Where are you from?
I’m from Bognor Regis, in West Sussex. Bognor Regis is a much joked about seaside town on the south coast of England. It’s not that bad really, but I’m very glad to be living in Bristol in South West England now.
What is your favourite Japanese food?
I adore takoyaki and okonomiyaki. Also, I love Japanese sweets, and everything matcha (green tea) flavoured or with azuki (red beans). Oh, and Kit Kats, did I mention Kit Kats? Especially Japanese Kit Kats!
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten in Japan?
Japan is famous for having some pretty unusual dishes. Being a pescetarian, I haven’t tried any of the strange bugs, living fish or animal parts that people talk of. So, I’d have to say the most unusual thing I’ve eaten in Japan would be a jacket potato flavoured Kit Kat, which was pretty nice.
Which Japanese drinks do you like?
I’m not much of a drinker when it comes to alcohol, but I do like the odd drop of good quality sake. On a day-to-day basis, my favourite Japanese drink is probably CC Lemon, and I also love green tea frappuccinos from Starbucks.
When and why did you start learning Japanese?
I first went to Japan in March 2006, and it was that following September when I first started taking Japanese evening classes. When I had gone to Japan I hadn’t known anything about Japanese, but the trip inspired me to start learning. It was frustrating not being able to communicate while I was there, and I realised the value of mastering another language.
What was the first Japanese word/phrase you ever learnt?
It’s hard to say for sure, but it was probably “sumimasen” (すみません) – excuse me/sorry. I remember saying it a lot on that first trip! I also had a post-it note stuck to the front of my phrasebook with “ikura desu ka?” (いくらですか) – how much is it? – written on it. That would have been useful, except I couldn’t understand the answers!
When did you live in Japan, and for how long?
I lived in Japan from March 2008 until April 2011. I spent two years in Nagoya (Aichi), and one year in Hamamatsu (Shizuoka). I spent the whole three years working for one of the biggest English language schools (“eikaiwa” / 英会話). I’m often asked if I was a JET or an ALT – I wasn’t. Working for an eikaiwa is a bit different.
What’s your favourite place in Japan, and where would you most like to go next in Japan?
It’s hard to choose just one favourite place, but I do have a certain soft spot for Koyasan in Wakayama Prefecture. I went there on my first trip to Japan in 2006 after having read an article in the Independent called Tofu Soup for the Soul. I’ve only been there that one time and would absolutely love to go back. As for where I would most like to go next, that’s hard to say as well. However, there were some places I planned to go in April 2011 but wasn’t able to go to due to the March 11th earthquake and tsunami. Of those places, I would most like to go to the Ushiku Daibutsu (Ibaraki) and Nokogiri Yama (Chiba).
What advice would you give to someone going to Japan for the first time?
I would advise first-timers to do as much research as possible. I spent months planning my first trip and I’m so glad I did. All that advanced planning meant I was able to really enjoy myself while I was there without worrying too much about how to get from A to B or how what I should do. That first trip was so action packed, and I was thrilled with how much I managed to fit in. I would also advise people to consider buying a JR Pass. They are worth every penny if you’re there for long enough!
How do you manage to keep connected to Japan now that you live in the UK?
How to stay connected to Japan after returning to the UK was something that worried me a lot. Fortunately, I struck it lucky and managed to get a job in a Japan-related organisation, where I worked for a year. That gave me a great insight into UK-Japan relations, and I was able to make a lot of connections and friends who can help me stay connected to Japan while living in London. London is a great place to live because there are so many Japanese restaurants and a lot of Japan-related exhibitions, film screenings and other events happening all the time. It’s hard to keep up with my Japanese though, so I have to consciously make the effort to study and practice whenever I have the chance. After two years in London I moved to Bristol and struck it lucky career-wise, managing to get my dream job. Now I’m working as a Travel Consultant specialising in Japan. I should add that none of the content on this blog is in any way connected to my day-job, and that everything you see here is created purely for my own pleasure because I simply LOVE Japanese culture and can’t get enough of it.
What’s your favourite Studio Ghibli film?
The first Studio Ghibli film I ever saw was Spirited Away (“Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi” / 千と千尋の神隠し). Because it was my first one, I will always love it. But, actually, my favourite is the classic Ghibli film, My Neighbour Totoro (“Tonari no Totoro” / となりのトトロ). There’s something so magical about that film, and it’s utterly gorgeous.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever bought from a 100 Yen shop?
If you don’t already know, 100 Yen shops in Japan are absolutely incredible! They sell everything you could ever want (and about half a million things you never knew you needed). I bought a lot of kitchen equipment and crockery in 100 Yen shops, and I still regularly use my extra long cooking chopsticks and sakura soy sauce dishes. But, I think the best thing I ever bought was a little ink stamper for school. It had three different layers with different pictures, and I used them when I marked the kids’ homework – they loved them!
If you could meet any Japanese person, living or dead, who would it be?
If I could meet one person, it would have to be Japanese swordsman and ronin Musashi Miyamoto. Having read Eiji Yoshikawa’s book about Musashi I’m quite fascinated by him and would love to interview him about what it was like to be one of the greatest warriors of all time.
Thanks to everyone who helped provide the questions above. If you have another question for me, please feel free to leave a comment below! (^_^)v