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

  • 09 May 2020 1:06 PM | Anonymous

    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

    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. 


  • 09 Apr 2020 2:42 PM | Anonymous

    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

    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

    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

  • 15 Jan 2020 12:11 PM | Anonymous

    Happy New Year!

    It is 2020, the year of the rat/mouse, the beginning of a new 12 year cycle in the Chinese Zodiac, and the year of the much anticipated Tokyo Olympics. Big things are sure to happen this year! What kind of fortune will it bring to you and your household? 

    Now that the winter holidays are over and we have all settled into our usual routines, it is a good time to take stock of our lives and see what we can put in place to ensure our well-being and success during the year. In order to do this I have divided important tasks into 3 steps you can take to success in 2020.

    Step 1: Survey

    This might be the most important step in your yearly life-check and may save you from a huge headache, or worse, down the road this year. At the beginning of the year it is a good idea to go over all your important documents to see if anything is expiring or needs updating this year. This is especially important for those of us that live abroad and need to maintain current passports and visas or risk getting into big trouble. Sometimes reminders are sent to you from the city office, prefecture, or immigration bureau, but not always so don’t rely on them. Check each document and write reminders on your calendar when the deadline to renew them is coming up. Better yet, set alarms in your digital calendar to remind you 2 months in advance and then again a month before the deadline, so you are sure not to miss it.

    Are these items up for renewal?

    • Passports: your own and your children's
    • Visa
    • Alien registration card: even if you are a permanent resident, you need to renew the card every few years in order to update the picture.
    • Driver’s license
    • Health and/or life insurance plan

    While you are taking a survey of important things in your life, here are a few more items to check on at the beginning of the year to make sure everything is in order: 

    • Check to see if documents like your last will and testament are still current, perhaps they need to be updated if there were any big changes last year. 
    • Go through your emergency supplies and see if anything is missing and if any of the items are reaching their expiration dates. 
    • Review your and your children’s health records to see if there are any specific medical checks or vaccines needed this year.
    • Look for any big birthdays, anniversaries, or memorials coming up that might require some extra spending money or travel time. 

    Step 2: Make Goals

    Many people talk about making new year’s resolutions but it is wiser to make goals and set a plan in action to achieve them. A great way to do this is to use the S.M.A.R.T method of goal setting, smart goals are goals that are:

    Specific - rather than a vague resolution, make your goal as specific as possible. For example, rather than: “I want to improve my Japanese” try: “I want to pass the N2 level of the JLPT next December” or “I want to read the novel Botchan entirely in Japanese”.

    Measurable - make sure your goal is something you can measure in order to see whether you reach it or not. This relates somewhat to setting specific goals, as in our example above - it is hard to measure a vague improvement in your Japanese language skills but passing a test or being able to read a novel is measurable.

    Attainable - your goal should be something attainable by you, this year. Don’t set yourself up to fail by setting goals that are too lofty. For example, if you are just starting to study Japanese it probably isn’t wise to make the goal of reading a novel in Japanese this year, try to aim for mastery of hiragana and katakana or perhaps the N4 or N3 level of the JLPT.

    Relevant - having a goal that is relevant to your life will make you more motivated to attain it. If you are never going to live in Japan or use Japanese, why make a goal based around learning the language?

    Time Based - this is one of the most important parts of setting goals that you will actually reach. Plan the steps you need to take in order to achieve your goal and then build them into your monthly calendar, with alarms if using an app/digital calendar. For example, in order to read the novel Botchan in Japanese, first you need to be pretty comfortable with kanji and vocabulary around an elementary grade 6 level, say you are only comfortable at a grade 4 or 5 level, so you plan to spend January to April brushing up on kanji and vocabulary. Then you might want to get a little more familiar with the dialect and older style of Japanese that Soseki uses in the novel Botchan so you plan to spend May and June looking into that. After that, you break the book’s 140 pages down to 28 pages per month from July through November, so you will read about one page a day - a pace slow enough to use a dictionary and check understanding, but regularly enough that you don’t forget where you are in the story. Finally, you decided to reread the whole book again in December. In this scenario each step is broken down and set out in an achievable timeline to keep you on track as you work towards your goal. 

    Step 3: Plan

    Now that you have surveyed your documents and important dates and set your goals, it is time to make sure everything is entered in your calendar and you have a solid plan for the year ahead.

