Japan – 6 months in

This is the “he” part of the blog team. My wife has made the last several posts. I haven’t been contributing my share. Working to be more regular with my posts going forward.

We have now passed our sixth month of living in Japan. Looking back, we’ve done a lot…and the time has flown by.

I have been very pleased with my job here. The company I work for is truly multi-national. In a typical day in my office, I work with Koreans, Pakistanis, Indians, Russians, Chinese, Spanish, British, Japanese…and even another American. Throughout the worldwide organization, there are others, all communicating with various levels of proficiency in our company’s official language, English. At first, I found all the accents and unusual pronunciations very difficult. Six months in, it is getting easier…although I still occasionally have to ask someone to repeat what they said so that I can decipher it.

Since moving here, I’ve had an opportunity to travel more than I have ever done before. My job has taken me to Argentina, Germany, Korea, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States. I find that I love to be in other places, but getting there – the travel part – can be a real pain.

Life in Tokyo has been great. The people here are so friendly, even though I can’t communicate well with my rudimentary Japanese language skills. We live in a tiny apartment, about the size of our family room in the United States. Yet strangely, this little place now seems like home. Someplace I look forward to being every day.

What I didn’t expect is the odd feeling I have when going back to the US. We are very fortunate that our daughter is leasing our house, so we have a place to go when we return. But that’s part of the oddity of returning. We go to our house, which contains all the possessions we’ve accumulated over 30-plus years of marriage. Our daughter is doing a great job of taking care of the place. But when we go there now, it is different. Now…for the next year and a half, at least…it isn’t our home. It’s an oddly disorienting feeling, that I find I really can’t describe.

So, six months in, am I glad I took this opportunity? You bet! It isn’t always comfortable, and some things are downright frustrating. But it really is the opportunity of a lifetime. We’ll see what the next year and a half has to bring. Right now, I’m enjoying the experience, and look forward to all it has to offer.


Rainbow Bridge over Tokyo Bay

Summer in Tokyo…

It is summer in Tokyo, and there is always so much to do and see. Every weekend there are gatherings and festivals in the parks, shrines to visit, Tokyo Tower, Skytree, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Harajuku, Asakusa, Meiji, Senso-ji… and everywhere is the wonderful Japanese food and drink. Beer gardens open in the parks, tourists are everywhere, and the schools will soon let out for summer holidays. The city is big and beautiful, and always busy.

And… summer in Tokyo brings sweltering hot weather. With temperatures in the 80’s and wickedly high humidity, the heat index is often in the high 90’s and low hundreds. The sunshine can be intense, and the sweat begins to pour as soon as you walk out the door. Seeking shade is important, and the Japanese often wear hats and long sleeves and walk under sun umbrellas to protect themselves from the heat and sun. Almost everyone carries a little washcloth to wipe the sweat… little sweat towels are sold in all the stores.


The weather can also be very unpredictable. June and July are considered the “rainy season,” and rainstorms and showers can pop up suddenly. It is always a good idea to have an umbrella handy. Despite the rain, everyone is out and about. Life goes on… even in the rain. Men and women go to work, children go to school… dogs still have to be walked… groceries still have to be bought… even on a rainy day in Tokyo.


Last weekend, a walk across the Rainbow Bridge over Tokyo Bay, brought us to Odaiba and the Lantern Festival on Odaiba Beach — in honor of the Marine Day holiday (a relatively new national holiday in Japan, to show gratitude for the gifts from the sea.) Party boats (small dinner cruise boats) from all over the bay area gathered in front of Odaiba beach to watch the lighting of hundreds of colored paper lanterns arranged in elaborate designs in the sand of the beach. As darkness fell the lanterns glowed and the people milled around enjoying the surreal light. Then… sudden and unpredicted, the rain began to fall. One by one, the lanterns collapsed and went dark.  The end of the Marine Day holiday.

Light… and dark…


The above link is for a time zone map of the world. One of the things that I am having the most trouble adjusting to here in Tokyo, is how early the sun comes up in the morning.  At this point in early summer, the sun rises at about 4:30 am. It starts getting light even earlier. Sunset is about 7 pm right now.  At home in Georgia, the sun rises about 6:30 am this time of year, and sets just before 9 pm. This difference is partly because Japan does not have daylight savings time… and partly because Tokyo sits close to the eastern edge of its time zone, while Atlanta sits near the western edge of its time zone. Whatever the reason…  I am having trouble sleeping in the morning. Once the light starts shining in the windows, I am awake. We even have light-blocking drapes on the windows, but I still wake up as soon as the light glows around the edges.

