No one has asked, but I want to explain about the picture at the top of the blog…  You know, the guy with the scary eyes.  That is a picture of a statue of Nio — one of the guardians of the Buddha.  This statue stands at the entrance to the Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa, Tokyo.  We have been to Senso-ji on both of our previous trips to Tokyo. It is a fascinating place.  We stayed in a ryokan  — a traditional Japanese inn — in Asakusa, just about a 100 meters or so from this statue.

Inside the outer gates to the temple grounds, is an open air market called Nakamisi-dori. There have been shops on this site for hundreds of years. It is a really fun and interesting place to walk around where vendors sell food and mostly tourist-related items and souvenirs. Busy from early morning to late at night after the lights of Senso-ji come on. Beyond the market area, is another gate called the Hozomon — or treasure house gate — which leads to the inner temple complex.  This particular statue of Nio stands in the Hozomon as a fierce reminder to the visitors of Senso-ji.

CoE, Check… Now, the Visas…

We received the Certificate of Eligibility this past week, and now we are almost ready to submit our applications for the visas.  This must be done in person to the Japanese Consulate Visa Office. Here in the ATL, that is in Buckhead.  The webpage says 3-5 days to receive the visas, except in some special cases. Hopefully, we will have the visas within the next week.

This is becoming something of a time crunch. My husband’s Japanese company is eager for him to get there and get started, but here in the USA, we are heading into Christmas and New Years. They are willing to wait until after the holidays are over, but not much more. They have already planned his January schedule — including a couple of international business trips. We are trying to get arrangements worked out amid family holiday commitments. Working out packing and storage for our belongings here, and shipment of the belongings we are taking to Japan… where to farm out our pets for two years… signing our home over to a leasing and management company… and,where to store our vehicles for two years.   So many things to work out in such a short time!

I know that we will get all of this figured out, but right now, I am feeling a bit stressed over this. I wake up in the night and my brain just starts churning over and over and over… I am excited about this opportunity to experience a different culture and country. I just wish I could fast forward a month or so through all of these complicated arrangements.

Hang in there…  it will all get done.


Learning Japanese


While we are waiting to get our visas so that we can move to Japan, my husband and I are trying to learn some Japanese.  We have a very limited time in which to learn it, so I am sure to begin with, we will only be hitting the high points of the language, and learning some important and useful phrases.  Once we get to Tokyo, I hope to continue our study of the language.  I don’t want to always be hindered by my lack of Japanese language skills.  Maybe expecting to become fluent is too much to ask, but at least I would like to feel comfortable conversing at some simple level.

One really difficult aspect of learning Japanese is that it uses different characters — or Kana.  Plus…  they also use an  adapted form of Chinese characters called Kanji.  That string of characters you see above is, in fact, my name…  written in Japanese.  The Kana are phonetic symbols while the Kanji are iconographic symbols.  And, in written language, the Kana and Kanji are frequently mixed.  Confusing!

I started out my Japanese instruction with an audio program called Earworms.  It seems rather ingenious to me…  the premise is that the sounds of the language are set to music, and it is easier for your brain to remember.  I have used this program before when I was trying to learn Spanish.  I like it, and after listening for a few weeks, I feel like I am at least getting used to the sounds of the language.

Yesterday, we also started some individual instruction with  a Japanese instructor.  Our son has been taking Japanese classes since he was in college, and also spent a summer term in Japan studying the language.  He gifted us 3 hours of individual instruction with his teacher.  We had one class last night, and will follow up with another in a couple of weeks…  hopefully after some time to study all the information that she gave us.

It is going to take some time, but I am hoping that I will begin to be able to speak the language, and recognize some of the language that I hear.  Reading and writing it, I feel, is going to take much longer. Just learning the phonetic characters seems almost an overwhelming task. The Kanji? Yikes!

Details, details…

Although we have known about this temporary assignment in Tokyo for a couple of months now, we are still in the midst of working out all the details of moving a household halfway around the world.  First and foremost…  we are waiting for the visas to come through.  Until that is done, there can be no specific move date, and until then, no firm plans for apartments, movers, etc.  The documentation for the Certificate of Eligibility has all been submitted…  now we are at the mercy of the Japanese government.  Once we receive the COE, then (we are told) it is a fairly easy and straight-forward process to get the visas from the Japanese Consulate.

We have been looking at apartments online, and we are working with a relocation consultant provided by our Japanese company, to try to decide what part of Tokyo in which to live.  Though Tokyo has a very extensive and efficient mass transit system, we still would like to live fairly close to the workplace in order to minimize travel time to and from.  We also have to consider locations of grocery stores, and other shopping, restaurants, etc, since we will not have a car while we are living in Japan.  All of our travel will be via public transportation, or on foot.  Imagine…  carrying groceries back to an apartment…  I don’t want to be too far away!

All of this is very exciting, but nerve-wracking as well!  I will continue to post as the details emerge, and once we have arrived at our destination in Tokyo, I plan to post daily photos and blog about our new adventure.