HOW TO: Make Your Baby Legal in Japan (if You're American)

Thanks to Ashley Tieman, mom and former missionary from Okayama, Japan, for this post.

For most new parents, the hardest part about having a newborn is adjusting to a demanding new schedule. But for children of foreign parents in Japan, there's a long process to getting your new little one legally registered with Japan and your home country. Hopefully this guide will help!

Please note: this guide was written based on the experiences of two American parents in Okayama prefecture and written to give you a general idea of the process. Procedures may vary in different areas, and may be different depending on your nationality, so please double check with your ward office, regional immigration bureau and embassy or consulate.

Also, if you are a mixed-nationality couple, please note the process is different! This guide can give you a general feel for the process but you will need to seek out additional information for your specific circumstances.

In our experience there were three main tasks:

1. Register with your local ward office or city hall
2. Register with the nearest Regional Immigration Bureau office
3. Apply for your child's passport and other government-issued documents with your home country's embassy

HOW TO: Use An Electronic Japanese Toilet

The high-tech Japanese toilet. That's what so many of you may have heard about Japan.

While others of you might be wondering why I'm writing this as a how-to. But considering how many blog posts I've seen by people who travel to Japan and inevitably get doused by one of these toilets, I believe a "how-to" is in order.

My first encounters with these toilets weren't much to speak of, except for the fact that I sometimes spent far too long trying to figure out how to flush, as I assumed if there was a panel with that many buttons, one of them must be the flush button. After desperately pressing them all and being surprised or nearly squirted, I later saw, embarrassed, a normal-looking handle on the back of the toilet itself, just like in the States.

HOW TO: Find and Call a Taxi in Japan

Japan, Japanese, taxi, travel, how to

If you have lived in Japan without a car, chances are good you've been stuck somewhere before.

Japan has, for the most part, a useful public transportation system. Bullet trains zoom all over the country. Local trains service even more areas, while buses transport people in both cities and the countryside.

And yet, sometimes buses aren't accessible. Sometimes the train station is too far. And sometimes you need to go somewhere with luggage or a box or just don't want to brave another downpour.

You can call a friend and ask for a ride, but if your friend is busy, you'll need an alternative: call a taxi.

Most city train stations, and even some smaller ones, have taxis sitting outside waiting to take passengers wherever they need to go. But if you want one to pick you up at home, or from another location, you'll need to call for one.

How to Find a Taxi

There are several ways, but here are four:

a) Next time you're at the train station nearest your home, check for a phone number on the taxis sitting outside of the station. Make a new contact in your cell phone with this number.

b) Search for タクシー (takushii) plus your city name online. The results should show a few places you can call.

c) Search a site such as or The sites are in Japanese, but fairly easy to use. Click on the prefecture you're in. On the page that opens, click on the city. Sometimes you may also need to click on a ward. A list of taxi companies will show up--you can try any of these (and put one or more into your cell phone contacts so you have them handy).

d) Alternatively, if you're at a place of business, you might be able to request someone there to call a taxi for you. Hotels will do this for you (if you're a guest). Say, "タクシーをよんでください" (takushii o yonde kudasai).

How to Call a Taxi

Once you have the taxi number, dial it and when someone answers, say (in Japanese):
Omukae ni kite moraemasu ka?
Could you come pick me up?

HOW TO: Survive Summer in Japan [24 Resources]

It's July and I'm sure most of you are in the thick of the stick! Sticky humidity that is. Unless you're in Hokkaido. Regardless of where you are, you need to be prepared for what summer brings. Humidity, bugs, bug bites, mold, nasty smells, sunburns, and of course, fun.

We've got you covered. Read on for more.

Rainy Season / Humidity

The rainy season is more or less over now in Japan this year, but many of these tips will help you beat the heat and humidity of a Japanese summer.

40 tips to survive the rainy season in Japan
12 more ideas to survive the rainy season


The mosquitoes are obnoxious and the roaches are disgusting, so how do you deal with them? Read on below. Plus tips to find medicine for those itchy bites.

