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Being A Broad November 2010 #61

The monthly magazine for international women living in Japan

our cover girl: ENFOUR KK’s Tracey Northcott

the PREGNANCY and BIRTH issue! ALTERNATIVE birth methods IVF treatment options

also inside: working for STARBUCKS


ladies in LOVE

taking the perfect BABY PHOTOS

cooking for CHRISTMAS

and more...



In this issue of BAB, we have our first-ever pregnant cover girl, Tracey Northcott, who looks brilliant even when several months pregnant! With that as our inspiration, this issue concentrates on babies and their mums—our very own Dee Green, also of 37 Frames, teaches us how to take better baby photos, Amy Seaman looks at IVF and alternative birth options, and we also learn about the adventures of having twins and the tragedy of suffering a miscarriage. Beyond the babies, we’re already starting to get ready for Christmas with John Mc’s special trifle recipe on page 12, looking at beautiful artwork from Vietnam on page 9, and featuring our first lesbian couple in she found love in Japan on page 19. Congratulations to Kimberly and Sheila on their recent wedding celebration! Caroline Pover, BAB Founder




image: Kerry Raftis/www.keyshots.com

image: David Stetson


message from the founder being a broad news BAB news, Aomori’s Nebuta Matsuri

our cover girl Tracey Northcott of Enfour KK

women of the world news from around the globe

things we love the little things we love in Japan

6 our cover girl Image provided by Karen Thomas/Toriizaka Art



the woman behind Toriizaka Art

• what’s it like to work for Starbucks? • Elana Jade: one company; two countries

cooking for Christmas

10 working

12 food & dining the broads (and boys!) 9 arts

Image provided by Kimberly Hughes.

Publishers Caroline Pover & Emily Downey Editor & Designer Danielle Tate-Stratton Marketing Consultant Katy Lowen Advertisement Designer Chris May BAB Manager 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 Publishing Assistant Amy Seaman Contributors Tina Burrett, Christopher Simons, Julie Nelson, Elana Schmid, John Mc, Helen Kaiho, Kimberly Hughes, Barbara Le Marrec, Tracey Taylor Cover Model Tracey Northcott Cover Photographer Kerry Raftis www.keyshots.com Proofreading Jane Farries Printing Mojo Print Opinions expressed by BAB contributors are not necessarily those of the Publishers.

13 the pregnancy

and birth issue

• taking better baby photos • having twins in Japan • in vitro fertilisation • alternative birth options • dealing with miscarriage


she found love in Japan

ladies in love

19 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 November 2010



From the BAB Message Boards: Member Kristen asks: I am pregnant and need to wear a suit for work. Are there any stores in Tokyo that sell pants that I could wear with my suit jacket? I’ve looked online and most of the business wear wouldn’t pass for business casual in Japan. Member Tracey replies: How pregnant are you, Kirsten? Congratulations, by the way! That is awesome news. I am four and a half months and really starting to show. My waist is a distant memory but I haven’t wanted to spend a fortune on maternity clothes for work or for casual. I have found the waistband extenders fantastic for letting me wear my normal clothes to work. (Search on Google.com for “belly belt” or “belly band.”) Basically, these allow you extend the waistband and then you just use a band of fabric or a long shirt to cover up the

Subscriptions Being A Broad October 2010 #60

The monthly magazine for international women living in Japan





visitors coming? the PASSIONATE WHERE TO TAKE THEM MAN in Japan


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!

fact that your fly is open. The belly belt is brilliant as it has extra pieces of fabric that tuck into your open fly to give you a bit of coverage, but the belly band is fantastic for layering and making it look like an outfit. Akachan Honpo in Gotanda sells similar bands— not as good as the belly belts though. A cheap alternative for jeans or pants that button up is using a hair elastic to extend the waistband. Another cheap trick is to borrow your husband’s pants, as these have a larger waist-to-hip ratio than women’s pants. They’ll do for a while. There are some maternity clothes at Akachan Honpo but really I thought they were all hideous. Otherwise, I have bought a few basic maternity things off eBay Australia and had them shipped over. Member Blue Lotus contributes: Have you considered shopping online? If you’re small enough to fit Japanese sizes, a number of online shops have maternity wear lines that include a few business appropriate pieces, such as Belle Maison (www.bellemaison.jp/100/4/400), Nissen (www.nissen.co.jp/cate002/sho_index/ cate002_900_000_000-01.htm), and Angeliebe (www.angeliebe.co.jp/shop/c/c20). If you’re bigger, Nissen also offers maternity clothing in larger sizes (www.nissen.co.jp/cate002/sho_index/ cate002_009_019_000-01.htm), but not much that could be worn to the office. All of the above links are in Japanese only, so if you’re not a Japanese reader, get a friend to help (and all three places will send you a free catalogue, which makes browsing and ordering much easier). I’m not sure about Belle Maison and Angeliebe, but Nissen has a great return policy: if something doesn’t fit (or you don’t like it for any reason), they will pick it up for free and either refund your money (minus the initial delivery fee) or offer an exchange. And of course check out the catalogues and magazines at your practitioner’s office: if yours is anything like mine you’ll have many catalogues to choose from (and many hours of waiting in which to peruse them). 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.)


NABUTA MATSURI byTina Burrett and Christopher Simons

Advice for Renegades, A Tip From Anna: A Fond Farewell: This is my last column in BAB, and I want to thank all of you wonderful women for reading and getting in touch this past year. I spoke to someone who saw this column and told me that her first thought was, “Oh no! Another scary Martha Beck coach!” (Apparently we have a reputation for being a tad, ahh, intense. What, who, me?) But she agreed that I actually wasn’t scary in the slightest. (Though the intensity piece

The dramatic nebuta floats. Images provided by Tina Burrett and Christopher Simons.


or 359 days of the year, the charming but remote town of Aomori, at the very tip of Northern Honshu, receives little attention and even fewer visitors. But for six days at the start of August, the town comes to life with the burst of colour, light, and sound: the annual Aomori Nabuta Matsuri. We’ve been in Japan a while and we are committed festival-chasers. But all our past experiences paled in comparison with the Aomori festival. Although not impossible, it takes a bit of planning to get to Aomori, and even more to secure a bed during the frenzied matsuri period. All this adds to the anticipation—and the Aomori Nebuta does not disappoint. There are several theories about the origins of the Aomori Nebuta Matsuri. Our favourite is an apocryphal tale from the early Heian: the festival began with the subjugation of Emishi tribes by General Tamuramaro (758–811). To frighten the Emishi, Tamuramaro ordered his troops to build large lanterns of heroes and monsters called nebuta, and place them on top of hills at night. Tamuramaro’s troops then played flutes and taiko to attract the Emishi. When the Emishi investigated this Trojan Horselike wonder, they were surrounded and subdued. Although Tamuramaro was probably never in Aomori, his strategy is still put to good use by the town. Thousands of tourists flock from all over Japan to witness an unparalleled spectacle of light and sound. For those six days in August, Aomori’s

population explodes. Everyone on the streets, whether Japanese or foreign, hears people asking, “Are you going to haneru today?” As with hanami, families and company employees start camping out at their chosen viewing spot several hours before sunset, using Japan’s ubiquitous blue vinyl sheeting to mark their territory. As dusk falls, 20 enormous illuminated floats, depicting characters from Japanese myth and history, seem to come drifting down the main boulevard of Shinmachi like giant, luminous ghosts. Each float is pushed and pulled by more than a dozen townsfolk, whose straining legs and sweat-streaming faces become visible as the float rolls past. The figures’ clean lines and rich colours—red-faced heroes, giant pink carp, evil blue oni—strike the eye with the vividness of a child’s picture-book. Nor is the experience purely visual. The taiko begin to pound even before the juggernauts roll into view. Each float is followed by its own team of ear-splitting matsuri dancers and musicians. As they pass, the dancers toss handfuls of bells and trinkets into the audience. The audience roars

back; the deafening surge seems to give life to the float’s battling gods and demons, cresting sea waves, and charging elephants and horses. This is Japan’s matsuri spirit in its grandest form. If you plan to attend just one night at the festival, as most people do, your day in Aomori doesn’t have to go to waste, either. We hopped in a taxi and sped to the brilliant Aomori Kenritsu Art Museum, where we sat in awe before three gigantic Chagall canvases and spent two reverent hours exploring the work of one of our favourite contemporary Japanese artists, Yoshitomo Nara. (Even if you don’t know the name, you’ve probably seen his work on postcards in Tokyo— those adorable-looking girls with occasionally murderous looks.) Outside, you can follow a maze of stairs and walkways to the sanctum of Aomori Ken, Nara’s gigantic concrete sculpture of a Snoopy-like dog. But even this friendly monster hardly prepared us for the size and power of Aomori’s nebuta. For more information about Aomori, visit the city’s website: http://www.city.aomori.aomori. jp/contents/english/01-1location.html.

is true—after all, life is just so dang interesting! I want to suck the juice out of it!) I invite you to see just how un-scary I am by dropping by my blog. Every day I post a photo and a snippet of prose about living, loving, mothering, and dreaming in Tokyo. You can find me online at www. sitatmytable.com and I’d love to have you sit at my table any old time. Anna Kunnecke is a life coach living in Tokyo. www.annakunnecke.com

Being A Broad November 2010


our cover girl


of Enfour, Inc., cover photography by Kerry Raftis, www.keyshots.com

Images: Kerry Raftis/www.keyshots.com

The best thing about being pregnant at [relationships work is that] It adds another level to my with the team.


