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Being A Broad September 2010 #59

The monthly magazine for international women living in Japan

our cover girl: CWAJ’S NANCY LOUISE NUSSBAUM

what’s it like to be a relocation specialist? getting ready to go BACK TO SCHOOL JAPANESE company wives in ENGLAND

climbing FUJI from SEA to SUMMIT the women of JMEC FUJI ROCK for the first time

www.being-a-broad.com


FASHION:

BEAUTY & PAMPERING:

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ISSUE 4

What a busy month we have for you this September! We have a full-day seminar on the 19th, helping foreign women make the most of their lives in Japan, and two events on Friday 24th—firstly our Broads’ Brunch from midday, and the next in our career seminar series, Being A Coaching Broad, in the evening. And we’re finishing up the month with Girls’ Night Out on the 30th. Also happening this month, and of interest to our English teaching broads, is the release of my next book Ask Caroline. I’m doing a “talk show” at the big Tsutaya near Roppongi Hills on the 18th, which should be a lot of fun if you want to come along with your students. And I’m holding a completely free book launch party on the 23rd—all you need to enter is a copy of the book, and you can sample all sorts of womenfocused goodies, enjoy some champagne, and have some fun at this very special party just for us girls! I hope to see you there! Caroline Pover, BAB Founder

being a broad news

BAB news, BAB Rep Ali

Nancy Nussbaum of CWAJ

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our cover girl women of the world news from around the globe

things we love the little things we love in Japan

6 our cover girl image: 37 Frames

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community

the 2010 CWAJ Print Show

climbing Fuji from sea to summit

Japanese housewives in the UK

10 adventure broads 12 feature 14

the broads (and boys!)

entertainment a rock festival virgin experiences Fuji Rock

10 adventure broads image: Laura Jones

Publishers Caroline Pover & Emily Downey Editor & Designer Danielle Tate-Stratton Marketing Consultant Katy Lowen Advertisement Designer Chris May BAB Managers Stephanie Kawai & Dee Green BAB Reps Kelsey Aguirre (Shonan) kelsey@being-a-broad.com Shaney Crawford (Tsukuba) shaney@being-a-broad.com Ali Muskett (Shizuoka) ali@being-a-broad.com Arwen Niles (Chiba) arwen@being-a-broad.com Wendy Gough (Nagoya) wendy@being-a-broad.com Contributors Alena Eckelman, Helen Kaiho, Tracey Taylor, Dr. Susan K. Burton, Laura Jones Cover Model Nancy Nussbaum Cover Photographer Kerry Raftis www.keyshots.com Proofreader Jane Farries Printing Mojo Print Opinions expressed by BAB contributors are not necessarily those of the Publishers.

image: Kerry Raftis/www.keyshots.com

image: David Stetson

IN THIS

message from the founder

15 working

• we profile Mary and Sandra of Asian Tigers Premier Worldwide Movers • the women of JMEC

getting ready to go back to school

she found love in Japan

meeting her marine on the plane

18 mothers 20

20 she found love i in Japan

Being A Broad magazine, editor@being-a-broad.com www.being-a-broad.com tel. 03-5879-6825, fax: 03-6368-6191 Being A Broad September 2010

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BAB NEWS

From the BAB Message Boards: Member BAB Rep Kelsey asks: I use English all day, every day, despite working in a totally Japanese environment. I have picked up a lot from there. My listening skills are very well tuned, but my speaking is horrible. I am currently taking private lessons with a very good teacher three times a week but I feel like after four years here, I still can’t communicate well. Any ideas how to improve? I have a million games on my iPhone, which is helping—but how can I speed up my language learning potential? (The Japanese boyfriend helps me sometimes but often just gets frustrated and uses English because it’s faster…) Member lulu responds: My speaking and listening skills are usually OK and improved a lot when I met my fiance four years ago because he didn’t speak English at the time— just because they had to. The first time I was in Japan I was studying at a university there and had studied for eight months in Australia

Subscriptions Being A Broad August 2010 #58

The monthly magazine for international women living in Japan

our cover girl: HOPE INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCY, JAPAN’S ERIN SAKAKIBARA

what’s it like to be a WINE IMPORTER?

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PRACTICING REIKI in TOKYO

getting toned with TOKYO FIT MUMS

escaping to FUKUSHIMA

A girly GETAWAY at the CONRAD

FALLING for a CHEESY JOKE

www.being-a-broad.com

Thanks for picking up this issue of Being A Broad. 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 editor@ being-a-broad.com to subscribe today! We now have the past several issues of BAB on our website—check them out at www.beinga-broad.com, and let us know what you think!

before I went, but knew nothing basically. It took six months before it started to make any kind of sense. As for my reading and grammar, etc., it is about level 2 on the JLPT scale. But it is going downhill lately—I read at the same level as the average Japanese eight or nine year old. My advice: speak Japanese to your boyfriend and watch Japanese dramas on TV if you want to improve you listening and speaking. The speaking with your partner is easier said than done and I know this because it is the opposite for us now. Especially now that we are in Australia for the year he is learning English slowly but he reverts back to Japanese and I speak to him in Japanese just because it is easier (and quicker). If you want to improve your reading and kanji then self-study is (unfortunately) the best way. I recently discovered a new site, readthekanji. com, which is a good kanji drill site. For kanji, flash cards and writing them down helps but I found that if I attempted to learn five new words or kanji a day and then made sure I used them in the next 24 hours I was more likely to remember them! I started studying Japanese at 18 and am now 23 and am not yet fluent. But if I watch TV or talk with someone I don’t know I understand anywhere between 85–100 percent of the conversations. For reading, though, like I said, about the same as an average eight year old, which considering the amount of hours I have put in to study, is pretty crap! Best of luck—if you want me to recommend some good textbooks I have used in the past, let me know. Member pinksushi says: Hi! I’m like Lulu and speak Japanese at home (my husband doesn’t speak English or French). I took a couple of lessons about five years ago (really basic, hiragana and katakana, introductions, etc.) but I learned more talking to Japanese friends and my husband. My advice would be: try to find nonEnglish-speaking friends! It’s really the best way... For the reading and writing, I use cell phone emails with my friends a lot, I can’t handwrite kanji though. Mixi is also great for practicing (it’s like a Japanese Facebook), you can write a kind of diary so it’s very good for improvements.. To read the rest of the discussion or to offer your own suggestions, visit us online at www.being-a-broad. com/index.php/forums.

“My encyclopedia, my translator, my phone book, my best friend!”

—Western woman living in Japan

514–page book including everything you need to make the most out of your life: case studies of Western women working in almost 50 different types of jobs; anecdotes from many of the 200 Western women interviewed; profiles of 23 women’s organisations; and essential Japanese words and phrases. An essential book for any Western woman living in Japan. Read about: • Coping with culture shock. • Finding clothes and shoes that fit. • Avoiding hair disasters. • Cooking Japanese food. • Telling a chikan where to go. • Dating and the singles scene. • Organising contraception. • Getting married and divorced. • Adopting a baby. • Educating your child. • Finding a job. • Teaching gender studies in the Englishlanguage classroom. • Coping with reverse culture shock when you leave Japan.

Alexandra Press, 2001, ¥3,000 (inc. tax) To order email info@being-a-broad.com

You can pick BAB up here: Shibuya-ku: • British School Tokyo • Boudoir • Sin Den

tional School • Nirvana New York • Beaute Absolue • Wil-

• Nua Japan • Angell Memorial Central Hospital

lowbrook International School • ASIJ ELC • Tokyo Interna-

Minato-ku: • Suji’s • Nakashima Dentist • TELL • Nishi-

tional School • ABC International School • The Montessori

machi International School • Gymboree • Global Kids

School of Tokyo • Isetan International Customer Counter

Academy • Mitsubishi UFJ Azabujuban • Tokyo Surgi-

• Homat Viscount Akasaka

cal and Medical Clinic • National Azabu • Segafredo •

Meguro-ku: Montessori Friends Kichijoji: Shinzen Yoga Koto-ku: Toho Women’s Clinic Bunkyo-ku: Joy to the World International School Suginami-ku: JUN International School

Tokyo American Club • Nissin World Delicatessen • Crown Relocations • Temple University • Hulabootie • Krissman Tennis • PAL International School • ROTI Roppongi • Paddy Foley’s • Asian Tigers • ai Interna-

Chofu-shi: American School in Japan Yokohama: Treehouse Montessori • St. Maur Saitama: Columbia International School Nagoya: St. George Academy • BAB Rep Wendy Tsukuba: Through BAB Rep Shaney Shonan: Through BAB Rep Kelsey Shizuoka: Through BAB Rep Ali Chiba: Through BAB Rep Arwen (To contact your local BAB Rep for a copy, simply send an email. All contact details are on page three.)


HANGING IN HAMAMATSU:

INTRODUCING BAB REP ALI by Ali Muskett

I

Being a BAB Rep is something I am very proud of. I want to do everything I can to help the Broads in my area, because I know how important the community spirit is. When I knew I was moving to Hamamatsu, two wonderful Broads showed me around the city and I feel I owe that same favour to any new arrivals. Living in Japan, whether as a long-term resident or just staying for a year, is not easy. But knowing there’s someone out there who is going through, or has been through, the same things as you makes it all a little easier. Whether it’s a case of “how do I stop mosquitoes from eating me alive

A view of Hamamatsu from the ACT Tower. Advice for Renegades, A Tip From Anna: Make that to-do list a lean, mean, action machine: Autumn is around the corner and before you know it, we’ll be into the holiday swirl. This is a great time of year to pare your to-do list down to the essential, the important, and the thrilling. Do you have things on there you’ve meant to do since spring? Do you feel exhausted just looking at them? Radical suggestion: delete. If you can’t do that, try the following: get someone else to do it, break it into tiny pieces,

at night?,” “where’s the best place for a picnic in this area?,” or “my family member is sick, what should I do?,” I want to be the kind of person that another Broad can turn to for advice or support. It’s not so hard to find someone who can translate for you when your Japanese skills aren’t up to it, but finding someone who will listen to you and understand you when you have a problem is more challenging. As a BAB Rep for Shizuoka, I hope I can be that shoulder to lean on for any Broad who needs it. So, if you’re out and about in Hamamatsu, come along to Starbucks at Zaza City on a Monday night at 6:30pm, and join HangMates. New members are always welcome! And for those of you further out in Shizuoka, I hope we can meet up soon. Please contact me if you have any suggestions for a good place to meet or requests for the kind of event you want to have. I can be contacted at: ali@ being-a-broad.com. For more information about HangMates, visit www.facebook.com/ home.php?#!/group.php?gid=208101847 BAB 496&v=info&ref=ts.

or make it more pleasurable with a reward. Try and build a little white space into your life right now, before family and community obligations overwhelm you. What’s the most important thing you want to get done before the holidays? Commit to it. Put it in your calendar. Write down one concrete step. If you need help, set that up. Revel in the thrill of putting your energy toward your dreams. Anna Kunnecke is a life coach living in Tokyo. www.annakunnecke.com

Being A Broad September 2010

Images provided by Ali Muskett.

lived in Nagoya for two years, working at one of the big English conversation schools, and when my contract was up for renewal I told them I wanted to try something new. My main requirement was to remain in a city, so they offered me a position in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka. When I arrived in Hamamatsu in April, many people said “welcome to the small town,” but I still can’t see what they mean. Hamamatsu is a large, vibrant, internationally minded city, with more than 30,000 foreign residents (a large number of them Brazilian). Fortunately, around the time I found out I would be moving to Hamamatsu, I was offered the opportunity to become a BAB Rep. Naturally, I jumped at the chance. I’ve always been interested in working with my local community, and this seemed like the perfect way to get to know all of the Broads in the area. I haven’t yet ventured out of the city of Hamamatsu into other parts of Shizuoka, but I hope to soon. I’ve become involved with a local group in Hamamatsu called HangMates, and I’m hoping that together we will be able to hold some events that will appeal to not only the Broads in the city but also to many other people. HangMates is an international exchange club that meets every Monday in Hamamatsu. Their intention is to provide an opportunity for internationally minded people to meet others. Anyone can join—guys and gals, any nationality is welcome. Since I’ve been in Hamamatsu I have met many new friends via HangMates, including some wonderful Broads from all over the world.

