Being A Broad January 2011 #63
The monthly magazine for international women living in Japan
our cover girl: KIT PANCOAST NAGAMURA
WORKING for SAKURA HOUSE love found IN THE DOJO TOKYO KALEIDOSCOPE turns KIMONOS into DRESSES
Animal Friends Niigata from STROKE VICTIM to STROKE SURVIVOR foreign women OUT AND ABOUT
e Hom e of thrlsâ€™ gi BAB out. t nigh GNO: t Nex ry 27, a Janu 11. 20
Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a fabulous holiday season, whether back home, here in Japan, or somewhere else fabulous! Having taken down the Christmas tree, it’s time to look forward to another year, and personally I can’t wait—we have lots of fun events planned over the next few months with more underway, and I hope you’re able to join us for at least one of them. See what we have planned for January on page five. In the meantime, this issue is packed with lots to inspire you in the new year, including our feature on Isabella Gallaon-Aoki, who has started her own animal shelter in Niigata, and our piece on Katie Elliott, who took a group of school children to build houses in Cambodia last year. We also introduce you to a beautiful line of kimonos-turned-dresses should you be in the market for a cute spring look, help you keep your skin looking its best for winter with Boudoir’s great tips, and of course share love stories, work experiences, and lots more. Enjoy! Caroline Pover, BAB Founder
being a broad news
BAB news, BAB Rep Arwen
writer and editor Kit Pancoast Nagamura
our cover girl women of the world news from around the globe
things we love the little things we love in Japan
6 our cover girl image: Ali Muskett
Hatha yoga in English
keeping your skin at its best this winter
from stroke victim to stroke survivor
10 pampering 11 real-life story 12
Animal Garden Niigata
Sakura House’s Clothilde Harrison
the broads (and boys!) 9 learning
image: Adrian Tan, www.adriantan.net
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) firstname.lastname@example.org Shaney Crawford (Tsukuba) email@example.com Ali Muskett (Shizuoka) firstname.lastname@example.org Arwen Murakami (Chiba) email@example.com Wendy Gough (Nagoya) firstname.lastname@example.org Contributors Marilyn Klein, Megan Kojima, Clothilde Harrison, Alena Eckelmann, Natasha Williams Cover Model Kit Pancoast Nagamura 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.
image: Kerry Raftis/www.keyshots.com
image: David Stetson
message from the founder
the houses that Katie built
Leanne Yew turns kimonos into dresses
foreign women at events in Japan
reading about Forty Stories of Japan
from training partner to life partner
16 18 20 21
fashion out and about arts & culture she found love 16 fashion
Being A Broad magazine, email@example.com www.being-a-broad.com tel. 03-5879-6825, fax: 03-6368-6191 Being A Broad January 2011
From the BAB Message Boards: Member Jodi asks: I finally have all my paperwork, alien registration, stamp thingy, etc., to open both personal and corporate bank accounts. I went to Mitsubishi Bank, who said their ATMs have English. Spent an hour opening accounts. Went to the ATM only to find, yes, it has English, except for when you need to send money! What a waste of time. Can anyone recommend any other banks? I don’t feel I need English-speaking tellers. Just the ability to use the machines. And I would rather not use Citibank. Thanks. Member lil replies: Jodi, I could be wrong, but I think you will find that all Japanese bank ATMs only have the option to do furikomi transfers in Japanese, even if they have English menus for withdrawing and depositing money (surprisingly, this even includes Citibank). To deal with necessary (but unfamiliar) kanji in order to do a transfer, I’ve coped with it by either getting a security guard or bank staff
Subscriptions Being A Broad December 2010 #62
The monthly magazine for international women living in Japan
our cover girl: 57’s ANA SHIMABUKU
Driving a LAMBO
LIVING and WORKING in the RITZ-CARLTON
tips for FLYING with BABY
things we love to GIVE during the HOLIDAYS
the WORLD POLE DANCING CHAMPIONSHIPS
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!
member to help me each time (when it is a one-off transaction), or to get them to help me once to do the transfer and generate the little ATM furikomi card for regular transfers that you then insert each time you want to do the same transaction in the future (the ATM reads the data off the card, knows where you want to transfer funds to, and you just have to add the amount). Alternatively, if you want to do a regular transfer you could use your bank’s online banking service (hopefully it will be in English), and register your regular payees with them—you may have to go in person or mail in a form to do this. I pay my rent and transfer money abroad each month this way (using Citibank). Good luck. Member Ochre adds: Jodi, I use Shinsei Bank, which has been great so far—their website is in English and you can do online banking, including currency exchange. The only thing is that you need to actually go into a branch to transfer money overseas, but otherwise everything can be done on the internet. You may wish to check out their website: www.shinseibank.com/english/index.html. Member ventan also asks: When I move to Tokyo I will be living as an expat—will I have a problem opening my own bank account in Japan? I have heard many stories about women not being allowed and my name not being on the lease we will sign so therefore I don’t exist. All wildly made up stories, I hope? Member Jennifer Hallowell answers: You can open an account in any bank in Japan. Take along your alien registration card and your passport, and complete an application form. You should also bring your registered seal (hanko) if you have one. If not, your signature should be fine. Your employer may arrange your bank account for you as most employers will not employ you unless you have a bank account. If in Tokyo and convenient for you, go to the Azabu Branch of the UFJ Bank. There is a woman there who speaks English, Karen Sieg, and she can help you set everything up. Her work phone number is 03-3586-3328. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
You can pick BAB up here: Shibuya-ku: Priya Indian Restaurant • British School Tokyo • Boudoir • Sin Den• Nua Japan Minato-ku: US
and Medical Clinic • Nissin World Delicatessen • Tokyo
Embassy • Canadian Embassy • Colombian Embassy •
sity • ROTI Roppongi • Beaute Absolue • Mitsubishi UFJ
Kobe-shi: St Michael’s International School Kawasaki: 37 Frames Kyoto: Kyoto International School Osaka: Osaka International School Yokohama: The
Elana Jade • Fifty Seven • Toriizaka Art • Suji’s • TELL •
Azabujuban • ai International School • ABC International
German School Tokyo • Treehouse Montessori School •
Nishimachi International School • Gymboree • National
School • ASIJ ELC • The Montessori School of Tokyo •
Yokohama Country & Athletic Club • through BAB Rep
Azabu Supermarket • Crown Relocations • Nirvana
Homat Viscount Akasaka • Willowbrook International
New York • Tokyo American Club • Asian Tigers • Allied
Saitama: Columbia International School Tsukuba: Tsukuba International School • through BAB Rep Shaney Shizuoka: through BAB Rep Ali Nagoya: Hope International • through BAB Rep Wendy Chiba:
Pickfords • Welcome Furoshiki • J’s International School •College Women’s Association Japan •Tokyo Mother’s Group • Tokyo Pregnancy Group • Tokyo Surgical
International School • Paddy Foley’s • Temple Univer-
Chiyoda-ku: British Embassy Meguro-ku: Montessori Friends Koto-ku: K’s International School Suginami-ku: Aoba-Japan International School • JUN International School Chofu-shi: American School in Japan
through BAB Rep Arwen
MEET BAB REP ARWEN (CHIBA) by Arwen Murakami
Though it’s not very glam, I’d also love to help people make more practical connections, such as having more experienced Broads lead newcomers on a trip to the supermarket or post office, divvying up Costco purchases, or hosting sales and swaps. How does it feel to help out foreign women who are working and living in your area? Because I have so much more access to them (as an English teacher), I help Japanese women a lot more! But no matter who is on the receiving end, it’s incredibly gratifying to be able to make
Arwen with one of her favourite Chiba residents. Image: Yoko Iiji
What made you want to become a Being A Broad rep? At first, I had no idea I could! I’d gotten some good use out of the forums and enjoyed a few events, but still found BAB to be a little inaccessible. I also started to realise how many ways my life had been overlapping with other foreign women without any of us having realised it. When I got the request to be the Chiba rep, I felt that I was finally being offered the sense of community that I’ve missed so much since moving here. What are some of the events you would like to run in 2011?
ake advantage of what’s on offer and ask for what you need. Give others the opportunity to T be helpful—it’s often appreciated! someone’s life a little easier. I also appreciate the chance it gives me to acknowledge how far I’ve come over the last few years. How do you help other women living in your area? Because I’m one of the newer reps, most of my opportunities so far have been sharing information, resources, and time, and I’d really
Image: 37Frames Photography
Most of all, I’d love to meet the people who are out here and find out what needs and interests they have. If left to my own devices, I would be inclined to do some volunteering and beach clean up, yoga or jogging, book clubs, lessons from professionals (cooking, makeup, etc.), days or nights out, holiday celebrations—a lot of the same things that are offered in other areas, but right here at home.
