Japan On My Mind

A few weeks ago I read a detective story set in contemporary Japan. I was familiar with some the setting, but even when I didn’t know the neighborhood I could picture what was going on: the path alongside a river, the bento shop, the apartments. The story was a good one, and kept me guessing until the end, but by the time I finished the book I would have just about given anything to be in Japan again.

It’s been over a year since we left Japan. The grandkids are growing up so quickly: our granddaughter, who was still pretty much a toddler when we left last year seems to have grown about a foot or more, has ditched the training wheels on her bike, speaks English easily, and judging from the videos sent to us is just about completely fearless these days. Our grandson is taller and more mature as well: he bikes to his school every day, is involved in school clubs and activities, and has also gotten bigger and taller.

I miss living in Japan. I’ve accepted it’s not something we can do permanently, but I loved our long stretches of time there and being able to see our family and helping out, our daily lives there, and getting out and about, where a walk in our neighborhood is an adventure, let alone any trip into greater Tokyo. I want to buy KitKats again. At least once a week I check the rentals on Airbnb to see if I can find something affordable near to where our son’s new house is located (there isn’t much), and dream of the time we can return and stay for a while.

Japan’s autumn foliage is spectacular. (photo credit: toxinu/Unsplash)

We are planning to return to Japan next year, in the autumn, hopefully for a month’s stay. The Olympics will be over (if they aren’t cancelled again, which is looking likely), and we’ll get to enjoy the beautiful fall weather for a change, along with the leaf changing, momiji 紅葉, which is almost as spectacular in Japan as cherry blossom season, and the wonderful fall dishes and foods that become available during the season. We’ll get to celebrate our son’s and granddaughter’s birthdays with them.

But I wish we could go now. We’ve been away too long.

18 thoughts on “Japan On My Mind

  1. You know, it sounds like you could live there full time. Isn’t there some way you can make that happen? Maybe buy a place and rent part of it out–duplex or house with apartment? Would the three girls like that if you lived there? Would it be easier for them to come visit there? Maybe you could even get a job or part time job for a while to make it happen(horrors!!) You are so resourceful–my money is on you!!

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    1. We could very happily live in Japan full time, but there really is no way for us to do it. We have turned this quest upside down, inside out and backwards and there really is no way for us to obtain a visa. There is no chance of a job for us (the culture is an very agist, sadly), no way to buy property, can’t use family ties, etc. So, we are content to visit a couple of times a year. However, if we went right now we’d have to self-quarantine for two weeks, so we know that it’s still going to be a while before we get back.

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  2. I watched a…it wasn’t horrible…..movie set in Japan (a bit depressing, but beautifully shot) and it brought up those feelings of desire to live there again…if only for a while. Long enough to find my neighbourhood haunts and long enough to try all the kitkats and drink Autumn aji beer. I will stop before full ramble.

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    1. This is how we feel. We would live there even for a while if we could. Our three-month stay in 2019 was a close as we could get and it was wonderful, but over too fast. We did find our “neighborhood haunts” though and knew just where to go the next time we visited . . . . I miss the KitKat hunt too!

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  3. Oh yes, I’m so ready for the pandemic to be in the rear view mirror and to be able to return to normal life. We are currently planning a trip from Oz to USA, specifically Hawaii in August. It’s so tedious and expensive having to get the CV test before we leave Oz, then getting another once we reach the US to fly onto Hawaii. It makes it all so complicated and more expensive but figure we have to push through or we sit at home afraid of our shadows for who knows how long whllst life ticks by.

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    1. I feel like most of the world is still in a holding pattern when it comes to the virus. Travel is still mostly unknowns, especially if you want to leave your own country. So we will wait . . . and save.

      One thing I’m figuring out though is that travel is going to be a whole lot more expensive in the future. So in a sense, I’m grateful that I’m forced to stay put a while longer so we can save more.

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  4. We too can hardly wait to get back to Japan and see the granddaughter in person. She is 5 and a half and has taken to calling us several times a week at bedtime (there) to read us stories and for gramma to read her a few of her dads old favorites. Nice nighttime ritual. We hope to get back over New Years so we can help by kiddo sitting over the holiday break. Hoping by then we will not have to quarantine. We usually stay for a month and we go back again in March/April for the other school break. She will start elementary school next year. Son is still trying to purchase a home.
    We also thought about moving there but the language barrier and health care issues made that not feasible.