Name: Tracey Northcott Nationality: Australian Qualifications: BSc, BA Job title: Vice President—International Communications Employer: Enfour, Inc. (Mobile software development house), www.enfour.com Time in this job: more than ten years Job description: I oversee and manage all internal and external communications in English. I am the “traffic controller,” which means ensuring that internal staff and clients are provided with correct and relevant English information. I also create and manage all of the legal documents, contracts, reports, and invoices for our overseas clients. In addition, I develop and manage strategy (technical and marketing) for new application development and new market penetration, identify new international partnerships, and negotiate terms. I provide all of the customer support in English for all of our products—imode as well as iPhone applications. I also carry out software development support for our applications by creating webpages and static HTML content. General requirements: Good English communication skills—both written and spoken. Familiarity with all areas of mobile phone software and markets. Understanding of software development lifecycles and project management. Ability to communicate with both engineers and clients.

Japanese requirement: Business level. General conditions: I set my own hours and routine, but I tend to work as much from home as from the office. We have tried to create a happy working environment that encourages creativity and independent team members. How she found this job: Enfour is a family business, so I have been involved since the group was founded. Best thing about being pregnant at work: It adds another level to my relationships with the team. They get to know me more as a person rather than just as a boss and I get to share more with them as they tell me about their families and experiences. Worst thing about being pregnant at work: Swollen feet from sitting behind a desk for too many hours. No decaf coffee in the machine. Interesting stories? When I finally started my maternity leave, I had an emotional time when leaving the office. The tears took me totally by surprise. I guess as long as I was going to the office every day there was nothing that had changed. But when I finished work, it was suddenly real that I was having a baby and I was a bit overwhelmed. I guess the pregnancy hormones were a big factor as well. Issues affecting her as a pregnant worker: Transport on the trains is a challenge, as it is rare for people to offer up a seat—even for an obviously heavily pregnant woman. My staff have been very supportive and sensitive to my physical condition, but didn’t treat me any differently when it came to my job. They helped me put into place some plans to ensure our customers didn’t suffer any change in the level

of service by our company and they happily took on some of my responsibilities in preparation for my absence. Advice: Don’t act any differently with coworkers and they won’t treat you any differently. Bring your own decaf coffee or tea to the office as it is impossible to find via the normal business channels. Look for alternative transport rather than the trains. Buses are fantastic and you can be almost guaranteed of a seat. Recommended resources: Tokyo Pregnancy Group, Tokyo Mothers Group, La Leche League Tokyo.

Max James Oak Thredgold was born on September 21, 2010. He was 4,246 grams and delivered by Dr. Sakamoto via C-section at Seibo Byoin.


compiled by Danielle Tate-Stratton

A recent UN report has stated that over 15,000 women were raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the last year alone, and admits that the number is a conservative estimate. Gangs of Rwandan and Congolese militia travel through the eastern sections of the country, isolating villages through violence, and raping multiple women in a single night, often multiple times each. The brutal acts of rape are used as a strategy to shame and humiliate both women and their husbands. image: Christian Haugen

image: Gord Campbell.

University of North Carolina researcher Jason Mihalik analysed NCAA injury rates and found that women’s hockey, with a rate of 2.72 concussions per 1,000 player hours, was the most dangerous NCAA sport in those terms, beating men’s hockey (1.47) and even men’s football (2.34). One theory is that women may not anticipate a hit in a game where body checking isn’t allowed, which is problematic given that research has shown that lack of anticipation can lead to increased rates of concussion. Overall, women experience greater symptoms and cognitive impairments, and also have higher mortality rates following brain trauma.

image: Matti Matilla

Isabella was the most popular name for baby girls born in 2009 in the US.

A study titled Women in Commercial Real Estate: 2010 has shown that since 2005 the number of women in the commercial real estate sector in the US has risen by seven percent. Sports broadcaster ESPN has announced plans to launch a new online initiative to appeal to female fans, known as ESPNW. The finished website will include blogs, videos, and content for mobile devices. This represents the first time in its 30 year history that the network has reached out to female fans, though they make up 25 percent of its viewers.


A study of Canadians looked at the public’s view on decriminalising prostitution and found that 60 percent of men supported the idea, compared to only 35 percent of women. Additionally, while 30 percent of women supported a ban on the exchange of money for sex, just 18 percent of men agreed. Decriminalisation was supported by 39 percent of the population aged 18–35, but by 50 percent of the population over the age of 35.

A study conducted by researchers in South India has shown that the incidence of osteoporosis is increasing at a rate of four to five percent a year, even among women as young as 20. Dr C. V. Harinarayan Sharma, a consulting endocrinologist on the study, says that women in this region receive just 275–350mg of calcium in their daily diets, whereas the minimum recommended amount for women is 1,000mg per day. In addition, increasing smoking rates and a sedentary lifestyle among young women are driving up the rate of osteoporosis. An updated Global Gender Index Study was recently released by the World Economic Forum and stated that Nordic countries, including Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Finland ranked highest in gender equality based on factors including access to education, women in politics, equal employment opportunities and salaries, and health. Overall, 59 percent of countries narrowed the gender equality gap, while Chad, Yemen, and Pakistan brought in the lowest scores.

A four-year study that in Japan showed that elderly women who were cared for by their daughters-inlaw were twice as likely to pass away than those being cared for by their biological daughters or those being cared for by male children. On a somewhat related note, a study conducted by online community iVillage showed that more than a third of women would rather spend time visiting the gynaecologist than spending the day with their mother in law, while another third preferred the idea of a root canal (women were allowed to give multiple answers). Thanks to a study showing that half of all girls in Missouri’s foster care system become pregnant by the age of 19, Washington University is starting a five-year localised project to help lower the rate of unwanted pregnancies amongst this population. The program will use a proven three-step process of promoting safer sex, including increasing condom use. Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in the US looked at data for 48,000 men and women who suffered critical injuries and found that there was no difference in the rate of survival between men and women under age 12 or over 65. However, among those between the ages of 13 and 64, when hormones are at their most powerful, women have a 14 percent greater chance of surviving trauma than men, even when other factors are taken into account. Researchers have found similar results amongst mice, except in male mice that have been castrated, blocking their testosterone. Researchers suggest that oestrogen may have immune-boosting properties that aid women in surviving. Being A Broad November 2010




7: Guide to Living in Japan Seminar A one-day seminar covering the essential basics for living in Japan. Whether you’ve been here two days or two years, we want to provide you with lots of interesting and important information from our fantastic female speakers! The seminar includes everything you need to make the most out of your life: presentations from inspirational women living and working in Japan, and the chance to get indispensable resources listing telephone numbers and websites for English-speaking housing agencies, banks, doctors, dentists, gynaecologists, therapists, lawyers, maternity classes, day care centres, employment agencies, labour unions, graduate schools, and more. An essential event for any foreign woman living in Japan. 10am–5pm on Sunday November 7 in Akasaka. Topics include: health, relationships, children and not having children, careers, safety, and pampering. Tickets cost ¥10,000, which includes seminar, lunch and refreshments. This seminar has limited space, so you will need to pay in advance to reserve your place. Please email katy@being-a-broad.com for details.

19: Being A Fitness Broad


I love the looks of the Artist Palette Plate as a great way to make feeding little ones fun. The durable plastic and colourful dishes are super cute, and the bowls are removable from the base, which means you can pop them into the fridge for later. They’ve available at the MoMA store in Omotesando, or online here: www.momastore.jp/search/item. asp?shopcd=11111&item=469-001-KS, for ¥3,150.—LW After the tragic deaths of seven gay American teenagers, all of whom took their own lives after being bullied due to their sexual orientations, popular sex columnist Dan Savage and his boyfriend Terry launched the It Gets Better Project. They have invited the public to make videos sharing their experiences and current lives, all with the underlying message of life getting better after high school. In adition to hundreds of men and women around the world, US President Barack Obama, singer/songwriter Jewel, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and many more have created videos. Watch them (or submit your own) at www.itgetsbetterproject.com.—DTS

A tip from Sin Den: Rescue your hair after the summer heat and prepare it to be strong and healthy for this coming winter with Sin Den’s best hair treatment from Wella System Professional and Allows. Don’t forget to use the best hair tools to keep your hair healthy and beautiful. To try the recommended treatment, call or email our salon to book your appointment! Tel. 03-3405-4409, hair@ sinden.com.

I love the sounds of the Family Festival at the International School of the Sacred Heart (ISSH), which is coming up on November 13. The annual fundraising event supports both ISSH and the work of an orphanage in Pattaya, Thailand. There will be food from around the world, games and prizes, face painting, bouncy castles, a tots playground for the younger ones, a used bookstore, live music, and more. www.issh. ac.jp.—DTS

Come along to the latest in our Career Seminar Series, this time to learn all about Being a Fitness 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.

25: girls’ night out at 57 Come along to our November 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.

for more information: To learn more about these events find us on Facebook: (www.facebook.com/ being.a.broad) or Twitter: (http://twitter. com/BABBeingABroad).