Arwen (right) has fun at the Ask Caroline! launch with a friend she first met at a BAB event.
like to do a lot more of this! What advice would you give to women who are struggling with adjusting to life in Japan? Oh, I have all kinds of advice, such as establishing a routine and staying visible in your neighbourhood, which helps ground you as a member of the community. Check out the BAB forums—there are loads of helpful threads—or if you can’t find what you’re looking for, BAB members can help point you toward other groups that deal more specifically with what you need. Most of all, take that first step forward. Take advantage of what’s on offer, and ask for what you need. Give others the opportunity to be helpful—it’s often appreciated! How can members contact you? Through the BAB forums or at email@example.com. Or, and I can’t emphasise this enough, if you see me on the street, please, please, please say hello! I’ve noticed more foreigners in the Makuhari-hongo and KaihinMakuhari areas recently and I want to know who you are! The bonus is that I usually have a few BAB copies of the BAB magazine on hand.
BAB EVENTS THIS MONTH: 21: Being a Finance Broad
27: girls’ night out at 57
ALSO ON: 16: WE Event
Come along to the latest in our Career Seminar Series, this time to learn all about Being a Finance Broad. From 7:30–9:30pm, ¥2,000, at Hays Japan in Akasaka. Please let Dee (firstname.lastname@example.org) know if you’re coming so we can keep track of numbers, give you a map, and answer any questions you might have about this informative event.
Come along to our January Girls’ Night Out—a great way to meet new people, catch up with old friends, and reunite with those who have been away. From 7pm at 57 in Roppongi. No cover, and your first drink is discounted! Let Katy know at email@example.com if you’ll be coming. To learn more about these events as details are announced, visit us on Twitter (BABbeingabroad) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/being.a.broad).
NJ Fashion presents the WE Event for women entrepreneurs at Sogo Kumin Center in Nishi Ojima. It’s fantastic opportunity for rising women entrepreneurs in Japan to display their work and gain publicity in the 2011 WE Event, which also features an Indian-themed fashion show. The event features stalls operated only by women. For more details about the event, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Being A Broad January 2011
editor, columnist, writer; cover photography by Kerry Raftis, www.keyshots.com
Images Kerry Raftis/www.keyshots.com
our cover girl
I get back from travel abroad, [Japan] just feels, viscerally, like home here now. Whenever Full name: Kit Pancoast Nagamura Nationality: US resident of Japan Grew up in: Coconut Grove/Nova Scotia Time in Japan: 20 years Japanese level: Me talk pretty, read pretty, and maybe write pretty someday. Works at: Editor at Kodansha, columnist for The Japan Times, regular contributor to four other publications, and author of five books, including most recently The Ultimate Japanese Phrasebook (Kodansha International). Why did you come to Japan? The funny answer is that it’s a family tradition. Actually, nearly everyone in my family, from my great-great-grandparents down, has visited and loved Japan. I grew up surrounded by artefacts and stories, and from birth even the atmosphere of Japan, because my father, an architect, studied design in Kyoto and our home in Florida encompasses much of what he learned. The more immediate answer is that I took a course with the late, great Dr. Shuichi Kato when he taught at Brown University, and he convinced me that I absolutely had to come study in Japan. During my senior year at Brown, I applied for a Samuel T. Arnold fellowship, overseen by IBM’s Thomas
Watson, Jr. and (to my amazement) was awarded it. When I arrived in Tokyo, Kato-sensei and his wife Midori Yajima were extremely generous with their time and in helping me to get to know Japan; their enthusiasm for intercultural exchange was infectious. I ended up staying initially for three years. Why do you stay in Japan? I doubt I’d be as happy anywhere else. I have a mile-long list of things I love about Japan (efficient transportation, relative safety, orgasmic food, and intelligent and sweet people are just some) but there are three key reasons I’ll probably never leave. One is that my husband’s work and family are here; the second is that I’m addicted to the challenges (a new kanji!) and charming surprises (a novel backstreet!) and layers of history (another famous temple!) I find in Tokyo on a daily basis; and third, whenever I get back from travel abroad, it just feels, viscerally, like home here now. How do you manage to balance everything in your life? Balance? Is that a good thing? It strikes me as a static goal, but I understand people worry about it a lot. I’m interested in a huge variety of things, so my life is usually gleefully chaotic and unbalanced from trying to squeeze in too much; I’m OK with that. When
A Day in the Life: Most days, I am up in the morning stumbling around like a post-hibernation bear. I don’t know what hour it is because I can’t see yet. My son is usually just heading out the door in a blur, and we call out last-minute plans for his day. My husband has coffee waiting and I pick at my son’s breakfast remains. Once that’s in the system, I plan the day, answer email, make calls, and from there, the morning is anybody’s guess. I might go on a shoot if the weather is good, read for work if it’s raining, meet editors, draft an article, transcribe an interview, or go running. Afternoons I am most often at Kodansha, out preparing one of the Backstreet Stories, working on essay ideas, researching, or doing (badly) some domestic chore. Dinner is my meal to make, and I try to get fresh food that day to cook and I also try to sneak in a new recipe every week; when time doesn’t allow this, my son (suspiciously ecstatic) orders in for us. My son and I engage in parallel homework until about 9pm-ish, when we either watch part of a movie or we read aloud to each other from some dense but edifying tome (currently, The Count of Monte Cristo). Once my son is off to sleep, I check email again, do more writing (it really never ends!), have a glass of wine with my husband, and then, returning to work until 1–2 am, I finally end the day by writing haiku, and then, my soul satisfied, I crash. On a great day, I do all of the above. On a crummy day, once in a very great while, I bond with my PJs and a trashy magazine, a latte and big pillow, and doze in the warmest corner of the sofa like a Matisse odalisque. But that kind of day is rare. work seems to be gobbling more than its fair share of life, or I’ve been forgetting to eat or exercise, I think I automatically gravitate towards friends, go take a walk, call my mom, pester my son, garden, pretend to cook, or do something small that makes someone else happy. That’s as close to a balancing act as I can pretend to get. Oh yeah, and almost every night I let my mind wander back through the day and write a haiku about it—for me, this validates meditation on the nature of things—and if there is anything I do that can be seen as spiritually balancing, maybe that’s it. What do you do to relax? Whoops, I sort of already answered that. My whole life is geared toward the writing process, and when that goes well, I’m as relaxed as silken tofu. My husband and son are my lifesavers, though, because they pull me off the keyboard and out to dinner or to see movies. When we laugh together, there’s nothing better. I’m not adverse to a great reflexology session BAB or shiatsu massage, however.
WOMEN OF THE WORLD
compiled by Danielle Tate-Stratton
The US Senate recently voted unanimously in favour of passing the International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act. If the Act passes through the House, it will require the Department of State to develop a multi-year plan to help prevent child marriages in developing countries. It would also help to promote empowerment and education of girls and women. In countries such as those in Sub-Saharan Africa as well as Bangladesh, 60 percent of women get married before they turn 18.
Princess Lolowah Al-Faisal, Vice Chair and General Supervisor of the Board of Trustees, Effat University in Saudi Arabia recently spoke at a Women in Leadership Conference, saying that more needs to be invested to help women succeed in business. She also said that the Kingdom had signed two agreements with the United Nations to ensure that women aren’t discriminated against in business. The forum focused on leadership and entrepreneurship skills and on increasing the presence of women in business. A bill was recently introduced in India that would protect women from sexual harassment— including gestures and words—in the workplace. The law protects women both from their coworkers and any men they may come into contact with through the course of their work. Women in Afghanistan recently won 69 seats (or 28 percent of the available positions) in the Lower House elections, meaning they were successful in gaining more than just the 25 percent of constitutionally mandated government seats. A record number of women (400) ran for office compared to 2,500 candidates overall.
A professor at Israel’s Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has found that plain women are more likely to get job interviews than attractive women. He tested this by sending out resumes with no images, images of attractive women, and images of less attractive women. He found that the no-image resumes had the highest response rate, followed by plain women and finally attractive women. Interestingly, attractive men received the highest response rate amongst male resumes. image: m00by
A study of 1,700 Spanish teens showed that girls who travelled to school by biking or walking received higher scores in math and verbal testing than those girls who had a more sedentary commute. Interestingly, the benefit did not extend to their male schoolmates. The researchers also found that the longer the commute, the better the test scores, though they aren’t sure if brisk exercise, such as a game of basketball, would have had a similar effect, or if it was something specific to the act of commuting, which was also seen as a possible time for contemplation and preparation for the day ahead.
A study by the National Institute of Women has found that in Mexico the number of women being recruited to the organised drug and crime world is rising rapidly, with the number of incarcerated women having increased by four times over three years.
District Attorney Kamala Harris became California’s first female Attorney General in state history when she was sworn in on January 3, 2011. She is also the first African American and first Native American to hold this position. Liberia recently held its first conference for women in media, titled: Advancing Women In the Media—Be a Part of the Change. There, Oliva Shannon, former director general of the Liberia Broadcasting System, urged women already working in the media to think critically, work with honesty and discipline, and take advantage of opportunities in advancement. At the same event, the president of the Press Union of Liberia, Peter Quaqua, stated that his organisation was committed to furthering advancement opportunities for women in the media. The British Columbia Supreme Court recently began hearing testimony in a landmark case on polygamy. The case, expected to take several months to complete, raises the question as to whether it is constitutional to ban plural marriages, or if doing so contravenes freedom of religion. The case could lead to the decriminalisation of plural marriage, and would make Canada, also an early adopter of same-sex marriage, the first developed country to make this decision. Much of the early testimony has concentrated on whether or not being in a polygamous relationship tends to cause harm to the women involved.
