In case you haven’t noticed, this blog has been on a hiatus for some months now. It’s not that I had exhausted the limits of my creativity, rather I had a lot on my hands, which I still do. But I realize that writing for me has always been therapeutic, so after taking a break for a while, I am back.
It has almost been six months since we moved to Tokyo from Ishikawa Prefecture. Life in the big city is just as I expected. The pace is fast, the people, more interesting, and the population just a bit more diverse. Some days, it can feel like something exciting is around the corner. On others, the train rides will drain your soul. Tokyo.
Our daily life, as befits the life of one of “the masses”, is mostly occupied by work and school. Admit it, you are one of the masses too. Acceptance is what we do in our 30s, isn’t it?
Jeremy is a first grader at the school that’s 6 minutes away from our apartment, where he goes from 8am to around 3pm. After that he goes to the “gakudo”, an after school program for kids whose parents are working full time because, let’s face it, who leaves work at 3pm? Except for Japanese housewives who may be working part time. They will be home at 3pm, waiting for their kids with a smile, cookies and milk; and to ready to help Takeshi Jnr with his homework. I am torn between judging Japanese housewives for not working, and envious of them for not working as they can spend quality time with their kids, living off their hard working husbands. If I marry a Japanese guy, kids or no kids, I’m staying home and waking up at noon to have brunches at his expense. Sure, all I have to give up is a little independence here, and a bit of a professional dream there. I could learn to make stylish bentos (lunch boxes), just like his mother used to, that would be the envy of his colleagues at work and I could learn to have no opinion whatsoever. In between the brunches and the bento-making, I could write… wow, I digressed so much.Back to school life. The syllabus is good, quite practical and engaging. There is homework sheets daily, these I cannot keep up with. I’ve had to hire a babysitter from the “Family Support” organization, a program that every city has to support working parents. She comes twice a week to help Jeremy finish off the homework and they sometimes practice a bit of the piano.
I think that school life for Jeremy is okay for now, but as for two to three years from now? *shrug*. However, everything is in Japanese with English lessons once a month. Today they learned how to count to 7 in sing-song. I feel like I am losing my son to this culture. Now I know how Chinese parents feel in the USA. International schools are out of the question at the moment; the cost is simply astronomical compared to the free Japanese schools, and the quality is not assured.
Every. Single. Day. I get leaflets with all sorts of announcements from the school, regarding the most important of things and also the most trivial of crap haha. It’s a lot of work going through it. So again, I asked our lovely babysitter, T-san, to help me out.
Working in a Japanese company has been interesting. As a PhD graduate, I have a bit of freedom in managing my working hours. There is no set to arrive at work or to go home (in my understanding of the terms and conditions haha), just as long as I get my work done. If circumstances force it e.g. a sick child, I can work from home.
The most exciting things to me have been the work itself specifically, the project I am currently working on. I also work with some cool people and have become friends with them. They invite me out for drinks after work, and I turn up whenever finances, babysitters, time and energy are in perfect harmony. We are talking once a month haha. There is a difference between being a parent and being child-free. In the latter case, your time is only your own (and of course, your employer’s) and you only have to take care of yourself.
One of biggest challenges has been the daily one-hour commute involving a bus, a train and a 15 min walk. I used to live on the campus in my student days, and my “commute” then was a 5 minute walk. I could move closer to work but I had been told the schools in that district weren’t good. Mitaka has some very good schools and I know one of the reasons is the very strong PTA. The parents (oops, I mean the Japanese housewives) are super over-involved. It’s great though, they look out for our kids. The PTA also sends leaflets from time to time.
Another challenge has been working in Japanese. Programming and report writing happens in English, but for efficient communication in the team, I need Japanese. Emails, discussions, lunch time banter, nomikai jokes, everything… is in Japanese and I thought I had it mastered (hey, JLPT N2) but I’ve barely scratched the surface. So I keep on learning technical Japanese and business Japanese. Learning Japanese is no longer this challenging hobby I picked up but a necessity. I sometimes feel like it’s taking away time from my productivity, sigh. The meme below pretty much sums up the first few months at work.
A Podcast Story
With all the time being taken up by work and school, when does Jack and Jacqueline play, you wonder? That will have to be another blogpost (6 Months in Tokyo: Playtime? A Social Life?).
In related news, I was recently a guest on the Raw Urban Mobile Podcast, hosted by Cliff & Buddha. “They talk with locals about their careers, endeavors, and passions to highlight the international community in Tokyo.” Check it out in the link above and a little preview below.
Till next time, Ciao. Be sure to not miss any posts by subscribing. Join 18,268 other followers (I know, I am surprised too).