Reverse Culture Shock + an Announcement

by Tokyo Terrace on March 6, 2013

Some of you may remember the photo above. It was the first Tokyo Terrace header. Four years ago, I was sitting in my tiny apartment in Tokyo, Japan preparing to post my very first entry on my very first food blog. Over the years, I was able to document many of the wonderfully strange, difficult, and beautiful moments during our time in Tokyo. I was still wading out of a sea of culture shock, and that first blog post symbolized my attempt to channel all the confusion I felt about living (and cooking) in a new country. This would eventually help me find a sense of normalcy in the midst of so many unfamiliar aspects of our life in Japan.

Meiji Shrine Summer 2008

Buying food for a Japanese baseball game; Spring 2009

Harajuku Fall 2010

Today, during a very brief trip away from Denver, I am sitting in my parents’ house in Minnesota. There is a roaring fire in the fireplace and snow piling up outside the window. It’s so cozy and familiar and completely foreign, because it in no way resembles the way I’ve spent the past four winters. It doesn’t sound like much time, but it is amazing how much those four years impacted my life. I often reflect on the beginning of our time in Tokyo, remembering the awkwardness of going through the checkout at the grocery store or trying to ask someone for help finding the correct platform at the train station. I was in a perpetual state of culture shock. Still, Japan became home for me. I may not have learned to speak or read the language fluently, but I could get around on my own. I grew to know more about the food than I ever thought possible, and I started to anticipate the changing of Japan’s seasons based on the featured foods at the market.

Ohanami; Spring 2009

Fall in Kamakura 2009

Just as things seemed to become second nature, we moved away. In June of 2012, we left our beloved Japan and became Coloradans. Strangely enough, I have been feeling the same overwhelming confusion and general culture shock. Culture shock was not something I anticipated experiencing after moving back to the country where I grew up. I speak the language, I know which side of the road to drive on, and I’m back to shopping in the grocery stores I longed for when we first arrived in Tokyo. And yet, I miss the artificial sakura branches that adorned the aisles of every grocery store this time of year, and the explosion of seasonal foods all across the city of Tokyo as the leaves changed from summer green to autumn’s blazing red and orange. I miss the huge selection of hot pot ingredients as the air turned crisp and cold in winter. Each season brought something completely unique and wonderful. I will always miss those little things that gave Tokyo so much character.

Soba in Kyoto Spring 2012

Beginning this blog was the best decision I made during those first months in Japan. It provided more than I ever expected, bringing new friends and opportunities to my life. As I navigate my way out of the haze of reverse culture shock, which has, in some ways, been more difficult the second time around, I find myself seeking a similar outlet. As a result, a new food blog has been born: Set the Table. At Set the Table, I will share recipes easy enough to serve to your family on weeknights, along with simple ideas for entertaining your friends and family. And, for those of you who have been missing it, Cocktail Friday will make it’s triumphant return. No matter where your home may be, the most meaningful moments often happen while sharing a meal around the table. And the first step toward these special moments is the simple task of setting the table.

Tokyo Terrace just isn’t right outside of Japan, but it will not disappear completely. I will put the occasional post here on this site, but the majority of my stories, photographs and recipes will have a new home. It’s a cozy little corner of the food blogging community that I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I already do!

While this certainly isn’t good bye, I would be remiss if I did not say thank you to all of you who have given me the confidence, the community, and the motivation to continue blogging. Whether you are a faithful reader or a fellow food blogger-turned-friend, I want to say that I could not, would not, do this without you. There is no way for me to express how much all of you have helped me through so many life transitions. So now, we “set the table” and gather around a new place where old friends are honored and new friends are discovered.

From top left to bottom right: Our last bowl of ramen, last family picture in our Tokyo apartment, last Izakaya visit, last view of Mt. Fuji, last bento in the park, and last meal on the floor of our empty apartment.

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  • Anonymous

    I admit to feeling of sadness when I started to read this post. I thought you were saying you will be stopping this blog. So I was happy to read through and see that you’re transitioning to write to another place. For me, it’s the case of ‘a rose by any other name…’ and as you say it, it seems only natural that your blog could change with the change in your life. Happy to continue to read what you post at your new digs! Have no doubt it will be as marvelous as this.

  • Lora Wiley

    You post is very familiar. I moved back to the States after 10 years in Germany and while everything is cozy and familiar in my hometown of NYC, I still have moments where I feel like an outsider. Best of luck with your new blog. I’ll be following..

  • Angela Salisbua

    As a fellow Minnesotan living in Tokyo, I’ve enjoyed reading your blog over the years. Best of luck with your new site, I look forward to all the new recipes! Also, if there is anything from Japan you are longing for, feel free to contact me. Care packages are affordable from this side of the world. 😉

  • mary fish

    Great post Rachael. You and Brad and your little bundle of joy are sorely missed here in Tokyo. I look forward to reading your new blog. :)

  • Tokyo Terrace

    Thanks, Mary! We miss everyone in Tokyo, too. I think we probably always will. But life is good in Denver and we are starting to feel somewhat settled in. Hope you are well!

  • Tokyo Terrace

    Thank you! I’m always glad to hear from a fellow Minnesotan, especially one with connections to Japan. And I just might take you up on that care package offer!

  • Tokyo Terrace

    It’s a crazy feeling, isn’t it? Glad I’m not the only one!

  • Tokyo Terrace

    I could never say good-bye to blogging for good! But I’m glad you felt that way because it means you’ll hopefully keep reading over at Set the Table!

  • Courtney Pollock

    This post really spoke to me. After having lived overseas for about 8 years (5 in Europe; almost 3 here in Japan), I am routinely reminded that I felt more at “home” in Madrid-Barajas than I did arriving into America. It was weird to understand almost every conversation going on around me, the numerous options at the store (that I could all read and understand!), etc. I look forward to hearing about your new adventure!

  • Nancy

    Hi Rachael. I’ve been reading your blog for couple of years from Tokyo and I’m now going through the same transition as you but in Shanghai. Another country, another culture shock, and another transition to establishing a new ‘normal’. I’ve loved your Japanese recipes and photos so I look forward to seeing you at your new home.

  • Anonymous

     Hi Nancy,

    Thank you so much for your comment and for following me from Tokyo Terrace to Set the Table. It’s funny how transitions throw everything off balance, isn’t it? 7 months into living in Denver and I’m still sorting it all out. But Shanghai?!? Wow- how exciting and scary and full of adventure this time must be for you! Best of luck and I hope to hear from you again soon!


  • Anonymous

     Isn’t that the truth- the most familiar things are the ones that make me feel almost less at home right now. It seems backwards… Thanks for keeping up with me here and I hope you’ll continue to do so over at Set the Table!

  • Anonymous

     Thanks Mary! We miss you all as well. I don’t think I realized how much Tokyo felt like home until we left it…and all the special people we met there. Hope all is well!

  • Anonymous

     Hi Angela! Always nice to hear from another Minnesotan :) Thanks for the comment and for offering to send things to me from Japan- that is so sweet of you and I just might take you up on that!

  • Anonymous

     Hi Lora- Thanks for your comment. I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels out of place after living abroad. It’s a strange feeling but at least it is somewhat normal… Hope to hear from you at Set the Table!

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