Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Our Wintery White Christmas

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas. We certainly did!

As I said in my last post, we went away for a 3 day snowboarding trip. Late on Saturday night, we hopped onto the overnight bus from Nagoya to Tsukaieke, in Nagano. After some sleep, we woke up on Sunday morning at the foot of some impressive mountains topped with snow.

The house we stayed in was huge and fabulous! There were five bedrooms and a total of eleven beds. There was also room for futons (and a large supply of them). The house spanned over three levels. On the bottom was our own private onsen (hot spring)! It was just devine after a day of crashing in the snow. Usually Wayne can't go into the public onsens due to his very large tattoo, so it was an added bonus for him and I must say, nice and romantic for the two of us to be sitting in a large stone bath together in a room thick with steam.

The house also had a traditional hearth, known in Japanese as an "Irori". It was used in the past for cooking, be we just sat around it for warmth and the atmosphere. The food was amazing. We had our Christmas dinner on Christmas eve. It included roast chicken and salmon sashimi and was finished off with some delicious Japanese Christmas cake. Christmas cake here is actually a strawberry shortcake, which I must say, is far more delicious than the Aussie fruitcake that we have every year.

Our first day there, I attempted snowboarding. I was so bad at it! I spent more time lying in the snow, on my back like a half-dead cockroach unable to get back up! It was the first time for Wayne and my cousin Danielle, and I must say, they did much better than I did.

We woke up on Christmas morning to the most glorious weather. There was snow everywhere, under a clear blue sky. I had decided to give snowboarding a miss, so instead hired some skiis and we then all headed up to the top of the mountain where the snow was better. I worked out that that was either the 4th or 5th time that I've skiied since I was 16 years old, so I don't think I did too badly with only a couple of falls. One of those falls was incredibly embarrassing however. On my first lift trip up, I was so busy concentrating on the girl in front of me who was taking ages to get off the slope, that I forgot to get off the lift myself. By the time I realised, I had to jump into a pile of snow, where I got my skiis all tangled and did another half-dead cockroach impression. I couldn't face anyone working on that lift again, so used another one for the rest of the day.

We went to KFC of all places, for lunch that day - it was on the mountain! I was treated with some good news. My cousin Ben (Danielle's brother) had proposed to his girlfriend, Yuko, the night, before and she'd said yes! Congratulations guys! I'm going to have a new Japanese cousin! While we waited for lunch to settle, Wayne, Danielle and I made our little Christmas snowman. Don't you love my new beanie that he's wearing! Hehehe... it's actually a kids one - none of the adult ones fit my head - and has a little "L" on one side and "R" on the other in case I forget my left and right (which I do all the time by the way).

That night after we had a good soak in the bath, we were treated to a delicious meal of "nabe" and fell asleep quickly after that. We warmed up our aching bodies by another bath in the morning and followed it with a traditional breakfast of salmon. The weather that day was awful. There had been no new snow fall on the slopes and the day was cold and rainy, so we gave skiing/snowboarding a miss. Sadly we had to say goodbye to Yuko's delightful family and that afternoon, hopped back on the bus for our long trip back.

We've been home for a couple of days now and are getting ready for my brother and his wife, Carl and Leigh, to arrive to visit for a few days. They're are doing a few days on their own in Tokyo, and I'm sure they'll have a blast.

It's snowing outside my window while I'm typing this. I just love watching the big, fat, lazy snowflakes drift to the ground, especially while I'm all warm and cosy inside.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Where did that one go???

I know it's a cliche', but where on earth did that year go?

It has been such a big year. I can't believe that in the beginning of the year I was living in Australia, preparing for the wedding and for the move over here!

We're now fully settled into our lives here. Of course there are some stresses that come from living in a foreign country, especially when your language level isn't great, but mostly, all is good. We both like our jobs. I'm getting a little over a couple of my private classes and we might look at doing something about them next year. Wayne's loving Iaido and on January 14th next year has his first grading. Please send him good vibes that day ;)

I do get homesick some days. Mostly its missing my dear friends back home. I miss just being able to catch up for some hot chocolate and yummy cake at the Three Monkeys and having a good, girls chat.

One not-so-good consequence of me living here though is my weight. I was kind of hoping it would just melt off living here and eating all the delicious, healthy Japanese food. I even bought the book "Japanese Women Don't Get Old or Fat" before I came here. Well, it hasn't worked that way! I find that I'm eating more comfort food than ever. I'm even eating KFC and McDonalds on a semi-regular basis, which I never did back home! Stopping eating the comfort food has been hard, so I'm now looking at reducing the need for comfort - which for me I think means cutting down on my private classes, studying more Japanese and getting to the gym more.....

This Christmas should be a great one. Wayne and I head off for the snow in Hakuba late on Saturday night. We'll wake up surrounded by the white stuff on Sunday morning. We're both trying snowboarding for the first time. I'm a bit nervous about it, but excited at the same time. We're meeting up there with two of my cousins (one is flying in from Australia, the other lives in Tokyo). We've hired a big house with eight beds, a traditional Japanese hearth and a private hot spring!

After we get back, my brother and his wife arrive after spending Christmas with my parents in England. We're doing the traditional Japanese thing of welcoming the New Year at the temple. We've also been invited to a traditional New Year lunch at a friend's place.

I hope everyone out there has a wonderful Christmas filled with love and laughter and hope to see you again soon!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Does my bum look big in this?

Ahh... just blogging away... I haven't blogged for a while. I sometimes feel like I have to have something so very interesting, so very Japanese to write about before I can blog. It's funny though how sometimes life is just so normal over here. I go to work. I live in the suburbs. I catch up with friends. I go to the occassional movie in English. It's just really quite normal somedays. I was laughing with a friend just recently about how people back home might think "Wow, they're living in Japan, how exciting", yet the reality is I often go home on a Friday night after work and the gym, put on a pair of tracksuit pants and settle into some takeaway and a DVD with Wayne. And I love it!

One exciting thing that did happen this week though, was I got an email from the Japanzine to tell me that two of my photos had made it into the finals of the "Gaijin Eye" photo competition! One of them was a picture that I took when I went photograph training in a Sumo Beya (stable). You can see it above. The other was a Geisha picture I took in Kyoto while we were on our honeymoon in March. The issue will be coming out soon (also available on-line) so keep an eye out for it!

Wayne finished work for the year yesterday. His final week was at an elementary school. As usual, he was used as a climbing gym by the younger kids. He was pretty happy that after the week was over, he had only been patted on the balls once (by a girl I might add) and only had one "half-hearted" attempt at the "koncho".

