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My Life in the US: Moving Back and Forth Between Japan and the US

by Yoshimi Hiramatsu

Introduction

My husband and I have been moving back and forth between Japan and the US three times for 22 years because of his business. I would like to talk about how different life has been between two countries. I am glad for this opportunity to share a part of who I am.

First time : 2000~2005

I’ve never lived in a foreign country. My husband and I were moving overseas from Japan to Richmond, VA for his business. First, I had to get a driver’s license. My driving skills weren’t so bad but traffic laws are different. I learned the laws with the book and dictionary. I was so pleased to get my license passing the third exam. I can drive anywhere I’d like to go. When going grocery shopping, I knew my English skills were terribly bad. I couldn’t understand what the cashiers said. I tried to learn it by myself. I am intrapersonal and logical. I looked up the words on the flyer of supermarkets before going shopping. I watched American movies or dramas with English captions. They helped not only my English progress but learning about customs or topics in the US. I stayed home alone. I didn’t have friends here. I felt so lonely. After a while, my husband’s coworkers, Lisa and Emmy, occasionally emailed me. I wanted to improve my listening and speaking skills because I had good relationships with them. I started to take Chesterfield Adult Learning ESL class. There were some memorable meetings with great people, who are still my friends.

Back to Japan: 2005~2009

My husband and I moved back to Japan in spring,2005. We started our new life in Tokyo where we’ve never lived. My husband started to work at his new office. I began to work at the pharmacy. In 2007, one of the biggest and happiest things in my life happened. We had our own baby! My only child, Kanami was born! It’s just five days before our 12th anniversary. Our life entirely changed. We’re not a young father and mother so raising a kid needed more effort. The neighbors, my friends, teachers at my daughter’s preschool, and her friends’ mothers helped us. I appreciate their generosity.

Second time: 2009 ~ 2013

We arrived at the Richmond airport again in summer 2009. The things that I saw through the car window brought back memories. This was the first time my daughter was in a foreign country. She looked confused. She saw and heard what she’d never seen or heard but she soon adopted. I learned a lot from her. She encouraged me to focus on what I want to be and not to care what others think. My husband and I met many wonderful people through her at the preschool, her lessons, and the kindergarten. Regarding my English, it had been getting worse from living in Japan. I began to watch kids programs with my daughter, talked to her teacher and her friend’s mom. It’s easy to lose it but it’s hard to get it back. I had ESL classes. I knew my listening and writing skills were improved but my daughter’s English was much more advanced than mine. She was to be my good English teacher. I wasn’t feeling lonely. She was with me.

Back to Japan: 2013~2021

We moved back to Japan again. Our new life started again. Can you imagine how hard it is to move to another country? I feel scared. The hardest thing is to make new relationships with new people. This time we lived in Saitama; it is almost 10 miles north of Tokyo. Amazingly my daughter made friends on the first day of her elementary school. I started my part time job. I had relocated twice in 8 years since I wanted to work longer hours. I sometimes felt exhausted. There were too many things I had to do. I know every mother and wife have the same problems. Having a balance between my job, being a mother, and wife, and myself is the key to prevent a quarrel with my family. I regretted that I easily became angry after fighting. I encouraged myself and made efforts to change.

Third time: 2021~ ?

We were back again and again! Each one of us in my family made great decisions to come here. My daughter, Kanami, made the biggest decision. She was a freshman in high school in 2021. She doesn’t have any friends in the US. She says “I go to school because I should do it.” I’m so proud of her. I was uncomfortable having too much free time. I wanted to find something that I could do. My friend introduced me to some volunteer opportunities. I wanted to try them but I started working on my English skills. I knew they were lost again in Japan. Watching dramas, movies, reading short articles, and baking with English recipes have improved them. Reading and listening skills were getting better, I think, but speaking and writing still weren’t. I appreciate that the distance learning ESL classes meet together every Thursday through Google Meet. I enjoy seeing my teacher and other students and knowing their unique thoughts, traditions, and so on. I am trying harder to learn. I continue to have the class. I wish I spoke English fluently.

Conclusion

My precious experiences are my own things. I am going to put my effort into who I am is better than who I was.