HangMates International Exchange Club, May bowling event. Ali is pictured on the right in brown.

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NUSSBAUM

of CWAJ, cover photography by Kerry Raftis, www.keyshots.com Full name: Nancy Louise Nussbaum Age: 53 Nationality: USA Grew up in: I grew up in the US, mainly the midwest, but I did live in Madrid, Spain for few years during middle school while my father was on an expat assignment. I really have no hometown, especially since I didn’t even live in the town I was born in. Cumulatively, but not consecutively, I spent 17 years in the suburbs of Kansas City. Time in Japan: My husband and I came to Tokyo in May of 2000 and left in December of 2003. We returned in November of 2004. So I have now lived about nine and a half years in Tokyo. Japanese level: My Japanese is at the novice level. I

feel bad about that, but am too busy at the moment to take any action. All of the women in the College Women’s Association of Japan are proficient in English, so I have it very easy. Works at: I am a co-chair of the 55th CWAJ Print Show, which I view as a full-time job, but I can work on a quasi-flexible schedule. My co-chair is Reiko Oshima. We are full partners, and like the 45 women on our committee, we are volunteers. Why did you come to Japan? My husband’s business brought us to Japan. He’s a partner with Ernst & Young, a Big 4 accounting firm, and that is also what continues to keep us here. How do you manage to balance everything in your life? I try to balance everything in my life by making

Diary Aug. 10th 09, Tetsuya Noda, 2009 woodcut/ silkscreen, ed. 20.

Kiyomizu Temple covered with snow, Keisuke Yamamoto, 2010 lithograph, ed. 20.

sure that I have time for my own personal interests. I can do that by getting plenty of exercise, playing mahjong, spending quality time with my husband, and enjoying many social activities with friends. I always like to be involved with something meaningful and community-related, which is why I chose to join CWAJ and become an active member. The Print Show is of particular interest to me because of my background in art. I love the creative environment and the energy I feel from the other ladies. What do you do to relax? To relax, I like to sit around with my two cats and watch television or read a book. I also like to take long walks and have coffee at a sidewalk café and people-watch. Best thing about being a foreign woman in Japan? The best thing about being a foreign woman in Japan is having the freedom to choose what I want to be involved in from a large variety BAB of groups and activities.

A Day in the Life (Selection Day 2010): I wake up at 6am, a little earlier than normal. I weigh myself and record it on my calendar, move on to the kitchen, and prepare a cup of hot lemon water and a cup of hot tea. It’s a ritual. I start my oatmeal, which takes 30 minutes to prepare. Every day starts with oatmeal, egg whites, blueberries, almonds, and another piece of fruit. I wash down my vitamins and supplements with some diluted pomegranate juice. Then off I go to my office where I sit down, check my emails, and respond quickly, because today will be a busy day. I hop in the shower, do my morning rituals, dress for the day, and eat my breakfast. It’s a Tuesday, so I’m giving up my regularly scheduled workout today. At 7:45am people start arriving.  It’s Selection Day for the Print Show. There are six hundred prints in my apartment to be paraded past a jury of five experts. My guest room has been transformed into a print storage facility and workroom. My office is now a cloak room and break room for all of the committee. At 8:30am I have 30 ladies in my apartment ready to start working. We have a quick rehearsal and then the jurors arrive around 9am. We offer them some coffee and sweets, and then explain the process that will take place and ask them to judge each print fairly based on whether they believe the print is of high quality and is a good example of contemporary

Japanese printmaking. We will view 225 prints before taking our first break. I will read out the print number and the techniques used for each individual print and then a walker will the carry a print as I call the number into the living room, stopping in front of each juror momentarily for inspection. At 10:30am we break for coffee. Fifteen minutes later we begin the process again. At noon we stop for another coffee break. We report that we are on schedule and think we’ll be done by 2pm as planned. The jurors are enjoying the process and are appreciative of being able to see the actual prints up close. They have been marking their tally sheets carefully. At 2pm we announce the last print as it goes past the jurors. Everyone is relieved to be finished with this process and is ready to eat, but first we bring out all the ladies from the back, the art managers, and their work team, the hospitality committee, the walkers, etc… No one can believe all these people are here in the apartment working and they later remarked that it was like watching a magic trick where the magician keeps pulling things out of his hat that everyone knows couldn’t possibly have fit there. It’s not really over yet. It’s barely midday. We divide and conquer. Reiko and I, as co-chairs, take the jurors to lunch along with the president and the director. The other ladies remain in the apartment to eat and rest. Simultaneously, the information systems (IS) team arrives to tally all the jurors’

votes. There is still much work to do. Reiko and I return to the apartment around 3:30pm and there are still about eight ladies working. The IS team is making sure all the votes add up properly and they put them into the system. By 5:30 or 6pm, my cats and I have our apartment back to ourselves and can begin to unwind. I begin to plan where my husband might consider taking me for dinner and I spend some time with my two cats to reassure them that everything is going to be OK. They have been really good throughout the day. This is one particular day in my life, but it represents how busy I am and the many hours of work that putting on the Print Show requires each year. This day isn’t the beginning or the longest day I’ll have and it certainly isn’t the end. It’s a full time job to pull together a team of volunteers and coordinate all the different aspects so that by October 14 we will be set up and ready to open the Print Show at the Tokyo American Club. One week later we’ll open the show in Kobe and after that we’ll have a wrapup party. It’s still not over. We are already planning for next year! CWAJ offers a variety of activities for members where we can develop and nurture friendship, and the Print Show is just one of them. The best part is that we pair up as Japanese and non-Japanese to work together.

Prints provided by CWAJ.

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Image: Kerry Raftis/www.keyshots.com.

our cover girl

NANCY LOUISE


WOMEN OF THE WORLD

American author Judy Dutton recently released a book entitled Secrets From the Sex Lab, chronicling research about the physical and mental aspects of sex. Among the facts: wearing a spicy floral scent makes women appear 12 pounds lighter to men. The Honorable Elena Kagan recently became just the fourth female US Supreme Court Justice ever after President Obama’s nomination was recently confirmed. For the first time, three women are serving simultaneously as Supreme Court Justices in America’s highest court.

image: UK Department of International Development

A study of ten self-employed women looked at a full week of work for each participant and discovered that though they often chose self-employment for its flexibility, the women were planning their lives around work, often working leisurely during what was meant to be free time while at the same time finding it difficult to fully disengage from their work. The researchers suggest that there is no such thing as a truly flexible workplace for women.

Oxford University scientists studied nearly 250 women who were hoping to get pregnant and reported that those women with an elevated level of stress over a long period of time were 12 percent less likely to conceive than those with lower levels of alpha-amylase, which represents adrenalin, in their saliva, suggesting that those women who wish to become pregnant should aim to lower their overall stress levels. A report by Human Rights Watch recently highlighted some of the issues faced by women who are trying to obtain safe and effective birth control and abortions in Argentina. Though universal access to birth control is mandated by law, many Argentinian doctors refuse to provide the requested services and some women risk domestic violence at home if their partners find out. As a result, 40 percent of all pregnancies end in abortion, leaving Argentina with one of the highest rates of abortion in the world. A subsequent side effect is that illegal abortions have become the leading cause of maternal death in the country.

image: graphiteBP

image: pausimausi

compiled by Danielle Tate-Stratton

A survey of 100 top head-hunters in the UK showed that 53 percent feel that women should avoid taking any sort of career break, even as short as a few months, if they wished to obtain top executive positions paying £150,000 or more. While the headhunters mentioned other reasons for taking a career break, including travel or health, parenthood was often discussed, and one CEO told the survey that women could break through the glass ceiling, but only by taking steps to prioritise work over other aspects of life such as motherhood. The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany recently ruled that same-sex couples must receive the same inheritance rights as married couples, forcing the German government to change a law that currently has registered life partners paying between 17 and 50 percent tax on inheritance from their partners, as compared to the 7 to 15 percent married partners pay. With a recent nine to two vote, Mexico City became the first Latin American capital to legalise same-sex adoption in addition to samesex marriage, which it had already legalised.

Kenya recently voted 67 percent in favour of a new constitution that will, among other changes, increase the rights of women. The new constitution includes a mandated 47 seats for women in parliament as well as the expansion of healthcare for women and the promotion of affirmative action. Researchers from the Atlanta Center for Behavioral Medicine have suggested that women suffer from chronic pain disorders more frequently than men and that women also suffer more frequently from painful afflictions, such as migraines, then men. One possible reason for this is related to hormones. For example, migraines are thought to be somehow related to oestrogen.

A study conducted by Nutrisystem showed that of the 3,000 American women surveyed, 50 percent would rather give up sex than gain weight and only one woman was said to have responded that she would not give up sex. Roughly 25 percent of women also said they would give up a promotion at work in exchange for losing 10–20 pounds, and nearly 75 percent would give up electronic devices such as TVs or cell phones if it meant getting a flatter stomach. The US National Geospatial Intelligence Agency recently appointed Letitia Long as its head, making her the first woman to run any one of America’s 16 major intelligence agencies. Two women in Paris stole €300 from a man at an ATM after distracting him by baring their breasts as he withdrew the money. While he was busy looking at one woman’s chest, the other took the money from the ATM and successfully fled.

