11 years ago, my husband won a Monbukagakusho scholarship to further his studies in Japan. He decided to study MBA in Urasa, Niigata. Niigata had been hit by earthquake of 6.6 Richter scale just a year before.
Before the start of that daring adventure, we had to make many other brave decisions. He had to quit his job, I had to take unpaid leave from my job and finally we and our two kids had to move to Japan. We didn’t speak Japanese and we knew it wouldn’t be easy to get halal food here. We would have only the scholarship to support our family of four.
I had to wait till the end of school year for my eldest daughter Fa before we joined my husband Li in Urasa. He moved to Japan in September because his classes had already started and the three of us only came in late October.
It was Ramadan then and just five days before Eid. Most people were travelling back to their hometowns to celebrate Eid with their parents and families. My daughter Fa was 8 and Ar was 4. Each of us had a baggage allowance of 30 kg, however I couldn’t utilise it to the max since my biggest concern would be to look after the children, not carrying a lot of baggage. My brother-in-law who was then a pilot with the airline (and thus had a special pass) helped us to carry our hand-carries (Fa insisted on bringing her Serafina in her backpack) up to the plane. The cabin crew just thought we were the family of a pilot going away a few days before Eid because the pilot had to be on duty.
I was fasting that day but Fa decided not to because she said she wanted to eat KFC chicken before the flight (the KFC in Japan is not halal). Unfortunately KFC was still serving the breakfast menu, so Fa didn’t get to eat her favourite chicken. Pity her, but life is like that. We don’t always get what we wish for.
The flight took 7 hours. It was time yo break my fast just begore we landed, so I ate the delayed meal served by the airline for those who were fasting. It took us a while to get through the immigration and claimed our baggage. Li was already waiting with a friend. The friend had a Toyota Estima and had previously lived in Tokyo before moving to Urasa, so he was somehow familiar with the road. The journey from Narita Airport took about 4 hours. We only made a stop once to buy some food supplies.
Li had already rented a 2K apartment which came with a large fridge. It was past midnight when we reached the apartment so I didn’t get to see the outside yet. The house has 2 rooms, both with tatami mats. It was cosy enough.
When we celebrated Eid five days later, we still didn’t have much in the house, but we were just grateful to be together. There were two other Malaysian families there, so we celebrated it with them and the Muslim Students Association at the university.
Urasa had a very heavy snow the first winter we were there. The first snow arrived on the 1st of December and the last one was in late March. Fa had to walk one mile in the heavy snow to get to her school. I was worried at first but eventually got used to it.
Last December we went to Urasa and took the photo of our old apartment. Snowfall came late last year. That was how it looked on the first day of snow.