HOW TO: Prevent and kill cockroaches
A Survival Guide to Mosquito Repellent in Japan
HOW TO: Find anti-itch, insect bite medicine in Japan


Not sure how to work your air conditioner or dehumidifier? Look no further.

Also tips on how to deal with the ever-present mold, and why you should check out bamboo charcoal and activated charcoal.

A Guide to Dehumidifiers in Japan
HOW TO: Use an Air Conditioner in Japan
HOW TO: Use Your Dehumidifier in Japan
HOW TO: End Your Battle With Mold in the Bathroom
6 Reasons You Should Use Bamboo Charcoal (Takesumi)
Deodorize and more with Activated Charcoal
HOW TO: Stay cool without air conditioning: "Cool Air Fan" or 冷風扇

Personal and Body Care

No, most Japanese sunscreens aren't going to whiten your skin. And no, not all Japanese deodorant lacks aluminum, the active ingredient in anti-perspirants. I'm not going to tell anyone what to use--we all know what works best for us--but please inform yourselves. :)

A Guide to Sunscreen in Japan
Japanese Deodorant: What's in it, What's the Best, and What You Think
HOW TO: Find good deodorant in Japan
What is "Calorie Off" and why should you care?


It's summer, so enjoy it! Go swimming, even with a tattoo! Travel around Japan without breaking the bank! Go to the movies! Hike some trails!

HOW TO: Find a recreational pool or water park in Japan
QA: Swimming with a tattoo?
HOW TO: Save Money While Traveling in Japan
7 tips for going to the movies in Japan

24 Handy Resources for Traveling in Japan
HOW TO: Customize your drinks at Starbucks or Tully's in Japan
HOW TO: Find hiking trails in Japan
how to find outdoor gear in Japan

What other topics would you like to see covered on how to survive summer in Japan?


Thanks to Nihongo Master for being SiJ's July sponsor!

Learn Japanese online and study with your friends using Nihongo Master. I've tried a lot of tools, but I love their unique concept.

Do You Read Surviving in Japan via Google Reader? Read This.

To our many, many lovely readers using RSS feed readers, you may or may not already know that Google Reader is shutting down on July 1st. Yes, this coming Monday.

So if you haven't already migrated your feeds elsewhere, you may want to find a new RSS reader, or at the very least, download your data and subscriptions so you have them safe and sound.

I recommend checking out Lifehacker's post if you're not sure what's going on or how to download your data: How To Prepare for Monday's Google Reader Shutdown

I'm trying out Feedly for now (waiting for Reeder to support it and/or other services), but you can choose from numerous other options.

And as usual, you can also follow Surviving in Japan via Facebook, Twitter, or Email (in the sidebar to the right under "Follow Surviving in Japan".

Thank you so much to all of you for subscribing, following, liking, tweeting, sharing and commenting. Thank you for your support, patience and understanding during our transition and personal issues. I appreciate it and I hope we can continue to build up SiJ to be helpful to you all.


Starting a Business in Japan: Yoyo Market [Interview]

Today we're talking with Jason Maitland, President and CEO of Yoyo Market, about starting a business in Japan. Yoyo Market is a fantastic online store for "almost anything from Costco, IKEA, organic and health foods and more".

SiJ: Tell us a little about yourself and Yoyo Market. 

Jason: I'm originally from Vancouver but have now been living in Japan for over 10 years. Like many, I came here with the intent to go home after one year but 10 years later I am still here, and loving it!

Yoyo Market is, in my opinion, Japan's number one bilingual online supermarket. It was my answer to the problem of getting the food and goods that you want all in one place. Years ago I used to spend half my Sundays going around to all the supermarkets, shops, and stores in my area just to get the food I wanted to eat. At first I enjoyed the challenge of assembling such a network but it quickly became laborious and way too time consuming. I also came to dread going to Costco on the weekend (waiting 40 minutes for parking is not a good use of my precious free time!). I finally came to the realization that if I wanted to combine all the of the food I wanted, plus a Costco and IKEA delivery service into one, I'd just have to do it myself. Now going on three years, Yoyo Market has evolved into one of the fastest, friendliest and diverse delivery services in the country.

