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  • 07 Sep 2020 3:38 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This year has not been an easy one for most people and time seems to be warped and weird. How is it already September when it feels like it was just March? Did summer even happen? On the other hand it feels like 2020 has lasted about 20 months, not just 9ish. I completely missed writing a blog for August, partly due to my misunderstanding the passage of time and partly due to my inability to think of something helpful to write when everyone seems to be struggling. I read the news from around the world and I read about personal experiences in my own community and I am struck silent by how much stress everyone is enduring. Unless you are a really skilled Zen practitioner, you likely have been experiencing more stress than usual this year. Sure we’re all in this together, but that doesn’t really help us feel much better — so what will? Before we take a look at some methods to relieve stress, let’s review some of its symptoms so you know what to be on the lookout for.


    Symptoms of Stress

    Let’s start with some of the physical symptoms of stress to watch out for, sometimes we don’t even realize that we are experiencing some stress or anxiety until we notice them start to pop up. In my case I might think I am handling life well but then start to notice my jaw hurts from clenching my teeth all the time. Other physical symptoms might include: trouble sleeping, general malaise, headaches, stomach aches/upset stomach, dry mouth, fidgeting, sweaty palms/soles, loss of libido, tense muscles and the most scary sign in times of Covid19 — frequent colds or infections! Even if you think you’re handling the pandemic pretty well, take stock of your physical condition and if you’re having any of those symptoms you might be more stressed than you thought. 

    Besides physical symptoms, stress can cause deterioration in your mental condition. If you are experiencing high levels of stress, you might find it hard to concentrate or you might become forgetful and disorganized. You might find yourself constantly worrying or ruminating and becoming more prone to pessimistic thoughts than usual. This can lead to emotional symptoms such as feeling overwhelmed or agitated and having difficulty relaxing. You may find yourself avoiding others, not because you are practising social distancing, but because of you’re feeling overwhelmed. If the stress continues your self-esteem might go down and you might move beyond feeling stressed into experiencing depression. 

    Experiencing stress puts you at risk for behavioural changes, such as lashing out at loved ones, forgoing activities you normally take pleasure in, and procrastination. You might also try to self-medicate with drugs, alcohol or cigarettes in order to try and feel better. Changes in appetite may also signal that you’re not handling stress in a healthy manner. Eating too much or too little, or using food as a means to exert control over your life can be signs of stress. 


    How to Deal with Stress

    Now that we know the signs of stress to watch out for, it is time to take a look at healthy ways to help us feel better. First of all, I think it is important to accept that there are events in life that you cannot control, especially at the moment. The pandemic means we are all riding the rollercoaster of ever-changing health-protocols — sometimes we need to stay home and there is no school, sometimes the schools are open and we can go out, travel restrictions are evolving, clusters are popping up in our neighbourhoods, the research on and knowledge about Covid19 is constantly expanding. Acknowledging that these are facts of life now and they are out of our control is an important step in starting to handle your stress. Focusing on the things you can control can help you begin to feel better. Things like hand-washing, mask wearing, following guidelines and taking care of your body by eating well, drinking water and getting some exercise are things you can do during this pandemic to exert some control over your well-being. Your body will be able to fight stress better when you take good care of it. 

    If you find yourself having trouble concentrating, try making lists and setting calendar reminders in your phone. This will help prevent any added stress you would get from missing an important deadline or forgetting to buy something on your once-a-week trip to the store. Do not be afraid to say no to requests that would create excess stress in your life at the moment. If you are not comfortable going out to eat in a restaurant while Covid19 is happening, it is ok to turn down an invitation to lunch. Do not feel guilty if your comfort level is different from that of your peers, it is ok to protect yourself in a way that you feel good about. If you are questioned about it, try to clearly assert yourself without being aggressive, angry, defensive — everyone is on edge right now and small differences can explode like friendship-bombs. However, you do not need to explain yourself if you do not feel up to it and you are free to take a step back from any relationship that is causing more stress than support in your life right now (or at any time).

    Investing some time in learning various relaxation techniques in order to find one that works well for you, will pay off now and for the rest of your life. Do not be afraid to try new things like meditation, yoga, tai-chi or forest bathing even if they sound strange or unappealing. I recently tried a sleep-meditation podcast to help me fall asleep, something I thought sounded a bit silly. When I first heard the slow quiet voice of the host I thought it was totally cheesy and there was no way it was going to work for me, but surprisingly I found myself sinking into relaxation and fell asleep faster than I have in months! I was happy to find this new way to fall asleep because getting enough rest is so important in helping your body heal from stress. Besides trying new stress-relieving activities, do not forget to make time for old hobbies and interests that you may have been neglecting recently, or maybe even have neglected for a long while. Instead of zoning out on Netflix every time you have a spare hour, why not return to an old activity that you once loved? Loved art in High School? Why not pick up some cheap art supplies at Daiso and have fun? Haven’t picked up your guitar in a while? Dig it out of the closet (or try and find a second hand one somewhere if you don’t have one anymore). Miss sports? Get active!

