Thoughts on moving to Japan [Part 1] – Money, work and childcare.

I had no idea which picture I should use for this post, because when searching “Japan” on image searches, so many different kind of pictures shows up. The beautiful ones of nature or historic places, the pictures of busy city lights and skyscrapers or the goofy ones of everything weird in Japan. Japan is so many thing and I’m still not sure, after all this time, what Japan actually is to me. Most of all I would like to see it as a beautiful country, with stunning sceneries and friendly people and there’s no doubt that this is a part of Japan, but there’s also so many other things – some positive, others… not so much.

After all these years traveling between Denmark and Japan and been in a Japanese marriage, I do feel like I’ve seen a lot of sides of Japan, some I would have liked to leave out, but it’s still a country, still a place with more than 100 million people, so you are to come across both positives and negatives. Just like everything else in life.

This blog will probably both be filled with the fun moments, but also the struggles I will face when I begin my life in Japan. I’ve known for 4 years that I would move to Japan in the year of 2014 and on the way there’s been many doubts if this was the right choice. I love my own country, with our high taxes, high quality in life, free schools, doctors and hospitals and a government which is ready to catch you if you fall down. It’s a lot to leave behind. Going to Japan I’ll enter a life with more uncertainty, lower taxes, but medical and education bills, almost no economical security net if get lost somewhere along the way and not to mention lower salary and close to non-existent childcare service. A country with lower equality of the sexes and where women often have to choose between family or career – because trying to juggle both will mostly just leave you stressed out. Even though women do have to chance to work on the same terms as men, they will also have to face the extreme over time schedules, the possibility of being transferred far away and close to no holidays.

The husband is often also taxed a lot higher if his wife earns a full time salary, and that tax money often equals a good amount of the wife’s salary, which just makes it seem like she’s working for free. Why even bother? The childcare service for children under 3-4 years of age is also extremely limited, have long waiting list and will take a big bite of your possible salary.

I will probably stay at home the first few years with our future children. Not because I in any way believe it’s a woman’s place, but because I feel it’s the best course to take in Japan. I could find a full time job, get pregnant, take leave, pay big bucks for a nursery, then I want a second child and it’ll probably be even more complicated to take a leave again and once again pay a lot of money for someone to look after my child. It’s not impossible – far from, but I don’t really have any career dreams. I think I would like to be a teacher or something, but if I have to chance I feel like I want to take things slowly and therefore have one or two kids before searching for work. I think I want to do some work from home – I have some business plans I want to elaborate in a later post.

My husband and I do think about our future economy a lot. It is kind of embarrassing to say as a soon-to-be university graduate, that I have no career goals. I have a lot of goals and dreams when it comes to children and family life, but none for any future jobs. Does that make me sound old-fashioned? For me, I think I find these dreams acceptable, because they are my own, not any social norms or society told to. I guess somewhere, women of the modern world started to feel bad about wanting to focus more on family, house and childrearing, rather than career, because women for decades have fought for the right to leave their houses and seen equal to men. I did take an education – I went 4 years to university and got almost only A and Bs. I speak several languages, I have strong opinions and I know what I want to in life – and… it’s not a stressful job.

Look at me talking about women’s rights and such, this what not what I was going for in this post, I guess as a women we’re brought up to not only believe that we can do everything – but also believing that we should.

I think the only reason why I know that I will find a job in a near future is not because of financial reasons, well maybe a little, but also because being home everyday would bore me to death. I’m not a native English speaker, which puts a few bumps on the path to become an English teacher in Japan, but I guess it’s not impossible. At least I speak Japanese, unlike many other foreign English teachers.

So I think I will end this post now, since there’s a lot of other things I have been thinking about, but I’ll safe that for a later post. Who want to read too long blog posts anyway?

I will move to Japan around the middle of September this year. It still seems far away, but considering how fast the past 4 years have flown by, 7-8 months is nothing and there is a lot to prepare.

J-pop talk: Ieiri Leo [家入レオ]

So, it’s been forever since I updated this blog. I have several ideas for new posts, especially I wish to make a series of “things foreigners wished more Japanese people knew”, where I’ll write about some annoying stereotypes foreigners experience in Japan – but also overall some misconceptions many Japanese people have about certain things in the international world.

Today, I just felt like sharing some music, since I realized that I’ve not, yet introduced one of my newer favorite artists – Ieiri Leo.