Mmm.. the "koncho" I found someone else who can explain it better than me. He writes:

Roughly translated, koncho means "illigitimate enema." That is probably the
worst translation of all time. The kids make a fake gun with their fingers, and
shove it up my butt! If I could translate the word Koncho, and I think I can, I
would call it a "Foul proud that invokes immediate anger." Its lightyears beyond
what I was used to as a kid, the "purple nurple." A short squeeze of the nipple
was always sure to get a chuckle. Let me tell you, there ain't no one having a
laugh after a koncho.
Actually, the guy does a whole rant about the koncho, which is pretty funny. You can find it at:

I think Wayne was actually warned in his teacher training over here about them.

So, Wayne's now on holidays. I have four more days left. We will be spending Christmas up in Nagano, skiing with a couple of my cousins and some of their friends. My brother and his wife will then come to visit for a few days and after that, one of my cousins will come to stay with me. Our little apartment will be cramped for a while, but it will be great to have visitors.

This weekend, I'm trying to get all my Christmas presents bought, all my Christmas cards written and sent and my "nengajo" - new years cards, designed.

So that's what's going on in the suburbs of Japan lately..... Until next time, watch out for those Koncho!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

How many bad thoughts do you have?

Have you ever sat down to count how many bad thoughts you have? Well apparently someone in the Buddhist religion did and it came to 108.

I was eating lunch with a friend of mine the other day, discussing my plans for the upcoming New Years Eve. My brother and sister-in-law will be visiting then so we thought we’d do something quite traditional and go to a temple for the bell ringing.

My friend asked me if I knew how many times the bell was rung. From memory I thought it was 188 (it seems I have more bad thoughts than most), but was corrected and told that it is 108.

The number is not arbitrary, but instead represents the 108 bonno (mortal desires) that plagues humankind. The reverberation of each bell toll is believed by Buddhists to wipe away all the bad luck and ill deeds of the previous year. The 108th bell is rung in the first few seconds of the new year.

So that’s how I’ll be starting out 2007, with a clean slate and a year ahead of me to do 108 bad things in time for the next cleansing…..

Monday, November 27, 2006

Some Shameless Begging

I have just entered some photos in a contest and as always, left it to the last minute to submit them. Told myself I had plenty of time. Then of course - I noticed that you need votes from viewers!

The magazine is called the Japanzine (the old Alien if you were here long ago like I was). You DO need to sign up as a member though, so no worries if you don't want to..... It is a cool mag though, especially when you're living here or were living here, or want to live here, or want to visit here, or want to know what it's like for your friend to live here ......

My photos can all be seen at:

that of course is just one of the photos - you can see my others on the side.

Talking 'bout the weather

One thing I love about living in Japan is watching the seasons change. When we first arrived here in March, Wayne saw his first snow. Quickly the white of snow turned to the pale pink of the Cherry Blossoms. Their days were short-lived and the sky turned to grey for the rainy season. I always dread the end of rainy season, because it heralds the arrival of summer. The Japanese summer is long, hot, humid and exhausting. Before we knew it though, the skies had turned a clear crisp blue with faint brushstrokes of clouds to announce autumn. This year autumn was unseasonably warm so we had hardly seen the leaf colours change before the cold of winter was upon us.

It really doesn't feel like long ago that I was complaining of the heat, and now, I'm rugging up every day in multiple layers and looking at down-filled jackets. My friends back home tell me of the heat that is now building up. While I really miss the Queensland beaches in summer, I'm looking forward to a white Christmas - we're going to be up in Nagano skiing for the holiday this year.

Just so you can see if I'm my weather complaints are accurate or a little exaggerated, I've found a little weather box to put on my blog.

Mmmm best go, time for another hot chocolate to warm me up......

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Filling in the blanks

It’s funny how when you only know some of a language, your mind will work hard to fill in the blanks. I sometimes find myself watching TV over here and trying to work out what is going on and coming with a scenario in my head.

I used to play a game when watching TV of “Guess what this commercial is for”, some were easy, others, I never figured out. I remember way back watching a drama on the fateful September 11. The show abruptly ended and a scene of New York with a tower on fire was broadcast. I sat for a number of minutes trying to figure out what the commercial was advertising and musing to myself that it was going for an awfully long time.

Every morning at school, the day begins with a staff meeting. I usually stand up, say my “Ohaiyo Gozaimasu” with a brief nod of the head and then sit down and ignore the rest of the proceedings, as I have no idea of what they are all talking about. Recently, I heard something about a female, a measurement in centimeters and a hospital. I assumed that someone had had a baby. How wrong I was! It was in fact about an elderly woman who had left a local hospital and was now lost. Everyone was being asked to keep an eye out for her.

I am lucky that I work with three other native English speakers. It somehow takes the edge off the isolation that can sometimes be felt over here. Jason, who sits next to me, has the highest level of Japanese out all of us. We sometimes rely on him for translations. After the morning meeting on Friday, he turned to me and told me
“There’s a ghost in the school”.

Jason loves a joke, so I simply turned to him and asked “What are you talking about now?”

“No, seriously! They were talking about it in the morning meeting! They were very concerned and said that something had to be done about it. They were talking about an obake. Obake means ghost!” he told me all excited.

Japan takes its ghosts a little more seriously than we do back home, so it didn’t sound that unbelievable. Where was the ghost? What are they going to do about it? I wanted to know.

It was a couple of hours before we had that one cleared up. The teachers had indeed been talking about an Obake but it had a different meaning. They were using to term to refer to a person that reserves a room and then doesn’t turn up to use it.

I can tell you, I’m never going to forget the word for ghost now.

Those Love-Hate Days

I haven’t written for a while, I have had blog posts running through my head but have been really busy.

Most of the time I love living in Japan. I love how simple and healthy life can be over here. I love the innocence of most of my students. I love the lack of aggression. I just love the standard of service no matter where you go.

There are days however that I hate it. Last Sunday was one of those days. It had been a bit of a rough week proceeding it. With the birth of Mel’s adorable little boy, Wayne’s and my thoughts had turned to the more logistical side of our future family plans.

We had always thought that in a number of years, we would start our family over here. We love the idea of raising children, at least for a number of years, in a bilingual environment. Once they were coming up to school age, we would decide how and where we wanted them educated.

