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”
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*

Being in a long distance relationship.

Long distance relationships, to most they probably seem unimaginable, for others they might seem less genuine but, for some they’re reality. I myself, being and European and married to a Japanese have found myself being part of just that kind of relationship – the kind of relationship that I hadn’t given much thought earlier in my life.

My mother have often said that she saw it coming, considering the fact that I was always romanticizing about Japanese guys and had overall no interest in the guys in my area. And, since my goal since elementary school was to marry a Japanese guy and live in Japan, I, myself should have seen it coming as well – maybe I lacked a better grasp and wider view of reality back then. I guess, I felt I didn’t need reality, because my future goal didn’t seem very plausible to me at all back then. How could a girl with an overall lack of dating experience suddenly be able to find a nice Japanese guy who later on would marry me and we could then live happily ever after?

Life is a mysterious thing, because that was pretty much what happened, except that the “happily ever after” is dragging out a bit, because how can you truly be happy when you’re forced to part ways over and over again?

Before I met my husband I never imagined how painful it could be having to say goodbye to someone being so close to your heart. Even though it’s only a momentarily goodbye it feels like ages and when you feel a part of your soul is missing then six weeks can easily seem like six months. Overall my husband are considered fortunate in some long distance communities because we’re able to be together for around 4 weeks and then separated for 6 weeks while he works in Japan. That still means that over the past year and 10 months we’ve parted around 10 times, around 10 times have our physical touch become impossible, our conversations been limited to skype and around 10 times have I been forced to try mending and gathering the pieces together of my broken heart. And this pattern will continue till I’m able to finally move to Japan after my university graduation, which is still two and a half years away.

Some people may believe that I’m overplaying the feelings involved in this crucial part of being in a long distance relationship, but maybe it’s because they’ve never experienced such feelings themselves.

I also know other people would say “I couldn’t do it” and I also do believe it’s a fact that long distance relationships are not meant for everybody, if everybody could do it would it then even be considered as hard? I guess there’s a lot of things in life there’s not meant to be easy. But, it’s not because us who’s a part of a long distance relationship finds it neither easier nor more filling to be in these relationships. We find them equally hard, but what if you do find “that person”, but they’re located across the globe, is it then easier to say “I can’t do it”? Overall heartbreak awaits, one person does have to chose if it’s more painful to only see their partner in periods of time, rather than not seeing them infinitely.

In the beginning, sometimes when my heart ached the most, I did consider ending the relationship in hopes of finding peace and conclusion. I disliked hearing friends complain about not being able to see their boyfriends for a few days, I even at times I felt despiteful and wished they could feel “real longing” – but, nothing of that proved to be a right solution, nothing brought relieve to the pain. Because I was the one who wanted the relationship, I didn’t wish for the distance or the hardships attached to it, but I wanted the guy, I wanted to enjoy the smiles he put on my face, the butterflies in my stomach and the peace only he could bring to my heart. How could I dismiss all this because 5,000 miles stood in our way? And if I did end the relationship, who could then promise me that I would be able to find a guy that I would be able to love at least half as much?

And the before mentioned jealousy does nothing but poke at wounds and scars that’s trying to heal and fade. Though knowing this doesn’t mean that these ill feelings will fully go away. We humans are jealous creatures indeed. It’s not just that us in a long distance relationship feels that it’s us against “the others”, even in “long distance relationship communities” jealousy is a fire which can’t be tamed. There’s the couples meeting once or twice a year envying the couples who meets once a month. There’s comparisons when it comes to the number of miles separating couples or the amount of minutes they’re able to talk during a week. But, does it really put your heart more at ease knowing your partner is 300 miles away, rather than 3,000? And to poor students 400 miles might as well be 4,000 when transportation options are limited.

In long distance relationships finance is crucial. I’ve been lucky, since I have a husband who’s able to pay flight tickets between Denmark and Japan every second month, also without touching savings. But, what if he was a student like me? Then we should feel blessed with being able to see each other once or twice a year.
Overall, emotional pain lies within the “eyes” of the beholder. We shouldn’t compare and we shouldn’t think that our pain is worse than others’, because how do we really know when we only know our own? I guess, when not seeing your partner for four days seems unbearable, then it’s mostly because you haven’t tried not seeing them for four months. Though it doesn’t make your feelings of longing less valid – but I do believe they’re shorter.

My husband went back to Japan a few days ago and even though we’ve been through the process so many times, it didn’t make me cry less or keep me from try to desperately hold on to him till the very last minute. I still don’t believe him when he says time will pass fast, because I know how it felt the last time.
But, I wouldn’t consider giving up on us, not just because we have a legal paper on our relationship, but because I know I’m a far happier person with him in my life, even though he unfortunately can’t be by my side every single day. Because I know I’ll see him again and because I know I couldn’t live a life without him in it.

And… I also know he’ll be reading this and maybe understanding half of these words.

A final two-shot at the airport after I’ve been crying most of the day.

I got my Japanese spouse visa.

In order to study for one semester in Japan and because I for certain reasons do not go for the student visa offered, my husband and I went to the Japanese embassy located in Copenhagen to start the ”spouse visa” progress.

