Those who have been following my husband's passport saga know that his trip home at the end of this month was in jeopardy due to an expired passport. The final step was getting a re-entry permit and that is now accomplished so it's a matter of "when" he goes and not "if" he goes.
There are still some things to be done. He needs to get traveler's checks (though we're not sure how much to get for 7 days in the States) and register his new passport at the local government office. We also have to drag down our suitcases from the deep storage above our closet. They have been in storage since his last trip home about 9 years ago and probably should get at least a week of airing out before he goes. I'm told that the luggage belonging to those of us living in Japan carries a distinct smell from being pent up in rooms with tatami mats so I'm hoping for that to blow off a bit.
As my husband's time of departure nears, I can't help but reflect on how things have changed in both good and bad ways since he last made the trip from Tokyo to San Francisco. I know I'm going to miss him terribly but this time I also know we will be able to talk more often, more cheaply (for free via Skype), and more satisfyingly because we'll be able to see each other using a web camera. This is on the plus side of the changes.
On the minus side, he may have to wait longer because of increased security measures, can't take water on the plane, and may not be able to use his electronic toys to entertain himself. Also, a fuel consumption surcharge has boosted the cost of going home by about 40%. When fares are advertised, this charge is not included so it's a little "surprise" when you call the travel agency and try to make arrangements.
As another "plus", the way in which buying via the Internet has become easy and commonplace has reduced the need to spend time shopping during his trip for mundane items which are hard to get here, impossible to find or greatly more expensive. We're in the process now of combing Amazon for things, ordering them, and having them sent to my husband's family so that they'll be there when he arrives and he can just pack them up and carry them home. Mainly, this is about English language books and electronics items which are export-restricted but it's to a lesser extent about food items which are a dim memory because we haven't seen them for so long. We're probably exercising a degree of consumerism at this time which our wallets haven't seen in many years. It's a good thing I'm getting more freelance work these days. ;-)
The biggest benefit of all this Internet shopping, however, should be that my husband will be able to relax and enjoy more time just being around his family rather than running around to shops.