Shichi-Go-San (七五三, lit. "Seven-Five-Three") is a traditional festival day in Japan for three- and seven-year-old girls and three- and five-year-old boys, held annually on November 15 to celebrate the growth and well-being of young children. Today I am remembering all of the children whom I was privileged to photograph and celebrate with last year in Japan!
It's hard to wrap my mind around the fact that exactly 1000 days ago, I moved myself and my young son to Japan to join my husband here. In the almost 3 years that we have lived here, we have not left except for a quick trip to Singapore and Thailand. We will leave in a few months and I know that Japan will hold a large part of my heart forever.
I gave birth to my second son while living in Japan, so my entire time here has been as the mama to young boys. I have enjoyed a bit of Tokyo's nightlife, but have mostly enjoyed the city and it's surroundings with two little boys in tow. If you had told me years ago that most of my experiences as a new mama would have been in the most densely populated city in the world, I would have been shocked, but now Tokyo feels like home. This is an incredible city and country to experience with even very little children.
If you are moving to or visiting Tokyo with young kids, there are a few things that you should know:
1. Japan is safe. Prior to moving here, I didn’t realize how safe my children would be living here. Here, you reserve your table in the food court by leaving your purse at the table. I never give a second thought to leaving my stroller and our belongings to run around with my children at a playground. If you accidentally drop something in a train station - a pack of tissues, a receipt, or your wallet - someone will come running up to you to return it. I am grateful that my children’s earliest memories are marked by such freedom and security.
2. Wi-fi is key when traveling around Japan. Rent a device at the airport or get a Japanese cell phone ASAP. The train system is complicated and daunting, but efficient and wonderful. English is everywhere, but so is Kanji. I can’t imagine our years here without Google Translate and Google Maps.
3. 7-11 and all other convenience stores (konbini) are the best. They do not have Slurpees, but every day OTHER than July 11th, we don’t even notice. Our konbini favorites:
My husband loves the egg salad sandwiches. My children love karage (fried chicken), edamame, and onigiri (rice ball) with “tuna mayonnaise.” I love the many beverage and coffee options (current favorite: Craft Boss Brown) and the fact that I can get my family a well-rounded meal when we are on the go.
4. The currency in Japan is Yen. The exchange rate fluctuates slightly, but for easy math, you can assume that 100 yen is roughly equivalent to 1 US dollar. Many stores and restaurants don’t accept credit cards, so it’s good to have yen on you. 7-Eleven is a secure and reliable spot to find an ATM.
5. Japan is clean. Public trash cans are incredibly rare and yet the city stays incredibly clean. Keep a bag in your purse to hold your trash until you get home. Also, carry a towel. You can bring your own or buy a fancy one as a Japanese souvenir. Japanese women carry at least one towel with them every day.
Whether you are in Japan for a week or a year, here are a few of our favorite places that we recommend you visit:
1. Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park
2. The Imperial Palace gardens
3. Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea
4. Senso-ji Temple
5. Harajuku for people watching and kawaii (cute) treats
Seasonal bonus: Have a hanami (flower viewing) picnic during cherry blossom season.
If you can get to Yokohama, do it. The city is so modern and cool. Cosmo World and Cup of Noodles are must-do amusements and there’s a pie place by the Red Brick Warehouse that shouldn’t be missed if you share my love of pie
If you have the time for something a little fancy, go to high tea at the Park Hyatt or Ritz Carlton. The tea and food are delicious, but the views are more than worth the price of admission.
Our bucket list is dwindling, the temperatures are cooling, and our time here in Japan is quickly running out. As sad as we will be to leave Japan, home is tugging at our heart strings. After 3 years away from my family, dear friends, and Target, we’re eager to get home. I find comfort in knowing that this is not sayonara, but rather mata ne (see you later). I am confident that the friendships we have forged here will last a lifetime. We already talk about returning to Japan to show our youngest son the place where he was born, but likely won’t remember. We’ll be watching the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to spot places we recognize. Although, we will leave a piece of our heart here, we will take with us 1000 beautiful memories. Thank you for everything, Japan. Mata ne!
How beautiful are these girls in their yukata?
It's taken me a while to post my photos from our trip to Hiroshima over Spring Break. I assumed that at some point I would find the right words to describe my feelings about our time there. The right words have not come to me, but I was struck by how much I wanted to share these photos. We long knew that we wanted to visit Hiroshima prefecture before we left Japan, but we didn't anticipate it to be the favorite place we've visited in Japan. My husband and I were both profoundly humbled by the sites we saw. Being in Hiroshima during cherry blossom season made the experience even more moving and beautiful.
I don't think I will ever forget the experience of watching my eldest ring the Bell of Peace across the water from the Atomic Bomb Dome. My husband and I were so mindful of our boys' behavior going into this trip, but we were happily surprised by how engaged they were even in the museums. Some of the comments that my son made on this trip were so insightful that he brought me to tears. I know he can't possibly understand the ramifications of his surroundings, but I am profoundly moved by the wisdom of children to grasp what adults struggle to say.
This little nugget is 18 months old today! Sam loves Japanese curry rice and his big brother the most. He is curious, diligent, teething, and confident. He likes to “help” with chores and is cute enough that I will share this incredible guacamole with him. He only eats vegetables hidden inside curry or guacamole. He is slow to smile, but quick to give high fives and kisses. I love being your mom, my sweet Sam.
I can't believe that this sweet girl who has been our neighbor for almost 3 years GRADUATES high school tomorrow! A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of photographing Reagan's prom.
Congratulations, Reagan and all of the Zama American High School Class of 2018!
And here's another exciting announcement: Sophie is going to be a big sister! Another sweet girl is joining our "framily" in Japan!
I’ve gotten to photograph a few secret announcements in the past couple of weeks, but this was even a surprise to the sweet gal being photographed! A homecoming AND a proposal, does it get any better than that?!? Congratulations to Raven and Conrad!
I'm going to miss these two so much when they PCS from Japan!
I'm pretty sure we've been planning this session since before Miss Q was even born!
I'm so happy that this fellow Chapel Hill family won my gift certificate at the ZaCSA Auction!
Last year's session with this family was rainy and the sakura were so late to bloom ... this year's session was just sunshine and fluffy blossoms! This re-do was so worth it! 🌸
I had the hardest time choosing just a few photos to share from this cutie's session!
This sweet baby arrived too early for maternity photos, but I'm so glad we could reschedule for Sakura season!
Ohayo gozaimasu! お早うございます
Jenn is the best babysitter that my boys have ever had - they are going to miss her so much (and so will I)! But I am so thrilled that I was able to take her and her sister's senior portraits before they leave Japan!
The toughest part of military life are the goodbyes. Now that we have several PCS seasons under our belt, we know that there are very few goodbyes and mostly see-you-later's. I am sorry to say See You Later to this dear family, but look forward to our paths crossing again.
These boys had so much energy and I just adored their sweet mama! She asked for mostly candids of the boys playing and her boys and I were happy to oblige! #boymom
This homecoming was a little bittersweet for us as one of these families will be leaving Japan in just a few weeks. That being said, as with all of the homecomings that I photograph, the day was overflowing with joy. I always feel so privileged to be a part of these homecomings.
Sometimes you meet a family and just instantly adore them. That was the case with the Davis family. This fierce mama and her two kids are a beautiful example of a strong family. I told Jewel that as a fellow mama of two, I hope my kids grow up as well as hers did!