I feel in love with this girl a few months back, when I was looking for new music. I often look for new music and when I listen to new artists they often feel bland. I was actually thinking how I missed being completely captured by a voice or a song, when I pressed play on one of Ieiri Leo’s songs – Message. I had only listened 20 seconds when I knew that she was the girl I was looking for. Especially after YUI went hiatus and later dropped her solo career, I’ve mostly only been all about Abe Mao – who I have earlier introduced here. Ieiri Leo has the type of voice and songs I love the most – a little similar to YUI and Abe Mao. She has also been trained at the same school as YUI – which might explain the slight similarities in style.

Wonderful pop songs, which are not too cheesy or repetitive. I sometimes like cheesy pop songs to dance around to, when that’s the case I listen to AKB48 or other idols.

When I just want to listen to music, which I feel reach me on another level, I listen to Abe Mao, YUI, Nishino Kana and now Ieiri Leo.

Ieiri Leo is a young girl, born in 1994 and is now 19 years old. Like pretty much all my favorite artists and idols – (and people) she is born in the island of Kyuushu (Fukuouka prefecture). Apparently I’m drawn to Kyuushu people. YUI (Fukuouka), Abe Mao (Oita), Kashiwagi Yuki (Kagoshima) and now Ieiri Leo. Even my husband is from Kyuushu.

She debuted in 2012 with the song: Sabrina.

Next she released “Shine”, which is one of her most famous songs.

Which has nice lyrics that reminds people that you will fall down many times in life, but as long as we keep on shinning, we can climb even the “tallest walls”

By international standards, Ieiri doesn’t have a perfect voice, but in Japanese standards, it’s good. I don’t really seek the perfect, beautiful voices – that would also make it hard for me to love Japanese music in general. I actually find a lot of perfect voice to be a little boring, wheres people like Ieiri, Abe Mao and YUI has a lot of personality in their voices. A uniqueness, which I love.
After hearing Ieiri’s songs and loving them all, I hurried to buy her album and singles while there still were limited editions left to start my new collection. That’s the same I did with Abe Mao some time after her debut, which is why I own all limited edition CDs she’s made. Same reason why I have the first indies singles by AKB48, which at that time were cheap and only had very few copies – since I used to be a fan.

Ever since her debut, Ieiri has managed get the attention of many in the music world and she has won several awards, including best new artist.
All her singles have been in the top 10 of the Oricon charts.
The newest single by Ieiri, released last month, is “Taiyou no Megami” (Goddess of the sun) Got 7th on the charts and it’s another beautiful song.

Her next single will be released in the end of January.

With this, I want to wish everyone a merry Christmas and happy holidays.

Aaa the ”Cuteness” [Japan Loving Foreign Girls]

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So I have been wondering something for quite some time – what is it about Japan that makes some non-Japanese young women act like little girls?

If you have an interest in Japan (or general knowledge about Japan) I’m pretty sure you know the type of girls I’m talking about. Maybe you’re even part of the group yourself, then maybe you can enlighten me.

I’m talking about the type of girls who loves Japan (often manga and anime) who then tries to take cuteness to a annoying level. A quick search on youtube will give you several videos with non-Japanese girls who should be in the age of evident maturity, who speaks Japanese with high pitched voices stretching out words like “desu”, “ne” and “etto” way too much and through around “victory signs” like they get paid by the amount. Sometimes these people are even by a popular term referred to as “weeaboos” – I do not like to use this term though.

Is this a rant entry? You might call it that, but I also think I’m generally confused about the whole thing.

I often get comments and messages on youtube from Japanese people telling me how nice to hear a foreigner using “natural” Japanese. That I don’t try to act Japanese and that I don’t overuse “ne” and other filler words. For people to actually take the time to write these comments and messages just shows that the “cute girls” are definitely getting known – and they’re increasing.

So what is the whole cuteness about? Do these girls actually try to act their image of Japanese girls or are they trying to bring their favorite anime and manga characters to life.

I think many blog entries about the difference about “real Japan” vs “manga lovers image of Japan” can be written, but with these girls I just feel generally confused. To be honest I’ve never myself met any Japanese girl act like some of these Japan loving non-Japanese girls, so should I just assume that it’s the anime talking?

