“But… what do you DO all day?”

Ok… I was all set to do a blog about Summer in Tokyo, but I will push that aside for a bit and address the above question. I have to admit that this question disturbs me a little. Probably because when someone asks me this question (and it seems to be coming up more and more often the longer we live here), I never feel like I give a very good answer. I tend to stammer around a bit with it, and start to feel like I am being judged.

Admittedly — my daily “to do” list here in Japan is pretty short. Since I am here on my husband’s work visa, I don’t have a job here. I gave up two jobs in the US when we came here, and I was more than happy to do so for the experience of living in a foreign country. I am a college-educated professional in my own right, but while living here I am a “shufu” — Japanese for “housewife.”

And there is nothing wrong with that! I have my responsibilities around our home — laundry, cooking, cleaning, shopping — and I have many interests and hobbies to occupy my time. I don’t sit around and twiddle my thumbs and lament my boredom. Life is what you make of it, and right now I just have a bit more time to do the things that I want to do.

I am not saying that I don’t sometimes get bored… Don’t we all? No matter how full our calendars get.

So — a typical day… What does a typical day for this expat “shufu” look like?

  •  I get up early. This time of year (early summer) the sun comes up before 4:30 am. And as soon as the light starts coming around the edges of our curtains, I am awake. Even in the winter the sun is up at 6:30. No more sleep for me.
  • At home in the ATL, my husband had to leave so early to beat the traffic, that I never got up when he did. He would get up and pack his lunch, fix his own breakfast, and go to work. So… (lucky him?) I now fix him breakfast and lunch. He leaves for work at about 7:45 or so… much better than 5:30 am back home. He has a ten-minute walk to his office.
  • I clean up the dishes (no dishwasher here), make the bed, and tidy our small living space. Three or four mornings a week (weather permitting — no dryer!) I put in a load of laundry.
  • I check my e-mail, message with my family back home — we are 13 hours ahead, so my morning is their evening — and maybe have a video chat with one or more of them, and maybe with our 4-year-old grandson.
  • I change into work-out clothes. Depending on the weather, I either get ready for a run along the canals, go to the gym around the corner,or just do yoga here in the apartment… Usually an hour, to an hour and a half.
  • I hang out the laundry. All apartment balconies in urban Tokyo are designed for hanging laundry. There is an extra bar to hang hangers on, or to clip towels and linens to. And yes… living on the 30th floor there is often a strong wind. Everything has to be secured. I don’t want to chase my laundry around the neighborhood.
  • Before lunch, I may message with any of my family who are still awake and online, and I do some Japanese studying. We don’t have a formal class right now, so we are working through the Duolingo app in Japanese.
  • After lunch, I usually check to see how the laundry  is drying, then walk to the supermarket for that day’s groceries. I go to the supermarket about 6 days per week. Seems like there is always something I need. I have a very small refrigerator (dorm size, with a small freezer) and very little cupboard space. No stocking up. The walk to the supermarket is about a kilometer, and takes about 10 to 15 minutes. So I am usually back within an hour.
  • Afternoons, I have time to work on hobbies or interests, or to do some more studying. I am determined to be conversant in Japanese someday!
  • My husband is usually home from work at about 6 pm, so I start fixing dinner in late afternoon. It is usually pretty simple since I am a novice at Japanese cooking. I am learning about cooking methods here, and Japanese ingredients. I don’t have an oven, just a cook-top and a small fish broiler — so sometimes it can be a challenge.
  • After dinner we wash the dishes (again… no dishwasher), sometimes do more Japanese study, or veg-out and watch something on Netflix or Amazon Fire. We only have the basic cable to our apartment, so all the TV stations are in Japanese. If we wanted to upgrade our package, there are English channels available, but we don’t really care about doing that.

So… What are the hobbies that I spoke of? I brought several things with me to keep me occupied.

  • I write. I wanted to do a blog about our experiences here. I am a novice at writing, but I like writing. I never thought I would run out of topics to write about here, but sometimes now, it is hard to come up with ideas. Things don’t seem so strange here anymore. This has become “home.”
  • Books. I like to read. I brought “real” books, and I have many more e-books on my Kindle. Right now I am into historical fiction about Asia.
  • Yoga. I taught yoga in the US. Right now I have my own personal yoga practice, and sometimes I do a yoga “class” with my husband in the evenings. I toy with the idea of finding a place to teach here in Tokyo. Maybe.
  • Knitting. Well… sort of. I brought my knitting stuff, but (with all due respect to my ultra-talented sister-in-law, who can knit ANYTHING), I am just not good at it. I try, and I have an interest, but…
  • Drawing. I have a little bit of an artistic streak, but as with the knitting, I have the desire, but not any particular talent. ZenTangles (Google it) are my current interest. I also do a bit of adult coloring. zen2015-05-29
  • Photography. My husband got me my own digital SLR, so on weekends we often go out on photography walks. During the week, I sometimes go out on my own. My current interests are wildlife (mostly ducks on the canals) and water (sky-pools.) On summer weekends there are usually festivals to photograph, or just interesting Japanese temples and shrines, or Japanese gardens and flowers. Thank goodness for digital. We have a bazillion photographs.
  • And of course, walking and exploring this amazing city! I/we walk a lot, and have walked all over this city. Typically on a weekend we will forgo the trains (mostly) and walk 10 to 12 miles each day. So much to see!

Well… that is about it. Like I said, I am somewhat bothered by the question, and especially by the quizzical looks I get when I try to explain what my relatively unstructured days look like. Now, more photos…

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My husband and I were both born and raised in Kansas, but for the past 20+ years we have been living in Atlanta, Georgia. Now, with our children grown and out of the house, we have the opportunity to spend two years living in Tokyo. My husband will be working with the Japanese counterpart to his American company.

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