A study of over 12,000 Canadian women suggests that those earning a lower income are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those with higher income levels, even after cultural and ethnic background and weight were factored in. Researchers theorise this could be related to stress levels, diet, or other psychological factors. A study of over 30,000 Swedish women found that eating one to two servings of dark chocolate per week lowered a woman’s risk of heart failure by thirty two percent, while those who ate dark chocolate one to three times per month had a twenty six percent lower chance of heart failure. However, those women who ate chocolate daily didn’t see any benefits, likely due to the extra calories they were ingesting. Researchers caution against overconsumption of chocolate, especially that which is low in cocoa, since cocoa carries BAB health-improving antioxidants. Being A Broad September 2010

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THE LITTLE THINGS

WE LOVE IN JAPAN I tried the new brunch at Fifty Seven and I thoroughly recommend it! They have a new chef, Fred Bowden, previously of the Grand Hyatt, and he has brought his famous French Toast to the restaurant. It was simply mouth-watering! I thought that the food was really well prepared and the staff lovely. They really helped create a relaxed atmosphere, which is just what you need on a Sunday morning! They are also family friendly (but don’t let that put you off ) with a special kids menu, along with a dedicated kids lounge full of toys. Their brunch menu is available Saturday and Sunday between 10:30am and 4pm. For more information visit www.fiftyseven.co.jp/ home.html.—KL

Something I love at the moment is the new Studio Ghibli film: The Borrower Arrietty (Karigurashi no arietti; 借りぐらしのアリエッティ). It’s based on the novel The Borrowers by Mary Norton and it’s the most enchanting film I’ve seen since My Neighbor Totoro. Like all Ghibli films, it’s not just for kids, but it left me feeling like a little kid who could still see the magic in the world. The film is showing only in Japanese, of course, but it’s very easy to understand as so much of the story is told simply through pictures. On top of that, there’s a gorgeous exhibition on at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (www.mot-art-museum.jp/eng/2010/arrietty/index.html). It’s on now until October 3 and, even without seeing the film, it’s worth checking out. It’s more than just an art exhibition—you can actually enter Arrietty’s home and experience her world. It’s a magical way to escape the bustle of the city.—AM

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BAB EVENTS IN SEPTEMBER: 24: broads’ brunch at Suji’s 30: girls’ night out at 57 Have a break from the office or taking care of the kids and relax while checking out the latest issue of the magazine, grabbing a signed copy of the BAB book, or getting some advice from more seasoned broads in Tokyo! From midday to 2pm. Pay as you go. Open to all foreign women and their Japanese female guests. Would love to see you there! RSVP: katy@being-a-broad.com.

Come along to our September Girls’ Night out—a great way to meet new people, catch up with old friends, reunite with those who have been away, or get together with people before the fall truly sets in! From 7pm at 57 in Roppongi. No cover, and your first drink is discounted! Let Katy know at katy@being-a-broad.com if you’ll be coming along.

24: Being A Coaching Broad

for more information:

Come along to the latest in our Career Seminar Series, this time to learn all about Being a Coaching Broad. From 7:30–9:30pm, ¥2,000, at Hays Japan in Akasaka. Please let Dee (dee@being-abroad.com) know if you’re coming so we can keep track of numbers, give you a map, and answer any questions you might have.

To learn more about these events as details are announced as well as to discover other fabulous things to do with other international women, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ being.a.broad, follow us on Twitter: http:// twitter.com/BABBeingABroad, or find us on LinkedIn by searching for the Being A Broad Group. We hope to see you soon!

A Tip from Sin Den: If good hair is not enough, Rika, the nail artist at Sin Den salon also introduces Sparitual beauty Spa products to Sin Den! Sparitual is dedicated to honouring the professional salon and spa around the world and all products are 100 percent vegan, not tested on animals, and all ingredients provided come with a non-animal-origin certificate. Rika says, “personally I chose Sparitual after having tried the products and today I really believe it is a fantastic line of products! Since I began using Sparitual, my regular clients have become much happier. Out of all the products I have tried, Sparitual nail colours are definitely the best. They have no strong smell, are organic, dry faster, and last longer. Sparitual is unique in Tokyo and originally comes from Los Angeles. For more information, visit www.sparitual.com. Special offer (available until October 31): Receive up to ¥4,000 off when you have nail services with a haircut and colour or a ¥2,000 discount when you have only one hair service. Please mention this offer upon your booking. For more information or to book an appointment please call or email our salon: hair@sinden.com, 03-3405-4409, www. sinden.com. Please note that in the August issue of BAB, it was stated that the Keratin treatment lasts three to five weeks, when it actually lasts for that many months. I am developing a minor obsession with making websites with Wordpress because it is so easy to use, even for a technophobe like me. For anyone who needs a professionally designed and easy-to-maintain website for their business or personal use, I cannot recommend Wordpress highly enough. You don’t have to know anything about design or html. Check out the templates available at www.themeforest.net.—CPF Do you have a little thing you love in Japan? If you know of a product, place, restaurant, event, or service that our readers would love, please let us know! Send an email with 50–150 words describing your item and a photo, if possible, to editor@being-a-broad.com and we’ll use your suggestions in a future issue of the magazine.


PRINT SHOW by Nancy Nussbaum

Print provided by CWAJ.

Onbu, Kim Sohee, 2009 etching/chine colle.

F

eatured on the cover of the 55th annual CWAJ (College Women’s Association of Japan) Print Show catalogue is Onbu, a recent print by a young woman living and studying abroad. She is only the second foreign woman to have her print on the cover of the catalogue and this will be her first year exhibiting in the CWAJ Print Show. At 27, Sohee Kim seems to have put her finger on the pulse of the issues many women face. The pressures women feel from outside influences, the desire to please, and the determination to forge ahead with steadfastness is expressively rendered in her print Onbu. Ms. Kim states, “I use humour to portray people in my art and I like to instill a sense of tranquility as well. In this way I can express my observations of contemporary life with a positive and healthy attitude. Through my work, I tell my story, a story I believe everyone can relate to. Onbu is an affectionate term that means ‘to carry.’ It often applies to carrying a baby or carrying an elderly or injured person on your back. In this piece, I portrayed a person with a bundle of clothes on her back that appears much bigger than her body. The clothing represents the burden she carries due to the overwhelming affection she feels for her family and friends. She cannot let them down because of her honour and devotion, so she will quietly bear the burden. Although at first glance the person I portrayed appears humorous, you can see she has planted herself firmly to the ground to avoid collapsing from the bundle of clothes on her back. I hope her figure will give you encouragement in your life.” There are 191 prints from 185 artists in this year’s exhibition and sale. Thirty-two are debut artists like Ms. Kim and we have many renowned artists exhibiting as well. Through our docent tour

program, which we implemented last year, visitors will have the opportunity to learn more about many of the artists exhibiting their work at the Print Show and hear their messages as well. The Print Show is the largest committee of CWAJ and is a labour of love for its members. Not only are countless volunteer hours spent to stage this event each year, but there is also a strong commitment made by multicultural women working together as partners to create an exhibition that showcases high quality Japanese prints. It is only through the strong and vibrant spirit of volunteerism in CWAJ that we can realise our goals. CWAJ is much more than just the Print Show. It is a dynamic and progressive organisation that promotes education and fosters multicultural friendship through meaningful volunteer activities. Past president Laurel Dove comments: “CWAJ was the icing on the cake of my Japan experience. Of course, I loved exploring the traditional classes for expats that are so widely available, such as ikebana, shodo, Japanese culture, and tea ceremony; my ‘girlfriend experiences,’ and exploring Tokyo and beyond. But...it seemed to me that there was nothing that compared to CWAJ for really getting to know Japanese friends. Somehow, meeting in the occasional social situations that everyone can experience just wasn’t the ‘real deal.’ In CWAJ I could roll my shirtsleeves up (figuratively speaking) and work on a project side by side with my Japanese colleagues and then we really became aware of our differences and similarities. Many of the Japanese members of CWAJ have also lived abroad, so we had many interesting stories to exchange... Of course, the highlights of each year are the scholarship presentations and the Print Show.” In addition to monthly luncheons with interesting and educational speakers, CWAJ also offers special interest groups for women who are interested in ceramics, music, hiking, reading, or going on trips and tours. Board member Cathy Barraclough offers, “In November 2008, I joined and in December I went on my first CWAJ hike. Mt. Fuji revealed herself practically the whole hike, which I later learned was quite a rare treat. After the hike and with very tired legs, I experienced my first Japanese toilet and my first onsen. I met women from Japan, France, Great Britain, New Zealand, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, and the United States. What a wonderful way to start experiencing Japan—with women from around the world. In 2009, I worked at the CWAJ Print Show, which gave me a chance to meet more interesting women. Working and playing with the women of CWAJ has made my stay in Japan very fun and rewarding. Knowing that you are helping raise money for scholarships for deserving women and men, meeting and making friends with Japanese women and people from around the world, and

having a lot of fun along the way is a great way to experience a new country.” Members have formed active and fun French and Japanese conversation groups. Our Education committee offers Children’s English Circle (CEC), Foreign Students Circle (FSC), Volunteers for the Visually Impaired (VVI); the Scholarship committee works very hard going over applications to find students to match with the scholarships we award each year, and the Donations committee works diligently to raise funds through direct donations to support the CWAJ Scholarship and Education fund. For more information regarding CWAJ and how to become involved, contact www.cwaj.org. Brigitte Nagano, a long time resident of Japan and member of CWAJ says, “Our goal is to give scholarships while working as volunteers in this organisation in which we always work together with Japanese and non-Japanese members. This is the most unique and fun way to get to know people here in Tokyo.” The annual CWAJ Print Show not only promotes Japanese contemporary print art but also serves as the primary fundraiser for the CWAJ Scholarship Program. The purpose of the Print Show is to have an exhibition that offers artists a venue to exhibit and sell their work to an international audience, while proceeds of the sales go to support scholarships for advanced academic studies and art awards to an international community. With the exception of the scholarships for the visually impaired, all are given to women who will travel abroad to study. Some will leave Japan and travel to the US; others will come to Japan from areas such as China, Korea, Mongolia, and the UK. Another interesting feature of the Print Show, which ties in with our scholarship program, is Hands on Art (HOA). The HOA committee has arranged for four print images to be transformed into raised images for the enjoyment of the visually impaired. This committee works closely with the VVI committee to coordinate tours of the print show and to create the opportunity for visually impaired persons to enjoy contemporary Japanese prints. The 55th CWAJ Print Show will be held at the Tokyo American Club on October 15–17 and at the Kobe Club on October 23–24. Watch for our posters around town or contact printshow@ cwaj.org for full details. Admission is free, there are price points for everyone, and all of the proceeds go to the Scholarship and Education fund. You may also enjoy taking a break at our Café de Artistes. Our Associate Show, In Search of Serenity, featuring two artists, runs concurrently with the Kobe Show. The Associate Show begins September 20 at the Tokyo American Club, and will run through BAB October 11 in the Genkan Gallery. Being A Broad September 2010

community

CWAJ: THE

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by Dee Green, photos by Tracey Taylor

All images: Tracey Taylor/37 Frames

adventure broads

SEA TO SUMMIT: THE ICON CLIMB

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Scenes from the opening stages of the adventure.

