Einblicke #11: Nachgefragt bei Agnes aus Deutschland / Japan

Agnes ist 36 Jahre alt und Mutter einer 4 jährigen Tochter. Sie wurde in Katowice geboren, ihre Familie zog dann nach Braunschweig in Deutschland als sie fünf Jahre alt war.
Sie studierte Produkt Design und arbeitet jetzt als Freelancerin und hilft einer Freundin an ihrer English Conversation School.
Agnes ist mit einem Japaner verheiratet und lebt in Hiroshima, Japan.

Tell us a bit about the city where you live now and your hometown. What is it like to live there? What makes them special? How are they different?

Hiroshima is home to two UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) and the Itsukushima Shinto Shrine with the famous red gate in the sea. Hiroshima is a big, modern, vibrant city but has a small town vide.

Braunschweig is a small city with a big big art and culture scene.
I love Hiroshima, it`s polite people, delicious food and sea, rivers and hills. And I love Braunschweigs flat land, straight forward people, and local beer.
As so often in live both have good and bad sides. And picking one over another is like choosing which child you love more.

What do you like most about your home country? And about the country you are currently living in?

What I really miss here in japan and therefor really like in my home country is the straight forwardness. On the other hand I like that Japanese people do have this special awareness and consideration of others. First think than speak is a big one here.

And what are the things you don’t like about those countries?

I really struggle with the permanent exclusion. I know it doesn`t come from a malicious place but still. It is exhausting to know that people look at you as the other all the time. And the struggle gets bigger when you have children. I don`t want my child to feel like it doesn’t

`t fully belong. And the term HAFU aka half for mixed people really shows the unintentional exclusion of people which are not 100% japanese by blood.

Did you face any problems with your expat status?

I would say no. But I am a caucasian women. I know many expats and migrants which do not have that easy.

Would you like to live somewhere else? To return home? If yes, where and why? If no, why not?

There are times when I just want to catch the next flight back “home”. On the other hand, this here is home. But I think my husband pinned it down the other day. “ …you are one of those who can`t settle. You’re a nomad.”

What should someone who visits your home country / the country you live in do and see?

Wherever you go leave your guidebook home. Stroll through the streets. Wonder of path. Get lost.
If you find yourself in Berlin on a sunny sunday go and sing with the world at the Mauerpark Karaoke.
If you ever come down to Hiroshima don`t just visit the cultural heritage sides. Take a walk through the neighborhood of Mitakai and find a moment of peace and harmony at the Mitaka Tempel.
I would even go so for to say to cut your downtown siteseeing short and rather spend a few hours at Mitaka.

And what should they definitely not do?

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT GO SHOPPING. Waste of time and money. No matter where you are. Except for local markets of course.

What are your favourite meals of your traditional cuisine? What do you think of the local cuisine of your current living place?

I absolutely LOVE a good old Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki (google it).
Many tourists making their way from Tokyo to Hiroshima via Osaka often had the Osaka style Okonomiyaki already and don`t feel like trying the Hiroshima style. BIG mistake. It is completely different and up until now I never met a person, tourist or japanese, who dosn`t favor the later one.
Hiroshima is also famous for its oysters which are best during season. Japanese cuisine is very diverse and varies from prefecture to prefecture and even town to town. So be brave and look beyond Sushi and Ramen.

And how about drinks? What drinks should we try when we visit?

A delicious drink to cool off on hot summer days is Calpis. You can drink it carbonated or uncarbonated. If you like Yakut you will love Calpis.
If you`re a coffee lover, Japan is the place to get a sip. We have thousands of indepentend coffee shops. Almost every single one has their own roast and even roast them every morning themselves to guarantee the best quality.
I also recommend a nice cold beer here and there and a draft beer is called Nama Biru. Japans Whiskey wins top pieces worldwide and has many nice, cosy whiskey bars with great service.
Of course no Japantrip without at least trying a good Sake. Hot on a cold winter day, ideally in a onset, or cold under the cherry blossoms.
I have one more for you. Chuhai – Shochu and carbonated flavored water. It`s like a cocktail and comes in cans and many flavored.

How do you get around in your country? Do people use public transport or do you prefer not to? Why?

