I actually moved to Tokyo

The morning of our flight, I jump out of bed. I'm terrified that I overslept the departure time. (It's happened before.) I check the time. It's 3:03 am. I have 8 more hours in the US. 

I must have been clutching my phone in my sleep because now I'm standing tall in the dark like a zombie Statue of Liberty: yoga tank flowing, a soft beam of light glowing from my hand. This...is weird. I sit back down in the blank darkness of the bedroom, hear Shuji quietly snoring away, then snuggle the purring croissant form of Kabocha cat.

I'm moving to Japan today.

We spent the past 2 weeks cleaning out 3 years of living in our Clinton Hill apartment. Every thing is either packed up in a warehouse in Dumbo waiting to be shipped to Japan, re-homed to friends, or dropped off at the Salvation Army down the street. I've become a regular face to those guys in the SA warehouse. I suppose you might remember the face of a (rather sweaty) girl dropping off huge IKEA blue bags with a happy sigh, holding back tiny tears in the corner of her eyes. You'd definitely remember if this happened 3 days in a row. 

The things Shuji and I deemed necessary for the next few months have been carefully wedged into embarrassingly overstuffed luggage: 2 check-ins, 1 carry-on each. Plus the cat, who we'll bring onboard as a personal item. 

I can't fall asleep again, so I run through the to-do list for the day: Wake up, shower up, toss the mattress, toss the shower curtain. Give Kabocha medication for the flight. Triple check we have all her animal quarantine paperwork in order. Final check of the apartment. Leave keys inside. Call the car service. Get to Newark. Fly to my new life in Tokyo. Typical Tuesday stuff. NBD.

Of course, nothing goes according to plan.

Kabocha refuses to take her prescription. We've been using those pill pocket cat treats for her meds and she's apparently caught on to the ruse. Why today?! I spend 15 minutes struggling to hold her long enough to slip the treat in her mouth. She spits it out and hides. I give up and finish packing the rest of the bags. 

Kabocha refuses to get into the carrier. We spend another 20 minutes chasing her around the apartment. It comes down to quickly shoving her into the bag and zipping it closed before she can burst out again. She's (understandably) freaking out and now I'm freaking out about taking this wild beast on a 14 hour flight.

Then, the car shows up early. Of course. We run out the door. Flag down the car. Hold the cat. Throw everything in the trunk. Buckle up. Exhale.

We hit traffic crossing through the city on Canal Street, because it's almost 7am on a weekday. There are huge delivery trucks sighing heavily when they roll forward, then screeching to a piercing halt a few feet later. A herd of tour buses heading toward Midtown or to the middle of no where. Sprinkled in between are a few early commuters from Jersey and Brooklyn. 

The traffic gives me time to reminisce about this street.

I remember being a hyped up college kid hopping off the Fung Wah bus from Boston at the (unofficial) bus stop by the Manhattan Bridge. I think about the many late nights wandering the streets off Canal with friends who grew up around Chinatown: discovering the tiny dumpling shops, the tofu shop on Mott, the apothecary-themed bar, the store that sells CDs on one side and banh-mi sandwiches on the other. 

I remember commuting to my first job in NYC off the A/C/E station on the west side of Canal Street. All the nerves for finally starting a my life in NYC. Coincidentally, my last agency gig in NYC was also located off the same stop. 


Amid the warm glow of sunrise and brake lights, I become nostalgic about the late night Uber rides and early morning call times. At no point in those days could I imagine leaving this city. 

It's smooth sailing once we pass through the Holland Tunnel. We make it to Newark faster—and with more feelings—than expected.  

Okay. i can do this.

We check in to our flight. The attendant comes over to coo into the pet carrier, where the wild beast has transfigured back into a little cat. Whew. One of Shuji's luggages is a few pounds over the limit, so the attendant points us to an area with a scale where we can repack. 

With the absolute smuggest grin, I watch Shuji rapidly stuff things into his carry-on suitcase and start to wonder...wait, where is my carry-on suitcase?

I frantically search the luggage cart, run back to the check-in kiosk. Nothing.

Should I call the car service?
Did I leave it in the lobby? Is it on the street?
Should I go back to Brooklyn? Do I have enough time?
Shit, it's definitely rush hour now. I'll miss the flight. 
What if this is a sign I shouldn't move?

Okay. i can't do this.

It's a sign. The universe is telling me not to go. All the doubts that had been meticulously tucked toward the back of my head for the past 8 months come rushing forward. What if I hate it? I don't speak the language. People will think I'm an idiot. What if I can't find a job? I won't fit the clothes. Everything is too cute for me. What am I doing? I hate making new friends. Fuck. Turn around. Abort. Abort. I'll go back to Brooklyn, find my bag, update my folio and go back to work like a normal person. At least I speak the language.

I'm ready to make a run for it when Shuji calmly (and logically) suggests that I can still get on the plane: I have my passport and the cat's paperwork. Everything else is replaceable. We'll make it work.

i can at least try to do this.

We get through airport security relatively smoothly for a guy traveling with a nervous cat and a girl on the verge of becoming a puddle of tears. There's no turning back now. We arrive at the gate and I make the most of the little time I have left while my phone still works.

I contact our building management company, trying to confirm whether my luggage is still onsite. Or lost forever. I call the car company, but they will have to reach out to the driver and get back to me later. Useless. I reach out to Shuji's friends moving into our apartment in case I left it behind after our cat animorphed into a wolverine.

With each passing minute, I recall yet another thing that was in the carry-on and mentally bid adieu to each one.

Goodbye travel pillow.
Bye moleskine notebook.
Adios brush pens.
Sayonara headphones.
Farewell dear Kindle, toothbrush, and—oh nooooooI realize my bag of delicates is in that carry-on.

I'm starting my new life in Japan without a toothbrush or underwear.

Not exactly how I pictured a new beginning.


It's been almost 2 months since we arrived in Tokyo and very few things have gone according to plan. A trip had to be cancelled, I'm still paying for a phone I can't use, conversations with creative recruiters have gone cold. It's not all bad though. Adjusting my plans brought me a few unexpected opportunities. (More on those later.)

The things we shipped from the States should be arriving this week. Today, I went to the Immigration Bureau to apply to change my visa status from a temporary visitor. It's a tedious process involving a lot of papers and official seals. I had to stand in a long line to get a number to wait in an even longer line to submit my paperwork—maybe they're trying to weed out the weak ones. Pending approval, I will be in Japan for the next few years. 


Well, at least that's the plan. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Lessa Chung