Thanks to Tracy Slater for compiling this list for us. Tracy Slater is a freelance writer from Boston who now lives in Yokohama. She founded the literary series Four Stories and is proud to be part of the KA Mom community after becoming a (grateful and amazed) first-time mother at 46. Her first book, The Good Shufu: Finding Love, Self, and Home on the Far Side of the World, about life as an independent American woman married to a traditional Japanese salaryman, is forthcoming from Penguin Random House’s Putnam imprint in June, 2015.
We all have those days (weeks?) when living in Japan as a foreign mother feels frustrating or lonely or overwhelming. But luckily there are a lot of things many of us appreciate greatly about being here too. Here’s a list of just some of the things that KA expat moms say they love about Japan:
The hand signals train drivers do as they reach the station, and how the dudes on the platform hold lanterns in the evening
Knowing exactly where the train door is going to be on the platform, and which side the doors will open when getting off
Trains and buses that are always on time
Around the town
Getting whiffs of incense while walking around town.
Hats on jizo statues.
The music from street vendors. I only kind of love the fact that they have fire in the back of their trucks. It just seems so wrong
that it’s right.
The baggy pants worn by construction workers
Shoes with split toes.
Construction road barriers shaped like cartoon characters.
Hazard lights saying thank you to drivers behind.
When I must pull over for a service vehicle, such as an ambulance, then receive a thank you over their loudspeaker. So civilized!
The way bus, streetcar and taxi drivers wave at each other when the pass each other on the road/tracks, as if they are sharing a joke.
The “smalltalk” on the street with the older people I meet.
The obasan tachi (elderly women) and when they stop me on the street just to tell my half-baby is cute!
How if you leave something behind someone will drape it from a fence, hang it on a pole, or leave it on a ledge and nobody touches it, knowing it’s a lost thing waiting for someone to reclaim it. I once, drunkenly, lost a pair of earnings and found them hung on an evergreen tree by my house. It looked like Christmas, and I felt bad taking them off.
The sound of wind-chimes in summer.
The ability to say nothing and still be understood as saying “no” without upsetting anyone.
Food and Drinks
Vending machines with warm drinks.
Japanese lunch sets and all the freebie add-ons like salads, coffee, desert, etc.
The hundreds of soda flavors and seasonal foods.
Beautifully designed cakes, even from cheap shops.
Karaoke! And plastic food samples.
Umbrella condoms (those umbrella-shaped plastic bags available at stores to put over your umbrella when it’s
wet, you don’t spill water everywhere.)
The nursing rooms/baby rooms in stores and malls.
When you shop and the staff put the item in a bag and tape the bag and fold over the edge of the tape so it will be easier to open.
The cans and containers used to hold snacks and sweets. They are great to use for a nice storage place afterwards, too!
The elaborate gift wrapping at many stores. Sometimes I tell them it’s a present when it’s really for me.
The elevator ladies at department stores.
Toilets and bathrooms
Warm toilet seats!
Clean bathrooms at most stores, especially department stores and the big shopping plazas.
Baths that fill up automatically at the perfect temperature just by pressing a button.
The total attention to detail. Everything is just-so and beautifully presented.
Amazon delivering next day and sometimes the same day.
The little strings inside the bed covers to hold the futon in place.
The general safety and cleanliness.
The takkyubin package service. So easy to mail a package anytime, from almost anywhere, and reasonable cost.
The actual convenience of convenience stores (paying bills, picking up food for dinner, and buying tickets for a show all in one stop)
Mum to three very loud boys and wife to a patient Japanese man, I'm Australian and moved to the Kansai area in 2012. Aside from navigating all the craziness of being a mum in another country, I work semi-full time and try to keep my sanity! Of course I clean but I don't cook!