I don’t mind getting up early — I have always been an early riser — but just not this early. My body has been programmed for years to get up about 6:30 am, and go to bed about 11 pm. Now, I wake about 4 am, and still want to stay up until 11 pm… which doesn’t really allow enough time for sleep. The thing is… here in Japan, even though the sun comes up so early, most people don’t go to work until 8:30 or 9 am. My husband’s official office hours are 8:30am to 5:30 pm.  He usually goes in about 7:45 am… just to get a head start. So… he goes in early, and comes home on time. Some of his co-workers come in on time, and stay later in the evening. My question is, what do people here do in the morning between the time the sun rises, and the time they go to work? Am I the only one who can’t sleep after the sun comes up?

The logical thing, it seems to me, would be to adjust the workday to go along with the sunlight. Start the day earlier and get off work earlier. But we are so tied to clock time, that we can’t switch back to sun time. It would be a really tough thing to change. Body clock versus time clock. There is no solution here…  I will just have to get used to it. This is just an observation of the way things are here. As the days get shorter toward winter, the sun won’t rise quite so early, and I will sleep better. For now, I should get up and do something productive — like study my Japanese — instead of lying in bed worrying about why I can’t sleep.

More Travel…

We are back home in Tokyo again after another round of travel. My husband had a business trip to Chattanooga, so I went back with him to spend a few days at our home in Atlanta. He had to go on to another meeting in London, but I stayed in Atlanta for the Fourth of July holiday, and we met back here at Narita Airport yesterday.

All this travel seems to go in spurts…  starting with our trip to Germany in January, Russia in April, Atlanta in May, then South Korea and Atlanta again in June. We have more travel coming up in the late summer with trips back and forth to South Korea and a trip to Budapest, and late October will bring another trip to Atlanta for our daughter’s wedding. It has been interesting to be able to do all of this travel…  and I really want to take advantage of it while I can. I know that these travel opportunities will end when we move back to our “other life” in Atlanta. I enjoy traveling for the most part… packing and unpacking aren’t so much fun, and long hours on an airplane can be uncomfortable and tedious, and jet lag can be awful too… but being able to navigate myself through airports and public transit in foreign countries, and experiencing different countries and cultures has been fun!

Above are a few photos from Atlanta…  Since I was there for the Fourth of July, I was able to run the Peachtree Road Race 10K again. This is something my husband and I — and our children — have participated in for many years… I think this was my 15th time running the Peachtree. It is always a huge part of the Fourth of July celebration in Atlanta, and it is an amazing sight to see 60,000+ runners moving along Peachtree Street. This year was exceptionally hot and humid — even for Atlanta — but it was a fun way to cap off my visit “home.”

However, the hardest part of traveling back to Atlanta is having to transition between our life here in Tokyo, and our life there in the US. It is another thing that we never really considered when we moved here. It is almost like we are living two separate lives right now. We still own a home there — but our daughter is leasing it from us and taking care of it for us while we are away. So… when we go back… yes… we go “home,” but it isn’t really our home right now. It still has our furniture and most of our “stuff,” but she has moved into the master bedroom, and brought in a lot of her own stuff. We stay in a “guest” room. It is very weird — and a bit unsettling actually — to be guests in our own house. She is doing a fine job taking care of the place, and maintaining it for us… but it just doesn’t feel right to be there. I miss my home… I miss my stuff… but it isn’t really mine right now. I know this is only temporary — and it is only “stuff” after all — but it is difficult. It makes going “home” just a bit stressful for me.

Our life here in Tokyo is so different from our life there. I miss a lot of things about our life in Atlanta, but when I get back here, it is like all of those feelings go back into the closet along with my suitcase, and I don’t think about it again until the next time I go back. Our “life” here is much smaller than our “life” there. Our tiny apartment… just a fraction of our belongings… no car… We live very simply here. And I enjoy that. And as much as I enjoyed being “home” in Atlanta, and seeing family and celebrating a holiday, I was happy to get back here to our “home” in Tokyo.