It’s almost over…

My job assignment is coming to an end. In less than a month, we will be on a plane, returning to the United States, our “home.”

But in 4-1/2 years, we’ve come to love Japan as our home. We never expected to feel this way. We never expected to feel the sadness, the emptiness that we are feeling about leaving Japan. This has become our home.

Of course, there are things about the US we look forward to. We have a beautiful house, and our family is much closer. We recall all the things we loved before we left, and we look forward to resuming those things again.

But… it is so difficult, made so much harder by the COVID-19 pandemic. We had wanted to visit places in Japan we hadn’t seen…and we wanted to see the places we loved… Mt. Takao, Mt. Fuji, Enoshima, Nikko, Osaka, Kyoto, Okinawa… but these have been unreachable due to the pandemic.

The past 2-1/2 months, we’ve mostly been self-isolated in our apartment. We haven’t been officially restricted… but we have tried to do what’s best for all, which means staying home, not venturing out. We haven’t been on a train in weeks – and only go walking with our masks on, following the social distancing rules as best we can.

This isn’t how we wanted our time in Tokyo to end. This has been our home for more than four years, and we can’t even see the things we love most. Our favorite little noodle restaurant has been closed for weeks. We can’t take our long weekend walks, ending at our favorite craft beer place. We visited our favorite sushi place this week, to get carry-out. It was wonderful, but not the same as sitting in the restaurant ordering plates of sushi from the chef.

When we agreed to do this assignment, the plan was to come to Tokyo for two years. We looked forward to it – it sounded like a long time, but we expected to finish and go back home to resume our normal life. But two years became three… and then four, and a half. We knew it would have to come to an end. But it still isn’t enough.

We are now making plans to return to the US. We are fortunate to have much support from my company. We have a relocation service that is helping coordinate the packing and moving, shipping, cancellation of utilities, etc. All those things would be stressful in the best of times. Now, we also have to think about COVID-19 protection. How do we safely get on a 13-hour flight, go through immigration, and get from the airport to our home?

This has been an amazing experience. It has been life-changing for us. We are so blessed for the experience we’ve had…and are so devastated for it to end, especially when we can’t visit the places in Tokyo that we have come to love so much.

We are soon to return to our home country… to Georgia, in the United States. But in so many ways, Shibaura, Tokyo has become our home. We still can’t speak the language very well…and we certainly don’t look like Japanese citizens. We have learned about this wonderful culture… this wonderful country… and we’ve learned how to communicate well enough to be understood and accepted by the local residents here.

Our time left here is dwindling to a few more days, a few more hours. We have much to look forward to in returning to our home in the US. Still, it is hard to overcome the sadness of leaving our adopted country… our home… in Japan.

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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. UPDATE 2023... After 4-1/2 years in Tokyo, we returned to Atlanta. Now we are heading to London for a three year job assignment!

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