Professor Hakan Olsson, a leading oncologist from Lund University in Sweden, says that women who tan regularly tend to live longer, which he claims is due to the Vitamin D they get through sun exposure. He says that Vitamin D helps to protect against blood clots, diabetes, and some tumours, and claims that the benefits outweigh the risks of skin cancer. However, the results of his study of 40,000 women clearly contradict the common wisdom that repeated sun exposure can cause skin cancer, which claims many lives each year. Olsson presented his findings at the Swedish Society of Medicine. A recent report produced by Statistics Canada stated that women had an easier time keeping their jobs during the recession, perhaps because they are more typically employed in industries less sensitive to cyclical downturns. In 2009, the highest rate of unemployment for men was nine percent, compared to seven percent for women. The National Women’s Law Center in the US recently released a report card on women’s health showing that 23 of 26 health goals (including indicators related to pap smears, cervical cancer vaccination, and obesity levels) weren’t met in 2010. The researchers were hopeful that the new Affordable Care Act would begin to address some of the challenges women face in receiving the BAB necessary health care in the US. Being A Broad January 2011
THE LITTLE THINGS
WE LOVE IN JAPAN If you like animals, Fuji Safari Park in Shizuoka is one of the most exciting places you can go. Whether you have kids or not, you will still have fun— guaranteed! You can drive your own car through the park or take an animalthemed bus. One of the best things about Fuji Safari Park is that you get to see animals with the impressive backdrop of Mt. Fuji. It really is spectacular. www.fujisafari.co.jp—AM
A tip from Sin Den: Looking to reduce frizz? BRAZILIAN KERATINE STRAIGHTENING by Coppola is a revolutionary smoothing system used by over 10,000 salons in the US that infuses Keratin deep into the hair cuticle, reducing up to ninetyfive percent of frizz and therefore leaving hair smooth, shiny, and luxurious. Results typically last three to five months depending on your hair type, so you will enjoy nearly maintenance-free hair. “Keratin Complex has changed my life! My daily styling takes half the time, and the result are truly amazing!” —Barbara, Sin Den client. Price on consultation. With this treatment, receive a ¥3,000 voucher to use with Rika, Sin Den’s Nail Artist. For more information, visit www.sinden.com or tel. 03-3405-4409. I love Brooklyn Parlor in Shinjuku. Located just below Marui Annex, this cosy, not-so-hidden basement café is the perfect place for that midafternoon latté after a morning spent perusing the streets of Shinjuku, or an early dinner before catching a flick at the nearby Wald 9 Cinema. Staying true to its name, this eatery serves up authentic American hamburgers in generous portions, and with brews and cocktails straight out of Brooklyn, what’s not to like? www. brooklynparlor.co.jp—AS
I love Rakuten and their new English website! On a very rainy day I ordered a pair of wellies within minutes, and while Rakuten doesn’t do same-day delivery, the boots were at my doorstep within days and within my budget. The cash-on-delivery service is excellent. http:// en.rakuten.co.jp—CP
In Sanskrit Literature Athithi Devo Bhava or ‘the guest is truly your god’ is a maxim of hospitality in India, and at Priya the staff are certainly guided by that philosophy! Gracious, friendly, and professional staff ensure that your dining experience at Priya is a happy one. Always bustling with Japanese and international diners, whether at lunch or dinner, you will always be made to
feel like you are the only customer in their care. It’s a huge hit in Hiroo, with many regular faces coming back time and again, not only for the great taste and service, but also because Priya is fantastic value for money. If you are looking for an inexpensive way to experience lovely food and five star service, Priya is your best bet! http:// priyajapan.tripod.com—KL
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 email@example.com and we’ll use your suggestions in a future issue of the magazine.
Tokyo Made (www.tokyomade.com) is one of my favourite places to look for fun and funky made-in-Japan pieces of fashion, jewellery, and miscellaneous design. I recently came across the totally adorable Schatje Gomu bracelets, which at first glance look like big chunky versions of the Silly Bandz oh-so-popular in North America right now. Turns out, they’re actually in the shape of a variety of hair styles, and come in a gorgeous discshaped tin, making them a style-conscious yet fun and playful gift for your girlfriends or yourself. Approximately ¥3,500 each; there are five styles to chose from.—LW
by Ali Muskett
Image by Ali Muskett.
Julia Davies in her new yoga studio.
ight streaks through the yoga studio windows and bounces off the warm red and orange sun painted on the wall. I can easily imagine that this would be a perfect place to find some inner peace. However, it is also a place to practice English, and yet it has no feel of a classroom. I’m standing in Julia Davies’ brand-new Hatha Yoga studio in Kamijima, Hamamatsu (Shizuoka Prefecture). Yoga Shala has just found a new home, and the people of Hamamatsu have a new way to practice their English—with yoga! Over coffee in Julia’s very British kitchen (her
Yoga is the opposite [of being an ALT] because...I get to grow and see people grow in themselves. “ We grow and learn together.” apartment is conveniently located right above the studio), she tells me that doing hobbies in English has become more and more popular as a way for Japanese people to practice English without formally studying. Of course, anyone is welcome at Yoga Shala, but Julia’s classes are conducted in English, so the majority of the participants are internationally minded Japanese people looking to improve their language skills in a fun and relaxing way. Julia adds, “I have made efforts to learn the anatomical vocabulary in Japanese for safety, though. I do get some students come in who have no experience of yoga and they can’t really speak any English, and I’m thinking, ‘it’s just not really very safe.’ So I make sure I can give safety instructions and assistance in Japanese.” So it’s just yoga, then? “Actually, no,” Julia tells me. “My classes are two hours long. That’s an hour and a half of yoga, and then I serve chai and we sit and chat for 30 minutes. I think that’s what makes my classes more popular—it’s like a social club. The students stay well over the 30 minutes. I remember, when I started yoga, it was more than just the exercise. I was living in Prague, my teacher was German, and the students in the class were from every nationality. She taught in English and it was kind of like a social club. It was so nice to be
where we built a school.” So now you’re a yoga instructor, and you have your own studio? “Yes, I’m a part-time yoga instructor. I’m fitting yoga into the spaces that I have between teaching English at two universities and being a wife and mother. I’m also a belly dance instructor.” The new studio opened on November 1, 2010. “At the moment, we’re still testing out the studio and finding out what we need. We will be open six days a week and probably do two classes each day. I share everything (rent, the schedule, the finances, the maintenance) with my business partner, Satoe, and when it comes down to all the tricky stuff like bank accounts she’s there to help with the Japanese.” What other activities are you involved in? “I continue to use yoga to fundraise and now I’ve combined my events with a local beach-clean event. It’s a volunteer event to get people thinking about what’s going on at the beach. We spend an hour or so cleaning up, then do 90 minutes of yoga and have a veggie barbeque.” Do you think there is anything bad about being a yoga instructor? “There’s still a resistance in Japan to this notion of spiritual guidance. Yoga has a cult image and
Julia (left) and Satoe (right) practising yoga.
Image provided by Julia Davies
a foreign woman in that foreign environment and to get together with these other women. They were really supportive and it was such a valuable part of my life. That’s why I missed it so much and wanted to recreate that same kind of thing here in Japan.” Wasn’t it hard to start up a business in Japan? Well, Julia has been living and working in Hamamatsu for about 10 years, and she wasn’t always a yoga instructor. Like many other foreigners, she came to Japan via the English teaching route, starting out as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher). While working as an ALT she got her MA in Japanese Language and Society, and her International Yoga Teacher’s diploma. Starting initially in a volunteer capacity, Julia used her yoga classes as fundraising activities, and that was how she met her business partner, Satoe Suzuki, in 2005. Tell me more about these fundraising yoga classes. “In 2005, I went to Papua New Guinea with Habitat for Humanity, and I used yoga to raise money and awareness for that trip. That was my first experience with ‘voluntourism’, as they call it. After I came back from Papua New Guinea, I joined the initial PEPYRide members, and then my yoga was to fundraise for a trip to Cambodia,
YOGA IN ENGLISH
Japan is very resistant to cults. Remember the gas attacks in Tokyo? That was a yoga instructor and it was all planned in a yoga studio, so that really hit the development of the yoga market here. Now yoga has this sports gym image, which is clean, safe, and corporate. The spiritual aspect of yoga is very misunderstood or resisted, but it’s definitely changing and becoming more fashionable.” What’s the best thing about your job as a yoga instructor? “I get to do something that I’m very passionate about and I get to share it with a lot of people. Yoga is something that is my lifelong calling, I guess. I benefit personally from the classes because I’m doing yoga, so my job is to help other people to de-stress and somehow that de-stresses and relaxes me. I get to meet nice people and I get close to people in a way that you don’t as a teacher of other subjects. As an ALT, nobody was grateful for what I did, nobody even cared what I did. It was so unrewarding. Yoga is the opposite because at the end of the class I get this positive feedback. I get to grow and see people grow in themselves. We grow and learn together.” Do you have any advice to women in Japan who might want to start their own business? “Do it! There really are no limitations to what you can do. If you have the right outlook on life, and if you are flexible, the Japanese people you’ll find yourselves with are very supportive and open to BAB new ideas.” For more information about Yoga Shala, see http:// yogashala-h.blogspot.com (in Japanese) or www.yoga-in-japan.com (in English).