SiJ: What were the main obstacles you faced trying to start Yoyo Market? What are the primary obstacles your business faces now? How have you overcome them? 

Moving to Japan This Summer? 31 Posts to Help You Prepare

moving to Japan, packing for Japan, Mt. Fuji, Fujisan

Summer is almost here and if you're part of the JET Program, you're likely preparing and trying to figure out what to bring and what to expect when you arrive. While there are a lot advice-givers out there (forums in particular), I'd strongly suggest that you take what is said with a grain of salt. Usually the advice you hear is limited to that person's particular experience.

Prior to arriving in Japan, I heard a lot about what Japan didn't have, only to later find out most of that wasn't true. It may have been true for the person who told me, but that depends on where they were/are living, what their situation is, how much Japanese they know/speak/read, what they do in their free time, who they associate with, etc.

Japan also changes quickly in different ways and so you might be surprised that there are more options of whatever than your predecessor or someone else might have known about.

Some people are more knowledgeable in certain areas, especially if they've gone through certain experiences themselves. Stay as open-minded as possible. And I strongly encourage you to seek out truth for yourself. Someone might state something as fact, but they may not know otherwise--it's a fact to them, but not necessarily to Japan.

Not just expats, but plenty of Japanese people might not even know, depending on the topic. For example, I tried for months to find a farmer's market in my first city, and no one (expats, Japanese) seemed to know about any or how to go about finding them. Some of my coworkers insisted that there weren't any around. But I happened upon one while out exploring on my bike a few months later, and then learned, on my own, how to find them.

So, keep an open mind and explore Japan for yourself. Ask questions, always. Be gracious when advice is offered--and please don't hesitate to ask for it!--but keep in mind that you might find it to be different down the road.

With that said, here are some posts to help with your preparations (regardless of how or why you're moving to Japan):

What to Pack for Japan -- A comprehensive list, which includes many of the links below in each relevant section. Please read this before packing or deciding what to bring or leave behind. You can find more posts in the "how-tos" link above.

moving to Japan, packing for Japan

Personal Care

condoms, contraception, IUDs, calendar, Japanese, Japan
toothpaste, Japan, Japanese

sunscreen, Japan, Japanese


food, Japan, Japanese, food labels





For more how-tos and information about living in Japan, see the "how-tos" page above.

24 Places to Find Infant and Children's Toys in Japan

Big thanks to Ashley Tieman for putting together this very useful post and to Annamarie for her contributions!

Just had a baby in Japan? Have small children? And looking for a few toys for them to play with? You may already have found some at nearby stores, but it is possible to find a range of quality, cute, safe, and educational kids' toys in Japan. And keep in mind that toy is おもちゃ (omocha) in Japanese. If you know of any others, please leave a comment below!

New Toy Stores

Don Quixote (ドンキー)
This nationwide chain is a foreigner's paradise. Once you've filled your cart with hard-to-find food items, head over to the massive games and toys section. Aisle after aisle is filled with puzzles, board games, collectibles, models, and more, often imported from overseas but with a reasonable price tag. The store also has a lot of "adult goods" nearby, so unless you are prepared for a potentially awkward question from your child, this might be a parents-only expedition. Available items may vary by store and region.

Home Centers (ホームセンター)
Japan's unique blend of hardware store+furniture store+pet goods+everyday life stores, called home centers (ホームセンター), can be an excellent, if surprising, place to find toys, especially for young children or children who like crafts/hobbies. Some examples in my area are Namba Home Center (ナンバホームセンター), Time (タイム) and Nafco (ナフコ). Cainz has stores around the country. Feel free to list your local home center in the comments (and location).