I so love cupcakes! And finally, fabulous cupcakes are available through Bella’s Cupcakes, which services Tokyo and beyond. Think deliciously light cupcakes from classic, unfussy recipes—flavours such as lemon, coconut, and carrot cake with real cream cheese frosting. Bella’s one goal is to produce the very best handcrafted cupcakes from the most authentic ingredients, where each mouthful is pure and simple heaven. Broads can order online at www.bellas-tokyo.com or via email at orders@bellas-tokyo.com. Cupcakes can either be picked up or delivered. You can also buy cupcakes from Bella’s Mobile Truck at National Azabu Supermarket in Hiroo (Fridays and Saturdays from 11am–6pm) or at Kawasaki’s La Cittadella (Sundays from 11–6pm). Check the Bella’s website and Facebook for promotional events and free giveaways. www.bellas-tokyo.com—DG 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.



THE ART OF THE SHOW: by Julie Nelson

All paintings by Phuong Quoc Tri, images provided by Karen Thomas/Toriizaka Art.


uccessfully selling art in Japan requires an art history education, proficiency in Japanese, and the friendship of the Empress herself. Toriizaka Art owner and United States citizen, Karen Thomas, has thankfully debunked these assumptions as 2010 marks her fifth year as the exclusive representative of Vietnamese art in Tokyo. This diminutive dynamo has collectively lived in Tokyo for 17 years and used an interim period in Oregon to reflectively make the transition from uber-volunteer to a purpose-filled helpmate of another sort: a liaison between Vietnamese artists and fellow artappreciating Tokyoites. Leaving her left-brained past behind, Karen graduated from “vacation contemporary art collector” status to serve an obvious need within her network of friends who were eager to expand their personal collections. With lifestyle balance being a priority, Karen designed a home gallery to create the unpretentious business and desired familial environment for her four sons and husband, Jack Bird. With barely a space in the Bird-Thomas household unadorned by magnificent colour and soulful imagery, Karen allows all visitors to enter her world—a world that both exhilarates and comforts depending on which direction you look. Since Karen often has first pick of each artist’s private collection, you can appreciate that you are viewing a body of work that was carefully selected

with her personal taste and critical eye being the driving force. Having formed close friendships with most of the artists she represents, Karen is able to accurately access the emotion and creative magnitude of their work when making her selections. She feels an almost motherly responsibility to launch each artist in a manner that both elucidates and demonstrates their respective talent. It is a requirement that each work reveal the heart and soul of its creator—no “flat” paintings are to be found at Toriizaka Art. Karen’s passion for her artists’ work is at its pinnacle when one of her artists agrees to do an exhibit here in Tokyo. Not a moment is unplanned. In her benevolent fashion, Karen insures that it will be an enriching experience for the artist as well as our community. To make this trip possible, months of planning and organisation are required. Finding the ideal exhibit space and designing it with proper lighting are paramount to setting the proper stage for the show. Beyond exploring our fascinating city, one of the most meaningful events scheduled for the touring artists is the meeting Karen coordinates for them with students at ASIJ. Unlike artists who hail from cosmopolitan cities like Tokyo, the Vietnamese artists are not accustomed to receiving celebrity-type attention from their own country. Painting, talking, and being unabashedly adored by the students gives the

artists a lasting sense of self esteem. It is a mutually heightened experience as the kids feel the special presence—the connection to greatness—by spending time with such amazing artists. In just a few weeks, Karen Thomas will be celebrating one of her top artists, Phuong Quoc Tri. Less than five years ago, Mr. Phuong was not even on the art world radar screen. This self-taught Vietnamese artist’s initial work of sculptures mesmerised Karen to the degree that she made a commitment to do whatever was necessary to bring him to the world stage. Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures—John Updike This quote captures the essence of Phuong Quoc Tri (pronounced Fuwong Kwok Chee) as his works embody his bursting thoughts, plans, and excitement for the future. Possibly Tri’s lack of formal education or exposure to other accomplished artists is what makes his work so pure and full of raw emotion. Karen welcomes you to make a point of enjoying this 2010 prize-winning artist’s solo exhibition MOMENTS, which opens with a reception at the Tokyo American Club on November 20 and continues from November 22—28 at Toriizaka Art. The exhibition is free and open to the public. Details can be found at www. toriizakaart.com.

Being A Broad November 2010



BARBARA LE MARREC of Starbucks Coffee Japan

business language, however as the only American on the Starbucks Japan team, I find that Japanese is naturally dominant. General conditions: My time is divided between the Tokyo office setting, time in the field visiting existing locations and looking for future locations, and travel to corporate offices in Seattle, WA. I probably spend about ten days a month on business trips, both domestically and internationally. My usual work hours tend to be 8:30am until 7:30pm, though there are days when I find myself working late into the evening. I try to keep a good work/ life balance, though I have to admit I have always struggled with this! I truly believe in rest, so I make the most of my annual leave, and encourage the others in my team to do the same. How she found this job: I first came to know Starbucks when I owned a bakery in Seattle, Washington in 1983–1989. We sold baked products to the first Starbucks Cafes in Seattle and we served Starbucks coffee as our drip coffee and in our espresso beverages in our bakery café. I was attracted to the company not only from the quality of their products but more importantly the values of the company. Best thing: Starbucks is a people company. I find the best thing is the opportunity to work with great partners (employees) who are passionate about the Starbucks mission to inspire and nurture the human spirit, one person, one cup, one neighbourhood at a time. Playing a role in a partner’s career growth and helping them achieve

n top of my official responsibilities, I see the opportunity to use my position to build bridges O between Starbucks Japan and Starbucks globally.


Barbara on a recent hiking trip near Miyajima.

their potential is a highlight. The best thing about working in Japan specifically is the enthusiasm for the company. Starbucks Japan may be a large corporation, but the excitement about new product launches or store openings really has the feel of a new start-up business! Worst thing: Not being able to communicate spontaneously with the partners I work with in Japan. The need for interpretation adds complexity to leading in a foreign culture. This also impacts on how I experience Japan— sometimes I find myself living as an observer, unable to fully participate. Starbucks is a very fast moving company, and rarely do we have time to celebrate our success before we are striving for the next; this can be tiring but exhilarating too! Interesting stories: Experiencing the growth of a mega brand. I still remember vividly when I first met Howard [Schultz, Starbucks CEO] in a small office in Seattle when he was just planning Il Gionali. I owned a bakery and I came to do a sales

Starbucks CRO Barbara Le Marrec.

call to sell pastries to the new start-up Il Gionali. To see the company growing from a handful of stores to over 50 countries has been quite the adventure. When I moved to France to open the market there, it was daunting but hugely thrilling. It was fantastic to be there at the beginning and watch the company succeed and grow. Issues affecting her as a woman: Starbucks truly values diversity, so I don’t feel limitations as a woman working at Starbucks Coffee Japan but there are times that I need to remind others that being female or being foreign is not a liability when communicating with Japanese companies. I am aware that some women working at SBJ are reluctant to move into higher levels in the organisation. I believe that this is because of a lack in confidence as many of the women I have met are highly talented individuals. I hope that I, along with other women in senior roles, can serve as role models for those with aspirations to lead at a higher level. For instance, we have just promoted our second female regional director and I hope to have more women in leadership roles in the future. As an organisation. we are working hard to consider the needs of working mothers. Advice: I encourage women to take risks in their careers and seek opportunities outside their comfort zone. I have found that my periods of greatest professional and personal growth have come when I have been willing to take risks and to move out of my comfort zone, such as my move to France and coming to Japan. Recommended resources: Commitment to lifelong learning, seminars, business books and publications, and executive coaching. Other jobs done in Japan: N/A.

All images provided by Barbara Le Marrec.

Name: Barbara Le Marrec Nationality: American Qualifications: BS University California Davis, Executive Management Anderson School of Business, University of California Los Angeles Job title: Chief Retail Officer Employer: Starbucks Coffee Japan (SBJ) Time in this job: 18 months in Japan, 17 years with Starbucks Coffee Company Job description: My responsibilities include oversight of the day-to-day operations and support of the more than 890 retail store locations throughout Japan, including control of continuing new store growth, which encompasses everything from site location and build out through maintaining and enhancing the operating condition of the existing store portfolio. On top of my official responsibilities, I see the opportunity to use my position to build bridges between Starbucks Japan and Starbucks globally. General requirements: Passion for the job, and Starbucks coffee! Japanese requirement: For most positions within Starbucks Japan, Japanese language ability is required. Luckily I have a bilingual assistant and a team of interpreters who support me and provide interpretation for all my meetings and communications. I am studying Japanese, however I am finding my progress frustrating, meaning as yet I am unable to communicate with my colleagues spontaneously. Typically, most international companies will have English as their

by Elana Schmid

Elana brought her Sydney business to Tokyo.

