AFWJ Blog

Read about AFWJ and matters related to life in Japan and beyond.

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  • 08 Apr 2022 7:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The big day arrived. I’d been teasing her ever since she graduated elementary, telling her she’s not a junior high school student until the actual ceremony. Well now she is because the ceremony is over.

    She looked so grown up in her uniform, so pretty. I envy her olive skin, dark eyes and long thick brown hair. I wore a dark dress with a purple and pink flowered pattern. I don’t think anyone else wore a dress. There were a couple of people in kimonos but most wore suits or stuck to the general formal fashion prominent at these ceremonies. I stand out whatever I do, so I figured I’d just wear a dress I like, rather than worry about looking like everyone else. I also wore black ankle boots. It’s definitely not the season for those around here. Everyone else wore shoes. I like my boots though and they are my most comfortable footwear aside from my trainers. Besides... as anyone who lives in Japan knows, all shoes come off in the entrance hall anyway, so what does it even matter?

    I asked my daughter how she was feeling before we went. Her biggest concern was whether she would be in the same class as her best friend or not. They mix the kids up every year and there is a tendency to split friends, in order to encourage them away from always hanging around with the same people. She also said she was nervous about bullying, not so much about it happening to her, but more about seeing it happen to someone else. I told her that if anything ever happens then we can talk about it together and try and find a solution. I also told her that unfortunately bullying is something we all have to learn to deal with, because it doesn’t just occur in schools, it happens amongst adults too.

    When we arrived at the school, the first thing to do was to check the list of names taped to the door of the entrance (genkan) and find out what class our daughter was to be in. Unfortunately, she didn’t get to be with her best friend. Luckily there are a couple of girls she really likes in her class though. We went inside and removed our shoes. We were immediately greeted by some third graders who handed us a little packet with a disinfectant wipe in it for our chairs. For anyone reading this who is not familiar with Japanese schools, it is customary to wear indoor shoes in schools. When parents go, they take their own shoes or slippers and a plastic bag to carry their outdoor shoes in. Mine are some flat slip-on black shoes that I bought specially for occasions such as these.

    My daughter then headed to her new classroom. We were ushered in the opposite direction and handed a thick envelope with about 25 different letters and forms inside it, plus the program for the ceremony. We then proceeded to the school gym. Many of the forms are health related, for at the start of the school year all children undergo a variety of health checks, including this year for the first graders, an ECG.


    Just before the ceremony began, the students filed into the gym, while the parents and teachers clapped. They were to be seated right in front of the stage, with the parents or guardians behind and the teachers to the left at the side. When they reached their seats, the clapping halted and there was complete silence. It always amazes me how children in Japan are so compliant. I think back to my school days and I remember how kids would shuffle and squirm and fidget. There’d be coughing, low whispering, even people calling out sometimes. There’d inevitably be someone who suddenly decided they needed to leave to go to the bathroom and then someone else who would faint and cause a big commotion. Not during my child’s ceremony though. You couldn’t hear a pin drop and no one moved an inch until it was time to bow Then, like magic, a whole grade of around 90 patient twelve-year-olds lowered their heads and upper bodies in almost perfect unison.

    As surreptitiously as I could, I wiped away the dampness around my eyes. My baby is growing up fast. It is such an important life stage for them too, entering junior high. The teen years are now fully upon us. This is where their studies become much more important and their life paths get forged. Those that are academically minded will get into the best high schools and universities. To be honest I am not sure where my daughter lies yet. She’s always done well in elementary. From now on though, she`ll be ranked in every test. I have no idea if this will be something that inspires her to strive harder or something that zaps her confidence and causes her to step back. I guess time will tell.

    ‘Kimi ga yo’, the Japanese national anthem was played over the loud speakers. It was an instrumental version and nobody sang. I find it a very solemn piece of music. It added to my melancholic mood. I tried to focus more on the fact this is a new beginning not a loss.

    The principal gave the first speech. Often in these big gyms, I struggle to hear and understand because the sound can be quite echoey. In bad weather, rain pounds on the roof and can completely drown out a speaker, even with a mic. Today though, it was sunny and warm and this gym is newer, so I was pleased to be able to understand pretty much everything. His words focused mostly on encouraging the new students to do their best to try new things and discover their own passions in life. He also emphasised making the right choices and creating their own personal goals. He said he hoped they had a wonderful three years in the school.

    The next speaker was the head of the PTA. He too talked about discovering new interests and finding out for themselves what they really enjoyed. These speeches do follow a general pattern. They all begin and end of course with a bow. Many will include a reference to the season and lately to the trials of the coronavirus pandemic. The new students are congratulated heartily. It definitely feels like a special day for them, a big moment of their school lives.