A typical place to find a large variety of toys is a children's store. Toys R Us and Babies R Us have been in Japan for years, but there are plenty of domestic companies as well. These stores are especially good for finding educational toys (like if you want to teach your kids hiragana or find books with animal names in Japanese).

What I Miss (and Don't Miss) About Living in Japan

Having been back in the States for just over two months now nearly four months now, I've thought quite a bit about what I miss and don't miss about life in Japan as I attempt to overcome reverse culture shock and settle in here. I'll be honest, though--I feel like an expat in my own country. I'm still overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choices, the variety of languages I hear when out and about, the inundation of a language I understand perfectly but hadn't heard much of for nearly five years.

And I'm missing Japan in a fierce way right now. We made the right decision, despite the fact we're still looking for jobs/source of income (but a blessing in disguise that David has been able to help with the toddler so I can try to rest and recover) and that my health took a turn for the worse with the culmination of a year and a half of stress, postpartum emotional/mental issues and a huge transition. I'm trying to take it one day at a time now, maybe accomplish one or two things if that includes doing some laundry and planning dinner, and not pine so much for the positive things about Japan that I miss.

But seriously, what I wouldn't give for a sento or onsen right now...

This list is, of course, subjective to me and if you're new to Japan or haven't yet visited, please don't assume these things are true of all expats. I've been adding things here and there since just before we left as they come to mind, so these aren't in any particular order, but I've numbered them for ease of reading.

What I Miss

1. Gorgeous landscapes
Mountains, cliffs, ocean, forests of all types. (We have these in Washington/US, too, and I love them just as much, but they just look a little bit different.)

2. Seasonal flavors (candy, drinks, etc.)

3. Muji 
Although the US does have some stores, and has online shopping. :)

4. Stores like Tokyu Hands and Loft

5. Expressway Service Areas
shin-tomei, expressway, Japan, service area

6. Onsen and sento
Stress relief at its finest.

7. Convenience stores

8. Trains
Don't really have them in my area of the States -- at least not the same.

9. Japanese curry
There are some Asian stores around to get curry roux, but it was nice to get yummy stuff easily. I haven't had the energy yet to make it from scratch. One day soon, I hope...

10. Okonomiyaki
At the little family-owned place we'd always get it from. Best I've ever had in Japan.

11. Freshness Burger

12. Cheap, but usually good, electronics

13. Yakiniku

14. Shizuoka green tea
It's possible to get in the States, but a bit more difficult and costs a little more. And all those tea fields...

15. Vending machines everywhere
Although I tried to always carry a water bottle with me, it was still a lifesaver at times.

16. Kappa-zushi

17. Soft cream at tourist trap areas

18. The Izu peninsula

19. Hanging my clothes outside to dry without the neighbors or landlord complaining. And the smell of sun-dried clothes. And in case you're wondering, here's how to find out how fast your laundry will dry.

20. Child payments

21. Greater use of bicycles and public transportation (this varies in the US depending on where you are)

22. Hanami
I know the UW has sakura trees, so do a lot of places in Washington, but it's not. the. same. Not even close. It's like trying to do all the seasonal Fall, cozy things of the US in Japan... would be weird. Also read: how to find a good hanami spot in Japan.

23. Fireworks Festivals
Different from the 4th of July. Summer is coming... how to find a fireworks festival this summer.

24. Winter Illuminations
A bit different from people outfitting their houses in Christmas/Holiday lights. I like both.

25. Nursing rooms all over the place and child-friendly areas.

26. Hardwood floors being more common in apartments.
(This may be more of a local thing.)

27. Warm (hot) summers 
The humidity usually didn't bother me much--except when I was nine months pregnant...

28. The attentiveness to seasons 
I love them before as we had four seasons where I'm from, but being in Japan made me appreciate them more.

29. Incredibly fast shipping
Shipping is SO SLOW in the States. Yes, I do realize the country is much larger than Japan... but even in the same state it sometimes takes longer than it usually does in Japan. Maybe that's different if you live in a smaller state.

