People in Japan: Lydia
In the heart of the Kantō region, the summer heat is persistent. Kumagaya has earned itself a title of “one of the hottest cities in Japan” due to its record of high temperatures. It also has a slogan called “Atsuizo Kumagaya” that literally translates as “It’s Hot, Kumagaya”.
Under the sizzling light, Lydia starts another day, driving to work while having breakfast behind the wheel. Outside her duties as an English tutor, she pursues her interests, mainly theatre, writing and vlogging. If you joined her and her husband for a karaoke session, she would sing with the utmost vigour, a song by the Takarazuka Revue – a famous all-female musical theatre troupe in Japan.
Bunka leans in to ask what her experience of living in Japan for almost 7 years is like.
Describe your daily routine.
Lydia: Because of the nature of my job, every day is different for me. My jobs are irregular, often according to my clients’ schedules. Most of my days involve waking up at any time I like and going grocery shopping or staying at home to write fiction, but on days that I do work, it looks like this:
Here’s the detailed version:
06:00 Get up, wash up
06:10 Make breakfast for husband and me
06:40 Leave the home, eat in the car
07:30 Arrive at husband’s workplace, leave for home
08:20 Arrive home
08:30 Free time/groceries/make meals
14:00 Drive out to work
15:00 Arrive at workplace, start teaching
20:45 Lessons end, leave work, drive to husband’s workplace to pick him up
21:20 Meet up with husband, head home
22:00 Arrive home, snack, watch TV
Which part of Japan do you live in and how is like living there?
Lydia: I live in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture. I love living here, it’s very convenient because I’m close to six supermarkets, several restaurants and a mall, while still being very removed from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Kumagaya Station is just one stop away and while it’s a little more trendy downtown it’s still a far cry from Tokyo. It’s a very safe place to be, and very pretty too–I’m surrounded by parks and greenery. Saitama is also famous for rivers, so I get a magnificent view of the Arakawa River whenever my husband and I drive to Gunma Prefecture, where he works.
State one advantage and disadvantage of working in Kumagaya.
Lydia: I actually don’t work in my city, so I guess that’s both the disadvantage and advantage. I’m an hour away from where I used to live, Gunma Prefecture, and an hour and a half away from Tokyo. I work in both Gunma and Tokyo, but I don’t work in my city. While it’ll be easier for me to work in Kumagaya, living here puts me closer to Tokyo, where I can find more opportunities to audition and perform while still teaching English as my main job.
What tips would you give expats/tourists who are new to Japan?
Lydia: Learn the language, and try to understand beyond the culture. Understand the motivations behind mannerisms, try to understand the psyche instead of taking things superficially.
Tell us something interesting that most people wouldn’t know about your city.
Lydia: It’s famous for kakigori – shaved ice. Everyone knows my city constantly records the highest temperatures in Japan, but few know that it’s famous for kakigori . There are some really innovative kakigori flavours here, rivalling Taiwan and Singapore.
What activities would you recommend to tourists visiting Japan?
Lydia: Watch a musical in Japanese. They stage a lot of Broadway stuff, European productions and even Japanese-made Western musicals. It’s really sophisticated and a good way to see Japanese talent that isn’t the traditional forms of Noh and Kabuki. It really helps to ease you into Japanese entertainment.
Rent a car and visit a town you’ve never heard of. Japan is incredibly easy to drive, people are generally dead honest, and there are always awesome adventures to be had in every prefecture. Even if you don’t speak the language, Japanese people are becoming more and more willing to speak English, and they’re also very good at Pictionary. And there are so many translating apps right now! The Japanese LOVE apps. They’ll use Google to communicate.
What advice would you give to someone learning Japanese?
Lydia: Watch a lot of variety shows with a dictionary in hand and repeat the sentences and phrases out loud. They showcase a lot of natural Japanese, and repeating will help to improve intonation and pronunciation. Speak to yourself in the mirror. Hear yourself speaking Japanese and try to match it to the Japanese that you hear on TV shows.
Learn Japanese words!
在住者 (zaijuusha) – resident
才能 (sainoo) – talent
出演する (shutsuen-suru) – appear (on the stage)
演じる (enjiru) – perform
ミュージカル (myuujikaru) – musical
バラエティー (baraetei) – variety
鏡 (kagami) – mirror