Mom Power: International Community in Yokohamaof Mothers

By on April 7, 2014

Picture this. You are a gajin stay-at-home mom in Japan. You have been trying to secure a spot in a Public daycare so you can work and help with the family finances.You put in your application and the ward office informs you that approval will later be posted to your home. Months pass, no mail arrives. You follow up the status and are told that it was sent to you months ago and since you have failed to reply by deadline date, the city ward had passed you up and offered the spot to the next family on the wait list. You had expected the notice to arrive in English  but it came in Japanese.

The case of Japanese mom Erika Dollfus’s friend was no different. “My friend from India couldn’t read Japanese. She almost missed her 3-year old daughter’s annual health check-up conducted by the city because the letter was in Japanese. The medical interview sheet enclosed was also in Japanese. So with the help of another mother, we helped her fill in the forms. We also visited the local international lounge to ask for an interpreter,” says Erika.

Lina Mizumura with her husband and their 3-year old son

The above incident gave birth to International Mothers Community in Yokohama (IMCY) founded by Erika which she co-runs with friend, Lina, and other mothers.

“I started this group with some non-Japanese mothers in March 2013. I met some expat mothers at an international playgroup and found that they had a lot of difficulties in their daily life concerning their children as a result of not being able to speak Japanese,” explains Erika.

“IMCY is basically a group of international mothers in Yokohama. The group provides meetup venues/opportunities to share information, make friends etc. with women who live and raise children in/around Yokohama, regardless of the nationality. One of the important aspects of the group is it’s run by mothers themselves. And the group is not only for “foreign” mothers but also for the local people. We have a blog for everyone and a Facebook group which is restricted to women at the moment,” citing post discussions about female-specific topics ranging from pregnancy to diseases as “delicate”.

With dads as primary caregivers wanting to join the grouo, Erika adds,  “We (administration) are recently going through discussions on that issue. We understand that there is an increasing need by daddies to have a support network. Our blog is open to everyone and we welcome daddies to join our playgroup, too. Many fathers have already joined when we had one on a weekend.

IMCY had two meetups in the fall: a Knitting & Sewing session with the Multilingual Playgroup held almost every month.
Their workshops include a Saree & Yukata Trial event and Deko Maki Sushi-making.

Both Lina and Erika have been Yokohama residents for six years. As for the three things she appreciates most about the city, she says,  “the right mix of greenery and big city (lots of sightseeing spots, places, museums, parks etc. for families), variety of school and playgroup options for kids, and the nice Hamakkos, (the term for people of Yokohama)”  Yokohama people are said to be extra nice to children.

Balancing family life and running an active group can somehow be tricky but for Erika, “family comes first.”  “Running the group however,” she clarifies, “is a “collective effort of the admin mothers composed of Sonali, Natalia, Masayo, Shabnam, two Akikos, Tomoyo, Shizuka, Nahoko, Momoe, a new member, Mariko, and a former member, Tanya. We enjoy getting together to do some activities. It’s some form of  respite from our day to day family duties while 2-3 year old children have a fun playtime with friends.  And we must also say thanks to our husbands for their understanding and support.”

Erika is not quite sure how the group will evolve in the coming years but hopes to attract experienced parents to IMCY from whom new parents can benefit. The members are now putting a foundation in place when the time to pass the torch to a new breed of parents arrive.

To follow the group’s blog,  http://international-mothers-in-yokohama.blogspot.jp/

 

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