Thoughts on moving to Japan [Part 1] – Money, work and childcare.

I had no idea which picture I should use for this post, because when searching “Japan” on image searches, so many different kind of pictures shows up. The beautiful ones of nature or historic places, the pictures of busy city lights and skyscrapers or the goofy ones of everything weird in Japan. Japan is so many thing and I’m still not sure, after all this time, what Japan actually is to me. Most of all I would like to see it as a beautiful country, with stunning sceneries and friendly people and there’s no doubt that this is a part of Japan, but there’s also so many other things – some positive, others… not so much.

After all these years traveling between Denmark and Japan and been in a Japanese marriage, I do feel like I’ve seen a lot of sides of Japan, some I would have liked to leave out, but it’s still a country, still a place with more than 100 million people, so you are to come across both positives and negatives. Just like everything else in life.

This blog will probably both be filled with the fun moments, but also the struggles I will face when I begin my life in Japan. I’ve known for 4 years that I would move to Japan in the year of 2014 and on the way there’s been many doubts if this was the right choice. I love my own country, with our high taxes, high quality in life, free schools, doctors and hospitals and a government which is ready to catch you if you fall down. It’s a lot to leave behind. Going to Japan I’ll enter a life with more uncertainty, lower taxes, but medical and education bills, almost no economical security net if get lost somewhere along the way and not to mention lower salary and close to non-existent childcare service. A country with lower equality of the sexes and where women often have to choose between family or career – because trying to juggle both will mostly just leave you stressed out. Even though women do have to chance to work on the same terms as men, they will also have to face the extreme over time schedules, the possibility of being transferred far away and close to no holidays.

The husband is often also taxed a lot higher if his wife earns a full time salary, and that tax money often equals a good amount of the wife’s salary, which just makes it seem like she’s working for free. Why even bother? The childcare service for children under 3-4 years of age is also extremely limited, have long waiting list and will take a big bite of your possible salary.

I will probably stay at home the first few years with our future children. Not because I in any way believe it’s a woman’s place, but because I feel it’s the best course to take in Japan. I could find a full time job, get pregnant, take leave, pay big bucks for a nursery, then I want a second child and it’ll probably be even more complicated to take a leave again and once again pay a lot of money for someone to look after my child. It’s not impossible – far from, but I don’t really have any career dreams. I think I would like to be a teacher or something, but if I have to chance I feel like I want to take things slowly and therefore have one or two kids before searching for work. I think I want to do some work from home – I have some business plans I want to elaborate in a later post.

My husband and I do think about our future economy a lot. It is kind of embarrassing to say as a soon-to-be university graduate, that I have no career goals. I have a lot of goals and dreams when it comes to children and family life, but none for any future jobs. Does that make me sound old-fashioned? For me, I think I find these dreams acceptable, because they are my own, not any social norms or society told to. I guess somewhere, women of the modern world started to feel bad about wanting to focus more on family, house and childrearing, rather than career, because women for decades have fought for the right to leave their houses and seen equal to men. I did take an education – I went 4 years to university and got almost only A and Bs. I speak several languages, I have strong opinions and I know what I want to in life – and… it’s not a stressful job.

Look at me talking about women’s rights and such, this what not what I was going for in this post, I guess as a women we’re brought up to not only believe that we can do everything – but also believing that we should.

I think the only reason why I know that I will find a job in a near future is not because of financial reasons, well maybe a little, but also because being home everyday would bore me to death. I’m not a native English speaker, which puts a few bumps on the path to become an English teacher in Japan, but I guess it’s not impossible. At least I speak Japanese, unlike many other foreign English teachers.

So I think I will end this post now, since there’s a lot of other things I have been thinking about, but I’ll safe that for a later post. Who want to read too long blog posts anyway?

I will move to Japan around the middle of September this year. It still seems far away, but considering how fast the past 4 years have flown by, 7-8 months is nothing and there is a lot to prepare.

Updated my diary blog.

So I’ve finally got around to update my other blog “Japan Diary“, which is a blog where I’ve translated the diary I kept during the time I travelled around Japan 2 years ago for nine weeks and met my now-husband. In this diary I’ve tried to keep a light and fun tone including a dose of self-irony and of course diary-like honesty, while I describe the daily events that took place while living with different Japanese families around Japan. And of course especially the events that led to me finding, dating and marrying my Japanese husband. I’ve included a small preview below and the link.

March 20th (2010) “A trip to a bridge, which lead to awkward and beyond”
This is the day I’ve often later told to friends and family in an edited version. I don’t think I’ve felt ashamed, but maybe I knew that what happened didn’t really live up to people expectations and it certainly wouldn’t be used as input for the perfect romantic movie. Though, back then I told the truth to my diary and I’ll tell the truth on this blog as well. Maybe it’ll make a good laugh.

…The question startled me and I desperately tried to pull out yet another fake laugh. This question was surely a step up from the other suggestive things he had asked me the past two weeks, but I still couldn’t imagine him being serious about this.

“I kind of think this is the wrong place” I said, trying to sound nonchalant.

“Do you know love hotels? It’s a place you can go for like 2 hours.”

