I have moved in Australia with my Japanese husband since 2002.
After a half-year homestay experience at a Bed and Breakfast in New South Wales just myself, I joined a winery in Queensland where my husband got a job.
I now live in Cairns with family.
My hobbies are baking and handicrafts such as crochet and origami.
I am also a mother with children in high school, and is the number one fan of the pictures they draw.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
1. Eat for the first time
Pre-ordering of mangoes for home delivery to Japan by well-known gift shops has started again this year.
When I see this advertising message, I think to myself.
"Oh, it's already the season for year-end gifts".
I am reminded of this.
At the same time, supermarkets have begun to stock early season varieties.
And the big mango trees in the neighbourhood have so many green berries hanging in bells that the wild little animals are probably waiting for them to ripen.
When I moved to Australia, mangoes and avocados were not yet commonly available foods in Japan.
Therefore, when I saw them in grocery stores here, I would pick them up with trepidation.
That's what I get when I buy an avocado thinking it's a fruit.
'It's not sweet.'
I was at a loss as I didn't know how to eat it.
At the time, I didn't know that avocados were delicious when added to natto (fermented soy beans) or sushi rolls. It was a waste of money, I think now.
As for mangoes, I had eaten dried mangoes as a child.
They were a family souvenir from the Philippines and were the thick-fleshed, semi-raw type. The surface was covered with a white powder, and I remember how frustrating it was when I got a bad one and all I could see were streaks.
I liked the sweet and sour dried mangoes and ate them often, but I never had the chance to eat fresh mangoes in Japan.
I no longer remember the first time I ate them here, but I'm pretty sure I cut them in a grid pattern and turned them over.
I think it was delicious.
2. Mango tree at home.
When I lived in a house in Ipswich, there was a mango tree in the backyard.
The neighbouring tree, where a couple on their golden wedding anniversary lived, was huge and magnificent, as if symbolising their history.
Alongside, ours had not been planted very long and was a small tree, about my height, with only a couple of berries.
But they grew so deliciously that I once covered them with a plastic bag until they were ripe, to prevent possums and bats from eating them.
Some of the berries ripened deliciously as they were, and some must have been nibbled out of the bag.
I thought that humans are not the only ones who have an obsession with good food, and at the same time I felt frustrated that if I had used a hard plastic container to put them in, they would not have been eaten.
I am more obsessive than you.
In Cairns, when we lived in a townhouse, there was a large tree on the other side of the backyard fence.
It was so overgrown that it covered the roof of our house, so when I was sleeping at night
and at times the sound of mangoes falling and hitting the roof could be heard.
When I went out to the backyard the next morning, I found mangoes lying around in various states, from crushed from the impact of the fall to those that had retained their beautiful shape.
A treasure trove for me.
This was a blessing in disguise and I carefully selected and harvested the ones in good condition.
The bad ones I threw over the fence.
There are trees on the other side to begin with, and there is no problem with the Seasonal Creek, which becomes a river when it rains and is managed by the city, just in case.
When harvested in inedible quantities, peel and freeze them.
The frozen ones are useful when making sweets such as mango pudding, rather than eating them as they are. Some people might put them in smoothies, but I feel like it's a waste to lose them in an instant, so I turn them into sweets.
Well, when you make it into sweets, it's still a blink of an eye. ......
However, sweet or not, I am the only one who eats mangoes in my family.
Where the children were never interested in them in the first place, they hated them when they were made to help clean under the mango trees at school. They said the smell of the crushed and fermented mangoes was too strong.
If you live in Cairns, there are mango trees everywhere, so I suspect that a certain number of children have developed a dislike for them through this experience.
Mangoes have a strong presence both during flowering, when they release their distinctive fragrance, and when they bear fruit.
3. At Japan
By the way, when I lived in a house with mangoes falling on the roof, I met a mango seller when I temporarily returned to Japan, I think around 2011.
He approached me on the street just after I left the hospital after an operation for myopia.
'I can't leave without selling off all my domestic-grown premium mangoes. Please buy some."
He came up to me and said something like. I think they told me they would guarantee the product.
In short, it was a pushy sales pitch, but I was fascinated by the fact that the fruit they were selling was mangoes. Moreover, I had never eaten Japanese mangoes before.
I think they cost about three thousand yen each.
'I have a mango tree at home in Australia.'
But I bought two.
It was an unusual situation after an expensive operation.
Perhaps that's what the sellers were after.
But again, I bought it because it was Japanese mangoes that they were dealing with.
It looked just right for an after dinner snack at my in-laws' house.
Luckily, it was very tasty and I was happy that it was a proper product.
(The product itself is innocent, but I would never buy it if they were selling it now)
Unfortunately, there are no mango trees at my current home.
I buy them from a shop or I am lucky if someone gives me some.
Mangoes from people's house in particular seem to have the power of the local community, although it may be an exaggeration to say that they are locally produced for local consumption.
It's about time I had mango sweets again.
What shall I make this time?
It's a fun time to think about it.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
Tickets to Japan
1. Phantom September 2020
Since the children started school, it was always the school holiday season when we would temporarily return to Japan.
Easter holidays (Autumn holidays) in March/April, Winter holidays in June/July.
Spring holidays in September/October or Summer holidays in December/January.
Of these, the Christmas season has always been rejected, partly because of my husband and I work commitments and partly because we don't like the cold. I have never spent the New Year's holiday in Japan since I came to Australia. I wish “I hope to return home at this time in the future.!"
When on earth will I get to eat the taste of my hometown, Kabura-zushi, which is only available during this season?
With this thought in mind, I am melting in the hot Cairns summer.
The Easter holiday, which also coincides with the cherry blossom viewing season in Japan, is always popular and cheap airfares are hard to find. Even for Australians in Cairns say
So it is probably not necessary to put them on sale.
Our family only bought when it was cheap, so the dates we could choose from were always only Australian winter or spring holidays.
Even when the sale came up at the end of January 2020, the tickets purchased were for September, the spring break.
It was also the best value for money I've ever spent, about AUD 1,400 for a family of four, which works out to a round trip to Japan for $350 per person.
We got a good deal," I said. “We had 100 kilos of luggage on the way back.”
As you all know, a pandemic was declared.
International flights were suspended across the board, and my temporary return home after a two-year absence fizzled out.
Tickets worth approximately AUD 1,400 were in the form of airline vouchers.
The expiry date was one year, so I want to use it somehow.
It would be a waste.
At the time when I was supposed to return to Japan, I planned a trip to a nearby place instead.
Come to think of it, I can also arrange hotel and car hire on the airline's website.
Then maybe I could use the voucher to book accommodation in the Tablelands area, a plateau near Cairns!
I went to the computer with a ray of hope, but was sunk when I got a notice that I had to set it up with my airline ticket.
Accommodation was booked and paid for as normal.
Similarly, it seemed that people who were unable to go abroad were diverting by switching to domestic travel in nearby areas. Campsites, which had been quiet until then, were full during the holiday season after the pandemic, and it was reportedly difficult to get reservations.
We also used a cabin at the campsite. With a view of the beautiful lakeside, I thought at times, "I should have been in Japan, meeting my family and friends".
Nevertheless, it was a good thing, as the family was able to refresh ourselves by looking for platypus and taking a walk around the lake at a time when it is still a time of uncertainty.
3. Brisbane, June 2021
The deadline for using the vouchers is looming, with stay-home being recommended and several lockdowns taking place.
International flights to Japan remain suspended and cannot be used there.
In the first place, it is time to get permission from the State to leave the country.
I was told from many quarters that 'a relative is in critical condition' is not enough, and that permission is only granted after death is confirmed.
Domestic travel, after all.
Eventually, my daughter said, "I want to go to Starbucks at least once".
There is no Starbucks in Cairns, so we need to go to Brisbane.
Oh well, Brisbane has Uniqlo and H&M!
The children are halfway through the clothes-buying process and need to try on clothes.
Our family, which is in the habit of buying clothes in bulk while we are in Japan, missed the chance to do so, which was a bit of a problem.
The problem is that Brisbane was on lockdown every school holiday at this time of year.
This means that we had no choice but to travel during the school term.
However, my son is someone who does not want to miss school.
As a result, a forced schedule was put together, leaving Cairns on Saturday morning and leaving the Brisbane hotel in the early hours of Sunday morning.
There was an option to return to Cairns at midnight on Sunday, but we decided that this would be impractical.
My husband offered to stay at home, as we had started to have two cats, so I booked flights and a room for me and my children.
In an attempt to use up as much of the voucher as possible, I managed to accumulate it to $1,360 by slightly upgrading our airline seat selection and booking a five-star hotel.
There was still about $40 left, but as expected, I gave up.
It was almost as much as an extra bedstead for my son, but that was the only thing that was shown as payable locally, so I gave it up as a donation.
In one short overnight trip of half a day, I was able to visit Starbucks, Uniqlo, H&M and a ramen noodle shop, which I would have gone too had I been back in Japan.
To top it all off, I received a Krispy Kreme doughnut at the airport, which I thought was a very Aussie thing to do living in the countryside.
3. Expectations April 2023.
The remainder of the voucher, which was given up as a donation, had an extended expiry date without our knowledge.
It was only recently that we realised this.
This year, direct flights between Cairns and Japan were restored and we finally made plans to return to Japan temporarily.
Easter holiday next April. We were able to secure tickets for a two-week stay.
I chose the date with the lowest current price, but the amount I paid was swollen to three times what I got in vouchers last time. Still, I think I was lucky to book on a good date during the Japanese cherry blossom season.
In fact, the high mask population in Japan and the requirement for a vaccine certificate or PCR test result at the point of entry into Japan were still considered too difficult to return home.
Nevertheless, I was motivated to buy the ticket when I heard from a family member living in Japan that a distant relative had passed away at a young age.
“I have to meet them while I can.”
“I must return home while I have the chance.”
I felt strongly about this.
There is a glimmer of hope that six months after they actually return home, the conditions for entry on the Japanese side may have changed in a more lenient way.
Even if that doesn't happen, I am simply happy to see my family for the first time in five years.
While I'm at my parents' house, I hope to visit Starbucks, which is known as the most beautiful Starbucks in the world.
When I am at my husband's side of the family home, it will be Kinka-zan.
I wonder if the Usuzumi-zakura cherry blossoms still be in bloom?
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
1. Australian unmanned sales outlets.
Unmanned vegetable stands.
If you were Japanese,
"Oh, yeah, I've seen it."
'You know, where they build huts in the corner of a field and sell them?'
I think there are many people who trace their memories of the place. And.
"Japan is a peaceful and serious country, so we can do it, but other countries don't have it, do they?"
I think that's what people think.
All kinds of vending machines are installed in various locations in Japan. And I hear that the reason they can make sales is because no one tries to break them.
In Australia, you almost never see vending machines outdoors, so I thought, 'Is that how it is?'
'There are no unmanned sales outlets either'.
I don't know when it started, but a trailer full of bananas started to be placed on the side of the highway I pass almost every day.
It is a slightly larger area where highway drivers, even large vehicles, can stop and rest. It is on the side of Cairns city centre heading north, and there is a large sign with the names of the major towns ahead.
When we moved in 11 years ago, there was a small manned fruit stand there.
Bananas, mangoes, pineapples and other tropical fruits.
