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 david@survivingnjapan.com

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!