always knew I wanted to be a health and fitness professional. I grew up in a family of sporting enthusiasts: my eldest sister was a professional ballerina and my brother represented Australia in Athletics. I did my best to follow in their footsteps, competing at the national level in Athletics and winning the South Pacific Dance Championships. My passion for competing in sport evolved organically into the desire to help others achieve their own personal health and fitness goals. In my last year of high school, and in order to obtain a deeper understanding of the anatomy and physiology of the body, I elected to participate in an adult education fitness certification course in place of a school subject. In 2002, a serious knee injury forced me to stop competing in both dancing and athletics. This was a major blow, as I had spent the majority of my life being involved in sport and suddenly I did not know what to do with myself! I decided that with my newfound spare time I would dedicate myself to furthering my education. I received certifications in areas such as nutrition and massage, but found my true passion was beauty therapy. In 2003, I undertook my beauty therapy certification at college and worked for the next two years at a beauty salon on the northern beaches in Sydney. I loved my job and really felt like I had found my place in the world helping others and always meeting new people. At that time, I was living a very healthy lifestyle. My knee had recovered and I was exercising regularly and eating a well balanced diet comprised mainly of fresh organic produce. It was also during this time that further study into my field as a therapist unveiled a shocking discovery: I found that many of the ingredients in the skincare products I was putting on my clients and my own skin were loaded with potentially harmful chemicals! To be quite frank I felt a little cheated. Here I had thought I was improving people’s lives through beauty therapy, when in fact I may have been causing them harm. This realisation prompted me to open my

Elana Jade products are healthy and natural. All images provided by Elana Schmid.


own business in 2006—Elana Jade Essential Beauty. The mission was simple: provide high-end beauty treatments that were effective, healthy, and natural. I started on my own with a small client base and gradually built it up to a three-person operation. We provided mobile beauty and personal training services to improve our clients’ appearance and health. In 2006, after a visit to Japan to see my brother Nathan, I caught the travelling bug! Nathan was operating a personal training company, Tokyo Fitness, and suggested I join him as a personal trainer. The opportunity was too good to refuse, so I reluctantly sold my business in Australia to a colleague and set off for Tokyo with butterflies in my stomach. I soon found that travelling in Tokyo was not the same as living here! The language, lack of street signs, and different customs provided quite a few challenges. I also found that my health suffered. Due to what I can only describe as culture shock, my hormones became completely imbalanced and no matter how much I exercised or dieted, I put on weight and my skin began to break out. I started to think I might have made a big mistake, but with the help of some very supportive clients, my brother, and a new boyfriend I soon found



entrepreneurs and bartering with beauty and personal training services. We also located the local hardware, furniture, and wholesale beauty stores, which significantly reduced our start-up costs. I was adamant that we would not open the salon doors until we knew we could offer the very best experience possible. One advantage of living in a tight-knit community like Tokyo is that news travels fast. Referrals are the best way I know to grow a small business, and it encourages everyone at Elana Jade to give 110 percent to ensure that every person who comes in contact with the salon has only positive things to say. The salon operates in much the same way as our personal training business: all clients receive

I saw this as an opportunity to provide a unique service here in Tokyo—a 100 percent organic “ beauty salon...” ways to adjust and regain balance. Through my work as a personal trainer, I soon realised many foreign women in Tokyo were suffering from the same afflictions. I was able to help them exercise regularly and improve their eating habits, but when it came to skincare they were still using potentially dangerous chemicalladen cosmetics. I saw this as an opportunity to provide a unique service here in Tokyo—a 100 percent organic beauty salon providing patrons with a healthy and effective alternative to skincare. After a little convincing, my brother Nathan agreed that skincare was an integral part of our clients’ health that needed to be addressed. Together, we designed a business plan, raised some capital, and in March 2010 we officially opened Elana Jade. Like many Australians, when I opened my business in Sydney, I took a DIY approach to reduce costs. This proved to be much more difficult in Japan, as we needed help with company registration, tax filing, staff recruitment—even seemingly simple things such as finding towels (which of course had to be organic) proved to be a challenge. However, we did manage to find some middle ground via networking with other like-minded small business

a completely customised experience. Elana Jade services are designed with the conviction that we are all unique, and tools such as our specialised BTBP Skin Analysis Machine allow therapists to create personalised skincare products and treatments. Products are custom-blended with some of the rarest and most regenerative natural ingredients available, such as the acclaimed Acai Oil, and can now be seen in the bathrooms of many expats in Tokyo. So far, I believe our salon has been well received. Our client base is steadily growing, and through re-analysis, many customers have improved hydration and a big reduction in fine lines, and are very happy with the results. We always encourage feedback from our clients and have recently released a new menu with additional services, such as the pregnancy massage and antiaging facial. Through my work at Elana Jade and Tokyo Fitness, I continually endeavor to help create a healthy expat community in Tokyo. I believe that having a positive impact on someone’s life, even for a short time, can help them be healthy for the rest of their life. For more information, please visit www. elanajade.com. Being A Broad November 2010


food & dining



hristmas: one little word that carries so much gastronomic weight, conjuring up images of tables creaking under loads of mouthwatering goodies that compete for our hearts and minds, not to mention our stomachs. It is a pure temptation of sweet, savoury, roasted, crunchy, dense, rich, rewarding food. The words to describe this once-a-year feast would fill an article all on their own if I continued. For us at Johnskitchen, it is time to push the boat out and produce the most delicious sweet mince pies along with richest of Christmas puddings, as well as the juiciest slow-roasted turkeys or geese and crunchiest goose-fat-roasted potatoes. Actually, I am glad it’s only once a year, otherwise I would have no time to see my wife. When I was young, it was the Christmas trifle that I always looked forward to getting my spoon into: the differing layers of fruit jelly with soaked biscuits that would stubbornly stick to the bottom of the bowl, covered in the richest creamiest custard and then topped with light, fluffy whipped cream and finally the toasted almonds that give you that crunchy topping. Trifle can be accused of being old-fashioned, but for me that is part of its charm. When I ask friends here in Japan what they remember about trifle, the one word that comes up every time, at least with the Brits, is “Birds.” Birds was the brand name of the boxed just-add-water and milk versions of trifle. For me, it was one of the only desserts that we would make from scratch and I still do to this today. I like to look into the origins of the dishes that we cook at Johnskitchen and so recently I researched the origins of trifle. Food writer Mary Norwak says that it evolved from two medieval dishes: wine-soaked bread or biscuits and syllabub (a rich cream with sugar lightly curdled with wine). A recipe written in 1806 by Mrs. Rundell described macaroons and ratafias being soaked with “as much raison-wine as they will suck up,” with a rich egg custard poured over, followed by raspberry jam and a lemon syllabub. Eventually, syllabub fell out of favour and was replaced by whipped cream. Johnskitchen will have its own version of a trifle for you to buy for Christmas using the best of ingredients or you can have a go at making one for yourself with the receipe to the right. Christmas is not Christmas without a roasted bird, but since I started in the catering business some 20 years ago, by the time the 25th came around I was a little tired of turkey with the countless corporate Christmas dinners I needed to cook and serve, so I would opt for a Christmas goose for my dinner. On the big day goose was the traditional bird for the dinner table up to the 18th century, when the turkey became the bird of choice for those who could afford it. At

Johnskitchen, we can cook and have delivered either a turkey or a goose to your special party, but the numbers are limited due to oven space and my slow cooking methods, so if you want one from us then you need to order early. Another of my more popular products is mince pie, which goes great with either a nice cup of tea or the more festive mulled wine. Mince pies are a popular tradition in the UK and Ireland, usually eaten during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday. The pies are typically small, two to three bites each, but I believe the American version is usually larger and able to serve many people. The pies from Johnskitchen are the small version and are made using a sweet shortcut pastry. “Mince” comes from the word “mincemeat,” which interestingly enough no longer contains meat. Mince pies evolved from a medieval pastry called chewette. It was made with chopped meat or liver, boiled eggs, ginger, dried fruit, and other sweet ingredients. It could be cooked by being fried or baked. During the 17th century, the meat products were replaced with suet, a beef or mutton fat. Vegetable fat can also be used to suit vegetarian diets. By the 19th century, in Great Britain and North America, mince pies no longer The Johnskitchen Christmas Trifle: Traditionally trifle is made in a large deep bowl so you can see all the layers. But you can use small glasses to make individual trifles—I use wine glasses for my parties. The general consensus is that a layer of cake or biscuit soaked with booze (usually sherry) should be on the bottom of a trifle. This is followed by fruit, jam, or fruit jelly. Next, custard is poured over and the trifle is topped off with whipped cream and decorations of your choice. To begin with, various types of cake can be used for the bottom layer. Most common is a sponge cake, but you can use pound cake, ladyfingers, macaroons, or even a Swiss roll. I stick to tradition and make a plain sponge cake. You can buy cake mixes at most big department stores, but if you don’t have an oven, buy a cake ready-made. Break the sponge into small pieces and put in the bottom third of your bowl or glasses. Now soak the sponge in your booze of choice (I use sherry but you can pick your favourite). You can leave this out if you have friends who don’t like alcohol. Next, make the fruit jelly. You can use whatever fruit juice you like and use leaf gelatin to get the juice to set into a jelly (follow the instructions on the gelatin packet). International supermarkets such as National Azabu in Hiroo have packets of jelly to which you just have to add hot water . Pour the jelly over the cake in the bowl

Image: provided by John Mc.