    Once you have thought of ways you can handle stress on your own, supplement them with social support. It may be hard to spend time face-to-face with friends and loved ones at the moment, but try and keep in touch via zoom, skype, messenger or on social media forums. Humans are social creatures and we need to connect to feel good. Having a supportive community is important to your mental health, even if it is an online one. 

    Last but not least, if you are struggling to cope with stress do not be afraid to seek professional help with a psychologist or other mental health practitioner, in person or online. A person trained in stress management or biofeedback techniques to help you learn healthy ways of dealing with the stress can make a huge difference in your well-being. If you do not know where to find someone, you can reach out to your community for advice, consult your doctor or give TELL a call. 



    It is so important that we take time to find ways of relieving our stress because long term/ chronic stress can have serious health impacts, from triggering mental illness to cardiovascular disease, menstrual problems, skin and hair problems, digestive disorders and sexual dysfunction. Here at AFWJ we are all feeling the effects of the pandemic and unfortunately we have extra stress created by worrying about our families who are separated from us by borders that we cannot easily cross at this time. Luckily we also have our community that can understand what we’re going through — thank goodness for the support we can give each other during this time and always! We hope you have the support you need to get through this stressful period. Please try to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. 

    ~S.Suzyama 



  • 10 Jul 2020 9:50 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    • If you've been following the news about Japan at all, you will have seen that we are once again in the midst of a natural disaster. Kyushu is being hit especially hard by torrential rains again and over 60 people have lost their lives and some people are unaccounted for at the moment. Between earthquakes, tsunami, typhoon, volcano eruptions, torrential rainfall and more, Japan sees more than its fair share of disasters. Whether you live in Japan or elsewhere, it is always a good idea to be prepared. This month on our blog, we are featuring an article by a member that first appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of the AFWJournal. i hope you find it as useful and informative as I did. 

    .....

    Preparing for Disasters and the Unexpected

    by Ann (a long-term resident of Japan) 

    2019, and now the beginning of 2020, have seen more natural + manmade trouble around the world than ever before. My birth country is either completely parched, scorched, battered by golf ball sized hail, or been hit by the worst floods in 50 years. Sometimes a combination. Though many of us focus on Japan as we live here, some of us live elsewhere, and no country is safe from harm. Dealing with a possible disaster, or multiple ones within months, is something that the whole globe has to consider.

    I honestly think we cannot escape from disasters, but I even more strongly believe we can mitigate what directly happens to us, our family, and hopefully even our close community. I’d like to do a Q&A with you, and I sincerely hope you’ll take a little time to answer for yourself. I am writing ‘home’ to keep it simple. Please think of this as ‘home + workplace + where you/your family is’ at that time.

    1.     What are the POSSIBLE disasters that might hit your home? All of them, maybe ones that haven’t happened before to that area, but that are technically possible.

    2.     Go back to your list and put a memo next to the PROBABLE ones. These will have top priority. If it makes you feel better, you could add impossible ones and cross them out. If you want to, you could re-write your list in some kind of frequency order to prioritize things.

    • serious typhoon (certainly several times a year), 

    • super typhoon (probably at least once a year), 

    • absolutely devastating typhoon (once in 20 years – maybe shorter),

    • roof blows off

    • heavy rain that causes serious worry (once a year), 

    • heavy rain that causes possible underfloor flooding (perhaps once a year if we don’t manage things well), 

    • life or death flood

    • landslide

    • volcanic eruption

    • serious earthquake, 

    • tsunami, 

    • wildfire

    • drought (possible but remote at this time) 

    • snow disaster

    • 3.      What are the most likely to occur? How can you plan for them? 

    • For me, typhoons are an absolute certainty, but luckily, we have some days advance warning. There are two vital points: 1. secure the house so it isn’t damaged, and 2. secure the yard so that our things don’t fly and damage someone else’s property. Our house is concrete with a concrete roof, walls and roof in good repair. We cannot do more for them. 

    • Windows mostly have heavy storm shutters that we set two days before the storm is predicted to hit (no struggling with shutters in wind and rain). (You should slide out, check, and set the shutters at least once in spring to make sure they are okay and that you can operate them.) Other windows are protected by film directly on the glass, security bars, and bamboo shades that allow wind through but will stop flying objects. That is the best we can do for the windows. 

    • Anything in the yard that can be picked up by a woman with one hand most certainly needs to be secured, and even heavier objects moved if possible (as in potted plants). Do not forget ‘big’ items like washing poles and bicycles. If you live alone and you are at an absolute loss, before typhoon season starts, get some netting (even at a 100yen shop) and some nylon rope. You can shove all the items together and tie them up with the netting and rope, of course making sure that they are truly tied up and your netting isn’t going to flap about. Do NOT use tarps! (wind catches them and they will flap off and wrap around electricity wires …). 

    • We have nylon sandbag bags, and before typhoon season I will buy about 20 small bags of potting soil. The bagged soil can go inside the nylon bags and be set here and there to block runoff water from going under the house, or from flooding the car parking space. I can protect sapling trees with these, too, so they don’t get torn out of the ground by the wind. Later I can use the soil and store the nylon bags again.