But recently, a deeper fear and loneliness seems to have set it. I joked to a friend that it seems I’m going through post-natal depression on Mel’s behalf. I have started to worry about my low level Japanese and dealing with doctors. I have worried about the difference in attitudes to childbirth here. But mostly I have worried about the lack of support and being isolated. I have some really dear, giving friends here, but everyone has their own lives to lead as well. We also don’t want our friendships to change into something else because we lean too heavily on people for help.

So a week of nutting over plans, different ideas and late night talks had exhausted us. On Sunday, doing even the simplest of tasks just seemed so difficult. We had a form to fill in and be faxed off, something that would be done in a flash had we been dealing in English, but instead saw us screaming at each other, tears of frustration flowing and doors would have been slammed had our paper sliding doors been up to it.

I’m just not sure how we’d go raising a child over here when we can’t do the basic things. We’ve had an eight month drama of trying to order a computer, I’ve had problems with my visa and hence haven’t even been able to get a bank account and then there was all the stress with dealing with doctors and the hospital while Wayne was sick.

Monday luckily brought an upturn to our feelings. That night we had dinner at a sweet, kind friend’s house. She has us over every few weeks. While she and her husband don’t speak English, we always have a wonderful night and leave feeling loved.

We still haven’t decided what the best plan of attack is for baby plans, but we have a little while yet to think about that. Now I suppose, its time to go back to loving this place…..

Thursday, November 16, 2006

So just how cute are you?

I learnt a new Japanese proverb today. Jason, one of the guys I work with was telling me about his son. He said something along the lines of "He's so cute, you could stick him in your eye and it wouldn't hurt." My response? "Whaaaaaaat??????"

He was translating the Japanese proverb,

"me ni iretemo itakunai" 目に入れても痛くない

otherwise translated as "Even if it pokes me in the eye, it wont hurt (it is VERY cute!)" or "Even if I stick it in my eye, it won’t hurt".

Interesting idea...... thanks for that one Jason.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Kawaii or Kowai?

As in many languages, Japanese has some words that sound similar. Some of them can then be rather embarrassing to confuse…. My personal mistakes include kirei (beautiful) and kirai (to hate); I was trying to tell my hairdresser that I hated my hair and instead I told her that I thought it was beautiful, ningen (human being) and ninjin (carrot) and for some reason, kakigori (shaved ice) and gokiburi (cockroach); one summer found me telling my friend a number of times that I really wanted to eat a cockroach.

A pair that I have always been very careful of are kawaii (cute) and kowai (scary). Soon after I arrived in Japan the first time, I was told a story of a guy who saw a baby on the train and told the mother “Oh, he’s so scary” and couldn’t understand why the woman looked rather upset.

Japan loves all things kawaii and the word is thrown around, sometimes rather loosely. Often at school, I will have girls gushing at me telling me I am kawaii. I admit, I like the flattery, but it can be rather off putting while in the middle of explaining an important grammar point to a class.

Now, I don’t often get angry at a class, but it does happen on the occasion if I’m in a particularly foul mood or if they are being really annoying. One such day, my class was being really rowdy and would not quiet down. I’d had enough and went off. My diatribe went something like this;

“Everyone, BE QUIET! I’m serious! You have your interview tests today and I am trying to explain something very important. Now you want to be quiet because if you are not, I am going to be in a VERY bad mood and if I’m in a very bad mood, you will get a bad score on your interview test. So now everybody LISTEN”

The hushed atmosphere of the room as everyone looked at me, mouths open, gave a moment of false hope that I’d had some effect, until… one of the girls at the front of the room, in a loud voice gushed…


I turned bright red and quietly said, “Kawaii jyanai deshoo, kowai deshoo?” (I’m not cute, I’m scary aren’t I?). Mmmm so much for my attempt at being scary.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

My Cafe Press Store

So what exactly does one do during a seven week summer holiday when it's too hot to go out side? Personally, I hid out in one of my two airconditioned tatami rooms.

To amuse myself, I played on the computer, started this blog and my Kimono Reincarnate blog and started taking my Cafe Press store seriously.

In the store, I load up my images and then choose what products they can be sold on. Since I've started I've made a few sales, which is always exciting. Wayne and I have also ordered a few things for ourselves. I plan to add more designs regularly. Anyway, if you're interested, it's on:

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Congratulations Mel and Seigo!

That big bump Mel has been carrying around for a while now finally burst and out came a little boy (hehehe... so I was right hey Mel - it WAS a boy...).

They have called him Ryder and both mum and bub are doing well.

Congratulations guys!

Kitty-chan does Sumo

This is just soooo wrong. Hello Kitty, or Kitty-chan as she's known over here, as a sumo wrestler. I picked this little one up at the last Nagoya sumo tournament.

Personally, I think she looks far cuter in the sumo apron.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Mino Lanterns

Last night, Wayne and I went to Mino with Natsuki and Ikuko to see the lanterns. We had sadly missed the big festival last month due to Wayne being "diseased in the head". In the festival in October, the old cobbled streets of mino are lined with hundreds of lanterns in its annual competition.

Mino is famous for its handmade paper, so all the entries into the competition must use Mino Washi - Mino's handmade paper. Some of the pieces are truly amazing and the old town looks magical.

There were only a small number of the lanterns to be seen last night, but it was a lovely evening, the moon was bright in the autumn sky and the air was crisp. We can't wait to go again next year.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Candy Lady

It constanty surprises us the warmth of the Japanese people around us. Even though we are "gaijin" they often make us feel welcome and take us into their homes and their hearts. This is a story of one of those brief, yet memorable moments that happened to me a few years ago.......

The early hours of a fresh winter morning found me trudging from home on my way to the train to Osaka. I was laden with a large camera bag and a heavy backpack swearing that I really should learn that I can live for three days with less than five pairs of shoes and half my wardrobe. My coat, scarf, woollen hat and gloves were doing little to keep away the biting cold. I tramped through the narrow track patched with snow between the vegetable gardens on the way to the station. It was early, even for the Japanese, except for maybe one that day. Tending to the leeks in a garden, the folds of the earth resembling the creases in her face, was a stooped-over little nonagenarian Japanese woman. She looked up at me in surprise.

In cute old style Japanese she asked me, "Now where are you off to today dear?"

"I'm going to Osaka" I replied. She looked surprised. I don't think she fully expected me to understand.

"Why are you going there?" she asked.

"Oh, I'm just going on a trip. I've never been there" I replied, glad that I could now speak enough Japanese to easily hold an exchange like this.

