A found letter from Japan

I found this today.  It is from last August….  I suppose I sent it out in an e-mail to people… but I might have just considered sending it out, and never actually did it.  I have edited only the name of the town… just ’cause… you know, Japan.  😛


My dearest family (and my friends who are like family),
I write to you from my new home in T—, Japan.  It is a small suburb of Tokyo, with a whopping (supposedly, anyway) 100,000 people.  I am tasked with assisting English language teachers at two different high schools in the town, one of them an art school, with specialties in painting/drawing/arts of that sort and music, and the other school a sort of engineering-for-mechanics-esque school.  My vagueness is purely due to the fact that no one seems to be able to explain to me about the schools.  On that note, no one seems to be able to explain anything to me clearly.  Guess that’s why I’m here in the first place – to help them with English, and to learn Japanese.
Going along with the lack of understanding point, I literally have no idea what’s going on around me a good amount of the time.  I was sort of trapped in my apartment the night I moved into it – I had purchased a futon (Japanese version of  a mattress – not too sure if I’m fond of it yet, ‘cause I miss my bed, but I think I can handle the futon alright) and toilet paper and towels, but that’s it.  No one could give me a map of the area (and didn’t think of it except for when I specifically asked for one); I didn’t have a copy of my address; and I don’t speak Japanese to be able to ask people for directions to get home if I went out and got lost.  Oh, and I had no phone or internet to look up where on earth to go without a paper map.
And, the best part: My predecessor told me that she had a lot of things she was giving me, so I wouldn’t need to buy most things like a fridge, storage, dishes, “that kind of stuff,” she said.  Way-to-be vague… 😛  So I had to eat food from 7/11 until she delivered her stuff to me… three days later.  No way to cook anything, because she has the electric burner for me to use.  No way to keep anything cold, so I couldn’t have fresh food of any kind for lunch at work (slash at all, since 7/11 isn’t entirely in the category of ‘fresh food’).  No way to feel like I’m not just possibly going to die (Yes, I realize the drama here.).
On top of it all, I was super stressed that I kept asking about going at least to get me a phone number, so that I could use the internet to function (map, translation, where to buy what, etc.), and they, unconcerned, mentioned that someone could take me some time next week “probably”, but I had to know exactly what plan I wanted and from which company.  Thanks, dude.  And how exactly do you propose I figure out that information with no internet, no map of the town, and no Japanese skills?
How did I solve the problem?  I went to meet another ALT (Assistant Language Teacher (Terminology for my program)) in Tokyo.  We’d become friends during the brief orientation in Tokyo earlier in the week, and she was up for helping my get a phone, so I didn’t have to stand in the 7/11 parking lot for super slow, choppy internet anymore (which I’d only discovered the night before).  Plus, I just needed some love.(1)
So I spent the day in Tokyo.  After two hours in the phone store, and using a translator (real person) on the phone, I had a new phone and a decent phone plan for the next two years.  We then went to Starbucks for a break and free wifi (for my friend to use), and we each caught up on all of our e-mails, messages, etc. from a million different people.
We then walked around a bit, and visited the Tokyo Tower area.  I had this realization as we passed one part of a temple there, that still hasn’t fully hit me.  Back home (USA), we have houses, etc., designed to look like traditional Japanese architecture, yes?  When I was looking at the temple building, my background, passive thought was the same as when I see such styles back home… and then I realized that this building is not made to ‘look like those buildings in Japan.’  This building IS ‘those buildings in Japan.’  It’s still sinking in.
(1) I can note here that I’d actually gone down to Tokyo that Friday night, just after discovering that I had internet in the 7/11 parking lot, which is down the street from my apartment (so I was able to find it without getting lost or anything – FYI streets don’t exactly have names here).  I was absolutely ready to cry from the stress of sitting around, waiting for people to take forever to accomplish tasks – unfortunately, my supervisor has never done this sort of thing before, so she had to have everything explained to her multiple times – and not knowing how I was even going to get dinner (I only found the 7/11 that night).
A friend who already had a phone (because he speaks Japanese, and so figured it out while we’d all been at orientation), happened to be in Tokyo for a festival with a coworker and the coworker’s friend, and invited me to come down for the evening.  So, I managed to access train schedules (just barely with the internet connection there), screen shotted them, and set up a rescue plan, should things not work out (i.e. I knew 7/11 had internet, so I’d go find any 7/11, and the friend would come find me there), before rushing off to Tokyo.
I walked right into my friend when I arrived in Tokyo, and was given a nice, big hug.  Hugs are really one of the best medicines.  We watched the tail end of the festival (very cool with dancing performances and drums and bells all along this long street), and then all went to dinner.  Turns out I only live a town over from the coworker’s friend, and she and I decided to be friends.  (We’ve been in touch ever since.)
Post-a-day 2018