    • 4.     For your Q3 disaster(s), what ‘survival for one week’ things do you need? And for how many days?

    • The last devastating typhoon to hit my city was in 2003. (Google it if you want to be shocked 平成15年台風第14) Apparently my neighborhood had no electricity for a month. Mostly I choose to put that aside and think about ‘super’ typhoons. I always have pet-bottled water but before a typhoon I make sure I have about 80 liters, and about the same of tap water in poly-tanks. Actually, in a regular super-typhoon the water supply won’t be cut, but you never know. We have batteries and battery packs to last up to one week for lights, probably more. Cell phone charging for about 5 days if I’m careful. Gas is okay as we have propane cylinders. Food for at least 1 week, but not things that need to be cold. Cat food for THREE MONTHS! (Cargo ships cannot come to islands in heavy seas.) But basically, we should be ready to have no electricity and therefore internet for 3 or 4 days. Water is okay but food supplies will be patchy for a week or so. And for ‘just in case’ I do have a portable gas stove, the type for cooking nabe hotpots, and about 4 gas canisters for it.

    • 5.     Do you have ‘survival’ things that you literally cannot survive without? That is, joking aside, you may die or get sick if you don’t have them?

    • For us, no. We don’t take medications or have any illnesses. The cats might get sick if we suddenly changed their food, hence 3 months’ worth in stock. Please ask your medical provider(s) about what you can do to prepare. Our scariest thing is possible heatstroke, but luckily it is usually cloudy for days after a typhoon here, so not so hot. Both cars are filled with gasoline before a typhoon so in the worst case, we and the cats would have to stay in a car with the air-conditioner on. We have a small electric power source that would run our small fan for up to 8 hours for just air circulation.

    • 6.     For your Q3 disaster(s), what does ‘evacuate’ mean? What is the timing and where should you go?

    • This is not a question to take lightly! Very tragically, most of the people who passed away in the flood disasters after Typhoon 19 in autumn 2019, left it too late to evacuate.

    • In my city, those who are elderly, weak, or whose houses are in a possible flood area, or those whose houses are not strong enough, are warned by community loudspeaker to evacuate many hours in advance. The warning messages continue. The bridges are closed to traffic many hours in advance, after advance warning about the closures. There are only 3 designated typhoon evacuation centers. As the wind zone approaches, the messages stop – it is too late to go outside and evacuating would be more dangerous than staying put. That is, if residents feel any risk, evacuate very early. If your area is prone to flooding, you should leave as early as you can. Note that typhoon/flood/heavy rain evacuation centers might NOT be your local elementary school or other places used after an earthquake disaster. Ours are not.

    • 7.     Do you have an ‘emergency grab bag’ AND an ‘evacuation kit’?

    • {Huh? They are two different things?} Yes, there are two types in my opinion.

    • The grab bag is small and has things like copies of health insurance cards, hospital patient cards, medicine notebook, memos of family allergies, contact phone numbers, a small amount of money, extra charged prepaid card (Nanaco or the like), a little of your necessary medications, etc. If you have really little kids or often go to clinics, you probably already have most of these things together and then just move them to your regular handbag when you leave the house, and you would have real cards instead of copies. If you are not Japanese, you MUST add in at least a copy of your passport and resident card (alien card). Moms probably have a grab bag of a change of clothes for a baby, too. You will know what you need in your grab bag. Other family members could make one, but they really do have to limit what is inside. Maybe a big Ziplock bag for each person to keep the limit, and if you have kids, make sure one of the kids puts playing cards in their bag. This ‘grab bag’ is what it says – grab it and go! You can stuff it under your bra strap as you dash out the door, if needs be! (Not to upset anyone, but in the 2011 multiple disasters, many people took just their passport and cash and went to Narita. You may have to do that.)

    • The evacuation kit would hold the things you need to get by for some days. You can buy simple ones that are already prepared or check online for what they usually hold – first aid, batteries, chargers, flashlight, etc. Your life might be uncomfortable without those things, but they are not vital like the grab bag is.

    • NOTE: If I had little kids or elderly parents, I would have pin-on name tags to ID them. Pin the tag on their shoulder or somewhere where they can’t take it off by themselves easily. I’d put the ID tags with my grab bag and pin them on as soon as I could – if anyone was lost or separated, they could be found easily. (Add in your mobile phone number.) Super worst case, I’d write my phone number on my baby’s leg with a black marker if I thought a pin was dangerous. My cats have microchips, babies do not. If you are worried about poisoning your baby, then buy a felt-pen type waterproof eyeliner and write on your kids with that!

    • 8.     What is your evacuation plan, and do you have several plans for different times?

    • If everyone is at home at night, it is pretty straightforward, but at the time of the 2011 March 11 disasters, family members were scattered at home/school/work. Do some drills on how to get to the evacuation or meeting place you decide. Especially kids and elderly family members might be reassured if they can actually go to that place several times. I cannot say where or what is best – please decide for your family. I have made my husband promise that he will either stay in our house and put the cats in their carry cages, or if he feels this house is at risk of a tsunami (it most likely isn’t) then to go to a nearby park that is on higher ground, taking the cats with him. If I am out, I will drive/run by that park on my way home for 99% of the possible routes home I would normally have. The way to the park is also the way back to my house for me.