Besides the obvious fact that you need to be married to a Japanese, there are some paper work when applying for a spouse visa. In Denmark the needed documents for obtaining a spouse visa are the following:

  • Visa application form (English) – 2 copies.
  • 査証発給申請書2通 (Visa application form – 2 copies)
  • 写真2葉 (Two pasport pictures)
  • 旅券 (Pasport)
  • 戸籍謄本1通 (Family registration – 1 copy)
  • 住民票の写し (Prove of residence)
  • 納税証明書 (Tax certificate)

Overall, there was a lot less paperwork than I expected, especially considering the fact that only the two documents we had to fill out were the two visa application forms. The rest were papers my husband obtained at his city hall in Japan.

Then we gathered the papers and went to the embassy on the 20th this month and already the next day, less than 24 hours later, I got a call saying that my visa was done and ready to be picked up.

I never expected it to be progressed that fast and without much work and above all the embassy charged no money for the visa. So now I have a one-year visa for Japan.

(Yes, I don’t really like the photo in the visa, which is why I decided to hide it. –  I have shown my face numerous times in other posts)

The part the flash is covering says: Spouse, Child of Japanese.

The passport is a “single entry” passport, which means that if I leave Japan, without having applied for a re-entry the visa is “cancelled”. Though, I’ll only need this visa for 5 months and not a year, but it’s nice to know that obtaining a one-year visa is not as complicated as I feared and we can easily do the procedure in a near future again, when I really need to be in Japan for longer periods. Since my plan is to move to Japan after I graduate university, then I guess we apply for the one-year visa and then when in Japan, we’ll have to apply to get that visa renewed.

My first name disappeared.

Today I received my acceptance letter from Kobe University, which means I’m officially an exchange student for the spring semester in 2012. The acceptance letter came as an attached document in a e-mail. The e-mail was also sent to two of my other class mates who have been accepted into Kobe University as well and reading that e-mail reminded me of another thing – the fact that I didn’t just change my last name when I married a Japanese, I also lost my first name.

 The e-mail said: Dear, Nicolai-san, Anton-san and Kayashima-san.

 The first two were addressed by their first name, but I was addressed by my last name.

Later on in the e-mail my class mates were mentioned by their last and first names, where I once again was only mentioned by my last name.

This is not an one time incident. It’s actually something I’ve gotten used to when it comes to most Japan-related aspects of my life.

Ever since I got married my Japanese teachers stopped calling me by my first name and are now only using my my last name when they address me in class.

This is quite unusual in Denmark, where you rarely use your last name and now after marrying I get called by it all the time. Of course if I married any other nationality nothing would have changed, but since I married a Japanese, it seems like my new last name has caught the interest of other Japanese people and now they refuse to call me by anything else.

 I guess Japanese people are just more familiar with a Japanese last name rather than the name Isabella, but what about my teachers who has known me and called me by my first name for almost a year before I married last spring?

Why is it that my first name suddenly disappeared as soon as I changed my last name? Of course there is not really any problems when coming to non-Japanese speaking people, since they prefer to not having to pronounce my last name.

My husband thinks that Japanese feels more “safe” by using my Japanese last name, rather than my first name, since it avoids confusion and possible mistakes, but what about my teachers?

“Maybe they just feel like saying it” my husband answered.

Like I said, we rarely use last names in Denmark, not even when we address our teachers, so I guess it just feels weird to me when my teachers suddenly starts calling me by my last name.

Goals and dreams.

Lately I’ve been thinking about life goals and dreams, whether mine is too small or too big, too boring or too unrealistic. Have I reached them or do they even exist at this point? It seems like it’s in the basic human nature to create goals and dreams for oneself, even from a very early age. Which probably comes from being affected from the people around us. That might be, parents, friends, school, family or others. Who did not hear the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?” We actually seem forced from a young age to consider a future career, even though we don’t even have developed a realistic view of what money and work actually is.

Realism is one of the things I definitely lacking when I think back on my childhood goals. When I in the age of 8 years old wanted to become a hairdresser, even though I had no interest in hair or fashion. A few years later my dream was to be a professional handball player, without even having touched a ball before. After that I decided to aim high and my new goal was to become a lawyer, which pretty much clashed with the fact that I disliked studying. I had many childhood dreams and goals, but it seems like that amount slowly disappeared when logic, realism and rationality started to develop and required space. During middle school I realized that I had no idea of what I wanted to do in the future I only had my main point of “interest” to hold on to, Japan. I started to set up goals and dreams around this country, some seemed more realistic that others. My goal became to enter high school in order to go to university and study Japanese, which of course would be doable as long as I studied well. My dream on the other hand, seemed out of reach even to myself, I probably saw it more as a fantasy than a plausible dream. That dream was to meet a Japanese guy, fall in love, get married and live in Japan. Not really something I could actually plan and work towards.

I went to Japan for the first time after having finished my second year in high school and I fell in love with the country even more. The year after I went to Japan three times (Feb, July & Oct.)  I graduated high school and applied for university. During my 3rd visit in Japan in July, I even wrote down my wish of getting accepted on a piece of paper during the Tanabata celebrations.

