In March, we meet Heidi Emoto, one of the members of our blog team who is responsible for the Places to Go section.
Touchdown: the why, when, where and hows of you being in Japan.
I came to Japan in Oct. 2001. Coming here was not something I ever imagined but now I can’t imagine not having come. My college degree (Director of Christian Education) required a year long internship before graduation. When I looked at my options I realized that if I was ever going to live overseas for a year or two, the internship was a good time to do so. The placement office chose Japan. I figured God must have a sense of humour because I didn’t speak Japanese, I’m too tall (180cm) and don’t eat seafood. My dream job was to become a camp director and enjoy living on a lake in the woods. God sent me to Tokyo.
Heidi and her husband
The first time I met my husband (DH) came a few months after arriving in Japan when I attended the church where he was the pastor. I remember thinking “In a different time, in a different place, I think we could have been friends”. Over the next few years, as we worked together, a friendship formed. When my internship finished I extended my time in Japan by a year. I had a good job, friends and wasn’t ready to leave yet. During the next year DH asked if I would be his partner for life. At the end of the extension year our family and friends met in Hawaii to celebrate our wedding and my “lifetime extension”. It was beyond anything we ever dreamed of!
Your feelings about being a parent in Japan
Before coming to Japan I didn’t really have an interest in having kids of my own. Through years of baby sitting and teaching swimming classes to babies, I had learned that I liked giving the kids back to the parents at the end of the night. Now, I love teaching little kids. The change in mindset came more from meeting the right guy than from being in Japan. Having kids and being around mothers from around the world has allowed me to explore various child rearing ideas which I wouldn’t have thought about before.
Heidi’s gorgeous children
The biggest surprise for me is that I enjoy being a (seemingly never at home) stay-at-home mom. I had thought if I ever had kids they would hang out in a playpen in the corner of my office while I worked. Since the job I trained for and dreamed about doesn’t really exist in Japan, and the international school I worked at at the time was closing, I found myself staying home when my first child was born. I enjoyed it so much that even when the chance to work full-time again came up I passed on it to be with my kids. When old friends see my parenting style, they sometimes comment that I run my house like I would run a camp – the same crafts, activities and singing. I guess you do what you know, right? One thing which adds to that impression my kids have almost always called me by my first name. Before my oldest turned 2 he figured out that my name is “Heidi” and my job is “mom” so ever since then he has called me by name. This really throws off people when we first meet!
Working Life: Do you work? How do you manage your time? Necessity or choice?
I work part time teaching Baby Signing Time classes and leading various events & workshops. I love what I teach and the flexibility in scheduling. My kids love to come class to “play with the babies”. While I don’t “have to” work, it does help pay for trips home and doing something I love with wonderful people is a highlight in my week.
At Baby Signing classes
A big part of our lives is that DH is a church pastor. His work schedule dictates much of our family schedule. While we are happy to serve God and our congregation, there are times when we wish we could take off for a weekend trip or see my family for the holidays. In this respect our lifestyle is the same as other pastor’s families the world over. One thing I’ve learned is to always be ready for change. At any time we could receive a phone call saying that a church member needs help or died and within minutes DH will be out the door, my plans for the next few days fly out the window. It is a joy and honour to walk with people in both the good and the not so good times of their lives. It is also a challenge to be ready to do so!
Within our house we have a pretty blended lifestyle. Sometimes we eat supper at the dining table, sometimes at the kotatsu (low heated table). Some days we eat Japanese food, other days it is Italian, German or American. DH speaks to me mostly in Japanese, I speak to him mostly in English and when we don’t understand each other we sometimes switch to German (his 3rd language, my 2nd) for clarification. It really throws off people who want to pigeonhole us as “American” or “Japanese” to see how we mix and match things!
Three Random Questions
Onsen: I didn’t love them the first few years in Japan because my first apartment didn’t have a bath or shower which meant almost daily trips to the local sento (public bath house). Now that I no longer have to go to the sento, I enjoy finding beautiful and interesting onsens to visit.
Chopsticks : I love having options. Feeding a baby noodles with chopsticks is so much easier than doing it with a fork! Once when visiting the US, I asked at a restaurant for chopsticks with a spaghetti dinner. I’m sure the staff thought I was crazy but they really are easier to use for feeding kids!
Toilet slippers While the concept behind them isn’t bad, they are annoying because I just haven’t been able to get into the habit of using them.
Mum to three very loud boys and wife to a patient Japanese man, I'm Australian and moved to the Kansai area in 2012. Aside from navigating all the craziness of being a mum in another country, I work semi-full time and try to keep my sanity! Of course I clean but I don't cook!