Hello Lisa and welcome to our “Expat in Japan Interview” series! Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Lisa, I’m half Swedish and half American, but I grew up living a little bit of everywhere. I’ve been living in Tokyo for the past 7-8 years. I’m a senior editor at Tokyo Weekedender magazine, and I also freelance as a writer, translator, and reporter on NHK World’s Tokyo Eye 2020.
How long have you been living in Japan? When did you arrive?
I’ve been here almost 10 years, starting out in Osaka 2007. I went back home for a bit and returned in 2010, this time to Miyazaki. Soon after that I moved to Tokyo and I’ve been here ever since.
Wow, 10 years?! That’s nice! Why did you come to live in Japan?
That’s a tricky question, with no one answer I think! The first time I moved here it was more like, “Why not?”. Once here I fell in love with many aspects of the culture — both traditional and contemporary — and I found it really easy to live here. I knew staying one year wasn’t enough, but I don’t think I ever expected to stay this long!
What surprised you the most when you came to Japan the first time? And why?
I remember noticing a lot of things that surprised, amused, or confused me, but I don’t really know what stood out most. I think maybe one thing was the number of bands playing on the street outside train stations — and they were really good! I thought that was an interesting way for bands to get their sound out to new people. There are so many musicians around, so it can be hard to stand out…but who can resist a free concert while waiting for a friend at the station?
Free concerts are so cool right! Do you speak Japanese or English during your daily life in Japan? (Maybe you’ve learned a bit of Japanese before coming?)
I speak both daily, but the amount depends on what I’m doing. I speak Japanese with my husband, mostly English with some Japanese at work. I learned a little before coming, but it wasn’t enough. What motivated me was that I hated not being able to read things. It was an inconvenience that I couldn’t get over. I wish I had nobler motivation, but basically annoyance at not keeping up in conversations or being able to read signs did it. Although I passed JLPT N2 a few years ago I still feel like I’m far from fluent and have a lot of work to do.
What do you prefer about living in Japan?
It’s convenient. I realize I’m mostly speaking about Tokyo when I say this, but there are so many things here that I feel I don’t have to think about on a daily basis. If I forget to buy something on my way home, I can always pop out to a convenience store at any time to pick it up, and deliveries can be easily reschedule.
“Convenience” is something that a lot of foreigners love the most! Sam told us the same during her interview. What about the food? Do you like it? What are your favorite Japanese dishes? What do you think about food tours in Japan?
I love Japanese food for the most part. Of course I don’t like everything, but I think that would be the case anywhere. I’m kind of embarrassed to say this because it’s so simple, but one of my favorite foods is yaki onigiri. It’s just a simple rice ball that’s grilled over a fire, then brushed with miso sauce and put back on the grill. It’s so simple, but so good. I also love umeboshi (pickled plum) and chicken nanban. I also love any kind of nabe. I think food tours in Japan are a great way to explore what the country has to offer outside of the most known dishes like sushi and ramen. There are so many great street foood options and regional specialties, too!
One place you would recommend to people coming to Japan for vacation and why?
Miyazaki. There are so many amazing places in Japan, but Miyazaki is one of my favorites. It has it all: mountains, beautiful beaches, stunning shrines and tons of legends and myths.
For you, what is the best season to come to Japan and why?
I know spring is popular because of the cherry blossoms, but I like to recommend visiting in autumn! The weather is great, the fall foliage is gorgeous, and there are so many different seasonal vegetables and mushrooms. It’s known as the season for eating (and also reading), so it’s my top pick.
Another Autumn lover! Do you have any funny anecdote to share with us?
When I first lived in Japan, my mother came to visit me and we traveled together to the hot spring resort of Unzen, in Nagasaki Prefecture. It was our first time to stay in a posh hotel, and we didn’t know what to expect. After we were showed to our room, a staff member said, in English, that our “room mates” would be joining us soon. We were shocked! We thought we had booked a private room, but now that we were there it was so big, it made sense that others would be staying there too. We steeled ourselves for our new travel companions and soon, a woman entered the room. She introduced herself as our “room maid” — finally the penny dropped! The inn was so fancy that we had our own personal staff member to call on when we needed something! That was a pleasant surprise and quite a relief!
haha that was close! Finally, do you have a personal message to add?
If you’re traveling to Japan, do a little bit of extra research — Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hiroshima are all great destinations, but it’s the lesser known areas off the beaten track that are often the most rewarding, both when it comes to meeting locals and trying new foods.
Thanks Lisa for your time and for sharing your experiences, it has been a pleasure to have you as a guest!
If you’d like to follow her daily life in Japan, please be sure to follow her on:
- Twitter @lisawritesjp
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