4 Emotional Stages of a Long-Distance Relationship

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Long-distance relationships (LDRs) are awful, emotionally draining, soul-sucking things. Yet, with study abroad, internet dating, and fancy technology, LDRs are pretty common. My Japanese husband and I were in an LDR for 1 year and 4 months. My advice would be to avoid an LDR if at all possible, but I know if someone would have given me that advice I wouldn’t have taken it. Sometimes you find someone who is worth it, and you would do basically anything to make the relationship work, even if they live in another country.

I’ve seen both successful and failed LDRs, and there are some common stages that people go through during an LDR. If you are considering an LDR or are in the middle of one, maybe these will better help you to understand the emotional impact of these stages.

1. Bargaining

This step happens once you’ve decided to embark on an LDR. Even though you know that they need to leave and that you will, in fact, not see them for a long period of time, you will find yourself trying to bargain for more time. You ask them not to go, you delay your flight for a few days, and you start to panic about the eminent separation. Continue reading

Japanese Diaries Day 35 – Return to the US

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And now for the last installment in my 2014 trip to Tokyo! … Finally my one-month trip to Japan had come to an end, and it was time for me to return to the US. My fiance and I had spent the day before at the Imperial Palace 皇居 and Meiji Shrine 明治神宮, but now it was time to make the 3-hour drive to Narita Airport 成田空港.

☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆

2015年1月8日

The day had come for me to return to the US. It was a sunny Thursday, but I was feeling pretty sad. My fiance and I woke up that morning and loaded the car for the trip to Narita Airport 成田空港. We headed first to my fiance’s parents’ so I could say my goodbyes. Japanese parents aren’t big huggers, so there was no hugging or tearful goodbyes, but I thanked them profusely and bowed a lot. They invited me to come back anytime, and I hope I will be able to visit them again soon! They were so kind and we got along so well that I hope I will be able to see them more often in the future.

I wasn’t leaving until the afternoon so we had time, but we weren’t sure how busy Narita would be so we planned to be there about 3-4 hours before my plane would take off. Also, the shopping at Narita is amazing and extensive, and I wanted time to look around. The last time I took off from Narita I didn’t have enough time to see all the stores, so I wanted to finish up my last bit of gift and personal shopping.

Before we got on the freeway to Narita, we picked up brunch at Mos Burger (that’s short for Most Delicious Burger). As usual, we had the yasai burger and melon soda combo with fries! We also stopped at a conbini or convenience store to pick up some snacks for the airplane ride back.

Mos Burger yasai burger & melon soda - photo by kei

Mos Burger yasai burger & melon soda – photo by kei

It took us only a little over 2 hours to arrive at Narita, which is in Chiba Prefecture 千葉県 (not Tokyo proper), because traffic was much lighter than the Friday night that I arrived.

Tokyo on the way to Narita

On the way to Narita Airport – photo by kei

When we arrived at Narita, we did some shopping in the extensive stores that lie outside of security. First we checked my suitcase, which was overweight by at least 2 kg, but they didn’t charge me for it! Usually in the US they will charge you for overweight suitcases (over 50 lbs), but in Hawai’i and Japan I have never been charged for being a little over the limit. They always tell me to make sure not to be overweight the next time… I don’t learn, do I?

Tokyo on the way to Narita

Odaiba viewed on the way to Narita – photo by kei

Tokyo on the way to Narita

On the way to Narita by car – photo by kei

After we finished shopping we were hungry again, and so we went to the food court and chose a restaurant that had omurice gratin (omelette rice with a creamy sauce) and, of course, melon soda.

Omelette rice gratin @ Narita

Omurice gratin at Narita Airport – photo by kei

Melon soda @ Narita

Melon soda at Narita Airport – photo by kei

After shopping and dining together, we finally decided it was time for Aki to head back to Tokyo, before rush-hour traffic got too bad. He walked me to the security line and we said our goodbyes. It was very difficult to do, but I knew I had to return to the states to finish up my thesis and work towards the time when he would join me in the US. The security check was very quick, and they only asked me if I had any scissors (is that a common question?), but I didn’t have to do the full body scan thing they do in the US, just a simple metal detector.

I spent the rest of the time in the international terminal, looking at some of the stores within the secure part of the terminal. I bought a Japanese book and magazine for the flight, and worked on my thesis a little bit before the shishimai 獅子舞 or Japanese lion dance came snaking by. The lion dance consists of two performers under a mask and cape who perform a traditional dance to music. I watched the performance, and watched them take photos with tourists. The Narita Airport often has unique cultural events both when you land and take off, which can differ by the season. You can find upcoming cultural events on the airport’s website. This is another reason why you should arrive early before your flight takes off!

