It seems a lifetime ago that I lived in Japan but the wonderful memories of my life there and the many adventures I had, will stay with me forever. The lasting friendships I made, the places that I travelled to, and the wonderful culture I immersed myself in will never leave me.
I left my teaching job in Sydney and moved to Tokyo at the beginning of 2004 to join my husband Stephen who had taken up a new position there. It was a wrench at first and I wondered how I would fill my days after such a busy working life. However, I soon joined CWAJ and discovered I need not have worried! I was lucky to have known Jennie Orchard in Sydney and, soon after contacting her, I went to my first luncheon. She described CWAJ as a ‘very earnest’ organisation and I was soon to discover how right she was but also what an amazing and dynamic organisation CWAJ is. It has so much to offer for anyone new to Japan.
The idea of working alongside a Japanese partner appealed so I jumped in at the deep end and joined the Print Show Donations committee with Chieko Hayama (who also introduced me to the wonders of Tokyo Hands). It was a daunting task for someone new to Japan, but I received so much support at the beginning, I soon navigated my way through and made so many friends along the way. In other years I worked with Yumi Miyake as Co-Chair of the Special Interest Groups, led many wonderful Ceramics trips with my good friend Atsuko Imaizumi, and in my final year rejoined the Print Show team to work on Hands-on Art.
My fondest memories are of all the hiking trips with the hiking group, mostly day trips but some overnight. What great experiences they were, exploring mountain trails, staying in mountain refuges, getting up to see Mt Fuji at first light – and the laughter watching our great hiking leader Reiko Suzuki navigating with a map, but never being sure where we were! These trips were full of wonder, often stumbling upon a hidden temple, being immersed in autumn foliage or spring blossoms, or enjoying a green tea ice-cream in a small mountain village at the end of the day.I would always repeat the journey on a weekend with my husband, using all the knowledge I had gained from my Japanese hiking friends. I quickly learnt to use all forms of public transport to travel to remote locations easily and with confidence.
CWAJ punctuated my life in so many ways with luncheons, outings, meetings and the Print Show. The members of CWAJ, and the activities we undertook, left indelible memories. To anyone joining CWAJ, say yes to being involved and join a committee or three. It is the best way to learn and to make friends.
We relocated back to Sydney in 2007 to be around when our grandchildren started arriving – and a new journey began. I spent a great deal of time with them, from babysitting to going on adventures together, but now they are much older I have more time to explore new things.
Stephen and I love being active, whether hiking long-distance trails in the Australian bush or gardening in the ‘bush site’ behind our home. Once a week I attend tap and jazz classes at the Sydney Dance studios which we all call ‘dementia prevention’. I have also become an urban farmer, growing most of the vegetables we eat to sustain a healthy life. I don’t enjoy being inside but relish putting on my hiking boots and heading off on a bush track with my backpack packed with tent and sleeping bag.
Recently I took on the role of President of our local community action group which has two main activities. One is providing information and getting feedback on proposed developments in our suburb that affect the community. The second is advocating for our community at local council and state government institutions on changes we are seeking. We also undertake other activities that help preserve, maintain or enhance the natural and built environment of our area. It’s a very big task these days, with overdevelopment with commercial interests being placed before community wellbeing!
The friendships I made through CWAJ have continued to draw me back to Japan over the years. COVID has foiled our travel plans over the last three years but we soon hope to be able to travel to Japan to enjoy a hike with Masako Iida and her husband, or a lunch with Atsuko and her husband in their favourite sushi restaurant.
I am reminded every day about CWAJ as I admire the many prints purchased at the Print Show that adorn the walls of our home. As an overseas member I have been able to remain connected to CWAJ from afar. I have much to thank them for.
My photo was taken on a hike in the Warrumbungle National Park in 2020. We were there with another OM, Lindy Kerr and her husband Ted.