Removing the training wheels

In which things get real

My fave Facebook parenting maxim is ‘the days are long but the years are short’. Obviously we are not parents, but I enjoy dipping in for the life advice and stain removal tips. This one perfectly encapsulates the last seven weeks for me. It’s bewildering that we have been here for such a short period, and yet yesterday seems like a very long time ago.

On the whole, things seem to be going pretty well. My nagging thought is that at some point, maybe in six months or three years, we’ll look back and shake our heads at the bumbling gaijin we were. I’ll try to have some compassion and remember how new absolutely everything felt, and remind myself that this isn’t really an experience you can prepare for.

On the move

Moving from the warm bosom of our serviced apartment to the empty shell of our new home was a shock. Our serviced apartment’s inventory spanned three carefully itemised pages. For anything else, we had the front desk. And we got far too used to the twice-a-week cleaning provided.

Like all the apartments we saw, our new home is bare. In Japan, tenants provide everything including curtains and light fittings. We do have a gas stove provided with three burners and a fish grill. Yup, no oven. Instead, we’ve bought a microwave-steam-convection-grill-toaster number that will sit on top of the kitchen bench we still need to buy.

A small (okay, tiny) space means being very careful with what comes in. I want to avoid the experience of our garage sale, which was a day of people picking things up and saying ‘why do you have this?’ It was always a good question and it’s helping me to keep walking every time I see a good Gacha machine.

Stumbling ahead

We’ve been working through the language barrier in a number of ways. Pointing and nodding will take you so far. Google Translate is both incredible and often hilarious. The people who can understand us have been endlessly generous and patient with us. But the opportunity we have is to learn.

Immersion is meant to be the silver bullet for language acquisition, but I think my brain senses that English, that thing that we rely on for money, is under threat and in response is like ‘from my cold dead hands’. Or maybe I’m just very bad at actually sitting down to do my flash cards.

While my Japanese has stalled, Chris started at his language school last week, where he’ll be going daily for the next three months. For now, I can help him with his homework but I know he’ll soon overtake me. So this week it’s back to the apps and books and to the endless patience of my teacher Momoko-san. がんばって to both of us!

Cat in a box

The last week was very dominated by the arrivals of the smallest and loudest members of our household. Before they arrived, I joked that I wasn’t sure who the move had been more traumatic for. When they turned up, they were the very picture of trauma and we felt new levels of guilt.

We’ve given in already- Ban and Kofi enjoying couch life in Jiyugaoka

A few days in, they are completely at home in their new spot, and dividing their time between trying to get at the tatami and trying to get at the new fern. It’s a joy really. At many points bringing the cats with us seemed mildly insane, from the cost, to the stress, to the difficulty of finding an apartment, but we’re so glad they are here.

A rainy Sunday in Shinjuku

Today is ‘Sea Day’ in Japan, the first of many public holidays we’ll enjoy. It’s also the official start of summer, and should represent the end of the rainy season. I’m happy for the rain to last as long as possible because the weather is about to get hot. We’ll be prepared with cold beer, dipping noodles and chilled jellies, but I will be dreaming of autumn, and koyo, the changing of the leaves.

さようなら

Beatrix

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