    Next were the students’ speeches. First, a representative spoke for all the new students. Facing the principal head on, the young boy fearlessly read out a letter, his voice clear and confident. The whole grade was standing during this. He thanked the headmaster for the wonderful ceremony the school had provided them and promised that they would all try hard. He acknowledged all the teachers and promised to do their best to be good students. His words were obviously moulded into a pattern that is no doubt repeated year after year, but I thought it was a beautiful part of the ceremony, focusing on gratitude, ambition and potential.

    Following this, a third grader addressed the new students and congratulated them all for entering the school. She told them the older students were really looking forward to having them there and enjoying school life together. She reminisced how she was standing there like them just two years ago and she remembers what it was like, the excitement, the nerves, the anticipation. She asked them to reach out to an older student if ever they felt uncertain. It goes so fast, she told them earnestly. I am certain every parent there could agree.

    The special guests were introduced by name. This was then followed by the teaching staff, starting with the three homeroom tutors, all male. My daughter’s teacher happens to be the PE teacher. Following on from that, a representative for the parents then spoke. I have no idea when these things get decided, but I imagine it was probably during a PTA meeting, which I was not involved with last year. She thanked the school for the ceremony, congratulated the kids again and asked them to reach out for support whenever they need it.

    Finally, the school song was played on loud speakers before some brief closing words. The new students filed back out of the gym, this time to some upbeat music and that was it the ceremony was over.

    My daughter’s teacher then came over and thanked us all for attending. He told us what an amazing bunch of kids we have and how well-behaved they were during the ceremony. He noted how tremendously they will change over these next three years and that he and the rest of the teaching staff promised to do their absolute best to educate them to the best of their ability.

    And so there it is. I have a junior high school student now. Life is going to change so much for her now - and for me too.

    Helen Nomura  


  • 05 Apr 2022 6:08 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I am Helen Nomura and I am going to try my hand at being AFWJ’s blogger for a while. I’ve been excited to get writing, but have been struggling to start. The very first entry just seems so daunting. Do I do some kind of self-intro? Do I just go steaming ahead with the first article idea that comes into my head? To be honest I don’t know. I have no idea who is reading this and who it might appeal to. What I do know, however, is that the days are speeding by and it is already 5th April. So, I decided, don’t think… just get started and write.

    I think it does make sense to make some kind of self-introduction, so I will do that. I am British (English) and have been living in Japan for nearly 20 years. My passions in life are writing, classical piano and travelling. It was my love for languages though that initially brought me here. I studied several European languages at school and university, but I had always longed to learn Japanese. Mainly this was because I fell in love with the writing system. It was just so different to English. I also wanted to try learning a language by living with it, rather than through textbooks and classrooms.

    Of course, I was one of those who originally planned to just come here for a “year or two”. Ha! I’m sure many of us can relate to that story. Well, four years later I was married. I had my children in 2009 and 2010. After they were born, I started to look for other long-term foreigners living in Japan. I didn’t want to make friends with people who would only be staying for a year or two and moving on. In addition, many newbies to Japan were fresh out of university or college and I was getting older and had started a family. It felt like a very different life stage.

    When I first came across AFWJ there were unfortunately two things that put me off joining immediately. Firstly, there was the matter of fees. It felt like a lot of money back then, for I was basically a stay-at-home mum and we were on a tight budget. It was doable, but I didn’t want to spend money on something that I wasn’t certain would be worth it. And this leads me to the second and main reason that initially dissuaded me from joining. I live in a fairly rural part of Japan and so I figured the chances of me being able to attend any meetups were slim to none.

    Not long after though, I attended a teaching event in Fukuoka, a two-hour drive from me. There I met some very enthusiastic representatives of AFWJ who told me it would be okay to join the Kyushu district rather than the Chugoku and Kansai one, which technically my prefecture belonged to. Events in northern Kyushu would be way more accessible to me than an event in Osaka, which would be a 7-hour drive away. So, happily, I signed up.

    It changed my whole life. I haven’t really spoken of this much in the group, but it is no exaggeration to say that. I went from being pretty shy and isolated to suddenly having the most amazing group of friends who understood what it was like to be living here as a foreigner in a long-term relationship. I had people to ask questions to, get advice from, talk to when I felt alone. I gained a community basically. I hadn’t even realised just how much I needed one.

    I’ve been a member for almost 8 years now. I’ve been to three national conventions, several district meetups and mini-conventions, met people living all over Japan, collaborated with other members on various projects, served for a brief time on the national board and most recently have helped establish an LGBTQ+ group for our members that identify under that umbrella. I have gained so much confidence over the last eight years largely due to AFWJ and the friends I have made. That’s why I am proud and happy to help out with the blog.

