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Rejoice in Suffering

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After one miscarriage in January, the idea of becoming pregnant again made me feel nervous. My first miscarriage was somewhat traumatic, both physically and emotionally.

I cringed when friendly but oblivious people patted my stomach and asked, “so, when are you going to have kids?”. Sometimes people would check in with me – are you feeling better now? I wondered how to answer appropriately.. losing a child is not an illness that you recover from – it is a loss. Yet I also understand how hard it is to know the right words to share.

Enjoying pregnancy with the same innocent, cheerful anticipation is more difficult after suffering loss. Conversely, birth becomes more amazing when you appreciate its complexity and gift. It’s easy to forget how incredible it is to have children. God made that happen. It is impossible to orchestrate on our own. No amount of vitamins or workouts can ever guarantee that your body will be able to carry a baby to full-term. I now have an irrevocable sense of awe about the entire birth process.

Though our first pregnancy ended in miscarriage in January, my husband and I eventually decided to try for a new baby. Pregnancy didn’t happen right away- but soon, it did. (more…)

As Walls Shake and Rivers Overflow

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A large area of Southwestern Japan was recently hit with record rainfall, and as of the last time I checked the news report, more than 90 people had passed away from this latest natural disaster, and dozens more were still missing. Rescue workers are working hurriedly to save more people as floodwaters rise, and landslides continue as the fragile, wet earth is exposed to more and more water.

Our county in Hyogo prefecture was one of several that received purple-level (the highest level) emergency warning, and although we did not have to evacuate, our alarms blared through the night at 11:30pm and again at 2:30am on July 6-7th as rain hurtled toward the ground.

It was the first time either of us had heard phone and radio alarms related to rainfall, which are usually reserved for severe earthquakes. My husband and I have lived through multiple natural disasters and dangers in Japan, including typhoons and earthquakes.

It can be easy to become desensitized to the grim death counts published by the media, or for each disaster to seem like yet another false alarm. (more…)

Rainy Season: Drowsy and Electric

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When I came to Osaka six years ago in June of 2012, I experienced my first Kansai summer. At the time, it was also my first encounter with heavy humidity. It seemed novel then (rain.. in summer?!), but later after making the move to Japan, I would discover the ills that a humid summer can bring.. including heat rash, swollen mosquito bites, and typhoons.

Summer has never been a particularly favorite season of mine, especially when it means staying indoors due to heat, rain, or both. Yet, despite the downsides of a wet and sticky season, there is something about summer that is both drowsy and electric, punctuated by the popping of 花火 (hanabi: fireworks) and the buzz of insects. 

It seems fitting that as I write this blog post, the rain streams sideways against the window glass, and my ears are full of the sounds of overflowing gutters. 

However, it was 3 years ago, while living in Asakusa in Tokyo, that I first began to describe the feeling of an island summer, as sampled below.

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What It’s Like to Have Adult Braces

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I have had braces since May 2017 (over one year.. so about halfway through!).

As someone who has chosen to become a metal mouth in adulthood, sometimes people have questions.. is it painful? Is it annoying? Is it expensive? Why didn’t you get braces as a kid? Why bother with braces now? 

During my childhood, my family could not afford braces. And while braces can be pricey, I was able to get a good deal in Tokyo.. despite Japan being a country of overpriced orthodontic treatment! Thankfully dentistry, versus orthodontics, is affordable.. in Japan, insurance covers 70% of cleaning costs.

Throughout our search for the best orthodontist, my husband and I also came across some clinics that offered discounted treatment if you blog about your braces, or special price reductions at specific times of the year. So, there are ways to make it happen, if you’re willing to look hard enough!

(this blog is in no way affiliated with any orthodontic practice, as I did not choose to receive treatment through a clinic with a blogging program)  (more…)

Accidental Homesteaders

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According to Wikipedia, homesteading is a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. A self-sufficient family might make their own food, or create products that can be used at home or sold, such as clothing or crafts.

Many homesteaders have a garden, some animals, and perhaps even a farm. There are different levels of how seriously a person may choose to homestead, and homesteading doesn’t necessarily mean being “off-grid”. Reasons for homesteading can also be diverse.

