In the US, our family uses Amazon Prime for online shopping and home delivery of all sorts of items, from books and music, to clothing, household items, and even cleaning and “stock up” items like paper towels, tissue, and pet food. It has been such an easy and convenient service, and has saved many a trip out to the store. I am not a happy shopper, and I detest going to the mall, so Amazon made Christmas shopping and birthday shopping… and any other necessary shopping… much more palatable for me.

And… in Japan, we have found that Amazon “delivers” excellent service here as well (pun intended.) We have had to purchase a separate Prime membership — different from our US Amazon Prime membership — but we find it has been well worth the cost here — as it is in the US. Yes, yes, I am sorry… I am using the blog to promote a business, but it has been such a convenience for us, I feel that it is justified.

In the US, with Prime, we get our packages within two business days, and sometimes even on weekends. Here in Japan, however, we have found that the service is even faster (Japan is all about efficiency!) Guaranteed delivery within two days — here in Japan — usually means delivery within hours! This package in the photo was something that my husband ordered online about 10 pm last night… and it arrived about noon today!

This has been a real help to us for a lot of things… items that we don’t know where to find here in Tokyo… as well as items that may be large and bulky, or difficult to carry on the subway. Remember — we are all afoot here in Tokyo… I can’t just drive to a store and load up stuff. I have to be able to carry it back to my apartment. And even if I do take it on the subway, the closest station is still almost a kilometer away from our apartment.

I have spoken to other expats from our company, who live in London, and they have said the same things about It has been very helpful for all of us trying to set up and maintain households in foreign countries. All I can say is: Way to go, Amazon!

Watashi wa Nihongo ga sukoshi hanashimasu…

わたしわ きょうぬんいちがつにほんにきました。わたしわアメリカからきました。

My husband’s Japanese company here in Tokyo has loaned employees from many countries. Right now there are only two from the US… another to be arriving later this month. Most of the other loaned employees come from Korea, China, India, Pakistan, Russia… and couple of European countries.

Because there are so many foreign employees — many with spouses and families in tow — the company provides a twice-monthly language/culture class for the spouses. The official company language is English, and all employees have to be proficient at speaking and writing in English, but many of the spouses do not speak English, and most do not speak Japanese either.

These classes are fun, and it gives us a chance to get to know each other — a kind of cultural exchange.  We are divided into two levels: beginner and intermediate. We have an hour long lesson, then a box lunch (bento box), and while we are eating, the two teachers present a cultural topic — in Japanese. This past year, I have been in the beginner class, but today when I walked in, they told me I was being moved to the other class. NOT that my language skills are anywhere adequate, but I have learned a lot of vocabulary, and I think they now are wanting to force me to start SPEAKING the language more.

And today was my trial by fire…lol. I was kind of hoping that since it was my first day in that level, they would take it easy and just let me listen. I can usually get the gist of a simple conversation, and I was following along pretty well until the teacher turned to me and started asking me questions… in Japanese.Yikes! As soon as someone speaks to me, it is like all language skill flies out the window and I sit there blankly, trying desperately to put a few words together in some sort of coherent fashion.

Ueda-sensei (my teacher today) was very patient with me, and also wrote most of the dialog up on the whiteboard for me to follow.  She wrote it, however, in Hiragana, which I can read, but slowly. The four other students there today were all from Korea. They are all very nice, and friendly, with varying degrees of English proficiency… but their Japanese skills were far above mine!

As difficult and somewhat stressful as this was, I know this is just what I need! I can study my Japanese book all day long, but at some point I have to be able to actually talk to someone. I have to quit blanking out just because someone speaks to me. I know I have made a lot of progress in the past year, but there is still a long way to go. We are hoping to get started again soon with a new private instructor, who will focus more on the conversation. Hopefully that will help.

Those two simple sentences at the top?  Watashi wa kyounen Nihongo ni kimashita. (I came to Japan last year in January.) And… Watashi wa Amerika kara kimashita.  (I came from America.)

Arigato gozaimasu… sayonara.