Being A Broad January 2011
BEAUTY by Marilyn Klein
Sensitive and eczema-prone skins are usually dry, but can go crazy in the winter. Try to avoid having hot baths or showers, which can worsen the irritation. The aim of the game is to keep your skin moisturised. Try a hydrating mask like Guinot Mask Essential Nutri Confort. This mask contains rosemary, lavender, and thyme, which help to soothe and heal the skin, and menthol extracts to brighten a dull complexion. Use this mask twice a week for the best results. Uneven pigmentation is a problem many women share. Now that the summer is over, winter is the best time to target this problem. Our Boudoir professionals believe the best cure for problem pigmentation is to find a good dermatologist or plastic surgeon and have multiple laser treatments over the cold winter months. Even though the weather is freezing outside, don’t forget your sunscreen and moisturise daily with a moisturiser containing glycolic or salicylic acids. Try Mayerling Lotion Forte, as continual use of this product will help improve the texture and the
image: iStockphoto.com/Julia Savchenko
uring the winter months, Boudoir’s therapists are constantly asked how to help clients keep their skin more hydrated, radiant,
Image: Daniela Jovanovska-Hristovska.
facial treatments. It is natural for the skin to produce less oil in the winter, leaving your face feeling rough and
ith regular facials and a great homecare routine, you can achieve a glowing, radiant W complexion all winter long! and less sensitive. It’s important to take care of your skin and not neglect your facial requirements. Our skin ages faster in the winter months, so now’s the time to invest in proper skincare products and treat your skin to regular
dry. Boudoir recommends that you treat your face twice a week with a gentle exfoliant. Try Gommage Grain D’eclat from Guinot. We also highly recommend that you use a heavier moisturising cream than the one you use in summer. Continually transitioning from the wintery weather outside to indoor heating can also be bad for the skin, especially for Rosacea sufferers. Rosacea is a condition where the skin becomes red and inflamed with small pustules or bumps. The remedy is to cool skin with a refreshing spritz and avoid alcohol or spicy foods. People who are prone to dehydration also suffer in this situation. Invest in a humidifier; it’ll help to hydrate the skin. You’ll find that a water-binding moisturiser will really help to plump up your skin cells. Hyaluronic acid is a great ingredient to look for when purchasing your winter moisturiser. People tend to stay home more in winter, curled up in front of the heater, which can leave their skin looking dull, lifeless, and pale. Boost radiance with Vitamin C and other anti-oxidants. The SkinCeuticals skin care range is now available in Tokyo and their Vitamin C-based products will not only hydrate your skin, but also help to keep the wrinkles at bay by boosting the production of collagen.
radiance of your skin. Last but not least, book yourself in for a monthly facial treatment, especially over the winter months. With regular facials and a great homecare routine, you can achieve a glowing, BAB radiant complexion all winter long! For more information about Boudoir Day Spa, to find out more about keeping your skin happy and healthy in winter, or to book yourself an appointment, visit www. boudoirtokyo.com or tel. 03-3478-5898.
by Caroline Pover
Between May 2006 and April 2007 I suffered from cognitive damage due to three strokes. I eventually travelled to Canada in July 2007 to see stroke specialist Dr. David Spence. He found a hole in my heart and sent me to the UK for surgery. I now have a titanium implant and can technically call myself bionic! What follows is a description of how my particular strokes affected me, how I recovered, with some advice for others. I hope that this may help you recognise brain injuries in other people and be able to support those struggling to cope with such a terrifying and extremely isolating condition.
n May 2006 I suddenly realised that my brain had stopped working properly. I was 35 years old. No matter how hard I tried, suddenly the things I used to so easily find in there took me ages, and even then, there was no guarantee that I’d find what I was looking for. I tried reading emails but they didn’t make sense. I would read the same sentence over and over again but I couldn’t remember the beginning. I couldn’t sequence words very well in order to make my own sentences and would lose track of conversations right in the middle of them. And numbers made no sense at all...I had lost the ability to add up in my head. I had a First Class Honours degree in Mathematics and Education, but I couldn’t add up single digits. I had lost some sensation in my hands, and the right side of my mouth and face felt like I had just returned from the dentist. I was constantly off-balance, grabbing on to things to lean on, convinced we were having one small earthquake after another. Diagnosed with “stress” I started working parttime, but was constantly exhausted. Determined to get my brain working again, I tried and tried to read something longer than a paragraph, but was always disappointed. I didn’t feel like I was getting any better at all, but as any doctors I met with insisted there was nothing physically wrong with me, I tried to live a normal life as much as possible. But I knew something wasn’t right. One evening in July 2007, I collapsed and lay there paralysed, just staring. Despite being able to understand the panic going on around me, I was unable to respond to reassure people I was still there, in my head. I recovered within hours, but was discharged without an adequate diagnosis. More exhaustion followed, accompanied by extreme sensitivity to noise, smell, and movement, and a strange inability to be patient when hungry. Add to all this the inability to do my work, which I loved and had always defined myself by, and it was no surprise that depression soon joined all the other symptoms. I was not the most pleasant person to be around! Soon I realised that whatever was going on in
my head was the result of some kind of brain injury. In the absence of medical care from a professional, I started treating myself for a head injury. This involved three simple rules: no alcohol, no stress, and lots and lots of sleep. And by stress, this meant nothing that would put my brain under any stress at all—noise, people, strong smells, information, disagreements—it was difficult for people around me to cope and they did need to tiptoe round me quite a bit. I was ready for bed by seven pm and slept until ten in the morning, but often needed to lie down in the daytime, too. Slowly but surely, some abilities returned. Six months after the initial episode, I was able to read a book again; eight months later, numbers started to make more sense. I managed to stay awake until 11pm for my best friend’s 50th birthday celebrations. It seemed like I was on the mend, and while I was still much slower than I had been before, I was feeling better. Until April 29, 2007, when I suddenly started speaking gobbledygook. People asked me if I was OK, but nonsense words kept coming out. I had a sense that what I had said sounded strange and that people were looking at me a bit funny, but I couldn’t find the words in my head to express this. Then I lost all sensation in one arm and a friend recognised that I was having a stroke. He drove me to the nearest hospital where, yet again, the doctors refused to believe that there was anything physically wrong with me, saying that I was too young for a stroke and that it was all in my head. The paralysis passed within an hour, but I was left exhausted for weeks. I realised that unless I got adequate medical attention, I was probably going to die. I researched stroke specialists all over the world and asked if they would see me. One doctor in Canada wrote back, saying that I probably had a PFO (patent foramen ovale, a kind of hole in the heart) through which blood clots were passing and making their way to the brain (paradoxical emboli). That man was Dr. David Spence, Director of the Stroke Prevention and Atherosclerosis Research Centre in London, Ontario. After I started taking warfarin, my husband and I flew to Canada, where a rather large hole in my heart was found to be opening on every beat. Dr. Spence found loss of function and sensitivity mainly on the right side of my body; specifically, my eye, face, wrist, and ankle. He diagnosed me with left parietal lobe, posterior left temporal lobe, and frontal lobe damage. He told me that some of the cognitive skills I had lost could come back, but there was no guarantee. What we should focus on was the prevention of further strokes by closing the PFO. So I travelled to the UK for surgery to have a titanium implant placed inside my heart. About all of this, I have to say I felt nothing but relief. I had been living with the effects of brain damage for 15 months—having a diagnosis at last was actually a joy!
As for my recovery from the cognitive damage, I got my sense of balance back (and those high heels came straight back out of the cupboard!) and while I don’t think I’ll ever have that quick mathematical skill again, that’s what calculators are for, right? I still need to sleep a lot, usually about nine hours a night, but I am back on the red wine and very much able to socialise again. I found that I was unable to return to my busy office, but also found that I didn’t really want to. I now work in a lovely quiet office at our house, overlooking the garden, with two soppy spaniels keeping me company. My reading skills are back, although I find academic books a bit of a challenge, and often forget what I’ve read...but that’s OK because it means I read books over and over again with the same joy! I am writing again, and giving seminars and speeches! These things now give me even more happiness than they used to, because I truly believed I would never write another book or give another speech again. I learned many things about brain damage from this experience. We don’t realise how fragile the brain is (even slight bumps to the head can cause all sorts of problems). Likewise, we don’t realise how much the brain can recover. Strokes do not just happen to old people! They can happen to people of any age, both genders, fit or unfit, and even if they eat healthily. You can have a stroke and not realise it (a silent stroke) and physical paralysis is not necessarily permanent (TIA, or transient ischemic attack). But a stroke is only a symptom of something else, it is not a disease in itself. You have to find out what caused it and treat that or you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll have another. Dr Spence is the author of a life-saving book that details all the different causes, symptoms, preventative measures, and treatments of stroke. How To Prevent Your Stroke (www.robarts.ca/ sparc/books.php) is published by Vanderbilt University Press, 2006 (ISBN 0-8265-1537-1). I strongly urge everyone to have a copy of this in your homes—Dr Spence truly is a lifesaver. For anyone dealing with a loved one struggling with the effects of brain damage, from a stroke or any other cause, please be patient. Your friend or family member has lost parts of who he or she used to be, and is absolutely terrified inside. It can be very easy for stroke victims to give up and give in to their new limitations, whether physical or mental, and depression and anger can easily take over. They know they are being difficult, but sometimes being difficult is the only way to express the frustration over being unable to do the things they used to do so easily. The love and support of people around them, just like you, can help give them the determination to transition from stroke BAB victim to stroke survivor. Being A Broad January 2011
FROM STROKE VICTIM TO STROKE SURVIVOR
SAVING LIVES AT ANIMAL FRIENDS NIIGATA by Alena Eckelmann
Image: Darwin Bell.