We often see fruit farms in and around Cairns, and I wondered if the sales point was the main business of those farmers or if they were just trying to make some extra money, but anyway, I liked the direct-sales feel of the place.
Eventually, however, the fruit stalls disappeared and I noticed that trailers full of bananas were left unattended.
2. Are they unmanned and safe?
Although the city is relatively safe, petty crime itself is far from rare, and in recent years car theft and vandalism by children with a gaming mentality has become a serious social problem in Cairns.
It seems that not a day goes by without seeing an abandoned car on the side of the highway.
Unattended banana sales in such a situation?
No one to misbehave?
Please bear with me as I have given some thought to why unmanned sales have been around for so long, although it is my own subjective view.
First of all, it is basically a place that can only be reached by car.
Highways, unlike Japanese highways, are inexhaustibly connected to ordinary roads. Even so, it is a bit far from densely populated areas, and I wonder if I could cycle there with my best efforts.
On the opposite side of the highway, a pedestrian/cycle path runs through the area, but the sun is often very strong, so I'm not sure if I'm physically up to it.
Incidentally, the speed on the highway is 80 km/h.
And this is an open area, with good views from both sides of the highway.
The person buying the bananas basically has their back to the running cars, so you never know who is watching you.
Then the trailers with bananas are collected at night.
In the morning, during the commuting hours, they are already there.
However, when we passed by a little later in the evening, the trailers had been collected and were gone. It appears that replenishment and fee collection is carried out every day, as sometimes the bananas in the trailers are sold so much in the evening that they are no longer visible.
Also, a mobile van selling beef pies, an Australian speciality, is always parked at this location. Some large vehicles simply stop here for a rest, but people also stop here to buy pies.
More importantly, this banana stand is very popular.
It is common to see several cars parked and queuing up to get to the trailers.
The queues did not disappear even during the pandemic disaster.
If it is so popular, people are more likely to take a banana without putting money in because it is so publicly visible. On one social networking site, I saw a post that said, "I put my money in first and then chose my banana, but I didn't like it when the person behind me told me I hadn't paid.”
I thought that there was a misunderstanding, but at any rate there was a mutual watchful eye on each other.
Finally, the fact that the bananas sold are heavy and cheap may be a condition for being able to sell them unattended.
3. I bought a banana here.
Now, my children don't eat bananas, so I have always just passed by, but the other day I got up the courage (!) I pulled over.
In Cairns, where the season is winter, bananas are currently priced at around $4.50/kg in major supermarkets. However, at this sales outlet they were listed at $2.00/kg.
I think they would have been cheaper in season.
I usually experience bananas selling well, as I work as an afternoon worker in the fruit and vegetable section of the supermarket, and I know that bananas sell well. If the price was less than half of that, I would be willing to pull over and buy them, even on the side of the highway where merging is a hassle.
I visited here on my way home from dropping the children off at school, not quite 9am. Traffic was still congested on the other side of the road, but cars in my direction were sparse. That encouraged me to think about stopping.
However, as I had only stopped there on a whim, I only had a few coins in my car for cash.
I grabbed $2 and headed for the trailer, and in front of it, I also saw an uncle selling pineapples. At the back sits the uncle who sells the usual beef pies.
I know I can use my card at the pie shop, but no, no, no, just fruit today. I suppress the urge to get greedy because I stopped all the way here.
I got two bananas for $1 and a cheap $1 pineapple.
And a picture of the friendly pineapple man!
Some people sell flowers here during Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and other seasons, making this place a bit of a local haven.
Recently, tourists have been seen here again, so I think it would be fun to buy fruit in this kind of place, feeling like a local.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
Cultural understanding after 21 years in Australia
1. Working with non-profit organisations
Although I use the title of essayist in this Stay Salty magagine, my real income-generating job is cleaning and clerking.
We came to Australia 21 years ago as a couple under the guise of a 'cultural exchange' and settled here, and I still feel that in both my two jobs I am continuing a cultural exchange, or at least a cultural understanding from my perspective.
As for the shopkeeper's job, I am working with staff from a variety of countries, including Indonesia, Korea, Myanmar and the Philippines, in addition to Australia, which seems to represent Australia as it is today.
As for the other cleaning job, it might be a cultural exchange that goes into a bit of history.
On weekday mornings, my cleaning duties include cleaning the kitchen and other common areas and each private room at a non-profit organisation's accommodation facility.
This facility is characterised by the fact that it is used by individuals and their families who live far away and need medical care. The fees are low, and when combined with government support, some users get it free of charge.
Due to the location of Cairns, we are told that there have been users in the past from the Torres Strait islands, the northern tip and inland, and even neighbouring countries.
The job was filled in September last year and involved an online training course.
A large part of the time spent there was spent on things such as knowledge and understanding of Indigenous Australians, starting with not being complicit in, or aware of, illegal activities that violate human rights.
In Australia, there are two types of people with roots in the country, the 'Aboriginal', who lived within the country, and the 'Torres Strait Islanders', whose islands lie between the northern tip and New Guinea, and are referred to as indigenous. Each also has its own symbolic flag.
In my previous home town of Ipswich, Queensland (a city located to the west of Brisbane, the state capital), I had no contact with what I would call indigenous people, perhaps because I was involved in the wine business, which is a western culture, and at best I was only involved in the tourist facilities in Brisbane.
Although I have not had direct contact with them since moving to Cairns, the rate at which I see people who look indigenous in the city has increased dramatically since my days in Ipswich. There is also an Aboriginal community neighbourhood called Yarrabah just around the corner.
To begin with, the job application form in which I was employed contained the words 'Indigenous Preferred', and I had applied for the job on a no-go basis. Employment is a matter of timing and fate, so I am now working as a member of staff, but I will only understand why the above proviso was there when I actually start working.
2. Reasons for indigenous preferences
The majority of users of this facility are of indigenous descent.
They accepted me because I told them during the interview that I had previously worked as a cleaner in a hotel and that many of my colleagues were of indigenous descent. The roots of the colleagues I worked with at the hotel connected me with this job. I would like to thank them, albeit by chance.
There are four staff on cleaning duties, two of indigenous descent, one Caucasian and myself, an Asian.
Working here, I feel that this facility is closer to the staff and users than a hotel.
Front desk staff, who are also in charge of accommodation reservations, and users often talk about their health conditions. Perhaps as a result of this, the cleaning staff are also sometimes spoken to by users. The fact that some people use this accomodation on a regular basis is probably one of the reasons for the close proximity.
I am embarrassed to say that I am not able to reply well when they talk about illnesses, injuries and medical terminology, as my knowledge of the field is limited even in Japanese, combined with my poor English.
Other staff may have been working for a long time, but when I see them talking with a 'I know exactly what you mean' stance, I imagine it is because they have the same background. Although the fact that I am the youngest of the cleaning staff might also be the reason for my lack of knowledge about illnesses and other problems.
I then learnt that there are communities whose culture does not favour only female staff in male users' rooms or vice versa. Learnt that each may have its own unique customs.
In practice, we often clean in mixed gender teams and I have never been told 'don't want you to go in'
However, it would be easier for people with the same roots to understand such cultural backgrounds. Also, many of them have physical conditions that require medical attention, so they are likely to feel unstable. In such cases, it may be easier to feel closer to staff from the same cultural background.
Of course, part of the basic premise would be to keep the door open for people of indigenous descent to find employment.
3. Understanding others
With regard to Aboriginal communities, the groups are subdivided into smaller groups, each with different languages, customs, etc. Such maps also exist.
For example, the principal at the children's high school, often uses the phrase "Kurrinyala!" (Welcome!) at the beginning of the newsletter, which is the language of the Aboriginal Yidiny people in the Cairns area.
There are a number of Indigenous staff in other departments in the workplace, and one man told us that his community of origin is far from the Cairns area.
He told us that he lives with respect for the community here where he moved to and has a better understanding of the community of origin of the users.
Each community has its own rules and regulations that it holds dear.
When walking through the streets of Cairns, one sometimes sees people who appear to be indigenous people shouting and fighting loudly.
Naturally, we understand in our heads that not all people have such a rough attitude, but we cannot deny that they inevitably stand out. And in everyday life, all eyes are on such people.
However, not all of them will be indigenous people who are notorious for their bad reputation.
In fact, this work has given me the opportunity to meet a wide range of people, and experience has gradually accompanied me.
I sometimes see traces of accommodation users leading what I consider to be a general pacified lifestyle or trying to keep their rooms clean.
A pregnant mother with her infant in tow.
An elderly couple working with each other.
The smell of delicious food wafting from the communal kitchen, or people leisurely watching TV or talking.
There are times when I work and I have a conditioned reflex that I don't like it.
It's not uncommon for everyone to make a mess in their room because they’re not feeling well.
But there are some people who just can't be bothered and pollute, or that the people who don't care that the people who clean up the property also have feelings. It is probably the same in every country and race.
As I am in the position of cleaning, I am disappointed when they get terribly dirty and I get the feeling of “why?" However, if the dirtiness is unique, it raises the question of whether there are cultural differences as well.
While I have the common sense of the culture I grew up in and want it to be accepted, I also believe that there are people who have the common sense of another culture and act accordingly.
As an Asian, I think I am a minority in this workplace, but perhaps that is why it is easier for me to work on 'understanding'.
My cultural exchange and understanding still continues.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
1. Birthday Party
When we moved from Ipswich to Cairns after the children were born. Since the older children started primary school, I was always concerned about how to organise the children's birthday parties, which happened twice a year.
In Australia, I had seen and heard that even as an adult, especially in the year of a milestone age, people celebrate it in a big way, so I thought this was an 'important mission'.
The parties to which I had been invited before had been adult-oriented ones, held in a lively atmosphere at home to celebrate the coming of age of the daughters of work colleagues.
My colleagues at work, who were mainly contracted to do gardening and carpentry work, were former drummers, and we would play instruments and dance around with the mirror ball spinning. We all had a lot to drink and a lot of 'whooping and hollering', and then we'd all go to bed and get up in the morning.
Their home was in the countryside, with only remote neighbouring houses, so there was no noise pollution to worry about. I was always the type of person who couldn't fully get into the groove of it, but I enjoyed it enough.
I think a lot of the parties at the time were probably due to the fact that I was working in a winery, there was alcohol, and at night we would just mingle or bring in bedding as we saw fit.
After the birth of a child, a Children's Day party was once organised by decorating a carp streamer using a flag stand at the winery. Other times we celebrated birthdays with the Japanese playgroup.
The winery was our home in Australia and the playgroup had a strong atmosphere of cooperation, so there was less personal pressure and we could have fun while preparing.
However, after arriving in Cairns, where I didn't know anyone to begin with, organising a party was an "important task", with the added anxiety of being in charge of a small child, all by myself and in English.
The first party we invited our friends to was in a local park, and we decided to prepare plenty of food for the children and adults anyway.
The menu included snacks such as dips and crackers and bite-sized sausages, fried chickens and prawn salad. There was also a selection of standard confectionery such as lollies, cookies and crisps.
The birthday cake for the children was ice cream decorated in the shape of a cake, but apart from that, I baked a roll cake with marron cream for the parents who are always tired of raising small children. For the topping, I put coffee-flavoured local chocolate on top, which turned out to be more to my liking than I had expected.
One day, many years after this party, Ms N, my Japanese friend who attended the party at that time, said
'The biscotti at that party was delicious.’