I think it`s save to say that Japan is the master of public transportation. Clean, on time and with the best service I ever had when it comes to Public Transport. If you visit Japan as a tourist consider purchasing the Japan RailPass.
When it comes to japanese, everyone is using PT. Regardless of status or income.

Which artists should we check out of those countries? (authors, musicians, painters …)

Naturally I would say street art, but that is practically not existing here in japan.
I`m not a big fan of recommending or picking favorites. But. Thanks to the post war economic wonder and the wealth coming with it, japanese cities start to invest and buy art. So don`t be surprised if you see a real Dali in a museum in Hiroshima. Or world renounced artwork on a remote island (Naoshima).

What does your ordinary day look like? Do you think it’s a typical everyday’s life for people in your living place?

I never expected to ever have a typical japanese life but it turns out I`ve got it more or less.
As a mother of a 4 year old I am, like many in japan, a stay at home mum. In Germany that’s often frown upon but this is not the case in Japan.
I don`t really have a typical day but I usually wake up early, work a bit from home, have me time and prepare a Bento Box for my child. I get her ready for kindergarten and bring her to the bus. On some days I meet up with friends, work or DIY around the apartment. We like to visit local shrines and temples or just hang out at our favorite city garden/park.

On days where she stays in Kindergarden longer I go to the design office where I work freelance on own projects.
On saturdays I help a friend at her English conversation school. Or we go watch soccer, go on a road trip to escape the city hustle, or meet up with friends to go thrifting at the local flea market.

If not: How would you say *is* a typical everday’s life there?

I guess my days are a bit different than a japanese mother would have. We don`t have relatives nearby so I would say we have less help than japanese would have. Japanese parents help a lot when it comes to childbearing and also financially. We don`t have that but we also like to rely on ourselves and not others.
I also do not follow all japanese customes. If it doesn`t make send or cuts into my freedom I don`t do it. Oh, and I don`t do the laundry every day 🙂 Big shocker for japanese.

How is this different to your home country?

I would say the biggest difference is that I am a stay at home mum. Which would not be possible in Germany if you are a middle-class family.

What’s the best season for visiting your country? Why?

Most people focus on the cherry blossom season. Which is a very crowded , busy season. The Sakura is great but my absolute favorite season here in autumn. The changing leaves are just stunning. I would`t recommend summer. It is very hot and humid. Autumn is also great because that’s when lots of festivals are held.

And your current living place? When should we go there?

Spring or autumn is a good time to visit Hiroshima. But if you like very hot weather than you will be fine in summer too. The Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) and take your time in the peace park and the peace memorial museum. The Itsukushima Shinto Shrine on the island of Miyajima is also a UNESCO heritage sites and worth to visit. If you have time and like to hike take one of the three ways up to the top of Mt. Misen. Sake lovers should visit Soijo for some sake tasting. I also highly recommend to take a day trip to Onomichi for a bit Showa flair, a bicycle tour with island hopping and a visit at the Bunny island.

Tell us something about traditional activities, festivals or holidays in your home area. Which do you enjoy most? How do you celebrate them?

My absolute favorite festival in Hiroshima is the Toukasan Matsuri. It is held in the first weekend in June and everyone is wearing Yukawa (summer kimonos). If you visit that’s a perfect opportunity to get your left a set. Many malls sell sets (Yukawa, shoes, obi) for 30-50$. There are also places all over town that will help you put it on ( infos a any tourist info).

Summertime is firework display season. Those are nothing like a firework back in Germany. They are long, often underlined with music and set up in nice locations like mountainsides or in the bay.
The Sake Matsuri in the Sake capital Soijo is held in September and worth checking out.
You can go from brewery to brewery and taste sake or get a 2000¥ ticket, get a little cup and go head for all you can drink. Watch out…those little cups can get you drunk pretty quick.

Are there local traditions / holidays that surprised you a lot when you came to your current place of living? Or that you liked or disliked particularly?

The New Year celebrations surprised me a lot. It is a quiet, family centered day of reflection. People usually stay home or gather at a family members house. They eat Soba noodles that symbolize a long life, chat and watch a music program „kohaku uta gassen“ on TV. When midnight is approaching they make their way to a neighborhood shrine or temple for the first visit of the year. The coming days, usually about a week, the Hatsumode is held at all shrines and temples. People visit them an get blessings for the year, dispose of their previous years lucky charms and purchase new once.
I really come to love Japanese new years celebrations. I love the noisy german way but the Japanese calm and reflecting celebration suits me a bit better.