I also sometime believe the more “cute” this girls act, the less the chance is that they’ve actually ever been to Japan. Visiting Japan often tend to be an awakening to these girls that the Japanese they try so hard to speak is actually neither the common way of speaking in Japan – nor is it actually wanted. I seriously doubt many Japanese would take grown up girls who says things like “Konnichiwaaaa Love-chan desuuuu YAY” seriously.

I am aware that in the recent years Japan has been associated with various kinds of “cuteness”, but is it really necessary to take it to that next level?

If it is the anime talking, I’m in no way telling people to stop acting like this if brings them joy. For my sake knock yourself with all the cute voices, pig tails and stretched out words. All I hope is that these girls keep this fact in mind: it’s not real.

I myself have no interest in anime and manga, but I never try to burst any bubbles, I often just try to tell people who have a general interest in Japan not to use manga and anime as their only sources. This concerns both the language learning and also when it comes to understanding the Japanese society. I’ve seen so many anime-loving people getting culture shocks in Japan, when they realize that anime is FAR from everything in Japan. Suddenly they had to realize that the common Japanese person didn’t know their favorite anime or manga and that they actually couldn’t care less. Also learning just Japanese from anime should also be taken with a grain of salt. One of my female class mates (I’m a Japanese major) kept talking like a guy (using words only males use) and say things like “show me your panties” during the first year, because that’s how they spoke in her favorite animes.

To all the “cute girls”, if you have fun – then rock on, but if you ever find yourself in the actual country of Japan, please have a “mature” back-up character to take over, unless you only tend to hang out in Akihabara and Harajuku. Or else you might find yourself more alienated than regular foreigners.

The thing with the “L’s” – Japanese pronunciation.

So I guess that all people who has some knowledge about Japan or the Japanese language knows that Japanese people are pretty much unable to pronounce the letter “L” – since it’s not apart of the Japanese language. This sound will in most cases be replaced with a “R” – which sometimes results in interesting words such as “Rabu” (Love) Rasuto (Last) and Onrain (Online).
Overall, do a big amount of Japanese people have a hard time with distinguishing sounds. Especially the differences between the pronunciation of letters such as “N” and “M” – my husband cannot hear the difference between “bum” and “bun” even though I tried to explain that you do need to differentiate these two words and there’s a difference. Also like one of the popular areas in Japan, which is written as Nanba in Japanese hiragana (written system), but when the Japanese write in Latin letters (like on the train station) it turns into Namba.
I also feel like cursing a lot when I try to practice either Danish or English with my husband, since I can pronounce a certain word several times, him getting it all wrong, but don’t get it himself.

Me: “No it’s pronounced as “Kvittering” (receipt in Danish)”
Him: “Kiiwwitereing”
Me: “Noooo. KVIIIITTEEERIIIING”
Him: “Keweitaring”
Me: “Does what I’m saying and what you’re saying sound the same to you?”
Him: “Pretty much”
*Face palm*

(We always speak Japanese together, so this is a translated dialogue.)

I know there’s a lot of Japanese people out there who fully master good pronunciation of foreign languages, but unfortunately do the Japanese language provide a disadvantage to its’ people, due to the lack of sounds, and especially due to the fact the only consonant by itself in the Japanese language is “N”, besides that the Japanese language is build up by sounds made from one consonant and one vowel (and a few lone vowels like A, I, U, E, O).
Which makes the remaining sounds look like these examples: ka, ki, ku, ke, ko, na, ni, nu, ne, no, ma, mi, mu, me, mo, sa, shi, su, se, so and etc.
Which just results in a lot of Japanese people finding other foreign pronunciation difficult – and gives us a lot of Japanese versions of English. “Za rasuto taimu ai sa yu was furaidei” (The last time I saw you was Friday).