I was very happy to receive a comment from her.
I was surprised that I had even forgotten that I had baked biscotti for the party.
I had been thinking about the marron cream rolls all the time and wished I could make them again one day.
With a word from her, I started making 'my biscotti'.
I received a comment that the biscotti was delicious, so I opened the recipe book I had on hand for the first time in a long time to try baking it again.
Biscotti is a very hard pastry from Italy. It is probably most commonly eaten with tea or coffee.
However, the recipe I have is Australian. I make it using a recipe from a book given to me by a ‘mate’ who was my Working Holiday Companion. Perhaps that's why, when I make them, they are harder than cookies, but they are baked to the point where they can be chewed normally.
Still, I was happy to hear that they were tasty, so I baked them once and shared them with my friend Ms N. She then suggested that I sell them at a Japanese delicatessen.
The delicatessen was a shop run by one other Japanese friend, Ms M.
In addition to meals and single items, it also had desserts.
However, the amount of work one person could do was limited.
Biscotti was agreed to be placed there because it is easy to manage, lasts a long time and is a little something extra.
I had a main job and did not plan to turn baking into a business, so I received a share of the ingredients and utilities costs and occasionally made pastries wholesale.
As I had more opportunities to make them, my workflow became more consistent. I also learnt a lot from the feedback I received from Ms M.
We were also told that an authentic Italian customer had commented that there was another pastry like this that was not biscotti. I'm curious as to which pastry he was referring to, but either way, I was reassured that it was still an Italian pastry.
By the way, there are several local markets in Cairns.
The market, which takes place once a month on a Sunday on the beach close to our house, is inexpensive to participate in and is low cost for amateurs, allowing them to set up a stall similar to a flea market in Japan.
Some stalls are run by businesses, others by non-profit organisations to raise funds for their activities, and still others sell craft items as a hobby, making the market lively and fun.
It is common for Australians to spend weekends at markets, eating food from stalls and relaxing.
Markets range from large urban ones to small rural ones, and information on them is often included in tourist brochures.
One day, a friend wanted to sell clothes she no longer wore, but asked if she could sell my homemade pastries along with them.
When I originally worked at the winery, I had helped out at outdoor events where I was allowed to travel and do tastings, and I thought it would be fun to be the one selling at the market.
At the market, we are given a space that we are allowed to use, so we set up our own tents and tables to display the items we want to sell.
My friend put price tags on her products and used the tent framework to display them, while I prepared a cake stand with samples of my products.
I couldn't decorate it very prominently, so most of the purchases were made by people I knew, but it was also nice to know that sometimes other people were able to buy from me. It was also nice to be able to mingle with people from other stalls.
4. Japan-Australia events
The delicatessen is now closed and two sales at the market have come to an end.
I still make sweets as a hobby and consume them myself.
Only very occasionally I make them on request.
At that time, I received an invitation from Ms N again.
This time, she invited Ms M and me to have the booth together at an izakaya-style event titled 'Taste of Japan' as a Japan-Australia event on the Thursday evening of Japanese Children's Day (5th May) this year.
On the day, Japanese business people in their day jobs will be selling Japanese-Australian alcohol and preparing a variety of food to snack on. We were given a space to put my friend's crafts, Italian snacks and my biscotti. As an amateur, I don't feel out of place, but I'm grateful for the challenge, because nothing can start if I say so.
The flavours that have been made so far are vanilla, coffee, green tea, cocoa and cranberry flavours. There are not many Japanese-like flavours, so I am now experimenting and baking Kinako(soy bean powder) and brown sugar as well.
It seems strange that a Japanese person would be baking Italian pastries in Australia, but in Cairns it may not be strange at all.
After all, I have read in a census that Italian and Japanese are almost tied for first place in Cairns in terms of languages other than English spoken at home.
My range of activities has certainly expanded since a friend praised my biscotti.
It has been 12 years since I moved to Cairns and I still don't know where I stand. Nevertheless, I am grateful for the variety of experiences I have had.
It started with a recipe book given to me by a friend, and through the biscotti I bake, I am feeling a connection with many people.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
Midwifery Group Practice
1. Having a child in Australia.
I have two children.
They are now 12 and 15 years old respectively.
They were delivered in the same public hospital in Australia.
Although both had access to the same hospital, my experiences were very different.
The first child was delivered following the so-called normal steps.
First a pregnancy test by a general practitioner, called a GP, followed by a letter to the hospital and then to a specialist.
It would be common for the first baby to take nine hours from arrival at the hospital to delivery.
With the second child, the time from arrival to delivery was one and a half hours.
This one, well, is not a special story, as we often hear that after the second child, the birth proceeded at an unexpected speed.
The main difference was that with the second child, I used a new programme called Midwifery Group Practice (MGP).
It was a new initiative that had been available in our area for less than a year.
In Japan, the option of giving birth in a midwifery centre is common, but I had never heard of it here.
"Would you like to participate?"
When the doctor asked me, I agreed without a question.
When I was 13 weeks pregnant, I received a letter saying that MGP was officially available and I could become a user member.
2. Midwife-led childbirth
The Midwifery Group Practice (MGP) is a programme led by midwives to look after pregnant women.
Whereas normally a woman meets regularly with the doctor to manage my health condition, in MGP, the midwife provides support until after the birth. As I always have a fixed midwife to look after my health, visits to the doctor are minimal.
There are conditions for pregnant women who can use it.
Healthy and no special problems with childbirth.
Plans to have a natural childbirth.
Not planning to use special methods, such as painless delivery.
The wishes of the woman must be met.
With my first child, I was allowed to breathe laughing gas during delivery, but MGP first requires pregnant women to make an effort to reduce medical interventions.
Well, the efforts are not particularly difficult, such as doing maternity yoga, using a balance ball during the birth, or taking a position that makes it easier for the baby to come out using gravity.
Our midwife was a man who taught the 'parents' class' we attended with our first child. He and his wife both work as midwives.
He seemed to be the person spearheading the programme and shared information with us about births with less medical intervention, breastfeeding recommendations, etc.
Certainly, I had heard about it in 'his parents' class', but with my first child, I was laying on the delivery table the whole time and never learnt how to breastfeed in hospital. A breastfeeding clinic existed at the health plaza, but it was only in the second week postpartum that I was actually able to attend.
I was excited to see if this time I would be closer to the birth I had imagined.
The usual four-weekly check-up should be every eight weeks, and in the second trimester, every two weeks. Instead, if I have any problems, I can be connected to my midwife, even in the middle of the night. I found that reassuring too.
3. Delivery of second child
Perhaps it is because I feel secure that I have someone I can rely on.
My health was relatively stable during my pregnancy and at the time of delivery, my second child was born after only seven or eight breaths after arriving at the hospital.
It was an underwater birth.
My daughter was still wrapped in amniotic membrane halfway through.
When she was born, my husband cut the umbilical cord and she immediately spent two hours in kangaroo care at my breast. Various medical interventions were then carried out, as I recall.
These things had become a 'dream' that I could not fulfil with my first child, so I felt 'respected' for having them come true. my three-and-a-half-year-old son was also there with me.
Four and a half hours after the birth, we were allowed to go home and we were now four.
By the way, when I had my first baby, two women in the same room with me left in quick succession, wanting to be discharged the same day. This is probably a common occurrence in Australia.
However, in Japan, they are hospitalised for about a week.
When I had my first child, I was allowed to stay for about four nights. This time, I didn't even set foot in the hospital room.
After the second delivery, I had extra energy because the birth was lighter.
I was even able to read a story to my son on the spot, who accompanied me to the birth, and I was able to walk to the car by myself.
With my first child, I had to be carried to the ward in a wheelchair, so this made a big difference.
Once home, it is also reassuring that the midwife can check on us during home visits.
However, two days later, my daughter and I would be flown back to hospital.
She had been held for too long for feeding, which caused her temperature to rise to 39.3°C. It was a hot day and not using the air conditioning was a disaster.
The temperature itself calmed down after a lukewarm bath prepared at home, but we had to go to the hospital just in case.
Then my daughter was stuck in hospital for seven nights because of jaundice treatment, hypothermia and jaundice treatment again. I was also admitted to the hospital in a ward away from my daughter because I had to breastfeed her.
4. Midwife in charge
On the eighth day in hospital, I was numb because I was about to go home but they wouldn't give me permission to leave.
'Still can't leave hospital?'
I had asked the doctor.
My daughter had just had her blood taken first thing in the morning. However, the doctor took her daughter away again, saying that she had to have a blood sample taken.
'How many times will they have to take blood?' When I was worried, the midwife in charge came to check on me.
Surprised that we were still in hospital after his four days' leave, he went to the doctor to ask about our current situation. He then took our daughter back.
He also told us that we could leave hospital now."
At this point, I thought I saw a halo from him.
And I was grateful for this kind of support when certain people looked after me.
In a special nursing room full of premature babies, my daughter was 3 kg big and had no problems except for jaundice figures. For lack of a better word, I thought my daughter was being put off.
I had taken pity on my daughter when I saw the blood collection scars on her heel and was really relieved to hear that she could go home.
Even though the birth was light, I realised that it was reassuring to have someone who I felt was on my side in a situation where my postnatal health was far from perfect.
He even offered to "contact me on my mobile first" if I got pregnant next time, which provided me with a sense of comfort into the future.
Unfortunately, six months later, we decided to move to Cairns, the area two and a half hours away by plane, so I didn't come next time.
At the time, MGP services had not yet started in Cairns, and I felt that I could no longer have a baby, so we remained with two children.
Perhaps I have learnt to be extravagant.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
Before and after Permanent Residency
1. What lay ahead for Permanent Residence
My husband and I came to Australia with all the money we had saved in Japan at the time. The idea was that since we were on working holiday visas, we could get by working. My husband had studied in Vancouver, Canada for three months and had seen many of his Japanese friends working part-time, so he had an idea of what it would be like to work abroad.
After six months of cultural exchange, split between the winery and the Bed & Breakfast, my husband's place of study became his place of employment, which even offered him a business visa.
The rumour that winemaking was a high-paying profession was just that, a rumour.
It would have been a different story if we’d worked for a big company, but financially, we'd been cycling for a long time.
However, because we were young, we were aware that experiencing more than just earning money, and I lived with the easy feeling that “No worries mate!".
We also felt that the owner was willing to support us in any way he could, even if it didn't reflect in the salary, so we didn't have to worry about being thrown out of the house. In fact, we moved into a house that the owner had bought and the rent was fixed at an amount that we could afford. We were very grateful for this, as rents were rising rapidly around us at this time.
Towards the end of our four-year business visa, the owner of the company suggested that we apply for permanent residency. It was at this time that Australia announced its intention to admit a large number of migrants, and needless to say, we were one of the first to apply.
It was a Regional Employer Nomination Scheme visa, but the winery is located on the edge of rural and non-rural, and it was accepted on the basis that the postcode we normally use is rural.
As a result, in mid-2006 we became permanent residents.
Two weeks later, I gave birth to our first child.
If you are familiar with visa applications, you may be thinking, "Huh?"
How do you pass a medical X-ray if you are pregnant?
This time, however, the visa was granted on the promise that I would receive it after the birth. It seems that the immigration officer who dealt with us was very flexible. Then this meant that our son was automatically granted Australian citizenship.
