Being A Broad June 2009 #45
The monthly magazine for international women living in Japan
our cover girls: INGENIUM’S Laetitia Leconte and Jennifer Lladoc-Penaverde
a broad in the boonies: ICHINOMIYA the life of a NAVY WIFE in Japan help do your bit to FIND LINDSAY ANN HAWKER’S KILLER with our pullout poster
s.z. cairney on TAKING CONTROL of the mornings
ASIA’S new UNIVERSITY, just for women real-life story: the ONLY GIRL in the OUENDAN
6 Readers may have heard about Angelica Shiraishi, an American woman living in Japan. On Thursday 4th June, Angelica’s husband disappeared with their three children, saying he was going to a photo shoot. He took the children’s passports, copies of income tax returns and health insurance, Angelica’s phone, their car, credit cards, ATM cards, and other valuable items. As we go to print, Angelica has located the children at the house of her husband’s parents and is not being allowed access. One of the children is just a year old, still nursing, and has never been away from his mother. As you may know, Japan has not signed the Convention of the Hague on Transborder Parental Abduction, and the law in Japan rarely favours the foreign parent. If anyone can help with legal advice or financial support, please contact Angelica’s friend Anna Ruepert on 090-6496-4573 or at find.nina. firstname.lastname@example.org. I know that our love and thoughts are with Angelica.
being a broad news
image: Kerry Raftis/www.keyshots.com
image: David Stetson
message from the founder BAB events, AFWJ
our cover girls The Ingenium Group’s Laetitia Leconte and Jennifer Lladoc-Penaverde
women of the world news from around the globe
things we love small but significant—things we love in Japan
rocking out to Sir Mix-A-Lot
6 our cover girls
Sin Den gives one reader a makeover
image: provided by EOC.
Boudoir helps us look our best for summer
• the life of a Navy wife in Japan
• being the only girl in an ouendan
we profile Janine Vleugel Naoi of Atelier Shinji
15 pullout poster
Caroline Pover BAB Founder
BAB supports Lindsay Ann Hawker’s family
Evergreen Outdoor Center’s summer retreat especially for women
Publishers Caroline Pover & Emily Downey Editor & Designer Danielle Tate-Stratton Marketing Consultant Amy Dose Advertisement Designer Chris May Contributors S.Z. Cairney, James Robb, Gabbi Bradshaw, Louise George Kittaka, Marilyn Klein, Louise Mutter, Angie Takanami, Wendy Midori Epstein, Janine Vleugel Naoi, Hilary Wendel, Laura Ingulsrud, Christina Bell, Charlotte Lewis, Audrey Matsumoto Cover Models Laetitia Leconte and Jennifer Lladoc-Penaverde Cover Photographer Kerry Raftis, www.keyshots.com Cover Makeup Naomi Saito, Sin Den Printing Mojo Print Opinions expressed by BAB contributors are not necessarily those of the Publishers.
image: provided by Laura Ingulsrud
the broads (and boys!)
The Asian University for Women
a highschooler helps build houses in Thailand
• s.z. cairney on taking control of the mornings • Guide to International Schools in Japan • Advice for multicultural mothers (and readers)
the surf life of Ichinomiya
love found where least expected
26 a broad in the boonies
27 she found love in Japan
Being A Broad magazine, email@example.com www.being-a-broad.com tel. 03-5879-6825, fax: 03-6368-6191 Being A Broad June 2009
BAB supports Lindsay Ann Hawker A quote from the BAB book: Finding a Place; Guarantors:
My name is Lindsay Ann Hawker I was murdered in March 2007 and buried in a bath of sand on the balcony of Tatsuya Ichihashi’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.
Please help my family find peace.
Being A Broad May 2009 #44
The monthly magazine for international women living in Japan
our cover girl: ASIAN TIGERS’ MARY SAPHIN
SURFING into MARRIAGE Cirque du Soleil’s FEMALE CARPENTER exercise on your NINTENDO WII
help do your bit to FIND LINDSAY ANN HAWKER’S KILLER with our pullout poster
Okinawa’s AMERASIAN School help yourself to AVOID KNEE INJURY what you should KNOW about HIV/AIDS in JAPAN
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.
It used to be virtually impossible for foreigners to rent a place if they didn’t have a Japanese guarantor, and was even very difficult for those with one. Long-timers, including those married to Japanese, have tales of putting one foot in the door of estate agents only to be met with shouts of “No foreigners!” Luckily, this has changed and although in most cases you still need a guarantor, there are many agents that speak English and specifically rent to foreigners. Even some regular housing agencies now rent to foreigners providing that you have a Japanese guarantor, so it may be worth trying a local housing agency. Note that a guarantor is also a requirement for Japanese people seeking a new home. For those on expat packages or earning higher incomes, your employer may assist you with finding an apartment or you can go to one of the posher estate agents. In many cases, your company will pay your rent and expatriate housing often verges on the luxurious.
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 they are released this month.
ASSOCIATION OF FOREIGN
WIVES OF JAPANESE by Louise George Kittaka
Crawl on Over to Gymboree! (Event) Join Gymboree for an afternoon of fun-filled activities for babies and their parents. During the event, families will enjoy age-appropriate play, music, and baby signs activities, free play in the spacious gym room, and light refreshments during their Baby Social. Participants can also enter the raffle to win exciting prizes including the chance to win a 90-minute private play date for up to ten babies and their parents at one of their locations (value of ¥35,000).
The ‘Dancing Queens,’ an act by the 2009 Convention Planning Committee. image: Provided by AFWJ.
he Japanese reporter was curious. He’d come to the Chiba hotel for a meeting and kept running into gaggles of foreign women all over the place. From their big smiles and happy chatter, it was evident that these ladies were having a blast. What was going on? Later that day, he tracked down a group practicing a dance to a medley from Mamma Mia. Were they contestants on a TV variety show? Trying some kind of new exercise fad? Guests at a hotel wedding, perhaps? None of the above! They were members of the Association of Foreign Wives of Japanese and the planning committee behind AFWJ’s 2009 Convention. After taking a few pictures and interviewing the Chiba chapter representative, the reporter was satisfied and filed his story. A brief article on AFWJ made the Chiba edition of the newspaper the next morning. However, the reporter didn’t get to see the half of it! That evening, 140 foreign women of all ages and nationalities poured into the hotel ballroom for the highlight of the convention— the Saturday night banquet and cabaret, which showcases the talents of AFWJ’s very own members. The reporter might have had difficulty recognising the self-conscious Mamma Mia dancers from earlier in the day. The group had metamorphosed into dazzling divas in slinky ‘70s disco garb, confidently strutting their stuff in front of their peers. The recent convention in Chiba City was extra-special since AFWJ is celebrating 40 years of friendship and fun this year. Joan Itoh, an American living in rural Niigata in the ‘60s, was keen to make friends with other foreign women married to Japanese. With the help of Jean Pearce, a columnist at the Japan Times, Joan made contact with a number of ladies and in 1969 a luncheon was organised at the Tokyo American Club.While a tentative booking for about 20 was made, 47 enthusiastic foreign wives poured in. Some of those original women are still members of AFWJ and they will never forget the level of energy and excitement in the room that day.
AFWJ currently has over 500 members representing 45 nationalities, with regional chapters spanning the country from Hokkaido to Okinawa. There are also a number of members living overseas. Members come from all walks of life—teachers, writers, homemakers, business owners, and artists, to name just a few. With the advent of the internet, a number of groups to support the foreign community now exist in Japan. AFWJ, however, is unique in that it offers members myriad opportunities to socialise and network with each other. Leaders in each region plan events and gatherings in consultation with their local members. In turn, volunteering for a local or national position gives members opportunities to develop and polish skills in a variety of fields. The association has also published several handbooks and is a respected source of information on intercultural affairs. With a membership that encompasses women from their 20s to over 90 and living in a diversity of locations, AFWJ has successfully developed several mechanisms for uniting the organisation as a whole. One is the aforementioned annual Convention. According
to one member, “It’s like a pajama party, selfdiscovery course, and school reunion all rolled into one!” (Plans are already underway for next year’s convention in Hokkaido.) There is also the bimonthly AFWJ Journal, a magazine written and produced entirely by members. Moreover, a number of active email groups serve the varied needs and interests of members. Life in Japan has changed dramatically since the days when AFWJ began. International marriage and bicultural children are no longer a rarity and technology like the internet and Skype can connect us to loved ones back in our home countries at the touch of a button. However, for today’s foreign women with a Japanese partner, the need for friendship, support, and information is as great as it ever was. One member sums it up like this: “I’ve got some good Japanese friends, but I also need friends who understand where I’m coming from without the need to explain, compromise, or justify anything. AFWJ gives me the freedom to be myself.” Visit the website for more information: BAB www.afwj.org.
Dates: June 21 (Sunday), 3:30–5:30pm, Jiyugaoka site; June 25 (Thursday), 3:30–5:30pm, Jiyugaoka site; June 26 (Friday), 4–6pm, Motoazabu site; and June 27 (Saturday) 4–6pm, Motoazabu site. Open to all parents with 0–10 month old babies, including expecting parents. Cost: ¥1,000 per family includes refreshments and small gifts from Gymboree. Reservations will be accepted from June 8 (Monday).To register, please call either the Motoazabu (03-5449-2311) or Jiyugaoka (033723-0652) location. For more info, visit: www. gymboree.jp/en/index.php. Being A Broad June 2009
& LAETITIA LECONTE Both of the Ingenium Group, Inc., cover photography by Kerry Raftis
all images: Kerry Raftis/www.keyshots.com
our cover girls
Full name: Jennifer Lladoc-Penaverde Age: 31 Nationality: (Filipina) Philippines Grew up in: Manila Time in Japan: two years Japanese level: (very) basic Works at: The Ingenium Group Inc. Why did you come to Japan? I followed my husband in 2007 (then my fiancé) who had been working here for over a year. We both come from Manila but were working in different countries. He was expatriated to Tokyo in 2006 and I was then working in Singapore for a global tobacco company. After he got settled into Tokyo life, we decided for me to move here as well. Why do you stay in Japan? Japan is a fascinating place and there are so many things in Japan that my husband and I have yet to learn about; places yet to explore, so we hope to stay in Japan for now. I moved here in 2007 was hoping to continue my career as a marketing professional but there were limitations and Japanese language skill is one of them. The consultant position at Ingenium got me interested as they were looking for people with strong motivation and passion for business and managing client relationships. Though I did not have any background in recruitment, I felt that my skills, previous experience, and knowledge could be an asset for the job. The management at Ingenium gave me a chance and my career in recruitment started there. I have been with Ingenium now for fifteen months working on mid-career to executive level searches for top consumer goods companies in the FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) and food and beverage industries. Over the last two years, work and home life have been great, so for the time being Tokyo is my home away from home. There are times that we get homesick but it helps that Tokyo is just a five-hour plane ride to Manila. How do you manage to balance everything in your life? For me, it’s all about priorities and knowing what you want. I want to be able to get the best out of life, personally and professionally. By nature I am simply an organised person, sometimes too organised
according to my family and friends. I start every day with a list of things I need to accomplish and end the day going back to the list to make sure I’ve crossed everything out (or at least most of it!). This is particularly helpful at work as I constantly juggle numerous tasks from business development to candidate screenings and client meetings. Keeping a task list also allows me to stay focused and manage my time well. As much as possible I minimise the times when I have to stay late at work and prefer to keep my weekends free so I can spend quality time with my husband, explore Tokyo, or get together with friends. What is important is that we deliver the results. Life will always be busy! Staying focused and organised was my way of coping with the hustles and bustles of everyday life. What do you do to relax? I love staying at home, reading a book, or enjoying a movie or TV show marathon with my husband. I also love going for a massage. I also find peace in my kitchen when I cook or bake anything. It’s one of the things I enjoy doing most around the house. Best thing about being a foreign woman in Japan? To me, I still enjoy the same independence and respect I have had when I was back in Manila or even when I was working in Singapore. I am not sure if there is supposedly a privileged right of being a foreign woman in Japan but so far my experience in this city has been wonderful.
