Living in a foreign country

Today is Halloween.

Probably some Japanese remember a tragedy happened to a Japanese international student in U.S. on Halloween many years ago.  He was a university student.  On the Halloween night, he wore Halloween costume and visited a stranger’s house to get candies.  Suppose you live in U.S., imagine how you react when an adult with his face fully covered by a mask trespasses your property at night.  The owner of the house pointed a gun at him and yelled “freeze!”  But he did not stop, so the owner of the house pulled the trigger.

This was remembered as a Halloween tragedy, and many Japanese took it as a problem of American gun society.  But now I think it was tragedy of not knowing the custom.  In Japan, people do not do anything on Halloween, but many people kind of know “trick or treat”.  At that time when I did not imagine I would live in a foreign country, I, like most Japanese, did not know who say “trick or treat” and how.  I don’t know why he decided to visit a stranger’s place by himself with his face fully covered and why nobody stopped him.  But probably it could have been avoided if he understood the custom correctly.

When I lived in Calgary, I met many Japanese who went to a language school, shared a room with other Japanese, hung out with Japanese, and did not learn Canadian language and custom.  If they do not learn anything, why the hell did they come to Canada?  In coming few months, I will work as a bridge between Canadians and Japanese.  Those Japanese come to Canada on business, and whether they learn the culture or not, it does not matter, technically.  But I expect I will also fill the cultural gap between them.

The weather forecast was fortunately wrong, and it is not raining now.  I can hear kids’ “trick or treat”.  May the Japanese international student rest in peace.

October 31, 2012Permalink

Visiting a wheelchair seating specialist

Today I had a chance to visit Prosthetics & Orthotics in Chedoke Hospital, Hamilton Health Sciences.  The landlord of my current place introduced me to a friend of his who works as a seating specialist there.  She creates custom wheelchair seating suitable for the medical and physical conditions of every individual wheelchair user.  Her work is slightly different from what I want to pursue, but highly related and very inspiring to me. I have a lot to write, but let me pick up a few.

First, more people are involved in providing a wheelchair to a user than people typically imagine.  The wheelchairs are provided by two American companies, Sunrise Medical and Invacare, then she designs seating i.e., cushioning and the hardware to attach the cushion to the wheelchair frame.  Another person makes fabric to cover the cushion, and some other technicians are also involved.  I don’t know how many people are involved in creating a wheelchair itself.  Human factors specialists are probably involved, and engineers are included for sure.  I wonder how many “designers” are involved; human factors specialists and engineers are, in a way, designers.  I wonder how many industrial designers are involved.

Second, you cannot imagine how people are connected.  If the landlord did not have a friend who works there, probably I would have not had a chance to visit the hospital. And, the fabric designer’s husband is a mechanical engineering professor at McMaster University.  What a coincidence!  Probably the professor is connected to me through some other people.

Last but not least, I loved her workplace.   It reminds me of the metal and wood workshops of the Faculty of Environmental Design, University of Calgary, where I built many models and worked as a TA.  I built a working prototype of a wheelchair in my Master’s Degree Project, and I am proud of it, but could not mention it to her. Compared to their works, mine is like a toy!

Now, let’s think how to step forward to my dream career path.

October 30, 2012Permalink

Memories of chestnuts

Hurricane Sandy is hitting U.S. east coast, and approaching southern Ontario right now.

Please forgive me to write something fun while many people are suffering from the strong wind.  A week ago, I wrote about scenery and food.  So does weather; typhoon (the Pacific Ocean version of hurricane) in this season reminds me of memories of chestnuts.  When I was a little kid, I liked to play in a park near my place.  There were many trees in the park, and after a typhoon hit my town, I could pick up lots of chestnuts there.

Another thing reminded me of the memories of chestnuts.  I bought a Japanese book through amazon recently, 佐賀のがばいばあちゃん (My Gabai Grandma from Saga).  In the book, the author talks about his memories of his grandma and their financially poor but (and) happy life.  He did not have enough money to buy snack, and climbed trees to get fruits and nuts for snacking.  He learned a lot in his financially-poor and fruitful life.

When I was in my late 20s, I had a chance to pick up chestnuts with a group of friends, and found they did not know how to take out chestnuts out of a bur.  I knew it not because I did not have money to buy snack when I was a little kid but simply because I was curious about many things.  Still, I think that not having enough gives an impulse to learn and stimulates creativity.

October 29, 2012Permalink

Bridging the gap between engineers and people

I serve as a TA again.  This time, I serve in the Design Thinking course led by two instructors: a mechanical engineering professor and an industrial design professor. Since I am half designer half engineer, I seem a perfect match.  Engineers are generally different from people, and I understand both sides.  I enjoy working as a TA in that course, but I will move to Orillia, so I’ll have to leave the class.

Yesterday I went to the class (yes, the class is on Saturdays) and told the industrial design professor that I would move to Orillia to do a contract job as a technical Japanese interpreter.  Working as an interpreter was, as I guessed, surprising for him.

“So, are you going to do something that you don’t use your experiences?”

“No, I need technical knowledge to do the job.  Typical interpreters don’t have technical background and they cannot translate engineers’ language.  I am one of few people who are qualified.”

“So, you are going to do exactly what you do here.”


“You will be translating between different disciplines.”

He was right.  I had not thought in that way, but  what I will be doing in Orillia is what I have done so far; bridging the gap between engineers and people.  Because my title will be “interpreter”, it sounds like I will interpret between English speakers and Japanese speakers.  But, I have seen many translators who cannot translate engineers’ language to people’s language.  What I will be doing is to interpret engineers’ language.  Though it is not a design job, it is my strength.

