10 Years in Japan

Today marks our ten year anniversary in Japan! Wow! I can hardly believe we’ve lived here 10 years already, and in some ways it feels like we’ve always lived here. For our kids, Japan is more than just where we live — it’s their home country! That’s a crazy thought. Ruth grew up a similar way, because although she is American and has American parents, they moved to Brazil when she was a toddler and she grew up in Brazil with both Portuguese and English as native languages. Now our kids are repeating the pattern, but instead of Brazil, it’s Japan. It can almost be confusing at times!

Arriving at Narita April 25/26 2014 with Ruth’s parents along to help with the move

We are so thankful for these last 10 years, with all of their ups and downs and sideways turns. Through it all we have strengthened our bond as a family and made a lot of new friends along the way. Never would I have imagined all that has happened in the last 10 years, from having a little boy (Joshua) in Japan to starting a coffee shop, or seeing Paz Church grow like crazy or even starting a little YouTube channel called Life in Japan only to see it flourish. Or how about finally finding a large house in the city to move into?! Wow! What blessings! We are truly living a dream come true.

We are thankful for all these things and more, but most of all we’re thankful for the people that are a part of our lives because of living in Japan. We’re so thankful that you’ve been a part of this journey. And as we look forward to the future, I have a personal feeling like we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. If the last 10 years were that eventful, what will the next 10 years bring? Only the best I believe! It’s time to find out!


Learning From YouTube

YouTube is one of modern society’s most powerful tools, and it’s literally in the hands of anyone. YouTube’s popularity is so much more than just the fact that it’s a place to stream videos, and it’s more than the fact that anyone can create and distribute content there for free (although that’s huge, for sure). The true power of YouTube is in creating community. And community is created when people converse with each other, creators with their audience and creators amongst themselves.

Every once in a while I come across a video or channel with their comments turned off. That to me is perhaps one of the fastest ways to kill any chance that channel has for true community to grow. Yea, it takes time to filter through and read comments, but through doing so I have not only created a stronger connection with my audience, but I have also learned so much along the way. Here are some things I have learned.

  1. You never know what videos are going to connect with a bigger audience.
    You can research and plan a video. You can film an epic video with the most amazing footage. You can have the best experience in the world. You can spend weeks making the perfect edit. But you never know which video is going to take off. If you make videos long enough, you will find there are certain subjects that a bigger audience than your typical audience really likes. And that is a HUGE clue to you of how to connect to your audience.

    In our channels’ case, whenever we post a video about our family’s experience in Japanese schools, it typically reaches bigger audiences — like our recent video about the girls’ Japanese Junior High School experience or the kids’ backpacks. These videos almost always connect in a big way.
  2. A popular video doesn’t mean it’s impactful
    Just because a video is popular, it doesn’t mean it’s having a big impact. And the reverse is also true — just because a video isn’t getting a lot of views doesn’t mean it’s not a powerful video that is really touching somebody. I love asking people what their favorite video is from our channel. So often it’s one of the more obscure ones that didn’t even get many views compared to others, like on parenting or our video on Brazil (these are all real examples that people have given). If you just follow what is popular, ironically you could actually move away from creating content that truly touches and changes people. This leads to the last point for now…
  3. YouTube is a terrible boss, but a great employee
    If your goal is to make a career out of YouTube, get ready for a huge up and down journey of chasing after an audience, creating content that will get their attention. And if you’re one of the few that actually do build an audience, then the stress of trying to keep that audience’s attention while growing a larger audience is enough to make most people quit. Creator burnout is a very real thing, and even though YouTube is not my full-time job, I have felt the same effects of a YouTube lifestyle.

    If you put half of the effort it takes to run a YouTube channel into any other career, you will do much better! YouTube is a terrible boss because it depends on your audience’s response, and an audience response can often be fickle and lackluster. However, if you have an entrepreneur spirit and have something deeper to share with an audience, YouTube is an incredible tool to employ! And in a very interesting way, it’s the people that have something to say who aren’t afraid to say it that often do really well on a platform like YouTube. No other platform I know of gives you quite the same possibilities. I hope it continues to grow in all the right ways!

