On the Road to Japan – Departure Day

Today Toma and I depart on our separate flights for Tokyo. I am flying JAL direct to Tokyo Narita.  He flies Lufthansa with a comfort stop in Frankfurt Germany before continuing on to Tokyo Haneda.  He adapted very well to his crate over the weekend and I trust he is in very good hands.  It was, however, a very tearful experience on my part when Pet Express picked him up at the hotel.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that JAL Premium Economy Class grants you access to the British Airways lounge at Logan Airport.  It is a wonderful environment to finally relax and begin to enjoy my journey to a new life adventure in Tokyo Japan.

Our personal goods will follow by boat.  Departing Boston on October 9 we anticipate arrival and delivery to our condo the week of December 2.  Since we are shipping little furniture and Keiko has done a great job furnishing the condo, we should be able to quickly settle into our new lifestyle.  [In a future post, I will provide more information about and photographs of our Tokyo residence and location.]

Now its time to have some food and a drink to prepare for my 14 hour flight.  Kanpai!


September 30, 2019; Boston Logan Airport British Airway Lounge

On Saying Goodbye to America

With nearly every item on a long checklist completed I had little to do today to distract me.   Thinking about the implications of departing for Japan in eight days, I found my mind occupied with a curious mixture of reflection and anticipation.

Over the past three months, my thoughts were focused on the practical aspects of relocation; what I needed to do to leave the United States and start anew in Japan.  I only occasionally found myself looking back on a treasure of wonderful lifelong memories.  And, I rarely allowed myself to get too excited about the future.  There was just too much to worry about and to do to make moving to Tokyo a reality.

Today was different.  It was a day of glorious end-of-summer weather and I was relaxed.  The packing is nearly complete and I am only anxious about the USDA’s approval and return of Toma’s export permit.  After a wonderful brunch with a good friend and former graduate teaching assistant, Nicole Gogan, I spent a lazy afternoon with Toma doing nothing.

The environment was perfect for letting my emotions run free, for allowing my mind to simply drift backward and forward in time.  The experience left me drained and exhausted.  I was curious why. I finally realized that there was an interesting factor that prompted the extraordinary impact of this experience.

I had spent the previous three evenings watching episodes of the Ken Burns “Country Music” series on PBS.  The series has deeply touched my sense of America’s soul.  It is a powerfully told story of the America I was born, raised and worked in for 75 years using the emotional impact of music to remind me of events that greatly influenced my life.  It has prompted a wide range of feelings –– happiness and sadness, laughter and tears, joy and anger, shame and pride, fear and hope.  And these are the same feeling I have about leaving America.

Over the final days here I anticipate even more emotional recognition of my feelings about leaving America.  While most are very positive, there are some that will continue to test me.  On a personal level, I have yet to have a “goodbye” conversation with my daughters; the divorce, distance and strained relations make that uncertain and troubling.  I also cannot escape the impact that Trump has on my thoughts about leaving America.

In either case, I can do nothing to change the course of history.  I love my family and pray for their health, safety and prosperity,  I love my country and pray that my fellow citizens will force political solutions to preserve domestic tranquility and promote global peace.

While once landing in Japan I intend to fully enjoy the opportunities and experience that Japan presents to me, I will also have time to further reflect on my thoughts about saying goodbye to America.  I am confident that they will touch on a variety of topics that I look forward to sharing with you.

September 22, 2019 – Falmouth, Main

On the Road to Japan

Keiko departed on June 19 for Tokyo to start her accounting management position with a subsidiary of AXA, a French multinational insurance firm that engages in global insurance, investment management, and other financial services. She quickly handled her return registration and applied for my Japanese Certificate of Eligibility so that I could receive a resident visa. She also began to search for an affordable Tokyo condo that was convenient for her daily commute and met other requirements we had developed. She located and rented a wonderful condo that exceeded our expectations.

With her handling the Tokyo end of our relocation, I focused on the details of leaving the USA. The separation and delay reflected the time needed to complete Japan’s pet importation protocol for Toma, our loving Shih-Tzu, who would make the journey with us.

