a The Transit Lounge: February 2010

Back in the Day: I had a quarter life crisis, headed to Osaka, Japan for the unknown–only to discover that a passport plane ride are not necessarily a ticket to escape. Some Years Later: Settled back in Oz, the man of my dreams ended up in Tokyo for work–which is how a passport and plane ride showed me home is where the heart is. And Now: Well as luck would have it, we are about to embark on Japan Mark 3, with a baby in tow and another on the way...

Friday, February 26

Shiny Disco Shoes

Just some shoe sampling out on the trains of Tokyo.

And who said disco was dead?!

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Wednesday, February 24

Multilingualism Will Bring Us Together!

This article by Brett Iimura appeared in the revered Weekender magazine of Tokyo:

The article starts with the sentence "The question no longer seems to be whether to raise children bilingually or not, but rather how to do so."

As the daughter of someone who is actively campaigning for multilingualism in Australia, I know that this is something that more and more people in Australia are thinking about, but there is still a long way to go in terms of making raising your children bilingually an accessible, viable and available option with the right support systems in place (at least in Australia anyway).

Would you believe that there is still a great many people out there - and in the education system too - who believe that being bilingual or multilingual is to be at an academic and developmental disadvantage?

It is great to see an article like this encouraging bilingualism to expats in Japan and offering advice on how to do so. For those of you expats around the world, embrace the country and the culture surrounding you and encourage your children to do the same. What is wrong with raising a bilingual kid if being broad minded, adaptable, quick thinking and accepting comes with it?

PS For those of you in Melbourne raising bilingual kids or interested in doing so, come to the Melbourne Language Picnic on March 21 (click for details).

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Monday, February 22

Racism Costs

An interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald over the weekend.

Insensitivity makes waves with Japanese tourists
February 20, 2010

BEFORE Noriko Mochizuki travelled to Australia, she had heard about koalas, kangaroos, beaches, and strange men in cars who killed backpackers.
By the time she returns home to Tokyo, the 25-year-old will tell her friends that - the infamous Ivan Milat backpacker murders aside - Australians are relaxed, kind and sometimes very rude.
''Sometimes you go to buy something at a coffee shop and they don't want to understand or they just ignore you,'' she said during a surfing lesson with Surfs Up near Cronulla.
''The customer service is much, much better in Japan.''
Ms Mochizuki, from Tokyo, is one of a dwindling breed: the Japanese tourist Down Under.
While much has been made of the economic reasons behind their declining numbers, a study suggests condescending behaviour towards non-English speaking travellers has contributed.
The two-year research found there was a perception among Japanese visitors that racism pervades parts of Australia's tourism industry, helping to account for Tourism Australia's figures, which showed their number fell to 351,000 last year - less than half the 1997 level of 841,000.
The authors of the study, Macquarie University academics Ingrid Piller and Kimie Takahashi, said although Australia was still considered an attractive destination by Japanese tourists, the ''monolingual mindset'' at airports, hotels, train stations and restaurants was a strong deterrent.
''A lot of commentators have talked about Japan's economic problems, the outbreak of swine flu, the decline in flights and overseas travel generally,'' said Dr Takahashi, an applied linguistics expert. ''But no one talks about what happens to the tourists here that might be affecting the image of Australia back in Japan.''
Between October 2007 and last year, Professor Piller and Dr Takahashi interviewed Japanese baby boomer tourists, service providers in both countries, Japanese flight attendants, and tourism experts in Japan. They will publish their findings in The International Journal of Bilingualism and Bilingual Education.
''The Japanese people we interviewed loved it here. They loved the urban planning and the landscape and said Australia had much to offer tourists,'' Dr Takahashi said. ''But at the same time, there was a very strong sense that Australia has a closed, monolingual mindset.''
Participants cited the scarcity of foreign-language information or support in major public places as a reason for feeling that they were not always welcome.
''Particularly bad was at the airport, where they felt they were treated like criminals,'' Dr Takahashi said. ''They're elderly and have limited English, but at the same time they're not dumb. So they know when airport staff are raising their voices and treating them like idiots.''
Haruo Orito, a director of the Japan-Australia Tourism Foundation and a professor of tourism at Tamagawa University, said foreign language-friendly destinations such as Korea, Bali and Hawaii were taking Japanese tourists from Australia.
But Sydney-based Noriko Sato, who organises surfing tours for Japanese visitors through Dream Tube Australia, said places such as Hawaii and Bali were simply cheaper. ''Everything's expensive now, so they just go to Hawaii,'' she said.
Professor Orito said Tourism Australia had done nothing to help itself with the disastrous 'So where the bloody hell are you?' advertising blitz, "whose meaning was lost on the Japanese".
"The campaign last year based on the movie Australiawas an even bigger flop."
The problem has been compounded by a series of misguided tourism campaigns, which culminated last year in the ''Aussie Oji" competition, designed to lure Japanese women to Australia to look for their oji, or prince - a message a Japanese tourism expert described as "insensitive''.
One Japanese tourism operator in the Gold Coast said there was no point offering constructive criticism to the Australian tourism industry "because they ignore our complaints about the treatment of tourists. Nothing is going to change."
Japanese tourists made up the second-largest group of travellers to Australia until 2002, but were ranked fifth last year. Arrivals are forecast to fall a further 5.5 per cent this year.
Tourism Australia said the reason for the decrease was ''predominantly economic''.

