Bonichi Shimbun

Today I am on the front page on the local paper, the Bonichi Shimbun. And at the top of the digital edition, too.

On Monday, I was interviewed about my activity at Oyama Senmaida, specifically how I am working with Ushimura-san to update their English language materials and planning an English version of the website.

The interview chance came up unexpectedly and I was concerned because it was going to be in Japanese. However, Saito-san, the journalist, generously provided questions in advance. Once I knew what I wanted to say, I wrote it all in Japanese. It’s not a matter of directly translating, because my thoughts in English aren’t exactly the same as my thoughts in Japanese. Some of that is due to my vocabulary but there’s also a difference in cultural translation as well as the words themselves. It’s hard to explain, but “IYKYK,” as they say these days (but not in Japanese).

I was able to hand Saito-san my written responses (proofed by Ushimura-san, bless her) when we met in person on Monday. Our conversation was cheerful as he checked facts and asked follow up questions. It was an easy interview.

And today the article was in the paper. Before I even saw it, a hunter who came to attend to the latest wild boar (sigh) hopped out of his truck and said, “Hey, I saw you in the Bonichi!” and then at lunch, someone else walked up to me, holding the paper and comparing my photo to my face. It was cute.

Saito-san dropped off a bunch of copies at Tanada Club, so I will be mailing one to my sister and that makes me a little sad, because previously, I’d have mailed it to my mother and she & Jenny would have read it together. But times change and the cast changes and now Jenny gets my proud moments directly.

Here’s a translation, in case you’re not able to read the Japanese version.

Oyama Senmaida Preservation Society to create English PR materials, with help from American woman

Kristen McQuillin (57), an American living in Hiratsuka, Kamogawa City, is currently creating new English-language PR materials for the nonprofit organization, the Oyama Senmaida Preservation Society (Chairman Ishida Mitsuji).

The association had English PR materials up until now, but due to a lack of manpower, it was unable to start updating the information in earnest for nearly 20 years. With the COVID-19 pandemic over and an increase in inquiries from foreign tourists, the association is counting on this powerful helper.

Kristen based the English materials on Japanese PowerPoint materials used for English-speakers who want to participate in activities when they come to visit. The materials use a wealth of photos of the seasonal scenery of Oyama Senmaida, rice growing scenes, and rice field creatures to introduce the association’s activities, the state of the Satoyama, and the annual schedule.

While reviewing the materials, Kristen considered the various activities carried out by the association, thinking about “which activities should we highlight for visiting from overseas,” and is working on the creation of the materials by translating them into English and adding new English explanations and photos.

She works at her home, which is a few minutes’ walk from Tanada Club, the association’s base. She works on her computer in between her work as a graphic designer and illustrator.

She is originally from Pennsylvania on the east coast of the United States. In 1999, while working for an IT company, she was transferred to Tokyo. Before coming to Japan, she had no special interest in Japan and didn’t speak Japanese at all. However, she began to enjoy learning about Japanese customs and life, which led to her now settling in Japan.

In 2015, she obtained permanent residency in Japan. Taking this opportunity, she moved from Tokyo with her husband Tod (54). They rented a house in Kamogawa City, which was introduced to her by friends from the UK and Australia who live in Japan.

A few weeks after moving, while walking around her neighborhood, she happened to see many people gathered at an event to light up the rice terraces, and learned about the existence and activities of the association. Last September, she purchased a vacant house just a stone’s throw away from the Rice Terrace Club and built a new home. She approached the association, asking if there was anything she could help with.

Nobuko Ushimura, the association’s secretary, said, “I had always thought that I needed to update the content of the English materials. But I couldn’t find the time. Then I was contacted by Kristen. It was fate.”

After the materials are completed, the association plans to use them as presentation materials for foreign visitors, as well as distributing them in print. Kristen is enthusiastic about polishing the recently completed draft version and saying she wants to “make something great.”

There are a few factual errors: we came to Japan in 1998; American friends introduced us to Kamogawa; and 555 is more complicated than purchasing a vacant house, but it’s all close enough. My name is spelled correctly in katakana, and I’m happy about that.

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Mediatinker, Kristen McQuillin, is an American-born resident of Japan since 1998. This blog chronicles her life, projects, thoughts, and small adventures.