Another local tradition is Naki Zumo or Cry Baby Zumo. Babies age 6-18 month are facing each other and the one crying first wins. A japanese saying is that babies who cry will be healthy, strong and grow good. Many westerners thought that it’s a crazy celebration, but really there is no harm done. Trust me my little girl and I joined.

What I don`t like is political campaigns leading up to elections. Every day 8am-8pm politicians ride around the neighborhoods screaming their agenda from noisy loudspeakers. Google it, it`s crazy. I think it`s save to say that everyone hates it. Old and young, tourist and in particular Japanese.

Where would you like to travel in your life? Why?

Anywhere, really. I would love to experience as much as possible. From NCY to Mongolia, I`m in for everything as long as it`s not a boring all inclusive hotel stay at the beach. One of my dreams is to take the trans sibiran route by train. Get off and stay a bit here and there. My big dream!

What do you think: Which stereotypes exist about your country and its people? Are they correct – at least partly – or not?

As a german living abroad for close to ten years now I can attest that the stereotype of “grumpy” germans is true. Maybe it is a bit unfair to say grumpy but maybe complaining is the better translation of meckern. We really do complain a lot. It was pointed out to me many times that only the Germans complain that much, especially about things they could change but don`t.
But then they go on and keep complaining.
For example work. “Oh, I hate that job. I wanna quit. etc.” A Japanese once said “Why don`t you quit then?” when my german friend complained on a Skype call. My friend just looked baffled. Probably thinking “how do I make a living?” I think that has something to do with socialism. We germans are accustomed to be taken care of and complaining and in some way blaming others for our situation is one facet of that.

And yes, many ask if I eat sausage every day and if we all wear dirndl.

They also think we are all super diligent and always on time.

What about the stereotypes you had about the people in the place where you are living now? Where you surprised? Did they match the stereotypes?

Every stereotype has a grain of truth somewhere. Yes japan is a technology pioneer but far from what Galileo & Co. broadcast in Germany.
There are no Underwear aka used panty vending machines on every street corner. Never seen one in nearly 10 years.
Japanese people are clean but if no-one monitored them they can become pretty messy.

If you could change one thing about the place where you live. What would it be?

To not be surprised by individualism. ‚The nail that sticks out shall be hammered down‘
Japanese proverb.

Your dreams for the future?

I am still on a journey to find my place in this country and in life.
I just like to focus in moving forward in every aspect.
I would love to travel and being able to make a living as an artist.
A big dream is to build a tiny house in the countryside and live off-grid. At least as a counterpart to our urban live.

Die Idee hinter diesen Interviews:

Wir reden und schreiben so viel über die Länder dieser Welt und auch über die Menschen, die darin leben. Die Einblicke, die wir als Reisende in diese Länder bekommen, sind doch immer nur kurze neugierige Blicke von außen. Blicke durch ein Schlüsselloch quasi. 
Statt über die Menschen zu schreiben, so dachte ich mir, sollten wir sie doch einfach einmal selbst fragen. Gerade in den heutigen Zeiten, in denen Menschen ferner Länder doch meist nur einen Klick entfernt sind, ja, wir mit ihnen sogar häufig in sozialen Netzwerken befreundet sind. 
Deshalb starte ich diese neue kleine Serie, in der ich Facebook- und Brieffreunde, die ich in aller Herren Länder habe, einfach eine Reihe Fragen stelle und mich neugierig darauf einlasse, was sie dazu zu sagen haben. Auch dies wird ein Blick von außen durch das Schlüsselloch bleiben – aber vielleicht vergrößert sich das Schlüsselloch doch ein bisschen?

Weitere Einblicke:

Nachgefragt bei Umar aus Pakistan
Nachgefragt bei Victoria aus den USA
Nachgefragt bei Sören aus Dänemark / Grönland / Island
Nachgefragt bei Martina aus Italien / Slowenien
Nachgefragt bei Stanislava aus Tschechien
Nachgefragt bei Rona von den Philippinen
Nachgefragt bei Giovanna aus Italien
Nachgefragt bei Raziye aus dem Iran
Nachgefragt bei Renée aus den USA
Nachgefragt bei Kirsi aus Finnland

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