17m 02s

MC Ruth's Various Challenges Experienced in Japan

Living in Japan

Broadcast on January 1, 2023 Available until January 29, 2024

The program’s first "senpai" of 2023 is our very own MC, Ruth Marie Jarman. Ruth serves as a bridge between Japan and other countries, focusing on inbound consulting. Her 34 years of living in Japan include lots of experiences that can help other residents. The latter part of the program spotlights shows from NHK WORLD-JAPAN. This time, our other MC, Stuart, introduces "Where We Call Home." Each episode features people from around the world who have created lives for themselves in Japan.

【"Senpai" featured in this episode】MC, Ruth Marie Jarman
Cycling on the Shimanami Kaido
Enjoying golf with her dad



Living in Japan. Happy New Year. Thank you for tuning into our show. I'm Ruth. I'm Stuart, Happy New Year!
Living in Japan is a program for international residents in Japan whether now or in the future.
We share hints and tips to make the most of your life in Japan.
In Japan, January is called Shogatsu, and the new year is celebrated in various ways. Especially on the Sanganichi, from the first to the third, people gather with family and friends to eat New Year's dishes called Osechi and visit shrines and temples to wish for a Happy New Year.
Visiting shrines and temples at the beginning of the year is called Hatsumode. And many people also do Omikuji, a lottery type fortune telling to predict the new year. Recently, some places have Omikuji in English, so it might be interesting to try your hand at it. In English? Wow. In English, yes.
That sounds fantastic. And today, our very own Ruth brings good luck to all international residents who live or will live in Japan. Are you ready, Ruth? I will do my best.


It's time for our main section, Hints from Senpai.
Sempai is a Japanese word for whoever has more knowledge or experience. Every single show, we will invite a different senpai that can give us tips and hints on how to do things better.
And today's senpai is this program's MC Ruth Marie Jarman. Yes, it's me. It is indeed.
Once again, I'd like to introduce you to our listeners, if that's okay. Ruth is originally from the United States. After graduating from college, she came to Japan in 1988 and began working for a Japanese company.
She later became independent and worked as a translator and interpreter before becoming involved in the real estate business for international visitors to Japan in 2000. And based on those experiences, she is now working extensively as a bridge between Japan and other countries, focusing on inbound consulting work.
So, you have lived in Japan for 34 years this year. Wow.
When you came to Japan, did you plan to live in Japan for such a long time?
No, I actually didn't. I came on a one-year contract at first, so I thought, "Okay, if I don't like it, I can go back; if I love it, I can stay." And it was literally just for one year at the beginning.
But now, of course, you know Japan really well and are truly and literally a bridge between Japan and other countries around the world.
So today we are going to dissect Ruth thoroughly. I hope it doesn't hurt.
I'm sure I'll go as softly and as kindly as I can. And we hope to share Ruth's experiences in Japan with you guys; and like a good luck charm, provide some tips for living in Japan.
Yes. I'm super-happy if my experience helps anyone listening. Great.
So first, here's a ten-question quiz to help listeners get to know Ruth. Okay, here we go.
Question one: what do you like about Japan?
The energy of Japan.
Question two: what is your favorite Japanese food?
Delicious Wagyu. Oh.
Question three: what is your favorite place in Japan?
Taketomi-jima, Sado island and Yonezawa in Yamagata prefecture. I can't pick just one. Oh, okay.
Question four: where have you traveled in Japan recently?
Shimanami Kaido cycling route.
Question five: what do you like to do on your days off?
I love to play golf.
Question six: what is your favorite Japanese word?
Question seven: what are your tips for improving your Japanese?
Read some Japanese out loud every morning for at least five minutes.
Question eight: is there anything you still can't get used to in Japan after 34 years?
I still can't read the air.
Question nine: have you ever felt homesick?
Question ten: if you knew then what you know now, what advice would you give to yourself of 34 years ago?
Take your time and let yourself absorb this lovely culture in Japan slowly.
Thanks for answering, Ruth. That was brilliant. I've got a couple of answers I'm quite curious about. But the first one that I really really really was surprised at is knowing how much you play golf, but you claim not to be very good at it.
I'm really bad at it.
What's your score over nine holes? Like, 135. I might be on par with you.
Now you have so many favorite places in Japan. You travel a lot. Can you tell us a little bit more about the place you went recently? I guess it's the…  what is it… the Shimanami Kaido?
Yeah. So, it's near Setouchi, so I don't know if you've heard of the Seto Inland Sea. You basically have bridges that go all the way from Hiroshima to Ehime on Shikoku Island. And so, every year, they actually close down the expressway bridges so that you can ride your bicycle over it. And there were 7,000 people cycling on this Shimanami Kaido cycling route. 7,000? Yeah.

