ExCat: The first bite of sushi!

HAVE YOU EVER taken an unfamiliar turn when you’re driving and ended up in a totally unexpected location? In 1974, when I left Kuching to go to Christchurch for university, I never for once imagined that I would end up spending a major chunk of my life in Osaka, Japan.

I met my husband, Graeme, in my first year in Christchurch. He had just returned from Japan after spending 2 years studying there and was preparing to go back long term. To cut a long story short, we got married as soon as I graduated. But then we decided to go back to Kuching first for a period of time. We ended up staying for 5 years. Those were some of the happiest years of our lives. We produced the first grandchild for my parents much to their delight and during that time Graeme got to really know and love Kuching – the people, the culture and the food. Now he’s as much of a Kuchingite as I am!

It was 1984 before we finally made the move to Osaka. I will never forget my first impressions of this fascinating city. Crowds of people everywhere like you only have in Kuching during festivals. For the first time in my life, I felt like a country bumpkin! I couldn’t speak Japanese but because I look Japanese people would jabber at me in Japanese all the time. It sure helped me to learn fast – you either sink or swim! My first experience of eating sushi was a blast! We were taken to this exquisite sushi restaurant and my eyes nearly popped out when I saw the plate placed in front of me – prawn, squid, fish eggs, sea urchins, octopus, shellfish, all RAW. Like a good guest, I dutifully popped the first piece of sushi in my mouth and it felt like a bomb had exploded in my head! My introduction to wasabi (horseradish).

Raising 3 kids in Japan has both been a joy and a challenge. I missed the support of grandparents. When the kids were little it was hard to get a break from cooking. In Kuching we could always pop home for dinner or eat out. Not here. Living in a tiny apartment, the so-called Japanese “rabbit hutch”, was also stressful, especially in the winter. It was a joy to send our kids to the local school. Through that we made lots of friends in the neighborhood. Our second son ended up marrying the girl next door and we now have 2 gorgeous half Japanese grandkids!

I have often been asked, “If you had the choice, all things being equal, where would you live?” Obviously Osaka is where our hearts are at this point in time. But, hey, I’m hanging on to my Malaysian passport! Who knows what the future holds?

Lucy and Graeme have been living in Osaka, Japan for the past 26 years. They are involved in church work. They have 3 grown up children and 3 grandchildren.

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