I asked no other thing,
No other was denied.
I offered Being for it;
The mighty merchant smiled.

Brazil? He twirled a button,
Without a glance my way:
“But, madam, is there nothing else
That we can show to-day?”

-Emily Dickinson

Sometimes I wonder if I jinxed myself with that Emily Dickinson poem – it was the featured item on my college yearbook page, representing all the possibility I wished for. Or did I actually bless myself, and lay the ground work for actualizing a life so different from the one I might easily have led? Either way, adventure in the form of living abroad has come my way numerous times, culminating in my almost (!!!) 9 years here in Japan. I wouldn’t trade any of it, even the days that were hard, but we have been away from “home” for a very long time. Which brings me to my point…

I am at a crossroads – a huge one. And I have a major decision to make.

In the past years I haven’t had much control over what happens to me at the macro level – that “trailing spouse” tag is trite but true. But at the micro level, I have been able to build a life for myself and my family wherever we have lived. I like to think of myself as a “grow where you plant me” kind of person, but it always takes hard work to make that come true. So I can continue trailing or I can push back and say it is time to let go, time to have a “regular” life again. Either way, there is a major good-bye at hand, a good-bye that I find painful to write, a good-bye to one of my great loves.

Good bye Tokyo. Good bye Japan. (It looks so scary and real in type)

I’ve been musing about the way a physical place can have a personality and what that means for those who live there. So humor me and come on a bit of an architectural journey, from where I am, to where I might be…

As my compass and my North star, the Tokyo Tower is an iconic beacon of the city skyline at night. Whenever I am not sure where am I, a glimpse of it will help set me to rights, although I don’t get lost very often these days.


With two school-aged daughters, one of whom is entering high school next year, school is another major compass point in our family life. We have been part of a very special international community.


Have you ever wondered what my house in Tokyo looks like? Have you had visions of a modern architectural gem, as almost all my family and friends from the US do until they actually visit me here? Everyone seems to have an idealized vision of Japanese design chops and then…they see my house, which for Japan, is actually pretty good.

tokyo house

Not much to look at from the outside, but it has housed us well.


My choice then, if I actually have one, which I may not, is between the familiar, the familial, a place I already know so well, one that hardly needs a nighttime beacon…


…and a place so different from any I might ever have imagined I would live in. The idea of it scares me, but also excites me with the possibility of the new. The Torch is not quite the architectural icon that the other two towers are, but nonetheless, in my two short visits I’ve used it just the same way to help me orient myself.


School for the girls could be the fulfillment of a long-held dream of mine, although repatriation may have many unexpected bumps and lumps.


Our other choice is a continuation – and it does feel almost like an adjunct campus of their current school – of a life filled with other global nomads (that “Third Culture Kids” tag is another one I hate), possibly a much easier transition. And the chance to continue living an experiential life, instead of one where everything single thing done is really just to put on their college application, feels appealing. Palm trees and amazing facilities don’t hurt either.


Two different sets of fantasy housing. The first has real neighborhoods, with seasons and stately sycamores overarching, near old friends and family.


My 12-year-old suburban self determined that she would one day live in a brownstone.

park slope brownstone

My grown-up city self thinks a brick Greek Revival would do as well. I’m not picky.

Cobble Hill Brownstone - Brooklyn - New York City-L

The other choice is a bit of a scary word, a “compound.” It certainly sounds a bit off-putting and I’m not sure my city self thinks the American lingo, a “gated community,” would be any better. But it comes with beautiful warm weather all year, too hot at times, but swimming possible almost everyday and an abundance of Bougainvillea.


But on the other hand, the word “villa” has the best of connotations, charming and elegant.



Imagine sunset over the desert, bargaining at the souk, arches and jalis screens at the windows…


…and tea under the loggia in the garden.


Where am I choosing between you may ask? Well, I am sure you recognized New York and perhaps even the leafy tree-lined streets of Brooklyn.  The other may not be so familiar, in fact I am sure it is not. Tropical, desert, city and oh so different, sitting smack in the middle of the Middle East. Doha, Qatar.

We won’t be leaving until the end of the school year and after that we will do our usual summer at the beach in New Jersey. As for Tokyo Jinja, it will go on, just the same, with maybe a slightly expanded horizon. Tokyo Jinja is, after all, a state of mind and I am a global antiques warrior no matter where I land.