An important thing to realize is that behind each number, each username and online persona, there are real people who are letting you into their lives. It is a humbling and powerful thing. People are choosing to go on a journey that you have created, either to learn from you, be entertained or a combination of both. For years we have created our Life in Japan series as a way to share our lives with our audience along the way. As we meet more and more people whose lives have changed because of the channel, the reality of what is happening sinks in more and more. In fact we received one message at the end of last year I wanted to share here:

Hi, I’m Megumi* and first of all merry Christmas! I’ve watched Life In Japan for a few years now, and I started watching as an atheist during COVID in the UK. I loved your videos so much as I’ve always loved different cultures and was studying for a Theology qualification. I thought I’d message in support of the channel but also to say that i was Saved nearly two months ago now, and became a Christian. I truly believe that God showed me your channel years before I accepted Him to soften my heart, and I applaud everything you do out in Japan, but also want to let you know that your channel is such a beacon of hope for so many. I hope you all have a blessed day whatever time it is for you, and that you keep doing what you’re doing!

Megumi (not actual name)

These kinds of comments make my day and charge my creative batteries! This is why we work so hard and do all we do — because at the end of the day, or episode, or whatever it is we’re doing, we want people to experience real life, no matter their background, beliefs or nationality. It might be something as simple as bringing a smile to someone, or exploring something in a new way, but when life is given, it’s a win-win situation for everyone.


An Unusual Start to 2024

Normally we would be wishing you a very happy new year at this moment, and in fact we do wish you a happy new year, but for many here in Japan New Year’s Day was anything but happy. A huge earthquake struck near the Western coast of Japan (several hours away from us here in the Tokyo area). While I am thankful that we are all fine and nothing in our house or area suffered damage (that I know of), we are just beginning to see how bad the damage is in the affected area. If you or your family were affected by this earthquake, our hearts go out to you. We are praying for your recovery.

But prayer is just a part of our response to tragedy. Our Paz International team sent several relief and aid teams to help after the infamous Tohoku earthquake on March 11, 2011. Years later, when the Kumamoto earthquake struck, we sent a number of relief teams into that area and I was blessed to be a part of it. If need be, our Paz team would once again mobilize our members towards another relief effort to do whatever we can to help those affected by this disaster.

Living in Japan you become very conscious of the fact that you can’t take anything for granted. We are so thankful for all of the prayers and concern of everyone who has messaged us, asking about our safety. We ask that you continue to pray for those affected by the earthquake.


Unique Japanese School Supplies

Japanese school supplies are as unique as the school system itself. I must say that one of the strengths of a Japanese education is the focus on practical things that you use in everyday life, not just all the concepts that educators want you to know. You can see this very clearly in the sheer amount of supplies parents need to buy.

As a parent you get a list of things that are needed for each school year and usually a QR code for a webpage where you can buy the supplies. There are inexpensive offerings as well as cuter (and often more expensive) options. Parents are given a decent stipend from the government in order to help with these purchases, as to not be a burden for poorer families. Still, as you can see, the Japanese school system is quite the system! What do you think? How does it compare the schools you know?


Life-Defining Moments

We all have these moments — they can be positive or negative events. They can happen to us when we are young or grown, but they are the moments that end up defining who we are and what we’re about. I’ve had a number of these moments throughout my life, and the way I’ve responded to them has made me the person I am today. But recently are family experienced a life-defining moment that was so special we wanted to share it with all of you.

Baptism is a powerful, life-defining moment that really can’t be compared to anything else. It is the result of coming into personal relationship with creator God through Jesus Christ. This relationship changes everything in life — including all previous life-defining moments, whether good or bad. They all take a back seat the life-transforming identity we receive when we are adopted as sons and daughters of God through Jesus Christ.

What life-defining moments have you experienced? Have they made you better as a person, or have they left you shattered? Whatever it is, you can take these moments and give them to God who made you, knows you better than anyone else and wants the best for you more than you even want it. The best decision I ever made was to follow Jesus, and that continues to define my life, my marriage, my family and my future. I pray it can do the same for you!