Being A Broad April 2009 #43
The monthly magazine for international women living in Japan
our cover girl: TOKYO INTERNATIONAL PLAYERS’ LOU McLEOD
Tokyo’s ARTISTIC preschool SKINCARE tips for SPRING the boonies of SHIZUOKA help do your bit to FIND LINDSAY ANN HAWKER’S KILLER with our pullout poster
s.z. cairney on TURNING 40 Meet the WOMEN of OLIVER! CARING for AGING PARENTS
BAB events, BAB Rep Okinawa: Aiko
Tokyo International Players’ Lou McLeod
6 If you’ve ever thought about getting involved in amateur dramatics, then this issue is definitely for you! Our cover girl, along with the 20 foreign women on pages 19–21, ranging in age from 11 to 59, provide inspiration to all of us as they talk about their involvement with Tokyo International Players’ spring production of Oliver!. We’ve plenty more inspiration in this issue, with stories about an Okinawan broad Aiko’s desire to help other foreign women, Amy’s recent Tokyo marathon, and Susan’s volunteer work helping stray and abandoned cats; along with beauty advice, things we love, black hair care tips, and lots, lots more!
being a broad news
image: Kerry Raftis/www.keyshots.com
image: David Stetson
message from the founder
our cover girl women of the world news from around the globe
things we love small but significant—things we love in Japan
• skin care tips for spring • hair care for black women
11 Tokyo girl
6 our cover girl
a mind-opening art exhibit
image: Danielle Tate-Stratton
12 sports & fitness
And don’t forget our special “Introduction to Yoga” event on the 26th of this month. Find out more about it on page five but hurry if you want to sign up—there are only a few places left!
caring for aging parents abroad
Susan Roberts of the Japan Cat Network
running the Tokyo Marathon
15 pullout poster
Caroline Pover BAB Founder
BAB supports Lindsay Ann Hawker’s family
meet the women of TIP’s Oliver!
19 feature 12 sports & fitness
Publishers Caroline Pover & Emily Downey Editor & Designer Danielle Tate-Stratton Advertisement Designer Chris May Contributors S.Z. Cairney, Tina Burrett, Gabbi Bradshaw, Richard Sproston, Natasha Williams, Aiko Miyamoto, Marilyn Klein, Linda Semlitz, MD, Arwen Niles, Amy Dose, Poppy Calvert, the women of Oliver!, Takara Swoopes-Bullock, Susan Roberts Proofreader Renata Valz Cover Model Lou McLeod Cover Photographer Kerry Raftis, www.keyshots.com Printing Mojo Print Opinions expressed by BAB contributors are not necessarily those of the Publishers.
mothers • s.z. cairney on hairy issues • TMISIJ—Tokyo’s artistic preschool
coaching a broad
image: Tina Burrett
the broads (and boys!)
the suffering of Burma’s women time to move on
27 she found love in Japan
moving past the language barrier and into love
24 political broad-cast
Being A Broad magazine, email@example.com www.being-a-broad.com tel. 03-5879-6825, fax: 03-6368-6191 Being A Broad April 2009
BAB supports Lindsay Ann Hawker A quote from the BAB book: Labour Laws
Being A Broad March 2009 #42
The monthly magazine for international women living in Japan
playing at GYMBOREE
our cover girl: Boudoir’s ROSITA ENDAH
finding love ONLINE the DEATH PENALTY in Japan
s.z. cairney on a RUDE AWAKENING
LINDSAY ANN HAWKER— in memoriam ADOPTION and Japan— a REAL-LIFE STORY
www.being-a-broad.com Thanks for picking up this issue of Being A Broad magazine. Like what you see? Then why not subscribe today? For just ¥4,500 you’ll get one year (12 issues) of Being A Broad delivered to your door. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org to subscribe today! You can pick BAB up at the following locations: Shibuya-ku: • British School Tokyo • Boudoir • Tower Records • Sin Den • Furla Yoga
Minato-ku: • Suji’s • Nakashima Dentist • TELL • Nishimachi International School • Gymboree • Global Kids Academy • Mitsubishi UFJ Azabujuban • Tokyo Surgical and Medical Clinic • National Azabu • Segafredo • Tokyo American Club • Nissin World Delicatessen • Crown Relocations • Temple University • Hulabootie
In October 2008, we saw various reports in the media that Tatsuya Ichihashi—the man upon whose balcony Lindsay Ann Hawker’s body was found in March 2007—was believed to have killed himself. Lindsay’s family responded with concern, believing that if people suspected this rumour to be true, the police and general public may lessen efforts to find Ichihashi. Lindsay’s parents urge us all not to stop looking out for him, and not to forget their daughter. As we go to print, Lindsay’s family has not been presented with any evidence showing that Ichihashi is dead. They have no reason to believe that he is anything but alive and well, and can only assume that he is hiding somewhere. Based in the UK, it is so difficult for her family to maintain public awareness of the fact that Ichihashi is still missing—let those of us who live here try to do our best to help them.
As in your home country, there are many laws regulating employment standards in Japan. These laws govern areas such as trade unions, work-related accidents, insurance, equal opportunities, safety, and maternity and childcare leave. All employment laws in Japan apply equally to foreigners and Japanese nationals. However, as with so many things in Japan, you may get the impression that these are laws on paper only, that they are not strictly enforced, and that employers aren’t penalised if the laws are not adhered to. There tends to be a shoganai (nothing can be done) attitude amongst Japanese and foreigners alike regarding this. Your employer must provide you with a contract, the period of which cannot exceed one year. By law, this contract is supposed to be detailed. It should include information relating to your pay, hours, safety, dismissal procedures, holidays, etc.; however, in practise, some contracts contain only the most basic information.The employer must also provide a copy of the company rules, you are within your rights to request an English translation of it.Your employer must pay you in cash. This money must be paid directly to you (bank transfer is the most common method) at least once a month on a specified date. Full-time employees are eligible for certain company benefits such as sick leave, holiday leave, company insurance schemes, and reimbursement of transportation costs. Benefits for part-time employees and contract workers vary. Check your contract carefully to be sure about your status within the company.
Please help support the Hawker family in finding Lindsay Ann’s killer with our pullout poster on pages 15–18. Kichijoji: • Shinzen Yoga Koto-ku: • Toho Women’s Clinic Chofu-shi: • American School in Japan Tsukuba: Through BAB Rep Shaney (email@example.com)
Shonan: Through BAB Rep Kelsey (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Okinawa: Through BAB Rep Aiko (email@example.com)
Please note that the BAB book is currently being reprinted so please do email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a copy when one becomes available.
INTRODUCING BAB REP
AIKO MIYAMOTO (OKINAWA) Aiko in Okinawa. image: provided by Aiko Miyamoto
What made you want to become a BAB Rep? Until the BAB Rep program was created, a lot of the information available through BAB was Tokyo-based; there wasn’t much on local hospitals, stores, events, or other important aspects of life for girls located in remote areas of Japan where there might not even be many other foreigners around for support. That’s why I was excited when Caroline invited me to bring this program to Okinawa and help other foreign women here. Currently, most of the information here aimed at residents with a non-Japanese perspective is provided by the US military, so it can be difficult and lonely at times for foreign women like myself who are here on our own without base access. I’m hoping that BAB will help these women to make the most of their life in Okinawa, as it has been a lifeline for so many women living on the mainland (including myself!). What are some of the events you would like to run in 2009? Since not too many are familiar with BAB around here, I’m thinking of starting with a few events similar to the Broads’ Brunch and Girls’ Night Out that BAB organised in Tokyo, just social gatherings in a relaxed setting where foreign women can just talk and get to know each other. After a few months, once I have a better idea of what kinds of things local women are interested in doing, I’ll be able to plan events tailored to those interests. I’d also really like to get a few hands-on events together so that our members can experience elements of Okinawan culture such as shiisa-making, bingata-dyeing, and traditional cooking (the military sponsors classes and events where foreigners can learn these things, but you generally have to have military ID to join).
How does it feel to help out foreign women who are living and working in your area? Wonderful, of course! I came to Japan when I was 19 and totally clueless, so I know how it feels to need help and support. I’m always happy if I can make someone’s life a little bit easier or more fun. How do you help other women living in your area? Since I’m fortunate enough to be able to speak both Japanese and English, I enjoy looking up information or translating for women who speak only one language or the other and are having trouble accomplishing something because of language barriers. I’m always willing to go along with a friend to help her negotiate with a real estate agency, find what she needs at the drugstore, or write her resume in Japanese to give her that extra edge on the competition. At the moment, I’m helping a military wife who is a math and science teacher secure interviews with international schools off-base so that she can teach her subjects to local students in English—it has been a longtime dream of hers and her husband’s to give something back to the local community by teaching. What advice would you give to women who are struggling with adjusting to life in Japan? Adjusting to life in a new place is never easy, but it helps knowing you’re not alone. That’s one of the best things about the BAB network—when you have a problem, there’s someone else who is going through or has been through the same thing and will be there to lend a comforting ear whether you need urgent advice or just need to blow off some steam. I’ve been in Japan for almost four years now and I still turn to BAB whenever something here throws me for a loop! With the number of challenges facing someone new to Japan, learning Japanese might not be the highest priority for some people at first, but to those who plan on living here for more than a few months I strongly recommend getting around to it sooner rather than later. If you only
speak English, you severely limit yourself when it comes to meeting people and trying new things, and you might encounter more frustration than you’d like when trying to accomplish a basic task. Let’s face it, you can’t blame Japanese people for not being able to understand your English when Japanese is the national language! And it really isn’t as daunting as it sounds to learn— just ‘study’ whenever you have a minute here and there; like on the train. I learned most of my kanji by standing near the colourful, convoluted train line maps over the doors during my daily commute and had hundreds of characters memorised before I even realised it. If listening is what you need to work on but you spend all day speaking English at work, just listen to a Japanese conversation CD in the car or eavesdrop whenever you’re sitting near a noisy group of chatting schoolgirls or obachans. How can members contact you? Just send an email to my BAB address (aiko@ being-a-broad.com) or look for the girl chowing down in any shop or cafe where taro BAB pies are sold!
Special Event Listing: Sunday April 26: Introduction to Yoga—a special class for BAB Members: If you’re curious about yoga but prefer to try it in a low-key, relaxed setting and with like-minded broads, then why not come along to a special sample class with Rajay Mahtani, just for BAB members? Join us on Sunday April 26, 6–7:30pm, as we get to-
gether with some new friends to try a yoga lesson together. This is a great opportunity to sample an easy and gentle class for beginners, where we can have a pre-dinner, relaxing experience before the busy week ahead! Rajay is creating a special class just for us, held in a large tatami, zen-like room at the Azabu Civic Centre in Roppongi. With relaxing music and simple breathing exercises, she will guide us
through the first steps of yoga. All mats and equipment are provided and the class is open to women of all nationalities. This class is provided at the very special rate of just ¥1,000. Space is limited to just 16 people so please sign up quickly by emailing Rajay directly at email@example.com. You can find out more about Rajay and her usual classes at www.rajay.org.
BAB Reps are women around Japan who have been invited to join the BAB team, lending help, providing support, distributing the magazine, and generally promoting the BAB network. Here, we introduce our Okinawan Rep: Aiko. For more information, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Being A Broad April 2009
our cover girl
LOU McLEOD OF TIP’S OLIVER! Cover photography by Kerry Raftis
Full name: Lou McLeod Age: 27 Nationality: Australian Grew up in: Brisbane Time in Japan: six and a half years Japanese level: intermediate Works at: Awashima Kindergarten/Juku school;World Family Club Why did you come to Japan? I learnt Japanese at high school and went on the school trip around Japan, which I loved. The opportunity came up to visit again just after I graduated from university. I stayed with some friends who were expatriated here and I’ve been in Tokyo ever since.