And it was all different routes and everything. It's a huge event that they have, which is actually very hard to participate in. But the thing that struck me was just the absolute breathtaking beauty of the place. And as I was riding across, we had absolutely wonderful weather.
And I remembered telling myself, don't think about, you know, it's hard to ride this bike. Don't think about the energy you have to put into it. Let this moment sink in because this will never happen again like this. And I felt like it was one of those kind of life-changing moments where you see something so beautiful, it almost takes your breath away. So, Shimanami Kaido that whole area is just gorgeous. Oh, that sounds fantastic. Life-changing experience. Yeah, life-changing.
And you said it's kind of difficult to participate in that event. Is it by lottery or something or …?
Yeah, it's by lottery. It's kind of like the Tokyo Marathon. You have to sign up very early. Just to let everybody know that you can ride it any time. They have rental cycles and stuff. You can definitely ride it. But this is the event where they actually don't allow cars onto the bridges. So, you can go over the bridges, you know, without any worry about cars or anything, so. Yeah, it was a really special event.
And as you say, the view there is absolutely superb. So that would be great on a bicycle. I’m so envious of you.
Okay. Now, Japanese culture and customs are quite different from those in your home country, the US, of course. Even though you have lived in Japan for so many years and know Japan really really well, there are still some things you're not used to, right?
As I mentioned in my answer, I think I could say that I am unable to read the air. "Kuki ga yomenai." "Kuki yomenai" means like, can't read the air, can't pick up the nuances, because, you know, Stuart, you also know that Japan is a very high context culture. So, for me, coming from the US, which is really low context, where we always have a lot of words to explain exactly how we feel about every single detail, a lot of times there's a lot of guesswork involved in communication in Japan, and I have a lot of trouble guessing. So, I usually just have, you know, a Japanese friend or colleague or somebody next to me, and after the conversation is done, I'll ask them, "was there anything I might have missed? Or what did you pick up there that was an important point?" And, you know, usually things I did not even notice become the important point. So, not being able to read the air is something I've recognized in myself. Yeah.
That's amazing, because if I look at you and I see the way you operate both professionally and personally, I've seen you able to read the room every every occasion. I've not had that feeling about you. So that's quite weird that you, for me, to say that you're still not able to read the room.
Well, I guess, you know, in a general situation, maybe, probably I can. But in those serious business situations where you're closing a contract or figuring out how to do an estimate or something like that, there's a lot of nuanced communication that's happening that I can't really keep up with. So I depend on my Japanese colleagues for that. Great teamwork in that respect. Yes.
Today, we would like to share MC Ruth's experiences in Japan in the hope that it would be helpful for other international residents in Japan. Yeah. I hope this helps you all.
And we spoke about what advice you would give to yourself of 34 years ago. What part of that would be useful for people living in Japan today, do you think?
Take your time and let yourself absorb this lovely culture slowly, is what I would advise everyone or advise myself when I arrived 34 years ago. Because I feel like, you know, when you're trying to get used to, to survive, to succeed in a totally different kind of environment, especially with a different language, we tend to hurry, you know, and we tend to feel rushed, like, we have to get it tomorrow, you know? Yes.
But I feel like one of the most wonderful things about Japan is that, like, with the music we introduced earlier, there's so many little surprises if you just kind of step back and take your time. So, I feel like letting yourself absorb the culture and take your time and enjoy the parts that might feel a little difficult, the parts that might feel comfortable, you know, taking your time is what I would definitely tell myself. Yes.
Yeah, I think your advice is good. You don't need to rush. Those things will all happen in good time.
Exactly. I feel like in, at least in the US, we tend to make friendships really quickly. So, a lot of my American friends, as well as myself, feel a little bit lonely like it's hard to make friends in Japan at the beginning. But then you start to realize after 34 years that making friends and building relationships in Japan just takes more time, you know? And so, if you're patient and you allow yourself to take time to build those relationships, you can find really fulfilling relationships in Japan, for sure.
Yeah, I agree with you on that. Now, one thing I really wanted to ask you about is your favorite Japanese word, and you answered kizuna. Yeah.
Please tell us the meaning of that word again.
Yeah, I love this word. The best English word I could find for it was "bond" or "connection." And I mean, I love the word, and I love the shape of the kanji so much. I actually got my friend who's a professional calligrapher to write the kanji on twelve different cards, and I put it in a frame, and I sent it to all my relatives.
So, we all have kizuna, you know, hanging in our homes to remember that we're all connected, you know. No matter how far the distance between us, all of us human beings, we have this connection, you know, that you can't see. And I feel it very strongly in Japan with my neighbors, in the community, with people that might live a little bit further from me. And then I also feel it with my family overseas, with my other people from my home country. And I just feel like the concept of kizuna and being fundamentally connected with everyone else is a really strong idea. And it kind of represents, like, the sense of community that you feel here in Japan. It's fantastic.
And, you know, it takes time, but we keep making that kizuna stronger and stronger every day, right? So that's another reason not to rush and just take your time and go with the flow, right?
Yeah, absolutely. Wow, this whole section was brilliant. Thank you for sharing so many stories with us today, Ruth. Yeah, it's totally my pleasure.