One who never climbs Mount Fuji is a fool, and one who climbs twice is twice the fool.” This is what they say. And we now know without a doubt which category we idiotically fall into—with all good intents and purposes. We climbed Fuji last year. On a whim, on a clear Friday night, we suddenly got inspired to head down the road and wander up the hill. From the fifth station it was a magical fairyland as Kanto twinkled far below. The fog rolled in by the sixth station. The rain rocked up at the seventh, then it started snowing by the eighth. It was freezing beyond words, in July. We made it to the top for the dullest sunrise ever, from black to gray, in dense fog. We found shelter in a deserted mountain hut not yet open for the summer season. Our feet were wrapped in plastic bags, because our socks were just so saturated, before miserably heading down, delirious and done, determined never to get that spontaneous again. But that was a year ago and we are certainly much sillier 12 months on. We are easily amused and love a good challenge, often inspired by the people we meet and the journeys they take. Life’s an adventure and all that. When we heard of a group planning to take on Fuji from the sea to the summit we were intrigued. The idea was appealing, there was an element of lunacy involved, and there were bragging rights—this is really mounting Fuji—all of it. From 0 meters to 3,776—Japan’s highest peak.  Designed by fellow trailwalkers Joe Pournovin and Linton Rathgen, the assault was planned to also raise awareness for Oxfam. We were busy the weekend of their big hike, but with Facebook updates we followed their sweaty progress and success 22 exhausting hours later as they made it to the top. So impressive. We had to try.

Forget that we are not strapping young boys with youth on our side or that we decided to document the entire experience with cameras, tripods, and all kinds of gear and that the last convenience store is just two hours into the more than 50-kilometre trek. Ignorance is bliss. With Trace addicted to testing her physical limits by setting seemingly impossible tasks, she got us training: a few walks around the block at lunchtime coupled with the Stairmaster at Megalos. I handled getting us there and the logistics. With Linton and Joey’s Google maps we had a starting point: we knew where vending machines were supposed to be along the way, and we basically knew where

has been the traditional entrance to Mt. Fuji since ancient times and in the middle of this trail, located on the east side of Fuji, you can see the crater of the last eruption in 1707. We were delighted to discover on the informative Mt. Fuji Guide website that this “is the route that allows you to enjoy comfortable mountain climbing.” Our plan was to park our car at Go-Gome (the fifth station), take the bus down to Shin-Fuji, check into the glamorous Super Hotel Inter, then start the walk early Saturday. We drove so we would have a place to rest once we arrived (hopefully) at the Fuji fifth station sometime early Saturday night. So our first challenge was to find a car park. As time whittled away with the last bus departure rapidly approaching, our car park battle was oh, so on. It was a zoo. We had been warned, and actually during the peak of summer several of the car parks are closed due to the enormous volume of travellers. But this weekend it was open. We had two runins in five minutes with hikers jumping out of cars just as we saw a spot and standing in them to save them. Things got a bit heated. But we took the high road, I was the moral compass for about another 20 minutes, before also jumping out of the car to stalk any kind of space. We made lots of friends along the way who were all too eager to help if a spot became available. Finally, with ten minutes before the last bus, and after doing blockies in the clouds for almost an hour, we got a place without the showdown we expected. Auspicious signs. We were parked. Now we were committed. We were silent for most of the ride to the fifth station as we both pondered the enormity of this

Fuji with the sea water. We did it. climbed from sea to summit. WeWeshowered we were heading—that big iconic mountain miles away. It had crossed my mind, based on previous experiences, that this may all come to a horrific end at any point. A calamity in the making. And of course it almost did...before we had even started. We set off on Friday afternoon, farewelling Tokyo’s hotness and humidity. We were either oblivious of what was to come or completely aware—take your pick. Fuji was nowhere to be seen, shrouded in a summer haze. The car was packed for every contingency: hot packs for the top, spare shoes, layers, tape for the legs, the iPad, lipstick, sunblock, t-shirts for maximum tan exposure, and a beanbag. We drove to the fifth station of The Fujinomiya Trail. There are four Fuji climbing routes. Last year we took the popular Yoshida Track. This year the Sea to Summit course culminates at the Fujinomiya trail. This is the shortest route to the top with, naturally, the trailhead at a high altitude. We were well above the clouds when we arrived. It was dreamy. Fujinomiya

undertaking. Were we really going to be able to make it? What were we thinking? We were mad. By the time we reached the 13-kilometre stretch of steepness to just get to the fifth station we were truly nervous and slightly terrified. We knew it was steep, but not this steep. And we weren’t even at the fifth station yet, the start of the climb to the summit. So the bus ride down was one of shock and awe. I personally couldn’t imagine going up what we were now hurtling down, so I decided to sleep and deal with it tomorrow. We arrived at Shin Fuji, grabbed some dinner, and caught a taxi to the super hotel. Restless hours later we gave up on sleep and arose ready for what was ahead. By 4:45am we were in a taxi, alone on the road, Fuji still asleep. We arrived at Tagonoura beach, meeting only early morning fishermen and a flotilla of boats racing to the next catch. The dark waves were pounding the rocky beach. Inspired by the boys, we filled up our pet bottle with sea water to carry to the top and deposit it, in the knowledge


that it would eventually find its way back to where we started. It was my job to fill the water bottle. As I tentatively stuck out the bottle to collect water a rogue wave came and I was completely drenched before we had even started. But we had the water. A quick dry off, a sock change, and we were off. We just started walking. A very faint Fuji outline was barely perceptible. We knew she was somewhere in front of us. Perhaps it was better we couldn’t see, as it may well have been too much. So we walked and walked. It was flat for some time and we had our first misdirect about an hour in, but soon found our way again. Locals greeted us happily with good mornings and wondered where we were going. When we told them, there was utter confusion, then amazement. Where? One old man, still in his pajamas, has probably not fully recovered from the sight of us in our Lorna Jane singlets with motivational slogans, sweating at 7am, going where? Yes, he finally heard right. He was still shaking his head when we finally said goodbye. We walked and walked and ten kilometres in stopped for supplies at the last 7-11. The road was gradually heading up now. We walked on the shoulder of the road for most of the day, following routes; 380,167, 76, 24, 469, the Evergreen Skyline, then 152. It was walking bingo. Trace’s Garmin watch kept us updated as the kilometres clicked by. Lunch was somewhere near Children’s World, in a pretty park where gardeners were grass-cutting and baffled by our endeavour. We slogged along in the midday sun, with iPods on and hellos and heartfelt gambatte’s from hard-core cyclists keeping our spirits up. It was up all the way, relentless and a bit mind-numbing. Nothing to think about but one foot in front of the other.

Somewhere just before the turn-off to the charming pensions near Fuji Safari Park we had our first truck honk of appreciation in Japan. The road then snakes up and teases you with the promise of a theme park bonanza, Grinpa Land, Yeti land, and Sylvannia Families, all part of the Fujiyama Resort. We kept plodding along. Silent mental meltdowns. Constructions workers just shook their heads and laughed. With 35 kilometres to the fifth station we stopped at a large rest stop for a big break. Massive blisters were discovered. The morning dunking by the sea was fully to blame. We kept going, little Fuji on view but big Fuji still in the natsu smog. Two hours later and we had thirteen kilometres to go. The big push to the summit starts, with endless switchbacks and steep inclines. We arrived to heavy traffic, a sudden departure from the quiet roads and backcountry lanes we’d spent most of the day on. Police officers were directing the pilgrimage up. The sign said a nine-kilometre jam. As we rounded the corner to start, a shuttle bus stopped beside us. The driver asked if we wanted a lift. No, thanks, we’re walking. The very full bus of Japanese hikers, with packs, poles, and bucket hats cheered and waved as we huffed and puffed onward. The police smiled and told us to be careful. The road is marked every 200 metres with the distance to the top. It was an irritating countdown. Somewhere around seven kilometres two cars came to a dead halt again offering us a lift to the top. We barely had the energy to explain. Random kindness was a companion on this amble. At two kilometres to go we saw the fifth station for the first time, but it looked so impossibly far away. Just keep moving, heads down. We finally arrived without fanfare, high in the clouds, some 50

kilometres from our start at Suruga Bay. We were spent, with legs of jelly and joint aches and pains. We re-fuelled, rested, and changed. What we had done, we had still not quite realised. We had walked a symbol. But there was still the summit to go. We layered up and set off in the night. From children to seniors it seemed everyone was summit bound. From the sixth station the zigzag of sparkling headlights is a sight I will never forget. It was breathtaking, like hiking fireflies. It would have been easy to underestimate this final four and a half hours to the top. The sandy ground, volcanic rock, mass of people and mist made it slow going. And whether it was fatigue, extreme sun exposure, the altitude, or dehydration, by the time we got to the top, we were not in the best shape. Trace was nauseous, my feet were killer sore. We made the decision, due to the number of people, to head down straightaway and take in sunrise either on the way or at the fifth station. We showered Fuji with the sea water. We did it. We climbed from sea to summit. Morning came: less than 24 hours had passed since we started. I truly didn’t think I was capable of doing this, but once we got moving it was natural we would finish. It was inertia perhaps, but certainly a challenge that anyone is capable of facing, especially if you have expert maps detailing every drink machine in Shizuoka. Physically we recovered easily, no big pain. Mentally we still can’t quite fathom what we did

adventure broads

The final stages of ascent.

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or that we even tried. Last year, after climbing Fuji, we sent away for our official certificates. This year we’re making our own. Originally we thought it might be a fabulous idea to make this an annual event, even something other Broads may like to do together. Right now it’s a never, never, ever again deal. A once-in-a-lifetime experience. But give us a year, you never know how foolish we’ll be by then. For more information on climbing Mt Fuji, visit http://mountfujiguide.com. Interested in going Sea to Summit, the ultimate Fuji Climb? Email Dee or Tracey at 37frames@ tokyo.com for more info and check out the 37 Frames Blog http://offtheplanet.typepad. BAB com/37frames for photos galore. Being A Broad September 2010


feature

DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES: JAPANESE COMPANY WIVES IN ENGLAND by Dr. Susan K. Burton

Here at BAB we’re committed to sharing the stories of foreign women in Japan and supporting each other in surviving and thriving here. What we often forget is that plenty of Japanese women go abroad, too, not all of them of their own volition. In this article, Dr. Susan K. Burton, an associate professor at Bunkyo Gakuin University, introduces us to some of the specific challenges and experiences of Japanese women living abroad.

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I think it’s a feeling of powerlessness and a lack of reason for being here. You don’t know when you’re going to go home. You’re at fate’s whim in a way.” (Sayuri Kawakami) For the past decade I have been studying the experiences of modern migrants, interviewing expatriates who have made new lives far from home and family. Distinct among these are the company wives, the trailing spouses of transplanted company men (I have yet to meet a company husband) because, unlike students or contract workers, they do not go abroad of their own free will. This is not to say that they are not happy to be posted abroad. Several of the Japanese wives featured in this article admit that they intentionally joined large trading companies in the hope of marrying a man who would be posted overseas. But, unlike other expatriates, company wives are sent abroad as dependents, part of the breadwinner’s entourage. And although a posting may make them the envy of their friends for their good fortune, company wives have no official role and little control over their expatriate fates. To what extent wives create new lives for themselves and how successfully they adapt to their new surroundings or remain isolated from the host society is the subject of my ongoing research. The quotations in this article are taken from interviews with Japanese company wives in England (names have been changed), but trailing spouses elsewhere may identify with their experiences. “Basically, my primary duty is to take care of my husband. As you know, this is the typical Japanese way of thinking.” (Kaori Shimizu) Japanese wives are regarded as auxiliary workers for their husbands’ companies, performing much the same support duties in England as they would in Japan; running the household so that their husbands can devote all their time to their jobs. Although their work is unpaid, the expatriate package can be very generous and, as the Japanese family economy is generally controlled by wives, they may oversee family budgets that are more than twice their husbands’ previous salaries. But as unofficial support workers, women are also bound by the company’s rules and are part of a status hierarchy which, although based on one’s husband’s job, applies equally to wives.