How do you manage to balance everything in your life? Many would argue that I don’t. Usually my life is jam-packed because I love taking on projects, but there are periods every now and then where things die down a little and that helps to balance my life. Most of my projects are ever-changing, which keeps things interesting. I don’t think I could do a job where every day is the same. What do you do to relax? Relax? Gee, I’d have to think back…I used to read a lot, I need to do that more. My favourite genre is fantasy, because I like to leave reality behind when I read and lose my way in someone else’s world. I also own a fair number of DVDs, so that’s my down-time. Usually once a week I’m hanging out at my favourite bar with friends in Shinjuku. Best thing about being a foreign woman in Japan? We’re already stared at to a degree, so you can really be yourself, ‘cause you can’t get any weirder to the average person on the street. I really like to embrace my thespian side! I wouldn’t be half so brave in Australia.
A Day in the Life: Since my nights end late, I’m not an early riser. Usually I’m up around 8:30am. If I have my act together, I’ll go to the gym before heading to work to write the curriculum for the new term of English classes I teach in Shimokitazawa.Then I teach from 3pm to 6pm. If I’m not in the middle of a theatre production, I go straight to my other job—singing to Japanese children on the phone, which goes until 9:30pm. I have Mondays and Fridays off during the day, which is when I catch up on housework and cooking or try to get ahead in my projects. When I’m involved in a show, I’ll have rehearsal from 5 or 6 until 10pm weeknights and all day most weekends. It’s time consuming and unpaid, but it’s what I love and rather fulfilling in that way. After that I go home or out on the town, I usually end up getting to sleep around 2am.
image: Kerry Raftis/www.keyshots.com
Why do you stay in Japan? I think I would be bored silly if I lived my whole life in Australia. In your native tongue, life is easy and work is difficult. Here work is straightforward and it’s life that’s challenging. I like that difference. Being involved in Tokyo International Players and World Family, I found many of the people I now consider my best friends (and big brothers, bless them—they do like to look after me), so I can’t imagine leaving any time soon. In Japan I can cover my two loves—children and theatre. I’ve had four jobs over six years teaching English to children in some capacity and I’m still really enjoying it. Theatre has been a part of me since I was little and apparently I sang as much as talked at a young age (which I understand was all the time). I thrive in a production, no matter what I’m doing. For TIP I’ve worn nearly every hat possible, from acting and singing to stage managing to directing. When I agreed to direct Oliver! people thought I was crazy to want to work with so many children, but I think it’s great. I’ve found so much talent here; it’s amazing what some of these bright young stars are capable of.
’ve found so much talent here, it’s amazing what some of these bright young stars are capable of.
WOMEN OF THE WORLD
compiled by Danielle Tate-Stratton
Ed. note: While not intentional, it just so happens that many of the stories making the news this month were largely about pregnancy and birth— perhaps everyone is out breeding for spring! We plan to be back to the usual variety next month.
In mid-March, a group of Saudi clerics urged the new information minister in Saudi Arabia to ban women from appearing on TV and in newspapers and magazines, as well as banning them from playing music or appearing on music shows on TV. Ultimately, the recommendations are likely to have little effect, but do show some of the limits placed on women in that country.
Researchers in the UK have found a protein entitled kisspeptin, which they have linked to reproductive hormones in women, suggesting that there might be a link between this and fertility. The hormone, which was previously linked with repressing metastasis in cancer and also puberty, has now been initially used to increase the amount of the luteinizing hormone and folliclestimulating hormone essential to fertility. This is a positive step towards helping women who are suffering from fertility difficulties.
A study from the UK has shown that girls do better in single-sex comprehensive schools as compared to those who attended mixed-sex schools. The study looked at Key Stage 2 and GCSE scores from over 700,000 girls and found that, especially for those who did badly at primary school, an all-girls school led to more success. A similar study in Israel showed that in mixed-gender classes where there was a higher proportion of boys, all students performed more poorly, while performance among all students improved as the proportion of female students rose.
Researchers from Rhode Island have found that, despite the possible risk to an unborn-fetus, the rates of CT and MRI imaging in pregnant women have risen over the past ten years, rising at a rate of ten percent yearly and nearly doubling overall. CT scans have increased by approximately 25 percent per year, and while the scans are usually used to detect life-threatening conditions and generally not in the area of the fetus, there are still concerns that the radiation, even in trace amounts, could be harmful to the child later on.
image: Peta Williams
A 78-year-old woman in Long Island, New York helped police catch a 20-year-old man who robbed her 49-year-old daughter at gunpoint in a parking lot. A witness alerted police and the woman pursued the man until the police were able to catch up with the man, who has also been charged with three earlier armed robberies.
A Samoan woman gave birth to a baby during a flight from Samoa to Auckland, New Zealand, and chose not to tell anyone of the event, instead leaving the baby in a trash receptacle in the plane’s bathroom. In the airport she was later detained and reunited with her baby; both were taken to hospital and, as of late March, charges were being considered again her.
A bill under consideration by state lawmakers in Florida would require all women to undergo an ultrasound prior to having an abortion. The bill is being pushed by Republican politicians who say they want to provide women with more information about the decision they are making. The requirement could be waived for those who are victims of rape, incest, or domestic violence, while critics say that since many rapes go unreported, women could still be forced into an ultrasound where legally they wouldn’t be required to get one.
Mukhtar Mai, a Pakistani woman who was gang raped in 2002 on the order her village council has overcome the typical stigma related to rape in Pakistan to marry, recently wedding the policeman originally assigned to her case. Whereas Pakistani rape victims often commit suicide, Mai overcame her experience to write an autobiography and currently runs several schools as well as an ambulance service and a women’s aid group in her village.
According to statistics released in March; 2007 saw the highest number of births recorded in the US—ever. There were 4.3 million births recorded that year, up about a percent from 2006.
Michigan State University researchers have shown that women who are exposed to higher levels of the insecticide DDT as fetuses have a higher risk of being obese later in life. Those with the highest levels of DDE, a derivative of DDT, were some 20 pounds heavier than those with the lowest levels. While DDT was banned by the US government several years ago, it is still prevalent in the environment, especially in certain types of fish.
A 43-year-old cleric in Indonesia, Pujiono Cahyo Widianto, has been detained on charges of violating child protection laws by marrying a 12-year-old girl. Widianto claims he did nothing wrong as he planned to wait to consummate the marriage until the girl was of legal age. The cleric previously claimed he would also marry a sevenyear-old and a nine-year-old, angering many in the country including the secretary general of the national commission for children’s rights. Five-year-old Jasmine Mirza became the first child in the UK to receive organ transplants from both her parents when she received part of her father’s liver after going into liver failure at the age of seven months, and, in October 2008, one of her mother’s kidneys after the anti-rejection drugs caused her kidneys to become damaged. She is now doing well enough to return to school. Scientists at Canada’s McGill University in Montreal have, for the first time, developed a way to harvest a woman’s immature eggs (oocytes), allow them to develop in a lab, deep freeze them, and then use them for eventual conception. As the 15-year anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda nears, an organisation called Indego Africa is helping women there to emerge from poverty as well as help their community. The group works to pay a fair wage to some 250 women for handicrafts they have created, taking 100 percent of the profits and reapplying them to BAB long-term training programs. Being A Broad April 2009
THE LITTLE THINGS
WE LOVE IN JAPAN
a. I love Book 246 Cafe in Minami-Aoyama. I haven’t come across too many fusion concept venues in Tokyo like this one, so I truly appreciate the idea of a restaurant and bookstore in one. Plus, the food is well portioned and the heated patio is fantastic for small, casual gatherings, day or night!—UN
b. I really love Stella McCartney beauty products, especially the Absolute Rose perfumes and shower gel that are all organic. I love them even more after reading online that they are “Inspired by Stella’s personal philosophies, clear vegetarian principles, and commitment to help protect the environment!”—UN
c. I love Salonpas aerosol spray. After running 26 miles every muscle in your body aches. By spraying this on your sore calves and quads there is an instant drop in skin temperature giving an immediate cooling effect and stopping any swelling and relieving any muscle pain. Had I known about this sooner I could have spared myself from torturous ice baths…brrrr.—AD
d. I love Paddy McGinty’s in Niseko, Hokkaido. Though located in northern Japan, this Irish pub is exactly what you might expect from a local in the land that brought the world Guinness and is an ideal place to take a break from the incredible powder Niseko is famous for. Menus are in English, portions are generous and well-priced, everyone speaks English, and the TVs feature snow sports to inspire you when back out on the slopes. www. paddymcgintysirishpub.com—NW
e. One of the things that confuses me about Japan is how a country so technologically advanced can be so lacking in free wireless hotspots as compared to Canada or the US. My favourite place to do any work is in a busy coffee shop, but since I need to get online most of the time, it’s often far harder to do that here than at home.That’s why I love the Espresso Americano cafe in Roppongi Hills. Not only is the cafe surprisingly large, it’s comfortable, has good food, and—you guessed it—free wifi for patrons. Not only that, but they’ve partnered up with Aoyama Book Center to provide a library of (largely in-English) art and design books (mostly published by Phaidon), perfect for inspiration or to savour over a cup of coffee. www.espressoamericano. com—LW
f. I love B-Pump 2, a bouldering (rock climbing at a low-enough height that you don’t need harnesses) gym in Yokohama.They speak enough English to get you started and the whole atmosphere is very friendly—don’t be surprised if a better climber than you shows you the best way to complete a problem (route to the top). A great workout at a reasonable price! www. pump-climbing.com/html/gym/bpump.html.—NW Do you have a ‘little thing you love in Japan?’ If the answer is yes, email 50–150 words about it plus a picture to: email@example.com so we can share it with all the other broads reading BAB.
by Marilyn Klein
While the spring is gorgeous here in Japan, the warmer months and eventually that dreaded humidity of summer can be hard on skin, especially for foreign women who may not know where to go to buy products suited to their complexions or for those new to Japan and unsure of how to combat the unique stresses of summer in this city. To help all of us out, Marilyn Klein of well-known day spa Boudoir provides some of her favourite tips and products to make the transition into the warmer months as pleasant for our skin as it is for our minds.
Full Steam Ahead: Deep cleaning the skin will revitalise complexions and shift impurities. Aim to steam your skin once a fortnight or once a week if you have a problem skin. Boil a kettle of water then pour the steaming water into a heat-resistant bowl. Place a towel over your head and so it covers the bowl. Aim to have your head at least ten centimetres away from the bowl. Remain like this for three minutes. Try adding essential oils or herbal extracts to the water. image: Kateryna Govorushchenko
Mask It: For best results try slathering on a facemask after steaming your face. If you don’t have time to steam, then place a very hot face cloth over your skin to prepare if for the application of the mask. Our favourite mask is Guinot Mask Essential Nutri Confort. This mask contains rosemary, lavender, and thyme and is suitable for all skin types. Use twice a week and see how much more radiant and hydrated your skin will be.
Don’t Sleep On It: It is essential to remove your makeup before going to bed each night. It can take up to 25 days for the skin to naturally rid itself of makeup and impurities.
Kissable Lips: Lips have three to five layers of skin compared to the rest of the body, which has fifteen. Use a lip balm daily to protect your lips but be careful of petroleum-based balms; although effective they can be addictive as the lips become accustomed to the ingredients and you’ll need to constantly re-apply the product to reap the benefits.
D-Solve It: If using a cream cleanser, massage it into your skin and leave it for a minute. This will help to allow makeup to dissolve. Remove the cleanser with a facecloth or cotton wool. Always remember to cleanse twice for best results.
