Transitions.

We are still in that transition period with our move to Tokyo. And I have to emphasize that I am really tired of this part of the whole experience. One month ago we left for Tokyo…  My husband’s new employer was anxious for him to get there and get started, even though we really didn’t have all the details of the actual move taken care of. He needed to get to Tokyo to participate in some important meetings and business trips that were scheduled for the month of January. So, even though we weren’t finished with all the preparations for the move, and our transition to living in a foreign country, we agreed to go anyway… With the stipulation that we would have to come back to our home in the US a month later, to finish up with the packing and moving out of our home here.

And here we are…  back in our hometown, in our house for a couple more days finalizing all the details. And it is hard. Really. Surprisingly. Hard. See… the thing I never really counted on here is the feelings of homesickness that I have experienced. I don’t want to belabor it, but that is essentially what it has been. I (we) have felt homesick for our life here, and we never really thought about feeling like that. It’s ok…  it is certainly manageable, and we will get through it. Come Saturday morning, it will be all done, and we will be on that plane headed back to Tokyo… And I (still) look forward to it.

It isn’t that I regret our decision to go to Tokyo for two years, it is just I never really thought about the hard parts. Never really thought about how much I would miss my house… my kitchen… my yard… my car… my neighborhood, etc.  All those silly things that are essentially just stuff. But they are — or have been — the “stuff” of my life, and now I am leaving it all behind… at least for awhile.

On the positive side, though… In that month that we were gone, our daughter, who was trying to find a job here and move back from out-of-state, got a job offer. And… as was hoped in the beginning of all this, she will be moving into our house for the next two years while we are gone… Our house-sitter! It certainly makes things less complicated, and it is nice to know that we will have family living here in the house instead of strangers.

Anyway…  I am sorry to be so whiny. The transition is almost done. It will be so nice to get back to some form of normal life, with a normal schedule, and hopefully a normal SLEEP schedule. I know that part of the problem for us has been this constant state of jet-lag that we have been in from all the traveling around the past month. I feel like I haven’t had a normal sleep in weeks. We both feel almost zombie-like.

This too shall pass…  I know it…  And I will have better things to blog about once we get back to Tokyo to our little apartment.

Money Matters…

2016-02-03

The above photo shows all the equivalent denominations of money between Japan and the US. Sorry…  didn’t have a 500 yen coin, or a 50 cent coin. Also, there apparently are 2000 yen bills, but they are not used as often, and I have never seen one.

One thing that has really surprised me about living in Japan, is that Japan is much more of a cash-based society than the United States. In the US, I rarely carry much cash — preferring instead to pay for most things with a credit card. Most fast food restaurants and even vending machines in the US will take credit cards, so why carry around a bunch of money? I rarely even pay by check in the United States.

In Japan, however, many places are cash only. Bigger purchases can still be paid for by credit card, but for smaller purchases you are expected to pay with cash. Personal checks are not used at all. Our relocation consultant told me that in general, when eating out, credit cards are only used for dinners. Breakfast, lunch, fast food, coffee, snacks, etc are all paid for with cash.

So…  I end up carrying a bunch of money in my wallet. Much more than I ever carried in the US. That is all well and good except for the denominations of the money. I end up with hand-fulls of coins! With the current exchange rate, 1 Japanese yen in roughly equivalent to 1 US penny. So, 100 yen roughly equals $1. Which makes conversions back and forth fairly easy and simple. But… in the US, we have coins for up to $1, and mostly use coins of up to 25 cents. We mostly pay with the paper bills in the US, and then get back a small amount of coins in change. In Japan, they have coins for up to 500 yen — the equivalent of the $5 bill in the US. The smallest paper money that they use is the 1000 yen note — equivalent to a $10 bill in the US. So, if I go to a store in Tokyo and buy something for less than 1000 yen, all my change comes back to me in coins. I have been trying to retrain myself to pay for things with the coins in my wallet instead of automatically reaching for the paper bills. (My husband really hates having all those coins jangling in his pockets.)

As with pennies in the US, we seem to especially accumulate those almost worthless 1 yen coins. I already have a jar of them. I am not sure where or how I can get rid of them, short of taking the time to count out “pennies” at the cash register — not really wanting to do that… lol. Some stores have jars at the register to put unwanted 1 yen coins into — like the “take a penny, leave a penny” jars at home in the US.

One other option that we have found for small purchases at vending machines and some convenience stores, is to pay with a transit card. Suica and Pasmo cards are used to ride the subways and buses around Tokyo. Value is added to these cards at the subway station kiosks — but, cash only…  lol.

 

On Time-Zone-Bouncing, and etc…

This blog is intended to talk about our experiences moving to Japan and living as expats there, but in the past 3+ weeks since we left our home in Atlanta and moved to Tokyo, we have — both my husband and myself — spent quite a bit of time on other international trips, bouncing from time zone to time zone. It has been something of a surreal experience at times…  With my body clock turned upside down most of the time, I find myself awake in the middle of the night mulling over all of this stuff. For instance:

  • Japan (across the International Date Line) is 14 hours ahead of our Atlanta time zone. Every time we communicate with family back in the US, we have to take that time difference into consideration. But this past week, my husband traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina, which is 12 hours behind Tokyo time, and 2 hours ahead of Atlanta time.
  • Yesterday, he flew 14 hours to Frankfurt, Germany for another meeting, and I flew 12 hours from Tokyo to meet him there. Frankfurt is 8 hours behind Tokyo time, and 6 hours ahead of Atlanta time. When he communicates with his company in Tokyo, and his company in Atlanta, he has to consider all three time zones.
  • Next week, we travel back to Atlanta to finalize arrangements for our home there, and storage for our car, so we will be back to being 14 hours behind Tokyo time…  for a week. Then it is back to Tokyo, and we start all over acclimating to Tokyo time.
  • Jet lag affects the body in so many different ways. Disruption of sleep patterns, appetite, digestion… everything. Our days and nights have been flip-flopped over and over with this ridiculous travel schedule. Granted… things will settle down once we get back to Tokyo. This initial month has been unusual. My husband won’t be traveling this much routinely… Thank goodness.
  • My flight from Tokyo yesterday tracked east to west over northern Siberia — almost to the arctic circle — and back down over Scandinavia to Germany. Next week we will again fly east to west to get to Atlanta, then finally east to west to get back to Tokyo. At the end of all that, I will have circumnavigated the globe. Lol… cool. Kind of weird to think about flying all the way around the world like that.

Other stuff:

  • Here in Frankfurt, I am missing the heated seat of the Japanese toilet in our Tokyo apartment. Lol… Crazy how fast I got used to that.
  • Our first meal in Frankfurt was at a Sushi restaurant. We ate Japanese food in Germany. Actually…  there seem to be a lot of Asian restaurants here. And, there seem to quite a few Asian people here. Frankfurt is a major business and finance center in Europe,and not so much a tourist destination. The hotel restaurant where we had breakfast this morning was about the most international experience I have ever had. So many different cultures and languages all in one place!
  • We took the subway into downtown Frankfurt this morning, and actually ate “frankfurters” and German potato salad for lunch (along with some fairly good German beer), and topped off with hot “apfelwein”…  the apple wine that Frankfurt is famous for. So…  we are still experiencing the local cuisine as well.
  • Our hotel here in Frankfurt is sandwiched between the airport and a regional train station — as well as the Frankfurt subway. We see airplanes landing outside our window…  and there is a multi-lane highway just below our window. It is surprisingly quiet in our hotel room considering all that activity outside.

Just some random thoughts…