Full name: Laetitia Leconte Age: 27 Nationality: French Grew up in: Paris Time in Japan: two years Japanese level: basic Works at: The Ingenium Group Inc. Why did you come to Japan? My educational and professional choices have always been driven by my wish to work abroad and so were my husband’s. After graduating from business school we both found a job in India. At that time I was working in the fashion industry. This strong experience increased our passion for foreign countries. Then it was my husband’s job that brought us to Tokyo. Why do you stay in Japan? We love Japan! Now we both have jobs in Japan,
this is why we are staying. We really enjoy Tokyo and the quality of life it provides. Moving away from your country and your family is never easy, but once you’ve found your life balanced in a new country it’s good to stay for a while. Moving to a new country requires a lot of energy, so it is worth it if you stay for a significant period of time! My first job in Japan was a short term contract so I had to find another job. Finding a job in Japan when you don’t speak Japanese is not easy but I got the chance to work as a recruitment consultant with The Ingenium Group. I have been working on mid-career to executive level searches for more than a year now. Recruiting in Japan is an amazing experience and it doesn’t necessarily require Japanese skills. Our clients are foreign companies from the US and Europe operating successfully in Japan and we look for Japanese candidates with a good level of English. It is a challenging job but I really enjoy the fact that most of our job is about dealing with people! Being successful in headhunting is an endless challenge and I am continuously learning new aspects of this job alongside the people I work with. How do you manage to balance everything in your life? Balance of life is a matter of priorities. In the past few years I had to balance my personal and professional life. My biggest challenge was to find a job every time my husband and I were moving to a new country. I think I managed to do that and I really enjoyed all my experiences abroad. Now to balance everything in my everyday life, I need to be organised. Head hunting is a very demanding job, which sometimes requires sacrifices and late hours. But on the other side, you can organise your agenda the way you want and I enjoy this flexibility. This is how I manage to be successful in my job and to have time to enjoy life! What do you do to relax? I am an outdoor and active type of person but I also need to sleep a lot! So during the week, I have dinner with my friends and if there is no dinner planned, I watch a movie and sleep. During the weekends, I need to be out of my apartment and when it’s possible, I try to be out of Tokyo and spend the weekends in the country side, skiing during the winter, hiking the rest of the year, or just having lunch on a terrace! Best thing about being a foreign woman in Japan? Compared to other countries I have lived in or travelled to, Japan is a really safe place for women. Also, Japan offers the best services and endless choices of activities, restaurants, spas, and shopping! Anything a woman needs to find BAB her happiness!
WOMEN OF THE WORLD
compiled by Danielle Tate-Stratton
Spain recently announced plans to make the morning after pill, a form of emergency contraceptive effective up to five days (72 hours) after unprotected sex, available over the counter with no age restrictions.
image: iStockphoto/ IsaacLKoval
Saudi Arabia will be hosting its second pageant for girls aged 15–25 this year, with nearly 200 contestants—the twist? As opposed to being a beauty pageant as is typical in the West, The Miss Beautiful Morals pageant looks at the beauty of the soul and the morals and puts great weight in how contestants respect and interact with their parents. Over the course of the tenweek pageant the girls will even have to spend a day at a manor house with their mothers so judges can see how they interact. First prize in the pageant comes with a $2,600 prize while the runners up will each receive $1,300.
US President Obama recently unveiled a proposed budget for 2010 that would introduce a new Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative that would eliminate funding for some abstinenceonly programs and put a bigger emphasis on comprehensive, evidence-based programs that provide information on both safe sex and abstinence. The same budget would eliminate programs such as the mandatory Title V Abstinence Education program.
Together with The Daily Mail, women in Britain successfully protested against retail giant Marks & Spencer, causing the shop to reverse a decision to charge a £2 premium on the price of all bras sized DD or larger, saying that the UK’s largest seller of lingerie was discriminating against larger women.
The recent Kuwaiti parliamentary elections saw four women win seats, the first time a woman has held an elected office in the 50-seat assembly. While women won the right to vote and run for office in 2005, resistance to the idea contributed to a four-year delay before the first women were elected to office.
American journal Directors & Boards showed that in the first quarter of 2009 some 38 percent of board appointments were women, compared to an average of about 25 percent throughout 2007 and 2008. In 2006, just 18 percent of new appointments were to female businesswomen. Poet Carol Ann Duffy has been named to the 350-year-old position of Britain’s Poet Laureate, a ten-year posting. She is both the first woman and first openly-gay poet to hold the position, which has also been filled by luminaries such as William Wordsworth. She is best known for a collection of poems entitled The World’s Wife.
With a 69 percent majority, Dalia Grybauskaite easily became the first woman to be elected as Lithuania’s president in mid-May. She ran as an independent and is the former finance minister in Lithuania while currently serving as European Union budget commissioner.
Japanese bra maker Triumph recently introduced a concept bra designed to encourage women not to wait so long to get married and has entitled it the Konkatsu [husband hunting] Bra, and equipped it with such features as an easy-to-read LED timer counting down to a woman’s ideal wedding date, a ring holder that plays a wedding song when an engagement ring is placed into it, and handy hanko and pen holders so that wearers are ready to complete marriage applications at any moment.
A program in Rwanda called the Agaseke project has been aiming to help women gain bargaining power and strength in terms of selling craft items and has been successful enough to vastly improve the lives of some of the women in the collective. Originally created to help 3,800 women learn how to weave, the group has also raised the earning power of many women in the group. For instance, Flavia Mukantamati, 30, a member of the Igicumbi cooperative (one of 16 that combine to make up the Agaseke project), said that her earnings went from approximately 3,000 Rwf each month to between 30,000 and 60,000 Rwf monthly since joining the project. A woman in Dallas Texas has given birth to twins with two different fathers. Though incredibly rare, this is possible if a woman’s body releases multiple eggs during ovulation and she has two different sexual partners whose sperm both fertilise an egg, which appears to have been the case here. Three girls-only schools in Afghanistan were the target of gas attacks in May, which has seen over 150 girls become hospitalised after reporting strong odours. While it has not been confirmed definitely, a security specialist in the region has said the attacks were likely carried out by the Taliban, who opposed women’s education during their rule. Attacks against schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan have been rising recently, with some 130 schools, many of them only for girls, having been destroyed in Pakistan’s Swat Valley over the past year. President Obama put forward his choice for Supreme Court Justice recently, nominating federal court Judge Sonia Sotomayor, who will become the nation’s first Latina US Supreme Court justice as well as the second woman on the current bench along with Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The Supreme Court is the US’ BAB highest law court. Being A Broad June 2009
THE LITTLE THINGS
WE LOVE IN JAPAN
image: Danielle Tate-Stratton
a. I love Niijima Island (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Niijima)! I went there over Golden Week with a couple of girlfriends and spent a few days biking around and exploring the island. Situated just east of the Izu Peninsula and part of a chain of islands, Niijima has one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen, stretching out for 6.5 kilometres! Niijima has a unique character of its own with stone statues situated all over the island. They have a 24-hour outdoor onsen, a glass museum, and a centre where you can even blow your own glass, great hiking trails, and it is one of the best spots to surf in Japan. It’s about a two hour jet boat ride from Tokyo or you can opt to take the overnight ferry that takes approximately nine hours.—AD
b. I love Forever 21 in Harajuku. While the lines might still be long and the store crowded, it’s so nice to have another inexpensive place to buy clothing that will fit a Western frame! Four floors for women and one for men mean that you’d be hard pressed not to find a cute top or skirt that is perfect for summer, and you know you won’t have to spend too many yen to do so. (www.forever21.co.jp)—LW c. I love the SBF (Swedish beauty Formula) diet drink. I changed my eating habits and substituted one meal a day with SBF and the results are amazing: two kilograms gone in only one month. The drink tastes great, has no artificial additives or colour ingredients, and is made in Sweden. I went on a smart diet and feel great! If you want to find out more: http:// sweden-beauty.com. (Can be purchased at Scandinavia salon http:// epistation.com.)—AI
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.
image: Petra Laptiste
e. I love the jewellery imported from Ghana by one of our fellow BAB members. Saying that she wanted to make a difference in the lives of the artists whom she first came in contact with on a recent trip to the country, she has started bringing gorgeous wawa (wood) jewellery, as well as haematite and Atlantic Sea Stone pieces and selling it under the name Gye Nyame. All handmade in Accra and Kumasi, the two largest cities in Ghana, the pieces cost from ¥800–¥1,200. For more information or to arrange to see or purchase pieces, visit: gye.nyame.japan@gmail. com or tel. 090-4846-4760.
d. I love the idea behind the Yayori Women’s Human Rights activities award, which “focuses on women activists, journalists, and artists who work at the grassroots level with socially marginalised peoples in order to create a 21st century free from war and discrimination against women.” The organisation, which is based in Japan, selects a woman (or group), typically from the Asian region, and awards them a prize of ¥500,000. There is also a second prize, the The Yayori Journalist Award, which “...focuses on women journalists and artists (individuals or groups) who vividly describe and transmit the situation of women in the world with a gender perspective,” and carries the same prize. For more information and nomination details: www.wfphr.org/yayori/ English/top.html.—DTS
BACK by Gabbi Bradshaw
image: iStockphoto/ Dan Wilton
aybe, just maybe, I should call 1-900-MIX-AMLOT and be happy with my big ole butt.