Seasonal Beauty: Adapt your skincare routine to suit the season. During the hotter summer months you may find that you will need a lighter, oil-free moisturiser. As your skin becomes drier in winter you’ll probably switch to a creamy cleanser and a richer moisturiser.
image: Kateryna Govorushchenko
Eye-Eye Captain: The skin surrounding the eyes is very delicate and susceptible to the visible signs of aging so it’s essential to protect and hydrate properly. Opt for eye-care products enriched with sun-protectors during the day and reparative at night.
Want some more tips or to book an appointment with the pros? Get in touch with Boudoir online at www. boudoirtokyo.com or tel. 03-3478 5898. Say “no” to petroleum-based lip balms. Being A Broad April 2009
TIPS FOR BLACK HAIR
CARE IN JAPAN by Takara Swoopes Bullock
of The Room 806, a popular black hair salon located in Roppongi, “When some black women first arrive to Japan, stress-levels are very high.They don’t realise that this may cause some changes in your hair.” Be mindful that if your hair care regime was faulty before coming here, living in Japan will certainly exacerbate the problem. When speaking with Jane Nosa of Lady Jane Hair Fashion (also my braider) she explained, “I receive many calls from women who are panicking about their hair. Dry hair is often a complaint for many black women in Japan. Using the right shampoo and conditioner is very important. I do not recommend for black women to use shampoo created for Japanese hair. Using the right products is very important here.” Most stylists agree that first, women should seek the assistance of their stylist from home before coming to Japan.This is important because they are most familiar with your hair condition. But where can one go to seek professional advice on black hair care in Japan? There are several salons located in Tokyo and near army bases that cater to providing services for black hair. The Room 806 located in Roppongi is a popular place and is often the first stop for most new to Japan. Mr. Lee explains “Most customers comment, ‘This feels just like home!’ when they enter our salon.” Located on a side-street in Roppongi, The Room 806 provides services for black hair as well as Japanese hair, which include: wash and set, relaxer and style, hair braiding, barber services, and loc maintenance, among others. “We employ both Japanese and foreign stylists who are experienced in black hair. The needs of black hair are very different. The most common mistake is trying to do your own hair and waiting too late to have someone help you,” explains Lee. Another place is New Sanno Hotel’s Beauty Salon, the stylist’s name is Ichiro, and he is experienced in hair relaxers and wash and sets for black hair. For those women seeking a place to purchase black hair care products there are online resources available, which include Foreign Buyers Club and Amazon.com. You may also purchase products locally at The Room 806. There are also several independent stylists who frequent Japan for hair-care and stylists visits as well as braiders residing in Tokyo. A new resource created to connect customers with hair stylists is Black Hair Guide Tokyo, a website dedicated to answering the question, “Where can I have my hair done in Japan?” www. BAB blackhairtokyo.com.
aintaining a healthy hair routine can be a challenge for any woman living in a foreign country, and this is especially true for black women residing in Japan.The differences and demands of maintaining black hair have created a multi-billion dollar industry for products, salons, and stylists. However, access to those products, salons, and stylists in Japan is extremely limited. As a result, black women in Japan often feel at a loss when it comes to maintaining their hair, as brittle and breaking hair along with dry scalp are common complaints among those living in Japan. Hopefully this article will provide useful tips for black hair care in Japan, as well as shed some light on where to go and who to call for your hair needs. During my first three months in Japan, I learned a very valuable hair care lesson. On a cold and snowy day in Sendai, I was sitting in my apartment and I noticed that my once healthy and full crown of natural hair was suffering from dryness. My previously easy-tomanage, twisted Afro had become a dry and dwindling tangled mess atop my head. I tried shampooing, conditioning, and moisturising, but nothing seemed to work. I searched frantically for a black hair stylists, (while wearing hats and scarves in the interim) and after having my hair braided in Tokyo, I vowed to only wear braids during the remainder of my time residing in Japan. I have been a loyal customer to my braider for the last three years. The lesson learned was: special attention must be paid to your hair. That is my unfortunate story of attempting hair care in Japan and it’s a story that is all too common for many black women living in Japan. Braiding is often a popular choice for many black women in Japan because it can be easy to maintain and it does not require a lot of time. However, braiding your hair doesn’t have to be your only option while you reside in Japan. With a little investment of time to find the right products and the right stylists, you can enjoy the same hair you had back home. First, there are some major elements that must be factored in when establishing a hair care regime here. You must consider the effects that the environment, stress, your diet, and hair products may have on your hair. I spoke with several black hair stylists here in Tokyo who explained that the same rules apply to Japan, just like at home. In order to achieve and maintain healthy hair in Japan, you must pay attention to the elements listed above. Changes in stress-levels as well as diet can be one cause of dryness and brittle hair. According to Mr. Lee Marshall, manager
tip: Before coming to Japan, speak with your hair stylist about your plans and ask for their recommendations for products and a regular hair routine and bring at least two months’ worth of hair-care products. tip: If you have locs, avoid products like bees wax and hair gel, which attract dirt. Instead, use natural oils like jojoba oil or shea butter for your scalp. There are several stylists in Tokyo skilled in maintaining locs. tip: For relaxed hair, deep conditioning and leave-in conditioners are highly recommended. Also, though box perms are popular, having your hair professionally relaxed is always a better option. Also, avoid braided styles immediately after having your hair relaxed. tip: For braided hair, it’s important that you do not keep your braids in too long. It’s tempting to do so here, however the damage to your hair can be major. It’s recommended that hair be re-braided every eight to ten weeks. Also cornrows and braids that are too tight can be damaging to your hair follicles. Braiding should not be painful. tip: For natural hair—keep your hair protected and apply light oil to prevent dry scalp. Wash and deep condition your hair regularly. tip: For women experiencing a lot of breakage in their hair, stay away from the relaxer and refrain from using a lot of heat. Find a hair conditioner and oil that works with your hair. tip: If you are experiencing hair problems, you should seek a professional before major damage happens. For more information or a stylist in Tokyo: • The New Sanno Hotel 03-3440-7871 ext. 7178 • The Room 806 03-5545-4325 • Lady Jane Hair Fashion 090-1848-3331
A MIND by Gabbi Bradshaw
I decided to see the vaginas as the great photographer I could have been.
hen my classmate from high school emailed and asked if I would like to get together when she visited Tokyo, I was intrigued. It had been 20 years since I saw her at graduation. What made her look me up? I vaguely remembered what she looked like: tall, lean, and with coal black hair. More importantly, I remembered who she hung out with. The drama people. After 20 years, the social boundaries didn’t exist anymore. I was flattered she found me in the reunion booklet and was interested in seeing her. I offered for her and her husband to stay with me in my 1R. Her husband’s a photographer and was interested in an exhibit that was closing the night of their arrival. She sent me the Japanese website; my assistant translated it for me. Jet lagged, we followed the map down the winding, narrow road and stopped in front of Swamp. Funky. I can do funky. Climbing the narrow and steep wooden stairs to the third floor was harrowing and reminded me of old farm houses from my childhood. In my stilettos, I navigated the stairs with caution. Stepping into the bare room, the artist stood at a wooden table playing LPs. My friend’s husband grabbed his hand, shook it frenetically, and took his photo. I like photography. It is the one art I can do well. In high school, I won a ‘gold key’ award. I remember the afternoon when my voyeuristic
photography. While my friends babbled about his website, I browsed the gallery. A large photo commanded my attention. A vagina. A woman with a vagina. A naked Japanese woman with her finger touching her vagina. Her clitoris. Out of politeness, I looked away. I turned to the left. Another vagina. I was surrounded by vaginas. I flushed and wondered who the hell I had staying with me. No wonder it was in an attic of an old Japanese house in the middle of nowhere. Click. Click. Click. The photographer
e pointed at the streak of black and splash of pink and told his precious, sweet granddaughter, “This is life.” teacher held up a photo he found in the developing tray and asked, “Whose is this?” It was a black and white print of a bike rack in the snow. The textures were well-defined and the lighting was perfect. It was mine. Do I claim it and be ridiculed? Do I admit that I forgot my name? Had I committed the forbidden photography sin and printed something that wasn’t paper worthy? Gulp. But I’m a good student. I raised my hand and my ‘Oh Great Artist and Football Star Worshipped by All Male Teachers’ boyfriend rested his hand on my shoulder for support. “Gabbi? This is yours?” he questioned. I nodded my head. “It’s awesome. I want to blow it up, mount it, and enter it in the state contest.” I was embarrassed. One: he seemed shocked that I could produce such talent. Two: I immediately became the teacher’s pet. Since then, I’ve had a special interest in
snapped shots of me. Without my permission. What was he going to do with these photos? Was he thinking of my vagina? I felt violated. I gave him my ‘don’t feck with me face,’ and he stopped shooting me. I wondered what my secretary thought. Would I be fired for going to porn shows? My friends oohed and aahed over the vaginas. Thank God there were a few photos of men in clothing. I pretended to be interested in those. My friend’s husband told the porn prince he was a genius. In his excess enthusiasm, we were invited to the rooftop. I hoped for champagne and cashews, but a slide show was projecting on the wall. Enlarged vaginas. No cashews. And definitely no champagne. I slouched in my chair praying that I didn’t see any of my clients or colleagues as they passed on the Chuo Line that rattled past at rooftop level. I was trapped on the roof with two people I didn’t know, a Japanese photographer who liked
vaginas, and a situation I was forced to face: my own close-mindedness. If a bike rack could be award winning, why couldn’t a vagina? I decided to see the vaginas as the great photographer I could have been. I noticed the lighting, the design, and the layout. And I focused on the themes of beauty and vitality. I sighed. Afterwards, my friend’s husband said, “I wonder if the Japanese have a different view of nudity than Americans?” I thought about how confined Japanese women were. Covering their mouths when they laughed. Doing the laundry, cooking, and child rearing while their salaryman entertained mistresses. But then I thought about the onsen. And wondered too. Monday morning, I shuffled over to my assistant and said, “Guess what the art exhibit was about?” “Naked women,” she smiled. “You read about it on the website?” “No. I figured it would be.” We chatted about how, indeed, naked women in Japanese culture were things of beauty not sex. We discussed the dichotomy of American society. The promiscuousness and yet conventionality. Exploited not appreciated. My assistant then spoke about how when she was a little girl her grandfather, a Buddhist monk, showed her the art work on the washi doors. Doors that she still walked through as a woman. He pointed at the streak of black and splash of pink and told his precious, sweet granddaughter,“This is life.” Beauty not sex. Appreciated not exploited. A new meaning of life. One that I was now BAB open to. Being A Broad April 2009
TOKYO JAUNT by Amy Dose
On March 22, 2009 some 35,000 runners started the third annual Tokyo Marathon.
image: Danielle Tate-Stratton
sports & fitness
A 26.2 MILE
eptember 2008: 26.2 miles (or 42.2km), 4.5 to 5 hours of nonstop running, yes, please sign me up on the dotted line! Having never run a marathon before in my life, I thought it would be facetious of me if I signed up to run the 2009 Tokyo Marathon. I read that over 300,000 people apply to run and only 35,000 are chosen through a lottery system, so I assumed my chances of getting picked are pretty slim. One, I am American and two, I had never run one before in my life. If and that’s a huge if I got chosen, then it must have be fate, but what were the chances, right? November 2008: Oh s*%!, I got a spot! After the initial shock had worn off I realised I needed a plan and a pretty good one at that. I went to a running clinic on the Yokosuka base and listened to past runner’s tips and advice of how to prepare and what to expect for the marathon. We received a 16-week training schedule and the anxiety started to creep in. Not only was I was intimidated by everyone else’s experience but the majority agreed that eight miles was like a jaunt in the park. By week ten, I was supposed to be running sixteen to twenty miles and that’s
or tweaks to the training. I was set! Bring on the miles! Every Sunday a running group on my base meets at 8am sharp for the ‘long run.’ As beneficial as a group like this may be, I only did one run with them as we ended up running at different paces and 30 minutes later I ended up running on my own anyways; but it would be a
ow on earth am I, a casual runner who thinks H three to five miles is plenty, going to possibly run twenty miles, let alone twenty-six??!!