    I hope that what I write will be of interest to AFWJ members, potential members and anyone else who is curious about life in Japan or with a Japanese partner.

    Thank you so much for reading and I’ll be back soon.

    Helen Nomura. x

    Close up of cherry blossom flowers

  • 26 Aug 2021 11:30 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This month we wanted to share some of our members’ experiences of volunteering at the Olympics and the ParaOlympics. Thanks so much to AFWJ member, B.N. for curating this post for us and sharing her experience and that of two other members.

    ___________________________________________________________________

    The application process for volunteering in the Olympics started way back in 2018 for a 2020 Olympics and several members of AFWJ stepped up to participate as volunteers.  As the Olympics finally approached one of the volunteers, J.T., reached out to the membership and found others had also volunteered. From this she formed a group of the volunteering members in order to offer encouragement and support to each other. The great thing about that was that this group of women got to meet for a delicious lunch to share and exchange our volunteering experiences. I think one of the benefits of being in AFWJ is being able to share an experience like this with women whose lives have similar circumstances, and in this case, with other women who shared the desire to help out at the Olympics.

    Sometimes it is difficult to step up and get involved in events, in our communities, in our kids’ schools, and in many other ways, because of culture, language or even just our personal insecurities of going it alone. Being able to put an idea out to a community of women in a similar circumstance can be empowering. Of course, no one else might take you up on your idea but with a membership of over 450 women there is a very good chance you’ll find some other member who’s willing to give your idea a go.

    Here are clips of the stories of a few of our members:

    From B.N. : 

    I applied to volunteer in the Olympics some time in 2018. My thinking at the time was: “Wow! What an opportunity! How often in a lifetime would the Olympics happen in the city where someone lives?”, so I applied and I also applied for both my kids. One was not accepted and the other withdrew because the year delay meant the timing no longer worked for him.

    As the Opening Ceremony drew closer I considered withdrawing myself as I had been assigned the role of Driver Supporter in the Olympic Village which meant I would be in a car with people not long arrived from overseas and there was no sign of a vaccine being provided. I was forced to consider what this opportunity meant to me in light of the negativity in the media and the possible risk for myself. I decided not to withdraw. I decided to be part of the solution, to try to make the experience of those visiting Japan for the Olympics just a little better if I could and so I showed up.

    I had the privilege of driving Olympic Committee Members from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Mongolian committee members on the night they lost the gold in judo to Japan, and a very kind committee member from the Virgin Islands (US), among others. I even got to sit in the stand at an event I had applied for tickets for pre-Covid; what a treat that was! Then I got to meet with a bunch of AFWJ women, over a delicious lunch, to share and exchange the highlights and the lowlights.

    The role I was assigned was not the role I had imagined when I signed up to volunteer but it was a lovely opportunity to meet people that I would normally never encounter. An opportunity to give back to Japan. An opportunity to be part of the Olympics! Yeah! That’s the one I’ll be sharing with my grandkids.

    _____________________________________________________________________

    From J.T. :

    I applied to volunteer two years ago, pre-pandemic and one of the three area of interest I selected at that time was Media Services. Last year I was given my official title/venue, Press Operations-Photo Team Member, Odaiba Marine Park. The events I helped with were: the Men’s and the Women’s Triathlon, Mixed Relay Triathlon, and the Men’s and the Women’s Marathon Swimming. I helped guide the photographers on where to be during the event.


    One interesting thing that happened was that because of the lack of audience, our boss gave us permission to take photos (inconspicuously) when we had time. So, I was able to get some really close up photos since we were there on the ground with the athletes. 


    I’ve always loved the Olympics since I was young and this has been a dream come true. I’ll treasure this experience forever.









    _____________________________________________________________________

    From R.T. :

    My Olympic volunteer service is with Sports Information Centre (SIC). Our job is to handle all official documents to distribute them to the official team leaders who need them. We also handle training schedules, cold meal pack orders and have all the information about each sport. We also get some interesting requests and do our best get answers.

    I wanted to be a volunteer because I wanted to give back to the country that has helped me and treated me well over the years! I thought I would be in medical so I was surprised to be in SIC.

    The experience is great, however, there has been a few bumps in the beginning due to IOC firing the people who were suppose to train us but together as volunteers we learned our job and taught each other. It is fun to help the teams and when we get strange requests it is fun to solve them.

    During my volunteer days I average about 20,000 steps so I have enjoyed the exercise. A few days were hot but I just drank more water.

    To me it is an honor to volunteer and I wear the uniform proudly. It is really nice when a stranger comes up to you and says thank you for your service!