I stayed at the hospital for the birth of my baby on a permanent basis, maybe for three nights.
During that time, I was urged to go to Centrelink with the birth certificate from the doctor. Was it the nurse or the office staff who urged me to do this? I did as I was told, even though I had less knowledge of many things surrounding me.
2. A place called Centrelink
Until then, we had been living a simple life, with only "home", "work", "supermarket" and an additional "hospital" for childbirth. We didn't really understand what Centrelink was all about. The owners of the workplaces close to us were dual-income earners without children and seemed to have no connection with it.
Centrelink is a government agency.
It provides financial support to people in a variety of situations.
Unemployment benefit, support for single parent families, support for families raising children, age pensions, support for young people, support for those who have returned to school as adults, the list goes on and on.
Because of this, there is a wide range of people using the site, I had to wait a long time for my turn to be served.
I have to admit I was a bit stressed out, with a newborn baby to look after, but when it was our turn to speak to the staff, we found out that the procedure meant that we would receive regular payments.
We were also told that we might qualify for the "additional subsidy for low-income families with children", but this application was not successful as we must have been a permanent resident for at least two years to qualify.
The Centrelink staff made the inexplicable mistake of losing the birth certificate I had just given them in seconds, but they still gave me all sorts of information and financial support.
It was also the time of year when they were trying to increase the birth rate, and we were told that we would receive a lump sum of about $3000 AUD for the birth. Coincidentally, the timing was also good, as a few years ago the amount would have been one digit less.
From the moment we paid the application fee for permanent residency, we had access to health insurance called ‘medicare’ in this country. The prenatal check-up, which was previously free of charge, and even the hospitalisation of the baby were covered in full.
On top of that, the government wants to provide more financial support just for having a child. Does having a child in Australia mean you have a chicken that lays golden eggs?
For a moment my head was spinning, but I decided to accept the support (I'd like to know why I didn't). Unfortunately, as mentioned above, we are not a wealthy family. Thanks to the support from the government, we were able to return to our family in Japan to see our grandchild much sooner. It was when my son was 5 months old.
3. Returning the favour
In response to this support from the government, there were some couples who were willing to have children because of the money. It was also rumoured that some of the fathers had outwitted the mother, who was busy with the baby, and absconded with the lump sum payment. When I had my daughter in 2009, the lump sum payment was changed to an instalment, so I guess it's not a lie.
Now the system has changed and the amount is back to one order of magnitude less.
At that time, it is thought that the country wanted to increase its population.
Now, here's what our family has received support for from Centrelink so far.
Lump-sum maternity payment (Baby bonus)
Subsidies for families with children (Family Tax Benefit A & B)
Low income certificate card (I hardly ever use it)
Subsidies for daycare fees (Child Care Benefit / Rebate)
Lump-sum financial assistance (School Kids Bonus)
In addition to this, there were other benefits, such as lump sums in the event of a disaster, which could be received even if there were no children.
We did not take advantage of the "additional subsidy for low-income families with children (Parenting Payment Partnered)” that we were initially informed about.
For a while, when I was working in a hotel five days a week, my husband and I had a double income, which was indeed no longer subsidised. My husband and I used to say to each other that we felt independent at last, but due to my selfishness, we lost our income again.
Now that the children are in middle and high school, unfortunately we are again under the care of Centrelink.
I think it is a feature of Australia that the amount of subsidy is higher when children are in middle and high school. This is probably in anticipation of the inevitable increase in expenditure at high school, where personal computers or devices are essential for studying. Still, it would really be nice not to have to take care of...
Someone says that Australia's finances have become so tight that it is unwise to give the same amount of support to permanent residents who are not citizenship holders.
Since Japanese people are not allowed to have dual nationality, most of them inevitably remain permanent residents. Unlike our children, whose nationality is based on their place of birth, my husband and I remain permanent residents. We do not have the right to vote here, and therefore cannot vote for our own opinions.
But, well, I hope I can repay the country for all it has done for me by providing a quality workforce, paying taxes and raising my children.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
What is State-of-the-Art?
The first time I heard this term was at the winery that gave us the chance more longer to stay in Australia when my husband and I had a working holiday visa. The promotional brochure for the winery where we were working referred to it as a state-of-the-art winery.
It was the first time for me to hear the word "State-of-the-art", as I was not interested in English and had little experience of it.
So, what does it mean?
The word 'art' must have some kind of graceful or elegant meaning, while 'state' can only mean ‘province’, I imagine.
Since the two words are combined, I suppose it could mean something like 'a representative place of artistic excellence'.
Maybe it's the word you use when you want to impress people with the fact that the place is a bit classy and fashionable. Or perhaps it's the artistry of mastery. Wine can be described in many ways, and is often treated as a work of art in its own right.
So is it art?
I took the liberty of resolving myself in that way.
It would have been quicker to ask the owner of the winery who used the word in the brochure what it meant, but for some reason I felt it was not worth asking and did not bother to find out.
Somehow I felt that it was a word that I had to understand by heart, so I kept it to myself.
Sometimes I wondered if this event could be described as “state-of-the-art".
Nothing seemed to fit very well.
A flash of inspiration
The story then jumps to when I moved to Cairns and worked as a room attendant in a hotel.
The rooms in the hotel where I worked were almost identical, except for the suites, and there was little difference in cleaning procedures between the rooms.
The nature of a hotel means that, from the customer's point of view, the rooms have to be beautiful to look at, but at the same time, from the operator's point of view, there is pressure to finish within the allotted time.
Incidentally, we were told that the industry standard is 5 hours for 12 rooms. This is the standard for a single person cleaning, not a pair, and is a mixed number that includes rooms that are checked out, which take longer to clean, and rooms that are in use, where the customer might say "I don't need cleaning today".
Fast, beautiful and thorough.
The only way to meet these contradictory demands was to 'semi-automate' my own body movements.
I was always thinking about how I could clean more efficiently, in what order and with what movements, to avoid missing anything. Through trial and error, I tried to make my body move on its own before I could think.
Eventually, when I had a floor to look after and the conditions were right for me to clean almost the same room every day, I found myself moving my body in the same way every time I opened the door to a room, as if I were dancing.
It's not just my body that moves.
Even the trolley which carrying the toiletries, sheets and towels needed to set up the room was organised to my liking and I felt in control.
At that moment, I felt that I was now in a state of “state-of-the-art”.
Let's just say, State-of-the-art housekeeping.
Now that I've written a lot of things that are good for me, I should confess that I was inevitably late when it came to time, because I was so focused on cleanliness.
However, even with this in mind, I felt that my behaviour while cleaning was pretty much ideal for my own history.
In my mind, “state-of-the-art” had been translated into Japanese as 'ideal'.
Now, then, what is the original meaning of “State-of-the-Art”?
Actually, I just looked it up for the first time.
State-of-the-art = cutting edge, latest (technology, equipment, etc.)
The word "art" means technology, not art, and the word "state" means condition. “the” is an article that is used in front of a unique thing, so in this usage it has the meaning of uniqueness.
If by "cutting edge" you mean "ideal", then I'm not entirely wrong, but it wasn't as elegant as I expected. If anything, it was sharp and pointed. From the word alone, I had imagined a rococo atmosphere, but the connotations were more suited to technology.
I feel a bit embarrassed, as if I'm showing off my inability to get my head around English.
Now, it has taken me almost 20 years to answer this question. It was February 2002 when we set foot in Australia. It was a month later that I first came across the word in a winery.
It's a word I don't often get to see, but I'm not sure how I've got this far without looking it up. There are many other words that, when I looked them up, had completely different meanings to my imagination. I guess that's the price I pay for refusing to memorise English words since I was in high school.
I have been in Australia for 20 years and I always feel sorry for myself because my English has not improved at all.
I am very grateful to all the people who usually help me with my poor English.
Twenty years is the number of years a person is supposed to be an adult (although from this year the age of 18 will be changed to adulthood), but as far as my English is concerned, I don't see myself becoming one any time soon.
Still, I think life would be fun if I could get in touch with something so up-to-date that I could add the word “state-of-the-art” to it.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
Bakery in town
When I moved to Cairns in 2010, I was pleasantly surprised to find that delicious cakes and sweets were readily available in many shops.
Being a tourist town, there are lots of trendy cafes and people from all over the world offering sweet treats from their own roots.
So you don't have to feel like you have to make it yourself, you can just go to one of those shops and be satisfied.
In my case, because of the accumulation of days spent before Cairns, I couldn't stop enjoying making my own cakes as well as buying them, but I also couldn't stop going to cake shops in the name of "learning" to do so.
But that's just because Cairns is a tourist town, not everyone in the local areas makes their own food and satisfies their sweet cravings.
But there is the place you can stop by if you have a sweet tooth: the bakery.
In 2002 I spent six months in a homestay in the countryside, surrounded by lakes and mountains, 30 minutes drive from Newcastle and an hour and a half drive from Sydney. My host family rarely ate out and we had a delicious freshly cooked dinner every night.
We also made desserts together quite often.
Nevertheless, once I did find some sweets at a local bakery to bring to a friend's house. I still remember thinking that I would buy something sweet in such a place and that the taste was very sweet.
After my homestay, I moved to Ipswich, which is located to the west of the state capital, Brisbane.
However, for an area so close to the city, I couldn't find any trendy shops with sweets, and there were only a few cafes in the downtown area that served cheesecake like a lump of sugar.
Perhaps we missed out on development because we were so close to Brisbane (although I'm sure that's all changed now that the population is much larger).
Even in such an area, the so-called "neighbourhood bakery" had sweets. In the shop in front of the station, I chose to buy a pastry called "apple turnover" because of its appearance.
It is a round pie crust folded in half and filled with cooked apples.
It was baked without closing the edges tightly like an apple pie. You can choose to have it as it is, or with a dollop of fresh cream in between.
As an Australian with a sweet tooth, I was surprised to find that the whipped cream here was unsweetened. It's a very strange feeling when it's not sweet, it's almost salty.
The crispy pastry, sweet and sour cooked apples and the richness of the whipped cream made it an addictive dish.
Also, when I was living in Ipswich, a friend of mine ran a family bakery and when I heard that a new shop had opened, I stopped by. I bought some lamingtons.
Lamington is a square sponge cake coated with chocolate or cocoa icing and dusted with coconut, and is a famous Australian sweet.
The lamingtons I buy in the bakery are always so fluffy, I wonder how they manage to bake such a light and fine sponge.
I've made these with friends since I've been in Cairns, but we couldn't get them to be that fluffy. Too bad. I would like to try again one day.
The lamingtons actually originated in our state of Queensland, and some say they were "made in Brisbane" or "no, they were made in Toowoomba". When I found out about this, I was struck by the thought that I had first eaten it in Ipswich, halfway Brisbane and Toowoomba.
Bakery sweets exploration
Since arriving in Cairns, I've been so taken with the eye-catching cake shops and cafes that I've rarely had the chance to buy sweets from the city's bakeries.
One day, when I stopped at a shopping centre for killing some time, I saw a non-chain bakery and decided to buy a gift for a friend's house.
The showcase is filled with the usual suspects: cupcakes and sweet breads with lots of icing on the cobbler. On this occasion, I opted for a quick and affordable mini-tart that would fit the bill for a takeaway.
Oh, yes, yes, yes.
