Monkey Magic is what activated my interest in Japan at an early age. I hate to disappoint that Monkey Magic is not the name of a mystical Asian tradition, or a type of zoolatry, or even a recreational drug. The Monkey Magic I was bewitched by was in fact the Japanese drama, known in Japan as Saiyuki (西遊記), which was popular Saturday morning TV in Ireland when I was growing up. The TV drama was made in Japan, but ironically it is based on a novel by a 16th century Chinese writer about a fictional Chinese monk on his journeys through Asia. I didn’t know that as a child and I thought I was falling in love with the magic of Japan with the eponymous central character and his band of misfit’s representatives of ancient folklore.
The drama prompted my interest, but reading Shogun, by James Clavell, in my pre-teens fuelled the pursuit for knowledge of historical Japan. Thankfully, this time I was falling in love with historical culture and customs actually pertaining to Japan. I continued reading fiction and non-fiction about Samurai until I conceded that it was time to do more than absorb words about this distant land. I was 21 and disenchanted with my tertiary qualifications and languages till that point, so I went back to University for my 3rd tertiary qualification; a double major in International Marketing and Japanese. It was at Dublin City University, that my real knowledge and unwavering passion for Japan, its language and culture, matured. It was also where my first expedition to Japan was planned, as a compulsory part of our 3rd year. I spent a year in Japan as an “exchange student” from September 2000. I was given the option to spend a full year at Sophia University, but I requested that I spend only part of the year at a Japanese University and 6 months on a work placement. I wanted to experience all I could of Japan.
I started out in Gunma prefecture, attending Takasaki University while living in a homestay. I then moved to a dormitory in Yokohama for the Tokyo based Japanese conglomerate I was interning at. Following that I lived, and defying all odds surfaced unscathed from, a leisured life in apartments in Tokyo with friends. After returning to Ireland to finish my degree, I came back to Japan to work and lived in a micro-apartment in Ibaraki. Fast forward to 2003, I met my husband in the most unusual of circumstances and got together with him 8 months later in the most unusual of circumstances. Here we are, with a LOT having happened in between, 10 years later living in a typical Japanese house in a rural part of Saitama with 3 beautiful children.
I have had many positive experiences in all my roles in Japan, but being a mom in Japan is at the top of my list. Japan is a great place to be a mother and bring up kids. There are so many free utilities, available to all, including children’s community centres, playgrounds, parks, support services and health centres. The children’s community centres not only offer a free and safe place for children to play, with lots of toys and play equipment, they also run free workshops, exercise programs and activities for children. Where I live in Saitama there are a surprising amount of parks and playgrounds often with free parking and free seasonal events. Between the paid and free play areas for children in this prefecture alone, it is possible to go somewhere different every day of the year. Upon realising this, I started a blog daysofourlivesjapan.com to share some of the wonderful places for children and the experiences available to them in Saitama prefecture.
Living and parenting abroad is not without its challenges, difficulties and frustrations, especially somewhere as diverse to my background as Japan. However, I try not to dwell on the negative and realise that living in Ireland would also bring challenges, difficulties and frustrations and parenting was never going to be easy. Thankfully, I have the wonderful community of foreign parents that are behind this blog, to give me all the support, information and anecdotes I need to survive with a smile and continue being a KA Mom in Japan.
An official Level 4 Local Guide with Google for the Greater Tokyo Area.
W/SAHM to a 6yo, 4yo, 3yo and 1yo. Blogging about our out-and-about life in Saitama, Japan. For places to go and things to do in Saitama, with young children, please visit http://insaitama.com/ a not-for-profit free blog showcasing all the great things in Saitama