What is your citizenship worth?

I was thankfully reunited with my passport today after having to relinquish it for a visa application for China. While perusing the interwebs, I found this interesting article about ex-pats converting to ex’s.

For U.S. citizens, cutting ties with their native land is a drastic and irrevocable step. But as Overseas American Week, a lobbying effort by expatriate-advocacy groups, convenes in Washington this week, it’s one that an increasing number of American expats are willing to take. According to government records, 502 expatriates renounced U.S. citizenship or permanent residency in the fourth quarter of 2009 — more than double the number of expatriations in all of 2008. And these figures don’t include the hundreds — some experts say thousands — of applications languishing in various U.S. consulates and embassies around the world, waiting to be processed. While a small number of Americans hand in their passports each year for political reasons, the new surge in permanent expatriations is mainly because of taxes.

Time Magazine, HELENA BACHMANN / GENEVA

I’m certainly not close to giving up my US passport, especially since I would be without a country if I did that. I’m lucky that I don’t have to worry about my taxes as part of my ex-pat package. But if I was in a country for 10 or 20 years, and had gone “local hire” and planned to retire in that country, what would I do?

Sakura 2010

Sakura for 2010 has come and gone. Well, I assume it is gone since I’m not actually in Japan at this time. When I left last week, the wind and the rain were taking their toll on the trees.

I was able to enjoy sakura a little bit this year, although I think the peak time was probably when I was in between traveling to and from the UK just prior to traveling to the US. On a side note, I will say that I am very relieved that I got out of the UK before Eyjafjallajokull erupted. (Say Eyjafjallajokull fast three times, come on, I DARE you!). So, although I missed the peak, I did get some early viewing in and some night viewing.

Sakura 2010

Luckily, Yahoo! Japan has an entire guide to cherry blossoms on their website, so you can see EXACTLY what the conditions are throughout the country. There are also other websites dedicated to watching the progress of the blossoms, such as this one for Nagoya.

Tomo and I went to Tsuramai Park early in the season for our own little 花見 (はなみ – hanami – cherry blossom viewing party). As always, you can count on festival foods – the really unhealthy stuff. We had からあげ (karaage – fried chicken), 焼そば (yakisoba – fried soba noodles), and were tempted by たこ焼き (takoyaki – squid in a dough ball). And, of course, beer. Public consumption of alcohol is stilled allowed in Japan. I wonder when that will end?

A week later I went out on my own on a lonely Saturday night to 山崎川 (やまざきがわ – Yamazakigawa). I knew that Yamazakigawa had illumination and I thought that the path started near Aratamabashi, but when I found the river and started walking the correct direction (courtesy of my trusty iPhone GPS) I was underwhelmed. There were lots of cherry trees but very low level lighting. It was cold as well, and I was bundled up. I kept walking though, knowing that there should be something more dramatic. Eventually I found a mob of people and overly illuminated cherry trees. Clearly I was there.

Sakura is a great time of year in Japan, signaling the beginning of springtime. Once I returned from the UK, spring was busting out all over. I’m sure that when I get back just before Golden Week, Spring will have sprung completely.

Enjoying Tsuramai (or Tsurama) Park.

Sakura 2010 - Tsurama Park

Sakura 2010 - Tsurama Park

Sakura 2010 - Tsurama Park

 

The underwhelming night view along Yamazakigawa…

Sakura 2010 - Yamazakigawa

 

… that fortunately got better further down the path.

Sakura 2010 - Yamazakigawa

Sakura 2010 - Yamazakigawa

Sakura 2010 - Yamazakigawa

 

As I was meandering through the streets trying to find my way to a different subway station, saved again by my iPhone GPS, I stumbled across some interesting architecture including this overgrown gerbil habitat. Interesting.

Habitrail for Humanity

2th Anniverth

To my single reader, I apologize for my lack of postings. The past few weeks have been very busy. I had family visiting, then a busy time at work, a business trip to the UK, two days back in the office, and now an annual home leave to the US. Weekends were spent showing people around, recovering, or preparing for the next trip. So my posting has taken a hit. I have things queued in my head though, so hopefully now that I have some quiet time in the US I’ll get those written.

Happy Anniversary!

As the title sort of indicates, I celebrated the end of my second year in Japan on April 2. I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone by. Will I last to a third? Right now, I’m scheduled to go home towards the end of this year but the situation is always dynamic. I know that sometime I will have to go back, but I’m not ready to leave Japan. I suspect the blog will start talking about the repatriation process in the near future. Since this blog is ostensibly about the ex-pat experience, I think repatriation should be a part of it as well.

At this point I am 24 months into a 19 month assignment and happy to be in Japan. I’ve got to figure out how to get the work / life balance correct so I can make sure I get the most of the experience. That will be a challenge. I have plans to go to Ishigaki in Okinawa for the first time in May, and I’ll be going to Shanghai in June for the World Expo so I have some cool things to look forward to before the start of the rainy season.