And let's not forget the sweets in the bakery.
Not very fancy, but a sweet treat that has certainly filled the bellies of the nation.
So I thought I'd try to find something sweet in a bakery in Cairns, I've never been to before! I thought.
I went to a bakery that one of the staff at work frequents and it had a nostalgic feel to it.
The shelves at the back are lined with everyday breads such as unsliced breads and dinner rolls. The showcase at the front has sandwiches, delicatessen breads and sweets, and there are more sweet treats of all kinds than you can imagine.
Lamingtons, Apple Turnovers, Vanilla Slices, Doughnuts, Hedgehog Slices, Rocky Road Slices, Caramel Tarts, Mince Pies, Mud Cake Slices, Eclairs, Cupcakes, Finger Buns (cobbled bread with icing), Cream Buns (cobbled bread with fresh cream) etc. ......
I was so excited that I picked up four sweet treats without looking at the price, and the total cost was less than $10. In this day and age, if you order a cake in a café, you can easily get $8 for one.
Then I got greedy and hit another chain bakery in a different location and picked up three more. I'm a sucker for sweet things.
In the coming Christmas season, it's not a bad idea to try sweets that you wouldn't normally pick up, other than the Australian classic fruitcake and gingerbread.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
Last FETE at primary school
In mid-August, my daughter's primary school was supposed to have a festival called FETE.
I wrote in the August issue about how I had been involved in the FETE and when it would be held this year. But after I contributed that article, just a week before it was due to take place, Cairns went into lockdown.
The primary school reopened after a three-day lockdown, but it was decided that it would be difficult to hold the FETE under the circumstances, as parents were restricted from entering the school premises for a fortnight.
As it was only a week ago, preparations were already underway, with donations from companies and organisations, raffle tickets and free passes for the mobile amusement park that would be there on the day.
Therefore, not cancelled, but postponed.
In the fourth semester, which is a busy final semester even for us, a Saturday in the late October, from 3 to 8 p.m., became the new date for the FETE.
Among the many stalls of FETE, I am co-convenor for the "rolled sushi" stall. What was the state of the Sushi Stall when the FETE was postponed in August?
We were in the process of adjusting the numbers and recruiting additional staff for the preparation the day before, the sushi rolls on the morning of the day and the sales staff on the afternoon of the day. Also the rice cookers from each household we asked.
As for the food, we already had the long term storage items and it was time to buy the vegetables. The postponement in October did not result in any loss of food, but it did create a new problem.
The "de-plasticisation" movement is now a global one.
In Queensland, Single-use plastic items for the sale of food have been banned in principle since the 1st of September.
On the original date and time, we could use the plastic containers we had already secured, but the change of date meant that we had to buy new paper containers.
It is ironic that we are now in a situation where we cannot use the containers we currently have and have to buy new ones, which is hardly eco-friendly.
3. Gathering participants
One week before the new date FETE.
This time there were no lockdowns and we were able to continue our preparations without incident.
Perhaps because the pandemic from last year continues to buzz around the world, volunteers at the FETE seemed to be less well attended than in previous years.
Even in Cairns, which went into lockdown after just one infected person, many people may be reluctant to take part in an event that attracts so many people.
The stall in charge of my daughter's class was the second-hand book sale, but when I spoke to the convenor there was still a shortage of people.
I was responsible for the sushi, but as I was free most of the time during the sale, I decided to join in for two hours. My daughter is the senior student and is old enough to enjoy the festival without me-mother. And I don't mind doing volunteer work as long as I have the time to see the homemade cakes in the cake stall.
Many of the parents are the ones who rolled the sushi in the morning and who also attend the stalls where their children's classes are in charge. When I see this, I am tempted to say that it is the good will of certain people that makes the difference. (Of course, there are those who are willing but cannot participate due to family or work commitments.)
Ideally, we would like to involve people who have never attended before or who only attend occasionally, but we are just parents, not specialists with special skills in organising events. All we can do is make the usual announcements and invite people to attend.
We also re-advertised the sushi rolls, sales and rice cookers at the Sushi Stall, but it took a while to get the numbers we wanted. With the help of the FETE organisers, we put out a call on Facebook and in the school’s newsletter, and this year we received more messages from non-Japanese volunteers than in previous years.
For this reason, this year I decided to add a guide to the day's work, in English as well as in Japanese.
4. the day of the FETE
The day arrived.
The preparation had started the day before, with the cooking of the teriyaki chicken and the moving of the goods to the sushi roll venue.
At 8am, the other person in charge and I started by setting up the facilities of the outside school care, the venue for the sushi rolls. We moved the tables and set up a total of 12 rice cookers, two for each power source.
Then, just in time for the first participants to arrive at 8.30am, I lay out the timesheets to be signed, the handbook and the hygiene pamphlet in a clear and concise manner.
The first thing we ask them to do is to prepare the ingredients for the sushi roll.
We made the tuna mayo and cut the vegetables (cucumber, carrot and avocado).
These vegetables had been in my care since I bought them, so I brought them with me as if I was giving the precious goods away.
I put the cucumbers in the fridge as soon as I bought them and discovered that they were nearly frozen. I immediately took them out and brought them back to room temperature, removing the water condensation on the surface, and repeatedly put them in the cooler box and back in the fridge to see how they were.
The avocados looked good when I bought them, but when I took them out of the bag, many of them were still hard. I had heard that adding a banana to the bag would encourage ripening, so I inserted an overripe banana I had at home between the avocados anyway.
I checked the firmness every day, but on Saturday, almost half of them were still not in the best condition. Hopefully they'll be good when we cut them open!
I left it to the participants to decide what to do with the vegetables, and I focus on making sure that the whole thing goes off without a hitch.
Is the rice cooked okay?
Is the table set in a way that is easy to understand for the people who come one after another?
Do my children (15 and 11 years old) have a job to do when I brought them along in the morning?
Has the refrigerator arrived at the sushi stall for storage? Is it cold?
How many sushi is ready now?
"'Oh, I'm out of your work. What could I ask you to do...
"Well, I'd better take the sushi to the stall."
After all this hustle and bustle, we had made the expected number of sushi so quick. I think I actually rolled about only 5 rolls of sushi.
Because I had seen the left over ingredients, I mistakenly thought that I didn't have enough sushi yet.
Not enough rice!
but there was already enough. We already had enough rice, and I was realise that I should trusted the amount of rice that I had calculated and prepared in advance.
I don't think we were used to the smooth running of the event, as there was always some sort of trouble with the sushi rolls making in the past.
We made lunch for everyone with the left over ingredients.
5. Sushi sold out!
Once the sushi making is finished, the rest is simple.
All you have to do is swap the sticks and sushi.
You can choose from "Tuna Mayo & Cucumber", "Teriyaki Chicken & Avocado" or "Vegetarian Cucumber, Avocado & Carrot".
I had to leave to help my child's class, but the other person in charge took care of everything and the sale went smoothly.
In the past years when we made more than 300 rolls, the sellers paraded around for the last hour, but this year we kept the number to a modest 200. Thanks to this, the festival was not over yet, even though we had to clean up and disperse after selling out.
This year is my 11th FETE and the last one I will be involved with as a primary school parent.
There were parents of Japanese descent, parents of the Sushi stoll class, the teacher of the class (who happened to be of Japanese descent), the Japanese language teacher of the school, parents who saw the call from the school for participants and even their children.
We had been making a lot of noise about not having enough people, but as it turned out, with the help of so many people, the Sushi stoll went off without a hitch.
I was eating the sushi made from the leftover ingredients. The avocado was still a little hard, and I was grateful for the ingenuity of cutting it into thin slices to make it easier to eat, but I also savoured the fact that there was something a little off about it, and that this was FETE's sushi.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
Having a pet
1．We want a pet
"I want a dog or a cat in my house."
That's what my daughter used to say to me.
Every time she asked it, I refused it, like
"I don't think your father would like a cat, and a dog would only be possible if our fence was tightened and we had a shady spot outside.
Many families in Australia have pets.
My first homestay family had a cat and a horse, and my husband's homestay family had two dogs.
In my current neighbourhood, there are cats with collars walking on the street, dogs barking at me over the fence when I walk, and dogs that have slipped out and are walking around on their own. Sometimes I see dogs chained to the back of their owner's ute, going to work together.
We could hear from our friend's say
"We've got a new bird.”
"We've got a guinea pig".
My daughter was frustrated that so many people around her were getting pets, but not our family.
But this New Year, my husband said,
"Maybe we can get a cat.”
I was surprised and my daughter was overjoyed.
I confess that I think the number one thing to consider when getting a pet is the extent to which I can bear the burden.
We already have a goldfish (actually, we already had a "pet").
It's a very easy pet to look after - just feed him twice a day, morning and evening, and clean the tank occasionally. You don't have to be too particular about the quality of the water.
We bought five goldfish for my son's birthday about five years ago, and only the black one, which my husband said would be my goldfish, has survived to this day.
However, it is not my son or my husband who takes care of him every day, but I, a mother and a wife, which is a common story.
Whether it's a dog or a cat, my sense of responsibility is the final word when it comes to keeping something in our home.
Despite the pressure I felt, I was still happy to get a cat.
I've had a cat in my house since I was born.
2．Welcoming the cat
Not far from our house there is an animal shelter, the RSPCA. We went there to look for our future family cat.
When you go to the shelter and tell them what you want to do, the staff will first ask you if you are ready to adopt a cat.
We had to meet the following requirements: our children had to be of a certain age, we had to live in a house with no restrictions on pets, and we had to be able to keep the cats indoors.
Then we were allowed to take two lovely cats home, six-month-old brown tabby siblings.
Originally we had planned to keep only one, but once we had seen them together with their siblings, we could not choose just one.
We also thought that while “human” were away from home, they might not miss each other if they were with siblings from birth.
There are two adults and two children in our family. And two cats to balance it all out!
The sibling cats actually seem to be having a good time without us, fighting, synchronising and having an exercises.
At six months old, they were reasonably grown when they arrived, and they learned where to go to the toilet on their own, so we didn't have to do much.
When we first gave them liquid treats to lick, they seemed to relax, even though they were somewhat nervous.
As long as we provided them with food, fresh water and a clean toilet, they were free to do as they pleased. We were happy to take lots of photos of them.
The only thing that was different about having a cat these days was that they were kept indoors.
Many of the neighbours' cats roam outside at will, but cats are encouraged to be kept indoors from the point of view that they kill too much of Australia's native wildlife both wild and domesticated cats alike.
Indeed, before the cats arrived, there were geckos in the house all the time, but now they are nowhere to be found indoors. Cats may look relaxed, but they are definitely good hunters.
We don't want to let him out and have someone capture him, so he stays inside our small house.
3．My pet gets sick
On the paperwork when the cat was given to us, there was a birth date on it.
The fact that the birthday was known might mean that the pregnant mother cat had been taken into care, but whatever the case, in the middle of July, we decided to celebrate the cat’s birthday.
Normally we fed them half dry food and half wet food, but on that day we bought expensive canned food and wrote their name on it with liquid treats, which was the celebratory meal.
We humans had a cat art competition and were having fun making birthday cards that they didn't understand about, but then something happened to one of the cats.
Suddenly one of the cats started to pee a little bit in different places and there was blood in it.
What was supposed to be a happy birthday turned out to be a not so happy anniversary.
