Darn Closed Environments!

Well, it seems that I have caught something since leaving Japan. My throat is sore as heck, my tongue has swelled a bit, and it hurts to use my voice for more than a minute. As you can see from the picture on the left, it's started to snow quite a bit too. So perhaps Vancouver can get another repeat of the snow problems they faced in Decemer :P

But even with all this, I'm not going to let it bring me down. After spending two weeks with Reiko, I've told myself to start working harder on the work ethic I'll need in Japan. I will not be able to let things visibly bother me there, nor will I have the ability to express it the same way as here. And considering how these small inconveniences are just that, it's really not necessary to become upset.

Today was also my first day back at work. I was quite surprised by some of the things that had occurred in my absence, and at the same time, disappointed. It seems that no matter how much I try to understand people, I will never come close to truly parsing their train of thought or their unsaid expectations. Either way, it's all good. The fewer opportunities I have to make my opinions known at work, the better :P

Tomorrow I'll be signing up for that Japanese language course at a local college, and filling out some paperwork to get a readily-accessible international bank card. Hopefully these things won't cost an arm and a leg.

As an aside, I'll put up another large chunk of pictures this weekend. There are still some albums that have nothing in them, as well as a few hundred shots from Japan that I could share. The low-res images will also be updated with the full picture, in the event you want to get them developed at a local film-processing store.

Back in Canada

After an enjoyable visit to Japan, I had a great flight back, and now I find myself at home and unmotivated to do the laundry or buy groceries.

I must say that the security at Kansai Airport was quite a bit more relaxed than that at Vancouver. After going through a metal detector and having my notebook checked for illegal substances, I was let through and that was that. No pat-down. No shoe removal. I didn't even have to take off my jacket. Heck, I could have easily smuggled 5 kilos of opium if I was into drugs. But it's all good, we clearly made it without any problems, and ahead of schedule by about 45 minutes.

One positive note about the flight was my seat being upgraded to business class due to the fullness of the plane. I was able to see why some of my friends enjoyed the treatment so much. The wider seats allow for more arm space. The larger leg-space allows for chairs that recline to an almost horizontal position. And, of course, the service was top notch.

I typically develop really painful headaches on a long flight. Both due to tight quarters, as well as the lack of movement. This return flight, however, was incredibly smooth. At the end of the 9 hour flight I came off the plane feeling refreshed and relaxed. Which is a heck of a lot better than I have ever felt when coming off the large passenger vehicles.

Depending on the price differences, I might just start springing for the better seats. When travelling for an hour or two, economy is fine. But when going over an ocean, I want to be a little more comfortable.

Thanks, Air Canada! I don't think I'll mind flying so much in the future :D

Sitting in Kansai

This will be my last post in Japan. The net connection is really poor, so I'll need to keep this brief. Of course, I can't really complain seeing as how it's free …

I wish there was a way for me to stay in Japan. I really enjoy so many things about this country, and it's very hard to be away from Reiko for so long. I know that I can't truly do my line of work from a remote location as there are some situations where the internet just isn't the same as sitting in a room with someone and working out some solutions.

Yet at the same time, part of me thinks that there really isn't a problem working with reduced human interaction. Lord knows that 70% of my job is trying to figure out what somebody actually wants, despite what they wrote down (the two are seldom the same). It's times like this that I think about methods and possible arrangements that would let me get what I want, while still satisfying the needs of others. Unfortunately, there are none.

Reiko and I are saving for our upcoming wedding. At the same time, we have a few trips to make this year. And on top of that, are our living expenses. Everything costs money, and unless I were to find something remarkably decent in Japan with my limited language skills, we need to think about the best ways to afford the goals. I'll be taking some language lessons at Langara in a few weeks to get a jump-start on Japanese. And this will be in conjunction with the certifications I'm studying and earning.

The fortune I received at the Shinto shrine in Inuyama said that I would have a lucky year, with a good chance of profit. Hopefully this will prove true so that in a year's time, Reiko and I will have very little to worry about.

Last Day in Japan

Today's my last full day in Japan, and Reiko and I have spent most of the time sitting in traffic.

Well … that's not true, but it certainly felt like it at some points. On the plus side, there isn't anyone else I would rather be stuck in traffic with. We played with the stuffed animals that we had won at the local arcade, and listened to some theatre music on her CD player. Of course, we also ate some of the food that we had bought before leaving. So it wasn't too bad at all.

I was a bit surprised to find that the postal office's ATM's have been closed for the last two days. These were the only ATMs that I could withdraw money from, as they're the only ones connected to the international lines. A few of my friends use Citibank when trying to draw money internationally, so perhaps I'll open one of those accounts when I return to Canada. This will give Reiko and I a singular location to save money for our trips and upcoming wedding.

We did manage to pick up the requisite JR rail passes that I'll need tomorrow and put them on my MasterCard, so it's not an absolute necessity for me to access money. I still have about 4,500 yen on me (approximately $45 CDN), so it should be plenty for the few things I'll want before leaving Japan … namely coffee.