She looked in the direction I'd come from a little puzzled and queried, "Well, where do you live?"

"I live in Akane-cho", to which she looked surprised as the suburb only consisted of a few streets.

"So do I," she replied, her eyes first betrayed a little surprise and then softened as if looking at a loved one. Her wrinkled bony, yet strong hands reached into her apron and pulled out a handful of candy. "Now you look after yourself for me won't you dear," I was instructed as I had the sweets thrust upon me. I suddenly felt like I was ten again and this was my grandmother dishing out sweets as I was on my way out the door to play with my friends. Although my family were so far away, I felt welcomed, as I had so many times in Japan, into the bosom of another family.
I bid her farewell and then hurried onto the train station. The tears in my eyes were partly from the biting cold and partly from the happiness created by a sudden, unexpected warming in my heart.

Friday, October 20, 2006

More about that devil

A while ago I wrote about the Japanese equivalent of "While the Cat's Away..." I said it was "Oni no inu aida ni sentaku" or "Wash your clothes while the demon isn't around".

A friend of mine has since given me some more information on this saying. She says;
That means, to "Refresh myself while the demon (ogre) is
away" or "Wash my life in the demon's absense" in direct translation. This
proverb is usually translated into English as "When the cat's away, the mice
will play" because the image of the demon is a cat for a mouse. In other words,
in Japan, the image of the demon is a husband for a wife.

In Japan, generally, husbands are
bossy to their wives, so the wives are obedient to the husbands, on the
. Sooooo Japanese wives intend to refresh themselves while the
husbands are away on a business trip or something.

Another proverb might prove the
above opinion. "Teishu genki de rusu ga ii". This means, "It is best for wives,
both husbands' health and their absence". Japanese wives definately like their
free time, like me. That means enjoying travelling, theatres and learning

I think
what you thought is natural, because Australian men are kind to their wives.
Australian husbands aren't the demon!

Thanks a lot for that Nakai-sensei!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Festival Floats

Festival Girls

Monday, October 09, 2006

Tsushima Autumn Festival

A couple of weeks ago, dad came for a brief visit. Luckily he's been to Japan a couple of times now, so there wasn't the usual pressure to experience as much of Japan as possible in a few days. He's been to many places but hadn't yet experienced a Japanese festival. I thought it was about time to change that.

We jumped on a train and headed off for Tsushima. While it was quite an easy journey, I still felt the stress of being a guide and going somewhere I hadn't been before.

When we arrived to Tsushima, it didn't have a festival day feel to it, but we trudged off to the shrine anyway. On the way, we saw one float, or portable shrine being taken out of storage and polished. The float was 300 years old the local men informed me.

Even before we saw the impressive vibrant red gates, we knew we were going in the right direction due to the flute music playing a festival song that was drifting down the streets. Like in the story of the Pied Piper, I'm drawn to that sound.

Towering above the small festival crowd were two startling floats. Sitting in the bottom level, hidden by exquisitely embroidered curtains were the source of the music. Children playing taiko drums beat the rythym for cat-stangling sounding flutes. Perched high above them were puppets clad in colourful traditional clothes. Hidden between the two levels was a dexterous puppeteer.

Dad and I then followed one of the floats as it was wheeled through the streets. Once a corner had to be turned, the men tilted it to a precarious angle and very slowly, with lots of grunting swung it around.

We were befriended by one of the shrine pullers. He told us a little of the history of his float and poured us beer. I tried to refuse the beer, but was told that it didn't matter if I didn't drink, I still had to drink that day in order to purify myself for the Gods. Well, if that's not a good excuse to drink.....

Beer in hand, we watched the magic of the puppeteer. A brush loaded with fresh ink had been placed in the puppet's wooden hand and its manipulator had hidden from view in the floor below. The music began once more and the puppet began to move. With more co-ordination than I think I have, the doll carefully wrote the God's name on a mounted piece of paper. Once the calligraphy was complete it was let fly and handed to the Shinto Priest who later gave the offering to please the god.

I really have fallen in love with the festivals in Japan. I think it's due to the sense of history, tradition and the true feeling of celebration; celebrating life, celebrating the change of seasons and celebrating the fertility of the land.

"Diseased in the Head"

Oh my! What a week!!!

Wayne and I got to see a side of Japan that quite frankly, I hope we never have to see again. A Japanese hospital. Not because it was a Japanese hospital, but just because it was a hospital.

It all started on Tuesday night, with my big strong and usually healthy boy being very sick and a funny shade of green. On Wednesday I got him to a general doctor who then sent him off to emergency who then admitted him to stay in the hospital. It was all very scary.

Luckily, the doctor at the hospital was so sweet and cute, oh and could speak enough English to make us feel comfortable.

He did had a funny way of putting things though.....

He told us that it was an inner ear problem that was making Wayne sick. We had thought as much. But I think the stocky little doctor wanted to make sure we understood, so he continued with lots of enthusiasm;

"It's in his head, he's diseased in the head. He has a mental disease."

Had I been feeling any less stressed and freaked out, I would have asked to get that in writing.

The boy has now been released from hospital, much to our relief. He'll still go to the hospital everyday for a few more days and be put on a drip for an hour or so.

We're just so touched in all the support we've had from our friends here, friends and family back home and from my work. It's so comforting to know that we're not alone and help is always close by.

Bye for now from the woman whose husband is "diseased in the head".

Monday, September 25, 2006

ParaPara Girls

It's school festival season in Japan, and well, I love a festival!

Recently my school was a hive of activity while the students prepared for their cultural festival. In the afternoons, after class I would walk around the campus and see boards being cut, painted and nailed together. Other students would be practicing drumming on large tyres and others dancing. The build up and the anticipation was exciting.

On the first day of the festival, a Sunday, Wayne and I rose early to make it to the taiko performance in the opening ceremony. We weren't dissapointed, the students put on an impressive show.

The rest of the morning, we wandered around, watched different shows, sampled yummy fair food and checked out the classrooms. Each homeroom had put on a different display - anything from a dominos track, a home-made rollercoaster, robotics to art.

Wayne was also on display it seems as many genki students came to meet this mystery man by my side. Excited girls asked of me "Darling, darling?" My response of this is my husband was met with giggles. The giggles got more animated when Wayne would introduce himself in his deep voice.

One group of fun girls that I teach were decked out in colourful yukata and put on a ParaPara performance. To explain parapara it's a dance done with mostly hand movements, in a set pattern. They looked so cute and I was like a proud parent.