great idea if someone was actually running my pace. We ran a great route down to Zushi beach and back, taking us through the winding side streets and neighbourhoods of Zushi. January 2009: Training is going well; I’m actually having fun with it. The long runs were at first challenging, but now I look forward to them. It’s me time. I don’t run with an iPod, I prefer to run with my thoughts. My feet hurt and my legs are sore, but with no major injuries, I think I am getting good at this. Sometimes my husband joins me on the shorter runs or leaves me halfway into my long one. It’s a great bonding time together and he pushes me to run a little faster than normal.
mean, how many runners can say, “When Isomething I run, I can see Mt. Fuji in the distance?” It’s I will always remember. February 2009: It’s so cold outside that I would rather stay curled up under those warm covers than go running out in the cold, sometimes rain, and wind that can be so miserable. However, once I get myself out of bed and hit the road, it isn’t so bad. I remember running down to Zushi beach and seeing Mt. Fuji, so clear with its snow peak, and felt so fortunate that this is my running scenery. I mean, how many runners can say, “When I run, I can see Mt. Fuji in the distance?” It’s something I will always remember. Running has allowed me to explore neighbourhoods I never knew existed. I run by marinas, little local fish shops, small tucked away temples, gardens growing along the side of a busy
the most memorable: Asakusa Kannon Temple. The last three miles were the most grueling and I felt like my legs would give out at any time. I would have done anything to just stop and walk, but I figured it would be even harder to get going again, so I trudged on...with two kilometres left I could taste victory and wished for the finish line to just appear miraculously before me…With one kilometre to go I rounded the corner and to my right were bleachers of people cheering us on and I could see the finish line. Immediately a wave of emotion came over me, my throat tightened, and I literally had to tell myself to calm down and take some deep breaths. I was not about to fall apart then! As I crossed the finish line another wave of emotion came over me: relief, pride, disappointment (of not being to share this moment with my husband, away with his ship), and sheer exhaustion. Looking back it was a great experience and something I will BAB always remember. image: Amy Dose
in one day! Week twelve had me doing twenty miles! How on earth am I, a casual runner who thinks three to five miles is plenty, going to possibly run twenty miles, let alone twenty-six??!! December 2008: I befriended an experienced runner, Kelly, through the running clinic on Yokosuka base. When she asked me what time I wanted to finish in I replied,“I just want to finish.” She then encouraged me to give myself a goal and helped calculate a reasonable and achievable time, 4 hours and 30 minutes; a 10-minute mile. She set me up with a great training schedule, I bought a Garmin watch from her that would log my mileage, time, pace, and heart rate, and knew she would be available for any questions
street, train stations that are five to ten local stops away; it’s an adventure and so liberating to just run. March 2009: It’s taper time. For the past 12–13 weeks I have been training my body to run anywhere from 25–35 miles a week. Now that my body has been conditioned to do so, it is time to slow it down, let the muscles heal, and decrease mileage as to prepare for marathon day. I can’t believe I have just a few weeks to go. Will I be ready? March 23, 2009: I did it! 4:46! I am so sore and limping around like…like I ran 26.2 miles yesterday! It was grueling and exhilarating! There were hordes of runners and it took nearly half an hour to even get to the start line. I spent the first hour running around people and trying to find runners that matched my pace. Spectators lined both sides of the street and kept yelling “gambatte” and hitting together their balloon noise makers as I passed towering buildings, small temples, the Imperial Palace, Tokyo Tower, and
FOR OUR AGING PARENTS OVERSEAS by TELL Clinical Director Linda Semlitz MD
ur worry about aging parents overseas, combined with feelings of guilt about ‘not being there,’ can generate a high degree of anxiety. In our competing roles as a mother, wife, daughter, and often career woman, we can feel pulled in multiple directions. As long distance caregivers, we often feel compelled to choose between either ‘being there’ for parents or ‘being here’ for our nuclear family. We may find ourselves ‘sandwiched’ between school-age children in our host country and growing responsibility for frail, elderly parents in our home country. The conflict between ‘being there’ and ‘being here’ can magnify caregiver stress and the incidence of stress-related conditions. While living in Hong Kong, my father was hospitalised with a sudden and unexpected lifethreatening condition. I jumped on a flight and spent the next two weeks caring for my father and his wife who was also ill. My school-age children remained behind and my husband did his best, although his job required frequent travel. I also worked full-time. As worried as I was about my father, I felt as if I had abandoned my children, my husband, and also my responsibilities at work. Although I was able to plan a series of visits by siblings to monitor my father and his wife, I felt in my heart that our plans were inadequate. I was incredibly stressed, torn, and felt both helpless and alone. —Anonymous expat woman For employed women, work performance and career can suffer, even when the focus of worry is the parent of the non-working spouse. Concentration on the work at hand is jeopardised and judgment can be impaired by worry and anxiety. Absenteeism due to emergency trips abroad can disrupt schedules and teamwork. An executive at the peak of her career may feel there is no choice but to opt for early repatriation or even early retirement in order to return ‘home’ to handle an out-ofcontrol parent care situation. My mother was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer while I was living in Singapore. I found myself travelling back and forth to the US trying to support her care. When I was in Asia, I felt disconnected, which caused me great stress. I worried about who would be her advocate in the complex medical care system. If I had an elder care manager, I would have felt that someone was my lifeline to supporting her and communicating with me. —Anonymous expat woman Through clues picked up during phone conversations with our parents and from firsthand observation during home leave, expatriates can begin to notice signs that their parents ‘back home’ have begun the inevitable journey into old age. Deep down we know that, at some point,our parents will probably need help and that we may
be the ones called on to direct parent care. We sense that it would be prudent to make some arrangements in advance, but don’t know when or where to begin. It is never too early to begin planning ahead, but overnight it can become too late. What happens when there are no plans and ‘the bottom falls out?’ The implications can be devastating for both the financial and emotional wellbeing of the family. An older person’s independent lifestyle is often maintained by applying successive bandaid solutions. One incident can end a parent’s independence and plunge the grown child into the role of parent caregiver: heart attack, stroke, a ‘turn-for-the-worse’ of a chronic illness, a cold or flu that turns into pneumonia, or even the injury resulting from a simple fall. What happens if a parent . . . • Who experienced the medical set back is the primary caregiver for his/her ailing spouse at home? • Has to go into a nursing home? • Has to spend several weeks or months in a rehab facility? • Cannot continue living in his or her place of residence? • Is disabled but can continue living in his/her place of residence? • Runs out of money? • Dies without a will or trust? It bears repeating: The implications of not planning ahead can be devastating for both the financial and emotional wellbeing of the family. While I was living in Singapore, my 67-yearold mother was hospitalised with complications from a chronic, deteriorating neurological condition and became comatose. Previously she had been at home with home health care covered by an excellent insurance plan but with her deterioration she required care in a nursing home and eventually hospitalisation. We didn’t anticipate that with placement in a nursing home would come new doctors with whom we didn’t have relationships. Without the guidance of the previous physician, the conversations with my family regarding the best decisions for my mother’s medical care were complicated by guilty feelings, accusations, and disagreements.What would Mom have wanted? It was too late for her to tell us. She died shortly thereafter. I never want to go through that again. —Anonymous expat woman People who do want to talk with their parents about plans for the future can run into barriers that stymie communication. For those of us with a dysfunctional family history, the best hope for effectively communicating with aging parents may be to do so in consultation with a skilled therapist. In their book Coping with
Your Difficult Older Parent: A guide for stressed-out children, Grace Lebow and Barbara Kane, both licensed social workers, use case stories to demonstrate how a therapist can help (available in English from Amazon Japan/available soon in Japanese translation). With the help of Tokyo-based Binocular Vision Advisors (www.binocvision.com), my eighty-year-old parents and I have chosen and privately engaged a geriatric care manager (a newly-emerging profession currently practiced primarily in Canada and the US). Although they are in relatively good heath, we all agreed that having someone on the scene that knew the local resources and could get to know them before there is a crisis would be a good idea. My brothers are extremely busy and live far away and I live in Japan. The geriatric care manager helped my parents to get organised and review financial information, update their living wills and durable power of attorney, and clarify their wishes in the event of illness. We also created an emergency plan. My father asked what would happen if my mother or siblings disagreed on his plans. I was able to confidently say that now that he had communicated his wishes clearly, it was the job of both our family and the geriatric care manager to do our best to carry out his wishes and not our own. He was relieved, I was relieved, and he knows his wishes and autonomy will be respected. BAB Tokyo English Life Line’s counselling staff can work with families to manage stress, determine the best path forward, and to help refer you to outside resources when appropriate. TELL, Binocular Vision Advisors, and Sojourn Japan have collaborated to offer a series of interactive workshops between April and December 2009, “How to Talk with Your Aging Parents.” These workshops are designed to teach grown children practical skills so that they and their parents can share life’s joys, dreams, hopes, fears, frustrations, and disappointments, and so that they can engage in effective communication about plans for the future as parents age. For more information: www.telljp.com. People who are not able to attend the workshop series but want to learn how to communicate more effectively with parents may wish to refer to the following two books, both available from Amazon Japan: How to Say It to Seniors: Closing the communication gap with our elders by David Solie and The Parent Care Conversation: 6 strategies for dealing with the emotional and financial challenges of aging parents by Dan Taylor. Being A Broad April 2009
EXPAT STRESS: CARING
Susan with one of the cats she helps.
