I live in a rural area of Japan, so I need a car to get around. I used a bicycle for a year before I bought my first car. I enjoyed riding my bicycle, but it was hard in winter because we get a lot of snow here. Also, I couldn’t go out of town so easily, because there weren’t many buses or trains. (There still aren’t!)
So, I got a car. I had to get my British licence translated into Japanese, but I think that was all. I didn’t have to take a test. I got my Japanese licence 17 years ago, so maybe the rules have changed now. Driving in Japan is easy for me, because we drive on the left, just like in the UK. The one difference that surprised me was that I had to get snow tires for winter. In the area of the UK where I am from, we used the same tires in winter, even when it was snowy and icy.
When I got my first car in Japan, I started to drive everywhere. I drove to work, the supermarket, my friends’ houses…I’m sure I put on weight! I also drove out to the villages and towns near my city. I also drove to the mountains and the sea. Some of these places are very difficult to get to without a car. I don’t have many problems driving to these places. Even in the countryside, in the small villages and towns, the roads are usually well-maintained.
Autumn is my favourite season. So, every autumn, I drive into the mountains to see the autumn leaves. I hope I have time to go this year. If I do, I’ll take some photographs for this blog. I really don’t like driving in winter though. The main roads are usually fine, but the smaller roads near my house are so icy and slippery. Even with snow tires, my car slides around! The snow was bad early this year. I had to wake up earlier than usual to dig my car out of the snow. But it is better than having no car. So I shouldn’t complain!
I have friends who live in Australia and New Zealand. We often talk on Skype. Our conversations usually start with the weather. I spoke to my friend in New Zealand today. It is autumn in Japan, but it is spring in New Zealand.
I told her that it was getting cooler here, and she told me that it was getting warmer there. It’s interesting when we speak in winter or summer. When it’s winter here, I have the heater on, and I wear thick sweaters, while she has her windows open and wears a T-shirt!
It’s interesting to hear my friends’ stories about Christmas. I associate Christmas with snow, warm drinks, and hot fires. My friends in the Southern Hemisphere associate Christmas with the beach, or the swimming pool and cold drinks.
I’d like to visit my friends one day. I’d like to go during summertime in Japan. I don’t like the heat, so it will be good to get away from the heat and humidity. It will also be winter in New Zealand and Australia, which means it will be cool, and there won’t be so many insects! I’m really scared of insects. My friend in Australia always tells me stories about the insects in his garden. I don’t want to see them!
I love reading. Now I read books in English and Japanese. However, about ten years ago, I went through a spell (a spell = a period of time) of only reading Japanese. I wanted to improve my Japanese, so I only read Japanese novels or non-fiction books. I have been a translator for 14 years, so at that time, I was translating. I read Japanese every day at work, and then I read Japanese every night after work.
I translate from Japanese into English, so it is important for me to understand Japanese well. However, it is also important for me to write English well. When I went through the spell of reading only Japanese books, I noticed that my written English was not as good as it used to be. It didn’t seem natural. Also, when I was teaching, students would ask me questions, such as “How do you say XXX in natural English?” Sometimes, it was difficult for me to answer.
I wondered why. Perhaps my brain got used to Japanese phrasing and expression because I was reading so much. Then, I realised something important. I had to maintain my native language too. In English there is a saying – “If you don’t use it, you lose it”. I felt I was losing my English.
So, I decided to start reading again in English. Now, I read more English books than Japanese books. I need to maintain a high level of English for my work. I teach, translate and write in English. So, even though English is my native language, reading English books is a kind of study for me. I still read Japanese books, but not so many. Actually, I would like to read more. Next year, I’m going to try to balance my reading so I read an equal number of Japanese and English books. It’s important to maintain both skills.