    I am excited to continue on and help with the Para-Olympics too!

  • 16 Jul 2021 11:59 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    If you are an AFWJ member, then you probably know, we will be needing to fill most of the Board positions for 2022. Office terms are for one year with an option to run for the same office for two consecutive terms. We need new officers to assume duties on April 1, 2022. 

    Even though the national elections aren't until Winter, I am on the hunt for the next Journal Editor. If you're at all interested in being the next Journal Editor, please let me know. I would love to tell you all about the position, plus the earlier we start training the better!

    If you're worried that you can't be the Journal Editor because you don't have a good computer, you can rest assured that is not the case! AFWJ will lend you the Journal Editor's computer to use to make the Journal. It comes with all the old Journal and Directory files for easy access. It can run the Indesign program needed to assemble the Journal. The Indesign program is software purchased yearly from Adobe, and it is always kept up-to-date. There are a lot of great tutorials for the program and support from Adobe if you need help. It is a powerful program and the Journal Editor computer is a powerful machine. There is also a Journal Editor laptop for the Journal Editor's assistant to use. This laptop is currently being used to make the 50th anniversary magazine, but could be sent to you shortly if you are interested in becoming the future Journal Editor.

    The Potential Takeover Timeline:

    • someone steps up to run for Journal Editor as soon as possible
    • they receive the assistant editor laptop
    • I start training them on how to make a Journal remotely via email/messaging/zoom
    • sometime closer to the National election we schedule a weekend for more intensive in-person training (this will depend on the pandemic, vaccines and travel ability)
    • they are elected in the National election - ballots go out in the winter Journal
    • they continue to assist me in making the Journal, gradually doing more and more as they become comfortable with the process
    • their first Journal as Journal Editor will be the summer 2022 issue
    • I continue to assist them in their role for the first year-ish of the possible 2-year term, as we start looking for a new assistant who might in interested in the Journal Editor job in 2024
    Top 10 reasons you should consider being the next Journal Editor:

    1- you get to learn how to use Indesign, very cool and powerful publication software

    2- you get to communicate with many members that you might not otherwise meet (I have met some very lovely people)

    3- you are the first one to see all the contributions

    4- you can learn many new things about layout and font

    5- you get to be on the Board and see the inner workings of AFWJ and gain a whole new respect for the work involved in running this type of organization

    6- assembling the Journal is a fun creative endeavor

    7- you get to work with the amazing Journal team (I will also remain on the team to help you ease into the role as your assistant)

    8- it is a great chance to give back to AFWJ

    9- you can start from scratch, no experience required (I did not know how to use Indesign at all and had never done any publishing of this type when I started)

    10- being a part of the Board for one or two years allows you to be part of steering AFWJ into the future

    We really need someone to step up for this important role. However, a little worryingly, we don't have anyone lined up to take over the position after me. Of course, in the case that no one can be found, we could take the leap and go fully online, with events and all else being published on our website and its blog. However, I am sure that many members would be sad to have no Journal, so I hope someone will come forward! Please let me know if you are at all interested in becoming the next Journal Editor, and I would be happy to answer any questions you have. Please email me at journaleditor@afwj.org or send me a message via Facebook. Thank you so much for your consideration.

    Besides looking for a new Journal Editor we will need to fill almost the entire Board with new volunteers as most of our terms will be over in the spring of 2022. Please consider joining the Board, as we cannot administer AFWJ without a dedicated group of volunteers. I am not sure what will happen if we cannot find people to fill positions...election by sortition?! 

    ~S.Suzuyama, Journal Editor 2020/2021

  • 16 Jun 2021 6:14 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Rainy season is here and appetites and energy are low. AFWJ to the rescue with 3 simple recipes from The AFWJ Kitchen, our very own cookbook. 

    Recipe 1:

    Simple Bok Choy Salad

    Vegetables:

    • 4 baby bok choy 
    • 1 carrot
    • 2 stalks of celery
    • 1 red pepper
    Dressing:
    • 2.5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 tbsp sesame oil
    • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
    • 1 tsp soy sauce
    • 1 tsp agave syrup or honey

    Extras:

    • Salt and Pepper
    • Sesame seeds
    1. Cut and combine veggies in a large bowl 
    2. Whisk together dressing ingredients and pour over veggies 
    3. Toss well
    4. Add salt and pepper to taste and desired amount of sesame seeds

    Recipe 2:

    Pineapple Fried Rice

    • 3 cups cooked rice
    • 2 tbsp oil
    • 2.5 tbsp soy sauce
    • ½ tsp pepper
    • 2 cloves garlic
    • ½ tbsp grated ginger