of Japan Cat Network
Name: Susan Roberts Nationality: American Qualifications: BS in elementary school education with graduate work in special needs education. Job title: co-founder of Japan Cat Network, an NPO helping stray and abandoned cats Salary: volunteer Time in this job: nine years Job description: I generally spend at least two or three hours a day answering emails, tracking down information for people who need help with cat welfare issues, and updating our internet information. I also go out to help people trap wild cats for spay or neuter, spend days at festivals in our travelling cat petting enclosure, organise events and volunteer meetings, shop for shelter supplies, make trips to the vet, build cat houses, and help out with the shelter cats. Being one of the leaders means that I often have to fill in whatever gaps in available volunteer help that there are on any given day, especially as the work can have seasonal bursts. In the spring and summer seasons, when we have large numbers of kittens coming through the shelter, most of the days are spent either trying to keep them alive or their living spaces clean. Shortly after that, the focus becomes adopting them out to new homes. Fall and winter are good times for trapping wild cats for spay and neuter, as the difficulties related to mating are mostly absent. Of course, fund raising has to happen year round to pay for the rescue expenses and some of the trap, neuter, and return work in low income communities. General requirements: I have to feel comfortable communicating with people about their concerns and I think my teaching experience comes in handy for the part where we work on addressing those concerns. It’s necessary to take a balanced approach, which includes having a good deal of compassion for people and the cats, but also includes having to face hard facts practically. Beyond that, I think it requires faith and a sense of purpose in what the group is doing, which is what gets me through the rough patches. Japanese requirement: I’d have to say I’m under-qualified in this area. I’d like to have more time to improve my Japanese speaking and reading skills, as it would allow me to better track down available resources and to better interact with the Japanese animal welfare community. However, with only so many hours in a day and such an enormous amount of work to be done, I try to get by the best I can with the small ability I have. General conditions: Some days are better than others and working conditions can certainly be trying during the first stages of getting an organisation off its feet. When we first started the
group, we really had to do everything ourselves, which was often overwhelming. As we’ve become better at promoting the group, we’ve gotten more people willing to take on various roles in the organisation, making it easier for each of us to focus on specific aspects. How she found this job: We started the group because we had such great personal success helping the cats in our own community through TNR, a method of population control in which stray cats are trapped for neutering and returned to the location. I had never stepped foot in a shelter before coming to Japan and my husband had never had a pet in his life. However, we kept seeing very sad cases of sick and dying cats all over the community and we found this completely intolerable. After researching and deciding on TNR as the best plan, we got started, and, as I said, we were really happy with the results. Cats were healthier, looked better, were less annoying to neighbours, and were no longer reproducing. We realised that this could work all over Japan and we also thought about how much easier it would have been for us to get started if there had been a group that we could have gone to for support. Best thing: I really love getting pictures back from the new families who have adopted one of our cats. I love to see the people holding their new pets with such obvious affection on their faces, and I think of how far those cats have come. We find them as kittens, often left in cardboard boxes near dumpsters and with the trash. It’s hard for me to imagine that there are people in the world who could do this to a kitten, but when I see the grown cat, now happy and well cared for, I see the other side of the world. It’s also very rewarding to know that we’re helping people to prevent the birth and the resulting suffering of thousands of kittens every year. People often tell us that they really couldn’t have trapped or rescued cats without our help, that they are so grateful that we gave them the courage to get started. The days can be quite long but I sleep very well every night, knowing what an impact I am making everyday. Worst thing: Making choices. We are constantly evaluating situations regarding TNR and rescue projects, treatments for medical conditions, the time to say goodbye...many of these could go in various directions, depending on the choices we make, and sometimes it can result in a very unhappy ending. It’s hard not to blame myself for any negative outcomes and then think if only I’d done ‘whatever.’ But I’ve gotten better at picking myself up and moving on. It also helps to be able to call friends who are working in animal welfare and can identify with the ups and downs. Interesting stories: A volunteer, who has provided work and materials that have had an
image: Courtesy of Japan Cat Network
WORK PROFILE: SUSAN ROBERTS
incredible impact on our organisation, recently told us that she and her husband were led to us by their cat. She said that one of their cats had passed away and shortly after that she had a dream in which she saw her cat flying to our town.They lived about an hour away from us and wondered about the strange dream, so started researching what might be happening out our way, in relation to cats. Once they found out about our group, they decided that the message was to help us and they have been a really amazing support ever since. Issues affecting her as a woman: I do find that most of the people I admire in this field here are women. My husband seems to be an exception and I think we’ve both been able to bring unique perspectives to the effort, which has often been helpful in problem solving. Advice: Pick a side. You can be one of the many standing by while bad things are happening, thinking that you just don’t know what to do about it, and hoping someone else will take it on. Or you can be one of the many pitching in to find a solution. If it’s broken, there may be something you can do to repair it, so stand up and start looking around for the tools that you need to do the job. As the saying goes, you can’t do everything, but you can always do something. Once you decide you want to do something and then get started, you’ll find there are lots of other people who want to help, too. Don’t worry so much about what you think you might be capable of. I’ve heard lots of women say that they just didn’t know they had it in them until they tried—I think that about myself every day. Recommended resources: I found a wealth of resources online, from people who had started organisations very much like the one we were starting. It’s easy to think that the problem that you’re facing is entirely unique, but the more I looked around the more universal I found many of the issues we were hoping to resolve. It was very useful to look at similar rescue group’s sites to determine what I thought might also work for us and to read their blogs from time to time. I still do this often as it gives me a chance to look at something in print before I try it out on our website. Other jobs done in Japan: I have taught, and still teach, English full time. I enjoy being a teacher and think my experience in this field has been BAB really helpful to my volunteer work.
Please help my family find peace.
My name is Lindsay Ann Hawker
I was murdered in March 2007 and buried in a bath of sand on the balcony ofâ€‡ Tatsuya Ichihashiâ€™s apartment in Tokyo.
Ichihashi escaped from the police and still has not been found. If you have any information that may lead to his arrest, please call the Japanese police on 047-397-0110.
with photos by Phil McQueen
Tokyo International Players (TIP) has been putting on English-language community theatre productions in Tokyo for 112 years. This spring, they are putting on Oliver! the wellloved musical based on the book by Charles Dickens and adapted for stage by Lionel Bart. This volunteer-only production is a huge undertaking with some 65 cast members, plus crew. Not only are plenty of the females in the cast foreign, but so are the director (our cover girl Lou McLeod), Production Manager Frances Somerville, Music Director Katherine Cash, Choral Director Alice Poss, Assistant Director Davina McFayden, and plenty more! To get an idea of the women behind the show, several cast members share a few of their thoughts and goals.
Katherine Whatley, 14, Australian/ American, 12 years in Japan, chorus What is your least favourite part about being involved in theatre? Having to come back from rehearsals late at night on public transport. It takes me about an hour to get home so I get home at 10 or 11pm, which is late for a teenager. When did you start acting or being involved in theatre? My mum was a costumer for many productions so I have been around theatre since I was ten. I was first on stage when I was 13 and I have been working backstage since I was 12. If you could have any role in any production, what would it be and why? I would be Ophelia in Hamlet. I first saw a movie of it when I was 12, then I read some of the play, and for some reason it really stuck in my mind. Vladimira Kosickova, 35, one and a half years in Japan, chorus What brought you to Japan? Work. I work for the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Japan. If you could have any role in Oliver!, what would it be? Beth or Artful Dodger. If you could have any role in any production, what would it be? Evita.
Carmel Arcus, 30, British, seven months in Japan, Mrs. Sowerberry What is the best thing about being a foreign woman in Japan? One of the best things for me is how safe it is. I really feel relaxed walking around at night on my own. Plus the women-only cars [on the trains] are good too. What brought you to Japan? After living here for four years from 2000–2004, I really enjoyed the culture, food, and lifestyle and wanted to return. Last year I was given the opportunity to teach English and drama at a really good international school, so I suppose work and nostalgia brought me back. If you could have any role in any production, what would it be and why? I would love the chance to play Calamity Jane in the stage play of the musical. I feel that I have similarities with her character in being boisterous and clumsy; [it’s the] perfect part for me. Gemma Nokes, 30, British, four years in Japan, Widow Corney What brought you to Japan? I came here teaching English. In the UK, I took a TEFL course and everyone on it seemed to be coming to Japan so I thought,“Hang on. There’s something in that.” I started doing some research. I’d read Memoirs of a Geisha years before and loved the ‘old’ Japan so I thought ‘why not go and experience the ‘new.’ And here I am, still experiencing! What is your favourite part about being in the show? It’s the thrill of seeing the show evolve that I love. Everyone on and off stage doing their bit and seeing it all come together. With Oliver!, I love that my character is pure comedy, I plan on hamming it up! Food, Glorious Food is probably my favourite number in the show so I’m happy to be in that, slopping out the gruel! What is the best thing about being a foreign woman in Japan? Feeling safe wherever you go. Tokyo is a pretty safe city compared to the likes of London and New York. Naturally, as with any city, you need to have your wits about you but overall I feel it’s a safe place to be.
INTRODUCING THE WOMEN OF OLIVER! Catherine McAleer, 50, Canadian,19 months in Japan, Old Sally What goals do you have for your continuing time in theatre? After Oliver! is finished I hope to stay involved with TIP and work on future TIP endeavours. Eventually, when I return to my hometown of Morell, Prince Edward Island, Canada, I will participate in our Community School Drama Group and also audition for other roles at our Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown. This is just the beginning! Are there any particular challenges to being a foreign woman in Japan? I actually believe that I am no more ‘foreign’ here in Japan than I am in Canada! Of course, there is the language barrier here but I found out quickly that miming can transcend any language barrier. I believe that most people’s attitudes are simply a reflection of your own. I have found the Japanese people to be as open and friendly to helping ‘foreigners’ as any Canadian is in Canada. What excites you most about being involved in Oliver!? To be brave enough, at my age, to actually go on stage to act and be part of a real drama group of such wonderfully talented people. Every practice is exciting and even if I am not in the scene they are practicing, I love to go just to watch, learn, and be amazed that I was chosen for one of the parts. It is an awesome experience!
Diny Naus, 59, Dutch-born, New Zealand raised, almost three years in Japan, matron/chorus When did you start acting or being involved in theatre? About seven years ago. Someone suggested I audition for Jesus Christ Superstar back in my small town, Thames in NZ. I got in the chorus and that was it, I was hooked— the best way to get dopamine that I know of. How did you get involved with TIP? As soon as I arrived I got a season’s ticket to TIP and have been to every production since I got here to Tokyo. I’m so impressed, I’ve loved every production I’ve seen. What is your favourite part about being involved in theatre? Being involved in theatre is such a great outlet for my energies. It revitalises me and relaxes me. I love it!
feautre Lianne Hoffman-Smith, 12, ChineseAmerican, approximately seven years in Japan, Artful Dodger When did you start acting or being involved in theatre? I started being involved in theatre last summer, and this is my first real show, but I hope I can act a lot more. What is your favourite part about being in the show? My favourite part of being in the show is meeting new people and making friends. What is your least favourite part about being involved in theatre? Sometimes you have to cancel other important things to be in practice, so sometimes you miss a birthday party or a school event or have to stay behind on a vacation, but it’s worth it.
Emily McManus, 11, American, two years in Japan, chorus If you could have any role in Oliver!, what would it be? If I could have any role in Oliver! it would probably be the role I have right now, student chorus. Since it is my first big performance I have ever done, I think it’s better if I was a smaller part. What goals do you have for your continuing time in theatre? Goals I have for continuing in theatre are to do my best work in Oliver! and continue auditioning, and doing my best in other productions. If you could have any role in any production, what would it be and why? At the moment I know I would love to be in many future productions, but am not sure what character I would want to be.
Rebecca Bredin, 23, Canadian, ten months in Japan, the milk maid/chorus When did you start acting or being involved in theatre? When I was in grade three. I was in my first school play, playing Moira in Moira’s Birthday. Since then I’ve been hooked. I was in a few school plays and ended up becoming a member of the Brockville Operatic Society. How would you suggest another foreign woman get involved with a show? I did a Google search for Tokyo theatre and came up with this company and other pages. Just start sending emails to see what’s coming up and get involved. This city has such a strong theatre community. There is so much to see and get involved with. It’s well worth it. What goals do you have for your continuing time in theatre? I’d really like to make a career out of theatre here. It feels a long way off, but I’d really like to get involved in more theatre in any way I can. As my Japanese improves, hopefully more opportunities will follow!
Christine Vila, 32, Australian, six years in Japan, chorus What brought you to Japan? A sense of adventure! At the age of 25 I had never done the ‘travel thing’ high school graduates typically jump into in Oz. I didn’t have a huge amount of savings and so decided to look for a job in a country that I knew would be different from every other Western holiday destination I’d known. Japan fit the bill! If you could have any role in any production, what would it be and why? I would love to be any Jane Austen character in a staged production of any of her novels, simply for the chance to be transported back into a world of romance where ladies and gentlemen spoke with poetry and wit. How would you suggest another foreign woman get involved with a show? I recommend anyone with a love of fun, music, movement, and/or imagination to stay up-todate with theatre groups in Tokyo’s foreign communities. Jump into the first project you see that inspires you to take a risk—no matter what your talent or level of experience, no doubt that production will have a role for you!
Anastasia VanAllen, 36,American, six months in Japan, chorus Are there any particular challenges to being a foreign woman in Japan? It’s challenging finding clothes that fit a western figure properly. When did you start acting or being involved in theatre? As a child, my mother put me in commercials because I was painfully shy. What is your favourite part about being involved in theatre? I love being on stage and the energy a play creates. It’s also a great way to meet new people.