    • 9.     Leave notes!

    • It is good evacuation policy to leave a note on your door, on the outside, for anyone to see. (Yes, looters and thieves will see it too, can’t be helped. Write it in English and hope they can't read it!) You need to list: where you have gone and with who (list names of all members), if it doesn’t freak you out then put your mobile phone number. This information is not only for your family members, it is for rescue staff too. If you have time, put on it “no injured people inside” (中ケガ人いない) or something like that – for the rescue teams. TURN OFF YOUR ELECTRICITY AND GAS!!! Put it on the note “electricity mains off, gas off”. This is also for the rescue teams – electricity can cause fires in both earthquakes and flood disasters. You can write a lot of these notes now, or ask a Japanese person to help you write them, and just keep them with your emergency kit with some gum tape or other strong tape. The time you take sticking something to your door could save someone’s life later. Not joking, not even exaggerating.

    • 10.   Make a list of possible people and phone numbers that you need to contact in the first few days of an emergency. Tell those people how you will try to contact them, being realistic. Your phone might not work if the system is overloaded. Many cities and prefectures have disaster preparation websites where you can register. Check now. The list should be updated a few times a year and be kept in the grab-bag.

    • 11.   This next part is extremely depressing and sensitive, so stop reading now if you are feeling blue. I mean it – it is not nice, so take care ….

    • In the worst-case scenario, someone may be injured/trapped/incapacitated in some way and you can’t take them with you. You will have to make the choice to save your own life or that of other family members. This happened in Tohoku. Indeed, many kids were saved because an expert had told them to run for the hills and to do so alone without thought of others. In that case, if you have time, write on the person you can’t take with black marker – put their full name and your phone number. Write it on their forehead if you can. Emergency rescue people will see it. Put a note on the door that a trapped person is inside and leave the door open, or pin a note where it is very visible. The job of the rescue personnel is to save as many people as possible, quickly. ID on the trapped person will help immensely, and you know your person will be returned to you smoothly. If they are taken to a hospital on the other side of the city, you won’t find them for days without an ID.

    • 12.   Don’t give up on disaster preparation because you think it is troublesome. A lot of people plan a holiday like they were the chief strategist for a Napoleon Bonaparte campaign, but roll their eyes at the thought of disasters. But the comfort, and more likely, safety and well-being of your family members and your pets depends on you. Why can we color coordinate our daily pairs of underwear for a 5 day trip, but balk at even having a grab-bag? And many women I know have a makeup kit with more stuff in it than an evacuation kit – more expensive, too.

    • 13.   Contagious nasties…

    • Until now we’ve only had to think about influenza, etc. and evacuation center planning does plan for the flu (I know because I’ve done evacuation center simulations for my prefecture and I’m an evacuation center volunteer member if the worst comes to pass). Obviously, in 2020 we have a much more serious situation and disaster management staff are carefully drafting new plans for natural disaster + Covid19. We can also think of it by ourselves. Again, I am not a professional so I can’t tell you what to do. For many people in my city, a tsunami will be sure to hit their houses which is a much more immediate and deadly threat than possibly contracting a virus (at first, at any rate).

    • That is all for this time, but if you are totally overwhelmed and are at a loss, here are two things I think you really should do:

    • Make a grab bag (see above)
    • Clean out your entryway/entry hall (genkan) to make sure that in a big earthquake, you’ll be able to escape freely. Coat racks and umbrella stands, etc. will topple over in an earthquake and block the door. Get rid of them, move them, or at the least, secure them. 

    .....

    A big thanks to Ann for giving me permission to share her article on our blog! It's a great example of the kind of help and support that AFWJ has to offer, and a testament to the high quality of submissions we receive and publish in our Journal. Until next month, take care and stay safe.

    ~S.Suzuyama

  • 15 Jun 2020 1:30 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The primary role of the Association of Foreign Wives of Japanese is to offer support to its members. Many of us are finding ourselves more in need of support than ever, overwhelmed with how the Covid19 pandemic has reshaped our lives in ways we could not have imagined only a few short months ago. There are constant updates on the disease itself, changes to hygiene protocol, travel restrictions et cetera, et cetera, it is nearly impossible to stay on top of all the developments. In order to help you get through the pandemic, back in February we offered advice on how to Stay Healthy on the blog (updated research shows that wearing masks does offer some protection!) and in March we told you how to Navigate Clinics and Hospitals in Japan. This month we want to make sure that you get the money the Japanese government wants to give you.