    Vegetables:

    • 1 small round onion cut into small pieces
    • 3 small green onions chopped (divided white and green sections)
    • ¼ cup peas 
    • ¼ big red bell pepper chopped
    • ¼ big green pepper chopped
    • 1 carrot diced 
    • 1 ¼ cups pineapple cut into small chunks

    *Have all ingredients cut and ready to go before you start cooking*

    1. Heat oil and then add ginger and garlic, saute over medium heat for 2 minutes
    2. Turn up heat and round onion and the white part of the green onions, saute for 2 minutes
    3. Add other veggies (except for the green parts of the green onion), saute for 1 to 2 minutes
    4. Add pineapple, cook for 1 minute
    5. Add rice, soy sauce, salt and pepper, lower heat and cook for 2 minutes
    6. Garnish with the remaining green onion 

    Recipe 3:

    Japanese Mustard Spinach and Thick Deep-Fried Tofu Namul
    • 1 bunch of Komatsuna (approx 300g)
    • 1 sheet of atsuage (220g)
    Seasoning:
    • 2 tbsp white sesame seeds
    • 1 tbsp of sesame oil
    • 1 tbsp soy sauce
    • 1 tsp mirin
    • Salt to taste
    • Optional: Dried red pepper/chili flakes to taste
    1. blanch komatsuna
    2. blanch atsuage and cut into 1 cm wide strips
    3. combine seasoning ingredients 
    4. mix seasoning with komatsuna and atsuage

    We hope you enjoy this teeny sample of recipes from The AFWJ Kitchen! Members can find a link to the cookbook on the AFWJ in Action page of the website. Stay safe and dry and eat well during this season!

    ~S.Suzuyama

  • 15 May 2021 5:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    If you've found yourself with a change in employment over the last year due to the pandemic, or a new found desire to work from home, becoming a freelancer might be the way to go. If you've already been a freelancer for awhile, you're in good company, many AFWJ members are part of the community. Working remotely is also a great way to stay employed in your industry in Japan without having to had Japanese language skills!

    This post will point you to online courses to help you with five general freelancing skills: starting out, improving business, organization, contracting, and branding. With increasing numbers of freelancers joining the independent workforce, there is more competition than ever; don’t worry, there’s also more and more online education available to help you succeed. 

    In order to thrive as an independent worker you need to know how to handle the business-side of freelancing; here’s just a few places to help get you started in your quest for knowledge:

    Starting out: A course a new freelancer might want to start with is aptly called: Becoming a Freelancer in 2021. It is a free course that can be found at Upwork, a well-known freelancing website. This course covers all the skills a new freelancer needs to get started. It is a great course for beginners and anyone struggling with some of the basic freelance business skills needed in order to be successful. 

    Improving business: Several sources of advice for freelancers will point you to this course: Seth Godin’s Freelancer Course as one of the best online course available for anyone, from beginners to freelance-veterans, who is interested in becoming more successful in their freelance career. This course covers areas such as: finding clients, building your reputation, growing your business and earning a higher income.

    It also addresses a few other common concerns that freelancers face. It can be found at Udemy, one of the premier sources for online education, which is set up in a pay per course style and it’ll set you back ¥24,000

    Organization: When working from home it can be difficult to know when to be “on the clock” and when not to be, if you’re having trouble with scheduling and work/life balance as a freelancer, the course The Freelancing Guide: How to Organise your Work and Life might be right for you. This course covers 5 useful topics:

    1. Scheduling your time
    2. Doing favours for friends
    3. The importance of networking and socialising
    4. Using your downtime effectively
    5. Working around a family and other commitments

    It can be found at Skillshare, one of the most popular online education hubs, which operates by charging a monthly fee. To access this course, as well as all others available on Skillshare, a membership is required. They do offer a free one month trial if you’re not sure if you want to commit.

    Contracting: People who are just starting out as freelancers can often be totally clueless when it comes to contracts. Sometimes even experienced freelancers may not feel confident and competent in their knowledge of how contracts work and need a little help. The course Contracting for Creatives explores contract-related topics so thoroughly that you will be an expert by the time you finish it. It covers:

    • Types of contracts
    • Asking for an NDA
    • Work-for-hire and contractor agreements
    • Proposals, quotes, and statements of work
    • Licensing agreements
    • Delivery and payment terms

    Branding: Our final course is offered by fiverr, another freelancing platform like upwork which also offers free courses. Anyone in need of branding help can learn from this guide called What is Branding, which covers: what branding is, why it's important and how to do it. It is not as spiffy as the fee-based content available but this easy to read guide is great for people who need to learn about branding but do not have money to spend on education at the moment. 

