Culture

October: The Start of Chilly Mornings

This morning was the first day of the season that felt quite cold. I spent most of the day shivering, until I finally put on leggings and a sweater in the afternoon. The chilliness made holding a cup of steaming coffee after breakfast seem all the more enjoyable, and the sun streaming through the windows brought the slightest bit of warmth to the otherwise crisp air.

Second to spring, autumn is my absolute favorite season.

I like wearing loose sweaters, feeling the sharp air on my face, and baking pies. I like eating steaming nabe (Japanese hot pot dishes, such as boiled cabbage with mushrooms and chicken), and wrapping myself in a soft, warm scarf (マフラー in Japanese).

Living in Japan means that the feeling of fall is also just a bit different from what I grew up with..  (more…)

Multicultural: Creating Our Family Culture

As a multicultural family, there are all sorts of cultural habits and holidays to adjust to create our own family culture.

My husband Masashi is native Japanese and also lived in Uganda, while I am from America. Our family is a unique blending of cultures and languages. His mother cannot speak English. My parents cannot speak Japanese (though my mom is learning it).. and at our home in rural Japan, we often speak a mix of Japanese, English, and “Japanglish“.

Beyond the background of where we grew up, we have multiple other differences, such as related to our educational upbringings.. and we’ve spent time living in both the Kanto and Kansai regions of Japan (which are different culturally, even within the relatively compact island country).

Some of my family members were also more recent emigrants from Europe (not hundreds of years ago as is the case with many American-European “mutts”, but within the last century), and bilingual. This means my family heritage is not fully diluted.

And it creates a lot of questions.. (more…)

Obon and the Last Hurrah of Summer

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It is nearly time for the Obon festival (お盆), or Festival of the Dead. Obon is a holiday season in Japan that began as a Buddhist tradition of honoring one’s family ancestors.

The holiday is observed during different times of the year depending on the region of Japan, so it falls around mid-July or mid-August. It is not an official government holiday, but most companies take off time during the festival. In the region where we live, Obon is observed from about August 11th-15th.

Traditionally, it was thought that during Obon, the spirits of ancestors would travel to this world to visit family members. While not everyone may still hold this belief, Obon is seen as a time for reuniting with family, respecting one’s ancestors, and visiting and cleaning the cemeteries where family members are memorialized.

Since my husband and I are Christian, we do not practice Buddhist customs or believe in the spiritualism of Obon. However, the festival is a time of reunion, as it is one of the few times a year when family can take off time from work. This year, our aunt, uncle, and sister on Masashi’s side will travel to visit. (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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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, as well as some insight into what Japan is really like. (more…)

To New Places.. (Our Upcoming Move)

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In our last post, we shared that one of the big decisions we made toward the end of 2017 was not to renew the contract of our apartment in Yokohama, and to make steps toward moving to our bigger home sometime this year (2018).

It has always been on Masashi’s heart to live in the countryside, in his hometown located in Hyogo prefecture. To be honest, at first, I was hesitant about moving to the countryside (I desired to eventually, but perhaps after a few more years..), and thankfully Masashi never pressured me about the idea.

Yet, as we prayed about the direction for our family, gradually our thoughts began to synchronize, and any reservations faded into non-existence.  

Living in the countryside is not entirely unfamiliar. I grew up where the suburbs blended into the country in a small-town in California. Growing up in a small town was a good experience, but after graduating college, I moved.. first to San Diego, and soon after to Tokyo. (more…)

Christmas and Shogatsu

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With Christmas just ending and our winter vacation just beginning, I’ve been remembering my first Christmas in Japan before I was married. That first year, I didn’t really know what to expect. Many people think of Christmas as being universally celebrated, but it still feels somewhat new in Japan.

Unlike in Europe or most Western countries, Christmas is not really a “family” event so much as a popular couples-day for dinner dating and seeing illuminations. Some (but not all) families might give their children gifts.. but children probably receive fewer gifts compared to kids in countries where Christmas has already become highly commercialized.

Companies in Japan are just starting to snag onto the marketing opportunities, which means that we can likely expect a much more materialistic Christmas in years to come.. (more…)