Kids Web Japan
by Kevin R Burns
Kids Web Japan
An Interview of Catherine, an Expat, Mother in Japan
Kids Web Japan: an interview with Catherine an expat mother and English teacher in Japan.
Kids Web Japan:
What kind of communities did you live in, while in Japan? What were they like?
I lived in a two-bedroom apartment over a shop in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa-ken for about a year when I first arrived. It was on a busy road, so the house would shake whenever a large truck would drive by. I don't think it was earthquake safe. The apartment was fully furnished and I had it all to myself. The good point was it was free! I was able to save a lot of money. My single years were rather short lived in Japan as I moved with my husband into a "mansion" (condo) also in Hiratsuka for about 2 years. I really liked living in Hirastuka. I had great students and taught a lot of community classes in the evening. Many of those former students are now close friends.
We later built our own house in Oiso, Kangawa-ken (next to Hiratsuka). Our house is rather a combination of Japanese/Western in the rural area of Oiso with a hiking course, golf course, and orchards all in our neighbourhood. Sometimes we joke that it is too quite, except for the noisy birds. It is a very small community and most of our neighbours are farmers who have lived here all their lives. We have been really welcomed and take part in the local festivals. I had worked for the local school board for a few years,
so I think that helped in connecting with the community.
What sort of challenges did you have to overcome while living in Japan?
Probably the biggest challenge was having my two daughters in Japan. Being a parent is a challenge in itself, but doing that in a foreign country brings a whole lot of different circumstances. My husband (who is Japanese) has always been a great support, but sometimes he does not understand all my grievances. I have been fortunate enough to have met some other women in my area who share similar experiences.
Other problems include being illiterate. I really dislike having to ask someone to read or explain something to me. I often photocopy documents or forms that I may need again in the future, so that I don't need to rely on others to complete for me.
Kids Web Japan:
Is daily life easier in Japan or in your country?
That all depends on attitude! Of course things are easier when you can understand the language and the way of doing things. But you have to remember this is not home and things are done Japanese style, even if you don't agree with it. I always dread when I have to go to some official office to deal with some matter, but somehow I always muddle through and perhaps I am given a little special treatment.
What should people bring from home before going to Japan?
* a year supply of medication - aspirin, cold medicines…(most over-the-counter medications in Japan are weak)
Catherine Cheetham is a university teacher in Kanto and a caring mother as well.