I'm really going to miss this country. I've finally gotten used to the flow of traffic (being the opposite of most westernized countries), and many other aspects of this great country. The endless mountains are another thing that I'll miss. Sure, Vancouver is surrounded by mountains, but they're just not the same. The mountains in Japan have trees and life all around them. The mountains around Vancouver are rock and snow.

I'll be looking forward to my next trip here. I'll be buying the plane ticket as soon as possible, so I wonder how soon I can make the purchase for a ticket in December … then again, would I really want to wait that long? I don't know if I could get time off in August and again in December … but perhaps I'll ask really nice at work.

Either way, I'm really going to miss this country. I'll work extra hard to earn enough money to come back as often as possible. Maybe I'll be lucky enough to find some great extra work that will let me move to Japan for several months while working remotely on the projects. It all depends.

My fortune said that this year would be great for personal business. Let's hope it's true.

Meeting The Rest of the Family

Much like the title of this post suggests, today I met more of Reiko's family. Reiko's eldest sister came for a visit with her husband and two young children, and we had a pretty good time enjoying a light afternoon snack and posing for some photos. As this trip comes to a close I'm finding it hard to turn my thoughts back to Canada.

The last two weeks have been quite a bit of fun. Reiko and I have visited so many places, and there is still much left to do when it comes to planning our upcoming wedding. While the counter on the side might show over 500 days, these things need to be planned well in advance. I think that I might just setup another site to track all the things that Reiko and I have had to do in order to marry. It could be useful for other Canadian / Japanese couples that have questions or concerns about what needs to be done and what to watch out for. Lord knows that Reiko and I have a bit of an idea, but there are many things that we likely haven't considered when it comes to us living and working in other nations, and even changing nationality.

The next stage for Reiko and I is the trip to Ontario to meet much of my immediate family. For the moment, this is planned to be during the Japanese Golden Week, which is the next time that Reiko can get enough time to visit Canada. To add fun to this equation, Reiko and I will be meeting in Toronto instead of Vancouver. Hopefully we'll land at the same airport, and within a decent amount of time from each other. I'd feel terrible if Reiko had to kill a few hours in Toronto before I arrived. I'd rather land a day before and spend the night sleeping on those airport benches (assuming they'd let me, of course).

Hopefully my family will be able to set aside some time to meet with Reiko this spring. However, if we can only really meet during evenings, then I can show Reiko many of the sites in Southern Ontario. Niagara Falls will have thawed by the time we arrive, and I've always wanted to try that rotating resteraunt. I don't think we'd go across the Rainbow Bridge to the US, though … the Canadian side is much more interesting.

This will be my first time back to Ontario in almost five years. I wonder how much has changed.

There will be some new family that I need to meet, as well as some others to reconcile with. It should be interesting to say the least. We'll likely only be in Ontario for three days before flying back to Vancouver and spending two days together before Reiko needs to return.

Long distance relationships are incredibly hard. Both Reiko and I knew this well before we started a relationship, and we had even discussed the difficulties beforehand. I have less than two days remaining in this country, and I really don't want to go back. My apartment feels cold and empty without Reiko. She was only there for a few days this past summer, and in that time enough of a mark was left that it can't be filled with anything else. And while MSN is a nice tool to help us keep in touch, it's just not the same as being in the same room.

MSN can't transfer touch, taste or smell. Without these crucial senses, the other two are just a tease. Yet despite these limitations and difficulties, I wouldn't want to be with anyone else.

To everyone that might be having a long distance relationship and finding it hard to keep going, I can only wish you luck with the venture. Don't think about how long it will be until you can meet again, always talk about how short the wait will be. Rather than talk in months, talk in weeks. Anything that can make the time seem less will help both parties. If you can make a relationship work with the distance, then the fruit of that labor will last a good long time.

Ganbatte ne.

Happy New Year!

Today was the first day of 2007, and it was quite an enjoyable day.

As you can see, Reiko wore a kimono for the new year and we enjoyed breakfast with her family as well as made a trip to a shrine in Inuyama. We didn't do any of the Shinto prayers (since neither of us are Shintoist), but it was enjoyable to visit the temple and see all the people. I can see that this is one of the few times of year that temples make the largest amount of money. Everything cost some amount of money. The only things that were free was the air and the pictures we could take.

After all was said and done, Reiko was happy to exchange the kimono for some regular clothes. While women look great wearing the robes, they're really very tight. I was able to see this first hand, and unfortunately, Reiko had to cut her breakfast short. I think we made it up with dinner, though.

I'll be posting the pictures from today in the gallery (New Year 2007), so feel free to look.

There are only a few days left until I must return to Canada. So I'll be enjoying the rest of this time as much as possible. Tomorrow I get to meet Reiko's eldest sister as well as the rest of her family. It should be fun :)

New Year's Eve

I wonder if I should change the name of my categories….

