Meet the Usami family living in Kerobokan, Bali
So who am I talking to?
Profile: Mariko and daughter Nana (14) and son Asahi (9)
Originally from: Nagoya, Japan
Arrived in Bali: January 2015
Home in Bali is: Kerobokan
How long do you plan to stay: Indefinitely. However, it will later depend on where my daughter wants to go to University and at this stage she is talking about studying in Germany.
What made you move to Bali?
I thought it would be great to come to Bali so my children can study English. They already learnt it from kinder but it wouldn’t be the same staying in Japan and I feel they need to study all their subjects in English. I do have a best friend living in Sydney and I did think about relocating to Australia but unfortunately it would be too expensive for us and further away from Japan.
What do you normally do back in Japan?
I would look after the kids and their very busy schedule!
What is a typical day here for you with your two children?
I drop the kids off at Ghandi Memorial International school at 8am. Then I have started going to a local gym and sometimes meet friends for lunch. In the afternoons we do some after school activities like for example this afternoon they will go to Ampitutde Skate Park.
For dinner, I often make a quick Japanese meal. Making Japanese food is the easiest for me and I like to cook rice bowls or miso soup.
Sometimes during the day I am busy planning itineraries and being a tour guide for friends that come here from Japan to visit. Japanese love Bali and they have been here many times. When they holiday they often go to luxury hotels and see the main attractions and that is why they ask me for a local tour and places that are new and not found in Japanese guide books. I love making up different themed tours and finding hidden places that most tourists don’t know about.
Tell us about your food experiences living here
I love finding out about new cafes and trying new food with my children. It’s my hobby to find new things that I don’t find in a Japanese guide book and I love sharing them to friends and family back in Japan on Facebook and Instagram. Some of my recent posts were about a bakery in Canggu that sells only Banana flour products, a local Indonesian restaurant popular with teenagers and colourful Unicorn themed food at Cloud Cafe in Denpasar.
At the moment, we have a favourite Indian restaurant in Canggu where I confess we once went to three times in the week! There is always something new to try in Bali and there is so many different cuisines that we normally wouldn’t get to it back in Japan.
Japanese love fish so we always buy fresh fish from the Jimbaran markets and love to make a BBQ and either cook traditional or western. I still cook Japanese food almost everyday! I make everything from scratch or I bring back ingredients from Japan like Miso or Wasabi.
I love the local Indonesian food! We often get food on the beach like BBQ corn or peanuts. Funny though my kids find the local food too spicy for them!
I also love to bake and be creative. For example, I make novelty cookies for my children’s parties or school cake stalls. I am so happy because ROE, a new Co-working Café in the Umalas are now selling my cookies too!
What do you think about the locals?
I think they are lovely people and I feel safe living here. I am learning Bahasa Indonesia and so are my children. We enjoy watching the special ceremonies like the Nyepi Parade on the street and have been lucky enough to attend a traditional Balinese wedding. We live in Kerobokan and it is lovely to see our neighbourhood decorated with special Bamboo poles during festivals like Galungan.
What are you enjoying most whilst living here?
Back in Japan everything is strict and my children don’t have time to do anything. Unfortunately, kids life is very busy and there is no free time in Japan. I didn’t want them to experience this anymore so now living here in Bali, we are free. I really wanted to break away from the Japanese culture and way of life and Bali has been the answer for us.
We also love experiencing new things here all the time. For example, we are trying surfing, boogie boarding, motor-cross riding and skating.
We adopted four big dogs here, Tim Tam, Pocky, Milo and most recently Kiss. We would have never been able to do this back in Japan. A few months ago Tim Tim had 9 puppies! We sold 8 puppies and we kept one.
What have you least enjoyed so far?
I hate how everybody throws trash – it makes me most irritated!
Have you experienced any “culture shock’?
No actually Bali is easy for us and we have been here a few times. We came first in August 2013 on holidays and then again in June 2014 for a one month trial stay to see if we can live here. When we came I was surprised at how there were so many International schools to choose from because back in my hometown of Nagoya, which is a big city there is only one International school.
My children spoke very good English and they weren’t home sick when we decided to live here, they were happy to come. We still go back to Japan to visit family and friends twice a year for 2 weeks at a time. When we go back it is compulsory for the kids to go back to school too – now that is a shock!
Although the Balinese are very different to the Japanese, I do understand their culture and how they pray at temples and give offerings as we do a similar thing. We also bring flowers and sweets and have a similar ceremonial activities.
How has it been part of an expat community?
I want to escape from Japanese society and I do enjoy mixing with local and International people. Having said that, there is a small Japanese community here and I have made many lovely Japanese friends here in Bali who are also very happy living here. Some of the Japanese have made some great businesses here that I support and they have lived here for many, many years.
I have made friends at both of my children’s schools but it is hard when you don’t speak very good English. They used to go to AIS (Australian International School) and it was even tricky to understand some ‘Australian’ words too!
Now they go to Ghandi Memorial International school and there are many European and Chinese students and families there.
What is the best thing you have done while you have lived here?
Hard to say! I am happy that my children have said they don’t want to back to Japan and they love it here. I am glad they are studying English a lot better here then they would in Japan.
If you had to describe Bali in three words what would it be?
Cozy – Beautiful – Free
What tips do you have to those looking at making the move to Bali:
From my perspective, if you cant speak English, it is very difficult to live here. You don’t need to have good Indonesian but need to speak English.
Visit Bali first for at least one month and see if you like it. Bali has a great range of International schools to choose from so do your research and see which one suits you as they are all on different curriculums and systems. It is important for my children to also have a school that offers the IB program too.
Follow Mariko, Nana and Asahi’s Bali discoveries here.
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