This is my first every video, so please excuse the quality, but you can get a bit of an idea the dance from it.

Happy viewing

Shocking Baths

After a long week of walking around Kyoto, Wayne and I decided we really deserved a good long soak in a hot bath. Without an onsen, a natural hot spring close by, we chose a sento, a public bath in the vicinity.

On our way we got quite lost due to misreading the guidebook map and wandered around the warren created by narrow Japanese streets. The cold rain fell steadily and was threatening to become sleet. That hot bath was becoming more and more appealing.

Once found, the building itself was rather non-descript and the entry a little cold as we removed our shoes. We had already inserted our umbrella into the specially made umbrella locker but were having trouble fitting Wayne’s large gaijin shoes into a shoe locker. Eventually we were able to get the shoes each into a different locker if we turned the shoe at just the right angle. We turned in opposite directions and made our way to the segregated baths.

The locker room was on the bottom floor and luckily a little warmer than the entry. The floor was tatami matting and the room contained old coin-operated hairdryers and massage chairs. Hopping onto the scale in the room I was a little shocked at how much weight I’d gained from sampling all the delicious, warming Japanese winter food and snacks despite trudging from one temple to the next, day after day.

Undressed, I felt vulnerable with nothing covering my ample flesh except a small hand towel held strategically in front of me. I stepped into the elevator. This was my first time to be in an elevator naked. The ride upwards was a little thrilling and a little embarrassing at the same time.

I glanced around me at the first bathing floor, saw a number of baths, some bubbling, some still and rows of showers mounted at belly button height in front of mirrors. After collecting a cheap looking stool and bowl from a pile at the wall, I chose a shower in the corner, took out my shower gel and began the obligatory ritual of scrubbing from head to toe before entering the shared pools of water.

So as to not have to walk too far exposed, I approached the closest bath. As I tentatively dipped my left foot in, my flesh was seared from the heat, I could almost feel capillaries breaking. I took a deep breath and slowly let the rest of my body follow my foot into the blistering water. I waded towards the bubbling jets and decided that once the burning pain eased off, it was actually quite nice. I relaxed there for a while and began thinking about exploring the other baths.

Next to me was an innocent looking, small rectangular bath. It had no steam rising from it unlike many of the others so I thought it might be cold. I dipped my hand in, and to my surprise, my hand shot straight out of its own accord. The reaction was so fast I wasn’t sure what had happened. I was confused. Maybe it was really cold, I didn’t really know as no sensation had actually registered in my brain. This time, with more determination I broke the surface of the still water with my hand. Again, albeit a little slower, my hand shot out. I was shocked. Literally! I had heard about these baths, but believed them to be a Japanese urban myth. It was an electric bath!

I sat there for a while looking into the deceiving water. How could a person bathe in electricity? All my life I’d been warned of the dangers of mixing water and electric power, and yet right next to me was a pool of water writhing with live, possibly deadly energy. No warning signs! Nothing! Nervous to be even too close to this bath, I hopped out to explore the other baths on the other side of the room and upstairs.

There I found nothing terribly unusual; an iron-rich bath that looked liked a pool of soy sauce occupied by a wrinkled woman eating Japanese oranges; a couple of hard showers rigged up like waterfalls; a rooftop rock bath in a garden of imitation bamboo with a view of the grey clouds; a sweltering sauna with a TV screen showing an over-acted Japanese soap opera and an ice cold bath.

I returned to the showers to wash away the salty sweat from the sauna. As I sat on the low chair, in the reflection of the mirror I saw an old hunched over Japanese woman, whose drooping breasts appeared to have supplied many a feed for children long ago. She was headed toward the electric bath! I wanted to yell out, I wanted to warn her, but before I could decipher the Japanese required in my head, she had already descended the stairs and was waist deep in the water. All sense of public bath etiquette flew out the window as I whipped around and stared directly at her. A serene look had come over her face. She slowly opened her eyes and returned my gaze.

“Isn’t it dangerous” I asked incredulously in Japanese.

“Not at all” she assured me. “It feels really good on my hips.”

She gave me a benevolent smile and suggested I try the bath on the other side of her. Almost like a good grand-daughter, I did.

While I sat there with jets manipulating my flesh from every angle, I noted a pink egg timer that the woman had set next to her. “How long can you stay in that bath”, I asked.

“About three to five minutes” she told me.

We both sat relaxed as the sand worked its way down through the timer, needing nothing more than smiles for communication.

The last grain of sand fell on the bottom heap and the woman nodded her head slightly to me as she climbed out of the bath. I was now on my own.

“If an old woman like that could survive the bath, then surely so could I”, I told myself.

It took a few minutes to build up the courage and I checked that there was no-one hidden in the thick steam to witness any embarrassing behaviour if I couldn’t.

Tentatively, I edged towards the inert bath. “Still time to back out”, I thought. I continued on, took a deep breath and dipped my toe into the water. Nothing. No reaction. Once again, I was confused.

I worked my way down the steps and stood in the centre of the bath. Quickly I jumped back as I had felt the current working on my thighs. Though not visible, there seemed to be currents at either side of the tub in the middle. They were set out in such a way that only a localized area was affected at any one time. I worked my way back until I felt a tingling sensation on my leg. It was like a bad case of pins and needles. Not too painful, but still strange. I raised one leg to place my tired calves in front of the current and watched in amazement as my muscles tensed of their own accord. A little braver now, I explored the sensation over different parts of my body and brought my body closer to the outlet to increase the strength. I sat on the ledge to have the electricity work its debatable magic on my lower back. As I relaxed my forearms dipped into the water. The effect of all the muscles curling up made me feel strangely helpless and out of control, so I vowed to keep them out of the water from then on.

I’m not sure if I managed a whole three minutes in the bath, but nevertheless I felt proud of myself, I felt brave, I felt like I had overcome a fear. I showered and took the final naked elevator ride back to locker room to dress and once again confront the cold wet Japanese streets ready for another adventure.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Things you can buy in Japan

I just turned on the TV to watch as I eat lunch and ended up on a shopping show.

They were showing a product which when pasted on, will give the user a "double eyelid". It's like a glue that changes the traditional Japanese eyelid shape to a more Western look. A little freaky!

The picture at the side is a product available in stores for the same purpose. They are little stickers that are places on the lid, pressed in place with the plastic stick and Wahla! Double Eyelids!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

One of the joys of teaching a second language is the amusement that can be found in the students’ Engrish. I know I make a mess of the Japanese language, my students certainly come up with some real gems of their own.

