Interview: Big in Stanford – A Japanese Lady on her Bike

1. Can you give an introduction about yourself?

I moved from Tokyo, Japan about four years ago with my husband who started his post-doc at Stanford. We will stay here until my husband gets a new position at …”somewhere”, hopefully within a year or so in the US, Japan or another place.

2. What are you currently doing?

I was (am) a physician in Japan but I’m not allowed to practice in the US so I’ve been doing volunteer work as an international adviser at Bechtel International Center at Stanford. Also, I’ve visited local high school once a week to help children who study Japanese. Although I was willing to come here with my husband, shortly after I arrived here, I felt as if I didn’t have any role in a society and that made me feel so depressed. So I looked for the opportunities to get involved in the society.

Other than that, I grew flowers and plants, go cycling during summer and knit while it’s raining.

3. When you think back to your decision making and moving, what was the most difficult aspect in deciding to move here.

It’s not so difficult for me to decide to move here. Since I was too busy before we had moved, I had been thinking about quitting a job for a few years. But I could not find enough reason to leave work. So moving to the US sounded sufficient reason to quit my job.

  1. What did you do to prepare yourself?

First, we joined the Stanford Japanese Association (SJA) more than half a year before we moved. They have a website which provides a lot of practical how-to information before and after moving. I studied the website to get a sense of living at Stanford. They also have a mailing list and people often share information such as moving sales, car sales, meetings and so on. In addition to that, my husband knew Japanese people who had worked in the same laboratory where he would work, so we were able to ask them when we needed. They really help us a lot.

Then we sent an application to Stanford West Apartment, which has Stanford Rates (we know it’s rather expensive), about half a year before our moving. (In those days there were long waiting list to move in there.) I just didn’t want to look for an apartment after a long flight with our tired bodies, several boxes and limited English.

A few weeks before our moving, we bought a used car which we found through SJA mailing list without test driving it. We thought that a car would be a very basic necessity and we needed it as soon as possible. So we picked one which was a basic sedan, not too old, little mileage and a fair price. As the seller was Japanese, we could pay with Yen. That’s another advantage.

5. What was the most useful source of information?

We relied on SJA most of information.

6. How did you experience your first couple of days in California

My husband’s colleague, Naoki came to pick us up at SFO when we arrived from Japan. He drove us to Stanford West Apartments, we signed half a year lease on the apartment at the leasing office. After that, Naoki brought us to the SNN office and the Japanese Market in Mountain View. Before he left, he had given us a sample of driving test so that we could take it soon.

Next morning, Naoki came to pick us up to go to the laboratory together. I also went with them and meet people who worked there for the first time. Then Naoki brought us to Wells Fargo to open a bank account. We deposited our traveler’s check we brought from Japan and didn’t need to worry about large checks. What a relief! At night we looked through a sample driving test Naoki gave us.

The third day, Naoki came to our place in the morning again to bring us to DMV to take a written test for driver license. Naoki’s sample test helped us to pass it on the first try.

What a perfect schedule! Without Naoki, we couldn’t settled in so quickly and smoothly. Thank you, Naoki!!!

7. What do you enjoy most about your new life and what do you enjoy least?

What I enjoy the most is CYCLING! I’m totally hooked on it. When I first saw some cyclists who passed just close by our car, I was so scared. They rode too close to us and they didn’t put any protection on them. But time went by, I learned that bike lanes worked very well and I began to think that it would be interesting to go cycling. Luckily I knew somebody who rode a road bike and she led me to a world of cycling. Now when I have a time, I go cycling. Feeling the wind, smelling the glass and flower… I feel so good and closer to nature. I strongly recommend you to try cycling if you’re interested in it even a little.

What I enjoy least is Japanese food as everybody knows it can’t be avoided.

8. What was your biggest challenge to overcome in your new life/place?

Getting to used to the life with no job. I’m still not quite comfortable about this.

9. Can you tell us your funniest experience you had in the US and the saddest situation?

I don’t remember the funniest experience but the greatest experience is that I finished three Century Ride (It ‘s a bicycle event to ride a bike for 100 miles for one day) last two years.

The saddest situation is I leave behind my family and close friends in Japan, of course.

10. What would you tell a friends who is about to move to California?

Jump in your new life and you will find new about you.

11. Would you do this move again, why?

I’m not willing to do this again but if necessary, I would do it. Now I know how to adjust new place, so it would be much easier than the first time.

12. Did you travel CA? If yes, do you have a secret tip/destination for us?

It’s not a secret place at all but I love Yosemite National Park very much. There are a lot of trails to hike and it’s also nice just to sit by Merced river. From spring to summer, we’ll see flesh green and dynamic flow of waterfall. In the fall, there are less people there and the leaves turns their color so beautifully. During the winter, you’ll get all the quietness.

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