This year is the 50th anniversary of the Association of Foreign Wives of Japanese and we have been celebrating all year long with various events around the country. The main celebration will be held next month during the annual AFWJ national convention, at the Tokyo American Club, the venue that our founding members first met at. It is an exciting year to be part of AFWJ!
Fifty years ago there was no internet and no internet groups to connect foreign women living in Japan, so that first meeting was a pretty big deal. Staying connected and having other women to share your troubles and triumphs with as you navigated through life in Japan was, and still is, invaluable. Nowadays, with all the modern-day options for staying connected, some might wonder whether membership in an organization like AFWJ still has any merit. With this in mind, I thought I’d share my reasons for joining the organization.
When I first heard of AFWJ, I was hesitant to join because I lived in rural Kochi and I didn't see the point of paying dues when I wouldn’t be able to meet any members in real life. There were no members around where I lived and I couldn’t travel to the conventions because I had a small child. I thought: “why pay to join an online forum”? Boy did I have the wrong idea! I could have used the wisdom and support of AFWJ more then than at any other time of my life. I was a new mom with a sick husband in a rural setting and I felt terribly isolated and stressed out most of the time. Having access to the AFWJ community would have been a tremendous help in making me feel less alone. I didn’t join until we had moved away from that rural life and into the city, where I met an AFWJ member in person. She was so warm and inviting and her enthusiasm for AFWJ opened me up to the idea of joining. That was just under 6 years ago and I am happy that I took a chance, paid the yearly dues, and was able to see first-hand all that AFWJ has to offer. I just wish I had have joined sooner when I really needed the support and network that AFWJ has to offer.
AFWJ is often talked about as a sisterhood, but as a younger member I sometimes see it more like a network of wise Aunties. Members always have great advice, are there to offer encouragement and shoulders to lean on, and come along with enough fun and silliness to keep things interesting. Growing up I was lucky enough to have wonderful Aunties and now I feel like I have a network of Aunties here in Japan who understand the culture, the difficulties, and the funny things about being married into it and trying to raise a family here. I will try to be an awesome AFWJ Auntie to younger members and I hope the younger members help me to stay youthful and flexible in my thinking as I grow older. I think that being part of this community of women, with such a wide range of experience and viewpoints, helps me to see the "big picture"; not just about life in Japan, but life in general. I truly believe that age doesn't matter when you're kindred spirits. Once in a while there might be a little friction between members, but for the most part the hundreds of AFWJ members get along pretty well. I think it is natural for women to have a large inter-generational community, it feels comfortable and offers comfort; that's why I continue to be a member of AFWJ.
With over 450 members, the reasons for joining AFWJ are as varied as our members, each one of us find our own unique reason for being a part of this organization. Fifty years in and we’re still going strong, so we must be doing something right! If you are interested in joining AFWJ, check out this how to join google doc or contact a member to find out more.