Toriya Walzer, 16, American/Israeli,16 years in Japan, chorus When did you start acting or being involved in theatre? I grew up with theatre as a large part of my life. I was influenced by my mother, who is an actress, director, and narrator, and who is very involved in the theatre world. I first got involved in a production about four years ago, where I was a stagehand for a play called Ooger’s Christmas. How did you get involved with TIP? I got involved in TIP about four years ago. Some of my school friends were cast in the show, Ooger’s Christmas. I didn’t want to be onstage as much and it was also more time consuming, so I decided to help out ‘behind the scenes.’ I found out that you can get a very different perspective from backstage as opposed to being in the audience. What excites you most about being involved in Oliver!? Many things excite me about being involved in Oliver!. I especially enjoy the singing and dancing and the energetic cast and crew members. It always seems to be a positive atmosphere and it lifts my spirits, so by the end I’m cheerful. I enjoy being able to act like someone completely different from myself, and this is my first time being onstage (apart from school productions). Anna Hook, British, Charlotte When did you start acting or being involved in theatre? I was nine years old when I played Verucia Salt in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. I loved it and decided I wanted to be in every school play after that. If you could have any role in Oliver!, what would it be? I play Charlotte in this
production and if I could chose I’d play her every time! I love playing comic characters and she is hysterical. There’s something in the way she talks to her mother that reminds me of how I was as a teenager! What is the best thing about being a foreign woman in Japan? It’s so refreshing to have some time back to get involved in theatre again! I work part time and love the variety that Japan offers. More time=more fun! Nancy Myers, 53, American, 24 years in Japan, chorus What is your favourite part about being in the show? The learning opportunities! Besides the fact that we will be presenting to audiences, this is like an extended workshop covering blocking, singing, and movement. Are there any particular challenges to being a foreign woman in Japan? Keeping in mind that a ‘challenge’ is an ‘opportunity’ in different dress. As a foreign woman, one can use one’s ‘foreignness’ or ‘femaleness’ to one’s advantage, or one can decide to be defeated by Japanese attitudes and stereotypes and fall silent and invisible. A double whammy, either way. Do you have any funny stories about being in Japan? I had lived in Japan for eight years and I was visiting my sister in Larchmont, NY in the summer, with my year-old son. I was sitting in the front yard with my son at dusk. A woman walked down the street, an Asian woman—but eight years in Japan had given me the instincts to recognise that she was Japanese. Involuntarily, I felt myself move into ‘Japanese mode,’ whatever that is: our eyes met and we did a slight eshaku (bow); and she walked on. Did she know I had spent a long time in Japan? It’s not a funny story as such but somehow it impacted me.
Eve Sneider, 12,American, 12 years in Japan, chorus What excites you most about being involved in Oliver!? I’m really excited to go backstage. I’m also excited about the costumes. What is your favourite part about being involved in theatre? My favourite part of being involved in theatre is meeting all the new people. It’s a great opportunity to interact with people outside of my school community. If you could have any role in Oliver!,
what would it be? If I could have any role in Oliver! it would be either the Artful Dodger or Nancy. The Artful Dodger is my favourite character but I really like Nancy too. They both have very vivid personalities.
Alyssa Beyer, 21, American, one year (July 2008–August 2009) in Japan, chorus How did you get involved with TIP? I needed to work in theatre in order to receive credit for my theatre major at my home institution. I applied to many theatre companies for a one-year internship and TIP responded with the most enthusiasm. How would you suggest another foreign woman get involved? Check out the website and send an email to the contact listed. Or check out the TIP website for what is going on during the season. Talking to someone who has been or is a part of TIP [is also a good idea]. What is the best thing about being a foreign woman in Japan? Meeting people from other countries and learning how Japanese women interact in society and media. Fashion is also a lot of fun.
Abby Sneider, 14, American,14 years in Japan, chorus What is your favourite part about being involved in theatre? I enjoy being able to perform something in front of an audience. What is your least favourite part about being involved in theatre? Staying out late at rehearsals. What excites you most about being involved in Oliver!? I really like the music and singing.
Aniella Sanchez, 24, American, one and a half years in Japan, Bet What brought you to Japan? I came here looking for independence and a different perspective. I was drawn to the sense of community inherent in Japanese culture and the token phrase that somehow never fails to motivate: “Ganbarimasu!” What is your favourite part about being in the show? The best part of the show is being able to meet and work with people from all over. You really get a sense of the international community that exists in Tokyo. How would you suggest another foreign woman get involved with a show? The best way to get involved in theatre in Tokyo is to keep your eyes and ears open! Look in the English publications for info and then just go audition or volunteer. TIP, especially, is always excited to see new faces. Also, join the stageboyjack mailing list. Patty McManus, 41, American, one and a half years in Japan, Mrs. Bedwin/chorus How did you get involved with TIP? I became involved in TIP after becoming friends with a woman who is a member of TIP. I initially encouraged my two daughters to audition for Oliver! and they, in return, encouraged me to audition. Now the three of us are happily a part of the Oliver! cast! What is your favourite part about being in the show? My favourite part about being in the show is getting to know all of the wonderful and talented people who make up the cast and crew. Along with this it is also an amazing experience being in a major production, here in Japan, with my two very special daughters. What brought you to Japan? My husband’s work brought my family and myself to Japan. When I learned of the opportunity to move to Japan I was thrilled. Kelly Haavaldsrud, 41, Canadian, 18 years in Japan, chorus What is the best thing about being a foreign woman in Japan? Freedom, autonomy; you can do what you like and no one disapproves. Are there any particular challenges to being a foreign woman in Japan? Finding a serious, committed relationship, having children, and finding clothes in the right sizes. What brought you to Japan? Backpacking BAB around Asia; I found work and stayed. Oliver! will be on from May 14–17 at the Theater Sun Mall in Shinjuku. Tickets are ¥2,500–¥4,500 and are selling fast, so book quickly! www.tokyoplayers.org Being A Broad April 2009
ISSUES by S.Z. Cairney
image: iStockphoto/ Chris Elwell
Do you reckon I can get away with this number?” I sigh while looking at the mirror, something I only like to do under strict lighting conditions recently. Perfume and the tinkling of glass against glass heralded Rosebuddie B’s entrance. “Oh, you look gorgeous,” she gushed, “and after a glass or two of this,” hoisting loftily a rather big bottle of something white, “you’ll feel gorgeous, too! Ermm, that’s if you don’t already of course.” She giggled taking a slurp, “Birthday girl.” Yes that’s me, birthday girl, only I don’t think ‘girl’ is an apt term. ‘Girl’ implies cheerleadingstyle bunches, pert boobs liberated under sheer t-shirts that would only wobble under the duress of an eight on the seismic scale, and a bum that doesn’t resemble the Arctic being ravaged by the effects of global warming.” Handing me a glass, “The big 40! How does it feel?” Rosebuddie leans in clandestinely. I take a large sip, hoping the liquor will aid my thought processes to acquire and articulate the gem of wisdom that turning forty is obviously supposed to inspire. I have heard of certain insects, ones normally found in deep Amazonian-type jungles that have a metamorphosis overnight. I’ve yet to hear of any documented accounts concerning humans, well, at least ones that weren’t drug or drink induced. “Anyways,” I smile to myself, “I’m not 40. I am 25 years old with 15 years’ experience under my belt!” Laughing Rosebuddie quips, “Nice one, sounds a lot better than being referred to
“Unmarried by 25, you’re like a Christmas cake thrown out on the 26th.”
“...but apparently...it’s been raised to 31, along with yet another wonderful expression: ‘New Year’s Eve Noodles!’
takoyaki or whatever!” The wine helped me to assimilate this information as I inwardly smiled at Rosebuddie’s attempts to make me feel better about turning 40. The fact is, I do feel good about it. According to official records I’ve only been 40 for 15 minutes or so anyway. Maybe my own metamorphosis hasn’t had a chance to kick in yet and if it does, I hope it kicks my butt first. I look at my old friend Face in the mirror and she smiles back.Yeah sure, the landscape has changed, most of it without city planning, but no plans to sue here. On the whole, I like what I see. I am a work in progress with all that has transpired in my life, etched by some invisible Leonardo, no Picasso for me please, onto a canvas that stands centre stage.
to go on overdrive when you get older. The nasal passages are sprouting it for England. My mum says the ears will get jealous and start a competition with the nasal team when nearing fifty. So much to look forward to! I can almost hear the screams as the cheerleading teams topple, their low-density bones breaking. Cheers Mum. Mum also has a theory about the ‘hair’ thingy too. She recently noticed that her tousled, flowing locks weren’t as tousled and flowing as usual. She reckons that gravity is to blame and is slowly pulling the hair from her head back down through the cranium where it now falls through the ears and/or nasal passages. However, it would seem that the medical world isn’t as excited about this concept as my mother. “Come on me matey,” chirps Rosebuddie, “taxi’s here!” I take one last look as she grabs my arm, pulls me down the stairs, and out into the brisk night air. “Konbanwa!” shrieks the granny from across the road, a ninety year old who prowls the streets inspecting the garbage and has been known to make grown men cry in terror. “Konbanwa,” we salute back in unison. “Be careful you don’t catch a cold,” she warns, eyeing our attire. “Thank you for your concern,” I smile. “You young ones,” she tut tuts, her eyes twinkling as she closes her gate. “I thought you were going to be interrogated,” laughed hubby waiting in the back. “Close call,” sighs Rosebuddie with relief, “I swear I could feel the heat of the spotlight. ‘You young things,’ she’s made my evening! Hey, did you know you share the same birthday as Kim Wilde? You know Kim Wilde of Kids In America, ‘80s I think! Weeellllll, she’s 44. She reckons the forties are a blast.Yeah, honestly, I read it in a mag just a few days ago. She’s a successful garden designer now, lives in the country. She said, and I quote, ‘Sometimes, I just garden in my knickers and platform shoes.’ No, seriously! I ain’t pulling your leg.” “What do you mean, don’t start giving her ideas, Hiro, she’s BAB a big gal now, she’s 40, you know.”
am a work in progress with all that has transpired IPicasso in my life, etched by some invisible Leonardo, no for me please, onto a canvas that stands centre stage.
as ‘Christmas cake’!” “Christmas cake?” I ask, lips eagerly pouting as I gloss. “Yeah,” confirms Rosebuddie, “You haven’t heard about it? You know they are really into this whole kawaii, or cute, look like a school gal thing over here.” I nod, remembering my surprise coated with a smidgeon of distaste at witnessing a mum in her late thirties tottering around a department store with her high school-age daughter, both talking in affected falsettos. After a few months, it became apparent that talking like a hamster that has its balls in a very tight vice is considered ‘attractive’ by some quarters. “Unmarried by 25, you’re like a Christmas cake thrown out on the 26th.” Smoothing down my dress, “Charming! Whatever happened to the Japanese concept of mottanai?” Silence framed the gulping down of essential fluids, “but apparently with all the falling birth rates, it’s been raised to 31, along with yet another wonderful expression: ‘New Year’s Eve Noodles!’ Anyway, everyone in the know knows that 40 is the new 30 these days! Noodles or
The lines around my eyes are because I smile and laugh a lot, a hell of a lot. Actually, I love being happy. I decided from a very young age that I was going to be happy, no matter what. No matter what lumps of malodorous globs might hit the fan through the years. I make it a resolution never to sign for any packages from Misery or her brother, the Doldrums.Though I’m not saying that they haven’t sneaked the odd one here and there in my suitcase from time to time. Ladies, you must always pack your own suitcase. I have a friend back home who has been obsessed with her appearance since she was in her twenties. I remember staying over one night at her place. She had all these creams and some kind of contraption that wrapped around her face, immobilising it and therefore apparently warding off wrinkles. She spent hours of every day worrying about what she was going to look like in the future, when she should have just been enjoying the present. I do like my ROC gear. Swear by it. Don’t like the way the hair seems
ARTISTIC PRESCHOOL by Poppy Calvert
all images: provided by TMISIJ.