Longest and Shortest Years

Okay, please exclude February 29th from existence for this reading and any further conversation on the topic.  Kay, thanks.  😉


Thus ends the longest year of my life.  It began in Tokyo, Japan and ended in Houston, Texas, thereby making it 13 hours longer than any regular year in my life.  Last year, 2016, was the shortest year of my life by 13 hours, because it was reversed: It began in Houston, Texas and ended in Tokyo, Japan.

Before this year, my shortest year had been 2012, beginning in Houston and ending in Vienna, Austria, making it 7 hours shorter than usual, and making 2013, which ended in Houston, 7 hours longer than usual.  Those years are now in second place for the shortest and longest years of my life.

Fun, huh?  😛

When I was little, I made several lists of things I wanted to do in my life.  I remember writing into one at some point that I wanted to live the longest and shortest year possible one day.  That means spending one December 31-January 1 in the first time zone, the following in the last time zone, and then the third in the first time zone again.  I now actually have friends in both locations, so it is totally possible.  Let’s see if I can pull it off, shall we?


Just to drive me nuts, these had to clash with leap years, instead of working with them.  I’ll get there some day, I imagine.  I’ve gotten so close without even putting forth a conscious effort already.  I can only imagine what I’ll pull off in the future.  And I know it will begin with the January first of a leap year, whenever it happens.  🙂

Post-a-day 2017

Getting to the airport

So, I still hate living in Japan, and it reminded me of this fact on my way to the airport this morning.  However, I also still truly love parts of this place and culture.  My trip to the airport reminded me of this fact, too.

As I struggled with three rolling bags and a guitar (I know, I know – stupid.  But it was unavoidable.), the terrible signage and lack of findable elevators was driving me insane, along with the constant rumble strips for hard-of-seeing individuals (I don’t blame anyone for that – it merely added to my struggle, is all, with the suitcase wheels constantly getting stuck in them.).  

So, rather than just being able to take an elevator to the right level, and walk flat to my airport train, and then take a second elevator down, I took what felt like an insane route, due to poor signage.  Struggling to exit the final tiny escalator (width-wise tiny), and get my stuff out of the way for the people behind me, I was totally I surprised to find myself outside with rain.  Yes, the whole station connects in a covered and underground area.  But this was the only path I could take, based on signs (which I know is false information, because I’ve been to the same area before, just from a different direction).  I finally gave up attempting to pull both big bags at once (one had the smaller rolling bag on top of it, and was somewhat impossible to manage off smooth, flat terrain), and just left one sitting near the escalator.  I trudged through the rain with the two bags, and wasn’t even sure how far I would go before turning back for the other bag.  I was unconcerned about leaving my bag, though, because 1) this is Japan, 2) it’s freakin’ heavy and hard to move, and 3) some station staff were standing right near it, and they saw me leave it there in my struggle.

I could tell the station staff guys were a bit concerned about my bag, so, when I found a spot covered from the rain, just around the corner, I propped my two bags against the wall, and started heading back for the other bag.  Of course, there were no signs for the train line I wanted, but that was no surprise – this is Japan.

As I came around the corner, however, one of the old men station workers was heading my way with my bag.  I thanked him in Japanese, and started to go to take the bag from him, but he asked in adorable English (meaning I understood, but it was not really correct at all) if I were taking the Narita Express.  I said that I was, and he just nodded, kept walking, and pointed up the escalator to the left.  I quickly grabbed my other bags and followed.