Oh, my, God. Becky, look at her butt. It is so big. *Scoff.* She looks like one of those rap guys’ girlfriends…I mean, her butt is just so big. I can’t believe it’s just so round, it’s like, out there, I mean—gross. Look!” In college, my friends and I would sing along with Sir Mix-A-Lot: “So, fellas! (Yeah!) Fellas! (Yeah!) Has your girlfriend got the butt? (Hell yeah!) Tell ‘em to shake it! (Shake it!) Shake it! (Shake it!) Shake that healthy butt! Baby got back!” We would shake our itty, bitty, five days a week aerobics butt on the cement dance floor of The Stein. Ironically, if Sir Mix-A-Lot had walked onto the sticky dance floor, he wouldn’t have given me a second glance. I had the ‘Bradshaw Butt,’ flat and small. Not much to grab. My brother used to say you could identify a Bradshaw by the sag in our jeans where our butt should have been. He joked that our butts inspired the saggy jeans trend. The other night, my underwear kept shifting so much it was disturbing my sleep. I continuously had to pull it out of my butt. In a moment of clarity, I realised that lately all of my undies had been ‘shifting.’ They must have shrunk in the wash. But then I realised that I don’t have a dryer. And I haven’t figured out how to get hot water to my washing machine. I must have gained weight! It’s my damn Buddha belly. Even when I was a little, skinny kindergartner I had a belly. There’s proof. In my sister’s baby album, the photo is of her climbing in the bathtub with her pajamas on, but the real focus is me standing there naked
with my belly protruding proudly. But my belly is looking pretty flat these days. That ‘liquids only’ day is working. So why are my undies shifting? Have I lost weight? The next morning, I wipe the dust off my digital scale (digital so I can’t round down), suck in my belly, and step on the black scale. I’m the same weight. Baffled, I wonder if my washing machine is a super duper powerful one that is stretching my underwear. And then I wonder, ‘Is it my butt? Has it gotten bigger?’ I don’t have a full-length mirror in my 1R. No room. And the metal bar I use for a mirror in the lobby of my apartment building is magical like Weight Watchers. It takes off 20 pounds instantly. I have no choice. I grab my butt. It fills more than my hands. By quite a bit. Yep. It’s bigger. It’s jiggly. I have a big ole butt. How did that happen? I Skype my sister Amy and ask her if she noticed if my butt was bigger at Christmas. “Um, Gabbi, with Grandma being sick and everything else going on, I didn’t really look at your butt.” I know this is a lie. We’re sisters. We’re always checking each other out. It goes back to the days when we shared a room and a double bed. Inevitable.We notice.Which means my butt is bigger. I’ve had aerobics on my To Do list for the past month. It’s now no longer a choice. When I was in high school, I learned this magical power routine that, whenever I had a little inner thigh fat, I would do everyday for a week, and Presto! no fat. I remember it hurt like hell on my butt also.
I drag out my yoga mat and pull it to my hallway. I find Living on a Prayer by Bon Jovi on my iPod, put my ear buds in, and am ready. I get on all fours; my knees hurt from falling when snowboarding, but as the saying in the weight room in my high school went: “No pain, no gain.” As I’m about to lift my left, I hit my knee on the door jam. Bruise. I shift the other direction and hit my door. Another bruise. There is no room in my Tokyo 1R to do my magical routine. But my butt is big, there has to be a way. I scan my room and look for a space where I won’t hit a wall. My bed. I squat on all fours on my mattress, lean over, and hit play on my laptop. The prelude starts on the song. My arse is facing my patio door and I hope that the sixth floor is high enough to protect any innocent passersby. Pride cannot be a factor. My butt is big. After the three minute routine of leg lifts and mule kicks, my butt aches. But in a good way. I realise it’s not going to be enough. I talk my running buddy into a 10k up and down Mt. Fuji. That won’t be enough. I will need to lose weight. Limit my Starbucks to three (or four) times a week and ‘liquids only’ twice a week instead of once. No beer. I take my journal out, jot all my ideas down, and start to record my calories for the day. This is serious and must be documented. As I’m organising my “Smaller Butt” plan, I reflect. I like my Starbucks. And beer. ‘Liquids only’ is really hard and exhausting. I’m almost 40. Maybe, just maybe, I should call 1-900-MIX-A-LOT and be BAB happy with my big ole butt. Being A Broad June 2009
SI N D E N MAKEOVER
all images: Danielle Tate-Stratton
I feel like a totally different person— in a good way!”
Stay protected: To help all of us ensure our hair looks its best this summer and stays healthy, too, Sin Den recommends Wella’s SP Sunset Express Mask and Shampoo, as well as the Sunrise Colorsafe Fluid for hair protection. These products are great for summer as they help repair your hair after time in the sun, replace your natural shine, and care for your hair after exposure to salt water, chlorine, and other summer irritants. All available at Sin Den: • SP Sunset Shampoo 250ml, ¥2,520. • SP Sunset Mask 150ml (not shown) ¥2, 520. • SP Fluid Colorsafe 75ml ¥1,680.
Jennifer, an American English teacher who has been in Japan for about three years, was lucky enough to have a makeover with the talented team at Sin Den recently, a great chance to update her look before the summer months. While Jennifer speaks some Japanese, she has been having problems communicating with her Japanese stylists, asking for one thing and ending up with something quite different. This had led to a haircut that almost looked like two different styles, one on the top and one towards the bottom. Her current look was wispy at the ends, causing it to go poofy and fly away, especially during the humid months. Stylist Sarah Davies decided to give Jennifer a new look by adding blond highlights to brighten up her entire colour as well as to add contrast and then took some of the overall weight of her haircut away, as well as shortening it by a couple of inches. This fit all of Jennifer’s pre-makeover requirements of being easy, different, and still setting her up to grow her hair out over the coming months. Makeup artist Naomi Saito used moisturiser and toner first, something she encourages all of us to do, and then a MAC foundation suitable for western skin. As she points out, there are no pink-based foundations in Japan, yet MAC’s yellow base is light enough for Western skin.Then, based on Jennifer’s skin tone, she built up layers of brown around her eyes for a look that was dramatic yet not overpowering. After her makeover, Jennifer exclaimed: “I can’t believe it’s me! I look like a whole new person—in a good way! I would definitely recommend any foreign person to go to a salon for foreigners, and at Sin Den they were really professional and friendly.” If you’d like to try one of Sin Den’s services, which include cuts, colours, perms, makeup, and styling BAB for special occasions, visit them at www.sinden.com or tel. 03-3405-4409.
GET READY TO SIZZLE by Marilyn Klein
With summer just a couple of weeks away, it’s time to start getting healthy and ready for that wonderful summer holiday. Boudoir Day Spa came up with some handy hints to help you get there faster:
Pump up on your water intake to keep skin “ looking its best. You should aim to drink 1.5 to 2.5 litres of water a day and more if you are
image: Kateryna Govorushchenko
Chill out to solve stress: Stress is damaging to your health and looks. People who are anxious tend to frown more and clench their teeth, causing wrinkles and jaw problems. Stress can also cause high blood pressure, headaches, and ulcers. Put some calm in your life with regular meditation or yoga. If you don’t have time to actually go to a studio to practice, then get a DVD and do it at home. Boudoir suggests Yoga with Rodney Yee. These 20-minute work out DVDs won’t take too much time out of your day and after a month you will not only feel fabulous but a lot stronger too! Buy online at www.amazon.com.
Watch your eating: Try to follow a sensible eating plan full of foods rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and beta-carotene. This means lots of fruit, vegetables, good oils, nuts, lean protein, fish, and cereals. Reducing carbs from your evening meal will also help you stay healthy. image: istockphoto/Kristen Johansen
image: Kateryna Govorushchenko
Transform your hairstyle: A fabulous hairstyle can transform your look in an instant. Whether your hair is short, shoulder-length, or long, it’s easy to create a look you’ll love. So say goodbye to bad hair days and consult the stylists at Sin Den or GOLD.
Drink more water: Pump up on your water intake to keep skin looking its best. You should aim to drink 1.5 to 2.5 litres of water a day and more if you are exercising. Fruit juices and herb teas also count. Watch your intake of coffee and tea.
image: Kateryna Govorushchenko
Get moving: Been thinking about going to the gym? Winter’s long over so it’s easier to actually get motivated to get out of the house and into the gym. Schedule your training time at least three times a week. A bit of ‘me time’ is so important while living in this crazy, busy place. Try to partake in at least three thirty-minute sessions of aerobic exercise a week—walking, running, and dancing are great choices. If you find time to watch TV three times a week, then there is no excuse for not exercising!
Fix your feet: Step into summer with fresh, fab feet. Indulge in a Boudoir Signature Pedicure. Soak your feet in a paraffin wax footbath to treat those dry, cracked heels and give your tootsies the moisture they deserve. To maintain your pedicure use a foot pumice weekly before and during the shower.
Want to pamper yourself? Visit Boudoir Day Spa in Shibuya or online at www.boudoirtokyo.com.
Being A Broad June 2009
WIFE IN JAPAN by Louise Mutter
aying goodbye never gets easier. Sometimes it’s for a couple weeks, sometimes seven weeks, and after that I stop counting how long he’ll be gone. I’ve never had to experience a sixmonth deployment and hope I’ll never have to. We’ve been saying goodbye to each other for the past four years and I still get teary eyed every time he leaves. He’s the love of my life, my sailor; I chose this lifestyle…I’m a ‘Navy wife.’ Coming to Japan was our first overseas military posting and has exposed me to a completely unique culture of its own. The base we’re attached to is its own self-sustaining compound where, believe it or not, some people never venture beyond the metal gates. There’s a grocery store, hospital, furniture store, pools, gyms, fast food restaurants, two movie theatres,
culture, and learn a new language. I didn’t follow him out here, we jumped at the opportunity and ventured over together. From the moment we arrived in Japan I was able to dive head first into finding work and have been working ever since. Rather than staying home and going stir crazy or gossiping with other Navy wives, I’ve been exploring the streets of Tokyo meeting with clients, closing business deals, and gaining invaluable international experience. Work keeps me busy and with him gone more than threefifths of the year, you get over being lonely. I don’t have time to be lonely. Of course I miss my family. I miss long, intimate talks with my mom over coffee, I miss the occasional run with Dad along the river, I miss hanging out with my brother and sister, and I
hey say distance makes the heart grow fonder and T I couldn’t agree more. I value the time my husband and I have together not knowing when or how long he’ll be gone for next.
a bowling alley, a driving range; almost anything you can think of, we’ve got. The base community consists of young bachelors or bachelorettes, young married couples, pregnant moms, lots of strollers, married couples with children, and retirees all jammed into 568 acres. Typically the wives follow their husbands around from posting to posting living a very nomadic life, often with very little say in the matter. She has to leave her career, family, and friends behind and start over from scratch. As a Navy wife, your husband is usually away at sea and it can be a very lonely time. At the same time, you’re forced to become head of the household; paying bills, working, and sometimes raising a family all by yourself. There are many challenges of being a Navy wife, but I’ve been able to overcome them and embrace them, making my time here so much more memorable. For us, Japan was our first choice for an overseas assignment and a perfect time in both our lives to live abroad, experience a different
since moved on from Japan and relocated to other postings. There’s this constant turnover every two to three years with the likelihood you’ll never see them again, making it very challenging to form lasting, meaningful friendships.Another reason is that we don’t have children. Not that I’m complaining because we’re just not ready for kids yet, but it automatically excludes us from that social circle of mommies and daddies. And to be honest, I’m just not a gung ho Navy wife. I mean, I love my husband and respect what he does, but I don’t want it to define me, my career, or my friends. Joining a Navy wives’ club doesn’t really appeal to me. I don’t want to sit around and listen to gossip about cheating wives, complaints about being lonely, or misbehaving kids. However, there have been a few groups I’ve found on base to be very resourceful and a way for me to get involved in the base community.When I first arrived I found the English Teaching Networking Group to be
here are many challenges of being a Navy wife, but T I’ve been able to overcome them and embrace them making my time here so much more memorable. I consider myself to be very outgoing and can make friends quite easily, but for some reason I haven’t been able to form any really close relationships within the Navy community. Of the meager friendships I’ve made, they have
miss endless chatter with my girlfriends. But with today’s technology and thank god for Skype, it makes keeping in touch that much easier. I have to thank my parents for giving us the travelling bug and encouraging us to go overseas, broadening our experiences. They both left home, choosing to live and work overseas in the Middle East where they met, fell in love, and got married. The farther away us children move away from home, the farther they get to travel, racking up mileage points. They came out to Japan last year and my sister visited earlier this year.
