets, and we had to make an effort to keep from buying too much. We chose some yakisoba from the prepared food section for our dinner tonight, and are otherwise set for the next week or so. Tomorrow our son is taking us out to the navy base so we can get some American items from the commissary and exchange, including plenty of Diet Coke for him.

Finally, it is definitely winter here. After three weeks of hot summer weather in Australia and New Zealand, we arrived to temperatures around 40°F (or less – there had been snow earlier in the day). We had our coats with us coming off the plane, but today the scarves, hats and gloves came out as well! The apartment was also extremely cold inside when we first arrived, but with our daughter-in-law’s help we got the heater working and now we’re toasty and comfortable.

Here’s hoping the next few months will not go by quickly!

32 thoughts on “In Japan At Last

  1. This just makes me smile. They have to be delighted that you are staying for so long. What a joy! I hope your ankle feels better quickly!

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    1. We hope they’re delighted because we sure are! The goal is to help us get accustomed to living here and then slowly wean us off their help as much as possible so we can enjoy our time together rather than them worrying about us all the time or thinking they need to do things for us (they’re already busy enough).

      The bruises are pretty massive this time from the fall, and my toe still hurts, but every day things are getting better. But boy am I a klutz!

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  2. Your granddaughter is SO big! Where did the time go? And I’m so impressed by your grandson helping you so much – reminds me of my son at that age. Glad to see you made it and are getting settled in.

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    1. Both of them have grown so much since we saw them last April. K runs around babbling all the time, in Japanese of course, which is fine though because that’s the level of Japanese I can understand. I was so impressed with our grandson yesterday – he did such an impressive job at the grocery store. We rewarded him with Pokemon cards, which he’s really into these days. He is also obsessed with the games on my phone, LOL, so we’re going to have to work out a schedule for that as he can run down the battery in no time.

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  3. You have adorable grand kids. Love the fact that little guy is such a great guide for you. I hope you relax and recover from such a long trip with long stretches of air travel. I understand how Japan feels like home for you. US is like that for me too since I have lived there for over three years. Enjoy your stay in Japan and your family.

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    1. We are already feeling more relaxed, and with lots of groceries in the cabinets and refrigerator, and our suitcases unpacked, we are feeling more settled. Today will be our first time out on our own, to get ourselves over to our son’s house. Fingers are crossed that we make it without getting lost.

      We are already having such a good time with the grandkids – we are so grateful for being able to spend this much time with them.

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  4. Lovely update! I am so happy that you will be with your grands for the next three months, how absolutely wonderful for all of you. We have just a few more countries on our ‘must do’ list, but once those are checked off I absolutely love the idea of returning to some of our favorite locations and slowing down, such as you will now be doing for your next few locations.

    In that Japan would be one of those potential go-slow countries, I am curious as to what areas you think would be good for long term visits. I presume Tokyo and Kyoto, of course, but from there we aren’t sure, in that those are the only two we visited. Are there other cities/areas you’d recommend we add to a go-slow itinerary for Japan? 😊

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    1. I am very Tokyo-centric, so maybe not the best person to ask this question. I love visiting Kyoto, Osaka, and other cities, and all are great places to visit, but Tokyo is my favorite, and where I prefer to stay. There’s never a dull moment here, and there’s a surprise (in a good way) around every corner. It’s easy to get around and to other places from here. I guess if I had to pick another city to stay it would be Kyoto, but for me it’s too “precious” which is why I prefer to visit versus stay. Osaka is a great food town, Hiroshima is also fascinating, and I also like Sapporo up in the north, and I would love to see more of Hokkaido – it’s a completely different place in Japan.

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  5. I love these photos! I suspect I could spend hours in a japanese supermarket.
    My teen daughter is obsessed with everything Japan, I love showing her your photos.

    Also, Im curious about the toilet if i may ask? What does that mean?

    And lastly, I forget how your son ended up making a life for himself in Japan?

    🌻

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    1. OK, first about the toilet. Automated toilets are the thing in Japan now – most newer places have them. The seat is warmed, they are computer operated with a console on the wall, are dual flush and also come with features like bidets and such. They’re wonderful.

      Our son refused to study Japanese when we lived here – “Why should I? I’m never going to use it again” was his reasoning (so he studied French). However, when we returned to the States he decided he did want to learn and basically taught himself during high school – when he graduated he knew more than the Japanese teacher (an American)! He majored in Japanese studies in college, and became a fluent speaker then. He also met his wife then, at a party in Tokyo when he was doing overseas study After college he taught English here for a couple of years and then was hired by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and worked in the visa section. He came back to the U.S. for and got his law degree with a goal of returning to work in Japan. He was hired by a U.S. law firm with offices in Tokyo (his language skills were a big factor in his hire), and worked for them for six years and then moved over to a big U.S. banking firm here where he is now one of the executive directors. Because of work and being married to a Japanese national, he now is a permanent resident of Japan. He knows though he could be transferred back to the U.S. but that probably won’t happen.

