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30 Days Left in Japan

It’s hard to believe that our time in Japan is actually coming to an end. It feels unreal and there’s a definite sadness I feel about moving. It feels like a loss despite the fact that we’ve gained so much over the last four years living here. I never realized how much my life would change with just a single decision to move abroad.

We moved to Yokohama in the summer of 2011 and we planned on staying through 2013. It feels just like yesterday because the journey was open-ended and uncertain. My husband’s job brought us here and the typical assignment was for only 2 years. But it took us almost a full year to really feel comfortable living here and I often say that I really didn’t enjoy living here until at least the one year mark. But it’s very hard now to remember a time when living in Japan felt somewhat difficult or less enjoyable. I think any place you go, it takes time to figure it out, adapt a routine, make new friends, and get to know the area. I find it interesting that Japan has been our home for much longer than any place we’ve lived at over the last ten years. But we decided to extend for a third year because we loved it here so much and then somehow, we ended up here for another year after that. This definitely wasn’t part of the original plan, but it’s funny how things work out.

I didn’t think it was possible for life to change as much as it did in such a relatively short period of time, but it has. We also faced so much uncertainty about our lives over the past two years in particular. We agonized about our path, on where to go next, and what to do. I’m the type of person who tries to plan things out for five plus years in advance, so choosing a path wasn’t easy because we both lacked a vision. It was only once we made a decision on where to go next, we quickly realized that it was the wrong decision and the vision was finally clear. But fortunately we still had enough time and foresight to implement the plan we felt was best for us both. So we’ll be moving to Boston next month for my husband to attend graduate school at one of the best programs in the world. It’s exciting but it doesn’t make it any easier leaving Japan.

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We’ve both fallen in love with this country and Tokyo is seriously my favorite city in the world. It’s the perfect city in my opinion. The energy is insane, the culture is amazing, and I never fear for my safety. And while here, we’ve traveled more than I ever thought possible at this stage in my life. Four years ago, I never thought we’d spend almost a month in New Zealand, take three trips to Vietnam, five trips to South Korea, or travel to Bali twice. Heck, I couldn’t even point out Bali on a map. It’s been vastly rich with experiences, which is why I started this travel blog. I’ve got SO many to share!!

But I’m going to miss going to onsen spas in the winter, or camera shopping on the streets of Shinjuku. I’m going to miss taking the Shinkansen to remote little towns, or sitting in a dimly lit kissaten drinking hot cocoa from antique porcelain tea cups. My husband says we should move back here and retire. He says he can see me as one of those little obansans, or little old ladies, who wander the streets in their cute little hats and tote bags while sitting in kissatens with their fancy stationary drinking from miniature tea cups. But I’m also like an ojisan because I’m into photography, so I’ve got my bases covered in the retirement community.

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But after almost four years here, there’s still soooooo much left to see. It’s also changed my philosophy of travel a bit too living here. I used to want to see every place in the world, but now I feel that few actually pale in comparison to Japan’s culture and beauty.  It’s significantly raised my expectations and standards. But I’ve truly learned that you get so much more out of seeing fewer places really well than tons on the fly. There’s a richness you experience when really soaking up a place for a long period of time. It becomes a part of you rather than just a memory.

So my last sixty days in Japan have been insanely busy, but my last thirty days are even more intense. Aside from trying to see a million and one places left to see, my main preoccupation is with a photography project I’m working on. And when I’m not out shooting, I’m processing my film at night which has left very little time for travel blogging. I love processing my own film though which makes it hard to focus on other stuff because it’s actually a lot of fun. But I’ll keep posting regularly, but when I settle down in Boston, I’ll be cranking out content like there’s no tomorrow. Until then, I’ll be enjoying my last Sakura season here in Japan and exploring some exotic places in the next few weeks.

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10 Comments

  1. Cortnie
    March 31, 2015 at 11:52 am — Reply

    I feel like you are writing exactly my thoughts and feelings this time 2 years ago. We lived in Okinawa, Japan for 4 years for my husband’s job (supposed to be 3 years – we extended for the 4th, because we were in love), and it forever changed us. I also had a blog about our life and travels in Asia – we got to visit every country over there (except for Malaysia, darn! Ran out of time). Moving back to the States, even though we got to choose wherever we wanted to go (we live in Austin, TX now) seemed daunting to me. I was so nervous about losing my life in Japan and the travel and I was worried life in the States just wouldn’t be as interesting. I, personally, am still struggling with it. As much as I love Austin and some other cities we visit frequently, there is nothing that will ever come close to the uniqueness or adventures that we had in Japan. Because it wasn’t just every once in awhile, it was our everyday life. It’s difficult to let that go, or for that to change. One good thing is that it does make you look at life and travel differently – although nothing compares to the sweet people of Japan or standing on top of Mt. Fuji or walking through the incredible rice terraces in Ubud, it has made me want to explore the States the way that we learned to explore Asia. There is a lot to see here. But, as you can probably tell, I am still heartbroken over Japan, and I think on some level I always will be;) Love reading your blog & completely know what you are going through right now. Best of luck in Boston – it will be an adventure if you decide to MAKE it an adventure;)
    xoxo, Cortnie
    http://www.roomviewblog.com
    passportjapan.blogspot.com (my old blog about living in Oki)