Louise’s husband serves on a ship like this. image: Matt Watts
ON BEING A NAVY
“The base we’re attached to is its own self-sustaining compound.”
very helpful in learning about teaching English in Japan privately or at schools. It’s through this group that I eventually landed my current job. I joined a running group last year, keeping me on track and focused to run the marathon earlier this year. The Fleet Family and Support Center on base has also been informative about applying for federal jobs, space A travel, and various touring destinations throughout Japan. There are many groups on base catering to all different types of people and personalities, you just have to seek out your own niche. They say distance makes the heart grow fonder and I couldn’t agree more. I value the time my husband and I have together not knowing when or how long he’ll be gone for next. We have a greater sense of appreciation for each other. Most importantly, we trust each other and love each other; there’s nothing like BAB being a Navy wife.
‘CHEER LEADER’ by Wendy Midori Epstein
Wendy with the MGU ouendan.
the cheer squad. “Guys and girls together on the same team…and it’s much cooler-looking than American cheer leading. Why can’t we have this back in the States?” My memory of this experience was all but pushed aside until it was prodded to the surface the next summer. It was my first time working at the Japanese immersion camp where I had been a camper two years before. No less than two of the counsellors were wild about Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan!, a (really addictive) rhythm game for the Nintendo DS that stars a team of scarily intense leaders who apparently embody the pinnacle of Japanese manliness. Although the portrayal in the game is a bit over-the-top, I got a better idea of what it is the ouendan does, and more importantly, what it was called in the first place. I came to Japan for the third time in my life this past September. Knowing that I was in for a full year as an exchange student at Meiji Gakuin University, I had decided well before I landed at Narita that I wanted to join a school club. Typical Japanese student life usually includes extracurricular activities, so to me it seemed natural to want a taste of the lifestyle for myself. The big question was, of course, which club would I join? While considering art clubs, sports clubs, and cultural clubs, my memory of ouendan hit me out of the blue. It was then I decided: if the school had one, I wanted to join. Having spent the past two summers working as a camp counsellor, I already knew I enjoyed screaming in Japanese and, seeing as ouendan is a phenomenon completely unique to Japan, I knew I’d be in for an amazing cultural experience. Before the orientation period was up I was in the student affairs office asking the supervisor if I could join… the Leader Division, of course. While apparently it can vary by school, at the university level it tends to be that in the ouendan men become leaders and women cheer. Suddenly I became an oddity on two levels—not only was I the first foreigner in the MGU Leader Division since its formation in 1949, but I was also the first female. Apparently when the supervisor informed the present members that they had a new applicant, he left out that last part. I would have loved to see the look on the club leader’s face when he heard my voice over the phone that first time back in September. Things were a bit rough at the beginning. Although I was welcomed to the club with open arms, I honestly had no idea what I was doing. Ouendan has a whole slew of cultural elements to it—hierarchy, greetings, manners—that I suppose might be second nature to someone who grew up here, but to someone like me, they result in a lot of questioning and more commonly, some fantastic faux pas. This confusion, mixed with a
image: M. Jane Epstein
So, you’re a university student. Are you in any school clubs?” Whenever I introduce myself as a foreign exchange student, this question is almost inevitable, right up there with inquiring about where I’m from, what my major is, and how long I’ve been studying Japanese. Personally, I love being asked about extracurricular activities, not only because I am crazy about my club, but because people often don’t quite know what to make of my answer. “Yes, I am,” I reply with a smile on my face. “I’m in the ouendan.” “Oh!” Not a lot of non-Japanese seem to know of the ‘ouendan,’ or ‘cheer squad,’ tradition, so it is often surprising when the word comes up in conversation. Based on my gender and (quite likely) my appearance, my conversation partner often makes an assumption on what my role within the squad is: “So, you’re a cheerleader?” This is where things get fun. “No,” I correct them. Despite apparently fitting the visual stereotype of the ‘American cheerleader,’ I’m just not a pleated skirt and pom-poms kind of girl. “Actually, I’m in the Leader Division.” No one sees this answer coming. Facial expressions on my conversation partner tend to vary here…my favourite is the wide-eyed look of utter shock accompanied by a high-pitched,“Eeeh?” “You know, the Leader Division…the guy’s side of the ouendan. I wear the boy’s gakuran uniform and yell ‘hooray, hooray’ at baseball games.” Hand motions accompany the statement for further clarification. Yes, astonished inquisitor, you heard me right: I, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed American female, am a Japanese male cheerleader. In my defense, I didn’t realise that it was traditionally an all-male activity. You see, the first Leader Division I ever saw was mixedgender. After graduating high school in 2006, I came to Japan for a month-long study abroad program. I spent about a week in Fukuoka staying with a host family and commuting to Kyushu High School every day. Walking to the school gate after classes, I passed a small group of students carrying an enormous flag in white-gloved hands. Despite the fact that the school’s uniform consisted of blazers and vests, these students were wearing high-collared black jackets with large brass buttons. As they marched through the quad they were yelling.The voice that sounded with the most frequency, the highest clarity, the most power, the loudest volume, was unmistakably female. The danchou (squad leader) was a girl. “This is really cool!” I thought to myself upon learning that they were
lack of self-confidence stressed me out, but over time we had more practices, more experiences, and I grew more comfortable with everything. As I learned to relax and laugh things off, my voice grew louder and my confidence increased as well. Every so often interaction in general can be an issue as neither one of my club mates speaks English. While my Japanese is decent, the language barrier often restricts our conversation topics. Gender and cultural differences also result in each party making assumptions about the other and acting (or not acting) accordingly. For a while I thought one of them disliked me, but it turned out he was just shy and over time has warmed up to me. Also, although my club mates are very physical with each other, they avoid laying a hand on me due to the fear of being accused of sexual harassment. There are things they won’t talk about in front of me and every so often they go off to discuss ‘guy’ things on their own. I suppose that despite my efforts, they just can’t see me as “one of the guys.” That’s not to say we don’t get along. Over time we’ve grown more accustomed to each other and have learned to make things work our own way. We talk to each other when we cross paths in the hallway and sometimes eat together at school. We share snacks and lend things to each other often. We have our own jokes that barely even make sense to us but are funny anyway. We make our own playing field on which we make the best memories. Despite occasional awkwardness outside of club activities, when we are out cheering as a group, things are wonderful. There is a harmony between us that transcends gender, culture… everything, really. Both in Japan and back in the States I’ve often felt I don’t belong, but when I am out in my gakuran yelling with the rest of the BAB ouendan, I know it’s one place I finally do. Being A Broad June 2009
of Atelier Shinji
Name: Janine Vleugel Naoi Nationality: Australian Qualifications: Bachelor of Design (Honours) in Graphic Design from Swinburne National School of Design, Melbourne Job title: designer/director Employer: Atelier Shinji Time in this job: two years (part time) Job description: I am working as a graphic designer at a company in Minami Aoyama while building up a contemporary jewellery brand. My husband Ippei and I had the opportunity to start a new brand under the company Atelier Shinji. We create high-purity silver (Silver 950) hand-crafted pieces in our workshop in Ginza. Our brand is called amamika, which is derived from the word kimama, translating roughly as ‘to do as one feels.’ It is our goal to capture the warmth of human touch and we are inspired by organic and geometric shapes that often work together in our pieces to create playful contemporary motifs. Every Saturday I work at the Shinji workshop and on-premise in the store developing designs, creating pieces, and helping customers in the store. My role has also been to create the marketing material for our brand, arrange promotional events, PR, and also take part in trade shows and exhibitions both in Japan and abroad. We have created everything in-house, drawing upon our past skills to create what we have, including web design and development, photography, brand design, marketing, PR, and even modelling (with a lot of Photoshop!). We collaborate regularly with Paris-based JapaneseFrench product and interior design duo, A+A Cooren (Ippei’s sister and brother-in-law). They have been awarded in Japan for their Dragonfly coat hangers, of which an accessory version has been made. Their involvement with various series has made our group come full-circle in design backgrounds, creating truly unique, conversational pieces. General requirements: I believe anyone with a passion for design and creating things could do something like this. My background as a graphic designer has brought a different and new perspective to what we are doing, which is proving to be popular amongst designconscious people. It is because we have different design backgrounds, not in the exact field (in this instance, of jewellery or silversmithing), that frees our creative thinking and allows us to create pieces that differentiate us from other jewellery designers. Japanese requirement: Creativity in physical items does not require any language, however to work in Japan doing this, it certainly helps to be able to speak Japanese. I am not fluent,
however I can generally make myself understood, and although my ability makes it difficult to help Japanese customers in a professional manner, I can easily get around with my level. How she found this job: The company is owned by my husband’s parents, who have been creating contemporary jewellery for over 30 years. As a graphic designer by trade, I found an irresistible opportunity in that business. Ippei’s parents were very keen for us to get involved in the business and for us to express ideas that would otherwise be lost in the corporate design world. Best thing: There are many ‘best things’ when you are doing what you want, but for me, being able to express full creativity and having the opportunity to push my creative skills and develop further as a designer has been a wonderful experience. Also, it is so great to have something truly for ourselves and something to build on that we are wholly responsible for. I have always worked for companies that work on corporate marketing accounts and because what we are doing now is driven from the product, not the marketing, it is an exciting new approach for me. Worst thing: Building a brand and being our own bosses requires a great amount of personal discipline and motivation. When there are no limitations, it is difficult to know where to begin. It is also a two-step-forward, one-step-back process, which requires a great deal of patience. I am improving at taking a step back and looking at the whole picture. Interesting stories: Ippei and I originally met in Amsterdam, where I lived for three years and Ippei for almost six. As I was working in advertising and Ippei in web design, we soon found a common ground in our love for design and often dreamed of doing something together as a creative team. We had the opportunity to relocate to Tokyo, Ippei’s home city, where we could realise that dream through contemporary jewellery. Issues affecting her as a woman: There are really no particular issues affecting me as a woman in this field, and being both foreign and female can be an advantage as it is memorable and a differentiation from other Japanese companies who are in jewellery design. Being foreign and female in Tokyo is not uncommon these days, but more infrequent than being foreign and male. I have always tried to make that difference work to my advantage. Advice: Having no past experience in a particular field is not necessarily a negative, but can be a plus. This is certainly an advantage in terms of differentiation in difficult economic
Janine with a display of her company’s jewellery. image: Ippei Naoi
JANINE VLEUGEL NAOI
times, such as now. Differentiation is the key to success and having a different background is always a plus as it enables you to bring a new perspective to what you are doing. Of course it is necessary to learn and to be open, but if you have the passion, anything is possible. In terms of the creative industry, having your ‘antenna’ switched on is essential. Having friends in different fields and having interests in various and seemingly irrelevant things is often a great source of inspiration. Recommended resources: Our website! Please check out what we are doing at: www. amamika.com and please come to the Ginza store and say hello. Check also the website of our head company, Atelier Shinji, at www. ateliershinji.com. Magazines such as Brutus, Casa, Wallpaper, and Frame are all good to see what is happening in the world in terms of contemporary product design. The Tokyo Art Beat website is also a good English-language resource for finding out about exhibitions, events, and happenings around Tokyo. Other jobs done in Japan: Currently, alongside amamika, I am working in the design group of an online communications agency. There I work on creative concept development for various Japanese and foreign clients. I have been working there for over two years. Previous to this company, I freelanced in graphic design doing small projects such as branding, packaging, and illustration, however as I enjoy being around people for inspiration, I found freelance work too solitary. My husband and I have also worked together on various freelance photography BAB projects in the past.
