Aahhh Japan, we had so much fun.  It’s sad to leave.  My kids want to stay another year.  Avalon loves the school friends she made here.  Kaiyo loves having only 27 kids in his entire grade.  Halyard loves the freedom and independence that Japan’s safe living affords us.  And I love the ability to live without a car and instead walk, bike, bus and train everywhere.  It means the kids don’t rely on us to drive them somewhere and they don’t have to accommodate to my schedule.  I started teaching more English in the last year and I probably could have built that up more if we stayed.

But here’s the thing.  I learned that the California public university system (the University of California and California State University schools and even the local community colleges) requires a minimum one year in-state residency for all students just prior to enrollment, “for purposes of tuition.”  Meaning, in order to qualify for in-state tuition (about half the rate of out-of-state tuition), you must live in the state of CA as a resident for 366 days or more, the year before applying.  If Halyard wants to attend college at a California public university then we’d better be paying in-state tuition.  So we felt we should move back home.

We spent the last few days packing, closing accounts and saying goodbye.

My English students at Semco, where I’ve been teaching a group of company employees, hosted a goodbye dinner party for me after my last class.  On Thursday, July 26, I met them at a local traditional Japanese restaurant in Takatsuki.  It was a kaiseki dinner, which means a lot of little, fancy plates adding up to a huge meal, accompanied by a lot of drinking whisky and beer. They gave me a lot of gifts, including a special Japanese fan that was made of blank paper and everyone had written a message to me on it.  It’s such a sweet, personal gift.  They also gave me an exquisite glass made by Japanese kiriko craftsmen.  And a beautiful bouquet of flowers.  Then they made me give a speech (without crying they said).  I will miss them and my Tuesday routine to Takatsuki.  They were a lot of fun to be with.

Sayonara Semco staff!Our international school friends also threw a huge goodbye party for us on Monday, July 30.  It’s important to note that Japanese people often do not host house parties, of any size.  Usually it’s because the houses are small, or they feel too shy about having people over.  So when some of our friends offered to host a party at their house we were surprised by their overly generous gesture.  These friends have lived in America and I always notice Japanese natives who have lived abroad always seem to be more open to non-traditional action.  I tried to keep the guest list small, out of respect to their house, but my kids invited all sorts of friends (Halyard posted it to a group chat!) and there were so many people who showed up.  Oh, how American.  Even one of Halyard’s Japanese friends brought his DJ equipment and asked if he could spin some tunes for goodness sakes.  Our friends were easygoing about it though.  When their neighbors called them to complain about the noise I felt badly but they just said we needed to keep the noise level down.All of our friends from school and some from our Japanese class at MAFGA came.  There were big sushi platters, Costco pizza, grilled seafood with veggies, lots of appetizers and crackers.  It was an incredible spread.  Avalon and her bestie Haruna planned a karaoke session at Round 1 before the party, so some of the girls got to go and sing and fool around at the arcade before coming over.  It was an amazing time with good food, drinks and friends.  I feel certain that we will see our host friends again because they have family in Arizona.  Arizona is a great place to escape during the frigid Japanese winter.Besides the partying and eating we also had to shut down the gas, electric, cellphones, internet, water and city services.  We also had to make sure Avalon’s swim club membership was cancelled as well as John’s gym membership that he barely used.  Just like when we moved here, it was time consuming, difficult and sometimes confusing.

Docomo, our cellphone service provider was the worst.  When we moved here it took two days and around 14 hours to set up our phones.  Well shutting it down and canceling our service was, sadly, not any easier or quicker.  Unfortunately, Docomo intertwined our cellular and internet contracts and unwinding it was a mess that even Docomo could not figure out.  So it took two days again, and many hours of waiting.  In the end they told us it would cost 70,000 yen (that’s $700!) to finish it off because we were canceling our cell service ONE MONTH early, and we were canceling our internet plan one year early.  So that really hurt.  (Update:  Docomo is still charging my credit card with a recurring charge and I don’t know where to even begin getting that corrected from here in the US)

I managed to speak a combination of Japanese and English to the Osaka Electric company and Osaka Gas company reps.  I was very proud of myself for successfully struggling through that on my own.  I made about four trips to Minoh City Hall to end our city residency, cancel our city health plan, cancel our child assistance plan (they paid us for having child dependents), shut down our water, sewage and trash collection.

The City of Minoh told me that they would send a final bill just before our last day.  And that I should pay it in a convenience store before we leave.  So during the final few days I checked our mailbox everyday for the final city bill.  It was the day before we were to leave and it still hadn’t come so around noon I made the trek to downtown Minoh and stood in several lines to figure out how I was supposed to pay my final bill.  They asked for my address.  Then they looked it up in their computer.  They told me a man would be coming to my house at 5:00 pm that evening to drop off the final bill.  How is that for exact notification?  He was coming at 5 pm they said.  And he did.

Here’s our house during the last week. That’s our story leading up to the LAST DAY.  We flew out on August 1, 2018 around 5:00 pm from Kansai International Airport (KIX).  Our plan was to be at KIX by 2:00 pm.