After 3 months of seemingly endless days spent dealing with the downsizing process and a long list of things to do, time is suddenly moving at warp speed in the final 10 day countdown to departure day, Monday, September 30 from Boston Logan Airport. I am flying JAL direct to Japan while Toma is traveling on Lufthansa via Frankfort Germany. Pet Express, a highly regarded international pet transportation company, is handling Toma’s travel arrangements, care, custom’s entry and safe delivery to our Tokyo condo.

Shipment of our personal goods using a 20’ container is being handled by Schumacher Logistics, providing us with very professional door-to-door service. Today they have started the packing, returning next Wednesday to complete the task and load the shipment that will soon sail to the port of Yokohama Japan. On arrival, a Japanese firm will handle customs clearance and deliver everything to our Tokyo condo. Expensive but a worry-free way to handle our relocation.

The packing process is quite involved as Japan requires a detailed shipment inventory and has many restrictions on what can be imported. One interesting example is that I am not allowed to bring my Samurai sword collection purchased in Tokyo back to Japan! Also, since Keiko and I had packed many things when we sold our Crystal Lake home and moved into the Falmouth condo, the movers must open and inspect the contents and repack as necessary. A notation of “PBO” (packed by owner) would likely cause a considerable delay in clearing Japan customs! No batteries or liquids along with a long list of “dangerous” and other restricted items and products can be included.

So everything begins to fall into place. Here are some highlights on the road to Japan:

  • We have successfully “downsized,” disposing of personal property no longer critical to our coming more minimalist lifestyle in Japan through sale, donation and sending stuff to recycle or trash. It was a difficult and stressful emotional and physical process. However, now completed I can honestly say that in the end it was a liberating and rewarding experience. Bottom-line, we earned sufficient funds through sales to pay for the move and settle debts.
  • We had signed a year-long lease for the Falmouth condo through November 30. With a September 30 departure, we were obligated for two months rent. Fortunately, the owner-landlord quickly advertised the unit and rented the unit thus enabling us to terminate the lease. While I am headed to Japan, the new renter is coming from Shanghai China moving here on a three-year assignment with Idexx. They move in on September 27.
  • I received a three-year renewable Resident Visa from Japan. This allows me to not only permanently reside in Japan but as the spouse of a Japanese national I am immediately enrolled in Japan’s national health insurance program (under a special program for 75+ seniors) and also allowed to work. I will be applying for a part-time position in an innovative Temple University program in Tokyo that works with Japanese entrepreneurs and business firms seeking to be more effective in global marketing and sales.
  • Both the 2016 Subaru Cross-Trek and the 1973 FJ40 LandCruiser were sold this week. I had previously sold my 2003 Audi TT Quattro roadster. Needing the Subaru to drive, Keiko and I decided to sell it through CarMax as the departure date neared. They offered a fair price and it was a hassle-free process. Parting with my FJ40 was a very painful experience but I am pleased that it has ended up in good hands. Now “car-less” for the first time, I look back upon 26 different vehicles I have owned. With a few exceptions, they were all wonderful but the FJ40 was very special.
  • Toma has his final health exam tomorrow morning and we send off an application to the US Department of Agriculture regional office in Albany, NY for his export permit. I will rest easy when that document is returned before we leave Portland for Boston next week.
  • While I have spent nearly all of my time with Toma, I am deeply indebted to some close friends and helpful neighbors who have helped me cope with being separated from Keiko. I want to specifically thank Karou Phillips, Derek and Naoka Jaskulski, Ron and Yumi Dearth, Yoko Murphy, Mike and Mika Yellen, Stephen Houser, Nicole Gogan and Luke Thomas for the time they spent with me.
  • In Maine we have had the good fortune to have wonderful neighbors. I will never forget the Sawyers on Crystal Lake who made Keiko and I feel like a member of their loving family. Now in Falmouth, the friendship and assistance of our neighbors Betsy Olsen and Nancy Hinkle was very helpful during my transition.

September 20, 2019 – Falmouth, Maine