Of course what is more interesting is the big amount of English words used in Japan, but with a different meaning than the original. Like the Japanese calls a dress “One piece”, when “duressu” (dress) is used it means a big, ball-like gown. Where did “One piece” come from anyway? I mean… I want my shirts in one piece as well.
Or like in Japanese where the sentence, “Rent a car” has become a one-word-noun called Rentakaa, which means you’ll hear Japanese say (in Japanese), “I will rent a rent a car”.
I also think a bigger problem with language learning in Japan, is that the Japanese Katakana alphabet (Used for foreign words) is often used for showing pronunciation of the foreign language, but this writing system is also made up from the previous ka, ki, ku, ke, ko and etc, meaning that they can only create an “kinda” pronunciation – instead of showing a proper pronunciation from the beginning.
Like when looking at the book my husband uses to learn Danish, the sentence is first written in Japanese, then Danish with the latin letters and then the katakana version.
For and example:

It’s nice to meet you.
Det glæder mig at møde dig.
De gureeza ma o meeze dai. (Japanese Katakana)

Not the same. Not the same.
Overall this point of this entry, was to announce that today, my Japanese husband finally, after almost 2 years of marriage, has realized that my name is pronounced as Isabella and not Isabela.

Him: “Today I realized something.”
Me: “What?”
Him: “You’re name is actually pronounced with a long L.”
Me: “Of course! Why do you think the double “L” is there for!?”
Him: “I see, I just thought it was Isabela”
*More face palming*

Spotting the Japanese…?

My Japanese husband and I waiting at the bus stop in Denmark.

So I was thinking about adding a new aspect to my blog, some cartoons. I do find these kinds of cute additions rather humorous on other people’s blogs and therefore I got carried away about the spirit of creativity – if it just had blessed me with talent as well.
So as you can see, I’m not that talented with a pencil, nor do I use it much. I mostly just did some drawing when I was in elementary school – which mostly turned into doodles of boredom, so I’m well aware that these cartoons wont be much praise-worthy, but I did hope that they could bring some smiles – or at least help with explaining personal experiences in future blog entries.
As seen on the pictures above, do I use a more rough drawing style and I won’t really bother with perfecting any lines or annoying details (like hands, detailed faces, backgrounds and etc.) it’s just to give you all a so-so image of the story I want to tell. This is mainly because I do not have that much time to perfect things like that and besides – let’s just face it, they’ll never be perfect anyway. Haha.

My husband and I will probably be the most reoccurring characters, my hair color will probably change between red and brown (depending on when the story took place, since I colored my hair brown a month ago – it used to be red, so stories from before that I’ll have read hair)
My husband and I always speak Japanese together, but often I’ll probably just show our conversations in only English.

Have a nice weekend.

Youtube: South East asia travel.

My husband and I spent around 20 days traveling through Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam – I pretty much made a youtube for each day to give people an insight into what you can experience in those countries. I have not uploaded all videos, yet, but they’ll be created over the next upcoming days.

Here’s some examples, the rest can be seen on my youtube channel.

I plan to make three individual blog posts about each of the mentioned three countries sometime in the near future. My experiences, impressions, feelings and memories. Until then, I’ll work on getting the last videos together.

Youtube: Day 1 – Bangkok

Overall I have been too busy to update my blog during this travel so far, also because I’m working on my youtube channel at the same time. So I thought I would put my youtube updates on this blog as well.

So here’s a video of how my first day in Bangkok – with my husband went. The spoken parts are in Japanese with English (and Japanese) subtitles.

The video contains us getting a bit lost in Bangkok, then we go temple watching and finish the day off at a restaurant.

YOUTUBE: My City Aarhus.

So, I have 4 days left in Denmark before I leave for 6 months – first starting out with a 3 weeks travel in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam and then 5 months of study at Kobe University in Japan. I have tried to spend time with friends and people I might come to miss during the upcoming 6 months. Then I also got a request on youtube, asking me to introduce my city – which is a Danish city called Aarhus. It’s the second largest city of Denmark and it’s where Aarhus University – which I attend, is located. I grew up in Denmark’s capital Copenhagen and moved to Aarhus one and a half year ago to attend the university, so I’m still a bit new in the city. Though I do know my way around, know the famous places and I don’t really see getting lost as a possibility.

I also have become quite fluent in the Aarhus-dialect, even though I swore I would do anything to keep my Copenhagen-dialect, guess it didn’t work out. I do seem to suck up dialects like a sponge, which explains why I often can speak Japanese with a touch of at least 4 different dialects/speech patterns (for an example: Osaka, Hiroshima, Nagoya, Tokyo …). I think my Japanese husband finds it a bit weird that I still haven’t picked up anything from Miyazaki and I still have trouble understanding that dialect – even though I have been to Miyazaki several times.