“OK, the branch manager lives in a house this big, and so you have to live in one that’s slightly smaller, and everything from houses to cars. And so you can’t really be yourself in that situation, you have to live within that framework. Nobody likes it, you know, Japanese people don’t like that at all but we live with it.” (Sayuri Kawakami) “All the Japanese wives are ranked according to their husbands’ job ranking. So the manager’s wife is always sort of bossy and when she has to bake a cake or something and can’t be bothered she orders the junior wife, ‘You do it for me,’ and she has to do it.” (Rimika Toyoda) Most large companies sponsor a fujinkai, or wives’ club. Wives take it in turns to be president of the group and they organise cultural events such as cheese and wine tastings, lectures, welcome parties, and sayonara sales. But even here, hierarchy within the fujinkai is strict. As Sayuri Kawakami notes, “anything related to your husband and his work tends to be very formal.” “You get a new suit specifically to go and you get your hair done before you go, it’s that serious an occasion. People hate it, they really don’t look forward to it, but you have to do it.” (Sayuri Kawakami) Most of the wives I have interviewed try to avoid company-sponsored events because their relationships with other wives could affect their husbands’ careers. “You are really aware of the fact that you are there as your husband, you have to watch your back, you are too conscientious. That’s why you might struggle.” (Rimika Toyoda) So what can company wives do to make lives for themselves outside the company’s control? It is not easy. They can remain very isolated unless they find things to do and people to do them with. “[Wives] aren’t really busy. They have to find things to be busy with and I think that’s the main problem, it’s the loneliness that people feel here because there isn’t a structure to their lives, they’ve got to make the structure themselves.” (Sayuri Kawakami) Some of this time is taken up with hobbies. Golf lessons are popular with most of my interviewees because of cheaper course fees in England, and several courses have Japanese-speaking coaches. They also attend classes at local colleges such as English flower-arranging and pottery, generally with other wives so that any confusion over the teacher’s English can be resolved together. If a senior wife recommends a particular class, the junior wives have no choice but to go. Wives also regularly gather at each others’ houses to practise hobbies together. “It’s very difficult to find things to fill your time with. I think that’s part of the reason why people who in Japan wouldn’t dream of doing knitting, for example, will consider it here. And they get quite good at it and then they’ve got something to pass on to somebody else.” (Sayuri Kawakami)

Many company wives have small children that they can devote themselves to during their stay. As Sayuri notes, “if you’ve got a child, you’ve got the school times and whatever and it’s easier to get a structure going.” Keeping children up to date with their schoolwork, especially if they attend a native school, is an important consideration for company wives since the child’s education is considered a wife’s duty. But it is at the school gate, the place where most company wives have their first serious encounter with the host culture, that serious problems may arise. Surprisingly, although Japanese companies provide language classes and sometimes also intercultural awareness training for husbands, and most subsidise language lessons for their children, none of them make any such provisions for the wives. As second-generation company wife Sayuri notes: “I mean my mum, her English was so bad when we first came to England that she’d get all these newsletters from school and she might read them but she wouldn’t understand any of it so she wouldn’t know the concept of half-term holidays. So I’d go to school on a Monday and realise that nobody was there and I’d be like, ‘What is this?’ And then I’d come home and, ‘Mummy there was gakkou nakatta (no school).’ [And my mother would say] ‘Oh, dear me. We did get a letter here last week.’ You know, it was like that. So we really didn’t have anybody to fall back on in a way, which is what I think I felt all along…it was quite an isolating sort of feeling I think.” (Sayuri Kawakami) Companies’ failure to provide comprehensive English language lessons can leave wives linguistically segregated from the host society. All my interviews with company wives were arranged through a Japanese contact and I was aware that some women agreed to talk with me simply because they wanted to meet an English person. In spite of living in England for more than two years, Erika Ueda admitted that I was the first English person she had spoken to other than her next-door neighbour and the cashier at the supermarket. With few (in most cases no) English friends, company wives are likely to avoid difficult situations where English is required. For example, when Chieko Nakamura didn’t understand a caller on the telephone she would say, “I don’t know. I don’t understand. Sorry,” and hang up. Moreover, with no cross-cultural awareness training some wives expressed the view that the British were racist, but later came to realise that they were simply as reserved as the Japanese and, living in a multicultural society, generally indifferent to foreigners, especially those who don’t speak the language. “Most [British] people aren’t going to have the time and the inclination to go through a rather uncomfortable situation whereby you’re inviting somebody to your house who speaks very little English and you’ve got nothing in common and they’re uncomfortable and


feature Images provided by Dr. Burton.

you’re uncomfortable.” (Sayuri Kawakami) Company wives find it difficult to meet any British people. They were surprised to discover that most British women, even those with children, work during the day and don’t have time for socialising over afternoon tea. Befriending ‘foreigners’ can be a daunting experience and the temptation is to stick with the safety of the company wives’ groups even if they don’t particularly like it. “I think they have that dilemma of, ‘Oh, I don’t really want to stick with the Japanese people but they’re the only ones that I really know,’ and they’re the ones you go to for information and other things. It’s a sort of exasperating kind of life for most people. (Sayuri Kawakami) Of all my Japanese interviewees, company wives demonstrate the least inclination to adapt to their host culture, tending to be more defiantly critical of a British society and asserting their Japanese cultural identities through their desire to maintain their own cultural practices: watching Japanese satellite television or driving down to London to visit Japanese doctors and dentists and to shop at the Japanese supermarket there. But crucially, unlike students or the wives of British men, company wives are aware that their stay in England will be limited and that in four to six years they will return to Japan or even be posted to another country. Consequently, they are less motivated to adapt to British life but more inclined to fall back on friendships with other company wives within the Japanese expatriate community—especially higher ranking ones—on whom their families’ continued economic fortunes depend. What happens when wives do not get the support they need? The stress of the rigid company hierarchy, the lack of language proficiency, as well as boredom and homesickness can become serious problems, but because of the stigma attached to mental illness in Japan, few women go to psychiatrists. They tend to become withdrawn or they just go back to Japan. “You do actually get people who become depressed and they go back to Japan or they are divorced. I know this one particular lady who’s scared of going out and meeting new people now, she’s just that depressed, but the husband’s not terribly open about it and there’s not much we can do to get to know this person. But that happens a lot.” (Sayuri Kawakami) Women who are unable to cope have other women’s sympathy but there does seem to be an underlying criticism of those who can’t deal with it. The Japanese spirit of gaman (to endure) is strong in the expatriate community. Living abroad can also put a strain on marriages. Husbands and wives have very different expatriate experiences. Husbands’ lives tend to revolve around their work. “They’ve got to come and work and so they’ve got

Japanese wives are often in charge of organising their family’s new life in England and must also make time for events such as those run by the wives’ group or fujinkai.

a place to go every day and it’s more or less the same. The people that they’re sitting with if they work for a Japanese firm are Japanese people … a lot of the men go off and do karaoke and stuff in the evenings as well so they’ve got their own social setting which is not very different from the Japanese way of life back home.” (Sayuri Kawakami) Wives, however, suddenly find themselves removed from their home social networks and distanced from family, friends, and neighbours. As a result, “the wives are the ones that feel a lot more of the loneliness, they feel a lot more cut off ” (Sayuri Kawakami). Moreover, wives are suddenly placed in a position where they can compare their marriage with those of another culture. “They find it hard because their husbands don’t come home very early, which in Japan is quite normal for husbands to come home very late and then not to help with the children and things, but here they see [British] husbands coming home early and helping with the housework and the children and they suddenly think, ‘I don’t think I’ve got a very good life.’ They think, ‘It’s not fair.’ And I think suddenly their eyes have been opened to a whole new world and their expectation of life is a little bit more than it was in Japan in terms of what they want their husbands to do.” (Sayuri Kawakami) This may lead to a reassessment of the marriage with couples gradually growing apart. “A lot of marriages literally break down abroad, I think. I mean they don’t get divorced out here, but you withdraw your heart from the whole relationship and you see it in people a lot. People come to our barbecues once a year and over the years if you’ve had them over every year you either see them getting closer together or growing apart and more likely than not, sadly, you see them grow apart a lot more because there’s so much resentment there.” (Sayuri Kawakami) It seems a major oversight for Japanese companies not to do more to ensure wives’ welfare abroad. Do companies simply overlook the wives? Or is it part of a plan to keep the wives and therefore their husbands dependent on the company? Company workers that I have spoken to take the view that wives are well looked after, that their expatriate lives are, in fact, all-expenses paid holidays. Certainly company wives are envied by other Japanese expatriates for their leisure time, their expensive houses and cars, and their trips to Europe to buy brand goods. But at the same

time, wives are expected to carry on their work as mothers and housewives with little support other than the hated wives’ groups. It is wives who do the shopping, take the children to school, go to parents’ evenings, get the car serviced, and call the plumber. Shouldn’t they at least get the same access to intercultural awareness training and language lessons as their husbands, if not more? Unless they find the confidence to strike out on their own—take private English lessons and join clubs where they can encounter British people— company wives remain linguistically segregated from British society and largely reliant on their husbands and the companies for their day-to-day survival and emotional wellbeing. In many cases, this is not enough. Marriages break down, wives return home, and husbands stay on alone to finish their corporate assignments. I have not yet heard of a case of the husband asking to be repatriated with his wife. Such a request would suggest a lack of company loyalty and adversely affect a man’s career. Consequently, companies are free to label such issues as ‘private’ matters and ignore them. Indeed, they positively benefit from the status quo. After all, what would happen if company wives did have the confidence to strike out on their own? “I know of one couple where the wife suddenly decided, ‘Right!’ and she started going to shakou dansu (social dance)—waltzes and foxtrots and that kind of dance—she started going to those lessons and found her own world. She loved it and loved England and loved English. And the husband was being very typically Japanese and was getting on, and to the point where they had such separate lives that they really couldn’t stand each other. Well, the woman couldn’t stand the husband really. He couldn’t quite fulfill all the adventurous spirit that she’d really found. And actually they divorced when it was time for him to move back to Japan, and when he went back to Japan she stayed on.” BAB (Sayuri Kawakami) Dr. Burton is currently recording interviews with expatriate British women—students, career women, company wives, wives of Japanese men, etc. in Japan. If you have lived in Japan for two or more years and are agreeable to being interviewed for academic research, please contact her at drskb@tiscali.co.uk.

Being A Broad September 2010

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FESTIVAL VIRGINITY by Katy Lowen

Plan ahead to avoid sleeping on a ski hill!

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Fuji Rock draws huge crowds to all its stages.