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.
EVERGREEN OUTDOOR CENTER
WOMEN’S RETREAT AT
Evergreen’s women-only retreats promise plenty of nature, exercise, and relaxation in a beautiful setting. all images: provided by EOC.
ooking for a relaxing retreat or a bit of time in nature without compromising on your comfort, of course? Join an international community at Evergreen’s Women’s Retreat this summer for natural rejuvenation in the pristine Japan Alps.Their retreat is a chance for women to connect in a beautiful alpine setting while creating a relaxing atmosphere to relieve you of everyday responsibilities, keeping the focus on you. We all need time to slow down from our daily hectic schedule and at the Evergreen Outdoor Center (EOC) they realise that and adhere to a balanced lifestyle of healthy recreation, clean air and water, focused fitness and leisure, and plenty of time to appreciate the natural world around us. Evergreen is a community of international parents and individuals and through a love of mountain beauty, a priority of creative education, and a need to energise with friends, their women’s retreat developed. Activities: Every activity and event at EOC’s retreat is designed to relax and rejuvenate your body. They start each day with outdoor yoga in the mountains lead by Sara Shivani of ‘Living Shizen,’ followed by aromatherapy instruction by AEAJ Instructor Mariko Enright, outdoor activities, spa treatments and enough time to relax and do as you feel. The staff of licensed massage therapists, yoga instructors, organic chefs, and outdoor guides can give you specific treatment based on your needs. Each day they take the visiting women on new adventures while exploring Hakuba mountain life through alpine hikes, canoe adventures, wildflower tours, bike rides on scenic trails, soaking in hot
springs, and much more. Move at your comfort level and always with a friendly, professional guide. Besides their active events, they take tours of local cultural points of interest, have BBQs, check out art galleries and shops by bike, and always welcome you to go off on your adventures. Evergreen Outdoor Center also teaches the skills to continue with healthy practices when you return home. Our workshops and activities are hands-on and we encourage you to ask many questions to advance your skills and knowledge. Cuisine: In terms of meals, EOC chooses fresh, organic foods to make up their daily diet. Though you are free to order anything you like, they make sure that healthy and tasty options are available each meal. Evergreen Outdoor Center tries to plan each dining option to include delicious local cuisine, to also fulfill nutritional needs, and of course to pair the meal with harmonious wines. They also provide a workshop where time is spent learning about vegetarian cuisine with one of Japan’s up and coming vegan and raw foods chefs, Chie Shinya. Chie has spent the last five years living between California and Tokyo, producing the menus and meal plans for multiple whole food restaurants and cooking for groups of 10–1,000 people at events in Japan and the United States. So this is a perfect time to make this your chance to study and eat with a selfsustaining organic community. Lodging: Hakuba has excellent choices for accommodation and as they want to focus on making the experience a truly exceptional one, only the best and most luxurious establishments will be
made available for their guests during the retreat. Centrally located, La Neige Hotel in Hakuba has some luxurious rooms that come with en-suite jacuzzis and big bathrooms, while the property also boasts a high-end gourmet French restaurant inside the hotel that will surely delight any culinary aficionado’s palate. If beating the sweltering summer heat of most urban centres is something you really need, then this type of retreat may be just what you are looking for. Treat yourself to some downtime where you can relax in fresh mountain air, socialise with other like-minded women, and re-adjust to a BAB mellow pace where you can just be you.
For dates and further details on three-day and five-day retreats in Hakuba please contact the Evergreen Outdoor Center at 026172-5150 or check their website at www. evergreen-hakuba.com/retreats.
Being A Broad June 2009
FRIENDS OF AUFW JAPAN by Hilary Wendel
all images: provided by Friends of AUFW Japan
Various scenes from the newly-developing Asian University for Women.
ne morning in 2005 Kathy Matsui was scrolling through the hundreds of emails that accumulate in her inbox daily. Delete...delete...delete, reply, save, delete, delete…As a partner at Goldman Sachs and head of Economics, Commodities, and Strategy Research in Asia, her days are back-to-back meetings, conference calls, and video conferencing. The inbox can quickly
time, she writes a quick but polite reply. “Sounds interesting, but I am so sorry that I cannot help.” This time, however, Kathy could not bring herself to dismiss it so lightly. “I thought, if I delete this, it will stay in my conscience. It had all the elements that I myself had been preaching about for years in my research on Womenomics... the importance of the diversity of women in
ourageous parents from [around Asia] have kissed their C daughters good-bye, worrying about sending them off to a strange country with a different culture, but believing and hoping that the results will be worth the sacrifice.
overwhelm if not dealt with forcefully. She shows little mercy and there is no time for the frivolous…delete, delete. In addition to her appointed job, she also serves on her firm’s diversity committee and is globally recognised for her work on the ‘Womenomics’ theme. Delete, delete, delete…An email from her husband about dinner and one from the school about an upcoming soccer tournament, a Girl Scout camping trip…file to the personal folder, and save. ‘Subject: Asian University for Women.’ What the heck is that? Kathy’s finger hesitates over the delete button, but she decides to open it quickly and deal with whatever it might be. Little did she know, she was opening a new chapter in her already busy life. The email is a plea from a fellow Harvard alumnus, whose name she has never heard before. Kamal Ahmad, a lawyer at the Asian Development Bank, writes to her explaining his vision for a new university to be located in South Asia with a mission to provide higher education for the women of Asia. Would Kathy be interested in learning more? In most circumstances when she is asked to take on yet one more demand on her
leadership, the education of women, and the role of Asia as a region.” So she sent him a response that probably surprised him, “I would love to support your project.” Twenty years ago, Kamal Ahmand, a thirteenyear-old boy in Bangladesh, set up a classroom in his parents’ garage to teach the slum children to read. When authorities tried to shut down his unauthorised classroom, he re-grouped, forming an actual school with financial support from a local NGO. From this small beginning a vision was hatched that set him on his current path. Kamal attended law school at Harvard and gained experience and contacts while working at the Asian Development Bank, but he never gave up on his dream of building a university where the women of South Asia could come together to learn freely. Thus, the seeds of the Asian University for Women were planted. An institution of higher learning that would be “international in outlook but rooted in the contexts and aspirations of people across Asia.” Today, Kamal Ahmad is working passionately and successfully towards achieving his lifetime
goal from the headquarters for the project in Boston. A Gates Foundation Challenge Grant of $15 million helped bring legitimacy to the project, and ‘cold emailing’ Kathy Matsui in 2005 proved to be an important turning point for the project. Once committed, Matsui helped found Friends of AUW Japan, recruiting others to the committee including the economist Robert Feldman, James Kondo, Yasuko Tashiro, and Erika Yamaguchi. As chance would have it, Matsui was having lunch with a few of these founding members at The French Kitchen in Roppongi Hills when Kathy Pike, a Temple University professor, walked by on her way to the buffet. Stopping to greet an acquaintance at the table, she was introduced to Kathy Matsui, who gave her a brief but passionate synopsis of the project. As the saying goes, the rest is history. Pike recalls, “I didn’t know Kathy Matsui, but I knew of her. Our kids are at the same school and I had heard about her on other occasions. Someone like Kathy Matsui is involved in a lot of different things, so our paths were bound to cross. Even before meeting her, I knew this was someone that I would love to know better and would enjoy working with. I also was immediately intrigued by the project.” Soon, Pike was invited to join the AUW working team and is now a member of the Board of Directors. Individually, each woman is talented, but together as a team the two bridge the business world and the academic world. Pike brings her experience of being the vice-chair of Tokyo English Life Line (TELL) to the project and she is also on the Board of Directors for the American School in Japan (ASIJ). These positions have proven useful when it came to setting up an NPO
in Japan and in staffing the nascent university with professors. Matsui, meanwhile, brings her connections in the business world and her knowledge of finances and ‘closing the deal’ to the project. Through the efforts and fundraising of Matsui and Pike of the Friends of AUW in Japan, the project has advanced significantly. In a relatively short time, the project has gone from dream to reality. One hundred and thirty young women of diverse cultures and backgrounds representing seven countries of South Asia arrived in Chittagong, Bangladesh in March of 2008. These young women had been selected from an application pool of nearly 1,200 to attend the Access Academy, an 18-month bridge program designed to prepare them for matriculation into the full fledged five year joint bachelors and masters program in the fall of 2010. The current teaching staff for the Access Academy includes 15 WorldTeach Fellows. Classes are held in temporary quarters while waiting for the buildings to be completed. The prize-winning Israeli architect, Moshe Safde, has developed the architectural master plan and the first building in the phase-based project is scheduled for completion in 2011. In October of 2008, both women were invited to speak at a symposium titled, ‘Overcoming History; Rethinking Rights and Opportunities for Women in Asia’ hosted by the AUW in Dhaka. The symposium was timed to coincide with the inaugural celebration of AUW. A delegation of foreign guests and participants representing institutions who have partnered with AUW, such as California’s Stanford University, the Aalborg University in Denmark, and the Imperial College in London, were invited to the impressive
ceremony, which was sponsored by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The celebration was held in a tent on the 100 acre campus, the land for which was donated by the government of Bangladesh (and luckily secured through a congressional act). The keynote speaker was the Nobel Prize winner and founder of the Grameen Bank Dr. Muhammad Yunus, who is also a board member of the AUW. The students of the Access Academy presented to the visitors and participated in the inauguration ceremonies, presenting both a cultural and academic program that transfixed the guests. At one point, visitors had a chance to hear the incredible autobiographical stories as told to them by the students. “What these women went through to get here is inspiring and unbelievable,” says Pike. “Some of these women
Last month the Friends of AUW in Japan held its first public fundraising event in Tokyo, sponsoring a screening and dinner with the filmmaker of a documentary on women in Afghanistan. The event was held at the Sogetsu School and was attended by over 150 members of the Japanese and expatriate community, many of whom were hearing of AUW for the first time. The actual receipts from the event are not available at the writing of this article, but the organisers were pleased with the attendance and the goal of raising the public profile in Japan. Matsui is hopeful that the AUW will grab the interest of the Japanese. “It sometimes feels like Asia is so far from Japan, but Japan should play a greater role in Asia. This is our chance.” Meanwhile, back in Bangladesh, courageous parents from Cambodia, India, Nepal, Pakistan,
are the first of their family to go to school or to leave their village, others have been witness to wars, bloodshed, and murder.” Despite the generous support of Goldman, Sachs and the Bill Gates Foundation, among others, the millions of dollars required for an institution of this scope pose a challenge. Pike and Matsui and their families, it should be added, are committed to the project and remain undaunted. “A few years ago the AUW was an abstract idea. Now it’s becoming more concrete...but we are realistic that success will not happen in a moment, but rather in a decade. We are committed to the long term vision,” states Pike. There will be successes and there will be setbacks, but Kathy Pike and Kathy Matsui will not be deterred and continue to believe.
