Capturing and Packing Memories

by Daisha Hunter

Preparing for departure from Japan can be a difficult task, not only for you, but also your children. One of the most important things to do during this shift of life and culture is to cherish their Japan experiences and encourage positive excitement about the new journey. You can make leaving fun for the whole family by capturing and packing memories to take with you.

Have your child create a Japan journal or scrapbook. Start by collecting and printing some of their favorite photographs. Make a list of special places and family hangouts. Take time to make one last visit to parks, restaurants, stores, and events collecting memorabilia and taking photos. Browse ¥100 stores to stock up on character stickers and Japanese seals to use to decorate, along with various printed fabrics for texture and design. The memory book can be a collective one for the family, with everyone contributing their favorite memories, or a special book dedicated specifically to children.

Leaving Japan is one thing, but leaving behind family and friends is another unpleasant factor that children must face when moving. Organizing a sayonara party would be a great farewell idea to bring together classmates and friends. Create a ‘keep in touch’ kit for the partygoers to fill in their contact information, which could resemble a yearbook with photographs and signature pages to write special messages of love and well wishes. Party gifts can consist of a collage of your child’s pictures with personalized messages written to each friend. The party could feature foods and decorations from the new country to which your family will relocate. You want your child to feel sentimental about the time they have spent in Japan, but also create excitement for the new adventures ahead.

You can start to develop your child’s interest and enthusiasm about their new home by researching the city, schools, and neighborhood where they will soon live. It’s important to gain an early acquaintance before physically transitioning. This builds a familiarity and confidence about the area. If you’re moving to a new country with another language, you can challenge your child to learn as many words and phrases as they can before leaving. Watch movies and visit museums which exhibit fascinating facts that will stimulate their thoughts about moving. Try to take virtual tours and browse websites of restaurants, amusement parks, tourist spots, entertainment venues, and landmarks that your family will want to visit.

There are a variety of activities for older children to do before they leave Japan. Teenagers may want to travel within the country or go on last minute shopping sprees for exclusive Japanese items. You could encourage them to go on a scavenger hunt to photograph their favorite places. Tech savvy teens can create a digital timeline of their life in Japan and post it on a personal webpage. They can start a blog documenting their move and settlement into their new home. They’ll want to spend time with their friends before departing, and having a small gift exchange for keepsakes of friendship is a good way to take something with them and leave something behind to be remembered by. For teenagers, making a new group of friends can be difficult, but feeling connected to the foundation of previous friends helps establish a network of support.

Life changes can be made into an optimistic experience by thinking about what you can look forward to in the future. Setting individual goals for the family to accomplish can help ease the tension of moving into a new environment. This is an opportunity to reflect on what they have gained while living in Japan and what they want to do once they relocate. Making a poster of what your children will miss about Japan and what they want to explore next, gives a visual comparison of the positive side to moving abroad. You can discuss the benefits of the new location and how it will contrast with your current conditions in Japan. Keep the focus on what would pertain to their interests such as hobbies they could start, game and toy trends, popular sports, living arrangements, holidays and customs that vary from that of Japan. Children will look forward to making a wish list for newly desired goods, tastes, and travels gained with the other favorable aspects of relocating.

Dealing with culture shock is important at all ages. Make sure your family is knowledgeable about the current climate and safety of the place where they will be moving. Teaching young children street smarts, that may not have been necessary while living in Japan, could be an easily overlooked factor when relocating. You may want to create a family quiz for older siblings to check their understanding of safety precautions. It would be amusing to turn the lesson into an active learning session with younger children by singing songs, drawing, and practicing drills. Japan is considered a safer country than most, and instead of creating shock and fear by introducing such serious topics, it could be learned through routines and conversational check ups. Discussing cultural differences and some explanations of what will be deemed offensive and acceptable in the new country, is as equally important. Using humorous flashcards or playing social custom charades will be a funny yet memorable way to quickly grasp manners.

Creating fun and resourceful opportunities to help ease the mental and physical preparation involved with leaving Japan, can greatly effect your children’s transition into a new world. Focus on activities that will help document and compile their life in Japan as vividly as possible, and celebratory ways to depart and arrive at the new destination.

Saying “sayonara” doesn’t have to be sad; it can be satisfying.