A couple of months ago, I was really struggling with everything in Japan and I wrote some of you an email (my message in a bottle) and many of you sent me encouragement (thank you). I feel like I've broken through so much since then. In that last email, I was feeling like I had to get out of Japan (I was going crazy!). I think the hardest thing for me was living with my wife's parents (many people in rural Japan live with their extended families, which I agreed I would do if I married my wife-though-I tried to avoid it the first 3 years by moving to a city on the opposite side of Japan). Luckily, my wife's parents and my wife (after the one year trial) realized how hard it would be for them and me, with our extremely different cultures, to live in a house together (even though it was a 3-story house and my wife and I occupied the entire 3rd floor by ourselves-we had a little privacy, until we wanted to go downstairs to cook, eat or take a shower or bath or do the laundry).
For the first 3 years of our marriage, my wife and I lived apart from her family in Sendai (which my wife hated, because it was too far from her family and friends in Niigata, where she had lived all of her life). I chose to live in Sendai (though I would have preferred to live in Kyoto or Tokyo) as a compromise, because my wife didn’t want to live in a big city and she didn’t want to live too far from her parents (Sendai is 4 hours away from Sendai by Car or Highway Bus, on the opposite coast from Niigata).
Although I liked Sendai, my wife hated it and many times we almost got a divorce because she was missing her family and friends too much and she didn’t like many things about Sendai.
So I finally got a job transfer back to her home town of Niigata (a smaller city than Sendai, but a bigger city than any city I ever lived in in California). She was happy living with her family, but I was miserable. Although we lived close to the city, in the middle of the rice fields where her parents house is located, there was nothing to do and it was very hard to get to the city (no train stations and no bus stops running later than 7PM). I could have driven our car about 20 minutes to the city, but parking is expensive and it rains too much and snows sometimes in the winters, so I seldom rode my motorcycle to the city (but I could never drink [not that I drink much anyway] because I was driving).
Another problem both my wife and I had in both of the cities we lived in, is Japanese houses and apartments are so small and we both have way too much stuff, so we had no room for anything and we always lived in such a cluttered space that it was very stressful to both of us.
I chanted to move back to California for many reasons, but one big reason is I wanted to live in a bigger place, which I thought I could never find in Japan or never afford. In Sendai, despite the fact that we lved in a small house, we had our monthly SGI English Gosho meetings in our living room, which kept growing in participation, until people were almost sitting on top of people. I know because of the cause we were making to have SGI meetings at our small house, we were able to get this big benefit we got now.
We went looking for an apartment to rent, but really I wanted to live in a house (but didn’t think we could ever find one affordable), but amazingly, we found a two-story house that is not only bigger than any house I’ve ever lived in in Japan, but also bigger than any house I’ve ever lived in in the US (even growing up when I lived with my 7 person family). On top of that, this house is also much closer to the city and right next to a train station and right next to bus lines that run much later at night. To top it all off, almost unheard of in most of Japan, we have a big yard and many areas to plant gardens. For the first time in our almost 4 years of marriage, we live in a place that has more space than we have stuff to put in it. We have a separate Butsuma (Gohonzon Room), where we can start having SGI meetings again, we have a big dining room, where we have our dining table that 4-6 people could sit at. I have a room for my recording studio and to practice my music. We have an OK size kitchen (for Japanese sizes), we have a laundry room and an outside sun room to plant vegetables and to hang laundry in (almost no one in Japan uses or has clothes dryers, much more environmentally friendly, though a pain in the arsh), or to just sit in and read a book and eat breakfast (that’s where I eat my breakfast while I read a book on my reclining chair-though it’s almost getting too cold now for that). We have a restroom that has the toilet and the sink area together in one room, which most Japanese house have separate, or many don’t have a sink area at all (like our house in Sendai). We have a separate bath and shower room, which is near the laundry room. That’s all down stairs! Then upstairs, we have our huge entertainment room, where we have our TV VCR/DVD, Internet connection, book shelves, couch (my wife wanted me to get rid of our nice couch before, because she said it was always in the way (most Japanese don’t have couches, they sit on Tatami mat floors [hurts like heck for me], her parents wouldn’t let me put the couch in the living room of their house, so it was upstairs in our (gohonzon room/recording studio room/living room/entertainment room [in Japan usually one room for everything, that’s why I was going crazy!]). Next we have our big bedroom with our queen size bed (in our first apartment in Sendai, for 2 years I was sleeping on tatami mats and fold out futons and it was driving me crazy!!!). We have a long hallway upstairs which goes to the 3rd room, which is an extra tatami room for my wife and all her clothes and her makeup desk/mirror and Kotatsu [heated table for the winters]). Then we have an open room at the top of the stair way, which is the cats room for her food and litter box, then we have another room, which we still don’t know what to do with, but I think I’m going to sound proof it for an extra place to record. We also have a covered parking area (almost a garage, but it doesn’t have a door-Garages are almost unheard of in Japan, especially fully closed ones), which fits my wife’s car, my big motorcycle and our two mountain bikes (with room for plants too). In our yard area we can park 3 cars for meetings and we can also park many cars on the street in front of our house when we have meetings, because adjacent to us is the playground for an elementary school and many people park there for baseball or soccer games.
The past two weeks that we’ve been moving into our new house has been a little stressful, but my wife has been happier than I’ve ever seen her, which makes me so happy. And it only took about 3 days for our cat to get used to the new house. Now she loves sitting in the sun room and watching the kids play in the playground of the elementary school and she loves running down the long hallway upstairs and sliding around the slippery corners.
This weekend, I’m going to the annual (Tokyo International Group) SGI international conference on the Izu Pennisula in Itoh (where Nichiren Daishonin was first exiled). 2 years ago, when I last went, I wasn’t feeling too good about many things and one guy there gave me guidance at lunch that I should divorce my wife, because it sounded from my stories to him that we both were making each other miserable. But I’m so glad I broke through this, and now I’m going to break through to accomplish my dreams in music.
Next month we are going to start having a weekly Saturday Morning Daimoku Toso at our house and hopefully a monthly gosho study meeting in English.
Oh I forgot to say this new house is costing us much less for rent than either our first apartment in Sendai or our next little house (which was a little bigger than our apartment). And everything I could need is within walking or biking distance from our new house.