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Living Abroad in Japan

True Expatriate Stories

© Ruthy Kanagy, from Living Abroad in Japan. Used by permission of Avalon Travel. All rights reserved.

Author Ruthy Kanagy

Ruthy Kanagy was born in Tokyo and grew up on both sides of the Pacific Ocean, spending her childhood in Japan and pursuing higher education in the U.S. She has fond memories of traveling by steam locomotive and family car, camping, and visiting hot springs all over Hokkaido. She grew up naturally bilingual, speaking English at home and Japanese everywhere else.

When she attended school in the U.S. for the first time, the language was familiar, but the cultural rules were different. She was embarrassed about not knowing any four-letter words in English. Classmates asked exotic questions, such as, “Are there chickens in Japan?” and “Are there still ninjas in Japan?” In Japan, she was frequently asked questions like, “You don’t have four seasons in America, right?”

After graduating from Christian Academy in Tokyo, Ruthy studied in the United States, earning an M.A. in Asian studies (University of Michigan) and a Ph.D. in educational linguistics (University of Pennsylvania). She taught Japanese in the U.S. and English in Japan for 22 years, and translated a Japanese children’s book, The Park Bench.

Ruthy’s passion is pedaling her Sat R Day recumbent bicycle. The sight of a middle-aged gaijin (foreigner) on a reclining two-wheeler, cycling Mt. Fuji’s five lakes and touring Hokkaido, prompted interesting reactions. Kids shouted, ”Nanda korya?” (“What the heck is that?”); a woman working in a field said, ”Tanoshiso!” (“That looks like fun!”). In addition to freelance translating, editing, and writing, Ruthy works part-time at Bike Friday, marketing high-performance folding bicycles to Japan.

After moving at least 30 times, Ruthy now claims Oregon as her U.S. base. She lives in Eugene and has two daughters, Erin and Elena. She also flies to Japan as often as she can get hold of a ticket.

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