    • April 1, 2015 at 9:04 pm — Reply

      Thanks for connecting Cortnie. OMG I just read your last blog post on passportjapan and it’s EXACTLY how we feel!! I’m also a mil spouse too and it’s amazing how many people here DON’T take the amazing opportunity to travel. It’s seriously a once in a lifetime opportunity. Like you said, it’s the best twenties anyone could ask for.

      I’m glad you know exactly what it feels like to leave Japan and return back to “reality.” I honestly don’t know if I’m mentally prepared for it seeming as I’m so in love with this country too. I’m so sad I haven’t been to Okinawa, but I do plan on returning to Japan many times in the future so one day I’ll fly there and then I also want to go to Hokkaido.

      But I hope it won’t be too heartbreaking, but I fear it will as there’s so much that’s left behind. Life here in Japan is perpetually exciting on so many levels and it’s just not the same returning to the States. The people, the culture, everything is so beautiful. I also lived in San Diego for a couple of years before we moved to Japan. I thought I’d miss San Diego dearly until I moved out here, but I don’t.

      But I agree, it has definitely changed my perception about the world and even living in America too. I now look at America with a similar sense of adventure that I have in Japan, and it’s definitely lessened my inhibitions about just deciding to travel whenever I want and can. Flying to Europe is only a plane flight away and so are a number of cool places to see in the States. I guess you really do have to make it an adventure anywhere you live though. I really look forward to checking out your sites!!

  2. Michèle
    March 29, 2015 at 6:32 pm — Reply

    wow. Japan during Sakura season is definitely on my bucket list

    http://www.thefashionfraction.com

  3. March 27, 2015 at 1:25 pm — Reply

    It happens. We would feel not that great when we move on from places that we feel very settled down. On the bright side, you will now be able to see America differently with a Tokyo perspective. I can’t wait to read about your new adventures! 🙂

    • March 27, 2015 at 10:41 pm — Reply

      All good things must come to an end, unfortunately. But you’re totally right, I do actually see America from a totally different perspective now which is both good and bad I guess. Thanks for tuning in, I’m kinda excited about traveling North America and parts of Europe now. Though I still think I love Asia the most!!

  4. March 27, 2015 at 10:34 am — Reply

    I completely get where your coming from. I lived here for 13 years, left for 15 and returned 5 years ago. Japan is so much a part of me now, that I can’t even imagine who I would be without my time living here. As much as I would love to stay and retire here, someday I too will start a new journey either in the states, or possibly in Europe. Reading your post only make me appreciate the time I have here now, and to soak up each and every minute. Thank you for sharing and all the best to you and your husband on your new journey.

    • March 27, 2015 at 10:37 pm — Reply

      Thank you Thomas, I’m glad you enjoyed my post :). It really does change you living here. I hope that you can soak up every minute of this beautiful country before you have to leave too. But it’s amazing you were able to spent almost twenty years here! That’s amazing.

  5. March 27, 2015 at 10:24 am — Reply

    Steph, I was nodding at every sentence because you just expressed everything I felt when we made the decision to leave Japan. It’s so strange where life takes us, ha? Who would of thought that Japan would become such a huge part of both our lives, but yet it has. A new, exciting chapter is beginning but, like you say, it doesn’t make it any easier to close the old one. I hope that this last 30 days gives you a little closure. But rest assured that Tokyo will be here waiting for you whenever you decide to return. All the best with everything x

    • March 27, 2015 at 10:34 pm — Reply

      Thanks Jessica. This country is so beautiful, it’s soooo easy to get attached to it. But it’s so crazy where life seems to take you, you’re absolutely right!! I’m glad you could identify with my post :). It’s such a great experience to live here. But new beginnings are exciting, and it definitely helps to know that I can always fly back to Tokyo that’s for sure. BTW, we should meet sometime before we head out!!

      • April 22, 2015 at 9:37 pm — Reply

        Sorry, I left this reply really late! I’m not sure if you’ll still have time to meet up, but just let us know 🙂

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