Sunday, October 19, 2014

Settling in to life in Tokyo

-->March 11, 2014 was an extraordinary day. This is the day that I received notice of my Fulbright award in Japan. I could not (and cannot) imagine a more significant professional triumph. Now, eight months later, the Fulbright has dramatically influenced my perspective and daily life. Here, I describe my family's early adventures settling in and my Tsuda College Fulbright faculty liaison, Professor Hisae Orui.
Popular shopping destination near Kichijoji Station.

Greeted by a friendly Japanese graduate student, my husband, children, and I arrived bright-eyed at the Tsuda College campus on August 5. Our restless bambinos – Julian and Coletta – had their fair share of disruption and transition, traveling from their grandparents’ seaside house in Los Angeles to airport accommodations in bustling Tokyo, all within 24 hours. From there, our family was transferred to temporary housing and then finally, permanent housing in Japan. But the struggle was worth the effort. We are now living about one hour from downtown Tokyo in a quaint pedestrian-friendly neighborhood equipped with everything we need as a family, including playgrounds and parks, grocery stores, restaurants, a post office, banks, and several stops along the Japan Railway. In an effort to learn more about the greater Tokyo metropolitan area - the largest city in the world - we have also explored Harajuku, Inokashira Zoo Park, Meiji Jingu, Port of Tokyo, Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo Tower, and Ueno Park.

Orui Sensei

--> Prior to our departure much of my initial contact was with my primary Fulbright faculty liaison, Professor Hisae Orui, a member of the English Department at Tsuda College. Gracious and smart, Orui-san has since served as our translator and go-to guru of settling in. Among many other things, Orui-san stocked our refrigerator with groceries, accompanied us to city hall, communicated with FedEx regarding our delayed shipment, and assisted me in enrolling my daughter Coletta in hoikuen (nursery school). She even commissioned a graduate student - Yuria - to help my family and me adjust to domestic life. Yuria visited our home before our arrival, photographed and examined all of our appliances, and then on tiny flash cards, typed in English how to use each Japanese contraption. She then returned to our house and taped the flashcards to the corresponding appliance, so we would not be confused. Undoubtedly these are duties well beyond those of any graduate student in Japan or the United States! Finally, Orui-san organized a one-hour meeting for me with Tsuda President Mari Kunieda, a scholar of women’s advancement in education. I was delighted and honored to have had valuable time with the president to discuss politics, research, and teaching at Tsuda College.
Initially, the move to Japan was all so overwhelming and my brain was in constant overdrive – the sounds, smells, and scenery of Tokyo amaze me. But my family and I are settling in now and enjoying our new day-to-day experiences, even ones as simple as greeting the bus driver every morning. For this, I feel a deep sense of peacefulness. I am so incredibly grateful for this experience, and look forward to all the stimulating adventures ahead.


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