Excited for the Scissor Sisters!

counter. By this time I was well and truly sodden, my clothes were so wet I could have quenched a cactus with the water collecting in my underwear. I couldn’t understand how we had managed to get behind all these people—it was only after meeting up with friends inside that they told me they’d had been queuing since 4am and they certainly weren’t the first! Once we had picked up our wristbands we hurried towards the campsite where friends had offered to reserve us a “flat spot.” As the festival is held at Naeba ski resort, those unlucky enough to turn up late are in danger of sleeping at a 45-degree angle. I laughed when I heard this, but this is no exaggeration. We were very lucky to have Fuji Rock veterans as camping buddies. On first entering the camp there was a small, flat-ish area cordoned off for “Ladies camping only.” This was very close to the showers, clean toilets, and a short walk from the 24-hour onsen. The ladies camping here had clearly come prepared: walking past one evening I heard the sound of a hairdryer coming from one of the tents. I suggested to Ian that it might be a good spot for me to set up camp; however, dividing one (borrowed) tent is difficult. If only I’d known earlier—you can bet I would have suggested ‘Glamping’ (glamorous camping) in a female-only tent. There’s always next year. There are seven main stages at the festival, with others scattered around the site. The Green stage is regarded as the main stage, as this is where the headliners play to crowds of over 50,000. First to play at the festival was Superfly, a Japanese act that certainly got the party started. Headlining that night was MUSE, a British band I had vaguely heard about despite my pop-warped brain. I knew Ian was keen to see them, so after a damp day we headed towards the front. Only one song into their set, MUSE had converted me to rock music. Unbelievable stage presence, an awesome laser show, and fantastic rock anthems meant I had completely forgotten about the rain, the mud, and the all-night rave next to our campsite. After their performance I would

have willingly swapped my Britney Spears albums for a copy of their latest single. (Thankfully, I soon remembered I could have both.) The festival just kept getting better after that. The sun finally came out; there were brilliant performances by Jamie Cullum, Kula Shaker, Roxy Music, and the Boom Boom Satellites, to name only a very select few. And the best was yet to come: the incentive that took me to Niigata in the first place, the Scissor Sisters. Ian was charged with carrying our rucksack as I would need to dance around as much as possible. And dance I did. From the moment they came on stage to the final note in their act, they completely owned the stage. Thousands of people dancing and singing proved the Scissor Sisters were well worth the wait and a great finale to the festival. Returning to Tokyo somewhat dirtier than when I had left, I was still buzzing from the fun I’d had at Fuji Rock—despite the occasional downpour, it had been a great place. As I suspected, I did get wet and muddy, but the atmosphere and energy at Fuji Rock certainly outweighed that. Fuji-Rockers are very considerate festival-goers and certainly enjoy every minute of the event. I may still be a pop princess at heart, but Fuji Rock, come rain or shine, will certainly be a must-do next year. Fuji Rock Festival, an annual music event, is the largest outdoor music event in Japan. Previously held on Tenjinyama Ski Resort near Mt Fuji, the event was moved after a now legendary typhoon closed the festival during a Red Hot Chili Pepper set. It first moved to Toyosu, finally settling at its current location in 1999. This year, over 110,000 people attended, and local ticket sales accounted for the majority of the attendees, with organisers suggesting that five to ten percent of tickets were sold overseas. If you’re thinking of camping with your female friends, be sure to arrive early for the best spot in the ladies-only area, as there is no specific reservation ticket. For more information about the festival and to start planning next year’s trip, visit www. fujirockfestival.com, and to learn more about glamping, the glamorous camping trend, visit BAB www.glampinggirl.com.

Alll images provided by Katy Lowen.

entertainment

LOSING MY ROCK

lost my virginity in the last weekend of July. That is, my music festival virginity. Since I grew up in the UK, where there is a plethora of music festivals, most are stunned it’s taken me this long. Glastonbury, on which Fuji Rock Festival is based, certainly has its draws, but after always deciding that ‘this year just wasn’t right,’ I was usually rewarded with images of people at the site quickly turning into swamp monsters. I love camping; I adore music. I don’t like swamps. As most people who know me can testify, rock is not really my thing. Yes, I have some of the mainstream bands on my iPod, and I have even listened to a few of the songs more than once. The thing is, I love to dance, and in my book, playing air guitar doesn’t count. In all honesty, I’m a total disco gal. Sparkly shoes and Madonna turned up loud; that’s my ideal night out. It was the billing of the Scissor Sisters on the last night of the festival that gave Ian, my indieloving drummer boyfriend, the leverage with which to convince me that going to Fuji Rock was better than some “generic pop-induced coma” he would suffer at Summer Sonic. I had heard from friends, too, that Fuji Rock was “the best place to start” if I was going to take the plunge, as it was dubbed “the clean festival.” So, with a mix of apprehension about emerging from Fuji Rock mud-clad, sodden, and sleep-deprived, and the excitement of trying something new and seeing the “Sisters” in action, I boarded the Shinkansen for Niigata. We got there early. Fuji Rock Festival didn’t officially start until 11am on Friday July 30, and we arrived at 10:30am the day before, a whole hour and a half before we could collect our wristbands; we had plenty of time. Of course, 30 minutes after waiting for the free shuttle bus it started to rain—and I mean really rain. I was coping, though: this was the festival experience I had expected, and once we got to the site we could quickly put up our tent (kindly loaned by BAB Manager Dee and friend Tracey—thank you!) and dive inside. I don’t recall the next three hours very well, though I do remember achieving a zen-like state as I snaked my way slowly to the wristband


SANDRA & MARY

of Asian Tigers Premier Worldwide Movers

Sandra and Mary enjoy helping people relocate. Photographs by Kerry Raftis/www.keyshots.com; composite image by Asian Tigers

Name: Sandra Van Gessel Nationality: French Qualifications: MBA Asian Business, University Lyon II Job title: sales manager Employer: Asian Tigers Premier World Wide Movers Time in this job: six years; eight years in Japan Name: Mary Saphin Nationality: Australian Qualifications: BA Dip Ed, Grad Dip Ed: Asian Studies Job title: customer relations and marketing manager Time in this job: three years; twelve years living in Japan over the past two decades Job description: Asian Tigers Premier Worldwide Movers specialises in the professional packing and forwarding of office and household goods shipments domestically as well as to and from international locations. We offer secure warehouse and storage facilities and services. Full relocation services are available through the Asian Tigers Mobility division. Sandra: In my role as sales manager I am the team leader, with a number of front and back-office staff reporting to me, as well as two interns from France. Not only do I complete surveys for clients, but I am also responsible for the total export process right up to delivery at the new address. As a result, I have a large networking relationship with many of the agents and other international moving companies throughout the world. Asian Tigers is a well respected member of FIDI (Federation of International Movers) and I attend the annual conferences on behalf of Asian Tigers Japan. Mary: My role has a variety of responsibilities which makes life challenging and fulfilling. For example, I am often assisting our inbound clients as they settle into life in Japan. I visit and meet many of our clients, assisting them and answering questions and making their life a little easier during this transition period. When I’m not doing that, I might be organising our various charitable, school, and other public organisations donations and related activities throughout the year or working on one of a number of other tasks. General requirements: Being precise, detailoriented, and extremely cautious, as any mistake with a client’s shipment can be expensive for all parties. Being a very good listener, having a sense of humour and flexibility. In addition, enjoying people and assisting every client, for during times of relocation their lives can be extremely stressful—both when arriving in and leaving Japan.  Finally, an ability to consider options and the flexibility to meet client needs. Japanese requirement: Sandra is fluent not only in Japanese but French, Dutch, German, and English—the number of languages spoken by Asian Tigers staff is one of our many strengths. Mary is finding that even after years of study her

working

WE PROFILE:

Move Management Specialists

Japanese is deteriorating as even her Japanese friends speak English! However, once out of Tokyo it seems to rapidly improve as necessity requires greater effort. General conditions: Our days are flexible and work hours are fluid. Depending upon the number and location of surveys of client’s premises, visiting of new inbound clients, and the administration required, the work day starts early and ends late. Asian Tigers takes its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) seriously and from the Managing Director, Nick Masee, on down, we are encouraged to be involved with charities such as YMCA, Run for the Cure, Tokyo American Club, the French Chamber, the Australia Society, and CWAJ, and to be active volunteers. How we found these jobs: Sandra completed a Japanese internship as part of her MBA program. She fell in love with Japan and when offered a role as a corporate account manager she accepted and is now well established in Tokyo with her two gorgeous Yorkshire terriers Kitty and Chipie. Mary was working as the Director of Welcome Furoshiki and was headhunted to establish the customer relations and marketing position at Asian Tigers. Having lived here for many years with her family, Mary and her husband are now empty nesters living with their spoodle, Mocha (an Animal Rescue Kansai dog). Interesting aspects of our roles: During the different times and seasons of the year, priorities are always changing for both personal and professional reasons and you need to be flexible about it. It is this which makes our roles so enjoyable. The best aspect of our roles is the feeling of relief when a client’s voice or expression tells us that

they really know they are being well looked after. For Sandra, her relationship with the overseas partners and their mutual respect also brings great satisfaction, for this ensures Asian Tigers clients are being well looked after outside Japan as well as internally. Some of the worst aspects are dealing with the unforeseeable and unpreventable problems that do sometimes occur. This is when Sandra regrets not having taken up yoga or relaxation! Issues affecting us as working women: Professionally, working in sales and customer service opens you up to a lot of new perspectives, and establishing a career with Asian Tigers has continued to challenge us on a daily basis. We both have supportive partners who always provide much-needed balance and perspective when the hats we juggle become a little overwhelming— Sandra has Mickael (JCE Autos) and Mary has Craig (Wall Street Associates) plus our dogs and our respective families in France and Australia. Advice: Get involved not only in your career and its development but also in the many charities and organisations in Tokyo. Not only does this increase your social networks and friendships, but it also helps others and increases your exposure to the vagaries of Japanese life. Meeting talented women in business is always a great encouragement and we have been fortunate to meet many through work and also the many business and community networks available in Tokyo. BAB runs some great women’s networking activities as does FEW, CWAJ, and the groups available through the various chambers and embassies. Recommended resources: Visit www. asiantigers-japan.com for up to date information BAB when moving to and from Japan. Being A Broad September 2010

15


working

WOMEN WHO DO BUSINESS THE JMEC WAY by Alena Eckelmann

J

year, costs a fraction of what you would have to pay for an MBA, and you can continue working in your current job throughout. The numbers speak volumes: Founded by the Australian and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ANZCCJ) in 1993, this non-profit program has been going from strength to strength. In September of this year, JMEC Round 17 will continue the challenge, now supported by 14 chambers of commerce in Japan in addition to a great number of corporate and patron sponsors from the foreign business community in Japan. The program’s impressive legacy numbers nearly 800 graduates with women and men being almost equally represented (45 percent versus 55 percent, respectively). On average, 60 participants battle it out each year in teams of five or six members, typically ranging in age from mid-20s to late 40s. They come from all over the world (45 countries so far) and have a wide range of professional backgrounds, which makes for a diverse mix of team setups. Project clients are foreign companies with operations in Japan or with plans to enter the market. Depending on their level of engagement in Japan, their needs greatly differ. They might need advice for market entry or for market expansion, for launching new products and services, or for revising and restructuring existing offerings. Over the years, almost 150 organisations have received professional business plans through their collaboration with JMEC. Some of the

