Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Beginning

I am writing this from my bedroom in Ehara-cho, Nakano-ku, Tokyo, Japan. It is 5:45 a.m on Sunday morning. This is the latest I've woken up since being here!

I arrived in Japan last Wednesday evening around 4:00 p.m after a very long and cramped direct flight from Chicago (13 hours!). I arrived very excited and nervous, but also very tired. My first two days were an emotional roller coaster for me. I found myself surrounded by students who had all taken at least one year of Japanese and were here first and foremost to become fluent in Japanese. My motivation to come here differed from theirs and I was frustrated. I questioned why I was here, why I chose to be so far away from all that was familiar. I was sad, homesick, and had a major case of culture shock. For the first time in my life I honestly felt like I was in a dream. Nothing was real. I couldn't relax, I couldn't eat, I was waiting to wake up. This suddenly changed when I met Rory, a student from Notre Dame who is a vegetarian and doesn't know much Japanese either. Talking with her eased my apprehension and made Japan more of a reality for me. I'm not crazy! Yay! Later I found out that there are several students in my position. Hallelujah! I received the most clarity and peace though after speaking with the Lord one night, when He reminded me of the reasons why I chose to come here and all the doors He had opened for me. I am here to speak, love, and learn from and to the people of Japan. I am here to learn about the world from a new perspective and learn Japanese along the way. I am here to help people learn English, which is a major need here. I am here to shine the light of Christ to a nation of unbelievers (according to statistics, only 1% of Japanese are Christians) and to the students in my classes and in my program. I am also here to just live and be used by God however He needs me. I am available.

Japan is beautiful. During the day, the weather is sunny and in the 70s. At night it gets a bit cooler and it's windy. Though I am in Tokyo, tropical plants and cherry blossoms are all around. The cherry blossom trees are expected to bloom in about a week or so. I can't wait! The weather and the greenery of Japan gives me such calmness.

I moved in with my family about two days ago. I couldn't have asked for a more loving and fun family to live with. They are the Yamano family. My host father, Takashi, is an Economics Professor at a Graduate school here in Tokyo. He is well-traveled, very insightful, and a great father to his kids. My host mother, Kayo, is on maternity leave right now after having son Takuto only three months ago. She told me she wants to be my friend, not my mother. She's only 35, so she's young, cute, and loves to do girly things. We really click. She and her friends are taking me to a traditional Japanese inn and to a hot spring next Friday night. I'm looking forward to that! The three children are Hinako, 4 years, Wataru, 2 years, and Takuto, 3 months. They are such beautiful children. They don't speak a word of English, so we communicate in other ways. I am teaching Hinako how to say eye, nose, lip, chin, hair, and tooth and she has it almost completely down. She's a quick learner. She is teaching me Japanese. She is a strict teacher, but a very good one. Takashi and Kayo are fluent English speakers. Takashi more so than Kayo though. Takashi received his PhD from Michigan State actually and lived in the U.S. for awhile. He also teaches all of his classes here in English. Kayo lived in Toronto, Canada for ten years to learn English. I am helping her with her fluency. I am enjoying my time here with the family very much. I already feel like I have been here awhile. They have made me feel so comfortable. One of the biggest blessings here is that Kayo is a Christian! God had His hand in this completely. The odds of having a parent that was a believer were very slim. She is actually taking me to church today. She hasn't been able to go to church in awhile, so she is so glad that now she has a chance to go with someone! There is a nearby English-speaking Protestant church that was founded by an American missionary. Hopefully I can meet her today. I look forward to experiencing the fellowship of Christ's followers here in Japan so so much!

I could go on and on about all of the blessings I have received just in this short time. I can honestly say, without a single doubt, there is no way I would be able to leave my family, live in Japan for almost five months, live with a Japanese family, and have the strength to wake up every morning, if it wasn't for God's faithfulness and strong presence. He is here. I feel Him. I don't need to worry, I don't need to be sad. He will use me here. I am ready. I praise Him for comforting me, for loving me so much I feel it everywhere I go.

I am so excited to be here. I love Japan and its people. I am living on the fifth floor of a condo building and it looks out to the skyline of Shinjuku, the capital of Tokyo. It's fantastic.

Quickly before I go, here are some fun Japan facts that may be of some entertainment to you:

- Many people wear face masks here, either to prevent getting sick or to not spread their sickness to other people -- health is a top priority for the Japanese people
- Slurping is considered very polite
- You must wear slippers in the homes (I had to go buy some yesterday)
- Tokyo is so clean! I was walking down the street the other day and a man in a uniform had a bucket of soap and a sponge was cleaning a hand rail. There are many more examples.
- Taxi drivers wear gloves
- It is so safe here. I could walk outside by myself at midnight and the likelihood of something happening to me is soo slim. I won't try it, but it's great to know. I've decided that Tokyo is the opposite to Chicago. Guns are illegal here.
- It is considered rude to tip a waiter or anyone for that matter. They will give you the extra money back. Their mentality is that their good service is their job and should be expected of them.
- Tax is included in all prices
- and more and more and more... save them for the next update

I need to go get ready for the day.



  1. hey girl!!!!!! I saw your blog thing on my newsfeed. i'm going to follow you along! what a great opportunity. gosh your bed looks so comfortable. keep me updated! i'm so so so happy that you are living abroad. really excited for you. you will be in my prayers.

  2. Wow Emma! Your post made me sooo excited :) God is so good. I could not be happier for you that things are going so well! woohoo!!!

  3. christina cokinosMarch 25, 2009 at 7:36 AM

    Hey Emma! Alex, Sam's brother, is very interested in visiting Japan and he
    was here enjoying your pictures and dreaming of going over some day. I love hearing about your trip and seeing your pictures. The Japanese spring
    sounds wonderful!! Hugs to you.......Mrs. Cokinos

  4. Em, It was fantastic to read and see the pictures of your experiences to date in Japan.
    you get a real feel for the place from your journal and it really is amazing. We know that you'll make the most of your time there and look forward to your next update.

    We all love and miss you here in the UK.
    Take care

    Uncle T, Sue, Matt, Joe & Dan