30. The fact that strangers often offer rides or help when out and about.

31. Who am I kidding? The electronic toilets.
Not that I was that attached to them.

32. Seeing Fuji-san all the time
Now I see Mt. Baker all the time, which is nice in its own way. But I miss Fuji-san.

fuji, Japan, fujisan, mount fuji

33. That it's culturally acceptable to like cutesy things (even for guys)

34. Having regular adventures

35. Thunderstorms
We don't have them often in western Washington.

36. Komatsuna, daikon, kabocha, and other Japan-specific produce
They have these at Asian markets usually, but we're not currently in Seattle so more difficult to get.

37. The community
Both expats (not the jaded ones) and Japanese. It's not easy trying to fit back into a community here -- you feel like you should just somehow "fit" automatically, but I sure don't feel that way at all.

38. Festival food
yakisoba, festival food, Japan

39. Greeting cards

40. Takesumi (bamboo charcoal)
Can get it here at a few places, albeit it's much more expensive. Here are six reasons you should use bamboo charcoal.

41. The health insurance system, because in the US it (still) sucks.

42. Sunny Shizuoka winters
Gosh, I grew up with this constant gray and drizzle, but now it's just depressing. Probably because I'm also struggling with depression and anxiety.

43. High school festivals

What I don't miss

1. Lack of social acceptance to eat or drink while walking.

2. Crazy drivers almost killing me on a regular basis (whether driving, biking or walking).

3. Fake polite

4. Lack of cheap, delicious pizza 
But that said, there are places to get yummy pizza in Japan, just not always around where I was. And I stopped eating wheat once I got back to the US anyway.

5. Peer pressure to wear a mask when I was sick.

6. Doctors and dentists

7. The annoying background music played in grocery stores, drugstores, etc.

8. Cockroaches

9. Giant bugs in general

10. Drafty apartments and lack of insulation

11. Tatami
Although sometimes I miss having it around.

12. Aircon

13. Smoking
Including all the smoking restaurants and combined smoking/non-smoking places. And difficulty getting non-smoking rooms (on non-smoking floors, that weren't smoked in previously but just sprayed with air freshener before arriving). Also read: how to find a non-smoking restaurant in Japan.

14. Shipping some things from abroad to Japan

15. Fake Christmas tree

16. The rainy season

17. Carrying an umbrella everywhere

18. Standing out

19. More expensive/difficult to get healthy/organic food
Let me emphasize that it's not impossible, but it can be more difficult or expensive at times. I highly recommend farmer's markets!

20. People cutting in line, throwing bags in front of me on trains to reserve a seat, people shoving others out of the way when getting off a train, people not moving in elevators that are priority for handicapped folks and those with baby strollers, etc.
These are often exceptions, but I feel like whenever I went out the past few years I had just as many negative experiences as positive ones. And I've heard from other expats who have stayed in Japan longer than one or two years who have experienced similar. This is one reason why I don't believe Japanese "are the most polite" or anything like that. There are exceptionally polite/helpful people in Japan, many who have gone out of their way to help me, but for every good experience there has been a bad one.

21. Small freezer
Though it is possible to fix this situation.

22. Small kitchen cooking space

23. Not being able to use certain websites or order from them, especially without being charged more (yes, I should have set up a VPN long ago...)

24. Old men peeing in public

25. Jaded expats

26. People falling asleep on me on the train

27. Logistics. Red tape. Must-fill-out-thirty-forms-before-we-can-do-this way of thinking/doing.

28. Narrow streets
Can you say, "near death experience"?

29. Crazy winter winds in Shizuoka that blow clothes and futon away regularly. (I recommend not only clipping futon, but tying it down as well.)

Your turn. What would you miss, or not miss, if you left Japan? Or if you've lived in Japan in the past, what do you miss or not miss about it?