    • If you need to take time off of work in order to renew your passport, driver’s license or visa, now is the time to think about how you are going to build that into your schedule and get time off. 
    • Schedule the steps and timeline to reach your S.M.A.R.T. goals. 
    • Plan to schedule doctor and dentist appointments for yourself and your children by entering them in your monthly calendar and setting an alarm so you will remember to do it and do not put it off. For example: March 1st - make appointments to have the whole family’s teeth cleaned, September 1st - schedule my yearly health check. 
    • Plot out any big work trips or vacations and how you might rearrange your daily schedule to fit them in - and if there is anything you need to do before them, such as renew your or your child’s passport. 
    • Think about any big expenditures that might pop up in 2020, or even in the upcoming years, such as tuition or a new appliance and start saving your money for them - you might even want to make a S.M.A.R.T. financial goal! 

    I hope I have given you the tools to help you have a great year in 2020. If I have left anything off that you think belongs on the list, please leave a comment below. We here at AFWJ wish you a happy and healthy 2020!

    By: S.Suzuyama 

  • 05 Dec 2019 10:09 AM | Anonymous

    It is the holiday season and everyone is busy with various preparations, including cooking, cleaning, decorating and spending money to buy gifts for loved ones. It is easy to get wrapped up in the heavy consumerism promoted this time of year, but if you are fortunate enough to have some extra money, consider spreading the holiday love around to those who are in need of a little help. There are so many worthy causes that it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which one to support. With that in mind, I have assembled a small list of organizations in Japan that could use your support, so you can get started on your way to celebrating the Giving Season. 

    TELL Japan - Tokyo English Life Line supports mental health in Japan by offering an English telephone hotline, a text chat, and counselling in both English and Japanese. It aims to provide effective support and counseling services to Japan's international community.

    Heart Tokushima - a registered NPO based in Tokushima run solely on a volunteer basis and funded entirely through donations. It is a no kill animal shelter with the goal of fostering a community in which companion animals can live free from suffering or cruelty. Their activities include rescue, care and re-homing of stray, abandoned, abused and neglected animals, as well as promoting spay/neuter and responsible pet ownership through education and support. 

    YouMeWe - is a Tokyo-based NPO with more than 10 years of experience building supporting relationships with local orphanages. Their main goal is to assist children growing up in institutionalized homes to become fully capable and financially independent young adults.

    Peace Winds Japan - provides humanitarian assistance around the world and also within Japan, including assistance for those affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and the recent typhoons Faxai and Hagibis. They are an NGO with headquarters in Japan and operating in many parts of the world, devoted to supporting people in distress, and threatened by conflict, poverty, or other turmoil. 

    Japan Platform - an international emergency humanitarian aid organization focused on issues of refugees and natural disasters, offering quick and effective aid in response to global developments. They conduct such aid through a cooperation system with NGOs, business communities, and the government of Japan.

    Second Harvest Japan - Japan’s first and only food bank operating on a national level. Their goal is to create a Food Safety Net in Japan by delivering food to children's homes, single-mother shelters, centers for the disabled as well as other welfare organizations and individuals in need. They work with food manufacturers and other companies and aim to use food to create new partnerships between corporations and the community.

    Peace Boat Disaster Relief - an International NGO that assists disaster-affected people and aims to strengthen disaster resilience in communities within Japan and around the world. After the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011, NGO Peace Boat started the Peace Boat Disaster Relief to focus on relief and recovery of communities affected by that disaster. It also provides domestic and international disaster relief and promotes disaster risk reduction.

    Shurijo Restoration Fund - In a devastating blow to Okinawans, on October 31st 2019 the heart of Okinawan culture, Shurijo Castle, burned to the ground in a fire. More than 400 precious arts and crafts are estimated to have been lost. The Shurijo Castle Fund is asking for support in order to rebuild the castle and to collect, restore, and preserve precious cultural properties to display in Shurijo Castle once again. Donations can be made by using the bank transfer information at the bottom of the page. 

    This list is in no way all encompassing, nor formally endorsed by AFWJ, it is only a starting point to help you in your quest to support those in need. If you do not have any extra funds during this holiday season, perhaps keep these organizations in mind during the rest of the year when your wallet is a little fuller. Sometimes charities experience a surge of donations during the holiday season, or around significant anniversaries, but have trouble making ends-meet during other times of the year, so please keep the spirit of giving in your heart throughout the year. If you have a favourite charity that wasn’t included on this list, please feel free to leave a link in the comments so other people can find and support it. 