and Sri Lanka have kissed their daughters goodbye, worrying about sending them off to a strange country with a different culture, but believing and hoping that the results will be worth the sacrifice. As for the girls, the future leaders of their communities and countries, what is foremost in their minds? Their most immediate concerns have often been whether they will like the local food (will it be too spicy?) or what they will be able to do in their free time in Chittagong (Starbucks…no, but there is a Baskin Robbins Ice Cream), which, if you think about it, are pretty standard concerns for most incoming freshman around the world! More information on the Asian University for Women can be found at www.asianBAB university.org.
university to be located in South Asia with a misAnew sion to provide higher education for women of Asia...
Being A Broad June 2009
by Laura Ingulsrud
Laura hard at work in Thailand.
all images: provided by Laura Ingulsrud
BUILDING A FUTURE
ould you trust a group of high schoolers to build your house? That’s exactly what two families in Thailand did as they welcomed twenty-six students from ASIJ’s Habitat for Humanity club for a full week this February. We travelled to Korat, a poor northeastern area of Thailand, to build two houses. Guided by group supervisors, we worked hard. Waking up early each morning, we laboured all day on the work sites. We hauled heavy cement bricks from one person to another like an assembly line. We stirred an endless soup of cement and sand to make mortar. Brick by brick, the walls were slowly raised until they reached the roof beams. Bucket after bucket of gravel, sand, and cement sacks were lugged to make the floor foundation. Wearing masks to keep out the dust we dragged hoes through the gritty mixture, finally pouring it out to form a smooth cement floor. As president of our Habitat for Humanity club, I was bestowed the honour of working on one of
the most important and rewarding jobs on the work site. Burrowing into suspiciously smelly red mud, I shovelled dirt out of a dank hole until it was three metres square. After hours of hot and sweaty labour, I proudly hauled myself out of the pit to admire my newly dug...septic tank. At the end of each day, we all piled into a bus back to the hotel to take much needed showers. At the end of one long week, we were
call for me as I realised how much I had been taking my comforts for granted. Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organisation that works alongside families to build simple, affordable homes. Since its founding in 1976, Habitat for Humanity has built over 300,000 houses, providing shelter for more than 1.5 million people in over 90 countries around the world. It is not a giveaway program, however.
though the work was gruelling and strenuous, I would Even jump at the next chance I have to do another build. rewarded with the sight of two finished houses, and the grateful smiles of the new homeowners. The best experience of the trip was seeing our hard work result in a much needed home for a deserving family. The dedication ceremony was emotional for me, as the homeowners tearfully expressed their heartfelt thanks and cut the ribbon to their new home. The trip had a lasting impact on all of us, and I found myself valuing my own situation so much more. It was a wake-up
In addition to an application process that determines whether a family deserves a house, chosen families must invest hundreds of hours of their own labour—sweat equity—into building their home alongside volunteers from Habitat. My experience going to Thailand and building a house proved that anyone can participate in a Habitat for Humanity build. All you need is a will to work and a sturdy pair of gloves. It’s amazing what a group of inexperienced kids can accomplish in just one week. I’m so grateful for the opportunity I had in going on this trip and even though the work was gruelling and strenuous, I would jump at the next chance I BAB have to do another build. Jump right in! To join trips to Thailand and other places in need of affordable housing, contact Habitat for Humanity Japan by tel. 03-5330-5571, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out the website for more ideas on building a brighter future: www.habitatjp. org/LAH/lah_bp_e.html.
One of the houses in progress.
by S.Z. Cairney
lie, Booby Slayer latched onto her favourite right boob hungrily drinking, little chubby hands kneading away, enjoying the silence before it heralds in the imminent whirlwind of another glorious day. I am determined to start this day in a positive way. I will radiate nothing but pure maternal goodness and patience. I will not shout or lose it. Nor will I beat a hasty retreat to the sanctuary of the loo and stone to death a few of the penguin figurines perched all cheery and smug-like in the toilet water basin. I’ve followed Bionic Babysitter’s huge best seller: Ten Step Plan To Grab Your Morning By Its Balls and that’s just what I plan to do...plus give ‘em a huge twist for old time’s sake. Booby Slayer, as if sensing that ‘that’ time is near, speeds up drinking, little arms now outstretched, embracing the possibilities a new dawn brings with it. It’s as if a door to another world opens. No, no more like a scene in the movies where time stands still only to have someone snap their fingers and everything speeds up. The cockerel alarm ‘cock a doodle do’s us...with three kids under five, sophistication moved out yonks ago from our place...it’s into another day and as my daughter throws herself on my bed, dangling something in my eyes, I hear the dull beat starting to throb. The pace erratic and stumbling for a minute or so but then gaining momentum. Here we go again. I’ve often wondered if I am the only one who can see the pitulus. Every house has one: a drummer. Scantily decked out in a loincloth, six pack to make a gal weak at the knees, akin to the drummer (a pitulus) found in the galley on a Ben Hur-type Roman ship of olde, beating the pace for the oarsmen, only these pitulus set the pace of our days. From the moment we open our eyes until we crash—exhausted—into our beds. And pitiless at times they can be, showing no mercy to the ship that finds itself awash in stormy waters. “By its balls...by its balls,” I chant under my breath, squeezing my fists up, demonstrating the exact manoevere that would adroitly do the job, only to see hubby looking over at me quizzically. “Everything OK?” he enquires. “OK...” I reply, clenching and unclenching fists as Bionic Babysitter is a firm believer that visualisation is an imperative component to realising your dreams. “By the balls...by the baaalllls...” I chant a bit more, exiting the bedroom with Booby Slayer and Pitiless beating away enthusiastically on his leather-bound drum following along. “Right everyone,” I chirp, doing a perfect rendition of a Disney Princess who’s just experienced the best multi-orgasm ever known to the sisterhood, “Clothes are all laid out, please get dressed.” OK, step one implemented, squirm Mr. Morning squirm as my grip tightens. Wee one
dressed. Others dressing...gliding into the kitchen, stick tongue out at the pitulus making racket in the corner. Cat fed. I can hear the drumbeat from next door as the Japanese mum calls out to her brood to hurry. Glancing at clock, doing well for time. Thank God for The Bionic Babysitter! All three wee piggies sat munching happily, bento boxes all lined up to go in bags...right, let’s just double check today’s agenda again. ‘Bum test’ I read. Bum test? Is it my writing? Yep...No, I’ve had my yearly womanly check up. Braved the Brazilian a few weeks back...What the hell? Then a bell starts to clang in my mind. A bell that slowly becomes louder and louder, clashing with Pitiless’ beat, which also seems to have suddenly increased in volume and pace. Racing to my ‘office drawer,’ I open it and a flurry of notices and announcements fly out like confetti. Today? I forgot, but there again if I worked for NASA, the FBI, and Interpol simultaneously I would have a lot less paperwork to contend with. Found it! OK, keep calm...I am the absolute personification of maternal benevolence and composure. “OK everyone! Finished breakfast? Good. Now Mummy just has to do a little test…
THE BEAT OF THE MORNING DRUM fresh clothes for your sister.” I instruct, bounding up the stairs. The beat is starting to reverberate throughout the house now. I feel its pull. I want nothing more than to block it out, to stick my fingers up defiantly, and embrace a life full of ambiguous schedules. Of brunches, of ‘sometime later today’ days. Where if you don’t get your bum bum test sample in on a certain date, before a certain time, the whole world won’t collapse. Over the drumming I can hear shouts from below to which I respond intermittently with ‘Put on your socks. Get dressed!’ The chirpy ‘I’ve just had multiple orgasms’ princess voice is sounding more and more like one of the Darleks from a 1972 Dr. Who episode, only Tom Baker looks a lot less dishevelled than I at this moment and the theme music would be very apt accompanying the ever increasing clamour of the drums. Back downstairs. Twins still half naked. I swear I feel the house lurch to one side and the crashing of waves. “Clothes...now!” I bark out more monosyllabic Darlek commands. But Mummy, Mummy,” they whine back as I grab the giggling wee one as she races by, poo poo now smeared all over her backside. Suspicious odours drift lazily from
Well...basically Mummy is going to stick a piece of “ sticky tape on your bum bum. No, your bum bum isn’t broken, darling...” no, it’s not going to hurt, lovey. Take off your shorts and underwear, both of you. Well...basically Mummy is going to stick a piece of sticky tape on your bum bum. No your bum bum isn’t broken, darling. It’s to test if any worms are near your bum bum...” Shouts of: ‘I don’t want that’ from son and daughter crying. “Ohhhh...no, don’t worry, they are nice worms. Cute, fuzzy wuzzy little thingies but we need to check. OK, ladies first.” Glancing at the clock I nearly scream when I see that a whole twenty minutes have sneaked by. Pitiless is beating heartily away on his drum as I squat in front of the twins, bent over, bottoms in air as I try to position a piece of tape over a certain area. Not actually how I envisaged Motherhood... Screaming erupts from the living room, I race in, and my heart is rudely dislodged from my mouth by a wet, soggy missile slamming full force into my face. Shrieking with glee my youngest, now totally butt naked, races over victorious and crying: “Bum bum, bum bum!” Good God...how much does this nappy weigh? Oh God...where are your clothes? Just before my eyes go into cardiac arrest, my son shouts out: “In the sink, Mummy!” From the doorway, I watch, helpless, as a wee t-shirt slowly sinks below the murky depths, one arm of Pooh making a final grasp at air before a school of rice crispies silences it forever. “Right, get your clothes back on. I’m going upstairs to get some
the kitchen. I daren’t look now. I sense a craggy cliff nearby. I now feel every beat through my bones...it is becoming deafening with every movement of the second hand on the clock. Time...you Judas! “Do you want to go to kindy today?” I ask through a jaw that is starting to feel slightly clenched. Loud “Yes” followed by me: “OK then. Get dressed please!” Loading the cleaned up baby into the pram, I triumphantly swing open the front door and push off outside. We made it. We’re going to make it, maybe a bit late but...we are getting out the door as my boy limps past. I shout over the background rhythm: “Have you hurt yourself, Lovey?” Only then to remember the bum bum tests. Oh God! Where the hell did I put them now! Brake on pram, race back inside. “Do you kids know where the bum bum tests are? I put them down somewhere!” I then notice that my daughter is walking rather funny too. “Are you OK, Sweetyheart? What have you two done to yourselves?” I ask all concerned, temporarily forgetting the crisis at hand. “Well, Mummy,” she answers quietly, so quietly I can hardly hear over all the drumming din.” The bum bum tests are still on our bum bums...” The drumming becomes so loud that I feel the need to cover my ears but I can’t...as the house lurches to one side, I catch my balance by gripping the settee. The smell of salt assaults my nostrils and waves crash mightily BAB against the walls... Being A Broad June 2009
GUIDE TO INTERNATIONAL
SCHOOLS IN JAPAN by Christina Bell
he process of sorting out the international education choices in Japan just became a little bit easier. In May, Caroline Pover published the staggeringly comprehensive Guide to International Schools in Japan. It provides thorough information for over 100 international schools all over Japan, easing the potentially stressful task of finding the right school for your preschool–grade 12 child. Caroline Pover didn’t start out as a writer, magazine editor, or a publisher. She trained to become an educator, and after teaching in the United Kingdom, came to Japan to teach in an international school, and shortly thereafter completed and self-published her first book, Being A Broad in Japan: Everything a Western woman needs to survive and thrive. She also founded Being A Broad and ran Weekender magazines. Soon, this transplanted teacher found herself accepting the BCCJ’s British Business Award
finally finds their place and is able to thrive. While it is often unavoidable, changing schools always has a unique set of adjustments and stresses. One of the benefits of having a guide that presents the structure and philosophies of the different schools in a specific geographical area is the potential to minimise the amount of times kids have to adapt to a new school. For international kids, the importance of choosing the right school is amplified. In addition to the more straightforward concerns of class size and educational philosophies, there are social and linguistic issues. Is a bilingual school appropriate for your child? What is the school’s policy on bullying? Do teachers emphasise experiential learning or repetition as a primary teaching strategy? By using the Guide to International Schools in Japan, parents can get a feel for the size of each
he information on exactly how [schools] achieve [goals] allows parents to make an educated guess as to whether or not this might be a good match with their child’s personality and learning style...
