Year One


Today is our 1-year anniversary of living in Japan.

We are halfway through our adventure.

When we first moved to Tokyo we were assigned a Cross Cultural Trainer.  When Steve and I met with her we were expecting to blow off our time spent together.  Yet, she shared some nuggets of wisdom I still can’t shake. What she explained on her handouts, was exactly what came to fruition.

She told us we can look at our first year adjustment in Tokyo through the lens of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  Her theory was dead on.

  My first few weeks here were focused on fulfilling our family’s BASIC needs: researching where to get food, cleaning supplies, clothing, etc.  

From there I moved into fulfilling SAFETY needs: making sure we had an earthquake prep kit, knew all the numbers to all the English-speaking doctors and developed our routine.  

Then I dove into BELONGING: I started to build real friendships, found my people and felt like part of a community. 

And now I have made my way to the top of the pyramid with a focus on ESTEEM: craving accomplishment and respect and ACTUALIZATION: which includes trying my best to attain self-fulfillment and personal growth.  

The thing is, back in Minneapolis, both Steve and I were only focused on the top two pieces.   And when we moved here, Steve still was.  But I had to jump to the bottom and start from scratch.  I found this transition to be everything you would expect.  There were highs and lows.  Highs when I figured out the right kitchen counter cleaner to buy and lows when I couldn’t believe how excited I was to find the right kitchen counter cleaner to buy.  

In hindsight, I would have jumped straight to the BELONGING part of the equation.  You see, the quicker you make friends, the quicker you have a network that will help you put together the pieces on the bottom of the pyramid.  And well, when you feel like you belong, you simply feel like you are home.

Our Cross Cultural Trainer also explained all the ups and downs we would experience in the first year.  From the initial excitement to full blown anxiety.  (I once spent a full sleepless week week Googling North Korea’s nuclear capabilities until I reached the end of the internet.  Thanks mom.)  From transition fascination to culture shock.  From frustration to adaptation and finally to acceptance.

But in this moment,  I cannot shake these two years looking like a Bell Curve.  Yes, there were ups and downs moving to the top of the slope, but all this focus on the ramping up, only means the ramp down is quickly approaching.

Right now I feel rooted.  I feel at home.  I feel settled and happy and content (well, on most days.)  So while the school year comes to a close and the city begins to exhale expat friends as they begin their journey home or onto their next assignments, I am going to try my hardest to realize I still have a WHOLE YEAR LEFT!

So yes, we are halfway through, but I am determined to make this journey feel less like a Bell Curve and more like a beautiful mountain that plateaus for quite some time, before we come plummeting down the other side. 


This is us 1 year ago today.

Our first day in Japan.