Now we move on to Good to Know. Today we would like to introduce to you a TV program on NHK WORLD-JAPAN that you might want to know about.
Today, Stuart, you picked the program, right? Yes, I did.
The program I chose is called "Where We Call Home." Oh, I like that one.
Yes, it's wonderful. It features people from various parts of the world living in Japan, and each time it introduces how they live in Japanese society. I think it's the same for myself, Ruth, and anyone else who is listening to the program right now. Living in a country that is different from the place and the environment where you grew up can be fun and exciting. But of course, there are also really huge challenges, huge differences in culture and customs and perceptions. But watching this program, I see that people from various countries around the world have found their place in Japan and are leading really superb, robust lives. Now, let me give you an example from this episode of the show.
In the Growing Tasty Shiny Jewels episode, there's a French man who grows shine muscat, a type of premium grape variety born in Japan, and a Danish man who works as a pipe organ craftsman in Tokyo. That's so cool.
It's brilliant. Like both have, they're both really committed people. They both have a great community around them. And the French man, for example, with the help of his family and also people in his village, learned how to make shine muscat from scratch, which is amazing.
Now, the Danish guy, he finally found his dream job, if you like, without giving up on the career that he already had as a pipe organ craftsman. He was able to do that in Japan. The one thing in common they had, of course, was that they never gave up. But also, something this touches on something you mentioned earlier, Ruth, about kizuna. They found strength and support within their communities, these people who came from absolutely nowhere as far as the local people were concerned and planted themselves into these, in their communities. They were able to form this great bond, and they were able to help each other, the local community helping the French man and the Danish man, respectively. But then, both of those guys being able to give back to the respective communities as well. And I thought that's really superb.
That's so true. And I feel like, you know, to create that kizuna and to be a part of the community, we all have to have an attitude of gratitude. You know what I mean? Like opening things up. So, this gratitude that you feel from both sides is probably one of the reasons why it's going well.
Attitude with gratitude. We have to get t-shirts done.
Okay, I'm sure that this program, "Where We Call Home," has many hints to encourage people from all over the world who are working hard on their careers and their lives in Japan. So please watch it.
This program is available on the website. To view past broadcasts on demand, please go to NHK WORLD-JAPAN's website. Click on "On-Demand" and search "Where We Call Home."


The year 2023 has begun. I feel so old. What kind of year do you want this year to be, Ruth?
I want it to be a year of encouragement so that we can just encourage everyone around us to live a full life, be healthy, enjoy their family, enjoy their community. Just let's encourage everyone. No more negativity. How about that?
I think that's a great idea. Mine is onwards and upwards.
We're looking forward to more and more listeners joining us here. So please listen to the show on our website too. Go to NHK WORLD-JAPAN's website, click on "On-Demand," choose "Audio," and find "Living in Japan." We will be back on February 5th with another edition of Living in Japan. I can't wait. Bye. Bye-bye everyone.

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