-Where were you born?
Grand Haven, Michigan, USA
-In which country and city are you living now?
-Are you living alone or with your family?
I live with my Japanese husband, our nine-year-old twins, and my mother-in-law.
-How long have you been living in Japan?
-What is your age?
-When did you come up with the idea of living in Japan?
When I was in college, I had an interest in living overseas. I figured I'd spend time in various countries, starting with Japan. My brother told me about a program which would enable me to work as an assistant English teacher in Japanese public schools (the JET Program). It sounded interesting. I applied, was accepted, and my second year on the program, I met the man I would marry.
-Was it hard to get a visa or a working permit?
My employers took care of everything, so, no.
-Was it difficult for you to get medical insurance before you went there or when you first arrived?
Japan has a national insurance program. Everyone who works here full-time is covered.
-How do you make your living in Japan? Do you have any type of income generated?
I taught English in public elementary schools as a sort of extra-curricular subject for ten years after the JET Program. Now, I teach English conversation part-time at a local university and a language school. I also work as a freelance writer, and have written for most of the English-language publications in Japan.
I got the teaching jobs through connections. The expat population is always changing, so jobs pop up quite frequently.
I recently published my first novel, LOSING KEI, about an expat mother in Japan, and my second anthology, LOVE YOU TO PIECES: CREATIVE WRITERS ON RAISING A CHILD WITH SPECIAL NEEDS. These books have led to paid speaking engagements.
-Do you speak Japanese and do you think it's important to speak the local language?
Yes, I speak Japanese, and I think it's important for long-termers to speak the local language. My children are Japanese, as well as American, so we try to celebrate Japanese holidays in the traditonal way and bring them up with Japanese manners.
But I also think it's important for Japanese people to become more tolerant of differences, and so we follow some American customs as well.
-Do you miss home and family sometimes?
Of course. We try to visit the States once a year or so, and we enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and wide open spaces.
Japanese houses don't have yards, so we often go to parks to play. We live near the beach. In summer we build sand castles and swim in the sea.
-Do you have other plans for the future?
I plan to stay here with my family and write and edit more books! We hope to do some more traveling now that the kids are older.
-What about housing, have you bought, or are you renting a home? How much do you pay for it?
We bought a house. In our region of Japan, a fairly moderate house (with land) would be about $300,000.
-What is the cost of living in Japan?
Very expensive, but less expensive than Tokyo. Gas and food are expensive.
-What do you think about the Japanese?
People in Tokushima are very conservative. Even people from other prefectures are viewed as "outsiders." But they tend to be cordial and helpful, if distant.
-What are the positive and negative aspects of living in Japan?
The low crime rate is a positive. The persistent xenophobia and the attitude that work comes before family are negative aspects.
-Do you have any tips for our readers about living in Japan?
Try to learn the language and the customs, but don't worry if you mess up. Japanese people tend to be very patient with foreigners.
-Do you have any favorite Web sites or blogs about Japan?
(This is my personal blog about life as a foreign mom in rural Japan.)
This is the site for a magazine which offers tips and resources for families in Japan.
For expat women living in Japan.