The big bags barely fit on the even smaller escalator we were using, but we managed.  At the top, I expected he might return my bag to me, but he again kept walking ahead of me, showing me the way to a train whose signs I still couldn’t find.

Remember that this is Japan (as if you could forget), so, of course, we came to a staircase now.  No alternate route.  None.  But we took an escalator to where we were, so it makes perfect sense for only stairs to follow.  But then, the upside of Japan came again, and a young-ish guy helped us carry the bags up the stairs, once he saw the station worker attempting to pick up one of my bags, as I carried another up with the guitar.  I heard the station worker comment to the guy that I was alone and carrying all three suitcases, and I smiled – people really can be super sweet here.  I in no way deny that.

So we continued on, and found our ticket barrier for the train.  I still had to buy a ticket, so he asked the window worker, and she sent me to the machines.  Unfortunately, the 7:13 train that was about to leave didn’t have any tickets available on the machine.  The next was at 8:00-ish, which started to put me into a panic.  I quickly asked about the 7:13 train, and my old man asked the window people for me.  Yet another station worker came from the window, and started tapping at the machine screen for me a few moments later.  Eventually, despite various issues, I got a ticket for the 7:13.  At least, it would let me on the 7:13.

Again, I heard the conversation happening about my being hitori desu! and mitsu desu ne.  The worker who helped me get my ticket then took over for the old man from the other section of the station, and took one of my big bags for me.  I thanked the old man profusely, and marveled one last time at his light blue eyes.  He wished me luck and courage.

I got stuck in the ticket barrier.  Yes, literally, because the one bag was too wide, and so the lady let me go back and bring my bag through the side area.  However, that meant that my ticket was eaten by the machine, since I didn’t make it all the way through the barrier.  And I only had so many minutes before the train.

The lady rushed over and opened up the ticket barrier, pulled out my ticket from a bin, and handed it to me, wishing me luck and courage, as well.  I thanked her greatly, and started rushing after the worker who’d taken my other bag.

We had just barely five minutes, and I could  tell we had far to go, simply by the fact that he was checking his watch and hurrying along so quickly.  The long corridor that greeted us as we rounded a corner made me a bit more nervous.  We rushed down the walkway, though, and he eventually declared that it would be okay.  He led me to an elevator (phew!), and we went down to the track.  The whole time, he had been talking with me, chatting about my stay and whatnot, and then telling me about where I could sit on the train.  Some good final practice for my Japanese, I suppose.  It was really nice to have someone to chat with me casually, though, especially with the physical stress and mental workout that had been going on so far today (and that still awaited).

He helped me on the train, showed me the secret seats in the wall, and wished me safety and good health.  After a few minutes on the train, the ticket checker guy who’d seen us get on came out of his little room and smiled at me as he walked past.  A few moments later, he came back and summoned me silently with the Japanese wave.  I followed, and he offered me a real seat in the cabin.  I thanked him, and collapsed into the seat.

Now, a bit of snacking and a bathroom break later, I am almost to the airport.  I don’t know how much my bags weigh.  One is for sure okay, the other concerns me a bit.  I’ve never measured 70lbs before, so I don’t know how that feels.  I’m a rather good judge for 50lbs, though, and my second checked bag is right close to 50.  My carry-on is way heavy.  But it might still be okay.  We shall see…

I still have to cancel my phone contract at the store, too.  And get through security with my Fuji-San hiking stick.  And make it on the plane, of course.  So, let’s hope for the best here, eh?

Fingers crossed!
P.S.  Oh.  And, as a side note, I happen to be sick right now, too.  It all started with the whole smoking at dinner the other night. My throat started burning then, and hasn’t stopped since.  :/

Post-a-day 2017


Getting ready to time-travel

And so one thing ends, and, with anxiety, something new begins.  Tonight, I complete my life here in Japan, and dream one last dream before I move forward to my next step.  I felt like I was in “What About Bob?” today, taking my mother’s guidance to do whatever needs to be done next – aka baby steps.  I took my baby steps all day long today, and finally got it all finished.  I even accomplished a few things I expected not to be able to do.