    Taking time to study the business aspect of freelancing can really improve your chances of success. However, be sure to spend your time wisely; it is important to spend more time on studying and improving your skills in your niche area than it is to become a business expert. 

    ~S.Suzuyama

  • 19 Apr 2021 2:08 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This month we have a special guest post by one of the DART project's essential team members, Janet K. What is DART? The Digitalization of AFWJ Records Team, a team working tirelessly to preserve the important documents of the Association of Foreign Wives of Japanese. How are they going about that immense task? Read on to find out.

    50 years! Quite a span of time. Certainly one to be celebrated and remembered...and as the dust was setting after our big event in the autumn of 2019, sparks of conversation lingered…..‘How nice it would be to have our Journals and history online…’, ‘would love to see the newsletters from the early days’....

    I am sure a few of us have thought and even said those words out loud! But boy, what a task….and so the words linger for a while longer….

    It’s funny though, sometimes something that seems like such a huge task can shrink in size and dauntingness, with the help of your friends. And that is exactly what happened with the DART project. A few months in and most of the time has been spent waiting for the professional scanner to do his stuff! But how glad we are to have found him.

    Here's a brief rundown:

    We have over 50 years of newsletters, Journals and additional publications, plus a whole pile of other documents that the Historian keeps at her house. Logical brain in gear; let’s start with what we want to see most. The newsletters and Journals spanning our precious 50 years. The first task was to find people who would lend or donate their own personal copies...we couldn’t risk damage or potential loss to the Historian’s precious copies. How long do you think it would take? Quite simply, a lot less time than I imagined ...in fact, within a day or two various friends had stepped up to the mark and phase one was accomplished! 

    For someone like myself, who has literally never scanned anything in her life, the purchase of an overhead scanner was great, but rather daunting. First, installing software isn’t my strong point and always has me in a sweat. However, a few weeks after the Board approved of its purchase, the scanner was safely set up on my dining table. With newsletters in hand, I began….then my computer crashed. 

    Never one to give up easily, I got the new computer ready to go and we were off. Within a few weeks, the first 100 newsletters were scanned, labeled and stored! While you may be thinking it was rather laborsome, the hardest part was not stopping to read them word for word. It was impossible not to sneak a peek! It was interesting to see the club grow and evolve and see how the needs of members in the beginning were just the same as those of today. I smiled at the humor, shed a tear when tragedy struck and read how the women of each decade reacted and stepped up to help in any way they could for every turn of events, just as they do today. I realised that the newsletters and Journals are not just an interesting read, but they are a detailed and clearly documented account of our organization. Working on the In Remembrance project, which records and is a tribute to members who have passed away, names became lovingly admired ‘senpai’. As I read their names over and over, saw how much they had done to start the group off, how many ideas had lead to major developments in the organization, I was in awe! Now I feel like I know them personally and mourn their loss, which was for many, way too soon. 

    So where is DART now? The last two batches of Journals should be back from the scanner soon and how thrilling it will be to see them all listed ….every one of over 300 newsletters and Journals plus all of the additional publications, available to read online. I recommend revisiting the early days of AFWJ, by reading from the beginning how our club got started and how we made it this far….you won’t be disappointed.

    Oh, and watch this space for the next phase of DART...we may need your help! 

    by Janet K.

  • 09 Mar 2021 12:53 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It’s been about a year since the pandemic really sank its teeth into our lives. Last spring schools shut down, states of emergency were declared, and in stores toilet paper, masks and hand sanitizer became scarce. We started to stay home and events were cancelled. Members of the Association of Foreign Wives of Japanese were impacted in a variety of ways, from catching covid19, to an increase in stress-levels, to losing loved ones and not being able to see them one last time, to being locked-out of the country they call home and so much more.

    Not only did the pandemic affect individual members, it changed the way AFWJ had to function. We had to cancel events, both local and national, including our annual Convention, which is the highlight of the year for many members. Our annual Board meeting was conducted via Zoom, placing more than a wee bit of stress on the Board members who had to figure out the best way to adapt to the new format. We also had to conduct an online Town Hall when tensions were high and everyone’s stress seemed to bubble over in our main Facebook group. However, this is not the first time that AFWJ has faced new challenges, and it probably won’t be the last. As an organization AFWJ adapted to the new norm in a variety of ways. 

