[I Live in Japan] Interview Series of Foreigners Who Live in Japan – Ms. Jessica Gerrity
From Auckland, New Zealand
Duration of living in Japan: 18 years
Why do you live in Japan? I came to Japan for the first time as a university student and I was studying my Masters in Town Planning at that time. I found Japan to be very unique in terms of urban design, public transport and architecture.
What is your occupation in Japan?
I have several different roles.
Japanese and New Zealand media–related work/ TV personality. For about 15 years I have belonged to a talent agency based in Tokyo. I work on TV, the radio, podcasts, magazines, commercials, promotional videos, do narration, MCing, etc.
I am the tourism and PR ambassador for Saitama Prefecture. After living in Saitama for 10 years I wanted a way to give back to the wonderful area where I live and show other interesting places, people, and things to do.
I write for GekkanNZ, a Japanese language magazine from New Zealand. My regular column introduces pieces of New Zealand I have found in Japan. I write for Kyudo Nippon, a quarterly kyudo magazine based in Japan.
I am also kept busy with my three children and my hobbies, kyudo and horseback archery called sports yabusame. My children are 12, 10, and 7. My youngest was born with intellectual and physical disabilities and has just entered a special education elementary school in April this year.
Why are you interested in kyudo so much?
Ever since I was very small I had an interest in bows and arrows. After coming to Japan, I saw people practicing one day and decided I really wanted to start. I can’t explain the feeling well but I knew kyudo was something I just needed to at least try.
When I started, it was every bit as challenging and amazing and fun as I thought it would be. Kyudo exceeded my expectations.
The martial arts training gym I belong to is in Urawa-city in Saitama and the members in the gym are very warm. My teacher is wise and very kind. I think I have been very blessed with the way things turned out in my kyudo journey.
Kyudo is wonderful because it’s a physical activity, a martial art that lets you relax and calm down, find your inner peace. There is no opponent, only the target and yourself. Kyudo is an amazing time out from my busy life!
What do you miss about your maternal country living in Japan?
New Zealand summers! 28~30 degrees and not very humid, easy weather, and summer vacation is over the new year being in the southern hemisphere.
What do you find different about living in Japan over the term compared to when you first arrived or came as a tourist?
Japan on vacation is a wonderful and magical place I think. With no work, being able to take time to explore and discover Japan is an amazing experience.
Once you move to work and live over here of course there are responsibilities, time restraints, and social pressure which you don’t have when on vacation. Once you get married and have children many things change again as you become a mother, social expectations change once again.
What parts of Japanese culture do you recommend that foreign people try to experience?
Try kimono, and if you have time please try Japanese armor (kacchu or yoroi) it’s quite heavy but well worth the experience! If you are interested of course please try kyudo too!
Are there any aspects of the Japanese culture or its people that you find bizarre or unique?
There is a ritual, I’m not sure of the name, where sumo wrestlers hold small babies and the babies cry, I’m not 100 percent about the meaning behind the tradition but the crying babies made me worried until I found out it is a special ceremony!
Also, for good luck we throw beans at the ogre (oni) in a spring tradition called Setsubun. The people who dress up as ogres usually scare little kids who end up crying! The overall purpose symbolically is to drive away bad luck and bring good luck inside the house.
Have you had any funny experiences since moving to Japan?
Edamame! The first time I ate edamame, I ate with the skin on! I thought it was like ingen green beans where we eat everything. Oops!
*This article was originally published on JapanUP! in JULY, 2021.
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Established in 2007. Informational magazine distributed in Los Angeles and Chicago with over 50,000 copies published every month. Information and advertisements on Japanese cuisine, culture, tourism, and more in English for anyone interested in Japan.