Experiencing Life in Japan

Ruth and I started our married life in America, and then lived in Brazil for 7 years before moving and living in Japan for over 8 years. In all of our life’s experiences, more than once I have thought “this would be an interesting documentary.” Yes, our life moving from country to country has been anything but boring, and many times an overwhelming challenge.

One of our biggest challenges of adapting to life in Japan was learning how to shoehorn our family of six into a 3 bedroom apartment. We recently visited this subject in an episode of Life in Japan, because as the kids grow, so does the challenge.

Although living in Japan is full of challenges for foreigners, it also has its perks. One of them are the fireworks shows. As an American, I have a high standard for what a fireworks show should be, so I was happy to see that the shows here in Japan do not disappoint.

The longer we live in Japan, the more we adapt to the unique taste palette of their foods. Even American chains like McDonalds and Starbucks offer Japan-specific menus that cater to the Japanese taste buds. So recently we decided to try out a Japanese restaurant chain to see how much we’ve adapted to culinary society here in Japan.

One of the biggest challenges for me has been finding hobbies and things to do that get me out of my house, out of my comfort zone and keep me healthy mentally, physically and spiritually. Approaching life passively does not help one grow in any of these areas, so it was fun when Ruth came along with me as we went exploring the nearby Japanese countryside to see what we could find.

So as we continue to live life moving forward, we look forward to new experiences and understanding Japan in a deeper way. A big part of that is continued language study and practice, and while we still have a long ways to go towards fluency, we have already made big strides towards getting there. In the meantime, we get by with a little help from our friends — and that’s not so bad.


It’s Summertime

Summer growing up was always a fun time that we had off school. There were fun activities to keep us busy like camps, retreats, trips and games. We would spend a lot of time playing sports with neighbor kids outside. Then when I got older, Summer became a time to work and make money, which was also great. Now that I’m a parent, summer is a time to do things together as a family, but the reality in Japan is much different than where I grew up.

Recently Sarah has really gotten into lizards and frogs, and she has been wanting to go out to find some. So this Summer we took to the nearby rivers and wetlands to see what we could find. Would our hunt end in success, or would we have to work harder to find something next time?

And when it’s super hot in the summer, it’s always great to have some fun things to do inside. We’ve heard about Tokyo’s famous indoor digital art museum and when we heard it’s about to close for good at the end of the summer, we took a day to go see it. It was well worth the trip.

Do you have any favorite summer pastimes?


Life Interrupted

We, like the rest of Japan, are shocked and saddened by the untimely passing of the ex-prime minister of Japan, Abe. The news of him being shot reached us on Friday early afternoon, and it was hard to even accept it as real news at first. Shot? By a gun? In Japan? Even though Abe was no longer prime minister, he had a tremendous influence on Japanese politics and was campaigning for the upcoming elections (which are happening as I write this).

On Friday, as the time came approached to launch our weekly episode of Life in Japan at 7:00 PM, the news of his death was announced. It was shocking. I couldn’t imagine launching our episode of Life in Japan. The Bible says to mourn with those who mourn, so after consulting with a number of trusted friends, we decided to postpone the normal episode of Life in Japan and instead offer our own heart-felt condolences.

There was no time to prepare a speech, so we simply shared from our heart our deepest sympathies to Abe’s family and to Japan, letting everyone know that our heart and our prayers are with Japan. Anna did her best to translate and I did my best to try to figure out how to do a last-moment livestream offering our condolences. You’re never really prepared for something like this.

We do want to reiterate that our hearts and prayers are with Japan, Abe’s family and colleagues. May God bless Japan.


Learning About ¥ and $

I remember my first job growing up — it was mowing lawns for our neighbors. Now if you grew up in the Midwest, you know well what mowing lawns is, but if you’re like my kids (and grew up where people don’t have lawns), it’s a foreign concept.

So when we visited the States, the kids pointed out the window of the car and yelled “What’s that guy doing?” I looked and saw a guy pushing a machine over the green grass and realized that they didn’t know about mowing lawns! So I said “Mowing lawns — that was daddy’s first job!”

When I made my first $10, my dad (an accountant) sat down with me and showed me and easy way to manage money. Give your first 10% to God (a tithe), put away another percentage for saving, and use the rest! It set me on a straight path right from the beginning.

That dollars and cents talk, or the yen talk if it’s here in Japan, is what a lot of young people are missing in their lives today, and without it you really don’t have a good idea of how powerful managing your money in a proactive way can be.

In fact recently we gave the kids ¥500 (about $4) each to spend in a Japanese discount store however they wanted. It was so interesting to see how they spent it, and in some cases very heart-warming (Joshua’s last purchase sure made me proud).

While this video doesn’t teach any kind of principles on money directly, the proper principles lived out can turn your life around from being reactive towards your spending (what gets your attention gets your money) to being proactive (planning on saving, being generous, future schooling, housing and needs, etc).

Ruth and I recently took a step towards being even more proactive with our finances, breaking down how much we spend in a month. The idea is not only to maximize our salary, but make sure it’s going to the important areas and not being sucked away by reactive spending. Do you do anything like this? If you’re like us, we need these adjustments along the way to keep us on track and make sure we keep going in the right direction.


Discovering An Ancient Way

One of the things Japan is known for is its history that goes back hundreds, even thousands of years. So imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon a trail that retraces an old trading road here in the middle of the Kanto (Greater Tokyo) area! The trail, called the Tama Yokoyama no Michi snakes 10 kilometers through the Tama Hills.

What was truly amazing to me was that this path was hidden in plain sight — meaning it is well marked, has great parks and vantage points along the way, and is in no way being obscured. But I would have never known about it unless I had gone off the beaten path, wound up in a park where I discovered the huge sign. It’s just like life, really. Some of the best things in life happen because we detour from the normal path.