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