For the moment, "at Home" means in Vancouver, while "in Japan" is just that. However, as more time passes, I find that Japan feels just like home. So many things here are familiar to me, and I've even been accepted into Reiko's family. How could I think of the place I stay in Vancouver as a home when I'm the only one that lives there?

Well, perhaps this is just another sign that I'll really enjoy all the time I'll spend in Japan over the next few years. This is, after all, where I plan on spending most of my adult life.

Today (being New Year's Eve in Japan) Reiko and I spent some time at her home preparing some foods for the family dinner we'll be having January 1. Reiko and I baked a great cake with lots of cream and some fruit. It looks soooo good, and hopefully the rest of the family will think so as well. There's quite a bit of cream on that cake, so it's almost like it was made in Canada :P

Afterwards we looked at some of Reiko's photobooks. It's pretty amazing how little I know about her past, considering how we've spoken so much about so many different things. This is, of course, a positive thing as it means that there will be many things that we can learn about each other over the next few years. She was very attractive from a young age … I don't know how I was lucky enough to find her.

Of course, I'm not complaining in the least.

I should go. We're right now watching some New Year's shows and afterwards we'll do the countdown. This is one of the first times I've ever stayed awake to midnight on New Year's, and I'm sure it will always be one of the best.

See you next year!

11 Months

Today marks the 11th month since Reiko and I started talking.

This relationship has moved pretty quickly at some points, and a few times I was even wondering whether I was getting in over my head. As with all relationships, I've made my share of mistakes. The thing I try for the most is to ensure the same mistakes are never repeated.

Reiko and I knew that this long-distance relationship would not be an easy thing to deal with sometimes. The time differences means that we might not always be able to talk to each other, and the costs to visit from one country to another makes regular visits quite cost prohibitive. Through all this, she and I have perservered. Because of our will, we are now planning a marriage.

I feel really lucky to have met someone like Reiko. I know that sometimes we'll have different opinions about certain subjects and matters, and this will (hopefully) allow us to find a balance and build a common ground. One of the things I'm going to work really hard to prevent is a lack of communication because of differing opinions on matters.

Today has been pretty good, for the most part. For the last several hours, Reiko and I have been at her parents home preparing foods for the New Year celebrations. Some of the foods remind me of things that I used to eat at family gatherings, and others are quite new to me. I know it's been said many times before, but I really enjoy the food in Japan. It's even been said that I've lost weight in the last few days (w00t!)

Since I currently have some down-time, I think I'll upload some more pictures to the gallery. Be sure to check out the "New Years 2006" album.

Yay! I'm Approved!

Today was the day that I offically asked Reiko's parents permission to marry her. We had a great conversation, and after it was all said and done, my request to marry was okayed!

I knew that I would be meeting Reiko's parents this trip, as it's been planned for months. For the most part I was pretty cool and collected, until we started talking about it here. I don't think I've been that nervous about anything before.

Afterwards I tried to help Reiko and her mom with the cooking, though I think I made matters worse. So, after everything, it's been a great day. I'll be posting lots of pictures where Reiko's making some California rolls, as well as some from around the area.

California Rolls

Once again, my mind is wandering and this entry is likely not going to make any sense whatsoever. So on that note, I'll head off. Right now I'm at Reiko's parent's place and dinner is almost ready. Can't be too late for this first dinner :)

Snow!!!

It's almost January, so I guess that means it's time to get some winter weather.

This morning the sun was shining and the wind was strong as Reiko and I enjoyed our breakfast. The thing I really like about the weather in Japan is that there's not wishy-washy attitude from Mother Nature. If it's raining, there's no mistake. If there's wind, there's lots of it. Today's weather was mostly wind, but as Reiko made her way home she sent an email saying that it had started to snow. So I guess her father was right this morning, as usual.

This afternoon, Reiko and I travelled to Nagoya to look at another possible location for our wedding. This was located in the suburbs of Nagoya and the area was incredibly clean. As we travelled from the subway to the Marriyell building it was hard to spot litter or even normal weather marks on some of the buildings. We also managed to spot a few houses that had a very Canadian look and feel to them, as they were huge in comparison to their neighbours.

I'm really going to miss this country when I go back to Canada in a week. I know that one of the reasons I enjoy things so much here is the different atmosphere, but more than that, I'll miss many of the little things that make Japan so enjoyable. From the friendly greetings when you enter a store to the stares Reiko and I get sometimes out in public, I've become really attached to many aspects of this country. Of course I'll still need to find my place in this society when Reiko and I make a home here, but for the most part I couldn't imagine a better place to live.

Tomorrow I'll be spending some time at Reiko's home with her family. We'll have a great dinner and maybe even watch one of the Harry Potter movies. Of course, there are other reasons for this dinner, but I'll talk about those later.

I'm still uploading pictures to the galleries when I have an hour or two to spare, and I'll be sure to post more tomorrow. Right now I need to get some sleep.

Oyasumi nasai.