Well, I just decided I would share my newest youtube video – like I did the last time. I have already said my goodbyes to the city of Aarhus, since I for my remaining few days in Denmark have returned home to Copenhagen and spend time with my mother and friends, before my adventures starts in the far east. I hope to keep updating as I go along. I hope everyone had a nice weekend.

Updating Youtube.

So I haven’t updated in almost two weeks and the reason for that is that I’ve been focusing a bit more on my YouTube channel lately. Normally there can easily go months between new videos at my channel, but since I’ll be off to South Asia and Japan soon, I thought it was about time to get more active, since I do hope to use my youtube channel as a vlog – at least during my months in Japan. So if you’re interested in Japan, I hope you’ll watch my future videos.

About a week ago I made a vlog video updating people on my travel plans in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam and my study plans at Kobe university in Japan. I also including clips of my husband and I trying to move out some things from my apartment, since I’ll be rented out during the six months I’m gone. The above screen capture is taken from that video – which is subtitled in Japanese.

Then I made a new video today. I decided to to a new self introduction, since the last time I did that was over two years ago and a lot of things have changed. Mostly I answer often asked questions, such as:

– Do you speak Japanese?
– Have you been to Japan?
– Where have you been in Japan?
– What is your favorite Japanese things?
– What is your future goal?
– What is the aim of your channel?

Because I have many Japanese viewers I decided to do this video in Japanese (except the first 50 seconds or something.) I then provided English subtitles.

I guess I just felt like writing about what I’ve been up to. Feel free to watch my newest video – which I’ve included in the entry or check out my YouTube channel HERE.

Then I hope that have everyone is having a nice weekend.

Kyary pamyu pamyu

So what’s Kyary Pamyu Pamyu? That’s the stage name of 18 year old Takemura Kirikiko, who is a Harajuku model and blogger who in 2011 also turned into a recording artist. Her first single PONPONPON was released in July 2011. She also managed to get the 16th place at last.fm’s “top 100 new discoveries” in “best of 2011”. She also have her own line of fake eyelashes. Kyary Pamyu Pamyu is also known for 変顔 (Hengao) which means “weird face(s)”, which she enjoys making a lot. So when she’s not busy looking like this:

She often likes making faces like this:

She often takes pictures of these faces and uploads them to her blog or/and twitter. She started out as a fashion blogger and then managed to get a professional career modeling for Harajuku magazines like “zipper”. Her debut single and debut mini album (もしもし原宿/Moshi Moshi Harajuku) was produced and composed by Nakata Yasutaka, which is a member of the electro pop duo Capsule and also famous for producing music for artists such as Perfume, MEG and Suzuki Ami. It is also pretty evident that some of the electro pop sounds from these mentioned artists has been carried over to Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s music, which has the electro beats and the auto tune voice, but she also manages to keep something that makes her unique. Her music is cute, weird, catchy and gets stuck in your head. The fact that she’s not just a solo version of perfume is apparent in the actuality that I don’t like listening to perfume or such artists. So it surprised me how fast Kyary Pamyu Pamyu grew on me since I do not normally enjoy or find myself listening to electro pop. I decided to give her try after seeing updates concerning her newest single “Tsuke matsukeru” on a news page for Japanese media, I guess I was intrigued by her “weirdness”, but when I finally hit the “play” button for the Tsuke matsukeru music video I didn’t expect to like what I would hear.

Her voice was a bit like I predicted, very girlish, high-pitched and to be honest not that vocally talented. But, I still watched the full video and even decided to download her single – I was hooked. And that feeling certainly didn’t change when I got around to listening to her debut single PONPONPON, with it’s “ponpon way-way-way, ponpon way pon way ponpon” which is meant to get stuck in one’s heard like a virus. And this “virus” does also seem to spread outside of Japan, since more and more non-Japanese people (including myself) have found interest in this weird girl and when Japanese internet magazine Nikki Trendy Net did a interview with her they included this in the headline: 海外でも人気の原宿系カリスマモデル! (Harajuku charisma model who’s popular even popular overseas) The interview can be found here : [Nikki Trendy Net ] (in Japanese) which includes talks about her beginning to like lolita fashion in a young age, but when she entered elementary school she couldn’t dress like that anymore and dressed in regular clothes from GAP and Uniqlo instead.

Her songs hold neither any deeper meanings nor any serious feelings for that matter – they’re just light, cute and catchy. I’ve included two of her videos for those who feel like trying her out.

A good weekend to everybody.