    Have a wonderful Giving Season from all of us here at AFWJ!

    By: S. Suzuyama 

  • 01 Nov 2019 1:38 PM | Anonymous

    With modern technology offering a way to connect us with people all over the world, from those with similar interests and circumstances, to various support groups; things are sure different from when the Association of Foreign Wives of Japanese started and other foreign wives in Japan were few and far between. Since there are all kinds of free online groups out there, prospective members might wonder why being a member of AFWJ requires the payment of annual dues. AFWJ is completely administered by people who volunteer their time, there are no paid positions, so where does the money from dues go? 

    One of the most prominent ways our dues are spent is the seasonal publication of the AFWJ Journal which appears both online and in print. There are expenses associated with the online platform that the Journal appears on, as well as the printing and mailing expenses for the print version. While the Journal is something that each of our members can enjoy, publishing it is not the only expense that AFWJ has. Our annual dues are needed to pay for the following 3 Ts: 


    The administration of AFWJ requires a Board and the Board needs to conduct meetings. Round-trip transportation to all regular meetings for the President, Vice President, National Secretary, Treasurer, Journal Editor and Membership Secretary is covered by the AFWJ treasury. There is also a transportation allowance to two meetings per year for each of the  District Representatives within Japan and a travel subsidy for the Overseas Representative.

    Transportation for non-elected Board members to each Board meeting and travel expenses for training purposes is also subsidized by the treasury. 


    The AFWJ website that you are reading this blog on has maintenance fees that need to be paid annually. Some of the Board positions require computers and software in order for the member to carry out their duties. For example, the Journal Editor needs to have a computer and software in order to assemble that journal. While these aren’t annual expenses, when a computer gets too old or breaks down, a replacement needs to be purchased so there needs to be funds set aside for that eventuality. Speaking of breaking down, the computers also need insurance so that if something were to prematurely happen to them it would soften the blow to the treasury.  


    AFWJ is a support network and we always want to be there when times are tough for one of our members or their family. With that in mind, we maintain a Donations Fund, which is used for offering expressions of sympathy on behalf of AFWJ. It can also be used to extend help to members and their immediate family suffering adversity or loss. This fund can be used at the discretion of the President.

    Now you know a little bit more about why AFWJ requires annual dues and where the money is spent. Besides the Journal and the 3 Ts discussed above, our membership dues are also used for a few miscellaneous expenses, such as: paying for the place to hold Board meetings and the equipment rental needed to conduct them, special cases of an emergency nature concerning AFWJ, and Board approved publications, such as our upcoming 50th Anniversary magazine. The treasury also maintains a Reserve fund for the dissolution of AFWJ - which hopefully never has to be used!

    Authour: S.Suzuyama

  • 01 Oct 2019 3:02 PM | Anonymous

    There are various local events held throughout the year but the annual AFWJ conventions is our biggest event and one that many members look forward to all year. If you look around the AFWJ website, you will find a section all about conventions. In this section you can read about how AFWJ conventions are held over a weekend once a year and include a dinner, cabaret, workshops and panel discussions. This year’s convention was held from September 6th to the 8th in Tokyo and had the added bonus of including our 50th Anniversary Gala Dinner at the Tokyo American Club, the same venue that hosted the very first AFWJ meeting. There is also a list of where conventions were held over the last several years. Our convention webpage has all the basic information about conventions, but it really doesn’t convey how amazing our conventions really are! Fresh on the heels of our 2019 and brimming with compliments for the convention committee and stories of what a wonderful time everyone had, it is a great time to take a closer look at AFWJ conventions.

    Who Can Attend?

    Conventions are only open to AFWJ members. They are a place where everyone can come together, relish in our shared experiences, offer advice, commiseration, a shoulder to cry on, and a group to laugh with. It is a great place to take a break from being a foreigner for a weekend. They are a place where members can really let their guard down as they know they are among friends. 

    When are the Conventions?

    They are held on one weekend every year, from a Friday afternoon until the following Sunday afternoon. There are no set dates or specific months in which conventions are held, it is entirely up to the convention committee each year to decide. 

    What Happens at a Convention?

    What happens at a convention, stays at a convention...just kidding (maybe)!