When he was examined at the veterinary clinic where he had been vaccinated, it was pointed out that he was not urinating properly and he was admitted to hospital as an emergency.
Urinary stones were suspected, but bacteria were found in the urine that was forced out. After being prescribed antibiotics, he was able to go home for the night with good progress.
However, two weeks later, the same symptoms occurred again and this time he was not admitted to hospital, but was just given a shot and left.
After that I was a bit calmer and almost forgot about the illness until the other day when this time he completely stopped urinating. There was no bloody urine.
These are always unexpected and sudden.
Cats were brought up in the same conditions and on the same food, but after they turned one year old, only one of them was always sick.
Once again, he was due to be admitted to our veterinary hospital, but the doctor who examined his test results urged us to move him to the emergency veterinary hospital, where he would stay overnight.
Fortunately, after the urine was forcibly drained, he was doing well again and was allowed to go home after only one night in hospital.
However, even though it was only an overnight stay, it was a worrying night for the remaining healthy cats and for us.
When he was first admitted to hospital, my daughter said that "one night felt like a week".
4．Modern common sense
The sudden illness of a pet of any age is no stranger to us.
Above all, it can happen to a pet who has just turned one year old. I had no idea what to expect.
I had an image of the cats that used to live in my parents' house about 30-40 years ago.
They were outside most of the time and then they stopped coming back. Maybe they had been in a car accident and the adults were just hiding them, or maybe they really disappeared.
Cats seem to have a reasonably long life span, but I think they would have disappeared at single digit ages.
We took in abandoned cats and cats looking for owners, and our relationship was based on the idea that we would take care of their food and they would take the rats out of the house. The food was, of course, old-fashioned, rice with miso soup. Nowadays, this would be considered animal cruelty due to excessive salt content.
I realised that I hadn't kept up to date with the times with regard to pets.
In the modern world, the mainstream is to keep the cats completely indoors, and if that is the case, it is unlikely that they will disappear from sight, and their purpose will be more that of a pet animal.
If that is the case, it is inevitable that humans will take full responsibility for them.
I had the sentimentality of having "grown up with cats", but owning a pet in the modern age, perhaps even across countries, places more responsibility on the owner than in the days I "knew".
"What is pet insurance? Do I need it?"
But now I know it's something to think about.
If you have a sick pet in front of you, you can't leave it unattended.
You have to pay for everything.
Even if the feeling is that they are family members like humans, national health supports only applies to humans. Even if the animal has been microchipped, registered as a pet or neutered, there is no support from the government.
The refusal to allow pet dogs and cats to go wild, and the belief that all other wildlife should be protected from extinction.
These are "ideas" created by human beings, but even without all this talk, isn't it human nature to want to do something about the life in front of us when it needs our help?
At any rate, the cats we have taken into our family are destined to be with us.
We want to work hard and be prepared for emergencies, but we also want our cats to be able to live freely.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
Cairns rental vacancy rates
Lockdown and vacancy rates in Cairns
In mid-August, Cairns experienced a second lockdown.
The first time was in the first half of last year, when the first cases appeared in here. Since then there have been occasional very small positive cases with a clear route of transmission, but so far there has been no lock down.
There was a three-day lockdown after one taxi driver tested positive, but at the end of it no one else had tested positive.
We are now basically allowed to go about our life without a mask again.
Cairns is apparently becoming more and more popular as a base city within Australia where masks are not required and lockdowns are less frequent.
The housing situation speaks for itself, with a rental vacancy rate of 1.1% (April 2021) and a newspaper article about a family lamenting that they couldn't find a home. Their pets were with them.
Rents were slowly rising, as they should be, and I was very sad when our good-natured neighbours moved to the country where the prices were lower.
They were a retired father and daughter. He was always cleaned up the dead leaves from the shared driveway, and I felt very close to the daughter as we worked in the same kind of job for a while. I shared sweets and olives with her. At Easter and Christmas, she gave us the cards, and chocolate to our children.
I just did a quick search of the market in my neighbourhood and found that the flat type rentals, which used to be plentiful, have disappeared and expensive houses have become more prominent.
Also, houses for sale seem to be very popular.
I have overheard of a property in the AU$700k range being viewed by over 100 people, and the latest issue of the Japanese property newsletter says
"In Cairns, there are more buyers than properties for sale, and asking prices are rising.”
With interest rates at an all-time low, the market seems to be very active, but it may also be commonplace to see wealthy people from areas that are still under lockdown moving north to find freedom.
Our family moving history
Cairns is in the midst of a period of high house prices, so what is the situation with my family?
Well, we live in a property that we own and are paying off the mortgage. Without the homestay period when I did early in my stay, this is the fifth house I have lived in since arriving in Australia.
The first one was a house in Ipswich, which we had signed up for through a real estate agent.
After six month of separate stays for the culture experience program, I moved into my husbands homestay house. Then a week later, we moved to this house.
It was a simple two-bedroom house. It had a gap in the floor where you could see the ground.
We were so busy with work that we neglected to cut the grass in the garden, and when we received a 'warning letter' we rushed to cut the grass. Also I was chasing the neighbours' two dogs in the house when they came in without permission.
It was in this house that working-holiday friends and Japanese lady who wanted to do training at the winery stayed in the second bedroom.
The second house was rented privately by the owner of the winery where we worked, who had bought the property as an investment.
It was an old Queenslander, a dwelling on stilts, set in a 1000 square metre plot.
Here we had two children and got to know our neighbours.
The elderly couple next door, who were celebrating their golden wedding anniversary, were always tending their huge garden together, and the neighbours on the other side of the house were a family with school-age children who made us feel welcome, even though our English was poor. Our son, from the age of one, went to the Daycare centre diagonally opposite the house, and the owners lived across the back yard, so we felt safe and secure.
The third house, we flew to Cairns.
In Ipswich, there were very few buildings that looked like flats, only houses, but in Cairns there was an area full of flats called the Lego Block Area.
We first moved into a 'currently for sale' rental property that was recommended to us by a real estate agent.
In Australia, each unit complex has a different owner, and you may live in it or rent it out.
The property was on the first floor of a three-storey unit building, right next to the school that the children would be attending.
Initially, we had hoped for a property close to the beach, but this was not possible, and as we had to decide on housing from a distance (about 1700km apart), we signed for the "recommended property" as we were told.
However, as it turned out, the area we moved to was a popular one.
I hadn't actually done any research into Cairns' safety or popular places to live until then. We had just had our second child and my husband was busy looking for a job, so we didn't have time to think about it.
However, we ended up living in a popular area of Cairns and our children went to a popular primary school.
By the way, in the first floor of the unit, there is no ground.
There is only a wide verandah at the entrance, from which if you flick a tablecloth with crumbs, it will fall on the verandah of the ground floor residents.
As a family with children, we really wanted to have a ground, so we didn't wait six months to move.
The fourth house was a townhouse with a small backyard, right next to the primary school.
I had been secretly hoping to find a place to live here when I went for my daily walk.
The flat was smaller in size than the previous one, but it was neat and comfortable to live in. There was a staircase leading to the first floor, which the children often climbed and played on. Of course they sometimes fell down.
The backyard faced Seasonal Creek, which becomes a river during the wet season, and we panicked once when a goanna (monitor lizard) slipped through a gap in the fence. It was scary because it was about a metre long and I wanted to make sure it was safe, so I called a neighbour and he widened the gap in the fence and let goanna go.
Here we made friends with the children and I baked lots of sweets. My motto was "good food from a small kitchen" and the house was small that it felt like a base from which we could go out and play.
The rent went up.
I enjoyed living in this house, which had good relationships and was close to the school, but when I got a job I decided to buy our house.
This is the fifth one we have now.
It's a bit far from the popular area near the primary school, but it's near the beach, which we were originally wanted.
When you rent in Australia, there is an event that makes you aware that you are "renting".
Every six months, the rental property is checked by a real estate agent. There are some people here who live in terrible conditions, so the real estate agent will prevent and check the room to make sure it is okay.
I would get a letter saying "I will be visiting you at this date this time, so please be at home" and I would clean up and get ready, but I would wait and wait and wait and wait.
When I was away on business, I received friendly comments, but when I was home and present, I received a complaint about the dirty window flames, so I vowed to be away from now on.
On another occasion, when I wanted to visit a rental property I wanted to live in, the estate agent did not show up at the appointed time. I realised that this is how tenants are treated.
On the contrary, when we looked around to buy a house, I felt that the real estate agents were very polite. I couldn't help but wonder if renters are in a weaker position after all.
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned the rental vacancy rate of 1.1%.
The landlord can raise the rent and choose who he wants to rent to.
Recently, I have been occasionally cleaning backpacker accommodation.
Now that interstate travelers are not allowed to come here, people who have lost their homes may use these hostel or camp sites until they can find another place to live.
If they still can't find the place to live, will they have to give up their jobs, schools and other things to go to a cheaper area?
Is this what you call gentrification?
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
The Day rolling Sushi at primary school
The School FETE
In 2011, a year after we moved to Cairns, my son started his primary school life. The first year at school is preparation grade. In Queensland, it is called ‘Prep’, and is mainly for four to five year olds.
My husband and I were born and raised in Japan, so we were not familiar with primary schools in Australia. A little while after my son started school, we were informed that they needed to help with School FETE.
Apparently, the FETE is a big school-wide festival. It is usually held on a Saturday afternoon in early to mid-August each year at the primary school where the children attend.
It is run by P&C (Parents and Citizens'), an organisation similar to the PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) in Japan.
There will be a stage set up and emcee, food stalls, cakes, sweets, jams, plants, toys, lucky dip and second hand items for sale, attractions such as ducky pond and a haunted house, auctions and a raffle ticket draw. All of these events are organised by volunteers. There will also be a mobile amusement park operator.
It was our first year and they were looking for someone to be in charge of a stand serving alcohol called ‘Over 18's BAR’. It's a primary school event, but to our surprise they have a space for parents and staff to have a drink.
They were actually proud of the fact that they were a community that had "never had a problem with serving alcohol", I heard them say here and there.
"There was a heated debate a few years ago about whether to do it or not.”
I think it was because Australia is so strict about alcohol sales that the school comunity were proud of it.
In Australia, staff who serve alcohol are required to have a Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) licence, which my husband has always held because of his job as a bottle shop crew. He (and I) also worked in a winery where he often did on-site tastings, so he has a good idea of what is required for such a booth. It smelled like "our territory".
When we saw that they are keep looking for the convenor of the alcohol booth, we decided to say “We do”.
With a "thank you", the P&C chairman smiles and explains about this booth.
We are told that there was simply no one in charge here, but that it was an easy booth with everything already arranged. In fact, our biggest task was simply to find the sales staff for the day. Normally, each booth has a class in charge and volunteers are recruited mainly from the parents of the class. However, the alcohol booth, by its very nature, was not assigned to a class and it was difficult to recruit people. After all, we have only just moved to the city and we are still parents of prep kid.
It would have been fine if we had stayed at the booth for the entirety of the FETE, but we knew it was an event that we had to work together to create, so we made a small effort to reach out to people, including a father who had just met us. On the day of the event, we were assisted by an experienced man who gave us a lot of support as newcomers.
We were prepared for the possibility that we might get some complaints about the alcohol we were selling at the primary school. But when I opened the door, I was surprised to find that people were drinking smartly. Also our small children did their best to keep us company.