    Municipal governments have started to send out special fixed benefit (特別定額給付金) payments of ¥100,000 per person as directed by the national government to help households weather financial difficulties caused by the current pandemic. All residents of Japan born prior to April 28th, 2020 are eligible to receive the handout. This includes foreigners, as long as they are registered in the Basic Registration System (外国人住民に係る住民基本台帳制度) as of April 27th 2020. Foreigners who were registered with the Basic Registration System in the past but have recently entered Japan and have not been registered yet, but will be registering again, are also eligible. The children of those who are applying for refugee status are eligible even if they had not been registered in the Basic Registration System prior to April 27th, due to being on a short stay. It is not dependent on income and those receiving pensions, welfare or unemployment benefits are also eligible for the payment. Basically, everyone is eligible for the special payment other than foreigners who are not registered, either due to being short-term visitors of Japan or those who do not have legal status. If you have not applied yet, now’s the time! 

    The applications and administration of the payments will be handled through local municipal offices, so there will be some discrepancies in the timing of the application period and the application form. There are two ways to apply for the special payment. The first way is through an application form (特別定額給付金の申請) sent via post from your municipal office to the household; the second way to apply is online through the MynaPortal using your My Number Card. The head of the household (戸主) will receive the payment for all of the beneficiaries in the home, so each household will only receive one application. For the postal application you will need a copy of your ID, such as your My Number Card, drivers license or health insurance card, and a copy of the information page of the bank book of the account in which you wish to receive the funds. If you wish to apply online, you will need the My Number Card and its password, a document to verify the bank account the funds will be transferred to, and a smartphone capable of reading your My Number Card or a computer with an IC card reader. Although application forms will vary somewhat by municipality, the Gaijinpot Blog has provided a step-by-step breakdown of a typical form with English translations, along with tips for applying online.

    Most municipalities have already started processing applications and the deadline for applying for the special payment is three months from the date that your municipality started accepting postal applications. The time it takes for the money to appear in your bank account will also vary by municipality. Please visit your municipality's website for information about their application deadline and processing times. 

    Take caution against scams related to the special payment, do not give out any of your personal information, bank account information or pin numbers by phone or email. No part of the application process requires you to reveal information via phone or email. 

    For more information on the special fixed benefit you can consult a special webpage set up through the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications or check out this article in The Japan Times


    Besides the special fixed benefit for individual residents of Japan, there is also a Subsidy Program for Sustaining Businesses (持続化給付金) of up to 2 million yen for a corporation and 1 million yen for small businesses and individual business proprietors, including freelancers. For more information and to apply, see the Sustainable Benefit website (Japanese) set up by the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry or check out their FAQ on the Subsidy Program for Sustaining Businesses webpage.


    In spite of the plastic barriers hanging in front of cashiers all over the place, ubiquitous masks, and social distancing stickers on floors and chairs in public spaces, life seems to be getting back to normal little by little around Japan - a new normal, at least for now. We here at AFWJ hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy.


    ~S.Suzuyama



  • 23 May 2020 3:01 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In most places in Japan it seems like life is slowly entering a new kind of normal now at the end of May. Schools and businesses are reopening with special social distancing measures in place, as well as the ubiquitous masks and hand sanitizer. It is tempting to get out and about now because the rainy season (or the second wave of Covid19) is just around the corner and we may once again be stuck at home looking for ways to keep busy and entertained. Luckily, the final installment of our AFWJ Articles series features a member’s daughter whose cooking Youtube channel and special zoom sessions have been a big hit with fellow AFWJers and their kids during the stay at home period. Her culinary prowess might just inspire you to try whipping up some new dishes in your own kitchen! AFWJ member Chriss MacPherson and her daughter Kiara were profiled by Louise George Kittaka in Savvy Tokyo and you can read all about how the young chef has turned her passion for cooking into a way to connect with others by clicking the link:

    Cooking Up A Storm With Junior Chef Kiara

    We hope you enjoyed catching a glimpse into the lives of a few of our members and their families in our AFWJ Articles series. Wherever you and your family are, we hope you are doing well and staying healthy. 

    ~S.Suzuyama



  • 16 May 2020 11:00 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The state of emergency was lifted for most prefectures around Japan this week and cautious steps towards the resumption of normal activities are being taken. Although Japan never went into a formal lockdown like other countries in the world, people have been encouraged to stay home and practice social distancing. While we all want to avoid a second and third wave of Covid19 infections, long term lockdowns are not a state in which most people can thrive. Ideally, we all need to be in a space that allows us to live a comfortable life and fulfill our potential. This week’s article highlights the choice a family made to move to an environment where their son could have a better chance to do just that. In the Why Did You Leave Japan section of The Japan Times, Louise George Kittaka writes about Satoshi Eric Asato, son of AFWJ member Sheila Asato, and how his family helped him find a place where he can thrive. Click on the title to read the article:


    Finding new beginnings in the United States


    Whether you live in one of the prefectures where the state of emergency has been lifted or not, we hope that you and your loved ones are safe and well. Check back here next week for the final installment of our AFWJ Articles series, featuring another one of our members and her child. 