October 28, 2012Permalink

it is, it should be, it can be

Today I came back from Orillia.  I rented a car again, and was supposed to return it by 7 pm, but could not make it for some reasons.  It’s a long story.  I was so disappointed when I got to the rental car office 10 minutes after it closed.  Then, I changed my mind. It happened anyways, so I decided to do something that I cannot do without a car.  After having dinner, I went to a place where I cannot go by bus to see the night view of Hamilton.  (Please, please do not compare this with Hong Kong.)

 Hamilton Night View

There are differences between what it is, what it should be, and what it can be.  That I could not return the car in time and that I will have to pay extra fee are what it is. Disappointment is what I think it should be.  Seeing the night view is what it can be.

That I will be a contract Japanese interpreter in coming few months is what it is. Disappointment is what I think it should be.  Now, let’s think what it can be.

October 26, 2012Permalink


Now I’m visiting Orillia to find a room to rent for a few months while I do the contract job.  I have spend only half day, but have a feeling that this is a nice city.  Some people told me that Orillia is good in summer, but my contract job will end before that.  I’ll miss it.


I’m a bit tired.  This is it for today.

October 25, 2012Permalink

Unnatural consequence because of technologies

A few days ago, I wrote about fitness.  A couple of days ago, I wrote about seasonal food.  Today, this “news” article connected those issues.

Sleeping too little promotes wight gain

Why did I quote “news”?  Because it doesn’t sound like new to me; I knew it from my experience.  The busier I am, the easier I gain weight.

According to the article, if you stay up,  you tend to snack late at night, which eventually promote weight gain.  A couple of days ago, I wrote that humans ate what were available at the time when they coexisted with the nature.  At that time, people probably did not stay up simply because they did not have enough lighting.  I am neither biologist nor anthropologist, but I suppose that humans have evolved in such situations; our body is not prepared to eat at night.  But thanks to technologies, now people can stay up as they like and eat whatever available whenever they want.  This is unnatural.

When engineers and designers developed those technologies some generations ago, they probably hoped to improve the quality of life.  It is not hard to imagine that they did not expect that the speed of technology advancement would exceed the speed of human evolution, which would result in unnatural consequence.  Now, which should we do, go back to the natural life style, or develop more technologies to compensate for the unnatural consequences?

By the way, when I stay up and cannot resit snacking, I eat fruits.  In the following morning, my skin looks even better.

October 24, 2012Permalink

A sense of home

When I woke up this morning, it was raining.  I turned on the TV, and the news said it was snowing in Calgary.  I miss it, seriously.  I prefer snow to rain.

When I cook in the kitchen, I often turn on the TV but don’t pay attention unless it says something interesting.  One day, TV news said “…suspects moved from Nova Scotia to Ontario by vehicle…”  I was not paying attention, and thought “how the hell can it happen?”  While I was not paying attention, “Ontario” sounded like “home”; it has been one year since I moved to Hamilton.  But, what I unconsciously imagine is “home” is located on the east side of the Rocky mountains.  I mistakenly thought “how the hell can they move from Nova Scotia to Alberta in one day by vehicle?”  Although it’s been four years since I left Calgary, similar things often happen in the same situation.  When TV news say “Blue Jays”, I unconsciously imagine players in red uniform bearing a big “C”.

I am planning to apply for Ontario Provincial Nominee Program to apply for permanent resident, which means I intend to live and work in Ontario.  This seems the most feasible option to stay in Canada for me.  Ontario will be my home for the near future.

October 23, 2012Permalink

Seasonal food, scenery and food

I don’t miss Japan a lot, but miss Japanese food.  (Don’t tell me to go to a sushi bar.  It’s like telling Mexicans to go to Taco Bell or telling Italians to go to Domino’s Pizza.)

When humans (truly) coexisted with the nature, they ate what were available at the time, and developed preserved food e.g., sun dried, smoked, salted and so on.  Today, fortunately or unfortunately, many foods are available throughout the year.  But, in Japan, people still appreciate seasonal food.  Like in many other countries, preserved food are made, not to preserve the food, but to add flavor.  They are embedded in the culture regardless of technology.  I miss Japanese seasonal food and conversation about seasonal food.

Today I walked to downtown, and saw trees in various colours: yellow, orange, red, yellowish green, and evergreen.  Interestingly, those colours reminded me of Japanese seasonal food.  Wherever I live, those seasonal food seem to be remembered with the scenery.

What are Canada’s seasonal food?  This may be a tough question because the ancestors of most Canadians came from other countries.  I suppose First Nations have their seasonal food, but unfortunately, I don’t have chances to see their culture in my daily life.

October 22, 2012Permalink

A new reason to stay fit

I do light exercise every morning before breakfast, and have big breakfast (to make my housemates say “wow, that’s a big breakfast”).  I have small dinner with lots of vegetables.  This is how I stay in fit.  Most (almost all) people assume I am naturally slim, but in fact, I gain weight quite easily.  Some people have told me “you don’t do anything but you are always slim. I envy you!”  Do they monitor me 24-7?  What makes them think I don’t do anything???  They should not envy “me”, but should envy the will to keep striving to stay fit.  Many people called me skinny, but they don’t know how much muscle I have between the skin and bones.

I bought a new suit recently, the slimmest suit I’ve ever had.

Hiro in slim suit

I will soon start working, and am wondering if I will have enough time to do exercise before breakfast everyday.  If not, I’ll have to find other ways to maintain my fitness; otherwise I will waste this slimmest-ever suit.  This is a new good reason to stay fit.

October 21, 2012Permalink