for Best Entrepreneur at their 60th anniversary celebrations in 2008. Because Caroline Pover began her career as a teacher, she is familiar with school structures and educational philosophies. Immediately upon scanning the listings, it is apparent that the topics were designed by someone who understands schools from the viewpoints of both teachers and parents. Each school provided the same information, thus allowing parents to decide what issues they feel are a priority for their children and narrow the pool accordingly. As a parent and an educator, I spend most of my waking hours in school. I see educators who devote endless hours to planning learning experiences that will be enriching and memorable for students. This planning process takes into consideration that every student has a unique learning style. However, even as we are doing this work, we realise that there is no one lesson plan or teaching style that is a perfect match for every child. I have seen children fail to thrive in even the best of schools through no fault of their own. The existing classroom structure of the school simply did not match their individual learning style. From a parent’s perspective, I know firsthand the emotional fallout of placing a child in a school that, for whatever reason, turns out to be a poor match with that child’s personality or educational needs. I have experienced the guilt and sadness that comes with sending a child off every morning to spend the day in a learning environment that makes them unhappy. I’ve also enjoyed the relief that comes when your child
school, class sizes, and nationalities represented among the student population. Families can learn whether each school honours Japanese or North American holidays as well as whether or not uniforms are part of the dress code. Detailed information is given on languages taught, services for bicultural children, special needs and gifted programs, religious affiliations, and homework expectations. Perhaps the most important information is that which relates to educational philosophies. A great example of this is the Bilingual Kids International Preschool. Their commitment to allowing children under the age of six to set the curriculum by voicing and fully investigating their interests clearly distinguishes them as unique.
GUIDE TO INTERNATIONAL
IN JAPAN Number-one bestselling author
image: provided by Caroline Pover
were lower order candidates, probably to be able to say: ‘we’ve looked at many options.’” Many people were unaware of how many international schools are available to them. Betsy Wiedenmayer Rogers, a mother of three who also was able to see the material in the Guide to International Schools pre-press, “was keen to read about so many options outside the usual ASIJ,TIS, Nishimachi, [or] St. Mary’s, and at the same time, learn more about these popular international schools. Another deciding factor is the cost of the schools, as we have three children and need to factor that in as well.” The Guide to International Schools is sure to become a standard part of any relocation material issued to new families. However, even if your children are already in school in Japan it is an excellent tool for evaluating options, some of which you might not have known existed. The environment that a child needs can be as
he ability to sit down and match an educational environment to what you know to be true about T your child as a learner is incredibly empowering. The information on exactly how they achieve this goal allows parents to make an educated guess as to whether or not this might be a good match with their child’s personality and learning style before scheduling a visit to the school. One parent, Mark Ferris, who was given a sneak peek at the content of the book, reflected upon his family’s process of looking for schools without the Guide to International Schools. He observed that the “internet didn’t feature so much. Because options are (relatively) limited, word of mouth was the most frequent research tool, then visits to selected schools (either informal or formal). [The] internet was used for schools that
unique as a fingerprint. Some can blend into any environment, while others have more specific needs. A prevailing interest in a specific topic, such as science or the arts can make one school more suitable for a child than another. Some kids absolutely require active, hands-on experiences in order to comprehend and retain material. The ability to sit down and match an educational environment to what you know to be true about your child as a learner is incredibly empowering. For more information and to order your copy of the Guide to International Schools in Japan, go to the website at: www. internationalschoolsguidebook.com. BAB
MULTICULTURAL MOTHERING by Charlotte Lewis
all Me Okaasan is an anthology of real-life experiences of mothers raising their children with an awareness of two or more cultures. It was compiled and edited by long-time resident of Japan Suzanne Kamata. The women writers face different challenges with respect to being a multicultural mother. As I read the stories, I realised just how varied and diverse the issues are and how there, as yet, seems to be no ‘right’ or ‘ideal’ way to deal with any of them. In terms of the best way to bring up a multicultural family, we all still have a lot to learn. The stories cover issues such as: different standards of healthcare in a developing country, how to raise a child abroad in the mother tongue, adjusting to an adopted child’s nationality, and selecting the right school environment. The accounts in Call Me Okaasan do not attempt to answer or solve the issues they talk about. Their value lies in the frankness and honesty of the experiences related. There is little attempt to gloss over the experiences or to pretend that there is a one-size-fits-all solution. As Suzanne Kamata herself says, “No matter how much we strive to influence our kids, it appears that they will ultimately work out issues of identity by themselves.” Although I found the first story a little hard to get through, dealing opaquely with the topic of depression, I could appreciate its openness and my perseverance was rewarded with the stories that followed. I was very interested to read these stories for my own reasons. One could say that I have a multicultural background, having a Japanese mother and an English father. Yet I have never felt fully bicultural, despite now living in Japan. I was born and raised completely in the UK and have always been conscious that my mother never pushed for me to learn Japanese when I was a child. I always felt a bit different from other children and yet I had no strong Japanese identity. I can remember the forms where we had to write our ethnicity—I was forever confused whether to tick the box marked ‘Caucasian’ or ‘Asian’ or ‘Other.’ None of them seemed right to me. For me, my multicultural upbringing came more from the areas in London where I grew up, going to school with children from Indian, Pakistani, Jewish, and African backgrounds. Now that I live in Japan and have become familiar with Japanese culture, I think I actually feel less Japanese than ever before. Maybe it’s simply because I was exposed too late in life, maybe I’ve come to appreciate things I miss in England more, maybe it’s because of the negative feelings my mother has towards her own upbringing; I don’t know. I met my English husband while living in Japan. Our son has British parents and holds
a British passport. Yet he is actually a quarter Japanese, born in Tokyo. I don’t think we will be in Japan long enough for him to grow up speaking Japanese since it’s not my native language and we don’t speak it in the home. I have experimented with speaking some Japanese to him but it just didn’t feel natural. Yet I predict that our son will have the same curiosity about his ‘Japanese’ background that I had, and will want to come back to Japan one day. It will be something that I will have little control over. On the issue of language learning, most mothers seem to want their children to grow up speaking at least two languages fluently. I am no exception, but I do wonder if it is possible in a family where both parents speak the same native language, are living in their native country, and don’t share any other languages. I am interested in encouraging my son to speak French rather than Japanese from an early age but I don’t want to force my own preferences on him if it makes him unhappy. The main challenge for me in relation to multiculturalism is how to raise my son as a citizen of the world, open to all cultures, and understanding of the complexities of identity that now exist in society. What Suzanne Kamata’s book has shown me is that a multicultural upbringing really is an adventure. I think we need more books like hers to document the diversity of backgrounds that is becoming increasingly the norm. It is becoming evermore difficult to simply answer the straightforward question, “Where are you from?” For me, Suzanne’s book acted as a kind of ‘Chicken Soup’ for the multicultural mother’s soul on the one hand and on the other, fills a real need for more literature on multicultural upbringing of the kind that Jhumpa Lahiri did so well with her book Interpreter of Maladies. Interview with Suzanne Kamata: What originally brought you to Japan? I came here on the JET Programme to teach English in public schools. I had an interest in Japan and it was a great opportunity to see the country. How did you get into writing? I’ve been writing since childhood. I guess everyone does, but I never stopped. I wrote for my high school newspaper, then for a teen-written page of a local metropolitan newspaper, took writing classes in college, and then published my first short story in a literary magazine shortly after I came to Japan. What inspired you to pull together Call me Okaasan? My children! I love reading essays about motherhood but there aren’t so many out there about mothers of multicultural children. I was recently asked to write a review of books about expat mothers, but I couldn’t think of any, so I
decided it was time to put together my own. Are there any key themes to the stories in the book? A lot of these mothers are concerned with language, relations with grandparents, and their children’s identities. Also, I noticed that a lot of these mothers worried about whether they were raising their multicultural children correctly or not. All the writers come from and live all over the world. How did you find them? Mostly via the internet. I’m the fiction editor at literarymama.com, and I knew a few of them from there. I also posted a call for manuscripts to my writing group in Japan and on various mothering-related websites. Also, I knew some from their essays and books and then contacted them and invited them to contribute. If you had one piece of advice to give to a new mother of a multi-cultural family, what would it be? Hmm. Maybe relax. Kids’ identities are constantly shifting and ultimately it seems that we mothers can’t determine everything. Also, I’d advise new mothers to seek out other multicultural families. I think it has helped my kids to have peers with parents of different nationalities. What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start writing? Just do it! Most pieces of writing go through numerous rounds of revision before making it into print, so don’t worry if what you first put down on paper isn’t perfect. It’s easier once you’ve got something to work with, even if you think it’s garbage at first. What do you like most about life in Japan? Japan is very safe compared to most places and people seem to read more here than they do in my home country, the US. What do you like least? The sense of conformity and the occasional over-attention to detail. What’s your next project? I’m working on a new novel, which I’m calling The Baseball Widow. I’ve just about finished a first draft. I’m thinking it’s garbage, but I’m looking BAB forward to revising it. Call Me Okaasan has been named the winner in both the parenting/family and anthology categories of the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. In addition to being a winner in two categories, Call Me Okaasan has just been named a Grand Prize Winner (third place) in nonfiction overall in the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. The book is available from www.amazon.co.jp.