“Japan [is] a country that treats its dogs and cats to designer clothes...”
etting up an animal shelter in Japan, a country that treats its dogs and cats to designer clothes yet refuses them basic animal welfare, is no mean feat, but English woman Isabella Gallaon-Aoki has done it. What’s more, Isabella, who has been in Japan for 24 years and now lives in Niigata Prefecture, has found a sustainable solution for running an animal shelter by combining it with a pet hotel. I spoke to Isabella about the obstacles she has faced and about challenges for the future. Animal welfare in Japan—acting upon an urgent need: Isabella has always liked animals and she had pets as a child back home in the UK. Before she came to Japan, she had not been involved in animal welfare at all. However, when she saw the situation of animals in this country, she soon realised that it was so much worse compared to the UK that she wanted to do something about it. “I adopted a rescued dog from the hokencho
[a public health centre that oversees the animal shelters run by a city or prefecture]. This is when I set foot into this sort of place for the first time. I was absolutely horrified at the way the animals were kept. I also heard that abandoned animals are still gassed in Japan, compared to getting an injection as is done in the UK.” As a result, Isabella got involved with a local animal welfare group and helped them with their activities. She realised that most such groups in Japan work with volunteers who take in animals temporarily while new homes for them are being found. These groups do not own or operate an animal shelter or place where they can keep the animals longer. At first Isabella thought that this was not a bad way of helping abandoned animals, as they were welcomed in a home rather than kept in a facility. However, Isabella soon realised that many animals were condemned to die simply because there were
not enough volunteers who had space in their homes at the time. “This situation kept repeating itself and I found it completely unacceptable. I tried to convince the members of the group to set up a shelter, and tried to discuss options for raising funds, but nobody was interested. This situation could not go on, so I had to do something about it. This is why I decided to break away and set up a shelter myself.” Over the years there has been an increase in interest in animal welfare in Japan, resulting in rising demand for animal rescue, which put animal welfare groups under enormous pressure. Isabella felt that the people in her local group had become totally overwhelmed by how deeply they had become involved in their activities. “They were not a tremendously capable group as such, but they happened to be in the right place at the right time. I always felt, however, that they wanted to keep themselves an escape route. If you set up and operate a shelter, then cannot back out easily.” Finding feasible and sustainable solutions: After she decided to set up an animal shelter, Isabella started to think about options for funding. Soon an interesting idea emerged. Having owned animals in Japan, she knew how difficult it was to get somebody to look after them when she went back to Europe on holiday. To find a decent place had been proving a complete impossibility. Isabella reckoned that there was a definite need for a boarding facility that would give animals more than just a cage and also allow them to stay for a longer period of time. The perfect solution seemed easy enough: to earn money by offering a boarding facility for animals and then use this money to rescue abandoned animals. “I sat down with my family and we discussed the idea, then looked for a suitable place. We found one and decided to go ahead. At first we wanted to get the business side set up and going strong before starting to rescue animals. However, the two sides ended up running parallel, as there were so many animals that needed rescuing.” Set up in 2007, Animal Garden Niigata, the pet hotel, and Animal Friends Niigata, the shelter, have now been running for three years. There are six members of staff, of whom four are on duty each day taking care of approximately 180 animals, which include rescued animals in the shelter as well as pets in the boarding facility. “The pet hotel is still not making enough money to fully fund the shelter. Hence I continue working part-time as a teacher at university and my husband is also helping out. With the two
Image provided by Isabella Gallaon-Aoki
Isabella cuddles with a small charge.
of us and the staff we can just about cope. Eventually I would like to go full-time but we need to get more financially stable first. I am cautiously optimistic though, as sales from the pet hotel have been increasing year by year.” The facilities include 1,500 tsubo (approximately 1.2 acres) of land and some large buildings in the countryside at the foot of a mountain. The shelter is far enough from the nearest house to prevent any problems with neighbours. At Animal Garden Niigata, the animals are not kept in cages but in rooms, which is very different from the average pet hotel in Japan. A cat family, for example, occupies a two to three tatami-sized room. The dogs have a small outdoors exercise area and the members of staff also walk the dogs. Giving the animals space helps to keep their stress levels down. “The pet hotel is increasingly in demand. Interestingly, we have quite a few customers from Tokyo, especially from the foreign community. People go back home for extended periods of time—three weeks or a month— and they want to see their pets in good hands while they are away. Niigata is 300 kilometres from Tokyo. However, since the animals can stay with us for a long time and they are in a better environment than they would be at a boarding facility in Tokyo, it makes it worth the journey.” The larger issues at hand: Animal Friends Niigata is trying to cooperate with the publicly run shelters in Niigata City and in Niigata Prefecture by taking on animals from these government facilities. This is, however, a complicated situation for Isabella and her team. “One the one hand you just want to criticise
everything, because the animal welfare situation is so horrific, but on the other hand you have to try and work with them. It is not that the people who work in the government facilities are bad. I know them personally by now and they are not bad human beings at all. They try to look after the animals as well as they can, which is a hard job for them, as the facilities are old and run down, with no heating. At least at the facility run
local animal welfare groups will not touch these issues because they are afraid.” The need for concerted action: The local animal welfare groups work only on a very small scale, and seem to have little interest in joining forces with other groups in other areas. There is also no national animal welfare organisation. Isabella thinks that these are major factors hindering the progress of animal welfare in Japan. “I and other foreigners who are involved in animal welfare in Japan have been thinking about setting up an umbrella organisation, a sort of a national shelter association, which would allow us to exchange know-how, pull resources, and help people who want to set up a shelter. Where influencing society and law-making is concerned, we also need to cooperate, because it is hard to change things unless you have a coordinated group that is pushing for change.” Co-operation amongst foreigners who run shelters exists, but it remains very limited. Other animal welfare groups have considered setting up a national cooperative league for animal welfare in the past. They approached many Japanese groups but these were not interested. The Japanese animal welfare groups prefer to stay in their local area and just do their own activities. “Yes, we do need donations to buy the things we need for taking care of the animals and for paying their medical fees. Donations of food or
The biggest problem is the way the system is set up and the rules and the laws are made, which is “ totally inadequate in this country as far as animal welfare is concerned....”
by Niigata Prefecture animals are euthanised by injection, but at the facility run by Niigata City they are still gassed. In some ways the treatment of the animals is inhuman, but this is because the people at the facilities do not have the means to do anything else.” There has been talk for several years about building a new public animal welfare facility for both the city and prefecture, but things have not been moving quickly. The plans are already made, but it is taking a long time to implement them. “The biggest problem is the way the system is set up and how the rules and the laws are made, which is totally inadequate in this country as far as animal welfare is concerned. There is no strong Animal Welfare Law, for a start. There are no regulations for animal experiments. Dog fighting is still allowed. The regulations on trading animals are also very lax. The registration for pet shops, for example, is not properly enforced and there is apparently a lot of organised crime involvement. Hence, the
pet items would also be most welcome. Yes, we do need more people who are willing to adopt animals. If they can’t adopt, then foster an animal for a period of time. Most of all, however, we need people who can help us to expand to a national level; people with some courage and ideally with some know-how in fundraising and campaigning. I strongly feel that all of us who are actively involved in animal welfare should work together in a national cooperative league. To make this happen, it has to be concerned members of the foreign community, together BAB with the local community taking action.” To find out more about Animal Garden Niigata, please visit their website (in Japanese only) www.animalgarden-niigata.com/ index.html or contact Isabella directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about Animal Friends Niigata, visit www. email@example.com.
Being A Broad January 2011
HARRISON of Sakura House Co., Ltd.
Image provided by Clothilde Harrison.
Clothilde (bottom right) with colleagues and residents at the 2008 Awaodori.