IMAGE All aboard for fun in Australia ... Hiroshi Kawano, a Japanese tourist, learns to surf at Kurnell peninsula. Photo: Wolter Peeters See at
Sydney Morning Herald

Ultimately, I agree with the article. More and more often, Australians are now referred to in the international press as rude, insensitive and racist - gone are the days of Aussies throwing shrimps on the barbie and being referred to as laidback, carefree and obliging.

Yet it is intersting to note that the points of rudeness the Japanese tourists have spoken of run rampant amongst Japanese society also. The attitude towards foreign tourists and ex pats in Japan can also be less than welcoming and extremely unkind. Taxi drivers will refuse to stop for foreigners, Japanese hospitality staff will sometimes pretend not to understand Japanese-speaking foreigners and Japanese people are also very good at using tone and intonation to express their feelings, believing that the "stupid" tourist will not understand. Friends of mine trying to make a booking on New Years Eve at a local restaurant were turned down 3 times as soon as the restaurant became aware it was for foreigners. Before the restaurant asked for a name, there was room and they were happy to take the booking. As soon as the surname was said, all of a sudden there was a private function on. I have also had this experience when trying to make reservations in Tokyo restaurants and bars. Japan is also extremely mono-lingual in some regions. And don't forget about the supreme "extremists" who are all for a "true Japan". These guys are allowed to drive around in their vans, equipped with mics and loud speakers telling all the foreigners to get out and get out now.
I am not saying it is always like this but it definitely works both ways. This doesn't mean it is right, but I just feel that the tourists interviewed for this article need to know how it is in Japan too.

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Thursday, February 18


Watch these kids rock it out to Peaches in Aya's class at "Dance Studio Do-Up." Not sure who Aya is, but watch the chick in the orange go! No doubt she will get a job dancing next to the DJ in Pure nightclub.

Have always loved me a bit of Peaches, especially since we "shared" a stage and a few drinks a few years back at a launch party for the Diesel label...

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Wednesday, February 17

Just Another Harajuku Sunday

The following really needs no explanation. I mean the explanation would go along the lines of "That's Japan, baby!"

I will make mention that this is in fact Danny Choo. Girls, if the name Choo rings any bells, it is because his father is Jimmy Choo, the shoe designer. I just love the fact I came to Harajuku looking for crazy and I found it.

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Monday, February 15

Stairs or Lift?