ANZCCJ, Katherine was secretariat manager and was also the sole employee of the chamber. She has lived and worked in Japan for the last nine years. She says: JMEC provided me with exactly what I wanted when I wanted it the most. I felt that I had settled into life in Tokyo (having moved from a very small country town in Okayama Prefecture), made further progress with my Japanese language skills, and had met the challenge of filling the large shoes of my predecessor by continuing the smooth operations of the chamber. However, I keenly felt the gaps in my business acumen and in my knowledge of the ways that business is conducted in Japan. I was looking for a way to fill these gaps and JMEC was the perfect answer. Knowledge and experience bring confidence. Confidence brings the freedom to break away from your subconscious assumptions about your own limitations. JMEC gave me the confidence to take on bigger challenges, both personally and professionally, and reinforced my belief in the importance of lifelong learning. JMEC is very practical and hands-on. There are many aspects that I have continued to build on in the work setting, in particular bringing out the best of everyone in a diverse team, project management, and embracing the mindset that JMEC promotes of challenging assumptions and thinking out of the box. The project clients: American Linda Semlitz, child psychiatrist and now clinical director at Tokyo English Lifeline (TELL), was a member of TELL’s client team that got involved with JMEC in 2009. At the time, TELL was

Australian Katherine Nozaki is the Executive Director of the Australian and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ANZCCJ). Katherine participated in JMEC in 2005–2006. As team coordinator, Katherine led her team to win first prize in the business plan competition. Prior to being appointed as executive director of the

[JMEC] was one of the best committees I have ever worked on. The committee members really “ believe in the program...”

16

considering taking the next step as an organisation and they looked for help with identifying the best organisational and fee structures and new ways to raise funds, amongst other things. For TELL: It was an enormously productive exercise very well worth the investment. We received great recommendations and we have already implemented most of them. The JMEC team was very complete, conscientious and enthusiastic, and quite passionate about TELL and the project at hand. It was a great learning experience for everyone involved. The JMEC team provided great input but they also got a lot out of it. Various TELL board members, all extremely professional people, advised them personally in addition to their JMEC mentor. Marica Ishizuka, vice-chair of the TELL Board, did a particularly good job of giving feedback on the business plan. Anne Lanigan, from Ireland, stayed in Japan most recently for seven years when she was the director Japan of Enterprise Ireland, a government agency responsible for the development and promotion of Irish business in Japan. In 2005, Enterprise Ireland contracted JMEC to formulate a business plan for the development of the Japanese market for Irish fashion products. Anne represented the project client and she was also a member of the JMEC Executive Committee. As a project client it was a great privilege to work with the young executives studying with the JMEC program. Their enthusiasm, dedication, and ability to apply themselves so effectively was inspirational. It was particularly rewarding to see such diverse groups of people work so well as a team. I believe that these kinds of cross-cultural and cross-functional teams are one of the best ways to develop new, world-changing ideas. I sat on the JMEC committee for my full seven years in Japan. It was one of the best committees I have ever worked on. The committee members really believe in the program, which effectively merges a realistic approach with the need to always challenge and push the boundaries. The mentor: Image: iStockphoto.com/kristian sekulic

organisations have participated as clients multiple times, showing their high level of satisfaction with the results and recommendations received by the JMEC participant teams. Let’s Meet the JMEC Women The participant: Image: iStockphoto.com/René Mansi

apan is considered to be a tough market for foreigners to do business in. Intricate business etiquettes, unwritten rules, and the language barrier, to name just a few obstacles, can complicate any business dealings and hinder prosperous development, be it a personal-level career progression or an organisational-level business expansion. Foreign women, in particular those with executive or entrepreneurial ambitions, often find it difficult to crack the mysterious codes and gain access to the businessmen’s world that is Japan Inc. If you find yourself nodding now, read on, as help is at hand. JMEC—the Japan Market Expansion Competition—is a professional training program based on a business-plan competition. Often referred to as a mini-MBA, it provides participants with theoretical knowledge, practical skills, insider experiences, and best of all, the professional network needed in the Japanese business environment. What’s more, it takes less than one

Nicole Fall, co-founder and trend director of Five by Fifty, an independent innovation, trend forecasting, and ethnographic research agency,


working Image: iStockphoto.com/Tomaz Levstek

It was an enormously productive exercise very well worth the investment. We received “ great recommendations and we have already implemented most of them.”

joined last year’s team of nine JMEC mentors and nine consultants. Fall is from the UK and has been in Japan for 12 years working in advertising, marketing, and journalism. When the JMEC office called me and asked whether I wanted to become a JMEC mentor, I was taken aback because I thought that I might not be qualified enough. After a little persuasion, I took up the offer and I am so glad I did. Coaching a team of individuals with different personalities from different countries and industry backgrounds is a valuable learning experience. In dealing with the project client I have also learned to look at a situation impartially and more

organisation. It will also help me in the future as I plan to start my own business. Seeing the JMEC project through from start to finish whilst working in a full-time job required a significant time commitment. It was a huge achievement for our team to gain second place in the competition, which certainly instilled much confidence in our professional abilities. After graduating from the program, I decided to support JMEC, as I believe that it offers fantastic opportunities for both participants and for clients. I suggested a JMEC sponsorship to the management of the Kenichi Ohmae Graduate School of Business,

The JMEC experience was a marvelous refresher and it solidified my skills. It greatly helps me at “ work now...it will also help me in the future as I plan

an area of business in which they are interested and can focus on that during the business plan writing phase if they so choose. For example, a woman who works as an accountant can try her hand at the marketing section of the business plan. I very much enjoy my role at JMEC, mostly because of the many interesting and diverse business people I come into contact with on a regular basis. My background was in marketing, but running a small non-profit like JMEC requires me to draw upon all aspects of my business training, which is challenging yet rewarding. I enjoy the fact that each day is different—there is no one typical BAB day at JMEC.

to start my own business.”

they accepted the proposal, and we became a JMEC sponsor in 2009. Alison Jambert is the communications director (and also a founding director and co-owner) of Eat Creative, a communications agency based in Tokyo that specialises in international and premium brands. Alison is from the UK and she came to Japan in 1996. Eat Creative has also been a JMEC sponsor since last year. Eat Creative’s founders believe in giving up a certain percentage of our time to a number of activities, education being one of them. Sponsoring JMEC provides our team with the opportunity to further our experiences while at the same time raising awareness and promoting the agency to a larger audience. The program director: American Laura Loy has been the JMEC Program Director since June 2009 after having been the JMEC Assistant Program Director for over two years. JMEC provides a safe and supportive environment for women to try something new. After completing the lecture series, participants can choose

17 Image: iStockphoto.com/kristian sekulic

objectively than I am used to when managing my own company’s clients. The JMEC client of the project that I coached the participants for last year was involved in one of Five by Fifty’s specialties, so I was able to dive headfirst into the project and offer up trends research on a relevant topic. The sponsors: Lisa Chung is the program manager of the MBA in Globalisation at the Kenichi Ohmae Graduate School of Business. She participated in JMEC in 2008–2009 and her team won the second prize in the business plan competition. Before joining JMEC, Lisa studied for an MBA in Entrepreneurship and Marketing at Waseda University Graduate School of Asia Pacific Studies. Lisa is from the UK and she has been in Japan since 2001. Through participation in JMEC I gained more experience with putting together a professional business plan. During JMEC I wrote a business plan for the second time; the first time was during my MBA studies. The JMEC experience was a marvelous refresher and it solidified my skills. It greatly helps me at work now, where I write business plans for my

JMEC 17 begins in November, 2010. The deadline for participants to apply is October 22, 2010, while for project clients it is November 19, 2010. A discounted rate is available to clients who are accepted and pay in full by September 30. For more information about JMEC and how to get involved as a participant, project client, or sponsor, please visit www.jmec.gr.jp, contact Laura Loy by email at info@jmec.gr.jp, or tel. 03-5562-1444.

Being A Broad September 2010


mothers

PREPPING FOR

BACK TO SCHOOL by Helen Kaiho

then the summer is a long hot haze of sweaty days and nights. Having said that, summer in the city is also a lot of fun. Jabu-jabu, or water-play areas, are free in many local parks and provide a lot of fun for preschoolers. For those with kids in kindergarten or elementary school there are often swimming lessons for the kids held throughout the summer. Tokyo also hosts an abundance of matsuri or festivals during the summer months. Julia Sprules, who recently gave birth to her second daughter here in Tokyo and was therefore unable to travel overseas as she usually does every summer, says she has been pleasantly surprised by what Tokyo has to offer. “This is our first summer in Tokyo, as usually we escape between July and September, but because of baby number two we are here. It has not been as terrible as I thought it would be, as we have filled our weekends with local matsuri festivals. The water balloons, bon odori, and yakisoba served up in local neighbourhood parks is fun as the sun and heat of the day wane. Watching fireworks from the balcony with some edamame and a beer (for us) before bed has made us appreciate that summer natsukashii feeling. The local Shiba Koen public swimming pool at ¥200 a pop has been a godsend too, although we get trailed a lot by the staff with all their rules like no sunscreen, no tattoos, no picture-taking, and no jumping in!

The preparations are not only for your children. Parents also need to be ready. For example, you do “ not need to waste your precious time in the morning looking for your child’s school uniform.

18

made for a nice break from the early mornings and the drain of the school run, four to six long weeks of four kids at home to entertain took its toll, I’m sure. Summer holidays were when we suffered the most injuries, usually due to the reckless climbing of trees, falling off all manner of playground equipment, bicycle riding, and generally racing around the garden like maniacs. It was no wonder she was happy to see the holidays draw to a close. Summers spent in Japan, and particularly in Tokyo, for my little ones are very different from those of my childhood in England. We, like most others living in Tokyo, have no garden to speak off and therefore nowhere to let the kids run free. It is not unusual to see paddling pools set up on narrow balconies as parents try desperately to entertain their kids and keep them cool. The heat is so intense that even a simple trip to the local park involves taking a monster bag full of sunscreen, mozzie spray, towels, fans, sunhats, shades, cold drinks, and what not. If you are not lucky enough to have escaped the summer in Tokyo by taking your kids overseas,

But still, it’s open until 8pm and is a nice way to knacker out a toddler before bed. I’m looking forward to the less intense heat of September and maybe an onsen in the mountains, though.” So whether the summer holidays have been a welcome break from the school routine or you are desperate to see the back of them, I have compiled some advice to help make the transition as easy as possible for both mother and child. It is not uncommon for children to feel very unsettled as they return to school after such a long break. As the school year in Japan generally starts in April, children who may have just finally settled down and relaxed into their school life after weeks if not months of crying may suffer a relapse and again suffer from separation anxiety and cry when taken back to kindergarten or school. Sayoko Oba, a kindergarten teacher at Aloha International Preschool in Adachi-Ku, Tokyo, gives this advice; “If your child gets upset or starts crying when it’s time to say goodbye at the school gate, you do not have to get angry with him or her, and also please do not show your worried face. What you can do to help your child

Dressed and packed for preschool Images: Helen Kaiho.