Name: Clothilde Harrison Nationality: French Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in Chinese Language and Civilization at The National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilization, Paris Job title: Sales and Customer Service Executive/ Resident Relations Executive Employer: Sakura House Co. Ltd. (A real estate company renting monthly accommodations in Tokyo, dedicated to the foreign community. www.sakura-house.com) Time in this job: since March 2008 Job description: My role has undergone a few transformations since the early days, due to
online, not only is it imperative to give a very good first impression, but also to be able to follow up throughout that resident’s stay. Recently I have become part of a greater team that is in charge of all online contact with both prospective and current residents. My role has always been diverse and constantly evolves with the needs of the moment. I love being able to do so many different things. General requirements: I guess being a people person helps. You have to love helping people and have a passion for customer service. You have to be able to solve issues responsibly and efficiently and possess language and communication skills,
’m lucky to be surrounded by quite strong, professional young women in the office, open to all Icultures and work ethics...
the changes in client demographics. Being new to Japan, my Japanese was fairly non-existent; however, I was hired for other linguistic abilities such as French (my native language), English and especially Chinese. I started out mainly assisting with translation and front desk work (involving onsite reservations, contract-signing, rent payments, claims and complaints, etc). I was in constant contact with our residents and enjoyed meeting many people every day. Over that past two years, there has been an increase in the French community, which needed to be addressed internally. In order to cope with this increase and provide a more personalised service, a French mailing service was created, and from that point on I was responsible for the “French team,” which grew to three people, all tasked with caring for this growing community of Sakura House residents. Soon after, my role slowly shifted from the front desk to expanding and developing our online inquiries and reservations, keeping the same high quality service over a broader customer base. Since the majority of our first contacts are made
because we welcome people from all around the world who can’t always speak perfect Japanese or English. Be very patient, friendly, flexible, and a team player, while appreciating each other’s support and cooperation. Oh, and have a lot of energy! Having been a stranger in a strange land myself and already having experienced most of the challenges of arriving in unfamiliar territory helps me to be able to relate and communicate with more empathy and understanding. Japanese requirement: Usually a good conversation level is needed, but luckily, in my case, my other languages were enough to get me in the door. General conditions: We work in shifts (early shift from 8:50am to 5:50pm and late shift from 11am to 8pm), 40 hours a week, overtime if needed. Sakura House is open for business seven days a week, even on national holidays. At first, because I had a dependant visa (my husband and I came here together after his work took him from Shanghai to Tokyo), I was only legally allowed to work up to 28 hours a week and consequently started as a part-timer. Recently, Sakura House has now sponsored
my working visa so that I can work full time. How she found this job: After a disappointing seven months of job hunting, I stumbled across a job fair organised by Daijob. Sakura House was one of the sponsors and had a booth there. I had to queue an hour before being able to talk to someone (they were very popular with Japanese). When I finally got to talk to someone, instead of simply allowing me to throw a one-minute elevator pitch about myself (an ordeal faced before many recruitment agencies present on that day), they took interest in my CV and arranged for an interview. Within two weeks I was starting a fresh new role in Tokyo. Best thing: I’m very fortunate to have a great working atmosphere at the office. My colleagues are very attentive, kind, and open minded, and it’s an environment of wellbeing and cohesiveness throughout. On any given day, I get to meet many interesting people from all walks of life across the globe. Worst thing: Working in the hospitality business means sometimes strange hours, and occasionally missing out on some weekend family and friends time. But this is Japan, and working hours are commonly longer than most other countries (especially with the lengthy commute times that most people have to endure). Interesting stories: Sakura House not only provides accommodation, but also often organises parties and cultural events. This helps our residents to meet and make new friends and also to discover Japanese culture and enjoy their stay in Tokyo. One of these events is the Awaodori festival that takes place in the summer. Every year, one of our landlords invites us to participate in a dancing festival in Nakameguro. You need to go to a few practice sessions, but the moves are quite easy to pick up. It involves a lot of shouting and waving your arms in the air. You train in an air-conditioned room for no more than five minutes, but the real event takes place outside during the hottest season in Japan and can last for up to a couple of hours...and is great fun. Issues affecting her as a woman: I’m lucky to be surrounded by quite strong, professional young women in the office, open to all cultures and work ethics. The usual pitfalls experienced by most women in a more often than not maledominated Japanese environment don’t exist where I work. Our office is fairly mixed, but I guess that our having a strong female boss as a role model is encouraging. Advice: Don’t give up, stay positive, build a network of relations, and look into every option that presents itself. Recommended resources: Internet, magazines, seminars, fairs, networking events… BAB it’s not easy, so keep active!
KATIE BUILT by Ali Muskett
Some of the children helped by Katie’s students.
fundraising to finally be here,” Katie says. Despite the overpowering heat and humidity, Katie listened to the informative guide talking about how his family managed to flee the atrocities of the Pol Pot era in the ‘70s, and all of her textbook reading finally came to life. September 14 came and it was at last time for Katie and her team to go to the Tabitha Foundation in Phnom Penh. After exchanging many emails with the Tabitha Foundation’s founder, Janne Ritskes, Katie was delighted to come face-to-face with this incredible woman. Katie describes Janne: “Her piercing blue eyes showed caring and love, but at the same time had a steely determination. I immediately loved this lady.” Janne would certainly need some steely determination to do what she does, all the while fighting a personal battle with breast cancer. She has worked relentlessly since setting up the foundation in 1994 employing over 400 Cambodian workers and being responsible for hundreds of homes being built. Before the building began, the group was taken to an S-21 prison, a building that was originally a school before being taken over by Pol Pot. “It’s hard to find words to describe how I felt, standing in the first room with concrete walls the colour of dirty sand, broken ceramic tiles on the floor, closed wooden shutters to block out the daylight, and
Katie recently took 15 students to Cambodia.
All images provided by Katie Elliott.
hen most mothers think of taking a trip with their 15-year-old son and his friends, it’s a trip to Disneyland or Universal Studios. They plan to ride roller coasters and eat junk food. Most mothers wouldn’t think of taking their son and his friends to Cambodia to build houses for those less fortunate. Katie Elliott did. Katie, a wife and mother living in Tokyo, has been dedicated to fundraising for the Tabitha Foundation in Cambodia for a couple of years. You may remember her name from the June/ July issue of BAB, where I introduced her and her delicious cookbook project: Oishii! Back then, she talked of her dream of accompanying a group of British School in Tokyo students in grades ten and eleven to Cambodia, to build houses as part of a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. A few months later, Katie’s dream was finally realised. On September 11, an air-conditioned coach steadily made its way through the busy streets of Cambodia. Eighteen schoolchildren excitedly chattered on board with their four adult supervisors. Katie, still able to be bemused at 38, stared out of the window at the curious sight of a passing moped carrying a family of four with chickens strung on a pole sticking out one side. She really was a world away from Tokyo (and her home town, Essex, for that matter). Before the work began, the group took some time to sample the delights of Cambodia. Siem Reap, which literally translates as “Siem defeated,” turned out to be a bustling town filled with restaurants, souvenir shops, and locals inviting tourists to ride on one of the many tuk tuks lining the streets. “The atmosphere was warm and lively, with many tourists eating and drinking,” Katie recalls. “I liked this town and felt happy to see such a thriving place.” The next day, the group visited Angkor Wat. “As we made our approach to this famous temple, I was elated after my two years of planning and
THE HOUSES THAT
“The Tabitha Houses are quite tightly packed in next to the original homes, and it must seem they are going from a shed to a palace when you see where and how they are currently living. Their old homes are mostly made of bamboo and built on the ground, vulnerable to the many floods that occur during the rainy season.” The new houses consist of four concrete supports, a wooden frame, corrugated iron roof, and bamboo flooring. Katie recalls, “The bamboo floor was hard on our knees and my first nail didn’t even move as I whacked it hard. Sweating profusely, I looked around at my team to realise that we were all in
We were there for a reason: to make a difference... It was time to give something back, to help build “ futures for Cambodian families.”
one iron bed with shackles. There was a picture on the wall of a Cambodian: gaunt, naked, lashed, and eyes so hollow. This person would have been a professional and well educated.” Katie adds, “The sights we saw were hard on our hearts and emotions came bubbling up like a burst tap. Many students cried at these scenes, others were just shocked into silence, walking with their heads down in thought. I sat for a while in this courtyard and once I had taken hold of myself I felt almost cross at my own tears. I have never suffered or been tortured. So who am I to cry?” It was with these heavy thoughts that the next day began—the first day of building. “We were there for a reason: to make a difference,” says Katie. “It was time to give something back, to help build futures for Cambodian families.”