I want to say a special thank you to our sponsor, Yoyo Market. They provide online Costco delivery services and also Ikea shopping services. Read this post for more, and please check them out if you haven't already!

3 Things for Spring

Spring is upon us, more or less, and soon (if not already, wherever you might be) the sakura will be showing off their bright petals. And unfortunately, spring also means hay fever for many of us, and the obnoxious "yellow sand" (which I've heard has been particularly bad in places there recently). The posts below might help you find ways to help your poor sinuses, how to find a nice place to do hanami, and what you should know about yellow sand (and how to deal with it).

Happy Spring!

15 Ways to Survive Hay Fever Season
Some of these are ideas you're likely already familiar with, but some might surprise you.

And you might also want to check out HOW TO: Find Pollen Counts in Japan.

Yellow Sand in Japan - How does it affect you?
It dirties your laundry and can affect those with allergies or lung conditions, among other things. I've explained why you should know about it, how to check levels where you are (in English), and how you can protect yourself.

HOW TO: Find a good hanami spot (cherry blossom viewing)
It's well worth it to find the less crowded spots -- and of course you can also find beautiful places just by exploring the area where you live (recommended!), but you can look up spots to check out (in Japanese). Here's how to do that.


HOW TO: Prepare for an Earthquake in Japan

It's still March 10 here in the States, but it's March 11 now in Japan. I hope we can all take a moment to remember those who have been affected by the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster and also support and help those still going through difficulties in any small way we can. Although my family has been going through a lot this past year, I feel it fades in comparison, and my mind sometimes goes back to that day and following weeks. It's not something I can forget. And my post last year at this time says it all really. 

I do want to share today's guest post with you from WaNavi Japan. If you're living in Japan or planning to move there at any time in the future, I recommend preparing yourself (and family, if applicable) as much as possible. Have an emergency kit. Stock some dry food and lots of water. Know where to get information, especially if you don't understand Japanese, so you can protect yourself (and your family). WaNavi Japan explains more about all this below.


Everyone knows that Japan is an earthquake-prone country, but the events of March 2011 made it much more real for many of us living in Japan or considering a move to Japan. It’s easy to think that since you can’t predict when or where an earthquake will occur, or what damage will result, you can’t do much to prepare for one.

This is not the case.

We can learn how to be prepared by seeing how Japanese society prepares and educates their citizens to respond to earthquakes.

Disaster risk management includes both planning for and responding to disasters. In Japan planning starts early -- young children are educated about how important it is to stay safe. They learn to hide under a table or cover their heads when the shaking starts or when they hear an earthquake early warning alarm.

When you feel shaking, try to protect your head and stay calm. Once the shaking stops, you need to get accurate information and respond appropriately. The more you know about the information sources available to you and what information you need, the more likely you will be able to stay calm and make the best decisions about how to react.

Important Information and Communication Tools

Thank You, Reverse Culture Shock, and A Call For Help

Hello all! It's been a little while, and my family is now back in the U.S. after a whirlwind move from Japan. I've got business to still take care of here and elsewhere, but have been struggling with health problems, reverse culture shock and attempts to get settled back in the States, so I appreciate your understanding and patience.

So, first things first! I want to express my heartfelt thanks to all the support, emotional and financial, the past few months. We wouldn't have been able to get by without your help, and it's brought me to tears more than once. I've learned a lot about community after living in Japan, and especially so after starting this blog. I feel like for the first time I've seen just how supportive, understanding and helpful people in a community want to be, instead of being motivated by (often unsaid) expectations and obligation. It's humbling to see how much you want to help and to feel how concerned and caring you are. Thank you for showing me this and for helping to take care of my family as we've made this transition.

On the way to Narita Airport, seeing Tokyo for the last time

I'm hoping as I have more time and energy I'll be able to go into this in more detail, but reverse culture shock has felt similar to me as it did when I first arrived in Japan. I notice all the new and exciting things, but at the same time am constantly overwhelmed with the number of options, and excess, here in the States. It's unsettling, and makes me miss, to some degree, having less options in Japan, because it made life more simple.