Happy students at TMISIJ.
uietly nestled in south Tokyo, just ten minutes from Musashikoyama Station, the next great surgeons, artists, and performers are hard at work. A miniature doctor is sauntering around, stethoscope in hand, searching for his next patient to heal, whilst close by a pint-sized Picasso sets to work on his next great masterpiece. We have just entered Tokyo Musashikoyama International School. A preschool that prides itself on its serious curriculum with a twist. Principle Embrey Williams explains what it is that sets this school apart from the rest. “We provide our students with the opportunity to learn everyday practical life skills as well as to freely express their emotions and develop confidence, creativity, and a desire for exploration.” The word creativity here is key. Unlike most ordinary preschools, the performing arts play an integral part of the students’ stimulating daily schedule. The students use drama, dance, and music to make learning fun. “We are very proud to be known as a very friendly school that gives attention to detail to our students’ individual needs. I have a wonderful staff of dedicated professionals who do a great job of providing a safe, nurturing, and academically challenging school environment. We have a diverse student body. Students come from as far as India and as close as Korea. A year-round enrollment system helps to make new family’s transitions go smoother and there is even a limited scholarship programme.” Mrs. Ishiyama, whose daughter Akuya is attending the school explained to us why she chose TMISIJ. “I chose this school because the children have free reign and are not as restricted as they would be in a Japanese school.” “I have seen so many positive changes in Akuya since she joined the school. She has gained so much confidence. Her favourite day of the week is Friday because there are so many kids, making it an action-packed end to the week. She really does love it here.” The schedule at this action-packed school seems to leave no educational stone unturned. From ABC to 1, 2, 3 and from toothbrushing
to salsa dancing. A typical day begins with circle time, when the whole school gathers together to engage in a morning sing-song and to greet each other and their teachers. Then the students separate into three different groups, either Peaches, Cherries, or Grapes depending on their age, and discuss the time, date, weather, and other important current affairs! Next, a trip to the park is in order for some fresh air in preparation for the challenging day ahead. Each class engages in two periods of academic learning a day, with a break in the middle for recess and the said toothbrushing. Maths, science, social science, arts and crafts, and PE are taught using a variety of traditional and creative activities. Every now and then the
daughter and I to practice English together using the songs that the children use in their daytime classes.” Mommy’s English proves that this school isn’t just for kids! The moms come together to learn English through a mix of grammar and vocabulary lessons, free conversation, and even cooking and singing. The school also offers weekly Cuban-style salsa classes. These are so popular that Embrey has had to provide more classes for older, past students who didn’t want to give them up. Embrey prides himself on the huge range of extra-curricular activities that his school offers, so much so that he is strongly considering making performing arts an integral part of his school’s daily schedule. “I’m aiming to expand the school into a performing arts elementary school by slowly changing the curriculum. So as well as science, maths, and language, there will be an even stronger emphasis on music, drama, and dance. I want the children to be experimental with ballet, tap, rap, hip hop, and much more.” Research studies have shown that by exposing children to the performing arts we help them to improve their critical thinking skills and develop self confidence. After just a sneak
t is clear that the children at TMISIJ respond natIurally to music, dance, and drama. school has special activity days such as a cooking or movie day. Most recently, the students were taught Argentine tango; next month: jazz singing! The school day ends at 2pm, however the school is open until 6pm and arrangements can be made for working moms to have their children taken care of until this time. For those who can’t get enough, there is a special after-school enrichment programme allowing the kids and even parents to try out all kinds of unusual activities. Mrs. Nakawaki enrolled her son Kosuke (five) and her daughter Lisa (one) in the school after it was highly recommended by a close family friend. “The enrichment programme is a real bonus for our whole family. Every week Kosuke attends Kungfu kids.” Kosuke and many more kids attend the school’s Wing Chun Kung Fu classes (the base style of the late Bruce Lee) every week. The classes are taught in conjunction with exercise and lots of fun. “As for Lisa and I, we enjoy taking part in Mommy’s English. Lisa thinks my English is terrible. She loves to say ‘Lisa can speak English, Kosuke can speak English, Daddy can speak English, but mommy’s English is very bad. Mommy’s English is a great way for my
preview, it is clear that the children at TMISIJ respond naturally to music, dance, and drama. “I hope to be able to provide this kind of education for students right up until their sixth grade, not just during preschool.” TMISIJ students go onto attend local international elementary schools such as St. Mary’s, The American School in Japan, Sacred Heart, The British School, etc., but with the prospect of the school extending their age limit to sixth grade, new transitions could be made even easier. The number of international preschools in Tokyo is growing and students are benefiting from this competitive environment. However, choosing the right one can be a bit of an ordeal. Parents need to take into consideration the school’s location, the student-to-teacher ratio, the diversity of the students themselves, and the kinds of elementary schools that their little graduates will be able to go onto. Finally and most importantly, the school needs to have a balance between serious curriculum and creativity and The Tokyo Musashikoyama International School seems to tick all of the right boxes. For more information, visit www. BAB tmisij.com. Being A Broad April 2009
MISERY by Tina Burrett
Padaung woman (giraffe woman).
Girl from village on Inle Lake.
all images: Tina Burrett
n editorial pages, college campuses, and NGO agendas, the political situation in Burma is a cause celebre. During a visit to the pariah state in March, I had the chance to glimpse the realities of life behind the headlines. Conversations with aid workers and journalists working in Burma suggest that it is hard to exaggerate the brutality of the ruling military junta against its people.These sources further suggest that any lasting political change will require more from the international community than the economic sanctions demanded by the embattled Burmese democracy movement and its leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. The current military government—known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC)—came to power in September 1988, after ordering the Burmese army to smash the nationwide democracy movement, culminating in the shooting of over 3,000 protestors in the capital Rangoon. A world-class abuser, the junta has an appalling record on human rights. Its use of forced labour has been described by the UN as a ‘crime against humanity.’ Human Rights Watch recently revealed that Burma has one of the highest number of child soldiers in the world, with boys as young as ten forced or sold into the army. Nearly half the government budget is spent on the military—with China supplying the bulk of its arms—while less than ¥50 per person a year is allocated to health care. The junta has shown itself to be incompetent as well as cruel. Blessed with an abundance of natural resources including teak, gems, and gas,
Burma is potentially one of the richest countries in Asia. Yet thanks to government corruption, kickbacks, and poor economic planning, it is actually among the poorest. Large-scale mining and the damming of rivers to provide hydroelectric power to China has displaced hundreds of thousands of people, many of them from among Burma’s 135 minority ethnic groups. As communities are driven off their land by military confiscation, food prices have soared beyond the means of many ordinary citizens, with staples such as rice doubling in cost in less than two years. Those who criticise the regime’s oppression and economic mismanagement end up in jail, where many are tortured. Despite the wellknown dangers associated with resistance, in September 2007, an estimated 150,000 Burmese democracy activists, monks, and ordinary citizens took to the streets to protest against the removal of fuel subsidies that had resulted in some commodity prices rising by 500 percent overnight. Protesters’ demands quickly escalated to include not only reinstating subsidies but also an end to military rule, democratic reform, and the release of political prisoners, most notably opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Far from releasing political prisoners, the regime added to their number with a vicious crackdown that saw police open fire on protesters in Rangoon. Thousands were arrested and thrown into squalid detention centres, where many remain. Detained monks were de-robed and ordered to leave their monasteries.
Despite condemnation of the crackdown in the international media, on the whole governments around the world took very little action against the junta; the exception being the United States, which responded with new sanctions. Burma’s neighbours and main trading partners China, India, Japan, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) surprised many with a statement of ‘revulsion’ at the crackdown. But words were not backed by action; Asian governments put their financial interests and internal rivalries ahead of support for peaceful and democratic reform. Japan, Burma’s largest aid donor, did initially announce a modest cut in grants, but only in response to public outrage over the killing of Kenji Nagai, a Japanese journalist shot while covering the Rangoon protests. The lack of a coordinated international response to the September 2007 crackdown allowed the junta to return to ‘business as usual,’ which in Burma means widespread human rights abuses. As is often the case in totalitarian regimes, Burma’s women have suffered disproportionately at the hands of their oppressors. In its war against ethnic minorities in Shan State, the Burmese military allows its troops to commit rape with impunity as part of their anti-insurgency activities. UN aid workers tell of women being held at military bases where they are repeatedly gang raped for months. Owing to the stigma attached to rape in Shan culture, many survivors flee to Thailand. However, lack of recognition of Shan refugees in Thailand leaves
Burmese woman and baby.
Burmese girl wearing thanaka (traditional make up). Woman from one of Burma’s 130+ ethnic groups.
Two Pa-O women in traditional head dress.