Katie says, “We were informed of our challenges for house building, and told not to cry if we have an injury with a hammer, or break a fingernail. After all, these people’s families may have been tortured or killed and they don’t want to hear a wimpy foreigner moaning about a sore thumb.” Without wasting any time, they picked up their hammers and, in teams of four, headed to their assigned dwelling.
the same boat.” Eventually they were on a roll, a band of builders banging out a deafening tune with determination. Katie proudly watched her son, Harry, putting in a tremendous effort. She says, “I have never known him so quiet. He was absorbed in his thoughts and taking pride in his work.” All the time Katie was working, she found herself wondering what life was like for these Cambodian people. “At first sight, life seems so harsh. No luxuries like soap, TV, washing machines, cars. But they do have a well, pigs, fruit, and fish. They don’t go hungry and have no bills or mortgage to pay. They are rich in life and that seems the most important attribute. Also they are able to live with all their family members, watch them grow, and have great family support. The grass is not greener, it’s just different.” In total, Katie and her team met their target and built 16 new houses for the Cambodian people. She’s already planning to go back next spring, this time with ten girls, to build eight more houses. “Cambodia has now become a part of me,” Katie says. “I don’t think it will ever leave me. For more information about the Tabitha Foundation, see: www.tabitha.org.au/cms. BAB Being A Broad January 2011
K I M ONOS
RE-IMAGINED by Natasha Williams
All images: Adrian Tan, www.adriantan.net
At left, an original kimono. At right, the same kimono transformed by Leanne Yew into an adorable mini-dress.
itted, sexy silhouettes, daring necklines, lots of exposed back, and more than a hint of leg—not adjectives I would normally associate with the kimono. Yet these are traits of Leanne Yew’s re-imagined kimono dresses, the staple of her innovative Tokyo Kaleidoscope line. A Melbourne native, Yew has been in Japan for nearly three years and was drawn to live here after visiting twice, whereupon she fell “in love with the
knew that natural, organic fabrics could help the condition, as synthetics are notorious for aggravating it. Upon learning that Japan has one of the highest rates of eczema in the world, as well as a general lack of knowledge on how best to manage it, Yew headed over to learn more for herself and look into bringing her fashion ideas to Japan. Upon arrival, however, Leanne realised
history, culture, shopping, and food, and thought I wouldn’t mind trying to live here.” Of her background in fashion, Leanne says: “I’ve been sewing and creating things since I was little, much to the chagrin of my mother when I’d ransack her collection of bits and pieces or use her sewing machine without permission.” As a teenager, her passion for creating and fashion led to her working in stores and boutiques from the moment she was old enough. She credits this experience with teaching her a lot about fashion and customer service, which is a defining factor of the fashion industry. Upon entering university, Leanne majored in Business Management, specialising in Entrepreneurship, and in her final year she also undertook additional studies at the Melbourne School of Fashion learning the standards and practices of Australia’s fashion industry. Concurrently, Leanne was working on her final major project—a business plan for a fashion line concentrating on high-quality, fashionable basics made entirely from organic cottons, linens, silks, and other natural materials. A childhood sufferer from eczema, Leanne
that the mass-production she envisioned, no matter how organic her materials, would still be contributing to the waste inherently produced by so-called fast fashion; the recent proliferation of cheap, on-trend, mass-marketed pieces of clothing that are typically worn for only a season or two. Wanting to both minimise her contribution to the waste created by such high-turnover fashion design, as well as help to avoid that horrible moment where you show up at a function in the same outfit as your mate, Leanne began to return to her love of vintage and “unique, limited, or one off pieces,” and eventually created Tokyo Kaleidoscope, which re-imagines kimonos into modern pieces. She says that the idea to use kimonos for her clothing came when “one Sunday I was exploring a flea market and I was amazed at the amount of beautiful kimonos being sold, as there is no use for them in everyday wear now in Japan. It seemed such a waste to have these beautiful works made, often of silk or cotton, just lying there with no one to appreciate them. There was so much history to each one, and it was
been sewing and creating things since I was little, much to the chagrin of my mother...” “I’ve
sad to have them thrown away. I guess with my habit of recreating vintage clothing into a more modern interpretation suitable for how I liked to dress, I saw the opportunity to do the same with the kimonos.” After three collections, Leanne has a general idea of how to transform each kimono to make best use of each type of fabric, but “I always like to explore the idea of new creations, because that’s how the business product line grows.” The line currently encompasses maxi, midi, and mini dresses, and although kimonos are typically seen as a highly traditional form of dress, the feedback about the modern redesign is “generally positive—a lot of the elderly Japanese generation I have come across seem to find it entrancing and extremely sugoi that the kimonos have been crafted into a totally different style that is so kawaii, and most of the time the response is ‘really, this is a kimono?’ The youth of Japan have also been quite favourable to my re-interpretation, though I’ve found my styles are quite Western in the sense that while the Japanese women are comfortable showing their legs, there is hesitation to showcase the chest area—whilst back home it would be the opposite—or there would be no hesitation at all.” While she is successfully marrying Western and Japanese styles and inspiration, Leanne is aware of the differences in fashion between what one might see in Japan and what she was more accustomed to from her home town in Melbourne: “In general I find the fashion for the mass population in Japan is quite trend- and fad-focused. For example, earlier this spring I
couldn’t count how many young Japanese girls I saw walking the streets of Shibuya, Harajuku, Shinjuku, or Ginza with a flat piece of pretty floral fabric that had a wire frame inside it that allowed them to twist the ends into rabbit ears when they wore it as a headband. Recently, I’ve seen the trend of girls walking around looking as though they have a furry tail coming from their backside, as the newest ‘in’ thing seems to be to attach a long furry tail key ring to your keitai and then place your keitai in your back pocket...that did have me slightly gobsmacked. In comparison, I find that the fashion style of Australians is that they are extremely comfortable with themselves, what they wear, and how they re-interpret it to their style, especially with vintage clothing. In addition, there is a strong support for young Aussie designers and a great interest in and following for socially responsible, eco-friendly fashion. There’s an extremely relaxed confidence at home in that they have no problems combining designer swag with no makeup and some thriftstore find. I really miss that. However, I think that Japan is still one of the rare places where an individual can be different with what they wear, and the publication FRUITS is a prime example of the creative, independent, crazy, and just plain awesomeness of the Japanese fashion that I fell in love with. It’s becoming a bit more rare nowadays, but it’s still there and that’s why I love being here, because when you walk down the streets and happen to chance upon it—the thought just flies through my head: amazing, kudos to you for coming up with such a great
look and pulling it off.” So how best to combine your home-country fashion with the vagaries of the Japanese fashion world? For Leanne, “the trick is to have some (or a lot) of your favourite pieces from home here
to surround yourself with good people and a positive environment. Many of us live here alone, and being alone in a huge city like Tokyo can increase the loneliness a thousandfold, so always make sure you have good people around
I guess with my habit of recreating vintage clothing into a more modern interpretation suitable for how “ I liked to dress, I saw the opportunity to do the same with the kimonos.”
and mix them in with pieces bought in Tokyo to accentuate your personal style.” As a foreign woman in Japan, Leanne appreciates the fact that being outspoken and opinionated is more acceptable. Yet, as she is of Asian descent, she is often mistaken for being Japanese, which can cause challenges of its own: “attempting to convince someone that I’m not Japanese can itself be a challenge, even when I speak my quite horrible Japanese (I’m still learning the language). I’ve come across situations where the other party has flat out refused to believe I’m Australian because I don’t have blonde hair and blue eyes.” On the other hand, being mistaken for being Japanese has its advantages, too: “The misconception that I’m Japanese has also allowed me to just kind of sit back, relax, and observe my surroundings. I think it’s imperative to observe the going-ons around you. It’s very interesting and can let you learn a lot more than just engaging in idle conversation.” For any other foreign women interested in starting their own fashion line, or really any sort of business while in Japan, Leanne offers the following advice: “It’s imperative
you.” She also suggests learning the language, which is something she is still working on, and which can cause her difficulties as she tries to convince people that no, in fact, she really and truly doesn’t speak Japanese despite looking like she could be from here. She also suggests that women be as social as possible, as “there are so many interesting, talented, motivated people.” Finally, she offers this wisdom: “Don’t be afraid to give things a go, but have the strength to say “no” if it is not beneficial to you, your business, BAB and could hurt you in the long term.” For more information or to see or buy a dress, please email inquiries@ tokyokaleidoscope.com or visit her online at www.tokyokaleidoscope.com. There’s also a blog (http://tokyokaleidoscope. tumblr.com), Facebook group (www. facebook.com/tokyokaleidoscope), and Twitter (tkaleidoscope). Leanne has also started making custom-tailored business shirts for both men and women and can be contacted about those through the above email address.
Being A Broad January 2011
hough it can sometimes be hard to find them initially, there are tons of events going on—in Tokyo and around Japan—where foreign women can feel very much at home. While BAB offers several women and girls-only events, plenty of other organisations are offering events geared to the entire expat community, which, of course, includes plenty of you amazing women. Here we give you a peek into just a few of these great events, and hopefully insipire you to venture out to some of your own. If you’ve attended or organised an event somewhere in Japan where foreign women were in attendance, and would like it to appear in a future issue of BAB, please do send your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org, and let us know when and where they were taken. Kanpai! Brits at Night at Biervana (November 17, 2010)
TEDxAoyama: “Women’s Spaces and Places” (December 9, 2010)
ACCJ Entrepreneur Mentor Initiative at the Four Seasons Chinzan-so (November 22, 2010)
19 At the Conrad (November 19, 2010)
BAB Girlsâ€™ Night Out (November 25, 2010)
Being A Broad January 2011
arts & culture Image provided by Graham Bathgate.