Mince pies are just one great holiday treat.

contained any meat; now the mince contains dried fruit (raisins, currants, cherries, candied peels), spices (cinnamon or nutmeg), nuts (walnuts or almonds), suet (which is not meat but animal fat), and alcohol (brandy or rum). The pie is cooked and dusted with caster sugar or icing sugar. You may want to make homemade mince for yourself or you can get jars of mincemeat from international supermarkets such as Nissin in Azuba Juban or National Azabu in Hiroo— they even have ready-made pies. They also make great holiday gifts for friends who may be far from home or for your Japanese friends who want the taste of a Western Christmas. Here in Japan, knowledge of British food is usually confined to fish ‘n’ chips and there is nothing wrong with this as done well they are sublime, but we Brits have a lot more to offer, as I’ve started to describe. Why not try making your own goodies this season? Or if it’s all a bit much, contact the experts at Johnskitchen through http://johnskitchen.com. or glasses so that it covers all of the cake, then put in the fridge to set for about four to six hours. Next, make the custard: gently heat 275ml of cream in a small saucepan and add four or five drops of vanilla extract while it is heating. In a large bowl blend together three good quality egg yolks, 25g of castor sugar, and, here is my chef ’s trick, one level teaspoon of corn flour. The corn flour will stop your custard from splitting when you move to the next stage. When the cream is hot, slowly pour it over the egg mixture, stirring the whole time. Never be tempted to add the egg mixture to the hot cream—always add the cream to the egg. When you have added all the hot cream, return the custard to the saucepan and stir over a very low heat until thick, then remove it and allow to cool. If the custard starts to split at any time, remove it from the heat, add a little cold cream, and stir until it blends together again. When the custard is cool, pour it over the set jelly and place it back in the fridge to firm up a little. You can make your trifle up to this stage the day before serving, just cling wrap the bowl or glasses. When you are ready to serve, whip up 275ml of cream to stiff peaks and spread it over the top of the custard. You can decorate the top with toasted nuts, chocolate chips, fruit segments—just about anything you want.


by Dee Green and Tracey Taylor, images by 37Frames Photography







Documenting your lovely little one and family can be even easier with these seven simple tips and techniques from lifestyle photography specialists 37 Frames. Enjoy taking better photos as life races by. These practical suggestions make it a snap to catch the firsts, the reactions, and moments big and small. The results will be even more valuable and special 1. More photos. More often. It’s that simple. The more photos you take, the better you will get. Have your camera within reach daily and document moments. Be ready for the milestones before they become history. Start a project. How about a photo a day? It could be based on a theme: a day in the life, lunchtime, playtime, bathtime, or a timeline. Take a photo at the same time, with the same set-up for a period of time. Think about taking photos with a series in mind, a point of view, or just random, beautiful moments. 2. Get on the level. Get down with your child and hold the camera at eye level. Go for the power of eyes and smiles. You may have to get down really low, even lie down, but the effort will be worth it. Shoot slightly off-centre or use some negative space. 3. Move in close. Step in or use your zoom to create powerful images that fill the frame. Focus on what’s important and forget about the rest. If you’re using a point-and-shoot select the macro mode for a sharp close-up. If using an SLR, shoot with a wide aperture and focus just between the eyes. 4. Find the light. Turn off the flash. Find a

natural light source, such as near a window. This will add a soft glow to the little ones and eliminate any chance of red-eye. Go outside. Cloudy, overcast days provide the best light for people pictures; the light is softer and flattering. Try to catch light in eyes. Avoid bright sun, which throws harsh shadows. Early morning or afternoon light is always the dreamiest. 5. Angle it. Be creative and experiment with angles. Shoot from above and straight down. Tilt the camera to one side. This will create interest and help tell your story. Shoot vertical images. Get the whole body in the picture. Make a conscious effort to move the camera after each shot. 6. Scale speaks. Show scale in your photos. Couple small and large elements to show size at the moment, right now. Use this as a point of reference for future images. Get other people involved in the scene. 7. Feel it, baby. Smiles, laughter, giggles, tantrums, tears. Make sure to document all the reactions. Create some fun set-ups, too. Simple backgrounds always work best, as well as simple outfits. Don’t forget some shots without clothes, too. Especially from behind are super cute. Make sure you and your child are safe and comfortable at all times. Photograph in the morning or while

pregnancy and birth issue


sleeping, making sure your child is well rested. Calm is photogenic. Don’t forget to use favourite toys, pillows, and blankets. Leave it up to the professionals sometimes!


six. You may find that you are always behind the camera, never in front. There may be few photos of the whole family together. So make a little time to get some lovely professional photos done. You will be so glad you made the time, with memories to last beyond a lifetime. 37 Frames has some fabulous lifestyle mini-sessions designed exactly with this in mind. Many clients returning session after session to document a whole year in style. Contact 37frames@tokyo.com for more information. Check out the 37 website: www.37framesphotograpy.com or the daily 37 Blog for news, sessions, and events: www. tokyophotographers.com.

Being A Broad November 2010

HAVING TWINS IN TOKYO by Helen Kaiho, co-director of Tokyo Mothers Group Twins Till and Max, aged nine months. Image provided by Mareike Hornburg

pregnancy and birth issue




he moment you find out that you are having twins, you immediately enter an extremely exclusive parenting club. Everybody loves twins. The cute matching sleepsuits and hats, the even cuter photo opportunities...nothing draws a crowd like the sight of a double stroller holding twins. People gather and coo and secretly feel a mix of envy and relief that they don’t have twins of their own. This elite club is even more exclusive in Japan, where the birth rate is one of the lowest in the world—one in one hundred fifty compared to Nigeria, where it is one in twenty-two—making twins in Japan a true rarity and thus even more of a crowd-drawer. So how do mothers of twins initially feel the moment they find out that twins are in their future? American Carrie Reepmeyer, mother to Kendall and Quinn aged eighteen months and Dylan, aged three and a half, found out that she was having twins just two days before moving to Tokyo from Boston. “While I shouldn’t have been too surprised since we used IVF to get pregnant, I was devastated because I really, really, really did not want to have twins. My mom was also very distraught at the idea of us moving all the way to Japan and having two more babies to care for.” Rachel Crump, a New Zealander who lives in Nakano-ku wit her Japanese husband, echoes Carrie’s emotions: “When the doctor told me there were two babies in there and I saw them myself on the screen, I was absolutely shocked and horrified. My husband’s reaction was similar. We were initially worried about how we’d cope with two babies and a toddler (my older son Kaimon was two when we found out), but we soon became excited to meet the new additions to our family. Family and friends were bowled over!” German mother to Till and Max, aged nine months, Mareike Hornburg, describes her emotions when she first heard the news; “My doctor said with a big happy smile, ‘Congratulations, you are expecting twins...’ I will never forget the feeling: it was a mixture of fear, blackout, and panic. I cannot remember

what my doctor told me afterwards or what else happened at the clinic. The next thing I can recall is walking down the street with a big smile on my face. What a special gift!” Mary Ishikawa, living in Takao and mother to twin girls Saffron and Indigo, aged 13 months, shared similar worries about living space: “Honestly, I felt overwhelmed. We lived in a small apartment. I wasn’t sure how I would handle twins! My husband’s reaction was ‘Oh, wow!’ Family were excited and happy. Friends were amazed and curious, asking ‘do twins run in your family?’ The best comment I got was from a friend’s son who said, ‘You are so lucky, you get two babies for the price of one!’” Once the news starts to sink in, these special mums have to deal with the next challenge of carrying and delivering twins, which tends to be a lot more complicated than with just one. In Japan, very few hospitals will allow a woman carrying twins to choose a natural birth, so it is highly likely that a twin pregnancy will result in a C-section. Although many of these are, of course, required through medical necessity, some of the mothers commented that choices are very limited for giving birth to twins in Japan. As Rachel Crump, mother to identical twin boys Taiki and Kennan says, “I had a cesarean section. This wasn’t my preference, but it was hospital policy for MD [monochorionic diamniotic twins, who develop in one gestational sac, each with his own amniotic sacs] to be born by cesarean. I was told that this was the case at hospitals throughout Japan, though I later found out there are some exceptions.” Rachel also tells us about the Japanese approach of strict bed rest for twin pregnant mothers: “Japan has a rather unique practice of kanri nyuin, or precautionary hospitalisation for twin pregnancies. Even if the pregnancy is progressing well, without complications, women are often hospitalised up to two months prior to their due date to rest and be monitored.” Many of the mothers who gave birth here in Tokyo felt similar emotions; although

the level of care they received here in Japan was of a very high quality, they felt they had very few choices. Maria Teresa Marchetti, mother to Giulia and Lorenzo, aged 16 months, felt her options were very limited: “The delivery by c-section was very quick and went well, but I felt that I could not do what I wanted and that the doctor decided for me.” Even after the babies arrived, she felt undermined. “The nurses were excellent and the hospital was very good, but at the beginning I felt that I could not decide when I wanted to feed my babies. My daughter had some apnea and the doctors decided to keep her in the nursery, while I should have insisted on having her with me. Also, my son was kept in the nursery even though he had no problems because they said they wanted to keep the babies together even if they were kept in separate cots. This did not make sense to me. If I could go back I would insist on them doing what I felt was best for the babies and for me.” So once the babies have put in an appearance and are ready to cause a stir in Japanese society, what is day-to-day life with twins really like here in Japan? Mary Ishikawa has found that she is on the receiving end of a lot of positive attention, “Before having kids, Japanese always treated me as a gaijin. But now that I have kids, they treat me like a mom; moms always come up to me in the park, old ladies crowd around us, high school girls coo ‘kawaii!’—even sleep-deprived salarymen break out in smiles. It’s been great!” The attention can become a little overwhelming. Mareike Hornburg states, “It’s incredible how many people stop at our stroller and start asking about the twins. Actually, this does not bother us much and with a smile we tell people about their sex, age, names, and so on. I have to say it’s wonderful to see when my boys are conjuring smiles on faces of people walking along. But at tourist spots it gets getting annoying when you can’t go along without stopping every few metres because people stand in front of your stroller or try to touch your kids even if they are sleeping. We went on holiday to Takayama and just one hour in the city was enough. The people went crazy when they saw us! It was a good lesson for us to use a baby carrier for privacy in future!” So pregnant moms of twins living here in Tokyo, or perhaps the world over, can quite accurately predict what their life will be like after their babies arrive; a colourful, happy, exhilarating, never-dull state of chaos! Your twins will bring as much happiness to those around you as they do to you and your family. Though, as Japanese mum Miki Hirai wryly sums up: “With a twin stroller, everyone smiles—but don’t expect much help in pushing it up a hill!”