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      1. I’m going to guess your son was very influenced by Japanese culture when you lived there, but didn’t realize it and how much he preferred it until you all returned to the US. It’s impressive he was able to teach himself Japanese when he was in high school and stick with it. It’s so cute that your grandson was your interpreter. He seems to have inherited your son’s flair for languages!

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      2. He was probably influenced by living here more than he realized at the time. One of his favorite things here were manga (Japanese comic books), and when we came back to the U.S. he decided to learn Japanese so he could read them. Everything followed from that, and he was determined to learn.

        I was so proud of our grandson the other day – he did such a good job for us. His school uses English every day, and he goes to Japanese class to learn to write it, but speaks Japanese with his mom at home. He flips back and forth between the two languages effortlessly, and today was making puns back and forth in both Japanese and English!

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      3. I’ve heard quite a few people say they learned another language by reading comic books and children’s books. Japanese is so different from English that it just seems impossible to me! About 10 years ago I was very involved in Japanese martial arts and took a class at a local CC because the karate school was planning a trip to Japan for a tournament and I wanted to learn enough to get by. The plans for the trip fell through, but I learned quite a bit. Unfortunately, I’ve forgotten it all since I never used it after that. It’s great that your grandson is fluent in both. I’m sure that will come in handy when he’s older.

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      4. As a language teacher I know there are many ways for people to learn, and a whole variety of reasons why some people are able to learn more quickly and better than others. I wrote my Master’s thesis on the difficulty of adults learning a second language, especially one as difficult as Japanese. Adults can be very smart, very successful, and very good at learning a variety of things, but often a second language stops them cold (especially a Class V language like Japanese). My son and grandson learned their second language when they were young, when it’s easier, and are in environments that make it easier to remain bilingual.

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  6. This post is heart warming. 🙂 So happy you made it to Japan and are with your adorable grands – and their parents, of course. That little princess costume is SO cute. And having your grandson translate is perfect. Looks like really tasty food options and settling in one spot sounds great after the New Zealand adventure. That last travel stretch sounded a bit challenging to put it mildly. I can imagine DH’s head exploding on the construction stretches. ha!

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    1. We are having a great time with them already. Our son drove us out to the base today so we could pick up some American supplies (especially lots of Diet Coke!) and the grands came with us and we had a blast. We’re planning to have our grandson with us next weekend for a sleepover. I’m in Grandma Heaven!

      We had the fried chicken and potato salad this evening – my favorite thing to eat in Japan. I’m thinking it will be on the menu every week while we’re here.

      Tomorrow will be our first read day off – we’re not going anywhere, and plan to sleep in, read and relax. Our DIL is going to stop by and show us how to operate our washing machine and we’ll get that caught up as well. We may go our and walk around the neighborhood and see what’s around here, but nothing more strenuous than that. Brett says he wants at least a week off before we get back on a train and go anywhere.

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  7. Wait a minute, I need to know more about this – (we both finally got to watch Bohemian Rhapsody). – did you like it? 🙂 I’ve seen it three times at the movies and to be honest I felt like that was the better location for it because the sound mixing was pretty amazing in surround but we have it on dvd now as well. 🙂

    Many happy Japan moments await you! 😉

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    1. The sound wasn’t great for Bohemian Rhapsody, but it wasn’t that bad either, surprisingly. We both absolutely loved the movie and want to see it again. I also watched Crazy Rich Asians again – I have watched it on every flight since last December and still find it enchanting and fun.

      We are so thrilled to be here!

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  8. I hope your bruises heal soon! It must be so lovely to be nearby your son and his family. You make Japan seem really exciting it is making me even more desperate to get there. I am looking forward to see what else you see while you are there.

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    1. I sure hope these bruises heal quickly too, and my toe too. It still hurts quite a bit, and unfortunately I need to walk on it.

      Japan continues to fascinate me, and I always learn something new almost every day I’m here, whether it’s something about its customs, culture, art, food, commerce, etc. Every time I go out it’s an adventure. I hope you get the chance to come!