survivors vulnerable to trafficking or deportation back to their abusers. As a direct result of policies pursued by the junta, Burma has one of the worst trafficking records in the world. The December 2005 decision by Than Shwe, Burma’s most senior general, to impose national quotas for growing the toxic biofuel plant jatropha has led to mass food shortages and has forced hundreds of thousands from their homes to look for work. To support their families, many of the women among the ‘jatropha refugees,’ as they have become known, have fallen prey to traffickers. Attracted by offers of jobs as maids, waitresses, or factory workers in Chinese towns close to the Burmese border, once inside China, thousands of Burmese women have found themselves sold into prostitution or as brides to lonely Chinese farmers. According to a 2008 report by the Kachin Women’s Association, a quarter of trafficked Burmese women are under 18, with girls as young as 14 forced to be brides. The junta is not alone in supporting practices that foster trafficking. Companies that do business in Burma—such as the Japan Bio Energy Development Corporation (JBEDC) that announced a joint venture with a private Burmese firm to grow jatropha in February this year—are open to similar charges. JBEDC is not the only large-scale Japanese company involved in deals that benefit the junta and their retainers. Household names such as Toyota and Nippon Oil participate in joint ventures with the regime, while the Kansai Electric Power Company is
involved with dam projects associated with forced relocations and forced labour. Cyclone Nagis, which killed more than 140,000 people in Burma’s Delta region in May 2008 has exacerbated the problem of trafficking, as women from affected areas travel to the Chinese and Thai borders to seek employment. In Thailand, where measures to decrease the number of local women and girls engaged in prostitution have seen some welcome success, Burmese women are much in demand as sex workers. According to reports by the US State Department, Burma is also a source country for sex workers in China, Bangladesh, Taiwan, Korea, India, Malaysia, and Japan. Since mid 2008, as a result of both Nagis and the economic downturn, the number of sex workers within Burma has also increased. With government assistance almost non-existent and international aid grossly overstretched, women who have lost their homes and families have few options but to turn to prostitution. Owing to a government ban on contraception, high rates of intravenous drug use, and the practice of rotating rural sex workers between villages every ten days, HIV infection rates in Burma are soaring. According to UNAIDS, Burma has the third highest rate of HIV/AIDS in Asia (after Cambodia and Thailand). It is estimated that 32 percent of Burmese sex workers are HIV positive. The life expectancy of those contracting the disease is short; antiretorviral therapy drugs that are essential for surviving AIDS are available to only one in
seven sufferers. Burma’s government spends the least percentage of its GDP on health care of any country in the world. In the ‘90s, international forces intervened to prevent ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, to restore democracy in Haiti, and to halt civil war in Sierra Leone. The Burmese government’s acts of oppression and grotesque indifference to the suffering of its people are clearly comparable crimes against humanity, yet the world community refuses to intervene. The disastrous results of the US-led invasion of Iraq have left governments around the world reluctant to engage in cross-border intervention, even for worthy purposes.The resanctification of national sovereignty has thus shielded Burma’s leaders from repercussions for their outrageous actions. It does not have to be so. The international system can be harnessed to advance certain core values including development, justice, and respect for human rights. As a country that understands the savagery of military rule and that has suffered mass killings from nuclear weapons, Japan is uniquely placed to offer moral leadership. For pressure on the Burmese junta to deliver real and lasting reform, the world must be united in its approach. Japan may be the only player with the necessary trust and authority to get Asia and the West to send the junta a joint and unequivocal message that it is time to go. For Japan, it could be the start of a new international role befitting its own history BAB and experience. Being A Broad April 2009
coaching a broad
TIME TO MOVE
F O RWA R D by Richard Sproston and Natasha Williams
This is the fourth and final article in a series cowritten by coach Richard Sproston of The Forge and Natasha Williams, chronicling her threemonth coaching experience. Natasha says: Richard and I recently completed our final session of coaching. We’ve been working together for three months and while I feel like I have made progress on a lot of my goals, I’m also a little bit worried about moving on without his support. Having him there to create accountability has certainly played a large part in my successes over the last couple of months and, as we started our final session, this was one of the first things I brought up. In the end, we decided to taper the sessions, moving from regular meetings into regular emails, giving me a chance to update him on how I am doing and a reason to keep going forward with my action steps and victory list. Richard has done a great job of helping me set myself up to move forward on my own, but being around him is both encouraging and reassuring, and it’s hard to give that all up at once. If nothing else, I selfishly don’t want to give up my personal cheerleader and, if I’m totally honest with myself, I’m a little bit nervous as well. I know that I am
the last three months that will help me take a step back and relax and, in a lot of ways, I feel far more ready and organised to take on my life for the next few months than I did three months ago. Looking back, while I don’t necessarily feel like I’ve made a lot of changes in my life on a day-today basis, I’ve actually made a lot of steps towards living the life I want to lead; they’ve just become so ‘integrated’ and ‘normal’ that it is only when I stop and think about it do I notice how far I’ve come. For example, I’ve been setting aside regular time to work on my book, have taken a short trip, stretched every day, and have made cooking for myself a priority that I also really enjoy. In conjunction with a couple of big changes I’ve given myself permission to make since working with Richard, these are the day-to-day things I need to continue to do in order to continue living the life I want to lead. Taking the time to look back and see what I’ve been able to regularly accomplish is an inspiration in and of itself. As for that big change I mentioned earlier? Richard helped me make the decision to step away from one of my two jobs in order to make more time for school. Sure, there are technically enough hours in the day (and night) to have spent another semester working two jobs and being a
alone has made the past three months of That working with Richard more than worth it.
well prepared to keep going—I would still be in coaching if I didn’t think I was ready to keep moving forward on my own, but I think it is human nature to wonder if you’re ready to set out on your own; from any type of support network. What also worries me is that in the last couple of weeks the wheels fell off a little bit for me. I found myself neglecting to do the things, both big and small, that I’ve promised myself I would attend to. There were a few reasons for this—house sitting for two weeks with a rather lazy dog threw me off my exercise schedule and I spent time organising a big change in my life (more on that later), which ate up just about every outside-of-work hour I had. Plus, I also spent a long weekend away. All valid reasons, perhaps, for getting a bit distracted, but since life is always throwing something in your way, I’m going to start looking at it as a great lesson in prioritisation as opposed to a set-back. After all, and despite my best intentions, sometimes I feel like my life runs away with me, especially in Tokyo; perhaps a combination of working longer hours, commuting further, and trying to fit so much into the limited amount of time I have before I go back to Canada. I love the fast-pace of life here but when I think about the fact that it is already April, I have no idea where 2009 so far has gone! That said, I’ve made changes in my life over
full-time student and, of course, the extra money from a second job is nice. However, if I’ve come to one conclusion over these past three months, it’s that making the decision to take an easier route is OK if it means that my quality of life will improve and there will be more time to do the things that mean the most to me; in this case enjoying my last four months in Japan instead of, on the plane ride home, looking back and wondering where on earth the time has gone. That alone has made the past three months of working with Richard more than worth it. Richard says: Natasha has achieved a great deal since beginning her coaching in January. At that time she was a slightly frazzled full-time student who was also struggling to juggle two jobs (no mean feat by anyone’s standards). We started off the coaching programme by discussing Natasha’s ideal life, and although it soon became clear that she had a number of goals ranging from real ambitions (start writing a book) to simple pleasures (buy flowers for bedroom), the sheer amount of work she needed to do was severely restricting her ability to make any kind of changes. This would need to be addressed… Luckily, we’d begun the coaching during the winter break so there was slightly less pressure on Natasha to work all hours. We used this time to clarify both what she really wanted her life to
look like and what she would need to do to make that into a reality. We got the ball rolling with Natasha making a number of what might appear to be relatively small changes, but these actions (including goals like decorating her new apartment or cooking a meal for friends) had a major and immediate impact on her motivation and helped her to develop a real sense of momentum. As we continued through the coaching, different issues came up that needed to be addressed. These included nagging feelings of guilt that she should really be working on the few occasions she was able to get away from work, as well as looking at what she really wanted her life in Japan to look like. And of course there was the issue of the two jobs and one university course to be considered. So, whereas many people seek coaching because they want to increase their results and achieve more (by raising their income, finding more clients, or learning new skills, for example) some clients, like Natasha, end up focusing on one of the other main coaching issues that attract almost as much attention as business issues these days: that of life-balance. Here the priority isn’t always about maximising results to get more—it can often be about pruning and prioritising our lives so that we have the time to do the things that truly make us happy and bring us fulfillment. With her focus on life balance, Natasha has come a long way in a very short time. It has been a pleasure to see her change her mind-set and to take action so that she is now able to enjoy her life more. She has moved a long way towards establishing healthy habits that also make her feel good about herself but for me the most gratifying thing has been to see her sitting in the driving seat of her life, steering her own course. With a book on the way, flowers in her room, and the job that wasn’t working out for her already fast becoming a memory, Natasha’s lifestyle is evolving. Yes, she still needs to work on her life (we all do). And she may experience set-backs such as interruptions in her routine and temporary lapses of will-power, but Natasha possesses, like the rest of us, the resources and skills she needs to make her life continuously more fulfilling and meaningful. All she needs to do, (what we all need to do), is to focus on where she wants to go, keep taking action, and adjust course when necessary. That’s how we get to where we BAB want to be. What kind of life would you like to have? If you’d like to get some inspiration to help you start moving forwards, check out the free resources and video on Richard’s website: www.theforge.co.jp.
LOVE, IN JAPAN? by Arwen Niles
Arwen and Masanori on vacation in Takayama.
image: provided by Arwen Niles
irst off, it’s only fair to admit I’m not really a happily-ever-after kind of a girl. There’s something about the idea of finding love that gives me pause. It seems so final, so finished. She found it, courted and moulded, and smoothed it into what she wanted, tucked it away, and now all is exciting and well. The thing is, that’s not how I’ve found it to be at all. If airspace can be taken into account, I first entered Japan between sobs. While I was relieved to be leaving behind the shards of a broken engagement that had recently resurfaced and excited me to upgrade my life in such a way that only a move to Japan can, I was also terrified and reluctant to leave behind everything I’d kneaded my life into over the previous few years. To help temper the upheaval, I’d made a few deals. In exchange for three years of university teaching I would allow myself to explore the world through Eastern eyes—travelling, growing, and tending myself; steadily paying off student loans in preparation for joining the Peace Corps after I’d fulfilled my contract in Japan.The only requisites were that I not give up and not be sidetracked by romance. Especially not Japanese romance. As if such a combination could even exist. Not surprisingly, shortly after setting up house, the fact that I was an adventurous and unattached woman in her late twenties caught up with me, and I found myself excitedly making the trek from Chiba to Tokyo on weekends, replacing early morning yoga with first-train rides back home. Even so, I mostly stuck to the plan. I dated, I danced, I indulged, but I never committed; entertained enough but often disappointed and ultimately dissatisfied. At the time, a friend insisted that love in Tokyo was really just a numbers game, that the booty (pun intended) lie in wait; if only a woman were willing to wade through enough keitai no bangoos (phone numbers), she would surely resurface hand in hand with that coveted koibito (boyfriend). And then it would be time to sit back and enjoy your new life as a duo, needing only to dust things off from time to time and navigate an inconvenient, yet endearing set of (sometimes inter-) cultural foibles. Enter Thanksgiving Day, 2007. It’s my very favourite holiday, brimming as it is with feast and family and I was homesick and antisocial this time around. A post-work drink with colleagues turned into a nijikai (after party) with said friend, who dragged me kicking and cursing to a local darts bar. In the back of the bar were three men, local jieitai (self-defense force members) from the nearby Airborne Division camp. Wanting to talk to them, I sauntered
she found love in Japan
over and threw out the most polished Japanese phrase I had—Toire wa doko desu ka? (Yes, I knew I only had dolt written all across my face since we were, in fact, right next to the toilets, but at least I could claim that I wasn’t sure which one was for the ladies.) After moving on to a nearby izakaya, we eventually landed at my conveniently large
When I found five kittens in the garbage he warned me against taking responsibility for them, worried that I didn’t understand the agreement I was making as I tucked them under my sweatshirt and headed for the nearest animal hospital. But for the next three months he helped me nurse them back to health, posting fliers, shuttling them back and forth to different
e used what props we had (edamame pods W to deliver a timeline of past relationships, stick figure renditions of time spent apart)... house (Just look at all the extra space—you’ll be so comfortable!) for what turned out to be a very PG evening. In the morning, Masanori (my future boyfriend) and Co. had gone, but he’d left behind a message made of little, plastic hiragana characters. It was placed next to a small, sadfaced pumpkin and a photo book of my family and read, “Ohayoo.” We were technically, to the outside world, mutually unintelligible, since his English just about matched up with my (incredibly heta) Japanese. But, we used what props we had (edamame pods to deliver a time line of past relationships, stick figure renditions of time spent apart) and patiently discovered that what we lacked in linguistic compatibility we more than made up for in inshindenshin (telepathy). Even though his instinct is often to disagree with my slightly twisted, gaijin way of doing things, I know that in the end if I find myself falling, I can count on him to have my back. When I insisted on running a marathon despite being injured and undergoing rehab for it, he worried that I was being flippant with my health. He might not have understood what it meant to me to go out and try, but he carried my crutches for me anyhow and beamed with pride when handing them back to me at the finish.
vets, and ultimately helping to deliver them to their new homes. It’s been sixteen months, and when asked what’s next for the two of us, the most honest that I can be is unsure. In addition to the usual considerations, there are the technicalities of life as a Japanese soldier, which to me seem to be one cruel Catch-22 after another, and my enduring itch to volunteer in less-developed lands. But for me, it is within the space of this uncertainty that our relationship earns its keep. I’m a flurry of nervous energy and he is often the eye in the center of my storm, waiting it out while I stretch myself into new and historically difficult capacities. For all the details that have become more difficult, being with one another offers benefits not found in an easier relationship. It forces us to redefine what it means to love, to reign in our expectations of one another, to carefully choose our battles, and to enjoy a relationship less based on a tediously explained history and more on a future of our own construction. So even though my love story doesn’t don a smartly tied ribbon and might turn out to be more my love-in-Japan than my love, in Japan, it deserves BAB to be recognised for what it is—love. Being A Broad April 2009
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