The Summertime Dilemma

Summer is the time for a break, for something outside of the normal. It’s the time for camps and retreats, for expeditions and travel, for festivals and celebrations, and that is certainly true in Japan. But all of this leads to a problem…

Western countries enjoy long vacations, even up to 3 months, but in Japan it’s 5 weeks for grade school and one week for regular salary men. This condensed vacation means that a lot of summer activities happen while people are still working and kids are still in school. When it is finally vacation time, all the major locations are PACKED with people. And the way that Western culture and Japanese culture deals with these two things is very different.

Many westerners (myself included) prefer taking their kids out of school in order to vacation when it’s not high vacation time, in order to avoid the crowds. However Japanese society highly values perfect attendance and not missing any work/school, so many people here would never even think of taking their kids out of school or missing work. They just plan ahead, pay the extra prices and book way in advance.

And we are stuck in the middle. In fact, living anywhere overseas you will always find yourself stuck in the middle. Inbetween two cultures. In-between value systems. In-between societal pressures, work pressures and family pressures. And if your family is multi-cultural, you have these pressures inside the family!

How you do with all of these things either builds a stronger family culture or crumbles it. We’ve done our best to walk a balanced line, but what is balanced to us may be way off to others. What seems proper for us would be improper for others. For example, we take our kids out of school if there’s a chance for a great vacation, or when it’s time to do a stint of work in the U.S. But we prefer not to do so much that our kids get behind, miss work or feel like they aren’t keeping up with school.

That’s just one aspect, but a proper balance will lead to a healthier family. Too much work and study is just as bad as not enough. Becoming a mature person means learning what is healthy for you as a person and as a family, and with God’s help walking that path. The Bible lays an incredible foundation for living in a healthy way. It shows us the way to walk, and as we walk it, we discover the healthiest way to live. What God has for each and everyone of us is as unique as we are, and what God has for one person is completely different from what He has for another. But each person is valuable and each journey unique.

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