One Year in Japan

A year ago today, we arrived in Japan. We were excited, anxious, nervous and just a little scared. Looking back, it has been one of the greatest experiences we’ve ever had.

As the “he” part of the blog team, I’ve had an amazing job experience this last year. Working in an international company has opened my eyes to the world. I’ve visited countries in the last year – Argentina, Korea, Russia, Hungary – that I never expected I would see. Working daily with people from a broad mix of cultures, languages and outlooks has been an interesting, challenging and wonderful experience. My only regret is that the year has gone by so fast. I know the next year will go even faster. I’m determined to get the most I possibly can from it.

One of the reasons we wanted to do this assignment was to have an opportunity to experience daily life in another culture. This has also been a great chance to do that. We live in an area where we can go days without seeing another Westerner. The language has, unfortunately, been more of a challenge than I expected. We are learning Japanese, but are far from being conversant. Still, the people here have been so patient and accepting. It has been remarkably easy for us to become comfortable and happy in our tiny little apartment. Yes, we miss our house, big yard, and lifestyle in the United States. But one day when we return, I know that we will miss our life here in Japan.

So, today we begin our second of two years in Japan. I can truly say I am excited and enthusiastic about what that year will bring.

Year One… Done.

It is hard to believe that our first year living in Tokyo is already over. At the beginning, not knowing what it would be like, and not knowing how we would like it, two years seemed like a long time. A long time to be away from our home, our family, and everything we are familiar with. But as we have settled into this new (but also, temporary) home in a foreign country, the time seems to have accelerated, and we actually find ourselves worrying that our time here will slip away before we are ready to go back to our more permanent home in the US.

Certainly… there are many things that we miss about our home in Georgia, and things that we look forward to getting back to at some point, but we have grown fond of this beautiful country of Japan… its culture and its wonderful people. There are so, so many things that we will be sad about leaving when the time comes to go “home.”

Going into this a year ago, we tried our best to anticipate our life here and all that we would need to bring with us and prepare for, but it is impossible to know what life will be like until you actually get here and live it. We find that we brought some things that we have never needed or used, and other things we have had to buy or bring back after a trip home. Life here is different. People everywhere are mostly the same… we all have the same basic needs and desires, but the ways we go about satisfying those needs are  different. We live life here on a much smaller scale, with less “stuff” and much less space…  And, we find that we like it that way. It may actually be something of an adjustment to go back to our US ways after our time here is done.

A year ago, we were looking at Japan through the eyes of tourists. We were anticipating all the things we would see and do… and, we have done and seen a lot in this past year. But it is different now. Things here look different when you are seeing them from the perspective of a resident. We still enjoy the “sight-seeing,” but there is also all that day-to-day living to deal with. We still try to see the “new-ness” of our surroundings, even though it isn’t so “new” anymore. Sure… we still play that tourist card now and then. I don’t mind stopping on the sidewalk to snap photos… everyone just thinks I’m a tourist anyway,  lol.

What is in store for the coming year? Well… still lots of travel. Not so much travel back to our home in Georgia — because we don’t have quite so many family events on the calendar this year (no weddings and graduations, etc.) — but so far we have trips scheduled to UAE, South Korea, and maybe France and India. Lol… an unexpected perk of this assignment is that we are both now up to platinum level on our Skymiles… And, we plan to enjoy that perk while we can because this time in our lives in going by far too quickly!


Celebrating Japan

One thing we have learned is that the people of Japan love to celebrate life. Almost any time, and certainly on weekends, it’s easy to find a festival or celebration. Many are based on Japan’s long and rich history, others pay tribute to nature.

Often there are entertainers in traditional Japanese garb. Always, there are many, many people and they all seem to be enjoying the moment.

We were in Tokyo this year over the New Year’s weekend. The holiday is recognized from around 29 December through 3 January. Many stores are closed, although some of the department stores use the time for big sales. We enjoyed seeing fireworks at Odaiba Island, and an Edo Festival at Haneda Airport. Here are some photos from New Year’s in Tokyo.