For example, as a homesteader you can take life slower, have access to homegrown, fresh organic produce, be surrounded by nature, learn and teach meaningful skills, have a more healthy and active lifestyle, have more freedom, and etc. Homesteading can also be catered to a more urban environment, such as by growing a potted plant garden.

As a young teenager, I was adamant that I did not want to marry a farmer.. (more…)

How Our International Love Story Began..

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If you’ve been clicking around, you’ve probably read that Masashi and I (Hannah) are an international married couple living in rural Hyogo, Japan. Masashi is a born and raised Japanese native, but also spent a year living in Uganda. I am from America. Below is the story of how we met, and how our unexpected love story unfolded..

Since we both love to sing, Masashi and I first met through mutual membership in a large choir through the church we attended while living in Tokyo. At some point, the choir went on a summer retreat to Karuizawa, and we both attended. I had seen Masashi previously, and I must confess.. I had not given him much notice. During the retreat, that changed.. (more…)

How To Plan A Budget Trip, Part 2

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So you’ve already set a budget or had the time-off approved for your dream trip.. but what about saving on all of the “smaller” expenses that add up while traveling?

Masashi and I are looking forward to our “bucket-list” trip (see here: how to plan a budget trip).. but this is not our first adventure, and we’ve both picked up some saving-money skills. We thought we would share these to help make your next trip cost a little bit less jaw-dropping.. (more…)

How To Plan A Budget Trip

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When my husband and I married, we did so on a creatively low budget, which meant foregoing an adventurous, out-of-country honeymoon. We took a few days off before jumping immediately into our new life, as well as moving into our new apartment, and a new job (in my case). We hit the ground running – and while that may not work for everyone, it suited us well!

While some might think that an elaborate honeymoon trip is a “necessity”, we feel that starting our lives with normal life was an excellent way to get to know each together. All too often, couples start out with the fantasy of an extended and expensive honeymoon, only to have the dream come crashing down later.. but, since we started out with the reverse, every adventure since has only been twice as enjoyable (and better financially prepared for!).

The average couple spends 4,000-5,000$ on a honeymoon, which only lasts a little over a week.

That’s a lot to be spending at the beginning of marriage! We do not mean to say that honeymoons are a bad thing (if you have the chance, by all means take it if it’s right for your family!), but that elaborate ones may be neither economically savvy, nor the only option out there.

However, that doesn’t mean that adventuring should be out of the question! (more…)

10 Misconceptions about Japan

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I remember hearing once in a movie a reference that unlike Japan, Ireland is not far from America.

This line made me laugh. Although the movie was referencing the east coast of America, which is in fact nearer to Ireland than Japan, I think that many people (especially Americans) have the sense that Japan is very far and inaccessible compared to European countries.. even though for those on the west coast, it may be easier to reach.

Other misconceptions I’ve encountered include that Japanese people eat teriyaki chicken all the time, or Panda Express-like dishes. Many people also confuse Chinese (or even Korean) culture and customs with Japanese, or think that it must be hard to get around in Japan because of the language barrier.

Before coming to Japan and later moving here, I was guilty of similar assumptions! So, I would like to share a few common misconceptions about Japan, and some insight into what Japan is really like. (more…)

Our Miscarriage Story

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**Warning: the following post includes discussion of pregnancy and miscarriage in Japan. Please do not read if it makes you uncomfortable.**

Does it seem strange to talk about miscarriage at the beginning of a blog about our family? While it is tough to share about this part of our lives, we believe that loss is also a part of life that ought to be recognized.. and it’s sometimes from the ashes that come beauty and joy.

We were expecting our first child on July 29th, but I miscarried in the 3rd month of pregnancy.

While we believe that everything that happened is a part of God’s plan and trust His future for us, the following is an honest look at what it is like to experience both early pregnancy and miscarriage in Japan.. I hope it is helpful women who might experience a similar situation, to answer your questions, or to offer comfort through knowing that someone else has been through the same situation.

Please note that I am NOT a doctor, so please do not take any of the following as medical advice, and also note that every woman and every pregnancy and miscarriage are different.  (more…)