    ~S.Suzuyama



  • 09 May 2020 1:06 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Golden Week is over and Mother’s Day is upon us here in Japan. This year many people around the world are wondering how to celebrate Mother’s Day when they cannot meet their mum in person, nor take her out to a nice restaurant and treat her to a meal. Here at AFWJ many of us are no stranger to being far away from our mums on Mother’s Day, having settled in Japan, away from our home countries. Many of us also have children who have taken after their mums and have settled down somewhere else. While it can be hard to be away from loved ones on special days, there are still ways to connect and celebrate. Louise George Kittaka has gathered some great tips on how to celebrate Mother’s Day during a pandemic and shared them in The Japan Times. Be on the lookout for advice from a couple of our members: Gloria Bauer Ishida and Chriss Macpherson! Click on the link to check it out:

    How to celebrate Mother's Day — or anyone you love — during a pandemic

    Wherever you are in the world and whether your near or far from those you love, we here at AFWJ hope you have a lovely Mother’s Day weekend. Check back here next week for part 3 of our AFWJ Articles series.


    ~S. Suzuyama


  • 02 May 2020 11:14 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It is the beginning of May, meaning that temperate weather and the Golden Week holidays are upon us in Japan. However, this year is not quite the same as other years, we must do our best to stay away from crowds and the usual tourist spots are closed while we work together to flatten the Covid19 curve. This means we are spending more time than usual in our homes and we are all probably looking for things to do. With that in mind, I have a special treat for you this month on the AFWJ Blog — rather than just one blog post this month, we are bringing you a short series of posts with links to articles featuring our members. 

    The first article we are going to feature this month appeared in the culture section of The Japan Times and was written by our current President Louise George Kittaka. AFWJ has been blessed with quite a few writers and one of our members, Rebecca Otowa has just published her third book titled The Mad Kyoto Shoe Swapper and Other Short Stories, this article reveals how she finds inspiration for her work. Click on the title to read the article:


    'The Mad Kyoto Shoe Swapper': What to do when you lose your shoes? Find them and write


    Have a safe Golden Week, stay home and stay healthy. We at AFWJ hope you and all of your loved ones are doing well during this difficult pandemic period. Check back next weekend for the next post in our series about AFWJ in the news. 


    ~S.Suzuyama



  • 09 Apr 2020 2:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In times of crisis having a community to find support in makes a huge difference to our mental well being. AFWJ is one such community that members can turn to during rough periods to share and find information, for solidarity and mental health support, and so much more. The current pandemic is no exception, our members are helping each other navigate our new circumstances, offering advice, sharing how their communities around Japan and around the world are fairing, sharing information, setting up online events to relieve isolation and helping each other figure out how to use the technology necessary to work and socialize online. Whether it is earthquakes, floods, or a health-related crisis our members strive to support each other through thick and thin.

    The Association of Foreign Wives of Japanese is not only here to serve our members in times of difficulty. We are always working hard to evolve as an organization in order to better meet the needs of our members, who are of various ages and who hail from different backgrounds around the globe. One way that we stay on top of understanding the needs or our members is through Membership Surveys conducted every few years. The surveys ask some general questions about our members, such as their nationality, how long they’ve been a member of AFWJ and what they like best about our organization, before getting into some more specific questions about various parts of AFWJ and changes that they might like to see. The AFWJ Board can then review the results of the membership survey in order to make decisions that reflect the desires and needs of our members. 

    Thanks to the results of the Membership Survey our Website Coordinator, Membership Services and Public Relations officers have been working tirelessly to give our website a new and improved look. Our elected board members are discussing ways to keep our members better informed of, and included in, events that are of interest to them; as well as how to make AFWJ membership fees as affordable as possible, while ensuring that the value gained by being a member is well worth the cost. Finally the feedback on our Journal is invaluable in determining the type of publication that our members would like to read. 

    To use feedback on the Journal as an example, some of the questions asked were: 

    • Do you read the Journal? 
    • Do you read it online or in print? 
    • What is your favourite part of the Journal? 
    • What other information would you like to see in the Journal?

    To the first question, most respondents indicated that they do read at least some or all of the Journal, which is great! More than half of respondents read the Journal in print only and members were split on what part of the Journal they like the most. When it came to the type of information they would like to see in the Journal, the comments revealed a wide variety of interests among our members. For example, some respondents would like to see more information about practical and financial matters related to life in Japan, some would like to read more about the lives of our members and some would like to read about travel destinations and events. The detailed comments left by our members can help the Journal Editor work towards publishing a journal that everyone can find value and enjoyment in. If you are an AFWJ member, please be sure to check out how the former Journal Editor responded to your comments by logging into the website and scrolling over “Members” on the menu bar, when the drop down menu comes up, move your mouse down to “Journal” and you will see a tab called “Journal Survey Results” pop open, click on it to read.  

    The Membership Survey also asks our members how they think they would like to contribute to AFWJ now or in the future. Keep in mind that our organization is run solely by the hard work of volunteers, who keep us going in good times and in bad. Thank you volunteers and everyone else in AFWJ who are helping us stay connected and sane during these difficult pandemic days and at all other times. 


    I’d also like to offer a special thanks to our members and readers who are working in, or who have family members who are working in, the healthcare field or those providing essential services. These are scary and stressful times and we here at AFWJ would like to offer our support and solidarity. We can get through this together. 