"I would be healthier if I excavated regular stools." A homework answer to
the question of how to be healthier.

"My front hair line is in big trouble." A student talking about his receding hairline.

"You can drink the water that comes out of the cock." A student's explanation of a sign that indicated that the tap was for drinking water.

Question asked of a student, "Have you ever had a bad day?" Reply,
"Yes, I have. I've been bound hand and foot several times." Mmm a little
too much information there.....

"He... goes home, goes to bed and sleeps around." The correct answer should have been he "sleeps late".

"....I'm impotent..." the intended meaning was "helpless". A reason why not to always trust your dictionary.

"Today, I went to the massage parlour". I had fun explaining this one. Luckily, I knew the phrase in Japanese for a brothel, "soap-land". The girl though, had simply gone for a massage.

"The cherry blossoms are hyaku (100) percent open."
This was a creative attempt at telling me the Cherry Blossoms were in full

"I really want have deep sleep in someones softry brest."
Again, maybe a little too much information....

“My mother…… my mother…. my mother…. my mother….. cook….. eat me.” polished off with a broad smile happy that he could answer the test question successfully. The question? “What club do you belong to?”.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Remembering Spring

“Oshoi, oshoi!”
Wild paper blossoms dancing in the wind
Scent of sake through narrow streets
Mino celebrates spring

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Rainmaker

Call me the rainmaker.

With the Japanese love to put people into categories, one is related to the weather. They say that people are either "sunny" or "rainy". If you are a "rainy person" then on important days of your life and when you travel, it will rain. Obviously, it works the other way around if you're a "sunny person". If a sunny and a rainy person travel together, it may be cloudy or if it rains, that means that the rainy person has more "power".

Always when I would travel with my friend Natsuki, it would rain. She is a self-confessed rainy person, so I would just blame her for our bad luck in weather, telling her that she had a lot of power. She repeatedly denied that it was all her fault and said that just like her, I would bring on the rain.

This argument continued for years until my wedding day. A couple of months out of cyclone season, I not only got rain, but a mini-cyclone especially ordered for the day. There was no longer any doubt about which way I swung.

Last week, I went back to Brisbane for a brief holiday. Brisbane has been in a bad drought for a while now, no rain, no moisture, everything is bone dry. On her way to pick me up from the airport, Christine who has heard the "rainy person/sunny person" argument for years looked up at the clouds forming in the sky and said, "Maybe she is a rainy person after all". A couple of days into my trip, the skies opened up and down came the rain, not a small drizzle, not a light shower, but heavy downpours. Call me the rainmaker! I've decided that I could use my powers for good and will travel for good food and good accomodation to areas in need for a little of that wet stuff.

I left Brisbane on Thursday and wonder what happened to the weather.....

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

While the cat's away.....

I'm going away for a few days and leaving Wayne behind. He SAYS he's going to miss me but I think he's looking forward to the quiet.

A friend taught us the Japanese equivelent of "While the cat's away the mouse will play" it goes like this:

"Oni no inu aida ni sentaku" or "Wash your clothes while the demon isn't around"

Umm... not sure I like being called a devil, but I really don't mind if he does the washing while I'm gone!

Will post again when I get back.


Monday, August 21, 2006

Meeting the new neighbours

This happened a number of years ago, of course I'm far too wise to do something like this now......

I had just moved into a new apartment, or rather “mansion”, as that style of building is called in Japan. The flat overlooked rice paddies and some narrow roads, none of which had street lighting. In my first week there I arrived home quite late one night. Well, late by rural Japanese standards. It was 10pm. All the outside lights were off, leaving the apartment block very dark indeed. I was having great difficulty finding my door, let alone the keyhole.

In Australia, it’s usual to find a timed light switch if the external lights are turned off at night. Being a stupid gaijin, I assumed it would be the same in Japan. Next to the elevator I saw a button and assuming it was the light switch, I pushed it.

Suddenly, a piecing sound rang out through the building. I quickly realised the button was in fact for the fire alarm.

My body froze as my mind raced. "Should I run and hide in my apartment with the lights off and pretend I'm not home?" I thought. Remembering that it was my inability to find my keyhole in the dark that got me into this position to start with, I discounted that as an option. "Should I hide in the dark corner? Should I run from the building until the alarm stops?" I resigned myself to simply standing where I was and looking bewildered. They were going to realise it was the stupid gaijin and soon it was too late anyway.

All the neighbours arrived on the third floor to see what the emergency was. I bowed my deepest bow about a million times crying "Sumimasen, gomennasai, sumimasen, gomennasai" - Excuse me, I'm sorry.

To make matters worse, I tried to explain that I was looking for the light, where was the light? They may have understood what I was babbling about in my limited language if I had been using the word for light, "denki" but instead I was ranting the word "denchi", meaning battery. They just looked at me like I was a lunatic (or a gaijin for that matter, it equates to the same thing) as I was ranting "Denchi nai, denchi doko?" (No battery, where battery?).

Eventually, I ran, blindly forced the key into the dark keyhole and left my neighbours looking baffled outside my door. I was too embarrassed to look any of my fellow residents in the eye for a month.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Accessories not included

Wayne's new friend, or should I say sidekick?

Waving honesty in his face

I bought this fan the other day just because it made me laugh. In case you can't read what it says in the picture
ok, I'm gonna be your girl.
and then what can you give me?

Engrish T-shirt

Friday, August 18, 2006

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Kyoto Maiko-san

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Japanese TV Commercials

There are some great, some funny and some downright weird commercials over here.

This one is a really cute one for Japanese tea:

And this one is .... well I'll let you decide:

If you want to check out some more strange Japanese TV, click on the link to TV In Japan.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Now that's a beat you can really dance to!

I saw this video the other day. It is soooo cute!

You can see it on:

Japanese Swimming Pools Rules

A friend recently told me that she had five criteria for what she considered to be a reasonable swimming pool in Japan. There were (1) it was outside (2) she didn't have to wear a swimming cap (3) she didn't have to wear goggles (4) she could wear whatever type of swimmers she liked and most importantly (5) she DID NOT have to do any exercise.

It reminded me of my first trip to a Japanese swimming pool......