With IVF, a sperm is implanted directly into an egg.

Amber (not her real name) shared the same sentiments about hospital attitudes towards IVF in Japan. “It is none of the hospital’s business how the baby was conceived,” she stated in an email, adding that she had completed the majority of her IVF procedures between 2006 and 2008 after separating from her husband years before. According to Amber, while single women are not necessarily encouraged to undergo IVF, it is not illegal for unmarried women to have IVFs done. “There are very few rules pertaining to assistive reproductive technology in Japan,” Amber explained, but stated that she did not feel comfortable informing her doctors of her marital status. “None of the doctors knew that I was single, otherwise I would likely have been refused treatment.” She added that there are certain clinics in Tokyo that are more sympathetic to single women, but others require prospective participants to sign special permission forms.

an IVF, but added that the Kato Ladies Clinic had reassured her they would be able to complete the procedure normally. “I had fewer eggs, but they were of high quality,” she said. “They took out one egg and implanted it without any problems.” Had Jennifer and her husband encountered anything to hinder the completion of a full IVF procedure, she would not have been charged full price and would have been able to try again. “It’s cheaper the first time, anyway,” she said, adding that the clinic maintains a strict privacy policy in which they call people by number rather than name in public areas. After successfully extracting the egg and mating it with her husband’s sperm, Jennifer waited three months and had multiple weekly checkups. “We had to wait for my cycle to come, which is why it took so long,” she explained. Six weeks in, Jennifer and her husband began looking at prospective hospitals for her to give birth in. She settled on the English-friendly Aiiku Hospital in Hiroo and explaining that, “we had to focus on places that would handle older-age pregnancies, but the fact that I had conceived through IVF didn’t make any difference.”

Jennifer said she was not required to sign a special permission form before having her IVF, but instead needed to obtain an introduction letter to present to the Kato Ladies’ Clinic at her first visit. She explained that the letter aimed to “introduce the previous doctor and clinic in case the new clinic or hospital needed to contact them.” Because of Jennifer’s enrollment in an insurance program, the costs of her multiple checkups at the clinic were reimbursed by her local government office. This is common in Japan, according to Amber: “If you are under the national health plan, there may be some incentives, depending on (your) district and infertility diagnosis.” She added that by her calculations, a typical IVF procedure costs around three to five hundred thousand yen in Japan. Though it takes longer and may cost more, there are several reasons a woman may try to conceive via IVF. Age plays a key role in a woman’s ability to conceive a child, and once she reaches a certain age, it may be hard to conceive naturally. This is what happened in Jennifer’s case. “I knew exactly when my baby was going to be due,” she said. “More importantly, I realised that when I got

Image: iStockphoto.com/ktsimage

s Japan inches towards workplace equality, the number of women who settle down with the intent of focusing on their careers has been steadily increasing over the past few years. Working full-time, these women hardly have time to focus on child-rearing, and by the time they decide they want a child, they have passed the so-called “prime” age of fertilisation, occasionally making natural conception difficult. Thirty-six-year-old Jennifer (name changed to protect privacy) is one such woman. Hailing from the United States and currently residing in Tokyo, she gave birth to her three-month-old son in August 2010 after working full-time for a number of years. “I didn’t want to have a child until later, but time passed quickly and I didn’t end up having time until I was 36 years old,” she explained. “My husband and I tried naturally, but it didn’t work, probably due to my age.” After extensively researching her options and consulting with her parents back home, she decided she would try to conceive through in vitro fertilisation—more popularly known as IVF. After visiting two clinics, she decided on the English-friendly Kato Ladies Clinic in Shinjuku, which specialises in providing natural, hormone-free IVF. Having learned that she had fewer eggs than most women her age, Jennifer admitted that she had been a bit worried about the possibility of successfully completing

pregnancy and birth issue


My husband and I were very happy overall with our decision to go for IVF and feel we were very “ lucky to be in Japan...”

older, I wouldn’t have to give up. My husband and I were very happy overall with our decision to go for IVF and feel we were very lucky to be in Japan, where we could take advantage of the unique methods offered and not have to worry too much about the costs.” IVF is also one of the most successful ways to conceive as a single mother. “I had done several IUIs (Intra-Uterine Inseminations) with donor sperm before moving to IVF,” Amber stated. “I was already over 40 years old, so I needed to use the best technology with the best success rates.” Back to basics: in-vitro fertalisation (IVF) what it is: This method of fertility treatment involves regulating a woman’s cycle, extracting an egg at a suitable time, and then implanting it directly with a sperm. Once the egg has been fertilised, it is then re-implanted into the woman’s uterus. history: The first successful live birth as a result of IVF was in 1978, and the doctor who carried out the procedure, Dr. Robert G. Edwards, was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2010. success rate: The rate of success for IVF procedures varies greatly and depends on age, stress, semen quality, level of DNA fragmentation, and other factors. In cases of a single implantation, live births have been reported at a rate of up to 47.3 percent, while a six-implantation cycle may have a success rate of up to 80 percent. intra-uterine insertion (IUI) what it is: Another form of fertility treatment, in this version sperm is washed and then implanted directly into a woman’s uterus. history: A precursor to IUI known as direct intraperitoneal insemination has been in use since the ‘70s. success rate: Some studies suggest a success rate of 15–20 percent per menstrual cycle.

To contact the Kato Ladies Clinic, tel. 033366-3777, fax: 03-3366-3908, or email: o-kato@towako-kato.com.

Being A Broad November 2010


by Amy Seaman

Brechtje Zoet-Viasus’ daughter Mayra Dilan.


o you’ve been in Japan awhile now, or maybe you’ve just moved here. You’ve signed up for health insurance, or maybe you haven’t. Either way, you’re expecting. So what are your options? Well, you could go to the nearest hospital — or you could have an alternative childbirth. Waiiiiit…let’s backtrack for a second. An alternative childbirth? In Japan? It’s definitely possible, according to Brett Iimura, director of the Tokyo-based Childbirth Education Center. “You have a lot of options when it comes to giving

Image provided by Brechtje Zoet-Viasus.

pregnancy and birth issue

NON-HOSPITAL BIRTH OPTIONS great, I didn’t want to be away from her for that long, so having a home birth seemed like a nice transition,” she explained. After looking at her options, Hopkins contacted the English-friendly Mejiro Birth House near Zoshigaya Station when she was four months pregnant, but was unable to confirm that she would be giving birth there until later. “I was pretty sure after four months that I wanted to have a home birth, but I couldn’t do some of the tests that were required, like checking the baby’s position, because sometimes things like that would change” she said, adding that her baby went into breech position at the six-month mark. “When I went to the hospital, he would face upright and so I went to acupuncture and chiropractors to get him to turn again.” Had Hopkins’ baby remained in a breech position or had other complications, she may have had to go to Nisseki, her backup hospital, because midwifery clinics and independent midwives are no longer legally able to assist with breech births, according to Iimura. “Even if you go with a midwifery clinic, you will still have to make appointments to see clinic doctors,” she said. “Midwives are usually not allowed to do twin or breech births, so they may send you to your backup hospital.” While giving birth through a midwifery clinic or birth house usually means having no

The actual act of being in the water during birth didn’t take away the pain but it helped me deal “ with it in a more relaxed way.”


