Happy Things: Surviving Loneliness[MAMA AMIA! Surviving Japan]

ママ・アミアSurvivingJapan LIFESTYLE

A message of all foreigners living in Japan: From Mama Amia
A survival column to you in Japan–those working so hard, trying, sometimes succeeding and other times not–words of encouragement along with a strict “buck up” from your home-away-from-home mother-figure. Mama Amia shares everything from mental health survival tips to how to take out the trash. Come back to this column regularly for your virtual check-up. (Japanese readers welcome as well!)
Today She is talking about “Happy Things:Surviving Loneliness”.

Happy Things: Surviving Loneliness

It took me awhile to realize there were moments where I was just plain lonely. I thought I was boredom but it wasn’t that. My husband was still living in the US and my job kept me here in Tokyo. Some nights were awful. I missed him. I missed my friends. I missed the comforts of home.

In hindsight, there was one thing that stands out that contributed more to this loneliness. I didn’t have a hobby. Rather, I didn’t have what others saw as a legitimate hobby. What others define as a hobby, by the way, is bullshit. If it works for you, call it a hobby, your happy moment, joy-jump, whatever you’d like. NEVER let others dictate what’s legit when it comes to defining happy.


So, I still don’t have a hobby-hobby. Bite me. I have my go-to list of things-I-like-to-do. What I do have are collections.

Here they are:

*anything having to do with sumo
*Japanese cranes

My happiness inducing activities include buying funky flowers and arranging them in a vase, planting herbs (the legal kind), and baking bread. None of these are hobbies, per se, but these bits of time where I take part give me joy.


Here’s the kicker. I’m also a BIG fan of antique markets. It’s this last part I want to talk about today. There’s an antique market going on every weekend somewhere in Tokyo. If nothing else, it’s a good outing. A new neighborhood. It’s also a place to find things to take home with you (when you eventually do go home for good), birthday and holiday gifts for your family, and one-of-a-kind items with stories that will make you interesting at parties.

You can find a comprehensive list here:

And, if you’re into braving the cold, in December and January there are two events called Setagaya Boroichi. You can find info on that here:

This market has been going on since 1578 so yeah. Kind of a big deal. Worth bundling up and getting out.

The point I’m making is this. You’re in Tokyo. This is a wild and vibrant city. Loneliness is real and can be overcome. Part of it is on you. Part of it is figuring out what makes you tick. Put some effort into it. Seeing this city and what it has to offer is worth it. Venturing out to these antique markets worked for me. Adding to my collection works for me. I control the budget. I control how much time I put into it. Still, when (like yesterday) I hit the JACK POT at a market, and the stars line up and all things golden come my way, loneliness is a distant memory.

Think it through. Come up with your happy-list and then go look for where in Tokyo you might find it.

ママ・アミア(MAMA AMIA)

別名「Pie Queen」。ハードなボランティア活動で心が疲弊していたある日、故郷の食べ物——バターと砂糖が焼けるパイの香りに癒やされることに気づき、パイの販売を始める。2019年より「ママ・アミア」の名で活動開始。日本在住外国人のママとして元気を発信中。相撲が大好き。

Food consultant/Talent. American born and raised in Japan. Returned to the US at age 18 for university, and continued on as an interpreter and US-Japan consultant. Came back to Japan in 2011 to volunteer in the aftermath of the Tohoku disaster and stayed on in Rikuzentakata (Iwate Prefecture) for seven years. Raised funds, liaised with major international media outlets for coverage of the city and region. One of the primary sources of information on the disaster region for foreigners. Recognized and awared by the Governor of Iwate in 2014 and the Consul General of the Japanese Consulate of San Francisco in 2018 for the work and dedication to promoting awareness. Also known as the PieQueen. Found the scent of baked goods was both food for the soul as well as emotionally therapeutic, she began a business selling American-style pies. Working as Mama Amia as of 2019 promoting cooking and baking using traditional Japanese ingredients and offering advice to foreigners in Japan as "your mother in Tokyo". Big fan of sumo.