I've also been surprised by how casual people dress, although I'm from the northwest and I know it's not that way elsewhere in the country, but it's nearly the opposite of Japan: people out in grungy jeans, pajama pants, yoga pants, on a regular basis. Not everyone, but probably 75-80% of people. Plenty of people dress down in Japan too, especially depending on what part of Japan you live in, but more often than not when I went out people, particularly women, were dressed up. Neither is right or wrong, but just different and something I notice now that I never paid attention to in the past.

I bow constantly when apologizing, especially when driving. And then I remember to wave, although the person is probably gone by that point. I have the urge to use "sumimasen" at the grocery store instead of "excuse me". And as this is the west coast, occasionally I hear Japanese when out and about and get a bit excited, as if somehow it's a bit of "home" here at "home".

I feel like people talk to each other all the time here, and maybe I didn't notice it before, and though it happens in Japan too, it feels different too. We're in a smaller city, so that could also have something to do with it. The woman who told me her whole life story at Macy's a few weeks, despite the fact I was trying to hold and entertain a rambunctious toddler (I wasn't upset to listen to her story, but distracted on account of the toddler). Or the people who keep striking up conversation in public restrooms.

And though I'm excited to have a lot of things we can only easily get in the States, I miss so much about Japan. I'm sad that I'll be missing the hanami season this year. I scroll through my Japan pictures and find myself nostalgic and missing all the adventures we had, even close to home. And now we're here in western Washington where it's gray and drizzly all the time. Depressing. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad we're back for different reasons, but doesn't mean I don't miss Japan.

Already missing the cherry blossoms...

We're still in limbo as my husband (David) looks for work, but we're hoping to get something figured out this month.

And now, a call for blog help! Many of you have expressed interest in writing, research, or other help for SiJ. If you're still interested, whether you've written me or not, David is going to be getting people organized into different roles. If you just want to write one post, that's fine, if you only want to help with research or translation, that's fine too. If you want to be a regular contributor, we'd love to have you. Or if you're willing to help with social media, marketing or just answering emails, these are all things I could use help with. We can't offer any monetary reimbursement, but I can say that it's a great way to network and help establish yourself if you're looking for a platform to do it on. It's brought me numerous opportunities since I started it a few years ago!

I was approached by several to buy SiJ and/or the content, but one thing became clear to me in all this -- I feel that I have started a basis for the community I wanted SiJ to be. And I want to continue that if possible. I don't think SiJ is mine; I really believe it's ours. Our community of knowledge and support. No conditions, no subscriptions, nothing like that. We just want to help out others through what we've gone through to help make expat life in Japan a little bit easier.

So if you'd like to be involved, please send David an email at

That said, thank you so much. Thank you for blessing us, for being this community, and for reading. You've done so much for us, and we're so thankful. I wish the very best to each and every one of you!

When You're Suddenly Forced Out...

I've been mulling this post over in my head for the past few days. Not sure what exactly to say, or how to say it.

So I'll be as honest as possible.

I mentioned in the last post that this has again been a great year of growth for Surviving in Japan, and it was exciting to see.

Except that I've been too burnt out and exhausted to enjoy it.

Some of you have asked me before how I do everything, and I always laugh and say I don't. Or if I do get things done, I'm not sure how. I've been dealing with culture shock, postpartum emotional/mental stuff, taking care of a spirited baby all day and working at night. Even if you love your work, and I love writing and blogging, going at this constant pace without any sort of break can really get to you. Not just mentally or emotionally, but physically as well, considering the fact I've been sick every two-three weeks since September.

This last week I got one of those nasty stomach flu bugs (as did husband and baby) and we were all puking and I couldn't move (literally) for two days. A few weeks ago I had bronchitis.

