Ichinomiya, in recent years, has seen an increase in foreigners relocating here.
This time we asked a few foreign surfers
who are living happily in Ichinomiya for their stories.
Ben: I am Ben. I came 8 years ago from San Diego, California. Originally, in my teens, I worked as a shaper in a surf shop. Then I arrived in Japan when I was on tour in Osaka and Tokyo as a professional skateboarder at 17. After fulfilling my dreams, I came to Ichinomiya as an English teacher while working as a shaper and then became an interviewer since I was commentating while participating in a world-level surfing competition 6 years ago in Japan. Right now I am the owner of a shop called “Alchemy by Ben Wei” in Ogawa, Chiyoda-ward Tokyo. I started skateboarding at 5, but now I live a life entering the waves day and night as my hobby even though I do not participate in many tournaments.
Chris: I also came from Southern California. Starting from August, I began my work in the Ichinomiya Town Hall. I applied for the JET programme (Japanese English Teaching Programme) and then I was dispatched to work in Ichinomiya. Because I am a 4th generation Japanese descendant, I originally had an interest in Japan. However, neither of my parents spoke Japanese so I started studying Japanese and then studied abroad in Okayama University 3 years ago. I just graduated college and just started working so my days are filled with studying and being nervous. Recently, I also started surfing at the recommendations of my superiors. It is my pleasure being here today.
Emi: This will be my 9th year since moving into Ichinomiya. Originally I lived in Funabashi-city and commuted to surf here many times since my husband would rent out a clubhouse estate often, but the distances I could travel shortened after giving birth to my children so I thought I might as well live here! That is how my family came to live here. Now, while raising my 2 daughters in their 3rd year of Junior High and Elementary school, I opened up a flower shop in my own home called “putiputi” which means flower in Maori. Even though it is called a flower shop, I do flower arrangements, preserved flowers, paper ornament giant flowers, Macrame bracelets, and many other crafts that makes me wonder what to actually call my own shop! I became a crafts specialist!
We need to interact with non-English speaking countries as well.
Ben:There are many foreigners from Australia, Canada, England, and many other countries visiting Ichinomiya. We have the super senior who is a central figure in the our community. One of the reasons I find it enjoyable to live here is because there are cafés and bars where we can mingle together and gather.
There really is the impression that there are more foreigners. There really aren’t any problems for me, but the shops where English can be used, have English signs, and have English menus are few. It might be inconvenient for other foreign sightseers.
It’s like the feeling when Japanese tourists go to Hawaii and are disappointed since they don’t feel like they went to another country. The feeling of “Japan” might be one of the few left-behind charms of Ichinomiya.
Chris: For me, in everyday life there are times where I don’t understand some words. When I was told that you can buy it at the “Hyakkin,” I had no idea what “Hyakkin” was! When going out drinking, I didn’t understand when people say “Andappe” and other colloquial phrases either. Even at work, I need to worry about using the honorific form because most of the time I am talking with my superiors.
Ben: Ichinomiya will be holding the Tokyo 2020 Olympic surfing games so some preparations should be made for foreigners coming at that time. First, the town should prepares places to stay. Finding a small pension or guest house from outside of the country is quite difficult and the hotel homepages are written in Japanese so foreigners cannot reserve a room. In the past, I was asked to help reserve 5 different rooms for my acquaintences when the international tournament in Ichinomiya was held! Furthermore, over half of the foreigners were coming from non-english speaking countries so they could only speak in French or Spanish since it was their home language.
Competitors and related personnel that often tour abroad are already used to living abroad so they should be fine on many levels, but it would be nice to have cafes and places that have free Wi-Fi access so we can look up the internet during the tournament and send messages abroad.