    One highlight of the year was an increased use of Zoom to help our members connect. The best part of AFWJ events on Zoom are the opportunity for members from all over Japan and around the world to meet each other and enjoy each others’ company. Two big Zoom events are held every month. One takes place on Sunday evening Japan-time, so many members around Japan can easily join. The other takes place on Monday morning Japan-time, so it is easier for our overseas members to join, as well as members in Japan who have an easier time joining in the mornings rather than the evenings. All members are welcome to join either, or both of the events each month and stay for as long as they want and move into breakout rooms etc. Feedback reveals that many people are really grateful for and are quite enjoying these fun and informal meetings! There are also smaller Zoom meetings with a specific focus, such as the Book Club Zooms, Pottery Conversations Zooms and Sketch Sprint Zooms. The general Zoom meetings came about from a member initiative called ZEST: Zoom Easy Social Talk, composed of members who came up with the idea for monthly Zooms, organize them, host them and make announcements about them. The other regular Zoom events have also come about from member initiatives. 

    Thanks to the pandemic and people spending more time at home having less events to go to and things to do, we have seen many new member initiatives in AFWJ recently. I think the biggest project that took place in 2020 was The AFWJ Kitchen, a cookbook focusing on vegetables that was initiated by one member, worked on by a group of members and includes recipes from many members. I have tried a few recipes out and they are delicious! The ebook version was first released only to AFWJ members, but will become available on this website for anyone to download soon (if not already depending on when you are reading this). The cookbook committee is currently working on making a print-on-demand version of The AFWJ Kitchen, so keep an eye out for that to hit the website in 2021. The most heartfelt member initiative has been the Birthday Project, which sends birthday cards to their fellow members of AFWJ. It started with a single member and now there is a team of birthday card senders working to make people’s birthdays a little bit brighter during these lonely days. I know I was certainly delighted to receive my birthday card last year! One more member initiative that I can think of off the top of my head is still in its early days, as a few members have shown an interest in connecting the children of AFWJ members and the ball is just starting to roll on that. I look forward to seeing where it goes and what other member initiatives get started in 2021!

    Outdoor AFWJ events became more popular in 2020, thanks to Sars-Cov-2. Things like picnics, hikes, walks, cross-country skiing and other outdoor excursions safely allowed members to meet in-person between pandemic waves. Kanagawa in particular held several fun looking hikes last year. There was also a fundraiser put on by the AFWJ Cycling Group, another member initiative, that raised funds for Heart Tokushima, Smart Supply Vision and bought 11 futons for a charity that was providing assistance to those affected by the flooding in Kumamoto last summer. The virtual cycling event had members cycling individually in various regions, yet together all on the same weekend. A Ride for Charity participants cycled a total of 954 kilometres! I hope these outdoor events and the charitable spirit of AFWJ continues long after the pandemic has subsided. 

    Even though the covid19 pandemic has forced AFWJ to adapt rather quickly to our new circumstances, thoughts about how to modernize and attract new members have been on our minds for a few years now. This year a new initiative is starting, tentatively called MAP: Modernizing AFWJ Project, which aims to generate new methods to attract members, make AFWJ a more inclusive space, optimize social media use for PR, brainstorm ways to integrate new members and figure out ways to keep members who aren’t online much still feel connected to the group. Who knows what interesting things the modernization project might come up with? I anticipate some big changes coming down the AFWJ pipeline in the next few years.

    AFWJ is over 50 years old and has changed a lot since its first luncheon in Tokyo in 1969. Which reminds me, one of our most ambitious member initiative projects began in 2020, DART: the Digitalization of AFWJ Records Team has been working tirelessly to collect AFWJ paraphernalia from throughout its history and is scanning everything and making it available online behind the member wall of this website. Connected to DART is the In Remembrance project, which is a beautiful tribute to AFWJ members who have passed on. AFWJ as an organization is looking toward the future and adapting, but we will always cherish our history. 

    ~S.Suzuyama

  • 10 Feb 2021 11:38 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Knowledge is power and if you have been sent reeling by a cancer diagnosis, you will want to arm yourself with as much information as possible. You can start by checking out the National Cancer Institute’s website (https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer) which has a wealth of information from the basics of what cancer is, to coping, to current research. The Union for International Cancer Control (https://www.uicc.org/) has the latest international news about cancer, as well as resources for patients and their families on their resource page. 

    If you or your loved one would like to find out more information about cancer in Japanese, take a look at the websites for The Center for Cancer Control and Information Services (https://ganjoho.jp/public/index.html) and the Japan Cancer Society (http://www.jcancer.jp/) There are also 3 hotlines available for consultation:

    1. General Cancer Consultation Hotline/がん相談ホットライン: 03-3541-7830

    2. Consult an Expert Hotline/専門医によるがん無料相談: 03-3541-7835

    3. Employment Hotline/就労相談(社労士がん相談): 03-3541-7835

    Once you have started to arm yourself with knowledge about the type of cancer you are facing and its treatment options and outcome, you are going to need support. Healthcare Institutions in Japan often have medical social workers in them to help with the economic, social and psychological problems that patients and their families face. To find a member of the Japanese Association of Social Workers in Health Services at a hospital near you, you can consult a map on their website (https://www.jaswhs.or.jp/map/map.php). You can find support as a cancer survivor in Japanese in the Cancer Survivor Club (https://www.gsclub.jp/) which has its own social networking site. 