Being A Broad June 2009
IN ICHINOMIYA by Angie Takanami Scenes from Ichinomiya.
all images: Kuni Takanami
a broad in the boonies
THE SURFER’S LIFE
here’s only so long a beach girl can survive the mountain life. A year was the limit for me. I had never planned to stay in Japan for long, so I wasn’t all that bothered when I was placed on the JET programme in a lower class manufacturing town in Gunma. I picked up snowboarding, I did the rock river jumps, went canyoning, and did some hikes. But as soon as the chance presented itself to visit the beach in Chiba for a weekend, I jumped on it. Ichinomiya won me over right from the start. The surf, the cafes, the surfers…everything about the town was not what I had ever expected to find in Japan. I had no idea there were so many surfers in this country. As my mates and I ate genuine tacos from a roadside Mexican stand before the long drive back to Gunma, I said: “I could see myself living in a town like this…” Less than a year later I had packed up my things and set off for a new life in Ichinomiya. I decided I needed to experience the Japanese surfing culture and when I found a teaching job at an eikaiwa school called ‘Surf English,’ I knew the move was meant to be. My new Kiwi bosses helped me find a great little apartment across the road from the beach and I was settled before the beginning of summer. It didn’t take long to meet all the neighbours. Our apartment block was adjacent to a set of six beach-style cottages with an open carpark separating the two housing lots. The block was nicknamed mura by the locals, meaning ‘village.’ Residents of mura included surfers who lived there full time and surfers who came down on the weekends from Tokyo. Everyone was in his or her 20–30s, and their lives revolved around surfing. Every weekend was a party. The beach in Ichinomiya is not something to rave about. Blackish-grey sand, break walls, tetra pods, and plenty of rubbish that washes in from the fishing boats. But the surf is consistent and the locals make the town a magical place to
live. Restaurants and cafes line the main beach road and boast a variety of cuisines; everything from teishoku (Japanese set-lunch) and yakiniku (Korean BBQ) to lamb curry and hamburgers. Not to mention the Mexican stand, which to my joy was less than a stone’s throw away from my new apartment. For the first few months I almost lived on enchiladas and Coronas. To make things even more perfect, the local bar sells my Aussie hometown beer, Cooper’s Pale Ale. One thing that drives Tokyo-ites to Ichinomiya is the nature. Sure, the beach isn’t the island paradise that is Okinawa, but it’s quiet, pleasant, and surrounded by dense foliage, rice, melon, strawberry and vegetable farms, and the sunset over the back of the small mountains is a real treat. Would you believe there is even a dairy cow farm in this town?! A good handful of Japan’s top pro surfers live out here too; the consistent waves and laidback lifestyle make it the perfect competition training ground. The older surfers have settled comfortably and we are now seeing a new generation being brought up in Ichinomiya. On any given sunny day you will see kids playing in the streets and on the beach after school. The usual aggressive bukatsu (school club) policies just don’t seem to work here; most of the kids just want to be at the beach with mum and dad! This kind of lifestyle reminds me very much of home in Australia, where family time comes first and the pressures of school are not too character destroying. A lack of jobs and the distance from any good shopping or entertainment facilities doesn’t seem to deter many from making the move to Ichinomiya; in the past couple of years there has been a massive boom in real estate, with Tokyo’s weekend surfers buying up cheap land and building their beach-style ‘second’ houses. In fact, there are even a great number of locals that commute to Tokyo everyday to work.With Tokyo being only an
hour away on the express train this commute is more than possible.As much as I love what the big city has to offer whr e doen I do venture out into Tokyo for a day or two of shopping and good night life, I soon find myself longing for the quietness that my little beach-side village has waiting for me when I get home. For hard-core Japanese surfers, Ichinomiya is the place to be. On any day of the week you will see surfers in the water, rain or shine. During the big wave season half the town seems to call in sick at work and declare a typhoon yasumi (day off for the waves)! Many people work night jobs in nearby factories or pachinko parlours to give themselves the days free to surf. As a result, the surfing locals are not necessarily loaded with money and whilst the surf shops and cafes do well in summer from the tourists, the winter months are a little bleak. So it’s worth a second thought before buying up some land and opening a bar out here. In summer, the main swimming beach Taito transforms itself and a bunch of umi no ie (beach house cafes) spring up. This gives some more work to the locals as tourists flock from all over Chiba and Tokyo to enjoy the surf, sun, beers, and shaved ice cups. Surfing contests and festivals also bring the town alive, and the Ichinomiya Fireworks festival is one not to miss. Some locals even paddle surfboards out into the water for a great view of the fireworks! For me, this summer I will celebrate my fourth year living in Ichinomiya. My husband and I have since moved from mura and now live just out of the main town, at the base of the Taito Lighthouse. Here rent is even cheaper and the surroundings more beautiful and quiet, but we still surf in Ichinomiya everyday. We are expecting our first child in September and can’t wait to take him down to the beach and introduce him to all the local kids. For more information on surfing in Ichinomiya, BAB check out www.outdoorjapan.com.
by Audrey Matsumoto
“We started exploring the city in a new way together, through museums, parks, and down any small, new-to-us alleyway.” image: OiMax
image: Mah* Bell
she found love in Japan
LOVE FOUND WHERE
hen I ended up working at one of the largest global financial news companies here in Tokyo, being in a relationship was the very last thing on my mind. Really, it was! I had just moved here from eastern Canada and it was a great leap for me. Back home I was very into the club scene and I had saved up enough money after working as a sales consultant for a couple of years at a successful e-commerce company to take a half-year break and do what I had always wanted—party every day and night to my heart’s
quickly up the corporate ladder wasn’t an easy feat. I noticed that most of my new co-workers, while bright and internationally-minded, were younger than me and wanted to get out and party all of the time. There was nothing tempting about that to me anymore, though. I felt I was finally at a different stage in life. But slowly, as my job began to wear and tear at me, I longed for company. I started going out with my co-workers more often and found that I was getting sucked back into the old habits I no longer wanted.
n isolating myself from a familiar world, I found someone familiar and comfortable—a true Ihome away from home! content and just lose myself in the music of all the talented local DJs. I would stay up all night, practically every night, and rise when the sun set on most days. I had no worries in the world though I had turned into a virtual vampire. Yet, the time and my funds slipped away as quickly as the clubs beats I loved and despite a thirst for more, I decided that I needed to move on. But the problem was that I had too many temptations around me. Even if I denounced the club culture and found a decent nine to five, I knew my willpower would fail me when my keitai rang with an invitation to go out with friends or an event poster in the subway caught my eye. Being bilingual and having a degree from a good university (though really, who is to judge what a ‘good’ university is on a large-scale?) I applied to the financial news agency office in Tokyo. After a series of overseas interviews, I managed to get a starting date for an entrylevel position. Moving to Tokyo, I have to admit, wasn’t all that difficult. I knew I had to remove myself from my previous setting and sort of knew what to expect from previous visits as a child. It was a huge change but I didn’t really experience loneliness or culture shock—I didn’t have time! The company took it all. The one-hour commute to my workplace from home each way took up two hours of my day and working hard to scale
I noticed during these times, that there was a man who worked in another department who would come out with us. I had not noticed him at first, as he is not flashy in any way—his manner, dress, and overall aura were very subdued, calm, and mature. I learned quickly that his name was Charlie. I wondered why he came out to the bars and the clubs, because he didn’t quite seem to fit in with the scene. Then, a few months later, there was a trip organised by some of my co-workers to head out to an onsen (hot springs) resort for the long weekend. Someone had organised a pretty good travel deal on it and so I couldn’t resist. At this point, I had begun to detach myself again from the after-work drinking activities, opting to head straight home and watch movies by myself but I wanted to keep myself visible in the company’s social hierarchy since that’s important in Japanese work culture, so I decided to go along on the trip. I was surprised to find Charlie on the train the morning of our departure for the resort. We still hadn’t really had a chance to talk properly (being in different departments kept us apart at work and being in noisy clubs and bars kept us from ever talking much outside of work), so I decided to sit next to him. I was comfortable enough at this point with everyone that I didn’t care what they might think. The next part is quick. Basically, I was shocked
(as was he) that we were actually from the same hometown! In fact, we discovered that we had graduated from the same university, had mutual (if distant) acquaintances, had worked in the same French restaurant but at different times, etc, etc. We had the same favourite Japanese restaurant, and he being half-Japanese and I myself being of Japanese decent, we had both been forced to attend similar Japanese schools as children! They say that one crucial factor with soul mates is discovering all of these strange coincidences, and now I kind of believe it. Anyway, we were both still a bit shy during that initial weekend and just casually said, “find me on Facebook,” even after we continued to hit it off the whole trip and sat next to each other again on the train ride home. But a few messages later, we started exploring the city in a new way together, through museums, parks, and down any small, new-to-us alleyway. We never had to talk about the future as it just seemed everything would work out. Eventually, I got worn out at the company and quit to pursue another dream—to be a photographer. At the time, it seems it was a bit of a test for us, to see whether we could still get along without being in the same office Monday to Friday in a city where such convenience does count. But it did work out and we ended up moving in together. I have my own room, too, that serves as a darkroom and studio and am happy as can be doing what I love—shooting promotional photography for musicians, DJs, and nightclubs. Our weekends are always fresh and exciting but now we enjoy them without the partying and allnighters. It turns out that Charlie, too, had had more than his own fill of the club culture in his 20s, back in Canada. Anyway, who knows the future, but all goes well for us now. I do really believe that some clichés surrounding soulmates exist, as well as the old saying that: “love comes when you least expect it.” Or also, “where you least expect it,” in our case. In isolating myself from a familiar world, I found someone familiar and comfortable—a BAB true home away from home! Being A Broad June 2009
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Published on Jul 4, 2009
Published on Jul 4, 2009
In the June issue of BAB, meet our cover girls Jennifer and Laetitia, both from Ingenium. Hear what it is like to be the wife of an American...