Friday, August 8, 2008

Please Officer - This Never Would Have Happened Before I Had Kids

It's been a few days since my last post. I've been buried underneath the rubble of my procrastination.

Before kids, there was no rubble. No giant piles of papers to be filed, no mounds of incomplete to-do lists suffocating under the weight of new, incomplete to-do lists.

Before kids, I was organized. So much so that I listed it as a skill on my resume. I never would have waited until the last minute to prepare for a trip to the market, to the dentist, much less to, uh, JAPAN!. We're leaving in less than two weeks and up until two days ago I hadn't given a moments thought to travel requirements, itinerary, anything.

A couple of months ago, on a whim, hubby and I decided that IF we could use airline miles and IF we could find an affordable hotel, we would go to Japan. (We like ignorant spontaneity like that, it's who we are). We got the miles and and the hotels (you'll find out why we got great deals later), so here we are off to convert our hard-earned worthless dollars into Yen for a family vacation. (Hey, it's a bargain compared to the Euro.)

So I've had a few months to meditate on our trip, prepare our schedule, check out the customs so we don't embarrass ourselves by doing something stupid like re-filling our own water glasses while dining out (apparently a Japanese no-no.) But did I prepare at all? Of course not, it's not who I am.

When my hubby and kids ask, "Are we going to see temples in Japan? "Do I have to use chopsticks in Japan?" Do I have to take my shoes off in Japan? " I wanna say "How the f**k should I know? Here's the book, crack open a page if you're so curious." Instead I say, "Oh, isn't this going to be a fun adventure. We're going to be daring world travelers! Yay!"

Then after everyone is asleep, my husband is satisfied (HA!) and blogs are read and written, my heart begins to palpitate and I have difficulty breathing. I decide to check out just for a minute before I go to sleep. Many hours and a succession of mini-panic attacks later, I am sufficiently freaked out. I have journeyed miles on the internet and uncovered massive webs of mind-boggling transit lines, trains needing advance reservations, traffic congestion, unbearable August heat (hence the cheap hotel room), must-see tourist destinations I've never heard of and can't decipher how to get to, and difficulty using foreign credit cards. Wha????

I link over to a U.S. government travel site to escape the confusion and check a few easy things off my list: AC travel adapters, passports, luggage tags, etc. I make sure we have all the travel documents we need and don't carry anything forbidden (hmmm?) so we don't get detained at the airport or arrested and put in a Japanese jail cell (which I'm sure is spic-spanny clean but who wants to bring that souvenir back to the States.) I was hoping to feel better, more in control. Instead the site made things worse by warning me about avian flu, terrorism, earthquakes, monsoons (yes, 'tis the season, again why hotels are so cheap), criminal syndicate activity, pickpockets, and emergency call numbers (but not from a cell phone because the numbers don't work from cell phones). Cell phone!? Apparently we need to rent cell phones because ours won't work in Japan. How? Where? From whom? No iPhone? Whaaaa?

I print pages and pages of must-have information like who to call in case my children are abducted and which restaurant serves the best sushi. I haul ass to get shit done making everyone around me crazy and cursing the day they skimmed their anxiety stones into my zen rock garden of denial.

Ahhhhhh! My simple American mind is imploding. And Japanese. Shit, we have to learn Japanese. What is with these people? They're a modernized culture - don't they speak English?

Okay, okay, I'll stop. At this point you're probably hyperventilating right along with me so I'll spare you and tell you that shortly after my heart failures, I realized that Japan can't possibly be as bad as these websites purport because no one ever comes back from Japan and talks like they've just been to... Hell or... Colombia.

So, I'm going to try to chill out. Boil down my info sleuthing to the essentials because I know that once I get everyone on the plane without detention or arrests....once we settle into our hotel, I will take my pages and pages of essential tourist info, the countless hours of my precious time, and...
...bury them under the new itinerary we're going to get from the hotel concierge.

Before kids I never would have done this. I was so much saner than I am now. Okay, NOT. Just a different kinda crazy. I think this is better.


P.S. I promise to send pictures. Hopefully, they're not all wet from the monsoon or sweaty from the heat.

P.P.S. If any of you world travelers have been to Tokyo or Kyoto, please, PLEASE, send advice and suggestions. I promise not to go ape shit on your ass.


Lynn - the piggy bank painter said...

What a great adventure! If you can, relax, go with the flow and have a good time! So I can't wait til you get back and write about it. Hurry up and go already!

Manic Mommy said...

Don't panic. I'm sure it'll be like Europe and most people will speak English. Learn to say "where's the bathroom?" in Japanese and you'll be all set.


