omamori from Japan

Pregnancy in Canada & Japan – raised eyebrows and new traditions

Being pregnant is one of those wonderful mysteries that anyone can share. From strangers at the grocery store eying your big belly and smiling (or running away) to relatives pestering you to make more babies, it’s an experience that is very public. During my pregnancy, my husband and I were living in Canada and my in-laws were in…

rice stalk

Rice run – a new perspective (or my husband sets me straight)

After moving to Canada from Japan, my husband and I had a lot of adjustments to make. One thing that stayed constant was our need to keep eating our favorite Japanese rice. Back in Japan, the closet grocery store was steps from our door. We could buy an easy to carry bag of rice whenever…

rice paddy in Katagami

Rice run – the burden

Moving to Canada from Japan was a huge adjustment for my husband and I. Besides the weather, crazy drivers and the necessary evil of cover letters (a requirement in Canada with many job applications), our beloved Japanese rice caused some of the greatest strain. We managed to run out of rice more than once. To do…

cute dog

Being sick and (cultural?) disagreements on how to get better

Ugh! Hitoshi is still getting over suspected influenza and I’m in the thick of a super coughy, sinus headachy like-my-brain-is-going-to-be-squished-out-of-my-ears nastiness. Nice. Getting sick far from the familiar Getting sick in an international context can be the pits. You might be far from remedies you’re used to and sometimes have weird things thrust at you to “just…

wedding rings from Japan

Wedding rings in Japan and that mismatched couple

Mismatched wedding rings and the stranger “Why are your wedding rings different?” The young woman had a wide open face with an easy smile that stretched from ear to ear. Her lanky frame arched over a crossed leg that swung back and forth. Everyone in the registry office could hear her business as well as her question.…

Mount Takao, Japan

A history of language failure and why it’s going to change

2015 marks nine years since I moved to Japan. Nine years! That’s a hefty length of time to focus on a (no longer) new language. Three years. That’s how long I lived in Japan. Three whole years! That’s a decent time to learn a language and in an immersion environment to boot. Eight years. Eight years,…

rice container and bag of rice

The Rice Crisis – my Japanese husband teaches me why I should care

It was a winter afternoon. My newish husband and I were at the grocery store near our Tokyo apartment. I was perusing what was probably spinach and heard Hitoshi’s voice from somewhere nearby, “Hilary, we’re out of rice.” Continuing to examine the supposed spinach with eyes focused downward, “Uh huh” slipped out. Hubby’s voice popped up again…

rice growing in the mountain's shadow

Succession planning in a more traditional Japanese family

Hitoshi’s family has agricultural roots. Much of his extended family still lives in rural communities and maintains land for growing rice, vegetables and fruit. While Hitoshi’s family no longer grows food for sale, the land remains part of the family reach. Land is crucial to succession planning. It is so important in Hitoshi’s family that…

shrine roof, Akita, Japan

Hiking and love in Japan – Mount Shinzan, Akita

Photography 101 is done! My skills have improved dramatically over the last month thanks to the course prompts and lots of practice. The inventors of digital memory also get my gratitude, allowing for hundreds of mistakes and experiments at no cost. This course has helped me see that even the photos I thought were worthless have value…

posing with a drug store character in Japan

Entering a Japanese company: 1 inane photo, 1 hand-written resume, and a smoke free workplace

Off to a superb start Perhaps my new boss felt he couldn’t find someone to replace me in time. Perhaps he was excusing me as a silly foreigner. Perhaps he was overly kind. It is impossible to explain why I felt the above photo was appropriate to forward to my new workplace in Japan. I…