Departing Tokyo

Departing Tokyo – photo by kei

I boarded the plane, watched the sunset from the plane, and then watched Japanese movies until I briefly fell asleep on the 13-hour flight to Seattle. When I arrived in Seattle I was exhausted from the jet lag, but I had to shuttle my carry-ons to customs.

Even though I went through the American kiosks and answered that no, I had not been on a farm or received any goods from farms during my trip, I was not given a pass and I had to wait in line for a tete-a-tete with the customs agent. Half-delirious and cranky, I tried to list the items in my suitcase and explain what I was doing for a month in Japan. Then, I had to pick up my large suitcase and wait in the huge line to go back through security again. (Yes, even though I already went through security in Japan and had not left the airport).

Despite the fact that they tried to hurry me along so that I could make my flight, and despite that I had a 3-hour layover, after running through the terminal, riding the terminal train, and running up two flights of stairs, I just missed my connecting flight. I got the next flight booked, which ended up getting delayed because flights across the country were being delayed due to storms. So I ate, slept, slept some more, and then eventually flew home. My bag had arrived before me, so it was waiting for me, which was great news after all the Seattle trouble.

What is the lesson here? Don’t fly into Seattle from an international destination (try Los Angeles instead), and if you must, make sure to allow a 5 hour layover just in case…

So, that was my month in Tokyo, Japan. I met the in-laws, took wedding photographs and a honeymoon, visited my Japanese hometown, and met old friends. I also got to spend a month with my fiance in his hometown! Thank you for reading any or all of my diaries! If you missed anything, you can catch up on my Diary Index.

 

Is there any particular trip that stands out in your memory, even years later? What is your favorite place to visit, even more than once? Also, have you had any trouble with Seattle Airport? I’d love to hear any travel joy or horror stories!

Thank you again for reading my diaries! I appreciate all your comments ^^

Uncomfortable Questions NOT to Ask Me About My Japanese Husband

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I’m married to a Japanese guy. Before that, I was engaged to the same Japanese guy, and before that, we were dating.

We met at a predominantly white university in a predominantly white city in the US, vastly different from where I grew up in southern California (which is considerably more multicultural). We subsequently moved to a bigger, although still pretty dominantly white, city, where we now live. When we started dating, my friends and family weren’t very surprised (since I speak Japanese, lived in Japan, etc.) and it was no big deal. Now that we are married, and live in a new city where we meet a lot of people, I find that sometimes I am asked uncomfortable questions by people I don’t know very well, and I don’t always know exactly how to respond.

I thought I’d share some of the questions that shock me the most, because I’m sure that other people in AMWF relationships, or in international, multicultural relationships in general, must get similar questions.

 

  1. When will your husband get American citizenship?

This question is my least favorite. It assumes that my husband wants or needs to exchange his Japanese citizenship for American citizenship. Just because he lives in the US, doesn’t mean that he wants to be a citizen. He’s happy that we live in the US, he has a huge list of things he likes about the US, but for a variety of reasons he doesn’t want to go through the process of becoming a US citizen.

When I tell people that he has no plans to become a citizen, and I don’t mind, they are usually pretty shocked. I’m not sure why. There are many international permanent residents in the US, and for various reasons they have not become citizens. It’s a personal choice, and it’s his to make, and I hope that people will respect it.

2. What does your husband do?

This question most often comes from my coworkers, and it seems kind of rude to me. What does he do? Many things. What is his job? My husband quit his job in Japan, and has been in the US less than a year. So, he isn’t working right now. But if I tell my coworkers this, they pry uncomfortably about the details. In both America and in Japan it’s uncommon for a man to be unemployed and for his wife to be the sole breadwinner. Old fashioned? Yes. But still a very uncommon situation. So, I sometimes jokingly answer that he is a house husband because I’m too busy to keep up the house, and people generally laugh with me. Continue reading

Goodbye 2015

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With the coming of the new year, and with that a time to look back on 2015 before looking forward into 2016. I thought I’d make a post to update my progress during 2015…

Looking Back

In the beginning of 2015, I made a list of New Year’s resolutions or 新年の抱負(しんねんのほうふ / shin’nen no houfu). Let’s look at how I fared in terms of my resolutions:

Earn my Master’s degree – Successfully completed!

I was able to successfully write and defend my thesis before the end of the spring semester in May, and just this month I received my diploma. Honestly, this was the most important resolution, because everything from getting married to getting a job were dependent upon this resolution. No pressure. The good news is that I can check this 2015 resolution off as complete.