Even so, it was not a booth that existed every year, perhaps because some people found the combination of "primary school" and "alcohol" difficult.
After all, this was the only time we were in charge of this booth.
The "Japanese" parents had a much bigger mission in mind.
Japanese Sushi Stall
The first year, my husband and I were in charge of the alcohol booth, but because we were Japanese, we were also asked to help out at the Sushi stall.
The Sushi stall was set up by a group of Japanese parents in the past to sell the popular sushi rolls. It consists of teriyaki chicken & avocado, tuna mayo & cucumber and a vegetarian version.
Perhaps Sushi means Japanese, there was no class in charge of the sushi stall, and they were just talking to the Japanese parents to get people to help.
As you may have noticed, Cairns has a large number of Japanese descent people living in the city, and therefore a large number of their children are attending schools. The numbers vary in each school, but at my children's primary school, 10% of the students in my son's year were of Japanese descent, and a similar number in my daughter's year. (In some grades, there are only a few, of course.)
This booth is only possible at certain schools. Because of the amount of work that goes into preparing and selling the sushi rolls made by the parents, and because not all of the parents who are invited to participate in the event are able to do so. At our children's school, it was also possible to involve the Japanese teachers, as Japanese is the second language
Anyway, "If you're Japanese, join the Sushi Stall at the FETE!" and I have been rolling the sushi every FETE Saturday morning since my son was in Prep.
In 2017, when my son was in YEAR 6 - the last grade, I accepted to become the Sushi stall convenor.
Cake or Sushi
Until then, I had always rolled sushi every year, but I was more than happy to make whole cakes and cupcakes to sell at the other booths.
Think about it.
I could bake and decorate as many cupcakes as I wanted all day long. You can take a photo of all the cakes and smile. Then we can take them to the stall, where they will be appreciated and the customers will be able to choose the best one for them.
What could be more fun than that?
At the Cake Stall, children create art on cake boxes to hold whole cakes and other items. This is a competition for each level of the school year to see who can design the best cake box, and in order to take part, they must have a homemade cake inside. One year I filled four boxes, there were my son’s and daughter's plus extra two boxes.
One year I put a whole cake in the box, and other year I put Castella (eggy sweet cake) and Dorayaki(Red sweet bean paste sanded with pair of sweet pancakes) in the box. I was thrilled when I made an assortment of cookies and cakes, inspired by a Japanese cake shop.
However, from 2017, I have decided to take on the responsibility of the Sushi stall, baking the minimum number of cakes required.
All the parents of the past years are leaving the school when their children graduate. If someone does not take over, the stall will not remain. And the school's FETE will always have Sushi!
Since then, with the exception of last year, when the FETE itself was not held, I have been in charge, sometimes as the main and sometimes as a sub.
The view from the person in charge (the convenor) was completely different from the one I had when I only attended the sushi roll on Saturday mornings.
Gathering new people, especially the parents of newly enrolled children.
Getting permission to use each facility that we would be using. For the prep work the day before, we borrowed a facility called the Tuck Shop, which sells lunches and snacks at the school, and for the sushi rolls on the day, we borrowed a facility called Outside School care (OSHC).
We then apply for the tables and other equipment needed for the day, and order the food.
We attend a meeting with the people in charge, and ask the parents to lend us their rice cooker to cook the rice.
There was a lot of work to be done.
Thankfully, since 2017, when I took charge, Sushi stall has had a class. It was great to be able to ask the class to recruit sales staff. We also started to ask for donations of food.
"There are usually a few parents in the class who are very supportive and say, "I can't make sushi, but what can I do?
Not only from the class, but also from Japanese parents who say "Thank you for being a convenor this year".
I feel really rewarded when I receive this kind of feedback, and my tear glands, which have started to loosen with age, seem to get looser and looser.
To say truth, I would not have taken on the role of Convenor this year if no one stands up to this roll from the younger year group. The stall wouldn't have lasted if someone hadn't been motivated to take it on, but I didn't feel that it was something I should force myself to do.
But in fact, someone came forward to run for the position, and the class teacher and Japanese teacher were very supportive.
I was completely motivated by this situation and became co-convenor with a new parent and we are working together.
This year, FETE will be held on 14 August, from 3pm to 8pm, and as I write this, we are in the thick of preparations.
All the proceeds from the FETE will be used to improve and enhance the school environment for the children, including school equipment and play equipment.
Even the person in charge of a stall finds it hard, but the person in charge of the management of this event has a lot of work to do. It's all about our children, but if we can all share a good time together, we will be able to do it again next year.
I would like to thank you for making it possible to hold the even in these times.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
Corkscrew and Australian Days
2002 Work at the winery
I came to Australia in February 2002.
After my culture exchange stay with a host family for six months, I joined my husband at the winery where he worked.
My husband loved alcohol and worked at a bottle shop in Japan, where he was in charge of giving mini-quizzes to the casual workers to increase their knowledge as much as possible. I had just joined him at the winery, and although I had heard some stories about it, I had very little knowledge about alcohol and was not very strong.
Because of this, the knowledge I gained at the winery was everything new, and the fact that I was experiencing it in Australia and not in Japan was exciting in itself. From the cellar door (the wine sales area), we could see the stainless steel tanks and barrels in the winery (production area). I was proud to say customers could taste the wine with that environment was the way it should be.
I learned about the basic methods of making wine, the difference between brewed and distilled, and understood that growing grapes and making wine are not always completed in the same winery. I also had the opportunity to experience the Australian wine movement at wine fairs held at Brisbane's Agricultural Festival, Ekka, and other events.
At festivals and other events, we go out for on-site tasting and sales, and at the winery, we hosted various parties surrounded by wine barrels. And a life of drinking wine on a daily basis, from commercial products to those in the process of production, and learning to taste it.
It was during this time that I was able to help out with various behind-the-scenes tasks as a scullery maid at the winery, while at the same time getting a glimpse of Australian culture.
One day, I realized that our lives consisted of nothing more than a round trip between home, work and the supermarket. But I was not dissatisfied.
Going to work gave me a variety of experiences (out of necessity), and the small local Japanese community was very comfortable. The owner of the winery and his wife were immigrants from Canada, so we felt like mate who only had family back home, and we got together to celebrate every event. They were like my guardians and very reassuring to me.
2010 Move to Cairns
While working at the winery, I had given birth to two children.
And soon after having our second child, my husband had decided to resign from the winery.
At the time, the winery was going through a difficult time due to the overproduction of wine throughout Australia.
I was so busy raising my children that I would go to work for a few hours once a month just to sort out paperwork, and the winemaking staff was slowly being cut back.
My husband had always said that he wanted to own his own winery eventually, but now that he had a child of his own, he wanted to focus on his family.
He decided to move to Cairns, where it was easier to go to Japan.
Perhaps it was because he was unemployed when he moved here, but Cairns was a completely foreign land to us.
What shocked me the most was that when I saw people of Japanese descent in supermarkets, they would all look away. The town of Ipswich, where I had lived until then, was about the same size as Cairns in terms of population, but I could only small number of Japanese families and most of them were acquaintances. It was the kind of area where if you find a Japanese person you didn't see before in the supermarket, you would say hello to them anyway.
There were so many Japanese tourists and young working holidaymakers in Cairns. It makes difficult to distinguish who is a tourist and who is a local. There are about 3,000 people of Japanese descent living in the city. It is not at all unusual to see Japanese people, and they doesn’t need to have more Japanese Friends.
Nevertheless, I was able to fit in this place thanks to my son, who was almost four years old at the time, and my five-month-old daughter.
When I went to the health centre to get my kids vaccinate, I heard about the Japanese playgroup near my place, and little by little I met more mothers who knew each other.
My husband gave up to find the brewing job and got a position at a bottle shop again. He made a good relationship with his working mate like having a Christmas party.
I worked at the hotel as housekeeping - a job that required me to move more than think - for six and a half years. After that, I am now spending my time in a more sedentary way.
My children are now 15 and 11 years old respectively.
Hardly a handful.
Early last year, just before the recent pandemic, I visited Ipswich for the first time in ten years.
It was a gruelling four days and three nights, but each night we were able to stay a different friend's home and rejoice in the reunion.
We also visited the hospital where the children were born, the daycare centre where my son went, the house where we used to live, and the winery where we worked.
The winery was shut the door in 2011 and is now inhabited by the former owner couple.
A former colleague has also set up his own distillery in part of the winery, producing small quantities of high quality gin and brandy.
The view from the winery was idyllic, with cows grazing in the pastures, but ten years later I was brought back to reality by the increasing number of buildings, including veterinary clinics and houses.
The neighbourhood general store had changed from being owned by a Chinese legend to an Indian, and the place where I used to buy my favourite Australian beef pies had been replaced by a chain petrol station with a big face.
In ten years, of course, many things have changed.
My experiences at the winery were a stepping stone to my life in Australia. The Bed & Breakfast where I spent the first six months of my Australian life has been sold and host family couple is now retired. I won't be visiting that place again.
It's been a long time since I've had a corkscrew to hand and I've taken it out into the sunshine.
Back in 2002, when most Australian wines were still corked, I did my best to learn how to open them with a corkscrew. Gradually, I stopped cutting my fingers.
In time, however, screw caps became the norm, easily opened with a twist, and the corkscrew was no longer needed (and the cork-smelling wine disappeared).
The corkscrew is a symbol of our early life in Australia.
We rarely use it anymore, but we will never throw it away.
I've been reminded that what I thought happened only a short time ago is now completely in the past, but I'm going to spend the rest of my days with the knowledge that “I've been accepted and have made the effort”.
I hope I am not looking at a flash back that was said you see it when you going to die.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
Do it yourself
Cultural Exchange through Home Cooking
I landed in Australia in 2002.
I lived with a host family apart from my husband for the first six months. The purpose of my stay was to have a cultural exchange through home-cooked food, so I inevitably had many opportunities to serve Japanese food at my host family's home.
The host family lived in a house in the mountains, so the availability of Japanese cooking ingredients was limited, and the Asian grocery store was over an hour's drive away.
Nevertheless, my host family already had seasonings such as miso, mirin(sweet sake), and soy sauce, and I was able to make Japanese food from the beginning of my stay.
However, even for Japanese food, vegetables such as white spring onions, lotus roots, burdocks, and bamboo shoots are not easy to find. Daikon (Japanese white radish) is another vegetable that is not easy to find, but luckily it was available in the neighbourhood where we stayed.
My host family was the type of people who were willing to try new foods.
But they had never had daikon before, I thought it was worth cooking to them!
At first, I made grated daikon and used it as a Japanese style sauce for Hamburg steak (Minced patty).
The family always cooks only chunks of meat, so they had difficulty with the minced meat dish, but I convinced them to mince the chunks.
I remember that they enjoyed the grated daikon because of its refreshing aftertaste.
Next, I wanted them to taste the flavour of the daikon itself, so I cooked it with dried shiitake mushrooms in the style of furo-buki-daikon.
As I was boiling the daikon in rice water for preparation, my host mother came to the kitchen, her nose twitching in surprise at the unique smell.
However, when she tried a bite at dinner, she said, “Oh, it's delicious!”
She seemed to like the simple, unconventional taste along with the soup stock that seeped out from the daikon.
