14 Jul 2021

Welcome to our blog about living in Yokohama. Hope you enjoy it…

Quick note, I decided to start this blog (great idea Collette, thanks) as a way to keep our family and friends up to date on our life here since I am still not a Facebook fan and probably never will be! So please forgive any grammatical errors or omissions on my part, it is just a fun way to keep in touch!

It is 3 weeks to the day since we arrived in Japan, and so far it has been exciting, delicious, freezing, and a total sensory overload.

Beautiful young ladies in their kimonos.

We have had beautiful sunny days, rain, sleet, and snow which I understand is very rare this far South. There have been a few noticeable earthquakes that seem to come and go without any fuss at all. We had a couple of pretty good ones this past Saturday that were quite noticeable. Yikes!

The first one woke us up and the 2nd one got us out of bed and dressed! As we went through the day we discovered it was more than 100km away and quite normal. Guess that’s a good thing! Apparently, Japan gets anywhere between 2,000 – 3,000 earthquakes a year so it really is a matter of when not if. Fortunately, everything here is built to withstand the quakes and the real danger is falling objects so people tend not to put much on their balconies etc.

Here is Yokohama in 2012 western expats are quite rare, much more so than in the Middle East. We are often the only Caucasians in a sea of mostly dark-haired, very stylish, and average height people, to my surprise.

The warnings we were given about there being no English whatsoever were completely wrong, there is actually a fair bit, definitely enough to get around. We have yet to begin our Japanese lessons, however, I plan to make that a priority as it will go a long way out in the marketplace.

Shibuya, Tokyo

The landscape is extremely lush and reminds me a lot of Vancouver in the winter, but with far more deciduous trees currently in hibernation. I can’t wait to see everything come to life this Spring, I imagine it will be breathtaking.

Our temporary serviced apartment is tiny and not very homey or comfortable but has all the basics (pictures to follow next time). We have spent nearly all our free time so far scouring Yokohama for a suitable apartment to move to.

Unlike the past 10 years, we do not plan to move during our time here so we really want to find a place that we think we would be happy in for several years to come.

We lost out on 2 units, one for being gaijin (foreigner) and the other due to poor timing, and finally ended up in the right place at the right time for a really great apartment. It is a surprisingly big, 2 bedroom – 950sf on the 4th floor of a newer building (2007) so we are thrilled. The guest room is quite generous and should be comfortable enough for family & friends who venture over for a visit! We move in on Feb 29 and the kitty cats arrive on March 6 (can’t wait!).

There is a lot to see and do here and it all involves walking, lots and lots of walking. The train system is awesome and we are glad to confirm there is no need for us to own a vehicle here. In fact, Mark’s office will be moving in June at which point he will be less than a 5 min walk to work! Sure beats 1.5 hours 1-way from Ras Laffan to Doha in the not-so-distant past! His job is going great and he is enjoying it. We are both loving the office hours and two-day weekend! Mark will likely be traveling soon at which point it will likely be for audits in various job sites in Asia. Looks like his trips will be inside of a week at a time which will be good.

I happened to get a glimpse of his office and it is so interesting. No pictures allowed, sorry! The huge room is sort of set up like a classroom with row upon row of desks butting up to each other and all the bosses down the long side of the perimeter. There are no partitions or walls and when you stand up you can see the whole room! Also, no noise, or bustling around. It is very, very quiet in fact people email each other from 20′ away rather than walking over and having a conversation! So interesting.

When the kids are out on school outings they all have to wear the same color hat! Good system especially if you can keep the hats on their heads ;)))

We were in Starbucks the other morning and were the only expats, but more interestingly one of very few tables with more than one person at it. They have very nice piano music playing and everyone is quietly reading something or using the free WiFi. It was so quiet in there we barely wanted to speak above a whisper.

The trains are also very orderly. It seems to be frowned upon to eat or drink on the train, but a few people do it anyway. It is also very quiet and the people who are talking are basically whispering. The people stand on the left side of the escalators or moving walkways and always leave the right side clear for those who are in a hurry and want to keep moving. I love that!

Wonder where she was off to…?

So far, Yokohama seems quite small and if you have the time to walk, you can easily get around without using the train. I have been out walking and exploring most days and by the time I am dragging my butt home with more bags than I can carry I find I have walked well over 5km every time I go out, which is great!

The people here are lovely. They are friendly, smiling, accommodating and seem quite genuine. This is such a nice change from what we have been used to in the sand pit. The food has been great, especially the soup. Thankfully, most menus have pictures of the meal so we have a chance of picking something we think we will like and so far, no nasty surprises!

Yummy food on offer at a street market.

A friend has taken me to a great sushi place that has many choices other than the raw fish types (yuck!) and it was the best sushi I have ever had, so fresh and yummy. Lots of rice and noodles, Mark is in heaven! Meat is definitely a much smaller portion of any meal here which is not a bad thing. The starch is the biggest and so far the veggies have not been plentiful which I find surprising. I really have not been cooking in our tiny kitchen but will have to get my head around it because I don’t want to add another 4 weeks to our already 11 of basically eating out (and living out of suitcases). So I am going to buy a big skillet today and a bunch of spices and see what I can whip up on 1 burner and a microwave! Oops, forgot the rice cooker! Any suggestions would be very welcome…..

In conclusion of the first of many blogs, we love it here and we have barely scratched the surface of this intriguing, beautiful and diverse city. I would guess (and hope) that future posts will say the same about the rest of the country too!

Bye for now.

Feb 2012

living in Japan

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