    By: S.Suzuyama



  • 17 Mar 2020 3:29 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This month’s blog post is coming out a little later than usual as I have been wracking my brain trying to come up with a topic that is relevant and helpful but not about Covid19, as there are already a zillion articles on that coronavirus. Perhaps we could all use a little break from thinking about the pandemic; not to mention, last month’s post was about how to stay healthy during the usual cold and flu season and throughout this epidemic.

    Just as I was about to give up on coming up with a helpful topic for this month’s post I was inspired by a thread I read in an online group for foreign residents in Japan. A person was complaining that they had been turned away from a clinic for having cold symptoms. They thought the clinic was refusing to treat them due to coronavirus fears, however a commenter pointed out that the original poster had gone to the wrong kind of clinic. Apparently the person had tried to seek treatment for their cold symptoms at a clinic specializing in heart conditions, so they were turned away.

    I myself had a similar experience way back the first time I got sick after coming to Japan. I went to the closest clinic in my neighbourhood with my little dictionary ready to explain that I had a terrible sore throat only to be met with a very confused look at the reception desk. The receptionist couldn’t speak English, I couldn’t speak Japanese, and we had a hell of a time before I managed to work out that I was at a pediatric clinic! Luckily, it wasn’t busy and the nice doctor took pity on me and saw me, even though I was well past the age of her usual patients.

    To help you avoid the same problem, I have assembled a list of different types of doctors you can find here in Japan. A big hospital may have all of these types of doctors in it, while a small clinic might only have one type of doctor. I have listed the type of clinic/hospital department in kanji, followed by romaji in brackets so you can read it on signs.

    • 内科 (naika) : Internal medicine. You can go to this type of clinic for cold and flu symptoms, tummy troubles, general malaise, mysterious symptoms etc. and when you are not exactly sure what type of doctor to see. 
    • 総合診療部 (sōgō shinryō-bu) : General practice. You can go to this type of clinic for the same problems that you would go to an internal medicine physician for and they are especially handy when you really aren’t sure what type of doctor you should be going to. However, they are not nearly as common in Japan as internal medicine clinics are. 
    • 耳鼻咽喉科 (jibiinkōka)/ 耳鼻科 (jibika) : Otorhinolaryngology (aka the place to find ENTs/Ear Nose Throat doctors). You can try this type of clinic for cold or allergy symptoms, as well as for hearing problems, ringing in the ears, voice problems etc. 
    • アレルギー科 (arerugī-ka) : allergology (aka the place to find allergists)
    • 歯科 (shika) : Dentistry.
    • 精神科 (seishinka) : Psychiatry
    • 心療内科 (shinryounaika) : Psychosomatic Internal Medicine/Psychotherapy  
    • 心理科 (shinrika) : Psychology
    • 循環器科 (junkankika)/循環器内科 (junkankinaika) : Cardiology. 
    • 呼吸器内科 (kokyūkinaika) : Pulmonology (aka the place to find respiratory doctors).  
    • 小児科 (shōnika) : Pediatrics. Take your children to this type of clinic for vaccines and to treat health problems.
    • 眼科 (ganka) : Ophthalmology (aka the place to find eye doctors).
    • 泌尿器科 (hitsunyōkika) : Urology.
    • 産婦人科 (sanfujinka) : Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
    • 皮膚科 (hifuka) : Dermatology.
    • 肛門外来 (kōmon gairai) : Proctology.
    • 脳神経内科 (noushinkeinaika) : Neurology
    • 救急診療部 (kyūkyū shinryō-bu) : The emergency department.
    • 外科 (geka) : Surgery. 
    • 歯科口腔外科 (shikakōkōgeka) : Oral Surgery.
    • 整形外科 (seikeigeka ) : Orthopaedic Surgery. 
    • 心臓血管外科 (shinzō kekkan geka) = Cardiovascular surgery.
    • 脳神経外科 (nōshinkei geka) : Neurosurgery.

    If you are lucky enough to live in an area with medical translators available in your language and/or where there is a large hospital with foreign-language intake forms and English signs, then this article might not be very helpful. However, if you are in a situation like I was when I first came to Japan - with non-existent Japanese skills in an area where there is only Japanese healthcare available - then I hope you can find this post useful. Of course, nowadays you probably have a powerful translation tool and Japanese language dictionary right in your pocket in the form of a smartphone, so you are already starting off in a much better position than I was in that first time I went to a local clinic. 

    Although this list is not meant to be an exhaustive list of all of the different kinds of medical departments you can find in Japan, please do let me know in the comments if you think I have left off an important or very common one. You can also let me know if I made any errors as well - my Japanese is much better than it was the first time I had to use the healthcare system here, but it is far from perfect!

    Until next month: keep washing your hands, practise social distancing, and try not to spend too much time immersed in reading and thinking about the pandemic so that you can stay healthy and you don't need to make use of this list. Take care!

    by: S.Suzuyama 

  • 03 Feb 2020 2:03 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    At the time of writing this, the New Lunar Year holidays are ending and they have been dampened by the presence of a new version of the coronavirus, presently referred to in English as Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). As of this morning, February 3rd 2020, 360 people in China and one person in the Philippines have died and over 14550 people have been infected around the globe, including 20 in Japan. A coronavirus is one of the types of viruses responsible for the common cold. It is also responsible for more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A Novel Coronavirus is a new strain of the coronavirus that has not been identified in humans previously. People of all ages can be infected with the coronavirus but, as with most illnesses, people with pre-existing medical conditions such as asthma, cystic fibrosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are more at risk of becoming severely ill. 

