I remember one time my sister and I got into a fight (or rather she was upset and I was not apologetic) about using her bath towel. We had bath towels that everyone used, but after using it one time, we would hang it by a hook by the shower. I usually didn’t pay attention to which one I had used only that I knew had a towel hanging there or not. Then I would use it 3 or 4 times before deciding I should have a fresh one. Personally I don’t care if I share a once used towel with someone I know so long as it was used on a clean body. My sister didn’t feel the same way and was especially disturbed that I could not honestly say how many times we had probably shared a towel (I wonder if she remembers this…)

Recently my husband asked me where my towel was and I said, “It was over there.” and he said, “no, that was my towel.” So I said, “oh, then I’ll use whatever one is left.” He was bothered that I did not specifically know which towel was mine which is funny since he is not bothered by much. I really didn’t know. So I asked about a blue towel and he was very disturbed because that is the towel that he uses to put on the floor outside the bathtub as a bathmat (especially since our baby splashes a lot). I thought since it was just washed, it doesn’t matter.

So I am starting to think it’s me, not them.

I wonder which way my daughter will lean? We share towels, spoons, food, and until recently, my body even!

Life around town with babies & kids: US vs. Japan

I may or may not write a review specifically about travel or the United Airlines flights I took, but right now I mostly want to comment on how the US is so NOT baby friendly! To be fair, maybe the US does not realize it. Before I had a baby, I never noticed all the little things that shops and restaurants provide for babies/kids in Japan, but now that I have a baby, I am all to aware of what is offered and not.

Large Stores: (grocery, furniture, clothing, discount, etc). 

Japan: 2 or 3 sizes of “buggy” with attached part for your shopping basket: baby size for infant to 12 months, seat for older babies and kids, and sometimes car or train or other novelty cart for toddlers and kids. Also sometimes it has the mini cart with a flag so your toddler or kid and “go shopping”, too.

I took this photo in the womens’ bathroom somewhere – there’s a urinal for the boys, too! …and a baby seat photo – so Mom doesn’t have to hold the baby while she pees!

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US: Kid seat attached to cart – only for older babies/kids. Sometimes without a safety belt. Changing tables available in some womens’ bathrooms.


Japan: Terminals 1 and 2 have kids areas. In Terminal 1 it is E concourse near all the star alliance flights (near a smoking room, but the smoke doesn’t get out and I think that is so one parent can do their thing while the other parent watches kids). Every womens’ bathroom has a changing table and kid seat in at least one stall so Mom can go to the bathroom, too. Every bathroom area has a family bathroom/handicap bathroom so Dad can change diaper, too and families with multiple kids can stick together with their luggage in a large restroom. SEVERAL lactation rooms for nursing moms or general privacy while feeding/changing (men also allowed) and the lactation areas have privacy doors or curtains. Often these rooms also have filtered mineral water for formula families. Always have sink with hand soap and garbages so you don’t have to take your diapers with you.

Kids Park in Terminal 1 – Star Alliance (E Concourse) (photo from the Narita Airport website, I keep forgetting to take a photo here):


Nursing room before security at Narita (similar rooms are found after security in each terminal):

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These photos are from a rest area along the Kan-etsu highway in Japan. Private nursing and changing – men welcome. LOVE IT!

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US: … I found 1 changing table at SFO and another one at MSP. At SFO there was a room called a family room, but it was locked and there was a note to call a number, but no one answered and the room didn’t open, from what I could tell there was a sink, changing table and some floor space for playing. No baby seat in the restrooms and the handicap restroom was barely large enough for a wheelchair so my buggy and luggage did not fit. I had to leave my luggage unattended. I had to pee while holding my baby.


Japan: Kids play area in EVERY hospital I have been to. Nothing fancy, but toys & books on tumble mats. These are not kid hospitals, they are regular hospitals for all people and ailments. I’ve been to two hospital for myself since my daughter was born, once for my wrist and once for a female problem. In both cases, at two different hospitals, I was ushered to a special kid room while I waited to see the doctor. The attendant came to get me when it was my time – awesome! Womens’ bathroom with changing table and baby seat in toilet. Sometimes family/handicap bathroom.

US: I was at 2 hospitals in the US. Both are very large and one is very famous for research and cutting edge surgery. No play room (I hope the kids getting treatment at least have something). 1 changing table on the first floor in one hospital and 1 changing table in a family room at the larger hospital. Luckily it was located near where I needed to be since it is a huge complex. No baby seats so again, I must pee while holding my baby.