I had quite a bizarre experience when I went to the local public pool for the first time. Before entering the locker room, I checked out the number of people in the pool, which was about 30 at the time, not bad at all by Japanese standards. After showering, changing and putting on my regulation swimming cap, I came out to the pool again, but now, there was not a single person in the pool, or the wading pool, or the walking pool, or the spas. They were all sitting in chairs around the edge. I realised how paranoid I had become when I thought the reason may have been that they had heard a filthy gaijin was about to enter and no one wanted to be in there at the same time.

Using my broken Japanese I asked a woman what was happening. After a number of attempts, I finally understood that every hour, on the hour, there is a compulsory ten minute break. I joined everyone else in the chairs and waited. As the minute hand ticked over to ten, bells rang and everyone stood up. I made my way towards the pool, eager to hide my gaijin body under the water and start my laps. I stopped quickly as I noticed no-one else had moved more than a step away from their chairs. Then the music started. It was accompanied with a recorded voice chanting “ichi, ni, san, ichi, ni, san” and the whole room began choreographed stretching exercises while watching the lone, very confused gaijin at the starting blocks. I crept back and unenthusiastically joined in so I wouldn’t stand out any more than I already did, though I flatly refused to do the star jumps in my swimmers.

Eventually we were allowed back into the pool and I was thinking I had stumbled upon some sort of strange, nerdy Japanese cult. A very friendly gentleman with surprisingly good English explained to me the point of the ten minute break was so the lifeguards could ensure no-one was dead at the bottom of the pool. So, the moral of the story seems to be, if you are planning on drowning in Japan, it is best to time it towards the end of the hour or you may be waiting a while to be rescued.

About a year later, I took a group of students to Nagashima Spa Land, a giant water and amusement park. I emphasise the word giant. It contains one of the largest roller coasters in the world. So we trooped up with about forty students in the heat of summer, through crowds that only Japan can produce. Luckily we had reserved our "spot". This "spot" was in a large, multistorey concrete building with no walls. Basically it was a car park for people. Our area was roped off with the school's name signed at the front. We put down our bags and were ready to hit the water. Well, squeeze into the water may have been a better description. They may have served well hiring the subway pushers to fit everyone into the pools. No sooner had I finally managed to get wet from head to toe when the chimes rang.

After living here for a while, I had become accustomed to Japan and its love for chimes and had developed a great ability for ignoring them. No-one else was ignoring them however and were obediently leaving their precious places in the water, gathering by the edges. I had also been teaching in Japan for long enough to follow like an obedient sheep when students were around. Ever the good gaijin. So what was going on? The water park also enforced a ten minute break every hour! I laughed at the thought of them trying that back home.

There were a couple of guys that intelligently thought this was the perfect time to get a real swim in with the whole pool to themselves. They were of course gaijin. Who else would flaunt the rules?

The lifeguards were at a loss. They looked in disbelief. They looked at the swimmers. They looked at each other. They looked back at the swimmers. No, it wasn't their imagination. They were still in there. They pulled out their whistles and blew a piercing sound in unison. The swimmers looked up and looked back at all the free space in the water around them. They weren't going anywhere. They were determined to get a good swim for their $50 ticket. I watched them amused and slightly envious. I longed to join them, but to do so in full sight of students would be scandalous. The lifeguards were yelling through megaphones, all five of them surrounding the pool. This was as ineffective as the whistles. There was only one option left, to go in there and get them. They looked terrified. Who knew what effects the water might have during the sacred ten minute break? It might have turned to acid, you would have believed it if you'd seen the look on the lifeguards' faces. Just as they were cautiously wading in they were swallowed by the crowd eager to get back in the water, as the stretching exercises had been done on mass and the chimes to indicate the end of the break had rung. The lifeguards waded out looking relieved. A confrontation with the big, scary, disobedient gaijin had been avoided. Ahh gaijin, what troublemakers they are.

I got tagged!

Mel has asked me to write five weird things about myself. Weird? There's nothing weird at all about me! I'm totally and utterly, boringly normal I swear. My lovely dear husband however was quick to jump in and point out a lot more than 5 strange things about me. He says he still loves me for my quirks (well most of them anyway).

So here goes....

1. I find the texture of food equally if not more important than the flavour. For example, I HATE corn. Those horrible little yellow bubbles that squirt in your mouth are just disgusting! HOWEVER, corn soup with all the bubble pre-busted, I love. I also hate slimy foods like fresh mango. BUT I love mango juice and especially love mango sorbet. Along the same lines is softdrink. You see I’m not a fan of carbonated drinks, so I’ll pour out some diet coke and then stir it up to get rid of as many of the bubbles as possible. I believe that a bottle of soft drink is at its prime about a week after it has been opened and is lovely and flat.

2. Pretty much everyone that knows me, knows that I love chocolate. BUT what most people don’t know is that for a while now, chocolate leaves a really horrible aftertaste in the back of my mouth. This however has not stopped me from eating chocolate or even reduced my consumption. To solve the problem, I follow the chocolate with a chaser, usually, more chocolate. When that runs out, the chaser will be a drink or otherwise I will go and brush my teeth. It has been the same with Minties since I was a kid, hense I’ve never been able to stop at a single Mintie. Mmm would this be classed as an addiction?

3. My eyes change colour. They go anywhere from blue to green to grey. They are at their most beautiful when I have an awful hangover or am really dehydrated.

4. I dream vividly. Not unusual in itself. But what I dream will then affect me for the rest of the day. Sometimes I will wake up in the morning really angry with Wayne. The conversation goes a little like this:
W: “What’s wrong?”
M: “You were so mean to me last night.”
W “No I wasn’t!”
M “Yes you were! In my dream.”
W “But that was just a dream honey.”
M “Of course I know it was. But there must have been some reason that I dreampt it.”

The day then continues with me being mad and Wayne having resigned himself to the fact.

5. When I was a kid, I had a theory about how the “walk” signs worked at traffic lights. I believed that the button you pushed to indicate that you wanted to cross the road was connected to a miniature hammer. This tiny hammer, with the aid of lots of tiny pulleys and levers would then hit a little ant on the head who was sleeping on a tiny bed. Sleepily, he would then walk across the road, via an underground tunnel and wake up the other ant at the other side, sleeping on his tiny little bed. The first ant would then walk back to the other side (a little more awake and energetic now). Once he got to his side, both ants would hold up their little green cardboard “Walk” signs. I felt the evidence for this was that at times you were impatient and you keep hitting the button repeatedly, it always took longer for the walk sign to come up. This was because when you kept hitting the button, you were in turn hitting the ant on the head. This would annoy him, so he would deliberately walk slower because he was angry at you.