(Me, 2009)

I also had another goal for my future, the only one not involving Japan; I wished to lose weight. In late July a letter from the university told me that I had not made the cut, but was guaranteed entry next year (since my grade average was 0,1 from being accepted). I decided to travel around Japan the following spring, which is when I met the guy who would be my future husband. I started studying Japanese at university in September 2010, have been to Japan 8 times in 3 years and I got married to my Japanese fiancé in April 2011. I have even managed to lose 10 kilos (around 22 lbs) in less than a year.

So, in what feels like a blink of an eye, I managed to reach most of my set goals during my school time, seems like “living” in Japan is the only goal I haven’t reached. But, life is no game, when we reach our goals it doesn’t mean it’s over and we then can celebrate. Then we need to find new goals, which makes us move forward towards the next step. For some reason I didn’t even seem to notice that I had reached my goals and dreams, maybe they were accomplished too easily to feel like an actual victory. Now I feel left at a crossroad in my life, but feel sure that I’m going in a right direction – following steps of a university education, meeting new people and enjoying new experiences and I even found somebody to keep me company during this walk. Though I wonder if I have enough hopes and dreams for what is waiting for me farther down the road. Can we have too few dreams and goals? Is; “living in Japan, having children, but have no idea about future work or such” enough future goals? Well, guess I should not have too high expectations for future goals in the age of 21. Maybe I should just start to focus on the things that are currently visible and imaginable on my current path, follow the stream and  have goals such as “having fun at the next university party” and “do not fail your next test”. I guess this is just the ramblings of a girl who suddenly found most of her goals completed faster than she expected.

A Japanese marriage photo (& tumblr.)

One of my Japanese style marriage photos. (They took more than 200 photos).

Just to show the Japanese wedding clothes. Not the most comfortable clothes I’ve ever worn. The kimono had too many layers and the head garment was very heavy. Since I’m sharing a picture, I thought I would also mention that I’ve created a tumblr. account. Which I mostly plan to use in order to share random photos I take in Japan – and of course reblogging other’s photos I like. The link is in the sidebar and HERE

Marriage procedure in Japan.

Some months ago I promised I would do a post about marriage procedure in Japan. Here it is. When I was in Japan back in February, my fiancé and I decided to get married in April, meaning I had one and a half month to get documents ready while I was back in Denmark.

Birth Certificate & Certificate of Marital Status

First, I went to my city hall to apply for a “Certificate of Marital Status”. A document, which proves, I am unmarried. At the same time I applied for a new “Birth Certificate”. These papers arrived around one week later.

Then I needed a translation of these documents into Japanese. Everyone can do that translation, but a lot of places in Japan then require the translations to be verified by an embassy or consulate (of ones own nationality). But, my fiancé contacted his city hall (which is a small community in country side Miyazaki) and they didn’t seem to have much knowledge on the area and said that no stamps were required as far as they knew.

Marriage registration paper

Then I went to Japan in March with my two documents. Later on my fiancé and I then translated them into Japanese together in a regular word document. Then we filled out the required paper from his city hall, which asked for our personal information (including parents and birth order).

That paper requires to be signed/stamped by two witnesses, who verifies that our marriage is genuine. We choose to let my fiancé’s parents to sign. Then we went to the city hall there in Japan, bringing along the first two mentioned documents (+ translations), the Japanese marriage paper and my passport. At the city hall they checked the papers, took a copy of my passport and after some waiting they announced that we were now married. It was not fully over, yet, since we were now only married in Japan. We asked for a copy of our “Marriage Certificate” and went home.

Marriage Certificate

The next step was a trip all the way to the “Ministry of Foreign Affairs” in Osaka. There we applied for a “Apostille”, which we got the next day, attached to our marriage certificate.

Marriage Certificate with Apostille

Then I contacted the Japanese Embassy in Denmark and scheduled a time I would come by to get the marriage certificate translated. There I also had to bring along a copy of my husbands passport and money to pay the translation fee. Then I, after long waiting, obtained a English translation and a certificate that proved the translation to be true.

Translation certificate


All those papers (Translation certificate, English translation of marriage certificate and original copy of the marriage certificate with the apostille attached). Those papers I then finally handed in to my own city hall and I was then finally married in both countries. Then later I had to fill out papers to apply for my new, Japanese surname.

How I met my husband. (my other blog)

Before I started this blog, I had another blog. That, I started because I hoped to blog about my 9 weeks trip to Japan last year, but a lot of things happened during that trip and I never got around to make an update. When I returned to Denmark I decided to write about my experiences in Japan in a diary form. I started to translate the journal I had kept during the trip into English and blogged it. I wanted to give a more personal view of my trip, instead of just blog entries. Through a diary I could share my personal thoughts, write about all the people I met, the things I saw traveling through Japan and many other things. Also through that diary I could answer a very often asked question: “How did you meet your husband?”. It was during 9 weeks that we met, started dating and a year later it eventually led to marriage.

The link is here (or/and in the sidebar):  JAPAN DIARY