Occupation: English teacher at university/college
Tell us about a place you like in Japan.
For me it would be Kawasaki, the city sandwiched between Yokohama and Tokyo. It's not a tourist draw, but it's where I worked and hung out, so it's full of good memories for me. It's where I went to a hanami (cherry-blossom viewing), saw my first soccer games and did my first New Year's shrine visit. The area around the main station has the perfect mix of good department stores, restaurants, movie theatres and karaoke. I liked going to La Cittadella (a kind of Italian “town”) - it's a good place to sit and have a drink outside on a nice day.
What did you do when you lived in Japan?
For most of the time I taught in an English conversation school in Kawasaki. I had a couple of shorter jobs too, such as teaching at a university in Nagoya. I loved my job and made the most of weekends to travel around, so I was lucky - even though I worked full-time, living there felt like one long holiday.
What interests you about Japan?
Many things, but for me the biggest draw is the language, which I've been studying for a few years. It's given me an ongoing motivation to keep going back there. It's endlessly exciting to feel like I can actually have conversations with people in a foreign language.
How is life in Japan different to life in Adelaide?
There are so many differences. People in Adelaide seem to be a bit more at home in the outdoors. I taught at a women's college in Nagoya, and one thing I noticed was that no matter how nice the weather and how beautiful the campus, I would be the only person sitting outside. I asked my students why, and they said they wanted to protect their skin. I think we are a very coffee-obsessed culture in Adelaide! There are coffee machines in pretty well any restaurant you can think of, but these are not as prevalent in Japan. On the other hand, Japan is a great place for a night out as the alcohol is good and cheap.
Train stations in Japan become these hubs of eating, shopping, and nightlife, which make them so convenient for meeting up with friends and hanging out. There was always so much to do… Adelaide does seem rather quiet in comparison.
How does Japan influence your life at present?
Unfortunately, not a lot, but I try to keep up some ties with Japan through Facebook friends, JAFA (Japan Australia Friendship Association), singing Japanese songs at karaoke and reading comics in Japanese. I travel back there when I can.
Tell us something memorable about your time in Japan.
A friend of mine invited me and my co-worker to her neighbourhood mikoshi (portable shrine) festival. We all dressed up in the happi coats of the neighbourhood and helped carry around the local shrine's mikoshi. Everyone was friendly and welcoming, and the day was a blast. I couldn't believe quite how long and intensive the mikoshi-carrying was. For many of the guys doing it, it was their second day and some of the newer guys were bleeding by the end of it! However, everyone got the chance to drown their pain with the most exuberant drinking party I think I've ever seen. It got a bit surreal. For example, the local politician (who had been making a solemn welcoming speech twenty minutes earlier) ended up jumping on the table while swigging from an enormous bottle of shochu. There was dancing, sushi and lots of joking around. It was good fun.
Edited: February 2014