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  9. Sorry about your fall. I’m glad you it was only bruises (still painful) and not something more serious.
    Your granddaughter is beautiful. Truly a little princess.
    I saw a news story about Japan where they talked about the number of vacant homes. It surprised me because I know how expensive property is there. They also talked about a declining population. Why do they still have rules limiting your stay to 3 months and would they make an exception for you because your son is a permanent resident?
    Have fun and take lots of pictures.

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    1. I swear I am the clumsiest person around, and I have the bruises to prove it. Actually, looking at where the bruises are from this last fall I am VERY lucky that I didn’t break something.

      Yes, there is a LOT of empty housing right now. There are several reasons for that, but for now I’ve heard that lots of the available housing here in Tokyo will get used when people swarm into town for the Olympics next year. And yes the population is declining, but it’s also aging too. The last thing they want is to add any more retirees to the mix, so there are no visas for retirees, and no exceptions or ways our son could sponsor us. The Japanese are also an extremely homogenous society, and speak a unique language, and it’s very difficult for foreigners to fit in here.i

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  10. Glad to hear you’ve successfully completed your world travel journey.
    I’m curious about your not choosing Japan as a more permanent retirement option.
    Is it residency visa requirements, cost of living or other factors?
    We’ve had some wild weather here on Kauai, big wind storm last Sunday with trees going down and a hailstorm outside Princeville!
    Enjoy Tokyo, great city, check out Kit Nagamura in the Japan Times for her Backstreet Stories
    Some interesting walking tour ideas

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    1. First, I hope you and your family made it through the crazy weather OK and didn’t suffer any damages. We couldn’t believe what we were reading about what was happening in Hawaii, and on Kauai.

      Thanks too for the tip about Kit Nagamura and possible walking tours. We’re going to hang out in our neighborhood this coming week and catch our breath, but after that we want to get out and explore more of the city than we’ve been able to do in the past. This will be a great way to start!

      We would move here permanently in a heartbeat if we could, even with our poor and nearly non-existent language skills. But, there are absolutely no long-term visas available that we qualify for, and the last thing they want is for more elderly people moving here and adding to their own aging society. We plan to come for three month stays every 15-18 months, as long as we are able to make the long plane rides.

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  11. I was going to ask the same thing about your son sponsoring you so you could stay longer. I remember when I was in Japan a few years ago the tour guide said it’s almost impossible to move to Japan if you are not Japanese or don’t have some business reason to be there, such as working for a Japanese company or work in a field that is needed there. Your plan to go every 15-18 months sounds good though.

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    1. Our daughter-in-law was surprised that they could not sponsor us! Our son has lived and worked here for many years, is near native-speaker fluent in Japanese, is married to a Japanese citizen, has children, etc. and it still took nearly 20 years for him to acquire permanent resident status! He will never be allowed to become a citizen though.

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      1. We just watched a Journeys in Japan NHK show about towns in Miyazaki prefecture Kyushu
        It looked like a great spot to winter. Housing and food looked affordable too.
        The rural areas of Japan are suffering from depopulation so there could be housing options via Airbnb or otherwise.
        Do you know the amount of time required between 90 day stays before you can return?
        I have friends who rented a condo in Oahu for three months and I’m going to suggest next year perhaps an overseas long vacation .
        We’ve been to Kyushu a few times and would like to try an extended stay especially if we could meet up with friends
        Have a great time in Tokyo

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      2. Joe – the rule is 90 days out of a 365-day period. So, our stay this time ends in May, and the 365 days starts from the day we leave. We’re planning to come back again for another three month stay in September 2020, so about 15 months between visits to make sure we’re in compliance.

        We have greatly enjoyed our longer stays as we’ve traveled around, getting to know our neighborhood and area more in depth, and then branching out from there. We hope to do an overnight up to Tochigi prefecture while we’re here this time, and also one down in the Hakone area if possible.

        I hope to read one day that you’re booked in for a long stay in Kyushu!

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  12. Well, rest up and enjoy your time with your family! Your grandaughter is adorable! And no more falling! Got it?!

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    1. We are having a lazy day today – finally! Brett and I are heading out in a few minutes to wander around our neighborhood a bit more to see what’s there. We know where the supermarket it, and there’s a bakery, garden shop and tea shop right by our house, but we want to find our nearest convenience store and see what else there is.

      All the falls are a combination of clumsiness + some other feature. Brett made it down those steps in the dark; I tripped and fell (and boy my shin is still very, very bruised!), etc. I am trying to be more careful.

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    1. They are slowly getting better, but it’s going to take a while. The damage to my shin bone was deeper than I initially realized (so grateful though that I didn’t break it). I untaped my toe today and while it is still swollen it feels better without the tape.

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