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    1. Japan for us will be the fall of next year – things are not going well there, at least not in the Tokyo area. We could go now, but don’t want to have to spend the first two weeks of a stay in an apartment, unable to go anywhere or do anything, even visit our son and our grandkids. We can wait, but it’s hard.

      Our son purchased a home at the end of last year. For most Japanese the home would have been a tear-down (land more valuable than the house), but they liked the house and are instead doing a complete first floor remodel (open plan style). They’ll move in later this summer.

      We would be good for healthcare in Japan (retired military) but the language would always be an issue for us.

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  5. I hear your pain! Grandkids grow up so fast, I’m still processing the fact that yesterday evening we went to our oldest grandson high school graduation. When 18 years passed by? It seems like yesterday I was holding him in my arms in the hospital when he was born.

    Time and distance are hard to go against. And obviously this pandemic isn’t helping at all. Good thing we have the modern technology allowing for face time. At least we all get to see our families and they get to see us. It’s only one year left for you, one and a half year have passed already, so technically you’re almost there😀

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    1. I just can’t get over how fast the grands are growing up, but Brett says he remembers how quickly our son grew and changed when he was in the navy, and would leave for a cruise. He said the changes in even a couple of weeks in our son were remarkable, and he felt like he had missed so much.

      I am so, so grateful for the technology these days that allows us to see and talk with our family, both our son in Japan and our daughters back on the mainland. I think we would have left Hawaii a long time ago if we didn’t have it.

      Time is moving quickly. I just changed my activity card for the week and noticed that I only have another week to go before I have to make a new set – the previous weeks went a lot faster than I remember!

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  6. I hope this isn’t offensive but with your son’s new house and I thought you said it was fairly large per Japan’s standards have you all thought of staying with your son. I’ve thought multigenerational households were quite common there. Besides you’re both out and about so much that you wouldn’t be underfoot much ha! Although maybe months would be long.

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    1. Not offensive at all! Actually, multigenerational homes aren’t as common in Japan as in other cultures, especially in the city because of the size of housing (more common outside of the big cities). We would happily stay with our son for a short visit, but for our longer visits we prefer having our own space where we can retreat. Also, it gives the grandkids a chance to do sleepovers with us, and us a chance to spoil them a little (go out to eat, buy them treats, etc.) as well as give our son and daughter some time on their own.

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  7. Wow, what a dream to live in such a beautiful place! I have been wanting to visit lately and have been reading all of the blogs I can find trying to get a feel for the place.

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    1. We would love, love, love to live in Japan full time. We had the great privilege of living there during two tours while Brett was in the navy, including living out in town, and we know we could do it again. Living in Japan would not be without its problems, but what place is ever problem free? In spite of the problems, I know we would be happy there.

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  8. t is so hard for all those families, such as yours, cut by Covid when we have been so used to global travel. I think of my grandmother who came to Australia in 1961 and only to visit her family back in Germany once. Letter writing was prolific and phone calls rare and rushed.

    I hope all goes well for Japan in autumn next year.

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    1. Travel is never going to be the same again, and so many things we took for granted before can no longer be ignored. The travel industry everywhere was decimated, and it’s not coming back quickly.

      We would be completely cut off from our family if not for the technology now. My aunt and uncle lived in Honolulu in the early ’60s and were completely cut off except for letters. Flights from Hawaii to the mainland and back took hours longer than it does now and were super expensive as well. Our girls would have gone off to college and we wouldn’t have seen them until graduation!

      Fingers are crossed for Japan. They’re having issues again, but vaccinations have started so hopefully things will be under control by next year.

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  9. Wow, it’s great that you got to live in Japan! I’ve always wondered what that must be like 🙂 I’ve only visited a few cities there, and I’ve been so in love with Japan ever since. Can’t wait to go back too.

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    1. Our two tours there were life-changing for us, especially our son. The best we can do now though is rent an Airbnb for three months, but it still gives us a chance to immerse ourselves a little bit more, and see and do things we wouldn’t get to otherwise.

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