Along with all of this, our finances took a turn for the worse after moving. We haven't been able to cover all our needs, not without a credit card. We were doing all right before we moved, and though we didn't have extra money, we had enough for all of our needs. David took a pay cut with his new job, but we had worked out a budget. We knew it was going to be tight (rent was going up a decent amount), but we thought we could manage while I still worked part-time and tried to find some more freelance work.

In reality, the cost of utilities in our new city was exorbitantly more than our old city, which we weren't expecting. We thought it might go up a little, but, for example, water in our old city was 2000-3000 yen every two months, whereas in our new city it has been 15,000 yen a month, and we use the same amount of water as before (we're conservative with water).

So, with all this in mind, plus a few other things, David and I explored all of our options, including him finding a new, better-paying job and me getting more writing work I can do at home. But teaching jobs just don't pay well in Japan, and there's not much else David could do to get us a salary we need. And my body continues to tell me I'm doing too much, no matter how hard I try to do more and help out our family.

So we looked at the last option that we hadn't been considering at all: moving back to the US.

We had wanted to stay in Japan for a while. It feels like home here in a lot of ways. We haven't been wanting to go back to the States (although after having a baby, I had been thinking more and more how nice it would be to have family and friends, support, around). But the more we talked and thought about it, the more we realized it's the best option for us at this point. We need a fresh start and a way to get ourselves out of this financial hole we're in.

And we're leaving January 30th. It's sudden, I know. I'm not prepared for it at all, emotionally, or in general (so much packing and getting rid of things to do!). And it's going to cost us quite a bit to get out of here, but in the long run it'll be cheaper than staying here.

What about Surviving in Japan? I'm not sure. I don't want to shut it down or anything like that. I would love to keep it going somehow, although right now I need to step back from it a bit and breathe. I need to rest. I have a guest post to put up this month along with a few other posts, but I'll be doing that along with regular work and trying to take care of our moving checklist.

However, I don't like to think of Surviving in Japan as "mine", but rather ours. Yours and mine and anyone who's an expat in Japan.

So if you have ideas on what we might be able to do with SiJ, I'm all ears. I've considered continuing to write content, but I'm not sure how often I'll be able to, as I'll be starting some new projects and also, of course, won't be living in Japan. I've also considered seeing if someone might be willing to act as editor/main writer, or to see if anyone wants to regularly contribute content, but at this point in time I can't pay anyone. I would love to hear your thoughts. I want to keep SiJ around and maintain its level of high-quality content.

All that said, I want to say how grateful I am for how supportive you have been over these past few years. Thank you for reading, for sharing all of your ideas, offering support and encouragement, and for sharing SiJ with people you know. You regularly put a smile on my face and even bring me to tears to think of how much you care, through your comments, emails, tweets, etc. It means more than you'll ever know. And it has kept me going through many of the difficult times I've had this year. So, thank you.


Some of you have asked if there is a way you can help out, which has truly humbled me and made me realize in a new way the depth of love and kindness and generosity. I write Surviving in Japan because I want to help -- that has always been the core reason why I do this. I have never written content and expected anything in return. I don't believe something is a gift if you expect or ask for something back.

That said, and I'm hesitant to write this, but because a few people have asked, one of the many wonderful friends I've made from SiJ, Kimberly, has generously set up an account with GoFundMe for my family. You can find that here, with information about our situation.

Also, if you're in or near Shizuoka and want to buy some stuff or take it off our hands, we're having a sayonara sale. I've added some of our items but have a lot more to add in the coming days. See the album on Facebook here.

Surviving in Japan's Top Posts of 2012

Happy New Year! 明けましておめでとうございます!

Surviving in Japan had another huge year of growth, including getting over 1 million pageviews since I started it a couple years ago (over half of those this year), which surprised me considering I was juggling not only that, but my other writing work, a baby, moving, some emotional stuff, and just trying to keep our clothes clean and the crumbs and dust bunnies under control. It's been a difficult year, which I'll go into in another post, but today I'd just like to share the top posts of 2012.