1000 Days in Japan

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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.

 Ema (wooden plaques) are hung at Shinto shrines

Ema (wooden plaques) are hung at Shinto shrines

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.

 Tokyo Disneyland is tiring!

Tokyo Disneyland is tiring!

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!

Hiroshima {travel}

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. 

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 It was difficult to capture both flags flying in the photo, but just beyond the Atomic Bomb Hypocenter the American and Japanese flags fly side-by-side, a symbol of our shared commitment to peace. 

It was difficult to capture both flags flying in the photo, but just beyond the Atomic Bomb Hypocenter the American and Japanese flags fly side-by-side, a symbol of our shared commitment to peace. 

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. 

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Reagan {Senior Prom}

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. 

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Congratulations, Reagan and all of the Zama American High School Class of 2018!

Big Sister Sophie

And here's another exciting announcement: Sophie is going to be a big sister! Another sweet girl is joining our "framily" in Japan! 

 We found a few remaining cherry blossoms for this celebratory session!

We found a few remaining cherry blossoms for this celebratory session!

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Raven & Conrad Proposal

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! 

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 She said YES!

She said YES!

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Jessi & Jenn {seniors}

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! 

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Fontenot {sayonara}

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. 

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Fusero {family}

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

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Homecoming {military}

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. 

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 Welcome Home!

Welcome Home!

Davis {family}

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!

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Homecoming {military}

I am such a reluctant blogger. I have so many photos to share on this blog, but I struggle to find the words to talk about them! Never is this more true than with military homecomings. These photos speak for themselves.  

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I am so honored to have been asked to work with these families.