Sayonara Japan

black and white photos of people and places in Japan with a red banner that reads "Sayonara Japan" and MMC logo

We are leaving Japan, and it’s bittersweet.

I have loved this country. I have a child that only remembers this country. It is breathtaking and awe inspiring; but it’s difficult to navigate, and it’s not home.

I did not realize that the thought of leaving it would cause me such sadness. I wasn’t prepared to say goodbye, mostly because there are so many places and things to explore in this country. I can honestly say that I have discovered some hidden gems about Japan that will forever be etched in my mind.

Japan has amazing beaches.

I am from the south, living on the gulf coast with white beaches. I vacationed in the Caribbean. I know beaches. And I still say that Japanese beaches are amazing. From sea glass, great waves for surfing, and our favorite hidden beach that completely disappears at high tide and you’re left with just cliff to stand on, we loved it all. We were not ready for the amount of time we spent a the beach here.

One word: food.

I love different cuisines, and Japan did not disappoint, especially a good sushi-ro. Sushi is placed on a conveyor belt, and you grab off the plates you want. A waiter totals up your plates when you are finished. Plates are between 100-200 yen (approximately 1-2 dollars). It’s delicious. Even my toddler eats sushi! And the kids love the conveyor belt or the franchise that uses an actual train. Genius.

traditional japanese style ramenRamen is the other quintessential food that we were looking forward to when we arrived in Japan. What we discovered was that every region has different ramen based on the region’s ingredients. My oldest son and I made it our mission to try ramen everywhere we went, which led to a ranking system of favorite ramen and why. We love the ramen near Miyajima, which is seafood-based and has oysters. Can I say life-changing? Is that too much.

Curry is an amazing Japanese food that I was not expecting. The curry base is not spicy and falls on the sweet side, with a depth of flavor that comes from something that tastes similar to coffee instead of turmeric and cumin. It is delicious and plentiful.

Last, dessert. Japan has French-based desserts; not as sweet as typical American desserts, fluffy, and decorated impeccably, these desserts do not disappoint. Like everything else in Japan, they are seasonal. My personal favorite is a single candied peach with a center filled with custard atop a butter-based tart. So delicious.

A place with a culture of kindness that loves children.

This is my ideal place to raise my children, and Japan (at least in the countryside) has been wonderful for that. I came with a baby, and navigating a country without the ability to communicate yet was so difficult. I cannot express how many times an older person would come up to help me by holding the baby or helping me bag my groceries while there were tears from my children. Those sound like small things, but they are huge to a struggling mother. I remember going to a dancing festival, and my toddler just wasn’t having it. A man behind us made him an origami Totoro and handed it to him to entertain him. When this is the norm, it becomes so special.

My ode to 7-Eleven.

Japanese 7-ElevenThis is how my day goes: “Can we have 7-Eleven for lunch pleeaaasse?!” My toddler is screaming in the background. I’m on the phone with a friend back stateside, and I feel like there could be silent judgment.

But in Japan, 7-Eleven is not the convenience store nightmare you might be envisioning. It doesn’t even have gas stations attached. They have simple lunches, sushi, drinks, snacks, royal bread (which is delicious), and pastries. Oh, and coffee that isn’t horrible.

Back to the toddler though. “Of course,  we can have 7-Eleven.” Because why wouldn’t I say yes to something that makes my life easier? He’ll get his onigiri (rice ball) and cucumbers with garlic, while my other kids get chicken and cold noodle salads. They have corn dogs and fried chicken too, which sometimes makes its way into my basket.

7-Eleven is the thing that dreams are made of. Busy moms are picking up kids from school and running inside to grab decent food before taking kids to after-school activities. I just don’t know how I’ll function without it.

Clearly, this isn’t all I’ll miss. But when I sit down and really examine what has made this time fun it’s all of this and the people. It’s been an amazing experience and duty station.

Sayonara Japan, and maybe mata ne.