Friday, January 28, 2011

One year in Japan

We've been in Japan a year now! The three weeks before we left were so busy and surreal and then we were here. And we've been here ever since. We've learned a lot about Japan and ourselves in the last year. We're feeling really grateful for the things that have made this move a success. Here's a list:
1) Our house. We have the cutest Japanese house - just going to go ahead and say it. It's minimalist yet cozy, it's versatile, and the rent is cheap. Plus we can have a little garden. We're so lucky to have it.
2) Our friends here - from all over the world and of all different backgrounds. It's nice to have people to talk to that understand our every day life.
3) Nice Japanese people. At one of John's jobs he deals with an alternative reality Japan filled with dissatisfied mostly un-nice people, but for the most part, they're a really sweet lot. No, they don't have a clue what it's like to be a foreigner in their country, but they're cautiously curious about learning and we appreciate that. We're especially enjoying our community center English class. More about that in another post.
4) Visitors - Not sure how we would have done it without Uncle George, Trisha and Kim, mom and dad, Erin, Joanna and Anders and even couchsurfers. It's really validating to have people see where we live and remind us why we like it here. Hopefully we'll have more visitors yet!
5) Cooking and baking - We've been doing a ton of this in the last year. Obviously we're learning how to make Japanese food, but also French, Indonesian, Israeli, etc. We're making our own breads, tortillas, veggie burgers and more. It's so nice to come home from work and have the time and space to create something delicious. Watch out for when we actually have access to all the ingredients we desire once we're back home!
6) Internet - we're able to keep up with the news, our favorite shows, music, blogs, online yoga classes, etc. It's getting a lot easier to live abroad than it was when we first did it - 10 or so years ago. Sometimes it feels like we live in a parallel universe that is in no way connected to our old life. But then we skype or video gchat or receive an email or letter and that connection with friends and family makes all the difference.
7) Travel - We have a lot more vacation time than we would have working in the US. It's really expensive to travel within Japan but we've been able to see quite a bit in the last year. Also, Bali for 3 weeks. The promise of future travel also fuels us....
8) Saving money - It feels good to pay off student loans and save for travel and school. We can't really spend too much in our little town - no clothes that fit us and no movie theater or real nightlife. Basically we just spend on basic expenses and quite a bit on food and travel. We can keep our expenses a lot lower here than we can in the US though. For instance we only pay about $60 for both of us for Japanese National Health Insurance per month and at home we were paying $180 for catastrophic coverage only.
9) Each other - You really test your relationship when you move to a foreign land. It's all J&J, all the time. Luckily we get along pretty well and share mostly the same interests, values and goals. Whew! We were pretty sure after 4 weeks in Central America, 6 weeks in India and 3 months in South America but this has been by far the most difficult. There are times where we feel like we looked in this picture:

10) New experiences - In the last year we ran a half marathon, went show shoeing for the first time, went canyoning, sang our hearts out at karaoke many times, hiked in the Japanese alps and did lots of other new things. Hooray for getting out of our comfort zones!

Overall, it's been a good year. Wow this winter is seeming long and cold though. We're very much looking forward to spring weather...

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