    The main concern when it comes to complications from respiratory infections, such as the novel coronavirus, the common cold and influenza, is that they can develop into viral pneumonia which is hard to fight off if you are already in poor health. Colds can also put you at risk for developing bacterial pneumonia, which can be treated with antibiotics, viral pneumonia cannot. Viral pneumonia can only be treated with rest, fluids and lung function support if hospitalized. Other complications of colds and influenza include dehydration, bronchitis, ear infection, sinus infection and heart complications such as pericarditis and myocarditis. 

    Before we look at how to prevent ourselves from getting sick or start panicking about the novel coronavirus, let’s take a look at the mortality rates for respiratory illnesses:  

    • Novel Coronavirus, unknown at the moment but current estimates are putting it at around 2% with high-end estimates around 4%

    • Common cold, not typically fatal - presumably those who die from what starts out as a common cold are likely at risk individuals who go on to develop pneumonia or other complications so it is hard to find clear statistics on its mortality rate.

    • Seasonal Influenza, varies depending on the season and the strain, often around 1%

    • SARS, 10%

    • MERS, 30%


    Even if you have no preexisting conditions or other risk factors, no one likes getting sick. The novel coronavirus, the common cold and influenza, all spread through the air via particles from an infected person’s cough or sneeze; by close contact, such as shaking hands or touching an infected person; by touching surfaces with viral particles on them and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands; in rare cases, from fecal contamination. 

    The best ways to avoid getting a respiratory illness include:

    • Avoid close contact with people suffering from respiratory infections 

    • Frequent handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after contact with ill people or their environment

    • Try to avoid large crowds

    • Avoid touching surfaces with your bare hands if you can - try wearing gloves while you’re out and about, or using your elbow to open doors when possible

    • Do not to touch your face 

    • Stand far away from people who are coughing and sneezing - droplets from coughs can travel up to six metres and up to eight metres from sneezes

    • Don’t smoke 

    • Get enough sleep

    • Eat a healthy nutrient rich diet - a rainbow of plants, mostly whole foods, adequate calories

    • Maintain a healthy home environment - a comfortable temperature, no mold/allergens, frequently clean and disinfect surfaces if a member of your family is sick

    • Minimize stress - try relaxation techniques and don’t panic over the new coronavirus!

    • Exercise

    • Get vaccinated against influenza

    Masks will not protect you from the novel coronavirus as they are not designed to prevent virus particles from penetrating them. To make matters worse, masks may encourage infection as they are a breeding ground for bacteria and may also cause you to touch your face more with dirty hands to adjust your mask. Gargling has been promoted in Japan as trusted measure against getting sick but American experts disagree with its effectiveness. 


    Symptoms of coronavirus include cough, fever, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. Symptoms may appear between 2 and 14 days after exposure, with an average of appearing 5 days after being infected. Symptoms of influenza include fever or feeling feverish, cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache and body aches accompanied by fatigue, stomach-upset may occur, especially in children.

    If you find yourself feeling under the weather, there is no specific treatment for coronavirus infections and most people recover with rest and plenty of fluids. You can treat symptoms with over-the-counter medication and by using a humidifier. If you think you have influenza there are antiviral medications available from your doctor that can help lessen its severity and duration. When seeking treatment be sure to inform your doctor if there is a possibility that you have been exposed to the novel coronavirus so that the outbreak can be traced as accurately as possible. 

    If you are sick, please stay home and rest, not only to help yourself recover but in order to prevent the infection from spreading. Practice good etiquette by maintaining distance from people, cover coughs and sneezes with tissues and then dispose of them promptly, if you don’t have a tissue handy, sneeze into your elbow rather than your bare hand (do not sneeze as noisily as possible into the air, which is a popular bad habit of a certain demographic in Japan). Masks may be helpful for catching droplets from coughs and sneezes if they are worn correctly with a tight fit and the elastics on the outside of the mask, not against the skin of your face which will cause gaps; they must be changed frequently and remember not to touch your dirty mask and then touch other surfaces without washing your hands. 

    Be sure to seek medical help if you have a pre-existing condition that puts you at increased risk of developing pneumonia or other complications, or if you develop any of the following symptoms:

    • Chest pain

    • An auxiliary (armpit) temperature of 38.5

    • Confusion in people over 65 years old

    • Difficulty breathing 

    • Rapid breathing 

    • Can’t sleep or consume adequate liquids/foods

    • Severe pain 


    At the moment there is no need to panic over the Novel Coronavirus but it is still important to take the same precautions against infections as you normally would during cold and flu season. Stay informed on the latest developments on the spread of novel coronavirus but remember not to let media hype stress you out as that will make you more susceptible to infection! 


    By: S.Suzuyama

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