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Our time in Japan as a family has come to the end, as the children have now moved back to England.

I am currently also back in England but will go back to Japan in September for another six months to complete teaching for this academic year (which finishes in March). My lovely, modern husband will be looking after our children for the coming several months and will (happily) be in charge of arranging our kids’ Aikido, guitar and swimming classes, after school clubs, parent get-togethers and even attempting to bake something for the Parent-Teacher Association’s fundraising – maybe I am a bit ambitious with the last item on this list, or at least with the part that he would happily do it, but you’ll get the point that my husband will look after the kids’ school stuff and hobbies for the next six months while I will be the modern wife and mother who will be working 6000 miles from home.

The kids’ move has meant that the past month or so was in many ways extremely emotional, as the children had to say goodbye to their friends and teachers in Japan.

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This is a goodbye poem my son wrote to his best friend in Japan. It says: Sorry. Now I need to go to England. I am sure I will let you go to visit my house in England or Finland. And I like you. Can you always play? I wish I could stay. You are important because you are my friend. Till the end.

 

We’ve also had to say goodbye to the apartment that was our home for 2 ½ years. I was only able to get through the last week of emptying and cleaning of the apartment with frequent (and generous!) pourings of my favourite, plum wine.

 

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My last supper in the apartment

 

In addition to their friends, my son will  miss butamans (Chinese pork buns) and my daughter will miss strangers’ constant exclaims of ‘kawaii’ (‘cute’) at her. On the other hand, my husband will miss his Japan to England commmute as much as I miss the daily inspections of my children’s bodies for ticks during our recent visit to Finland (they have a huge problem in Finland currently with those horrible creatures (ticks not kids) whose single bite can result in a life threatening illness).

From now on, instead of my husband, I will be travelling between the two countries.

The past month was also extremely stressful, one of the most stressful times of my life in fact. Not only did the last day of the academic semester coincide with our flight back to Europe, but we also had to empty our apartment, move my stuff to a flat share, and most traumatic of all: negotiate with the kids which of our lorry load of toys would go into our three suitcases heading to England and which in the bin. In desperation, my son carried one huge soft toy dog in his arms to the airport in the hope that he was allowed to take that on the plane – he was even prepared to make a scene if the airport ground staff told him that he would have to leave it behind, but in accommodating Japanese style, we were allowed to take the toy on the plane! There was one happy boy on that Finnair flight holding a dog nearly as big as a St Bernard.

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A nervous toy dog and his owner before finding out if doggy is flying to Europe or not.

 

I am in two minds about the move. I love Japan, the reliability of its public transport, delicious food, people’s considerate approach to others and interesting culture. In England public transport is abysmal, food in many restaurants below par, and people in many ways are less considerate than the Japanese. However, culturally and socially England is amazing, and I am prepared to live with the disgraceful Southern Trains, cold bangers and mash and bad service setting me back £12, and people pushing in on the train before I’ve had a chance to come out because of that wonderful sociable, friendly and accepting ethos (I will not address the result of the Brexit vote here, but I feel that overall people at least in English cities like Brighton are still very friendly, tolerant and open-minded).

Come September I will miss the kids and everything about them: them not waking up next to me in the morning, them not running to the hall when I get home from work to give me a hug while shouting ‘Mummy’s home!’, us not playing Monopoly or Top Trumps after dinner or just hanging around on a weekend, but I am taking a positive view of the next six months. This is an opportunity for me to re-live my time before kids. So, instead of being melancholy about this I will take this as a great opportunity to see the Japan that I would not see with the kids – staying overnight in a monastry, seeing a multitude of beautiful temples, experiencing natural beauty, soaking in outdoor and indoor hot springs, endulging in fancy restaurants with elegant food, letting my hair down in izakayas (Japanese ‘gastropubs’) i.e. experiences that do not strike kids as amazing, but to me sound like heaven.

So, for the next six months, I will be writing little anecdotes of my solo travels, experiences and observations of Japan. Stay tuned for the next chapter.

