How Did I Get Here?


As promised, I will give a little background on how I came to be in Tsu, Mie, Japan teaching English (among other things). My about page actually contains a bit of detail, but it is in Japanese so most readers will stumble over that.

I grew up in the Seattle area: first in Kenmore; then Redmond. While in college I worked for IBM in San Jose for about nine months. I graduated from the University of Washington with a Chemical Engineering degree and a desire to do process control work. The only company in the world successfully implementing real-time model-predictive multi-variable control at that time was based in Houston, Texas. My Process Control professor had connections there and I had impressed him by blowing away his graduate students in an advanced theory course. After flying down to interview, I was offered a position.

Abandoning my homeland, Western Washington (aka, God’s country, aka, the land of milk and honey), I moved to the Gulf Shore. On day one, I was told I would be working on a Japanese project. After enjoying my first trip, I requested further Japanese assignments. The average Texan not being predisposed to living in tight quarters and eating raw seafood, I had no difficulty securing more projects here. In a three year period, I took eleven trips to Japan.

With each trip, I found more interesting things about Japan. Eventually, a plan was developed for me to work from our joint venture office in Tokyo. Unfortunately, before that plan could become reality, the joint venture office was closed. My plans faded with that event and my career took me other places; however, since that time there was a small voice inside which was beckoning me hither.

Later, I moved to Delaware and finally back home (minus some time in Alaska). Friends in the Northwest were studying Japanese and enlisted my aid – having not yet forgotten everything. Soon after I started helping them, I started studying again. Several events coincided at that time to remind me of my romantic desire for Japan: the small voice grew.

To satisfy the voice I decided to plan a lengthy trip to see parts of Japan which I had missed on previous trips. A day or two later, I heard about a job in Tsu. Exchanging a few emails with the management, I found they were days from their deadline for filling the position, so I revised my resume and emailed it off the next day. I was accepted and three months later, found myself living overseas.

While I am here working, my personal goals go beyond that. I enjoy studying Japanese – a fascinating language. I’m hoping to achieve master status in Shuji. From time to time I practice other traditional arts like stone seal carving and hand-carved wood lithographs. But discussing all that can wait for other posts (and is covered extensively in previous posts.)


16 Responses to “How Did I Get Here?”

  1. Michelle Says:

    God moves in mysterious ways.

    Only one correction to your post: You moved TO God’s country when you moved to TEXAS!

    Yes, I am a native. 😉

  2. Sylvia Says:

    I Google Translated your About page, but it’s good to have the story in English too. But I must protest–neither WA nor TX are God’s country. That would be British Columbia. Get it straight! 😉

  3. Stefanie Says:

    Hey, I thought Minnesota was God’s country 😀 Thanks for the translation, quite the interesting career path you’ve had.

  4. びっくり Says:

    Michelle – I’m sure there have to be dairy cows and bees for it to properly qualify as the land of milk and honey. 🙂 Wait, I guess we used to ride our bikes around the ice cream plant in the hill country. Maybe I’ll have to reconsider.

    Sylvia – BC is quite wonderful, but isn’t it just an extension of Washington. 😉 Just kidding of course.

    Stefanie – I suppose there is a lot of dairy industry in Minnesota. Perhaps God’s Country is far more widespread than one might try to claim.

    Actually, I know that God’s Country is without bounds. I was near the Arctic Ocean when I accepted Christ. Just like Jonah, there was no place on Earth where I could hide from Him.

  5. fightingwindmills Says:

    Hey Bikkuri, could you condense your story down to 6 words please? I tagged you with an interesting meme today.

  6. Sylvia Says:

    BC and WA make interesting neighbours–one named after a revolutionary and the other named (in part) after the kingdom he revolted against.

    I knew Stefanie would say that. 😀

  7. びっくり Says:

    I find it interesting that WA and BC used to be part of a common territory which was shared by Britain and America. Wouldn’t it be nice if countries could cooperate at that level today?

    Six words? …um… that seems tough. I’ll go see what I was tagged for and try to comply.

  8. Sylvia Says:

    How about “Couldn’t resist the call of Japan”? 😉

  9. びっくり Says:

    Doh! You ruined it for me… now I have to think of another one. 🙂

    Oh, very nicely done, by the way.

  10. Kelsey Hough Says:

    Thanks for taking the time to answer my question. It was interesting to hear some of how you ended up in Japan.

    I didn’t know the Seattle area was one of the many places you’ve lived. I’ve lived in Seattle, Olympia and Auburn. The longest I’ve ever left the Puget Sound area for was when I spent three months in Hungary two years ago. I like Washington, though, so I’m not in any hurry leave.

    What’s the weather like in Japan compared to Seattle?


  11. びっくり Says:

    Well, the weather varies a bit from place to place, but most of Japan is very hot and humid in the summer. Living in Houston for nine years helped prepare me for that. Where I am, it gets pretty cold in the winter, but snow is rare. Normally, if it snows it melts off by mid-day. We usually get about one snow day a year, but this year we have had several: it snowed all afternoon yesterday and all night. The trains were delayed a bit this morning.

    I was born at Overlake Memorial in Bellevue, lived the first three years of my life in Kenmore, and then in Redmond until I was halfway through college. I have one aunt in Colorado, but otherwise my relatives are in Oregon, Washington, and BC. We had a spontaneous reunion for my dad’s side of the family and got 50 people on short notice.

    You are wise to be happy with Seattle, the Pacific Northwest is a great place.

  12. Sylvia Says:

    Shhhhhh!!!! Don’t tell anyone! We’ve got so many people migrating here the continent is starting to tip over.

    Nobody believe him! It rains here all the time! We are all on antidepressants! There is moss growing on our cars! You wouldn’t like it!

  13. びっくり Says:

    Sylvia – You’re right. I don’t know what I was thinking.

    Maybe I should add that being nestled between the Olympics and the Cascades, Seattle is constantly inundated with gray cloud cover and a cold, incessant, misty rain goes on and on and on. If you ever want to see the sun, you shouldn’t consider the northwest. Sometimes the cloud layers are thin enough to see the sun, but you can look right at it and mistake it for the moon. (I hope that corrects any mistaken impression I passed on with my previous comment.)

  14. Sylvia Says:

    Phew! That’s better. 🙂

  15. chencenter Says:

    yes… but where’s a picture? When I come to blogs..I of course read and comment on the blog entries that strike me however,..there is a deeper connection with the author when you know about his/her background (that is to say, their Life). And for some (like me), I like to see the face of the author I read his or her words. Does that persuade you? Cheers my friend!

  16. びっくり Says:

    My face seldom appears in my blog, but I can think of two photos of me off the top of my head. Use my search box and enter “wind tunnel” and then “sandogasa”. I think that will pull up a couple wacky shots. Super busy right now, so that will have to suffice. 🙂

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