Goodbye grad school

Goodbye grad school – photo by kei

Start working in a real-world job – Successfully completed!

Because I completed my Master’s degree on time, I was able to successfully accept a position I had been offered the previous year. I started a new job in my major, and I get to travel quite a bit for work. Obtaining a real-world job after graduate school is really the last step to that degree. It was also an important part of the plan where my fiance came to the US and we got married, so I happily checked this resolution off soon after the first. Continue reading

Japan Diaries Day 33 – Rainy Days & Love Hotels

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With less than a week left in my one-month trip to Japan, my fiance and I were spending our last few days together visiting tourist spots and taking care of some visa business. We also found some time to relax and visit a love hotel!

☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆

2015年1月6日

My fiance and I had made the decision to live in the US after we got married, and we determined that the easiest way for us to make this happen was through a US fiance visa. As part of the visa application, on Monday we had gone to the police station headquarters to obtain a criminal record check or 犯歴 hanreki, and Tuesday we went back to the doctor to get an updated vaccination record. This was the doctor who I had seen when I was under the weather earlier in December, and he was glad to see that the IV drip (点滴 tenteki) and medicine he had prescribed had quickly restored my health.

The day was very rainy and dark, so we spent some time at the Taito Station game center and went to Don Quixote ドンキホーテ (a low-price store that sells just about anything and everything) to browse the more ridiculous sections. The bright interior of the game center and the Don Ki ドンキー (as it is usually abbreviated) kept us entertained, but there’s only so many times you can play a video game or try to figure out the weirdest item in the store (and there are some really weird ones).

Don Quixote ドンキホーテ

The brightly lit aisles of Don Quixote – photo by kei

Love Hotel / ラブホテル

We were meeting Aki’s parents for dinner in the evening, but the apartment was especially cold in the rain with only one small heater, so we decided to stop at a love hotel ラブホテル to relax and warm up before dinner. Continue reading

Japan Diaries Day 32 – Visa Business

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With less than a week left in my one-month trip to Japan, my fiance and I were spending as much time as we could together. After our visit to Tokyo Tower the day before, the next day we had to take care of some visa-related business.

☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆

2015年1月5日

After spending Sunday sightseeing at Tokyo Tower & Roppongi Hills, we had to take care of some business on Monday, since I would be leaving in just 3 days. The plan was for me to return to the US to finish up my studies, and then for my husband to move to the US to live with me after I graduated from university. To do this, we were in the middle of applying for a K-1 fiance visa. As part of that, we had received a package directing him to provide a criminal record and a health exam.

Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower & the Tokyo skyline from Roppongi Hills City View (because Tokyo Tower) – photo by kei

Criminal Records / 犯歴

So, on Monday at mid-morning we had to go to the police station headquarters to obtain his 犯歴 hanreki or criminal record. He has no criminal record, but the US just wants to check and make sure, for obvious reasons. All in all, obtaining the record was quick, although he wouldn’t receive it directly and would have to wait for it to be sent in by the police headquarters.

We arrived at the police station just before our appointed time. We entered, were subject to a brief security check, received visitor passes, and then went through to the back where his fingerprints were taken and identity was verified, and then the document was requested. We were in and out in less than half an hour, which was quite efficient for government processes. Continue reading

Japan Diaries Day 31 – Tokyo Tower & Roppongi Hills

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After hanging out in Shibuya with my university friend, the next day I convinced my fiance to take me to Tokyo Tower & Roppongi Hills.

☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆

2015年1月4日

After nonstop shopping on January 2nd in Ikebukuro 池袋 with my fiance’s mother and January 3rd in Shibuya 渋谷 with my friend from university, I was pretty satisfied with my hauls. So, I was ready to check off a few more sightseeing spots around Tokyo before I headed back to the US.

Tokyo Tower / 東京タワー

That evening, my fiance and I set off for Tokyo Tower 東京タワー to watch the sunset. Tokyo Tower is no longer the tallest tower in Japan at 333 m (that honor belongs to Tokyo Skytree now, at 634 m), but it offers a spectacular view of Tokyo. Unlike my prior trips to Tokyo Skytree, where it ended up being too cloudy and I never went up, the afternoon was nice and clear.

tokyotower01

Tokyo Tower 東京タワー photo by kei

Continue reading

Japan Diaries Day 29 – Japan’s Bargain Sales

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After spending New Year’s Day with my fiance’s family, and with less than a week until I had to return to he states, I was ready to hit the famous Japanese New Year’s sales on January 2nd! Great deals, delicious desserts, and even a little family intrigue awaited me on the second day of 2015…

☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆

2015年1月2日

My one-month stay in Japan was steadily coming to a close, but before I thought about having to leave my fiance to return to grad school in the US, I was going to enjoy the short time I had left. And that included one of my favorite pasttimes in Japan: shopping!