Department stores: 

Japan: Mostly these are only in Tokyo or Osaka, but all department stores have a kid area, usually with a large tumble mat space with big soft blocks. Sometimes also with video games and riding games. In the smaller towns like around Nagano, there are often a couple “rides” next to a photo booth. At Matsuya Ginza, I was told about the Garden level. This is separate from the kids floor with a play area, but it has baby room (for nursing and sleeping) and kid room (for being loud) and it has a changing room that also has a scale and flat height chart, so I got to check on my babies physical progress and then get a latte! If you run out of diapers, there was a diaper dispenser as well. All the same awesome bathrooms apply.

Mitsukoshi Kodomo Park (photo courtesy of – Check out this blog!) This is NORMAL in Japan.


US: … nothing. Changing table in some womens’ bathrooms. No baby seat, I must pee while holding my baby. (only from one experience, to be fair).


Japan: If fancy, just the highchair. If family restaurant or any mid level or fast food restaurant they offer boosters, high chairs, booster in booth with sides for new sitters, and sometimes bassinets for newborns. Most restaurants offer some kind of baby food for purchase and will give you hot water, juice and utensils to eat of mom and dad’s plates for free. Bathrooms have changing table and baby seat in stall usually. Sometimes family bathroom.

US: high chair usually available. Bathrooms may have a changing table. For my daughter who is adorable, we often got special service from the wait staff (free juice, fruits, and in one case cotton candy!).

I went to one hotel in the US and they did not have a bathtub or baby tub or baby crib/bassinet available. I am not sure if this is normal and I cannot compare to Japan yet.

I guess I could go on, but you get the idea. I was happy about Japan before, but after my visit to the US without my husband, I am so impressed and proud of all the services Japan offers. It is funny that Japan, a country that still has a large number of full-time moms has so many services no only for moms, but that both parents can enjoy, while the US, with a rising number of single working moms and two-dad families, offers almost nothing for male or female parents.

My experiences are mostly Tokyo and Nagano in Japan and Minnesota (Twin Cities and Rochester) in the US. Airports are Narita and SFO, ORD, and MSP.

Comments welcome.

When you DON’T want to be told that you look like your beautiful baby…

During a family bath a couple days ago, my husband lovingly says, “Oh, Fio DOES look like Mommy!” 

We’ve had ongoing talks about how she doesn’t really resemble either of us, so this was interesting to me and I was wonder what expression she had made or what reminded him of me. …I wish I hadn’t. He was looking at her butt and thighs as she tried to stand against the tub wall. Dimples on her plump butt and three rolls to her knees. 

I started cardio the next day and haven’t stopped. Sugar detox from Friday and healthy whole foods. This mama needs to get back in shape! 

Poison the host, stop the parasite

As I type this entry my mother is preparing for her first of many chemotherapy infusions. Chemo-therapy, chemical therapy. And later we may try radiation. It sounds so crazy. Especially after the last two years of people screaming over radiation risk and mutant bees and fish and inedible cucumbers and even today people asking if I am really comfortable drinking the water in Tokyo. Now my mother is putting toxins into her body intentional and will likely zap it with some radiation as well.

I found a strange way of embracing these poisonous methods. Years ago when someone’s body fought off disease by heating up, many doctors believed the heat would kill the patient and would bleed them. We’ve come to realize that it is actually the bodies ingenious design. It will heat up until the intruder is gone or dormant and then return to normal. People have died of fevers, but many more died of bleeding out and among them may have been people who could have lived through the intruder but not the doctor’s knife. I guess I see chemotherapy as a man-made evolution of that natural defense of the body.  So that is how I see it, accept it, embrace it.

I hope that I will come to thank chemotherapy and the great doctors at Mayo Clinic years from now when my daughter still knows her grandma.  I like to think that way, that the extended time is real and can be long, but I know that even a few years would be a true blessing (as have the 31 years I’ve had with her already! Surviving childbirth is another thing that humans have improved on!). I suppose I should be grateful even to see my mother again at all, or that I could have the knowledge of her illness to cherish each conversation a little more. I am so grateful that she had the sense to get her body checked out at the first sign of suspicion. If she hadn’t discovered the cancer, she may have died suddenly in a matter of months with no more symptoms than a smaller waistline and some mild cramps.

On the other hand, now she may suffer and still not have extended time. I appreciate the time for closure, but I don’t have any regrets and though we’ve had our share of fights and we still bicker on occasion, my mother knows how much she means to me and how much I admire her (she taught me to be open and celebrate the things I have and the people I love and let them know). So, if we could see the future and know that this treatment won’t work and will just give her the same time with more pain, vomiting, hairloss, lethargy and God knows what else, maybe we would look back at the great times we had the month before she was diagnosed and say, “Ignorance is bliss”. But she has decided that even though that is possible, the possibility of that is the bet she has to place on a longer a life. Though doing nothing might result in less pain, it is a much more certain and near death.