ByJane said...

You're right; I was hyperventilating halfway through your post.

My niece is married to a Japanese guy, so they spend "quality" time in Japan. My impression is that it's quite Westernized. Of course, there is the taking off your shoes thing...

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I think we may be meeting tonight at the get-together for Kalynne, so I thought I'd pop over and check you out.

I have a wonderful bloggy friend, an ex-pat that lives in Nagasaki, who I'm sure would answer any and all questions you might have. So go see Deb at
and ask away.

Maggie, Dammit said...




Headless Mom said...

When given the wooden chopsticks (the kind that you break apart yourself) do not rub them together to get the splinters off. Apparently really rude there. I'm not sure I could eat knowing that I might get a splinter, but there you go.

(My dad used to be a airline captain and flew to Japan. I'll ask him for more info for you.)

dkuroiwa said...

*cue super hero music, please*
Dan de de dummmmmmmm....!!

Hi...I'm Debbie, I'm an American living in Japan (for 17 years), I will be your "Travel Advisor" for the next few weeks....I'll send you an e-mail as soon as I post this comment, but....just a few tidbits before I go:
*No...most people really do NOT speak English. If you are going to Tokyo or Kyoto (you ARE going to Kyoto aren't you?!?!), then yeah, you'll find English speaking guides that are good...speak slow (not loud, as we all tend to do) and don't forget to pack your sense of humor!!
*Do deep-knee bends everyday...have you seen what traditional toilets look like here? You will find them most places...even very modern buildings!
*The whole wooden chopsticks thing? Don't worry...I haven't had to rub any very often to get splinters off...but, I've actually seen some Japanese do that too. Nowadays, many people are carrying "my chopsticks" as a part of the whole "Eco" (save the ecology idea) plan. You might pick up a pair for each of can find some really fun carrying cases/bags for them.
*It's hot!! Bring some extra hand towels (to hang around your neck) and handkerchiefs...of course, those you can get pretty much anywhere!!
*You will find some of the world's nicest/friendliest/most helpful people here...just smile a lot...bow whenever possible...and remember....Japanese beer is really good!!
I'll give you my phone numbers in case of emergency!!! :-D
You are going to have such fun!!!
okay...see you in an e-mail!!
debbie in nagasaki

dkuroiwa said... more thing...if you haven't bought it already, go right now and get "The Lonely Planet's Guide to Japan"....those people know what they are talking about and make traveling, to any country, so much easier!!!'ll talk later!!
(which by the way, in japan, I don't go by 'deb' because the japanese pronounce it "debbu", which means 'fat'!!)

Csquaredplus3 said...

Sitting here drinking Fume Blanc - enjoyed your post, but I did feel anxious in the middle. Thanks for talking us all down.

What wonderful comments from Deb in Japan. Sounds like you're officially in good hands.

Hope the trip is memorable in only positive ways. Can't wait to hear all about it!

(A new blogger in Utah who's lonely for a wine-drinking friend or two...)

texasholly said...

OMG. I am laughing (with you) so hard that I can't stop and be jealous. Surely you will find someone over there that speaks English. Or can sell you a fancy English to Japanese language converter computer thingy.

Insane Mama said...

Wow, when I went backpacking in China for a few months I just went I didn't even think about it. I had my passport, two pairs of shoes and some cash and off I went. Good Luck, Have fun!

merlotmom said...

Okay, Insane Mama, I have questions:
1. How old were you?
2. Did you bring kids?
3. Was that before or after 9/11?

cause I trekked through europe in '84 with much less worry. twas a different time - in so many ways.

leezee52 said...

Here is a military family living in Japan. Enjoy her blog she's great!

Lee :)

Connie said...

Note to Self: Don't go to Japan!

I'm feeling all uncomfortable after reading this. But it sounds like UnFat Deb is going to take good care of you. I guess you won't be sending any twits huh?

Good Luck!

Commentor Chris! I'm a wino in Utah!

merlotmom said...

Thank you all for your comments. I want to let you know I am feeling SOOO MUCH BETTER NOW. Deb (unfat Deb) has helped tremendously and answered all of my questions and then some. I'm actually excited now instead of terrified and no longer worried about my children being abducted (got that off of the US government website which is apparently a blanket caution for ALL countries, not particular to Japan, which is known for a very LOW crime rate. THANK YOU. You will hear all about my trip as "merlotmom does japan".

AMomTwoBoys said...

You're cracking me up. I'd be nervous too, but you can handle it. You're MERLOT MOM for christsake. You can handle ANYTHING. Like your Iphone being dropped in a toilet and shit. No pun intended.

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