It was the moment when the memory of the unpleasant smell was erased.
Another thing I often made was sushi rolls.
Sushi rolls are considered to be a healthy food by the people here, and the supermarkets had rice and seaweed for sushi in the international food section.
I made sushi with teriyaki chicken, tuna mayonnaise, and smoked salmon, which are still a staple in our house almost 20 years later because they are easy to find and taste great.
The sushi rolls became just the right cultural exchange activity, and we invited our neighbours and family for a sushi party.
Even Japanese people living in Australia are not always good at making sushi rolls with maki-su(rolling mat).
Everyone was trying to roll sushi first time,
“Can I do it?”
“How do you roll it?”
We had a great time eating the sushi that was rolled up a little awkwardly.
When the host family's grandchildren came to visit, I made takikomi-gohan(seasoned rice) with shiitake mushrooms, chicken, carrots, and turnips.
The grandchild was the age just finished his solid, but he seemed to enjoy the soy sauce flavoured rice and asked for seconds.
Nikujyaga(Meat and potatoes), Gyudon(beef bowl), Teriyaki chicken, simmered pumpkin, boiled spinach, vinegared cucumber, miso soup, fried rice…During my stay, I made these dishes that are commonly made in Japanese homes.
It was interesting to see how even ordinary Japanese dishes can become a cultural exchange when presented in Australia.
On the other hand, a dinner of roast meat and vegetables from the oven, which is common in Australia, seemed fresh to me.
Making things by myself
From the beginning of my stay in Australia, I was in an environment where I was actively involved in cooking, so even after I rejoined my husband, It was less pressure to make things by myself.
In fact, being forced to cook by ourself may be a "typical Japanese thing to do when moving abroad.
In big cities and areas where many Japanese people live, such as Cairns, there are Japanese restaurants. Also Asian food stores and Japanese food stores.
However, the prices are not cheap.
And the taste may not the same you think.
If you miss the taste of home, it is quicker to make it yourself.
Thankfully, if you are working here, you can usually go home on time regardless of your gender.
This means that you have time to cook every day.
My husband started cooking dinner regularly when I had a baby.
Now that my older son is 15, my husband can make white sauce with butter and flour.
In the past, he have tried to make Ramen noodles and soup stock. He have also made natto(fermented soy beans).
Couple days ago, he used a rolling pin to pound cooked sticky mochi rice into rice cakes.
I often make bread, cakes, Japanese sweet and more.
Of course, I sometimes buy ready-made food or sweets from cake shops.
Love it! The fact that I know the process of cook makes them even more delicious, and I am grateful for that.
Sometimes I think about it.
If I had been living in Japan, would I have thought to cook so much by myself?
When I was a university student, a friend of mine was dextrously cooking a deep fried meal in a small kitchen with a single burner stove.
Although I thought it was wonderful, I did not make deep fried food at home.
I tend to eat them at restaurants and they are easily available at supermarkets.
Next time, the same friend was kneading the bread dough on the table.
Again, I was amazed and thought to myself, “Bread takes so much time and is so easy to buy at the local store.”
Even after I got married, I often met my husband at AkaNoren(casual restaurant)
after work or had dinner at a Chinese restaurant.
But after I left Japan and started to miss it, I finally got the idea that I wanted to try and make things by myself.
In addition to food, I have tried my hand at making acrylic scrubbers, soap, and face lotion.
During my homestay, my Australian host mother was sewing her own two-piece suit.
My host father, who was originally in the timber business, had a woodworking shop at home where he made chests of drawers and other furniture.
I was told that they made the house they lived in and most of the furniture in the house themselves.
Perhaps my way of thinking naturally changed when I was surrounded by people who worked with their hands as a matter of course.
I grew up in a rural area on the border of a prefecture.
The meals prepared at home were mainly vegetables from the family garden.
Dried plums and pickles are also homemade.
We were using the vault toilets at home.
When I was an impressionable middle and high school student, the economic boom (Bubble we call) came.
We were surrounded by a lot of advertisements encouraging various kinds of consumption.
It seems that we had unwittingly developed the image that "everything is handmade = country = old-fashioned = somewhat embarrassing”.
Now that I can actively think about "making various things by myself," I feel that being able to create what I want by myself is a very rich thing.
It is an important asset that no one can steal.
And it is also something that I can control.
I sincerely believe that for me, going abroad was not only a way to get away from my comfortable environment, but also a chance to act on my own axis.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
I like the morning
I like the morning.
I was the person who is oversleeping until I was 30 years old, so people who know me in the past may be surprised, but I like the morning.
About an hour before the alarm clock beep at 5:45, both hungry domestic cats come to my bed. They are walking on the bed, licking my fingers and lying by my side until me to wake up.
I finally wake up, feed the cats first in the morning, clean the cat's litter box and go out to the yard, and if I'm lucky I can see just beautiful sunrise. Also you can hear the birds singing near and far.
I'm glad I was up at this moment.
At the beginning of marriage, husbands often went to work early in the morning.
We were still in Japan.
I bet the good wife get up earlier than husband and prepare his breakfast.
However, I couldn’t wake up like that but my own pace, and I was very grateful that my husband was the type of person who did not care about it.
Thanks to him, I was not obsessed with the sense of duty and urgency that I had to get up early and take care of my husband.
I came to Australia and stayed away from my husband. During my 6-month homestay, I was living with my daily routine with host family.
Wake up at 7am and prepare our breakfast with them.
Morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea.
We cook supper/dinner after 5 pm.
I spend my time in the living room until about 10pm, then go to my room.
Repeating this routine.
I'm not good at English, but I realise that it's more comfortable to get up at the same time every day and live in the same routine.
There was no suffocation for the fixed framework of life,
I was able to think
"What should I do in my spare time today? “
(Cross-stitching handicrafts, reading cookbooks, borrow their kitchen to cook by myself, helping them and occasionally opening an English dictionary, etc. It was like earthly away life without the work for bread and butter for me)
When I joined my husband and had a first child, I became more responsible and could wake up in the morning.
In Japan, we had ‘Radio exercises’ activity everyday in the early morning (6:30) during summer vacation for elementary school students.
Until the 5th grade, I rarely joined it. But when I was in the 6th grade and was assigned to my area for that activity, I woke up every morning and was able to do demonstrate in front of everyone.
I was remembering it.
As usual, my husband was still independent man and didn’t need my support in the morning, so after my breakfast, I had a gaping time.
I push the stroller with my baby every day and go out for a walk. I could make my daily routine, I could know it gives me a mental margin in my child-rearing life.
After my younger child turned three, I started housekeeping job at the hotel. We had to leave home at 6:45 in the morning at first, to let my two children dropping off to kindergarten and the before school care.
At this time, It was with a sense of duty to get up early. It was for keeping up with my schedule but any joy.
I feel it was miracle that children aged 3-4 and 7-8 at the time got up at 6 o'clock and left home 6:45 every my working days. I appreciate to my kids they could follow my schedule.
When I was driving with my children in the car same timing, I could see the change in the time of sunrise.
When the hot and humid summer went and changing to the cool down season, the sun from the east is dazzling to me.
I was working at the hotel for 6 and a half years, so every year I took down the sun visor,
"The pleasant season is finally here."
I was thinking and squinting at the glare.
The alarm of my mobile beep at 5:45 now.
I have enough time to do extra stuff after waking up.
I can take care of the cat and then capture the beautiful morning sky of the sunrise on the camera.
If it’s my day off, I can even go see the beach.
It's hard to overdo something at night, like when I was in twenties.
Morning time is aspiration time.
That's why I like the morning.
DAYS/ Tsukie Akizawa Column
Green and Gold
High School Drama
Last night, I went to the high school where my son attended.
Australian high schools are basically middle and high school combined.
It is suitable for people aged 11 and 12 to 17 and 18.
My son, born in May, would be a third-year junior high school in Japan this year, but he is first-year high school (year 10) student here.
Japanese school starts in April, whereas Australian school starts at the end of January, meaning people of the same age have a 2 grade difference. I know about it but is still always surprising. When my son entered primary school as a preparatory grade (PREP, we call), he was only four years old.
My son wanted to go to see his friends drama performance.
My 11-year-old daughter also wanted to see, too. So I also joined them.
It was an improvisational play at the high school’s auditorium.
Among the students who are learning drama at school, older children were divided into teams to challenge in a drama game of the theme selected on the spot and compete for points.
The younger students were showing off the original skits they had practiced in advance between the drama games.
There were games such as:
-A story with the same content, played in different emotions such as “over joyed", "negatively", and "romantic".
-The number of people who participate in the performance is increased one by one, and when all the members perform, the number is reduced one by one.
-While acting, seeing the supporter's pantomime, inferring keywords and using them in dialogue,
The content was as good as an adult.
At primary and junior high schools, I have also participated in plays at school festivals and club activities.
Many people may have participated in plays at Japanese schools, too.
However, for me, who has never learned Drama professionally, I'm just overwhelmed by the students' mastery.
It was such an event last night, but for them it can be said that it is a public lesson with an audience. Because their "production" is the musical that will be held at the city theatre later this year.
When I went to see "Sing in the rain" two years ago, the audience was overwhelmed by the dignified performance. It's a musical, they're good at singing. Even romantic acting.
The performance of the dance team was great, and it actually “Raining” on stage, which was a hot topic in the local newspaper.
Many times I wondered many times that everyone was really high school students walking around school every afternoon.
I was also amazed at the clarity of their answers when they appeared on a local radio show for publicity.
How reliable they were!
By the way, I remember watching a Disney movie called "High School Musical". In the English-speaking world, high school students who perform well may be common.
Programs of Excellence in 2022
My daughter who wanted to watch the drama is currently in the sixth grade of primary school.
She is 11 years old now, born in November, the same as in the 6th grade from April in Japan, too.
Sixth graders are in the middle of the high school exam season right now.
However, you can usually go to a public school in the school catchment area without taking an examination.
Students who want to participate in this drama-like activities at school what we saw last night are required to take an extracurricular activity called the Excellence Program.
This exam is also a common route for those who want to cross-border admission to a school outside the school catchment area. At least in Cairns.
High school excellence programs in the school district include STEM (academic), music (chorus / instrument), sports (soccer, hockey, basketball), art, drama, and dance, and more, although there are some differences in subjects depending on the each school.
You can take as many exams as you like.
My daughter who wanted to watch the drama activity last night, participates in the examination of this drama course.
When I talked about taking the drama exam during the interview with her class teacher, he said, "I can't imagine it because she's quiet in the class," but it seems that the drama played by everyone is less embarrassing than speaking in front of the class by herself.
Listen to it, I remembered how a wonderful professional actor got very nervous once he was asked to comment.
It's nothing more than a parent idiot to line up a daughter who is still in the future and an actor who already has the ability on the same line.
In Japan, you might think of a child actor, but drama is one of Cairns' popular activities.
Is it because self-expression, memory, courage, creativity, application, etc. are trained?
It may be useful no matter what profession you get in the future. I'm sure it is.
When taking the exam for my daughter's drama, the challenge is to memorise and preform a paragraph of text.
I have already given the assignment form to my daughter, so I want her to proceed at her own pace.
Last night’s event, the view was interesting, but the performing wasn't easy. But even after watching the improvisation, my daughter wasn't demotivated to take the exam, so I thought she was strong.