    If you are a caregiver in need of support you can find it at Help for Cancer Caregivers (https://www.helpforcancercaregivers.org/) and at the Caregiver Action Network (https://caregiveraction.org/), which has at telephone hotline, as well as email and chat options. 

    Coping with a cancer diagnosis can be hard on your mental health and if you or your loved one find yourself in need of support or counselling, the Tokyo English Lifeline (https://telljp.com/) offers an English telephone hotline, a text chat, as well as counselling options in both English and Japanese.

    This small list of resources only scratches the surface of what is available, but I hope it can give you a starting place from where to proceed if you find yourself facing a cancer diagnosis for you or your loved one. Please do not hesitate to reach out to AFWJ members for support and guidance, that’s what we’re here for.

    ~S.Suzuyama


  • 28 Jan 2021 11:59 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    The Association of Foreign Wives of Japanese is run entirely on volunteer power, from the Executive Board, to the District Representatives and Chapter Leaders, to various member-initiated Committees. It is amazing what kind of things can get done when people give their time to do unpaid labour for an organization! Women already perform a lot of unpaid labour around their homes, so it is truly amazing the amount of time they are willing to give to our group. However, it makes one wonder: when we all have our own busy lives to worry about, why take the time to volunteer? I know in my role as a volunteer for AFWJ, I have learned a few things and made a few new friends, so I already knew about a couple of the benefits of volunteering, but I was surprised to learn that there are some other surprising perks. 


    1 - Volunteering fosters a sense of community. I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of  “community” recently, so much so that I chose it as one of the upcoming Journal topics! With the pandemic forcing everyone to distance socially from their family, friends, peers and neighbours, what does it mean to belong to a community in 2021? It turns out that having the feeling that members matter to each other and to the overall group is a key part of belonging to a community. Volunteering gives you that sense by including you in more interactions with the community and giving you a role to play within it. You also end up interacting with a wider variety of community members than you might otherwise not get to know. Even though we haven’t been able to meet in person this last year, we have still been able to feel a sense of community as we interact online, and often, in our roles as volunteers.

    2- Volunteering is good for your health. Social activities and interactions can combat stress, anxiety and depression. Keeping in regular contact with people helps you develop a solid support system, which helps boost your mental health. It also gives you a sense of purpose, which keeps you mentally stimulated and engaged. As an added bonus, humans are hard-wired to be helpful so we get a burst of feel-good hormones and brain activity whenever we help others. Volunteering might also help you stay physically fit, depending on the activity. Last fall there was a member-initiative Ride for Charity that had members of the AFWJ Cycling Group take part in a virtual cycling tour to raise money for two charities that are near to our hearts. Staying fit while helping others is a great way to spend time!

    3 - Volunteering can help you build and practise useful skills. If you are thinking about changing careers, but don’t have the skills needed to get a job in the field you’d like to transition to, you might be able to access training opportunities through volunteering and a chance to practise those new skills. You can also network with people in that field in order to gear up for a career change (and volunteering looks good on a resume). Stepping into a volunteer role will give you experience in a new position, and you can use that experience to gauge whether or not a career in that area would be a good fit for you. However, you don’t need to be focused on your career and the skills that might benefit it, learning something new can be fun and rewarding in itself! Offering to help an organization gives you a break from your usual routine, and allows you to explore new interests and develop a new outlook on things. I know I learned a whole lot more about how our organization runs and how decisions are made while volunteering on the Board — plus I really enjoyed working on the Journal and learning about design and layout. 


    There are many volunteer opportunities in AFWJ. If you’re looking for leadership skills, perhaps a role on the Board would be a good fit? Perhaps you’re more interested in meeting local members, try being a Chapter leader or District Representative, or organizing a local event. If you want to meet members from all over Japan and the world, we now have many zoom events, you could offer to host or help run one. If you want to focus on a particular project, why not join one of the committees that are around? If you don’t see anyone working on a project that you think our members would like to be involved in, start it yourself and get others involved with the help of the current Board. I am sure there is a place to volunteer that would be just the right fit for you. 

    ~S.Suzuyama 

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If you are a member and would like to be a guest blogger for the AFWJ blog, please contact the Journal Editor at journaleditor@afwj.org. 

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