birth in Tokyo,” she said. “There are maternity hospitals, doctor-run clinics, midwifery clinics run by one midwife and her assistants, and freelance home birth midwives—these are just a few places where you can give birth.” Iimura offers both birth education classes and private consultations. “Sometimes women change their minds once they find out about the different options because a lot of the information is online now or found woman-to-woman,” she explained. “People come to me and it’s my job to help them find someone who fits the criteria they are looking for and then to introduce them to each other.” That is exactly what happened when Heather Hopkins, mother of two, enrolled in one of Iimura’s birth education classes to learn about her options before giving birth to her daughter at a hospital in Tokyo three years ago. However, while pregnant with her second child, Hopkins chose instead to have a home birth. “I was really worried about my three-year-old daughter because I wanted her to have a positive experience and though my first birth experience at a hospital was

interventions, women who choose to do so must also book certain prenatal appointments at doctor-run clinics or maternity hospitals. “If there had been a complication, I would have had to go to a hospital,” said Brechtje Zoet-Viasus, currently pregnant with her second child, who had her first in January 2009 at a birth house that offers a birthing pool and specialises in midwifeonly assisted natural births. After researching extensively the birthing methods available in greater Tokyo, ZoetViasus chose to have a water birth to “make the transition from the womb to the natural world much more fluid and gentler for the baby.” About five months before she was due, ZoetViasus contacted the Matsugaoka Birth Center, an English-friendly midwifery clinic in Nakano City, where she met her midwife Shoko Sou. “Giving birth there was great because of the friendly, homey environment and excellent care,” she said. “Sou-san is very experienced and gently coached me through labour. My husband was allowed to be there with me during the entire process as well as the five-day stay after giving birth, and he was able to join me in

the birthing pool.” However, like Hopkins and other women who choose to have non-hospital childbirths, Zoet-Viasus had to visit the hospital for the occasional prenatal checkup and to get her doctor’s approval, yet the birth itself took place in Matsugaoka. “I wanted to have an active, natural birth with no anaesthesia, in a home birth-like environment,” Zoet-Viasus explained. “Through the birth centre I received treatments such as acupressure, moxa, and aromatherapy massage to help me relax and to balance my body’s well-being before the birth. The actual act of being in the water during birth didn’t take away the pain, but it helped me deal with it in a more relaxed way.” Hopkins echoed Zoet-Viasus’ sentiment about having an intervention-free, natural childbirth. “They gave me antibiotics when my water broke, but other than that there were no painkillers and it was very intense at the end,” she said, “but the intensity was manageable.” Antibiotics or not, the “gift money” from the local ward office should cover the majority of the costs of giving birth in some facilities, according to Iimura. Pregnant women must register their pregnancies in order to receive the governmentissued vouchers for various prenatal checkups and, more importantly, the Maternal and Child Health Handbook, a bilingual guide that must be brought to each appointment. After childbirth, while all women must register their newborn child at their local ward office within 14 days of birth, only those participating in Japan’s National Health Insurance program will receive reimbursement from the government. “The rules occasionally change, so it is best to check with your local ward office about the amount and policies,” Iimura advises. She adds that in the past, the money has sometimes been directly paid to the mother but it is now sometimes remitted to the hospital directly. Iimura explained that while most clinics and hospitals in Tokyo will accept both governmentsponsored reimbursement and prenatal checkup vouchers, most midwifery clinics in the greater Tokyo area do not honour these vouchers and require women planning to have a non-hospital birth to complete certain prenatal procedures at a hospital or clinic. However, most ward offices have a special reimbursement system in place to cover the costs of both the prenatal doctor’s clinic visits and the birth itself. According to Zoet-Viasus, giving birth at Matsugaoka Birth Center was neither significantly more nor less expensive than delivering at a hospital. “We found out that my private insurance provider would cover the midwifery fees, as well

Image: iStockphoto.com/ Mary Gascho

as the necessary standard medical checkups at the doctor,” she explained. “Regardless of that, I would have chosen to go to the birth centre anyway. And I plan to give birth there to my second baby in a couple of months.” As with any natural birth, if her medical

belief that the ideal place to give birth would not necessarily be a hospital,” Zoet-Viasus said. “It’s wonderful for your partner to be involved. He gave me all the support I needed, and he got to experience the birth of our daughter intimately, as he was right behind me when she entered this

Through the birth centre I received treatments like acupressure, moxa, and aromatherapy “ massage to help me relax and to balance my body’s well-being before the birth.”

history hints that complications may arise, ZoetViasus may not be able to give birth at a midwifery or birth house and may be transferred to her backup hospital. These extra steps can increase the price of the entire pregnancy, says Hopkins. “I had to have more ultrasounds and tests done because the baby kept turning and entering breech position,” she said. “While we had ward vouchers worth ¥2,000 to put towards internal checkups, the cost of the entire pregnancy may have gone up due to my additional doctor visits.” After the birth, Hopkins had home visits over the next week and eventually took her then month-old son to his first pediatrician’s visit to ensure that everything was developing properly. So why did these women choose to have home births if they didn’t save any money in the end and still ended up going to the hospital for checkups? “There is something so beautiful about doing it yourself with no medical interventions,” Zoet-Viasus explained. “The benefit of a water birth is that the baby comes straight from the waters of your womb into a pool with warm water, making the transition easier. The warm water allows the mother’s body to relax and her skin to soften, which might prevent tearing—and I didn’t tear!” What should you do to convince your husband that a natural birth is right for you? “We watched a documentary about giving birth and that’s when my husband understood my

world, calmly looking at us with her eyes wide open. At the birth centre my husband also got to cut the umbilical cord, which I was told is usually not allowed at most Japanese hospitals.” And if you already have another child, having a home birth will help you ensure that your older one does not feel any resentment towards the younger sibling. “I wanted my daughter to be there for it,” Hopkins said. “I assigned [her] an advocate so she could do what she wanted to do, whether that was being present for the birth, going for ice cream, or taking a nap…” Looking to contact one of the birthing centres mentioned? Matsugaoka Birth Center • Tokyo-to Nakano-ku Matsugaoka 1-10-13 • www2.odn.ne.jp/~cdk23230/e • Tel. 03-5343-6071 • Nearest station: Araiyakushi-mae on the Seibu-Shinjuku Line Mejiro Birth House • Tokyo-to Toshima-ku Zoshigaya 2-24-11 • www.birthhouse.com/e/index.html • Tel. 03-5950-1523 • email: info@birthhouse.com • Nearest station: Zoshigaya on the Fukutoshin Line Brett Iimura’s Childbirth Education Center • www.birthinjapan.com/index.html • Tel. 03-3414-7458

If you’re planning to have a non-hospital birth, make sure you do the following: • Visit your local ward office to register your pregnancy. You will receive a package with prenatal checkup vouchers, a birth notification form, and a Maternal and Child Health Handbook (boshi kenkoo techoo). Don’t worry if you are not fluent in Japanese—the handbook is available in eight different languages. Make sure to keep it at hand, because you will need to bring it to all of your prenatal checkups. The amount of reimbursement you will receive through the vouchers varies from ward to ward and changes from time to time, so please check with your ward office for the latest information. • Research your options. Consult with experts such as Childbirth Education Center Director Brett Iimura, search online, or go to your local bookstore (Kinokuniya and Amazon are great for English-language books). Some wards also sponsor free pregnancy classes that may help you make a decision. • Contact your chosen birth house, clinic, or maternity centre. While it is not necessary to do this early on in the pregnancy, birth houses often fill up during certain times of the year. If you choose to work with a midwifery clinic, they may not be allowed to accept your ward-sponsored prenatal checkup vouchers, so ask your local ward office about post-birth reimbursement. • By this time, you should also have a backup hospital that you will go to if something unexpected occurs. Your birthing centre will probably have a list for you to choose from, or you can go to one near you. • After your child is born (congratulations!), register him or her at your local ward office using the birth registration form you received after registering your pregnancy all those months ago. This must be done within 14 days of the birth. • If you or your spouse are enrolled in Japan’s National Health Insurance program or your company’s health insurance program, you are entitled to a limited amount of reimbursement for your childbirth fees. The money will be awarded as either a lump sum paid to you after the childbirth (you will have to pay the hospital upfront yourself ) or credited directly to the hospital. As the fees and procedures change over time, please consult your ward office about the current program.

Being A Broad November 2010

pregnancy and birth issue

Birthing pools are one natural birth option.


pregnancy and birth issue

WITH MISCARRIAGE by Stephanie Kawai


eart-breaking, unfair, and devastating are just three words that describe miscarriage…one of life’s cruelties on a very personal level. Miscarriage is something that you know happens to women, but it happens to other women. It’s not meant to happen to you, or at least you never think it will happen to you. I thought like that until it happened to me earlier this year. Twice. Getting over both miscarriages (although you can never really forget the pain they cause) has been an ongoing process, but time is, as they say, a great healer. I already have one child, a son who has just turned three, and had such a wonderful experience through my pregnancy with him. It was by far one of the best times of my life and I loved every minute of it. Once my son was about a year and half old, I really felt ready to try for a second child. After a few months of trying, you can imagine my delight when I got a positive on a pregnancy test! From the beginning, I felt a little different than I had when I was pregnant with my son. I didn’t have any signs of bloating, needing to go to the toilet, sore breasts, etc. But I just thought that every pregnancy was different. I went for my first scan at around seven weeks and all was seemingly OK. I was told to come back two weeks later for my next check up. It was then that I was told, at nine weeks, that sadly the pregnancy wasn’t progressing. I had what is termed a “blighted ovum.” I just broke down and couldn’t stop crying. Thank goodness my husband was with me. The hospital I was at was the local maternity hospital where I had my first son. The doctor I saw couldn’t speak English, but seemed sympathetic. However, she naturally had to present me with my options of how to proceed from there. The first was to wait to see if I would miscarry naturally. The second was to do a D&C to remove the foetus. I couldn’t decide in the state of mind I was in. I went home, and after talking to my husband and making a few very emotional phone calls to my mum and female friends, I decided to go for the D&C option. I just wanted it all to be over. The very next day the real bleeding started and I went through the miscarriage. It seems like once my mind knew and accepted what was going on, then my body could let go of the pregnancy. I can’t even begin to describe what it felt like to know that I had lost this pregnancy and chance of life. The following day I had to return to the hospital where I was told that I still needed to have the D&C procedure, as I had not had a complete miscarriage. I was in a fairly accepting frame of mind at that point and the whole operation went smoothly. It was a few days later when it really started to hit me again.