I turned my head to face Hiro, who had leaned his seat back and was looking straight at me. I searched his face for hints of an upcoming laugh or smile, which would reveal the fact that this was just another joke, but his eyes kept their gaze and he looked at me with a serious look. His hand reached out for my hair, which he once again started touching, while I blankly starred at a spot between the car window and his face…

Read the beginning and the rest here: Japan Diary from 2010

Being in a long distance relationship.

Long distance relationships, to most they probably seem unimaginable, for others they might seem less genuine but, for some they’re reality. I myself, being and European and married to a Japanese have found myself being part of just that kind of relationship – the kind of relationship that I hadn’t given much thought earlier in my life.

My mother have often said that she saw it coming, considering the fact that I was always romanticizing about Japanese guys and had overall no interest in the guys in my area. And, since my goal since elementary school was to marry a Japanese guy and live in Japan, I, myself should have seen it coming as well – maybe I lacked a better grasp and wider view of reality back then. I guess, I felt I didn’t need reality, because my future goal didn’t seem very plausible to me at all back then. How could a girl with an overall lack of dating experience suddenly be able to find a nice Japanese guy who later on would marry me and we could then live happily ever after?

Life is a mysterious thing, because that was pretty much what happened, except that the “happily ever after” is dragging out a bit, because how can you truly be happy when you’re forced to part ways over and over again?

Before I met my husband I never imagined how painful it could be having to say goodbye to someone being so close to your heart. Even though it’s only a momentarily goodbye it feels like ages and when you feel a part of your soul is missing then six weeks can easily seem like six months. Overall my husband are considered fortunate in some long distance communities because we’re able to be together for around 4 weeks and then separated for 6 weeks while he works in Japan. That still means that over the past year and 10 months we’ve parted around 10 times, around 10 times have our physical touch become impossible, our conversations been limited to skype and around 10 times have I been forced to try mending and gathering the pieces together of my broken heart. And this pattern will continue till I’m able to finally move to Japan after my university graduation, which is still two and a half years away.

Some people may believe that I’m overplaying the feelings involved in this crucial part of being in a long distance relationship, but maybe it’s because they’ve never experienced such feelings themselves.

I also know other people would say “I couldn’t do it” and I also do believe it’s a fact that long distance relationships are not meant for everybody, if everybody could do it would it then even be considered as hard? I guess there’s a lot of things in life there’s not meant to be easy. But, it’s not because us who’s a part of a long distance relationship finds it neither easier nor more filling to be in these relationships. We find them equally hard, but what if you do find “that person”, but they’re located across the globe, is it then easier to say “I can’t do it”? Overall heartbreak awaits, one person does have to chose if it’s more painful to only see their partner in periods of time, rather than not seeing them infinitely.

In the beginning, sometimes when my heart ached the most, I did consider ending the relationship in hopes of finding peace and conclusion. I disliked hearing friends complain about not being able to see their boyfriends for a few days, I even at times I felt despiteful and wished they could feel “real longing” – but, nothing of that proved to be a right solution, nothing brought relieve to the pain. Because I was the one who wanted the relationship, I didn’t wish for the distance or the hardships attached to it, but I wanted the guy, I wanted to enjoy the smiles he put on my face, the butterflies in my stomach and the peace only he could bring to my heart. How could I dismiss all this because 5,000 miles stood in our way? And if I did end the relationship, who could then promise me that I would be able to find a guy that I would be able to love at least half as much?

And the before mentioned jealousy does nothing but poke at wounds and scars that’s trying to heal and fade. Though knowing this doesn’t mean that these ill feelings will fully go away. We humans are jealous creatures indeed. It’s not just that us in a long distance relationship feels that it’s us against “the others”, even in “long distance relationship communities” jealousy is a fire which can’t be tamed. There’s the couples meeting once or twice a year envying the couples who meets once a month. There’s comparisons when it comes to the number of miles separating couples or the amount of minutes they’re able to talk during a week. But, does it really put your heart more at ease knowing your partner is 300 miles away, rather than 3,000? And to poor students 400 miles might as well be 4,000 when transportation options are limited.

In long distance relationships finance is crucial. I’ve been lucky, since I have a husband who’s able to pay flight tickets between Denmark and Japan every second month, also without touching savings. But, what if he was a student like me? Then we should feel blessed with being able to see each other once or twice a year.
Overall, emotional pain lies within the “eyes” of the beholder. We shouldn’t compare and we shouldn’t think that our pain is worse than others’, because how do we really know when we only know our own? I guess, when not seeing your partner for four days seems unbearable, then it’s mostly because you haven’t tried not seeing them for four months. Though it doesn’t make your feelings of longing less valid – but I do believe they’re shorter.

My husband went back to Japan a few days ago and even though we’ve been through the process so many times, it didn’t make me cry less or keep me from try to desperately hold on to him till the very last minute. I still don’t believe him when he says time will pass fast, because I know how it felt the last time.
But, I wouldn’t consider giving up on us, not just because we have a legal paper on our relationship, but because I know I’m a far happier person with him in my life, even though he unfortunately can’t be by my side every single day. Because I know I’ll see him again and because I know I couldn’t live a life without him in it.

And… I also know he’ll be reading this and maybe understanding half of these words.

A final two-shot at the airport after I’ve been crying most of the day.