Could this escalator at Kamakura Station be the world's smallest (and most pointless)?

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Friday, February 12

Try Hard

Japanese rugby (not) at its best...

I am still learning the ropes of rugby, coming from AFL-mad Melbourne. But I think the very first thing I learned about rugby was that as soon as a player crosses that try line, he MUST put the ball down and just get those points on the board. You want to win right?!

Harakiri anyone?

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Thursday, February 11

Surfing Oz

My dog loves the water - and he loves to surf, particularly in the backyard pool. Next step, get him actually into some surf...

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Tuesday, February 9

Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?

My wedding to my wonderful fiance is just under 2 months away.

I have had some issues with the my wedding this week. Yet I figure that is why I came back to Melbourne 2 months early; to iron any problems out.

Anyway, sat down to watch some TV and came across this show: Whose Wedding Is It Anyway? Each episode follows 2 different couples in the lead up to their big day.

Couple A were pretty tame. I didn't get the whole background story but for some reason the wedding planner and the service providers decided to get together and give them a free dream wedding. So Couple A were eternally grateful for the entire thing.

Can't say the same for Couple B.

Hubby-to-be had a serious budget they needed to stick to. Wifey-to-be had no regard for that. She also had no regard for the fact that her fiance had trouble with some aspects of their wedding because they were exactly the same as wifey-to-be's first wedding. I can totally understand that, as my fiance has been married before and it has been important for me to make sure certain things will be different. He completely understands that. This woman had no respect for her partner's feelings at all and just kept throwing around the phase "It has to be like this or that" as well as "Stop using the word budget!!" She kept going on about the fact that she didn't like the fact her partner kept mentioning the budget....but this lady, and what she wanted, was unreasonable.

Yet karma hit her pretty hard and it was quite funny too. She got her comeuppance when she tried on her wedding dress - and it was too small. Apparently she had purchased it on the smaller side thinking she would lose the weight. What a fail that was. She actually put more weight on and the dress had to be drastically altered. In fact the bridal shop wasn't even sure they could do the job it needed or even get it done in time.

Seriously, I cannot believe the absolute drama and stress some people bring on themselves in the name of their wedding. All for ONE DAY. I wonder how many of these couples actually give a second thought to the marriage, the happily ever after....the whole point of the wedding? I wonder what Miss Britney Spears would say about all of this?!

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Monday, February 8

Filipino Fiesta

Ahhhh the Philippines. I was lucky enough to write about my little adventure in Moalboal with the boy for this current issue of Kansai Scene.

Wow the memories. My best holiday ever, possibly helped along by the fact that this is where my fella proposed (in fact, in the spot I took this photo from...).

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Friday, February 5

The Peeves of Pet Culture in Japan

This is a feature article I wrote for the latest issue of the Weekender magazine:

It is very interesting to see how animals are generally treated in this country. At a glance it is easy to think they are treated very well. It is obvious a lot of money is spent on pets by way of accessories, fashion and beauty but what does this mean for the animal in all of this?

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Wednesday, February 3

Old Skool Osaka

I got thinking about this little ditty the other day. And from what I see on FB around me, the Bocce tournament is still a yearly occurrence.

Definitely good times in Da'cho.

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Tuesday, February 2

Let It Snow Tokyo

Last night it snowed hard in Tokyo - a pretty rare thing!

This morning the snow had already started melting away big time, but it is only supposed to get colder by the end of this week.

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Monday, February 1

Weekender Gang

The mag I am interning for (Weekender) was featured on NHK this evening, following around Kelly, our lovely editor. The cameras follow Kelly and I around Ebisu, compiling a regular section of the magazine called 'Up My Street'. That's me in the striped dress...

The pretty cool thing is that all the editorial team (Stephen, Rebekah, myself and of course Kelly) were all included, as was Alex (the sales manager). We have a really fun team - it is one of those office environments that means coming to work is really not bothersome at all.

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