    A typical convention starts with a kind of warm-up dinner on Friday night where members who haven’t seen each other for a while can catch up, and new members can get to know everyone. This is followed by a day of workshops on Saturday. This can include anything from sight-seeing activities, to health and lifestyle classes, to art classes or any type of course that our members would like to share their expertise in. Saturday ends with an exciting cabaret in which our members can showcase their talents and have an evening of fun and laughs. On Sunday morning there is usually a panel discussion, where members can learn about and discuss a topic relevant to their lives. The last two convention panels have included an anniversary program and a panel on emergency management in natural disasters. 

    Where are Conventions Held?

    They have been held all over Japan, with recent locations including Kanto, Kyushu, Shikoku, Tokai, Chubu and Kansai. Sometimes they are held at luxurious hotels near the sea and other times they are held at more modest accommodations in the center of an urban sprawl. The venue is different every year, meaning each year has something new and exciting to offer. 

    Why do Members Attend?

    There are many reasons our members love to attend conventions. Some of us live in rural settings and AFWJ conventions are the only chance we have to meet and socialize with other foreign wives like us. Others enjoy an escape from the daily drudgery of work, mothering, and/or married life, with a chance to really let our hair down and relax for the weekend. Many of us go to meet old friends and catch up with everyone. While others see it as a great opportunity to learn from our members who are experts in various areas, a chance to share their own expertise, and network with other foreign wives in Japan. The reasons for attending a convention are as varied as our members, but pretty much everyone who does attend has a great time and looks forward to attending again in the future. Some of us start saving our 500 yen coins for the next year's convention as soon as we come home from this year's!

    How can I Attend?

    In order to attend an AFWJ convention you have to qualify to be a member, join AFWJ, register for the next convention, start saving your money to attend and then book your own travel arrangements to the next convention. For more information on how to join AFWJ, please check out our webpage on how to join.

    You now know a little more about AFWJ conventions, what they offer, and what they mean to our members. In order to really see just how wonderful conventions are, and how fun our members can be, you'll just have to sign up with AFWJ and join us at our next annual convention, we’d love to see you there!

    Authour: S.Suzuyama

  • 02 Sep 2019 3:57 PM | Anonymous

    It’s the beginning of September, the second term of the school year has started, obon vacation is becoming a distant memory, and everyone is getting back into their routines. Not here at AFWJ though - we are gearing up for our big 50th anniversary celebration and annual convention! With everyone busy preparing for the convention and still feeling the effects of the long, hot summer, I was at a loss of what to write for this month’s blog post. Instead of trying to come up with something totally brand new, I thought I’d share an article that I wrote earlier for the AFWJ Journal. Our journal offers an insider's look into the lives of our members and explores all kinds of topics that are relevant to us. This article is just one example of the many types of articles and information you can find in the AFWJ Journal.

    The Intractable Disease Financial Assistance Program in Japan

    A long-term illness requires long-term treatment which can put a financial strain on the patient and their family. In Japan the health insurance system is quite good, but even the 30% portion the patient must pay can really add up over time, especially if the drugs required for treatment are expensive. Luckily, there is a financial assistance program in place under the Intractable Disease Healthcare Act for those of us who have an intractable disease.

    What is an Intractable Disease?

    As of April 2017 there are 330 diseases classified as intractable diseases in Japan (難病). There are two prongs to defining an intractable disease: it must be a disease in which its cause hasn’t been discovered yet and there is no established therapy, such as Behcet’s disease, aplastic anemia, and malignant RA; and it must be a disease which is chronic and poses financial and burden of care problems, such as pediatric cancer, progressive muscular dystrophy etc. For practical assessment a disease qualifies as an intractable disease if it meets these 5 criteria:

    1. Rarity - affecting less than 0.1% of the population

    2. Unknown etiology

    3. Lack of effective treatment

    4. Necessity of long term treatment

    5. Existence of objective diagnostic criteria

    If you have an intractable disease you can apply for financial assistance, which will help cover your treatment. The amount that will be covered depends on your household income. The smaller your household income is, the more assistance you qualify for. Once you jump through the bureaucratic hoops in order to get your intractable disease financial assistance, you will also become part of the The National Registry of Designated Intractable Diseases, which maintains a national database of patients. 

