Faraway File #2: Victoria – Tokyo, Japan
This series aims to give a snapshot in to the lives of parents living faraway from home - the good, the bad and the ugly! If you'd like to be featured, I'd love to hear from you - please get in touch!
The next of our Faraway Files takes us to Tokyo, where Chicago native Victoria is currently settling in to life with her husband Nicholas and their 2 year-old son William. Victoria is charting their adventures over on her blog Tea For Dinosaurs (much in her monthly ‘Living Abroad Log’ will ring true with anyone who’s ever moved abroad!) and on her gorgeous Instagram profile @tea_for_dinosaurs. Go along and say hi!
Give us the basics: where are you from, where do you live now, and what took you there?
Originally from Chicago, I’ve spent the past ten years of my life living in Milwaukee. When my husband received a job offer in Tokyo, we chose to embrace the adventure.
Tell us about the pre-kid you.
Prior to having my son, I was a Marketing Director for a nonprofit organization. In my free time, I managed an online shop and danced professionally for the Milwaukee Brewers.
And how about now?
Post baby, I chose to be a stay at home mom. I continued to manage my eBay shop and added an esty shop to the mix. In preparation for our move to Tokyo, I closed up both shops and shifted my attention to creating a blog about travel, expat life and parenthood.
How does where you live now compare to your home turf?
Tokyo is quite different than Milwaukee as you may have guessed. The streets are crowded, there is a language barrier, driving is weird and we are away from our friends and family. However, it is also very safe, surprisingly quiet, and extremely accessible even with a toddler in tow.
And what does that mean for your family?
Our biggest adjustment has been settling into our new normal and being away from family and friends. For us, it has completely changed our family dynamic in a way I’m not sure either of us was expecting. Both of our days are longer, be it at the office or at home, and we can’t call Grandma over when we need a break. As we are nearing three months abroad, we’re starting to figure it out and become more comfortable and at home each day.
What does a typical day with your son look like for you?
General schedule with our energetic toddler looks something like this:
7 AM – Rise and Shine
Breakfast & Dishwasher Loading/Unloading
Mama Workout – screen time/sometimes he joins me for a couple reps
Craft/Weekly Theme Activity if I’m organized
1:30 PM – NAPTIME (angels sing)
4:00 PM – if we haven’t gone out yet, we take a walk, scooter ride, park time
Daddy Playtime or Bath time
Bedtime for William
If a family was visiting Tokyo for a day, what must they see and do?
It really depends on the person! Must see for anyone in Tokyo would be:
· A shrine, you don’t need to visit them all!
· Food Show (Japanese food court) in Shibuya
· Hakone – city known for natural hot springs
· Tokyo Tower – in my opinion, better than Sky Tree
· Shopping – Ginza
Website / app: www.bestlivingjapan.com - all English with great recommendations by area and age for those visiting or living in Japan. And Google Translate can be a lifesaver!
Favourite family activity: UNU Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning followed by city wandering.
Children's book: We haven’t found any local favorites yet! But from home, I really like Slowly, Slowly, Slowly, Said the Sloth by Eric Carle – particularly good for bedtime.
Parenting hack: Fostering independence. In Japan it’s very common and refreshing to see young children (elementary age) taking the train to and from school alone. Even with the toddler age kids, parents allow them to walk at their own pace, and explore on the playground without much assistance.
One thing you can get faraway that you can't at home: Hardcopy Agendas/Yearly Planners – just about every home store or stationery store has a huge selection and for someone who refuses to go digital, it is amazing!
One thing from home that's been a godsend: Cosmetic products. Although you can find just about anything here in Tokyo, it’s been great having what I like, when I want it. Now, I’m starting to find Japanese versions of things I like at my own pace which is way easier than trying to find something in a rush!
What do you love about being a Faraway Mum?
I love the perspective that this experience is giving us as a family. Immersing ourselves in a completely different country, with a different language and culture has already changed us for the better, I’m sure.
And what do you struggle with?
The long days. Back home, I always felt I needed more hours in my day. Here, sometimes they can’t pass fast enough. As time goes on, our routine becomes more apparent and blogging helps but it’s an adjustment!
Are you forever faraway, or is this just a temporary thing?
We have two years in Tokyo by contract, maybe we’ll extend, maybe we’ll go home, or maybe we’ll set up camp somewhere entirely different!
What advice would you give to new parents living far from home?
Find a helper and find one fast. It can be a babysitter or new friend but you’ll want someone you can trust to watch your child(ren). There will be errands that are easier to run child free, days you’ll need a break, and nights you want to celebrate with your spouse.
Brilliant advice – I definitely agree! Thank you so much for taking part, Victoria. Looking forward to seeing more of your Japanese adventure over the coming months!