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Jealous Rant

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Yesterday we had some visitors from Orange Page magazine - a very popular magazine for young women in Japan. Everyone we visited during the day - from the amazing chef at the local ryokan inn, to our neighbor who helped us with some light farm work - had been a somewhat regular reader fo the magazine. It is also the magazine where Tomoe first encountered macrobiotic cooking - a discovery that changed her life.

The column they were interviewing Tomoe for is called "Watapuro", short for "watashi Program", which is about women taking charge of their life and dreams.

They wanted to do as many of the activities we offer, but only had one day - AND they wanted to have a few hours for an interview with Tomoe. Needless to say, trying ALL of the activities we offer in just a few hours is impossible, but we were able to squeeze in a trip to the local hot-spring the night before, a visit to the local geta (wooden sandal) maker, time for an interview in our living room, a traditional hand-made, macrobiotic meal with lots of goodies brought over by our neighbor, a trip to the mizubasho (a rare flower) in the mountains, sledding, biking, and a little farming.

I give them a lot of credit in that they were very polite in the way that they dismissed me, and any part I may have had in encouraging Tomoe to take charge of her life and dreams. At one point late in the interview, however, they acknowledged the fact that that the life we live now is neither something that I could do alone, nor something that Tomoe could do alone. The reason I mention this now, is that I think that if they give an image to their readers that it is somehow "easy" to do what Tomoe did, it is unfair to the reader. Making the decision to change our lives took both of us and it was (and still is) the source of a LOT of fighting. I know the idea of "doing it on her own" probably sells magazines to make individuals and women feel empowered (anadmirable goal), and it may work in some people's cases, but the truth of the matter for us, is that we rely a lot (too much?) on each other to make this life work. This is not about female empowerment, this is about working on dreams - female or male, I don't see a difference.

This tuches on another topic that I had not intended to write about, but I guess this is as good of a time as any. - Living as a foreigner, trying to make a business in this village.

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This is a very interesting topic which I hope I can do justice to in this short space. On the one hand, this is a very male-centric village in terms of official policy. People naturally assume that I am the head of the house. They refer to us as "Kevin-tachi" tachi is a plural suffix, so basically they are saying "the Kevin's". This *****really******* pisses Tomoe off when they speak as if everything we are planning or doing is based on only my ideas. Sometimes to the point that we can't even do work for a day or tow until she cools off.

On the other hand, this is also a very Japan-centric place. Although they refer to us as "Kevin-tachi", they usually choose to speak only with Tomoe. This really pissed me off. Even if we are sitting in front of them together, they will direct any conversation at Tomoe and act as if I do not exist - unless they want to practice English or have something to say related to my "gaijin-ness".

Still, this is something I am used to after ten years in Japan, and something that I am willing to accept, so long as the projects we are working on happen. It hurts my pride to have everyone around us think that I am just the "bike and hike guy", rather than someone who is activly running the business, but it is also a relief sometimes that I can just let Tomoe deal with all the crap that I don't want to deal with.

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Granted, this is not only the fault of the villagers. It takes me much longer to read any local pamphlets, or fill out any paper-work. When it comes to farming or anything else related to this area, Tomoe is BY FAR ahead of the ball. I can read all the English language books I want about farming in Maine, but there is a big difference. There are no English language books (not to mention all the magazines) with the depth of information as those written about farming in this region. It takes me two days to read what Tomoe can read in an hour or two. She is definitely the holder of all the information. Combine that with the fact that she is the one that neighbors will talk to first (where all the local information comes in), and I become nothing more than a decoration on the wall.

Still, I comfort myself with the knowledge that our main income currently comes from foreign visitors - a result of our English website and my planning from a foreign perspective combined with Tomoe's cultural knowledge and research. I am not indispensable, and all the background work and planning is a combined effort. Even when the local office folks talk to us (Tomoe) about how great it is to bring foreigners, I know they know that it would not happen without me. But it would be nice to know that the people around me know that too.

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On to a lighter topic...

Despite making sure to put away my own camera every time she had hers pointed at me, I am sure that I really annoyed the magazine photographer. I am always fascinated by the photography aspect of these increasingly recent photo shoots, and it inspired me to get my own camera out when I probably wouldn't. I tried to stay out of her way, but I can only count on my own pissed-offish-ness when I am taking an otherwise great photo ruined by one of the people in the photo holding a camera to their face.

At one point, she just gave up and took a photo of me taking a photo of the others.

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Comments

It's clear that the two of you work as a team and that each of you bring different strengths and skills to the table.

There's a lot to be potentially offended by as a non-native Japanese in Japan, but it gets tiring to be offended all the time.

Also: tuches -> touches

Dang spel-cheker!

A well-written piece, it conveys the conditions of your life and work together while avoiding any sense of one-sided self-promotion.

I like the "watapuro" looks of earnestness that you caught on the faces of the magazine representatives.

Did you mean "dispensable" not "indispensable"?

Anyway, great piece otherwise. I hear ya on the arguing bit, too - my FMA and I have made some tough decisions in the past few years that we're both committed to, that benefit both of us, but still cause strife.

Being a photographer for my school newspaper i know how the photogs can be. I would have just taken a picture of your taking pictures. If they tried to include you in the article then it's fine to take pictures of you being a photographer, that's part of who you are.

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