One of those things being seeing the guitarist I’d seen a couple weeks ago at the nearby train station, who had greeted me in English one night as I was moving my stuff to my friend’s place.  He greeted me and asked how I was doing tonight, as I was walking in Shibuya, and ended up accompanying me, with my comfortable acquiescence, to the phone shop to disconnect my phone (It was closed.), and then buying me a Japan-only Yuzu frappucino from Starbucks, and sitting with me as I finally watched the Shibuya Crossing from the Starbucks window (It wasn’t actually very impressive, but I think I never really expected it to be, anyway.), at which point, we finally discovered that we had, in fact, seen one another those two or three weeks back.  He was a nice guy, Ryo.

I ended my evening with my last gaiten zushi (conveyor belt sushi), on which I spent ¥680 (just over $6 US), and which I didn’t even finish eating.  I’ll miss such affordable sushi, but I’ll survive quite well back in Houston, I do believe.  Green smoothies and colorful veggie-based juices are calling me.

And now, at long last, I shall sleep.  Rest, anyway.  We’ll see if it really is sleep tomorrow morning, when my alarm wakes me just before 5am.  I hope I wake rested well.

Anyway, this is it, I guess.  Tomorrow morning, I say goodbye to Japan, and then I time-travel (departing 11:10am on Saturday, 12 August, and arriving 9:30am on Saturday, 12 August).


Post-a-day 2017


Soo not ready for what’s next…

Is it that I am afraid of what happens after I leave here, and am therefore not accomplishing the things I want to do here, in hopes of that making me not have to move onward?  If things are not finished here, then how could I possibly move on to the next thing?

But my plane ticket is set.  I am leaving here.  And I am leaving here quite soon.  Yet, based on my behavior, it almost seems like I am not leaving for another month.  (That is, of course, with the one exception where I began arranging and organizing and packing my luggage today – I actually finished my army duffle entirely, and have just to sort out the oddly shaped things and delicate things that are strewn about with the small pile of clothing I plan to wear the next week and a half.)

I want those popsicles and soft serve ice creams.  I want to take those photos with my beloved (it’s a truly love-hate relationship on my end) TV show’s filming location/s.  And I want to go sit at that Starbucks, and meditate on the hubbub of the crossing down below. If I am truly going to do these things, I must begin tomorrow or the next day – there is very little time still available to me for these particular tasks/adventures.

I am scared, I see.  However, let’s do them, nonetheless.  Yes, let’s, Hannah Banana.  🙂


Post-a-day 2017


Oxymorons and Dichotomies of clothes

I simultaneously want to live a simplistic, minimalistic-esque life, and one in a huge house, with lots of awesome things in it.

How do I go about making that happen?

Well, I don’t know.  However, I have a feeling that my best friend would simply say that I’ll find a way somehow – I always seem to do so with whatever comes up in life.  Don’t know how?  Well, I figure it out anyway, and make it happen.  So she claims, and I mostly agree with her.

Perhaps this is a perfect time to apply this thinking to my current state of affairs (i.e. Minimal money, needing insurance for the first time when I move to the US next month, needing a place to live, needing to find good work for after my temporary position ends around the end of September, and how to get rid of so much stuff that I know I have waiting for me in a packed room at my mom’s house.).  Yes, I think it is.

Post-a-day 2017


Hospitality Notes

I found one of the best notes ever, when I woke up the other morning at my friend’s house.

It was on the counter of the bathroom (technically, the room with the toilet).  It read:

Hannah 1/3

Good Morning!
I have few things to tell you.

  • Please make yourself at home ! ! !  Do not stress your self to worry things.


  • Use anything in the house.  Do not buy things you do not bring to U.S.
  • Stay as long as you want.  even after I left for U.S.  I trust you.


  • Let S—— out from my bed room after you get up in the morning.  So she can stay at the living room. (for food and water)

I was just delighted when I reached the end of the notes.  They were incredibly southern hospitality and totally Japanese at the same time.  The hearty welcome to make myself at home, combined with the fact that the sticky note pages were labeled with page __ of __.  I loved it (and still do).  I love good friends.

Post-a-day 2017