I can’t get over how amazing my mother is and how well she is handling everything. She has such a lightness of being about her current prognosis. She is so upbeat and positive. I am so incredibly amazed by her and in awe of her strength and positivity. I KNOW positivity and calm are probably two of the best natural medicines for this situation, but if I were in her position, I fear I couldn’t keep it up like she has, just taking it all in stride. I want to quote an email she sent a couple days ago as a PostScript to another email about her morning plans:

I DID just realize that I can’t have a protein drink in the morning.  Can’t have anything until around noon or later when they put the port in!!!!!   EAT EAT EAT Starve starve starve.  Follow directions.  Follow the yellow brick road.  I do feel a bit like I fell down the rabbit hole.  Need to read Alice in Wonderland again.  Didn’t she get small & then big.

Don’t worry.  Your mom still has a grip on reality.

I can hear her saying it and almost crossing her eyes as her head rolls in a circle and her tongue comes out crooked. In fact, I know exactly where I have captured that face in an image, but I will keep that image to myself and those who can picture it. 🙂

So, as my mother sits down in the room that will become all too familiar and she hooks up to those medicines for the first time, I pray that it is just the right balance of poisoning the intruder and sparing the host. I also pray that whatever happens, she never regrets fighting. Actually, I am confident she won’t. So what I really mean to say, if I’m honest, is that I pray cancer doesn’t give me the chance to resent that she fought so hard and lost some good time. She must live and get some more good time. I really want to hug her again and see that goofy expression and let my daughter be held by her grandmother. I am praying for her, but I am really praying for all of us around her…

Poison the host, stop the parasite, save my mother!



The big “C”

My mother has cancer. My mother has cancer. I still don’t quite get it. …and when it does feel like it’s sunk in, I still imagine a TV show – she’ll fight the good fight and lose her hair and people will rally and she’ll walk a marathon and then we live 20 more years together, or it’s a mistake and we laugh about the doc that mistook speedy metabolism and a thyroid condition. -No. My mother has pancreatic cancer. The one where I can’t find survival stats online because most people don’t survive it. The “good” news is that she may not be sick in bed and lose her hair. They might not do anything. She may be diagnosed as terminal and inoperable. We don’t know yet. We don’t even really know what to pray for yet.

So I’ve been living in limbo for 5 days since the diagnosis. Some moments I immerse myself in something: Internet shopping, cooking, TV, work for my company, work for my husband. These things distract me from the fact that there is nothing I can do, really, I can pray and hope and send good vibes and positive energy, but I can’t DO anything. Her oncologist will tell us our options later this week, and if we’re lucky, she’ll get to see a surgeon as well – happy thanksgiving! I hope that’s a sign that we will get good news, but maybe it is just a sign that we should be very thankful: afterall, I have spent more time with my mother in the last two months than in the last 8 years since I moved to Japan, and we got to enjoy that time without this cloud over our heads and occupying our thoughts, actions, and emotions. I am very grateful for that.

My newborn has been crying more than usual, but when I am crying she just looks at me – Does she know? She looks at me wantingly and then flashes a little smirk that says, “I love you” or “I love being yours”. It’s the most uplifting thing she could do, but then I think about all the years she could miss out on a grandma. Not just any grandma, but my mother: the most maternal person I could imagine.  She is pure hospitality, she bubbles with love and caring.  She’s so sweet and compassionate that bitter people can be annoyed (until the really understand that she is sincere and they melt). My mother takes her time for everything, almost to a fault. She is the personification of “stop and smell the roses …and tulips, and daffodils” (I think that is actually written on her bathroom wall!). She has “Glad” book journals and encouraged me to do the same when I was being negative.

The stages of grief don’t seem to happen in stages. I am feeling a mixture of all of them at once: denial (forgetting?), anger (frustration?), bargaining, depression (especially for others like unborn grandchildren), and acceptance (include gratefulness). I don’t know if I’m ready for what comes next, but I know that my mother has cancer.

Secret family play room

I went to a women’s clinic in Nagano the other day. After entering my information and completing a questionnaire, they called my name and led me and my newborn to a special room about the size of a luxury bath. The floor was tiled in colorful rubber puzzle pieces and there were giant legos scattered across the floor. A kids’ kitchenette stood in the corner beside a real sink with soap and hand towels and a box of random toys beside.

Do these secret rooms exist is every waiting area?? I can’t wait to find out and I am so looking forward to playing in a bouncing doom and a ball crawl again. Yay for re-living childhood via our children!