The Whirlwind

I’d like to kick off this post with some good news and some bad news—but not in that order.

The bad news is that there’s been a two month gap between writing the prior post and writing this one.


The good news?

I’m currently writing you from Japan.

I’d like to kick off this post with some good news and some bad news—but not in that order.

The bad news is that there’s been a two month gap between writing the prior post and writing this one.


The good news?

I’m currently writing you from Japan.

That’s right—the Princess and I made the move, arriving on the 31st of December.

We were too crazy busy to take many photos during this chapter, so please forgive the lack of visuals.

The Big Move

I wish I could tell you that the process of moving to Japan was all smooth and magical, like how Hollywood likes to tell us our dreams will naturally be once fulfilled. You know the drill—cue epic music, roll credits, everyone lives happily ever after. The end.

Not a chance.

Moving overseas is like trying to force a 20 pound enema through a quarter-inch hose. It will get to the other side eventually, but good lord there’s gonna be a lot of sucking before it does.

It’s like this…

If you’ve managed to fully embrace the modern era—your record collection is an iPod, your bookshelf is a Kindle, your film collection is Netflix, and your stereo is a pair of headphones—then congratulations! You’re ready to move overseas. Bonus points if you don’t play any large instruments.

On the other hand if you’re like me, an audiophile and bibliophile with shelves of 100-plus-year-old hardbound books, reams of CDs and vinyl records, a stereo that weighs about 200 lbs, and two guitars (including a baritone Les Paul attached to a 150 pound vacuüm tube halfstack), you are fucked fucked fucked.

The Eye of the Needle

Apparently there’s some bible passage somewhere that says something about how it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. I think the upshot was that if you wanna make it to the promised land, you can’t take all your shit with you.

Oh yeah, and that being rich is an automatic strike against you on a karmic level, but I digress.

I like to think I’m not all materialistic and shit, but I probably packed and repacked my boxes upon boxes of books, CDs, and LPs about five times. I shed beloved possessions in layers, making four trips to Powell’s to sell books, three trips to record shops to sell CDs and LPs, four trips to the thrift store to straight up give shit away, and on the last day a trip to an instrument shop to sell my acoustic guitar (my electric guitar flew with me in an armored case, and my disassembled bicycle flew with me in a padded cardboard box—cause that’s what’s up, goddamnit).

Warwick Armored Guitar Flight Case
Warwick Rockcase — an adamantium exoskeleton for your guitar

Add to all this the Princess’ jewelry tools and other possessions, and we’re talking about 14 boxes weighing an average of 35 pounds each. On top of all this, there were another 10 boxes which we needed to send domestically—because I don’t have a family home I can leave childhood things at—so I had to mail them to kindly relatives in the States (my apologies, Atya!).

Of course, the international boxes needed complete customs forms declarations in all their tedious glory, and we had to manage size and weight for each box. All that information had to be reassessed each time we repacked anything, and our “weighing station” was just a bathroom scale on the kitchen floor which I had to stand on while holding each box for subtraction goodness.

And then there was the physical trauma.

Now Entering A World of Pain—Population You

I wiped out and ate shit on my bicycle while riding out to rent a U-Haul van, spraining my right wrist real good. I had a tweaked out lower back from overworking myself as well. Hisako had a mysterious shooting pain in her foot, and a persistent cough that would not piss off under any circumstances.

In terms of the pain we went through getting here, though, that’s not even the half of it.

Our old apartment sat on the third floor of a 1905 bricker with no elevator and, time crunched, sleep deprived, and in physical agony as advertised, we scrambled our full load of heavy boxes full of crap down the stairs—and back up them again—no less than three times.

Us vs. The Boxes: Round One

The first time around we drove (and by “we drove” I mean “I drove,” since the Princess has no license) the boxes in a U-Haul van to a shipping company out at the airport where we learned it would cost at a minimum $5000 to send it all to Japan.


We dropped off my stereo and guitar amp with them, and took the rest back home—and back up the stairs—opting instead to use USPS.

Us vs. The Boxes: Round Two

The second time, we dragged our boxes down the stairs and over to the central post office two days before our departure, where we were told in no kind words to “come back another day” by two disgruntled postal ladies to whom munificence was unknown.

While I appreciate the fact that the weeks leading up to Christmas are particularly hellish for postal workers, I can’t say that this warrants—or excuses—shouting at us from across the room to “get out” because we brought too many boxes too close to closing.

Oh and we “used the wrong kind of tape,” or something, which I’m pretty sure is postal slang for “Fuck off, Motherfucker.”

To be fair, there was only an hour left before closing when we arrived on that Christmas Eve, but there was literally no one in the lobby when we showed up, and one of the two employees on duty was talking on her cell phone behind the counter as we walked in. My plea that they at least let us send as many boxes as we could manage until closing fell on deaf ears.

Our flight to Japan was scheduled to depart Portland early on the 26th, and of course everything would be closed on the 25th. We had no options left.

Before getting back in our ZipCar full of boxes, Hisako cried and threw her backpack on the ground in the parking lot, and I bawled so hard on the drive home that I had to pull over.

The following morning we pushed our departure date back to the 30th, costing us around $500 in rescheduling fees.

Us vs. The Boxes: Round Three

The third and final time we dragged all our shit down the stairs, we brought it to the NW Portland post office—not those heartless asswipes at central—and were received with kindness and humor by awesome postal workers who did a fantastic job despite our ridiculously gigantic pile of Nippon-bound boxes. We had prepaid our postage by then, and all went more or less well—minus that one label we inevitably forgot to print out, and had to run back home to get.

Too Many to Name

In the midst of all this we were wishing goodbye at sporadic intervals to friends when and where we could, as we stumbled on through the gauntlet of international uprooting mayhem.

It’s funny, but unlike other times when I’ve moved in the past, this time around we didn’t ask many folks for help. Maybe it’s because we’ve been working for ourselves and are more independently minded than we used to be. Or maybe it’s because we were leaving the country pretty much for good, and felt it was rude to bother friends who we were, at least on some level, abandoning.

I know that sounds kinda dramatic, and certainly we don’t like to think about it that way, but you’ve gotta admit that to some extent—like, you know, spatially at least—it’s kinda true.

Either way, we strove to take the bulk of the weight on our own shoulders. Yet even so, we were faithfully supported by friends who, despite our neglecting to ask them, did not fail to render much-needed aid to our overwhelming plight.

Dinner with Friends
An Impromptu Dinner with Friends

To those good folks who lent us a hand—you know who you are. You have our deepest gratitude.

To everyone else—no worries. Like I said, we didn’t exactly go out of our way to make a fuss.

Onward and Upward!

In any case, I’ll be reporting the story of our move and our efforts to find a place in Kyoto here on Ten Thousand Shrines—so stay tuned!

Until then, jya ne from Japan!

—Peter + Hisako

P.S. Our next post will provide a complimentary guide of pro-tips for moving overseas, so see y’all then!

10 comments on “The WhirlwindAdd yours →

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed your post, Peter, and look forward to the next installment. Best of luck and much happiness to you and Hisako.

  2. Wow, a bumpy approach! Nevertheless, the adventure has begun. I think you finally managed to pass through the eye of the needle…or maybe it’s the enema thing… Anyway, it’s a new year and a new start. Anticipating future bulletins!

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