15 thoughts on “The beginning of the end

    • Yeah, that’s how I’m viewing the next six months – It’ll be very difficult not seeing the kids every day, but at the same time it should be quite an interesting and eventful 6 months for me 🙂

  1. Hi, it must be so bittersweet…I hope the next few months are less stressful and I look forward to hearing about your solo adventures.

    • Hi Min Ku,

      Now that the kids have moved back to England, I’ve moved to a flat share and the hectic 1st semester at work is over, my life is so much less stressful. Thank you.

      I know I will miss the kids and my husband when I go back to Japan but I am looking forward to acquiring some exciting and interesting new experiences as a solo traveller 🙂

  2. Bravo on completing a monumental transition! What you have accomplished certainly gives me a much less daunting perspective on the challenges of our upcoming (within a year or so) move from our 30+-year family home to a much smaller abode and a much different community (both of which we have yet to find). I stand in awe of what you were able to accomplish in a short time and understand a bit about the emotions you describe you and your children feeling upon leaving your Japanese apartment and community. How wonderful, though, that the children loved living in Japan enough to be sad about leaving. Kudos to the kind airline employee who set the tone for a smooth transition to life in England by letting your son fly there with his beloved stuffed dog! Now you are going from 2.5 years of being an oft-solo parent to your children in what started as a new country to all of you to six months of being quite solo there, and you already are managing to focus on the opportunities before you…your resilience and resourcefulness are inspiring! I very much look forward to reading about your adventures in Japan and your children’s re-entry to England and daily life with their father. Well done, Leslie

    • Hi Leslie,

      Thank you for your lovely message. I don’t think my husband and/or I are particularly resilient or resourceful, but we just try to cope with whatever circumstances life puts us in 🙂

      Gosh, moving out of a family home will be a huge task and is likely to be very emotional for you. We had relatively little stuff in our 85 square metre apartment and the biggest problem (in addition to my negotiations with the kids about their toys being thrown in the trash) was for me to physically find the time to empty and clean the apartment alone (given that my husband was at the time already in England) while the children had several leaving parties and I was completely snowed under with work, so I think our move was nothing in comparison to what you’ve got ahead of you. But even though you are leaving the area and the house that was your home for 30 years, I am sure you will find a lovely new home and community for the next 30 years 🙂

  3. Wow! Huge changes for you! Enjoy your solo time! I’m sure 6 months will fly by and you’ll definitely enjoy the child-less freedom! Shame you’re not back in Osaka yet! I’m going to be there next week for work and was going to suggest a meet-up!

    • Hi Rachael,

      Yeah, even though parents love their kids, most of them, me included, appreciate a bit of their own time. So, selfishly, I will take the next 6 months as an opportunity to have some me-time 🙂

      What bad timing. Sorry. It would have been great to meet up! You are not by any chance coming to Kansai or Tokyo area again this autumn? If you are please let me know.

  4. Wow. Can’t even imagine a few days without the kiddos, but I’m sure I’d get used to it… How often will you fly home during this time? And what are your plans for when you return? I’ll sure miss your musings — but I’m looking forward to read more about your solo adventures. xx

    • I’ll see the kids every 4 or so weeks. So, although I will miss them, I think I’ll survive. Thank God for Skype!

      I don’t have any solid plans (or a job!) in England yet. I am hoping to find something before April. Fingers crossed. x

    • Hi Keith, Umeda is a great place to live in, as it is fab for transport, eateries, shopping. That is, it’s probably a more stimulating environment that Tsurumi Ryokuchi park 🙂

      I’m returning to Osaka in a couple of days for the start of the second academic semester on the 1st Oct. If you and Min KU fancy it, maybe we could meet up sometime…?

  5. I have very much enjoyed reading about you and your family’s story. And your insights too between the Japanese and English cultures. Photos are great especially as they are of my grand kids.

    I know I haven’t read a number of your contributions but I will get to them sooner or later.

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