A

s a child growing up in a house with three siblings, the return of school meant nothing less than chaos for all concerned! The last weekend of summer holidays marked the start of the frantic search for lost pieces of P.E. kit (usually found much later stuck down the back of the boiler in the airing cupboard), desperate attempts to get through the piles of holiday homework invariably left to the last minute, and my mother screaming about which one of us had finished off the last of the ham for our packed lunch sandwiches without letting her know we were out. All this and so much more added to my sense of foreboding as the butterflies steadily grew in my stomach thinking about how much my friends were going to laugh at my new bowl-cut, page-boy hairstyle my Mum gave me the night before school started, or how much I hated the sensible school shoes I was forced to wear when all my friends’ parents let then get away with non-regulation clothes. Having said that, I think we all shared a sense of relief and even a thrill at the thought of getting back to normal again; perhaps my mother more so than the rest of us with her rowdy chorus of “School tomorrow! School tomorrow!” sung at the top of her lungs the Sunday before school started! Being a mother of two now, I can well understand where she was coming from. Although the summer holidays were great fun and

is to smile and say ‘You’ll have fun, and I will come to meet you when you finish with your school!’ Please do not forget teachers are also there to help you. We will be well prepared and ready to welcome your child.” The understanding of staff at your child’s school can really help to ease the child back into school life and take some pressure off you. She also recommends that you prepare your child to return to kindergarten or school by talking about school life, teachers and friends; “It will help them if you show your child a photo of his or her teachers and friends. Looking at them will make them remember fun times they spent and realise that they are enrolled in the school and will have fun when they return. “Concerns about how your child will fare on their return to school can cause as much anxiety for a worried mother as for the child. Nicky Washida, mother of three, speaks about her fears for her daughter’s readjustment to her school life after the summer break, “My daughter has just switched to a different elementary school, as we moved house. I am nervous for her because she is still very new to the class. She has a tendency to come across as snooty, when in fact she is just a bit shy, and the teacher commented about that at the end


mothers

Ask your child what they would like in their back to school bento. Image: Wendy Copley

of last term. I am worried about her and how she will settle back into the new term, not least because she will be off to the UK for two months in October, and enter her primary school there for the Christmas term.” It is important to try not to let your child pick up on an anxiety you may be feeling, as this will undoubtedly pass on. It is best to be upbeat and positive about the return to school. It is also important not to leave any homework assignments or projects to the last minute, as this adds unnecessary stress to both child and parent as the deadline looms. Try to have your child work on summer homework in small managable chunks and aim to have it finished well before the last few days of the holidays. Then you and your child are free to focus on the general preparations of uniform, school equipment, and lunches, rather than having to stress about finishing homework. Many kindergartens and elementary schools in Japan favour holiday homework. As Nicky Washida states, her first grader’s summer homework has been a little on the heavy side! “The holidays have not seen any less paperwork than school time, really. She has had to write two essays, finish a book of math and Japanese language drills, complete three quizzes on those drills, draw and write about her morning glory’s buds, flowers, seed pods and seeds, read at least five books, write a daily diary, keep a daily “health” chart, and complete a project to make something from scratch. She’s six years old!” If your child has little or no homework to complete it is a good idea to start incorporating a bit of quiet study time into their daily routine in the couple of weeks before school starts again. This could be in the form of an educational worksheet or activity book, a quiet reading time together with Mum or Dad, or a colouring page. Perhaps take your child to the local library or visit an educational museum to get back into a learning environment. Weeks of unstructured free playtime over the summer can mean the child has trouble adjusting to having to sit still and concentrate in class, so this structure to their day during the holidays helps get them back on the right track. Another great way for your child to get into the school frame of mind is by getting directly involved in the process of back-to-school preparations. Whether by asking them what they would like in their first-day back bento and going together to the supermarket to purchase groceries, or by picking out some new pencils or a pencil case for school, children should be consulted and actively part of the process. Have your child help to get things together at home and pack up their own school bag. If your child attends

elementary school or a kindergarten without a specific uniform, have them pick out in advance what they would like to wear on the first day back, or go shopping for a new item of clothing to mark the day and help make them feel excited and special. It is also important to check in advance whether or not your child’s school uniform still fits, and in particular, your child’s shoes, as it is not unknown for kids to go through a massive growth spurt during the summer months! In the last few days of the holidays, it is also important to start implementing more structure and routine into your child’s day, so that it more closely resembles a typical school day pattern like those they will be expected to keep when school starts. It is part and parcel of summer that bedtimes and wake-ups both get later. Lots of day trips and outdoor activities often mean mealtimes are all over the place, too. Summer days also come hand-in-hand with sticky snacks and ice-cream...great for summer treats, but not so great for a successful transition into school life, where kids need regular mealtimes to help them maintain concentration and energy. As Sayoko Oba advises, “if you child has been going to bed late, at least three to four days before, start putting them in bed about 30 minutes earlier than usual. The same thing applies to the morning time. Regulating bed time is very important. If your child feels sleepy and tired, he or she won’t be happy about being at school.” Many kindergartens and elementary schools here in Japan often open for a few relaxed days at the end of August to get the children used to

coming to school again and to familiarise themselves with the routine, their teachers, friends, and school life again. It is best that your child attends these few days as it really helps them make the transition into school life in early September. Another fun piece of advice is to have one final summer blow-out, party, or outing for your family to enjoy together. It helps the kids realise that summer is over and that it is time to start thinking about school. This should be in the last week of the school holidays, but not in the last few days when things should really be as quiet and calming as possible before school starts once again. As every good girl scout knows, the secret to success and a peaceful transition from summer holidays to school life is all in the preparation. Left to the last minute, everything puts unnecessary strain on all involved; start early and the transition can be made as smoothly as possible. One final piece of advice from kindergarten teacher Sayoko Oba: “The preparations are not only for your children. Parents also need to be ready. For example, you do not need to waste your precious time in the morning looking for your child’s school uniform. So, let’s make sure to get everything ready at least a night before. Morning time of school days are often stressful with lots of duties for many moms. We suggest you wake up a little earlier to make sure you get your own time to relax before your child wakes up. Also, this extra morning time will help you if something happens unexpectedly.” It appears, then, that the best advice when it comes to back to school is indeed, BAB “Be prepared!” Being A Broad September 2010

19


she found love in Japan

UNITED AIRLINES by Laura Jones

I

f you’re from North America and you’ve been to Japan you know it takes forever to get there, probably with multiple stopovers. I really hated flying. The turbulence, dry air, and inevitable annoying person sitting beside, in front of, or behind you always make flying miserable. I also had a superstition that I had to read Harry Potter on a plane or it would have a horrible accident. So here I was, waiting for my second plane of the day to finish boarding and take off, and reading Harry Potter, when a really, really tall guy sat next to me. The flight took 14 hours so we had plenty of time to talk. I learned his name was Kevin and he was a Marine, which I promptly forgot and had to ask again…a few times. We talked about his job with the Marines as an airplane mechanic. I told him how just six weeks before I had been working at a bank in Toronto with no immediate plans to go to Japan, until a friend of mine told me a private English school in Okinawa where she had worked a few years before was looking for a teacher. She thought I would be perfect there. At the end of the flight Kevin gave me his email address. It went in my bag but I really had no intention to email him. I was a Canadian moving to Japan to teach English, meet Japanese people, and eat Japanese food, not date American Marines. So I didn’t email him. Instead I started work, explored a bit of Okinawa, tried to learn Japanese, and had a surprisingly hard time meeting people. With Christmas coming up I was getting pretty homesick. Nicole, one of the teachers at school, took me to a movie theatre that had English films over the Christmas break. I looked one aisle over and couldn’t figure out where I knew the guy sitting there from. Then it hit me. It was Kevin! After the movie he came up to me in the lobby. We talked for a couple of minutes but I had to go as my friend was waiting. It turned out my apartment was only a few minutes away from his base. As soon as I got home I searched my apartment high and low and found his email. We emailed for quite a long time, talking about what we missed about home. I’ve always loved baking and told him about my struggle to find the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies. It’s pretty hard when you can’t read the labels. After weeks of emailing, we finally met up for coffee. He surprised me by bringing ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies. Apparently he’d asked his mom what to bring! Looking back I’m not sure if he was just being nice or just wanted homemade cookies. I asked him what he’d seen in Japan so far but he said he hadn’t seen very much. Marines don’t necessarily get chances to really see Japan. Most tend to go to restaurants that cater to Americans and see only sights that are on tours or have been highly commercialized.

Kevin and Laura exploring Japan.

Image provided by Laura Jones.

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IT’S ALL THANKS TO

We ended up sharing the two versions of Japan we had each found. He introduced me to the curry shop, the beach and the base. I took him to the tiny izakaya next to my tiny apartment, and introduced him to the wonders of a Japanese grocery store. Everything seems smaller in Japan. I had noticed it when I first arrived but had gotten used to it. Kevin, however, is 6’5.” My Japanese coworkers found this highly amusing. I have to admit that I did too. A huge Marine in my small Subaru Pleo was a pretty comical sight. The first time he came over to my apartment was the first time I realised just how small it was. Not only did

We spent every possible minute together. We’d go out for dinner during the week and spend every weekend together. Sometimes we’d just hang out for the whole weekend. Occasionally we’d get in my car and just drive in a random direction, although being on an island we never got too far. Even when he was sent on deployments for weeks at a time, he would call and text. In the spring of 2009, my contract was ending and Kevin was also due to move back to America at the same time. He took some vacation time and we decided to meet each other’s families. The first stop was California to meet his side and

he have to duck under every doorway but the clotheslines out on the balcony were exactly at neck level for him, as we accidentally figured out. Since I’m exactly a foot shorter these were not hazards for me. As we were dating we found a ton of fantastic restaurants in Okinawa, with only one small hitch: Kevin won’t eat fish…ever. We were probably in the best place in the world for fresh, wonderful seafood and he wouldn’t eat any of it. It wasn’t really an issue, though, because I love seafood so if he unknowingly ordered some (as happens a lot when you can’t read a menu) I would eat it. One day we were at this really great Okinawa soba restaurant and he was surprised when I took the pink kamaboko off the top of his bowl. At first he didn’t believe me when I told him it was fish paste. Every time we went for soba after that he put the kamaboko in my bowl.

enjoy the immediate drop in humidity. Then it was up to meet my folks and bring Kevin to Canada for the first time. Eventually Kevin had to return to work in America and I stayed in Canada. Months rolled by and we decided that we should probably figure out a way to both stay in the same country. Since Kevin is a Marine and won’t get out until at least 2012, it was time for me to move to the States. After a long and drawn-out process with US immigration we were finally married in July of this year. We might not be in Japan, but if it weren’t for Japan we wouldn’t be together. Well, technically, I guess we should give credit to United Airlines. Hopefully Kevin will be stationed in Okinawa again. I miss it quite a bit. But no matter where we are, we’re still a Canadian and an American, BAB in love.

e might not be in Japan, but if it weren’t for Japan we wouldn’t be together. Well, technically, W I guess we should give credit to United Airlines.


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