In Japan, the sales after New Years are similar to the Black Friday sales in the US, with big discounts but a little less stampeding. These sales are called the New Year’s Bargain Sale お正月バーゲンセール and they offer low prices on the previous year’s inventory in order to make way for the new inventory – a sort of retail o-souji お掃除 or major cleaning.

I originally planned on going with my fiance’s older brother’s wife, but they had plans on the second, and so my fiance’s mother decided to take me to Ikebukuro 池袋. I was a little uneasy because I knew that it meant she would buy something for me, but she explained that she had purchased a lot of gifts for her Japanese daughter-in-law, and since I would soon be her daughter-in-law as well, she wanted to treat us evenly. I was still uneasy about having things bought for me, but I went anyways because it was a good chance to bond with my future mother-in-law I really wanted to shop.

Shinjuku

Shopping in Shinjuku (not Ikebukuro) – photo by kei

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Japan Diaries Day 28 – New Year’s Day

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Finally, New Year’s Day 2015 in Japan had arrived! My fiance and I spent the New Year with his family because in Japan New Year is a family-oriented holiday.

☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆

2015年1月1日

One Japanese New Year’s Eve tradition is a TV broadcast of Kouhaku Uta Gassen (紅白歌合戦), or “Red and White Song Battle,” an NHK broadcast where the most famous artists of the year are invited to a singing competition. They are divided into 2 groups, red (all female artists) and white (all male artists), and they perform in full costume with live singing. At the end, a panel of judges selects the winning team for the competition. This was a great show to watch with my future in-laws (father- and mother-in-law, as well as my fiance’s older brother and wife) because everyone enjoys music. We watched this at my fiance’s parents house on New Year’s Eve, and after the finale at midnight we went back home.

New Year’s Day

The New Year in Japan involves decorations (kadomatsu 門松 or gate pine), sending out New Year greeting cards (nengajou 年賀状), and giving the traditional New Year’s greeting (akemashite omedetou あけましておめでとう), but this year things were a little more subdued. As I mentioned before, my fiance’s close relative had passed away earlier in 2014, and tradition dictates that the New Year’s celebrations are more somber out of respect to the family member.

Kadomatsu

New Year’s kadomatsu – photo by kei

New Year’s Osechi

When we went back to my fiance’s parents’ house on New Year’s, our morning began with a slightly less elaborate New Year’s meal, and the less celebratory greeting of ohayou gozaimasu おはようございます. We were not supposed to greet each other or other people with the traditional greeting. My fiance’s mother kindly woke up early and made a New Year’s breakfast for all of us. The traditional foods are called osechi  お節, and there are a variety of dishes that make up osechi. Our osechi was more sparse than some of the more elaborate meals, but it was still delicious.

Osechi

Osechi New Year’s osechi – photo by kei

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Japan Diaries Day 27 – New Year’s Eve

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Although I only had a little over a week left in my one-month trip to Japan last December, it was finally New Year’s Eve. Since New Year’s is mostly a family holiday in Japan, we continued our time with my fiance’s family.

☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆*✲゚*。☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆。*゚✲*☆

2014年12月31日

My fiance’s apartment was close to his parent’s house, and his older brother and his older brother’s wife were staying at the house, so when we visited it was quite crowded. We weren’t going to celebrate in the traditional way, because of the recent passing of a close relative, but we still gathered together and enjoyed some of the New Year’s traditions.

New Year’s Cleaning (お掃除)

Before the New Year, it is Japanese tradition to clean the house entirely, a tradition called お掃除 o-souji. The word souji means “cleaning” but the o before the word souji is specifically used for New Year’s cleaning. A couple days earlier we began o-souji at his parents house, and we also did the cleaning at my fiance’s apartment.

His mother took care of much of the actual cleaning of the house, but her daughter-in-law and myself both helped. Even his older brother helped a bit! We hung out the bedding (futon) and cleaned all the floors, washed the cars, and swept up the garden and front entrance to the house. We did most of the cleaning a few days before the New Year, but you want to make sure everything is cleaned out before the new year arrives!

apartment

Futons hung outside an apartment building in Yamanashi prefecture – photo by kei

O-souji is similar to spring cleaning in America. You clean out all the dust and dirt that accumulated over the past year so that you can start the new year fresh. Thus, you end the year with a clean house and you are ready to move forward with the new year and whatever it will bring. Continue reading