“A miscarriage once in a woman’s life is devastating, but twice was cruel beyond words.” Image: iStockphoto.com/Aldo Murillo



I just couldn’t stop crying and I felt even worse knowing that my son was witnessing what was happening, even though I tried my best not to cry in front of him. The atmosphere between my husband and I was bad. He really wanted to help me, but he didn’t know what to do or say. I’m just grateful that he was there for my son. My friends and family really tried their best to be supportive and to listen if I needed to speak. What I found difficult was when people told me things like “Things happen for a reason,” “You’ll be able to get pregnant again,” and “At least you have your son.” Those are the kind of things you really can’t process when you have just lost a pregnancy. Of course, with time you realise how fortunate you are. Once I was given the OK from my doctor, I decided with my husband that it would be a good idea to go back to the UK for a month or so with my son, just to have a bit of a break and a change of scenery. This was just what I needed at the time and two months later I came back to Tokyo feeling a lot more positive about things and actually wanting to try again for another baby. A month later I got another positive on a pregnancy test, but a couple of weeks later I started bleeding… A miscarriage once in a woman’s life is devastating, but twice was cruel beyond words. I couldn’t believe I was losing another pregnancy. “Why me?” was constantly going through my head and I really turned on my husband, blaming him unnecessarily, simply because I felt so powerless and scared about it happening again. I was worried that maybe I would only ever experience miscarriages from now on. It was doubly hard as I had my job to contend with at the same time (with my first miscarriage, I guess I was “fortunate” that it happened during winter vacation from my work). After being examined by the doctor and being told that this was a straightforward miscarriage (small comfort in that I didn’t need another D&C), I asked about taking some time off work, as I knew that

mentally I was in a very bad way and couldn’t cope with the rigours of my job. I was simply told (and this is a translation from the original Japanese) “But you are fine. The bleeding has stopped. You can work.” I hadn’t encountered this attitude with my first miscarriage, but I was seeing it now. It is actually a normal attitude here in Japan. Miscarriage is seen as a very matter-offact physical occurrence and the emotional toll isn’t taken into consideration. I started looking around at support options available for those who have experienced miscarriage and I was surprised to find that in Japan almost nothing exists, especially if you are a foreigner and can’t speak the language. The Japanese themselves actually have a kind of ritual called Mizuko Kuyo 水子供養 (mizuko means “water child” and kuyo means “memorial”) where women who have had a miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion will go to a shrine dedicated to the god Jizo and present offerings to protect or appease the soul of the unborn child. What is available for foreign women who have experienced a miscarriage is TELL (Tokyo English Life Line, 03-5774-0992) and there will certainly be a trained counsellor who can listen to you. However, my own experiences have made me realise that real support groups for this are needed—ones that are easy to find and open to anyone who has lost a pregnancy. As I’m director of Tokyo Mothers Group, it is something that I’m really looking into setting up as I think a lot of women would benefit from meeting others who have had similar experiences themselves. As for the end of my story, well it’s a happy one. I’m expecting again (approaching my third trimester). Although this pregnancy came as a complete surprise and I’ve been fraught with worry up until fairly recently, I’m really counting my blessings with it. Yes, it was hard to hear “things happen for a reason” with my previous miscarriages, but I’m slowly being able to accept that sometimes they do.


by Kimberly Hughes

Images: Kimberly Hughes

In Yoyogi Koen shortly after meeting (2008).

Was it love at first sight?” I cannot begin to count the number of times that my partner Sheila and I have been asked this question—especially after announcing our upcoming marriage several months ago to friends and family. The truth, we must admit (almost always to an expression of visible disappointment), is unfortunately, no. Rewind the clock two years, when Sheila and I met via a mutual friend. We were both emerging from difficult relationships at the time, and neither of us was interested in dating or even looking for someone new. We had a friendly chat, and that was that. Several weeks later, she sent me a text message that had only the slightest nuance hinting that she might be interested. Intrigued, but still too shy to act, I finally decided to invite her to a dinner party I was throwing that weekend for friends. From the moment she arrived until the end of the evening, I could feel an energy between us that suggested there might be something worth pursuing—but I was definitely not yet ready to open that door of possibility. Sheila invited me to attend an art exhibition a couple of weeks later, which was followed by several other cleverly worded, vaguely suggestive messages. Still not ready to leap into anything, however, I ignored my growing feelings. Finally, at a mutual

our communication styles were sometimes wildly different—and the newness of the relationship left us both feeling vulnerable during those times when we had fallen out of sync. The following summer, about a year after we had begun dating, we travelled together to Europe. I knew beyond any doubt that I had found the person I wanted to spend my life with, and so I decided before departing that I would propose to her at some point during the trip. I secretly packed along a ring—a family heirloom matching another one that I was already wearing—and waited until the time felt right. During a cruise along the Seine on our third night in Paris, however—just as we were finishing off a bottle of wine and passing the gorgeously illuminated Eiffel Tower—Sheila leaned over and asked me to marry her first! Naturally I said yes, but since I still had the ring with me, I asked her again several days later in Barcelona, surrounded by fantastic Gaudi art sculptures inside Parc Guell at sunset. Now, when people ask who proposed to whom, we have to laugh and say, “We both did!” Sheila is truly everything I have always wanted in a life partner. Although nine years younger than me, she is extremely focused and mature, and has taught me so much about how to be a loving and caring partner. In addition to very similar values, we both believe strongly in cultivating our own individual interests outside our relationship—and we both very much want children. As a freelance translator, writer, university lecturer, and community social justice activist, I am lucky enough to enjoy professional freedom in the sense of being able to come out regarding my sexuality as I choose to (or not). As Sheila works in a close-knit office, however, her situation is quite


e continue to be positively inspired, however, by several lesbian friends of ours around the world who are raising children within supportive communities... friend’s birthday event several weeks later, we both realised that we could not deny what was happening. While we may not have locked eyes passionately on our first encounter, we definitely made up for lost time by diving into our fledgling relationship with fervor once we had both allowed ourselves to open our hearts to new love. Shortly thereafter, we took a trip to Thailand and Cambodia, and the ease—no, the absolute pleasure—with which we travelled together was one definite sign for me that Sheila was indeed the love that I had been waiting for. Of course, things were not all perfect! Both of us still had lingering issues from our previous relationships, and since we were now spending nearly all of our time together, we had to deal with the ups and downs of everyday life that all couples experience. Although we hardly fought,

different from mine. Recently, she succeeded in becoming the first employee in the history of her workplace to ask for and receive paid honeymoon leave for a same-sex marriage—a source of great pride for herself, as well as encouragement for others who will certainly follow in her footsteps. Since I am from the United States and Sheila is from Brazil (with many of her family members living long-term in Japan), our future will by necessity involve navigating amidst multiple countries and languages—something that we both, luckily, find quite exciting. We both know that it is not all glamour, though— something that has become all too clear to us during our attempts to navigate the bureaucratic labyrinth of obtaining legal recognition for our marriage. Our plan is to complete the official paperwork next spring

Immediately following the wedding ceremony (2010).

in the US state of California, which legalised samesex marriage in August. We will then do the same in Brazil, whose system of civil partnerships allows citizens to sponsor their same-sex partners for residency permits—something we cannot do in the US (where same-sex marriages are not recognised at the federal level), nor in Japan (where they are not recognised on any level at all). And while Sheila and I plan to have children in the very near future, this issue is clearly more complicated for same-sex families than for heterosexual ones from any number of angles. We continue to be positively inspired, however, by several lesbian friends of ours around the world who are raising children within supportive communities while also challenging social attitudes regarding what is considered to be a “normal family.” This past August 28, Sheila and I gathered with friends, co-workers, and both of our families at Furyu Café/Gallery on Nemoto Beach, Shirahamacho (the southernmost tip of the Boso peninsula in Chiba Prefecture) to celebrate our marriage. It was a beautiful setting (despite the overwhelming heat!), and it was a wonderful feeling to share our commitment surrounded by the love and support of the people closest to us. It was a sort of a DIY wedding, and everything—from the food to the flowers to the lovely outfits we wore, to the scrumptious cakes prepared by Sheila’s mom—was lovingly handcrafted by friends and family. Inscribed in the inside of our wedding rings— in addition to the date, name of the café, and the other’s name—is a phrase (in French) proposed by Sheila: “Tous les jours,” or “every day.” Although neither of us knows just how the coming years and decades will unfold, we intend to make the most of every single day, while continuing to cherish a feeling of thanks in our hearts for finding the rock-solid partnership we had both been dreaming of. Being A Broad November 2010

she found love in Japan



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BAB November 2010  

It's all about babies! In our first pregnancy and birth themed-issue we have a glowing pregnant cover model, Tracey Northcott of Enfour KK,...

BAB November 2010  

It's all about babies! In our first pregnancy and birth themed-issue we have a glowing pregnant cover model, Tracey Northcott of Enfour KK,...

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