STORIES OF JAPAN by Megan Kojima
Forty individual takes on life in Japan.
efore journeying to the so-called “floating world” a little over a year ago, I hadn’t a clue what to expect upon meeting Japan, even though I’d read about 15 different travel guides that told me where to stay, what to eat, where to go shopping, and what not to do and not to say. These were all very helpful in a logistical sense, and certainly helped me to get around the city without too much effort or confusion. But none of the books I read really gave me a feel for the culture, a true depiction of what would it would be like to live there, and not just visit. Stories and anecdotes are the best way, in my opinion, to understand how life works in another country. Normal guide books might gloss over these ideas, but rarely dig deep enough to be considered insightful or properly prepare you for the daily struggles you’re bound to encounter. To be honest, I could care less what restaurant is the most posh or where the trendiest venues or clubs are. What I really want to know before visiting a new country are the hilarious and awful things that happen to people when they arrive. The misunderstandings that people manage to get themselves into make for much more interesting travel reading, I think. At the least, it’s more authentic. Forty Stories of Japan totally quenched my thirst for cultural honesty. The book is a remarkable collection of first-person accounts of personal relationships with Tokyo. These stories are a perfect way for any gaijin to be introduced to Japanese culture and a great way for seasoned veterans to reminisce about their own beginnings. Voices range from a visit to a Love Hotel called Happy Dreams to an expat convinced he’s sharing his apartment with the ghost of a Japanese woman, to an ode to the appreciation of Okinawans’ resilient health; an elementary school English teacher who discovers that children really aren’t the sweet angels they are portrayed in movies to be, and an
impromptu encounter with a bear in Hokkaido with a reputation for mauling happy-go-lucky tourists. All offer uniquely witty and thoughtful memories that bring a different perspective on life. Reading Forty Stories of Japan made me feel more closely connected to Japanese culture, sparked my interest to continue learning on a deeper level, and made me laugh out loud at certain stories that mirrored my own experiences. One story in particular I could relate to was written by a naïve American man who assumed that Halloween would be taken up by his students as a magical and wonderful way to celebrate Western culture. He was sadly mistaken, realising this only after dressing like a 100-year-old woman, which caused his neighbour to scream in terror and run away. My situation was somewhat similar. I was walking towards the train station but had forgotten which direction it was located. Approaching an older Japanese salaryman in a dapper looking suit, I asked him in polite, very wonderful sounding Japanese for a helpful push towards the right way. “Sumimasen, michi ni mayotta, eki wa doko desu ka?” To which he replied in a shocked and shrill voice, “Ah! Bikkuri shita!” and in a frazzled fury, actually ran away as fast as he could from me. Me: a very short, physically unimposing young woman wearing a t-shirt and jeans. For a moment I felt a bit offended, but then realised that perhaps I should instead appreciate the fact that in Japan it is possible to walk up to a complete stranger and not worry about being mugged! In fact, it’s pretty much taken for granted. I got the chance to speak with the inspiration behind Graham’s collection, Naomi Arimura. She moved to Japan for love—and settled in with the intention of relocating for life. With three stories featured in the collection and nearly forty years of experience as a gaijin married to a Japanese, Naomi certainly has a unique version of life here to share with the world. She first made a home out in the suburban area of Chufu, which, though just outside Tokyo, had the cultural makeup of a small rural town. It was a place where some women hadn’t even ventured out to Tokyo because their entire world was located inside their house. “Women cook, men make money.” It’s a cliché that seems hopelessly outdated to me, but is still very real to a large part of the world’s upbringing and culture. The gender lines in Japan, Naomi said, are very real and sharply defined. I wondered what it was like to be married to a Japanese man, and if this had affected the way she saw herself as a woman here. “Fortunately for me, my husband is not an ordinary salaryman.” Naomi said. “He’s a musician, working at odd, unconventional times. I go to all his concerts if I can, but I don’t know
another wife who attends her husband’s concerts. I think that is my greatest sadness in Japan, that women and men tend to live totally separate lives. I can’t count the times I have been invited to a group my husband is involved in and been the only partner there.” Yes, being a foreign woman in Japan is a different experience than being a foreign man, and being a foreign wife is even moreso. Naomi became frustrated with the limitations placed on women here at first, yet attempted to conform to the society and fit in as best she could. That, she said, was a mistake. “My apparent duty to conform to a rather rigid and limited society was not as strict or heavy as I first thought. Japanese people themselves didn’t expect it and didn’t want it. They didn’t want me to be like them, they wanted to glimpse possible expansion through me.” Only through realising this was she able to break out of the idea that she had to be Japanese and from there she found freedom to explore her own identity. To her surprise, she found that Japan wasn’t as strictly conformist as she had thought. Her own country of England seemed to be just as conformist as Japan, just with different ways. This revelation allowed her to spread her gaijin wings, so to speak, and work with the culture to create her own version of how a woman should be in society. She discovered that being a foreigner worked to her advantage and was able to flourish with her positive revamping of what could have become a life of bitter resentment of a culture clashing with her own personal beliefs. But that’s the beauty of Japanese culture, in the end—it really is malleable, and is changing more and more towards embracing all things international. It’s a matter of finding the opportunities to flourish and then taking them, creating your own version of Japan. Forty Stories of Japan isn’t just a book about Japanese culture, it’s a series of voices looking at Japanese culture from the outside. On the book, Naomi commented: “Everyone’s story in the book is so different! Everyone’s style is so different. Despite its love of conformity, we have all encountered a different Japan because the places we’ve been and the people we’ve met are different and have touched us in different ways. I think that’s the charm of the book. I think it’s a unique thing that Graham has done, finding so many people with different eyes and experiences and bringing them together in myriad expressions in one book. Has anyone else ever done that before? I don’t think so.” For purchasing in Japan, contact Allan Murphy BAB (email@example.com).
she found love in Japan
FROM TRAINING PARTNER
TO PARTNER IN LIFE by Kelsey Aguirre
Top: RooG and Laura at their wedding party. Below: just after they started dating.
There’s a million reasons why I love him, so this could go on forever...he’s strong and brave and “ super good at karate. He’s funny and handsome and just all-around awesome.”
hen asked what brought her to Japan, Lauren’s story starts like many others: “In college I majored in Japanese, and I came to Yokohama from Scottsdale, Arizona in August 2004.” As a child, she had been interested in Japan and loved video games. In fact, her interest in video games made her want to come to Japan
Lauren see RooG as more than a friend. “As I was watching him fight his hardest in the final round, I realised that he was the most important person in my life. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true. At the victory party that night, we were sitting next to each other and I took his hand under the table. We’ve been together ever since.”
At the victory party that night we were sitting next to each other and I took his hand under the “ table. We’ve been together ever since.” Like many couples, they have their ups and downs. Language can be a bit of a barrier for them, but it’s also a learning point. Lauren stated that when she first met RooG, he didn’t speak any English at all. However, now he can have simple conversations. Most of their
As I was watching him fight...I realised that he was the most important person in my life. It “ sounds cheesy, but it’s true.” communication is in Japanese, which Lauren says can lead “to frustration sometimes where we can’t understand what the other is saying.” At the same time, their relationship is a very multicultural one where they can learn something from each other. “It’s great both learning about Japanese culture from him and me teaching American culture to him,” she says. Marriage was something they talked about right when they started dating. Things worked out easily for them because they both weren’t really interested in having a ceremony. Lauren said, “Finally I realised that RooG’s my best
pet parakeets. Lauren talks about RooG fondly: “There’s a million reasons why I love him, so this could go on forever. He’s nice to everybody and can find the good in any person or situation. He’s strong and brave and super good at karate. He’s funny and handsome and just all-around awesome.” She plans to keep on “enjoying every day as BAB it comes!”
Image: provided by Lauren Lasko.
and see where they were made. A single girl in Japan, Lauren met her future husband when she joined a Shinkyokushin karate AUTOMOBILES: dojo in September of 2005. Ryuji, or “RooG” BEAUTY: as he goes by, was a brown belt and Lauren was a white belt. Lauren says, “He was very nice to me from the get-go, but it was months before I finally learned his name.” Even though they both trained at the same karate school, or dojo, they were strictly platonic. In fact, both were dating other people at the time. Lauren says that they were both training for a karate tournament and RooG was very kind and patient to her. They became closer as friends during this time. Months passed. Lauren recalls that RooG got dumped by his girlfriend, and then she too was dumped. Her karate buddy now became a “shoulder to cry on.” They ended up spending more and more time together, but only as friends, since that was the only way Lauren could see RooG at the time. It took a karate tournament in 2006 to make
friend and my ideal life partner. I can’t imagine life without him.” After dating for a little over four years, they got married in March of 2010. Karate not only brought them together, but it’s one of the many things they have in common. They both also like to watch movies, experience new things, and go out to eat. They also spend their free time playing with their two
Being A Broad January 2011
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FOOD & DINING:
HAIR & BEAUTY:
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Being A Broad Resources 24
FOOD & DINING:
FOOD & DINING:
AROUND THE HOUSE:
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by CAROLINE POVER
translation by Satomi Matsumaru
ABOUT LIFESTYLES, CONFIDENCE, FRIENDSHIP, APPEARANCES, CULTURE, CAREERS, LOVE, SEX, MOTHERHOOD...
se RE d on AL R Jap EAL an qu es es e w tio om ns en fro ! m
Teacher’s Edition Alexandra Press
Being A Broad January 2011