So that would be it folks! If you want to have a looks at Mel's endearing little quirks, click on the "Mel and Seigo" link at the side.

So while, not all of you have blogs, I'm tagging:
  1. Christine
  2. Leigh
  3. Joan
  4. Danielle
  5. And anyone else who would like to do it.

Please leave some in the comments if you don't have a blog!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Obon Festival

In the middle of the steamy heat of summer in Japan falls a festival filled with lanterns, all night dances and ghosts, well the spirits of deceased ancestors at least. This Buddhist festival is called “Obon”. It has been likened to the American Halloween but is much more a religious event than one of pumpkin lanterns, fancy dress costumes and candy.

In many places here it falls around the 13th to the 15th of August though because traditionally the date was taken from the Lunar calendar this can vary in different areas. This festival is seen as a time to honour the selfless acts of the families’ ancestors.

At the beginning of the festival season, graves are cleaned and spirits are welcomed home with fires and lanterns helping guide them. They are offered food, flowers and incense and prayers are often said.

At the end of the festival fires are lit once more to remind the houseguests that it’s time to return to the world of the dead and to guide them on their way, in the knowledge that they will come home again next year.

In the middle, dance festivals are held, known as bon-odori. These Japanese folkdances are performed by young and old, many in yukata, (summer cotton kimono) circling a raised platform on which taiko drums keep the beat.

Last weekend we went to our first dance for the season. It was held in a small local shrine. The location highlights how Japanese have incorporated two distinct religions into their lives, the shrine is Shinto, yet the festival is Buddhist.

This particular evening was a special one held for the children. While the recorded songs were broadcast through a tinny speaker, the serious, young taiko performers, dressed in blue happi coats, kept beat. Around their platform was a swarm of colour created by children in bright yukata and their parents alongside them. The audience lit by the hanging lanterns watched with beaming smiles while fluttering paper fans. Wayne and I, the only gaijin there, were warmly welcomed. I was pulled up and taught the dances while Wayne managed a conversation with mostly with smiles and nods.

This won’t be the only dance we attend this season, we are going to another local one and then to Japan’s largest held in Gujo-Hachiman. There for three nights the dancing continues until the early hours of the morning. It has been called "A dance which you dance not a dance which you watch." And that’s just what we’ll be doing – dancing the night away.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Summer fireworks

Summer has well and truly hit here after a rainy season that ran ten days late. The initial excitement of seeing a blue sky once again didn't last long as the memory of just how hot a Japanese summer can be was recalled. I have tried to boycott summer as much as I can by hiding out in my two airconditioned rooms.

But there are some wonderful events here in summer to bring me out of hiding.

One is the many firework festivals. Last weekend I went with a group of friends to the fireworks or "hanabi" in Seki. We spread out our picnic blanket and dined under a sky of everychanging colours. We were surrounded by people wearing Yukata (summer cotton kimonos) and above us was a line of street stalls offering all sorts of delights including kakigori (shaved ice), toffee apples, okonomiyaki (a Japanese savory pizza-meets-pancake) and iceblocks in the shape of Japanese manga characters.

More Hanabi in Seki

Hanabi in Seki

Friday, August 04, 2006


The Japanese term “Cosplay” comes from the contraction of the English words “Costume Play”. These outfits can be from popular anime (animation), manga (comic books), movies or simply just any costume. Cosplay is a rather trendy pastime and these hobbists dress up to hang out, strut around and pose for photos.

On my recent trip to Tokyo, I made my way to Harajuku on a hot, steamy Sunday afternoon to check out the scene.

Cosplay Photos

Monday, July 31, 2006

What to drink when you're feeling waaaay too happy?


Being a Gaijin

My initial taste of being a gaijin was getting onto the plane to go to Japan for my first job there. As I walked down the narrow corridor to board the aircraft, I felt confined and claustrophobic in a crowd all speaking Japanese. Despite my language lessons leading up to this moment, I could only understand the occasional word. It wasn’t only language. I felt different to everyone around me. I was suddenly conscious of my curvy figure and my dyed red hair in a sea of thin dark-haired people.

If you look at the characters that make up the word gaijin, it literally translates to “outside person”. The more correct, more polite term, “gaikokujin” - outside country person, is not as commonly used. While it is true that the term "gaijin" can be laden with racist connotations, it is not usually meant so sinisterly. It's more a reference to the person’s “foreignness”, their “differentness” in a mass of people who seem to conform in appearance as well as culture. Some days this means you feel like the single noxious weed in the rice paddy, other days, the beautiful flower that despite odds has managed to spring up.

There are days I just want to blend into the crowd. After an extended period in the country and some serious doses of denial, I sometimes convince myself that it’s actually possible. More often however, being a gaijin offers an amazing sense of freedom. The gaijin is regarded strange and different simply because they are a non-Japanese. This allows them to be as strange and as different as they wish. Many gaijin find themselves doing things and behaving in ways they wouldn't in their own country.

My first experience of Japan was living there for three years, working as an English teacher in a "conversation" school. During that time I lived in three cities, all in Gifu prefecture, smack-bang in the middle of the main island. The first city, Seki, was small by Japanese standards. It had a lot of rice paddies, some beautiful mountains close by and was famous for its swords and cutlery. Six months went by until I saw another gaijin in Seki. This forced me to learn Japanese quickly. It also allowed me to form a few deep friendships that I still hold dear to this day, years later.

After returning home for four years, I am now in my second stint of living in Japan. This time I have brought my new husband with me and am viewing my surroundings partly through his fresh eyes and partly through mine of experience.

I do think that men and women’s experience of being a gaijin differs, as does the experiences of those living in rural areas to those living in large cities, but many are shared. Japan is a country that is full of delights and amusements that have the power to distract gaijin from any bouts of homesickness and feelings of being an outsider. It’s a country filled with juxtapositions. While walking down an ugly, concrete street it’s possible to suddenly stumble upon a beautiful, tranquil, wooden temple with a cherry tree blossoming out the front. In summer festivals punk teenagers happily dance alongside old women dressed in their traditional, festive cotton kimonos, all to the same beat, all doing the same repetitive movements.

Japan is a country where everyone expects sushi, sake, gadgets, geisha, kimonos and karaoke, but it is truly so much more.


Welcome to My Life as a Gaijin. This is currently the home for my ramblings about gaijin life while the manuscript for the book is being completed and a publisher is found.

Sit down with a cup of tea, enjoy the journey and don't forget to leave me a comment or two.