    The Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare gathers the financial assistance registration forms for analysis in order to integrate individual research projects in four areas:

    1. Disease-oriented research

    2. Field-oriented research

    3. Cross-sectional research

    4. Practical research projects

    Congratulations! By registering for financial assistance you are providing the government with information that can help further scientific research of intractable diseases! 

    How Do I Get Financial Assistance?

    My doctor told me about the intractable disease financial assistance program right after he told me I have SLE and would be starting a small cocktail of drugs. He thought I would qualify because he assumed I was a Japanese citizen! I had to inform him that no, just because I am married to a Japanese man, that does not make me a citizen. He promised he would check into whether or not I could qualify for the financial assistance and let me know at my next appointment. I checked into it and as far as I could tell, if you are a resident of Japan and have health insurance here - either national(国民保険)or social (社会保険)you can qualify for the financial assistance. 

    Once you have been diagnosed with an intractable disease your doctor will need to fill out a registration form which may include:

    1. General information about you

    2. Your diagnosis

    3. The onset and progressive course of your illness

    4. Clinical findings

    5. The severity of your illness 

    6. Laboratory findings

    7. Differential diagnosis

    8. Treatment

    9. Prognosis

    The forms differ among the prefectures and I took a peak at mine and noticed that it only had about 5 or 6 of the items from this list - it was definitely lacking the prognosis part, which I was most curious about! Although the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare launched an online registry, I have no idea how this works in practice as I had to physically take my registration form, along with a multitude of other documents to my local Public Health Centre (保健所). Once you’ve gather the appropriate forms you will submit them to the local Public Health Centre for approval. The Public Health Centre will then turn your application and documents over to the governor of the prefecture’s office for approval. Once the governor’s office decides whether or not the patient qualifies for assistance they will send the claimant certifications back to the Public Health Centre, which will then send them back to you. All in all, the documents only have to pass through several offices and who knows how many hands in order to complete the process and only takes approximately 2 months - bureaucracy at its finest! 

    Once you’ve received your medical expense coverage certificate it will cover medical expenses that are incurred by treatment of your illness and only your illness, not anything else. The specific medical expenses coverage (特定医療費) kick in once total expenses per month exceed 33,330 yen for at least 3 months. Depending on your financial situation, coverage may be greater. You must also be sure to receive treatment for your illness at an approved hospital or clinic or your expenses might not be covered. The Public Health Centre will provide you with a list of approved places and you will need to pick your top 3 and list them on your application. 

    What Documents Do I need?

    Now, because this is Japan - the land of forms and bureaucracy - you are going to need about a zillion documents to support your existence, your financial standing, insurability, visa status, et cetera. Plus you are guaranteed to be missing or have the wrong forms at least once or twice during this application process. Each prefecture is a little different but here are the things needed to apply where I live:

    1. The clinical results form from your doctor (臨床調査個人票)

    2. Certificate of Residence

    3. Last year’s income tax records (or those of your spouse, if you are a dependent)

    4. Welfare Claimant Certificate 

    5. Application form

    6. A statement of earnings that qualify for insurance (医療保険上の所得区分照会)

    7. Copy of your Health Insurance Card (and that of the primary holder, if you are a dependant)

    8. A stamped self-addressed envelope

    9. Inkan

    10. ID of the person coming to apply if different than the patient applying for coverage

    11. A copy of the “my number” cards of the people under the primary holder’s health insurance 

    12. Credit limit authorization certificate

    13. A copy of your former designated intractable disease claimant certificate 

    14. Pension claimant income certification (the householder’s will be needed as well if it is higher than yours)

    15. Confirmation of medical expenses

    If you manage to gather all the necessary documents and head down to the Public Health Centre to complete the process all in one go - good job! If not, just keep at it and you will eventually gather all the documents you need in order to obtain financial assistance for your intractable disease. As an added bonus: since Japan is the land of bureaucracy, you’ll get really good at gathering documents and applying, since you need to do it every year in order to continue receiving financial assistance for the treatment of you intractable disease!

    For more information please see:

    The Japan Intractable Diseases Information Center = [the MHLW site with up-to-date diagnostic guidelines]

    An excellent article on The National Registry of Designated Intractable Diseases can be found here

    For an overview of the basic health insurance structure of Japan = [click on English link]

    By: S.Suzuyama

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

Copyright 2022, Association of Foreign Wives of Japanese

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software