I've had a few fabulous months playing house mother to two of the Japanese players playing for the Canberra Chill in the recent Hockey One tournament. While the Chill may have been knocked out of the finals last week, losing to Melbourne in the semi-final, these two women have won a place in my heart, and that of my family, such is their graciousness and humility and humour and sass. And all that even before how brilliant they are on the hockey field.
Yui Ishibashi and Sakiyo Asano, my home is your home forever.
We've bonded over hockey. I'm sad that I never managed to show you my skills. Ha. But you've been patient with my post game analysis (it's not too hard forwards, find the back of the net). Well you did watch me play indoor in the veterans' carnival a few weeks ago. That was kind of embarrassing but it's been a long time since someone came along to watch me play and that meant the world to me. At least I scored a sneaky goal.
We've bonded over food. You weren't too keen on pie and mash (although the Lyneham Meat Centre does the best pie in town, not to mention those pork and fennel sausages), but you've loved lamb chops and schnitzel and meatballs and tacos. I served up a Matt Preston Japanese sweet potato curry that made you feel like you were in Japan, you said. And your first Thai green curry, and you went back for thirds.
There have been other small moments. Speeding fines, rugby, your first game of putt putt in Batemans Bay. Competitive beings that you are. I've watched you do your washing and hang your clothes inside, every time, wondering if there's such a thing as a good Hill's Hoist washing day in Japan.
You've called my son your brother. My daughter your sister. They'll both miss you and so will I.
I love it, too, that we've bonded over reality television. As much as we all lambast what it stands for. We've spent way too much time Google translating "Do you like men with long hair", "Do you like tattoos?", "Jamie is a stalker". You tell me you have The Bachelor in Japan, but The Bachelorette, where the woman was in charge of it all, if that's truly the case, was something new.
And late in the piece we started talking about Queer Eye: We're in Japan!
The first episode of the new season, now streaming on Netflix, saw the Fab Five head to Tokyo to meet Yoko Sakuma, a 57-year-old divorcée who works as a hospice nurse. She was something of a spirit animal. Right down to her love of beanies.
I wondered how much the girls thought I was like Yoko. I did head to the airport to pick them up after the Melbourne semi-final in my house pants and slippers. She hadn't had a date in 10 years. She spent one minute on her morning beauty regime. It was like if I really was Saki and Yui's mother I would be Yoko.
There's a phrase in Japan, apparently, where women, of a certain age, give up on being a woman. The idea fascinated me. Yui kind of explained that in Japan there is a certain expectation for women to look and behave a certain way. And that once, perhaps a woman decides she no longer has to be attractive to anyone, gives up on herself.
We all cried watching Yoko talk to Karamo Brown, one of the Fab Five, revealing that she didn't think she had value because she didn't have a husband or children like her late sister did. Yoko said she wishes it had been her to die instead of her sister.
But in true Fab Five fashion (why didn't these guys divert half an hour from Yass when they were down here) Karamo helps Yoko to see that she has just as much value in this world even if she isn't a wife and mother. And in the end she's transformed with a fabulous haircut, a funky green coat and a whole lot of attitude. It was joyous to watch.
But the whole idea that there was even a phrase for this intrigued me. So in the interest of fact-based journalism (if that's what you call a bit of surfing while episode two of Queer Eye is playing on the second screen) I found out a bit more.
I found an article on Savvy Tokyo that talked about the definition of "girl power" in Japan.
Joshiryoku is a term which literally translates to "girl power" but contrary to its English counterpart, the Japanese term is not used to describe a strong, independent woman, but rather focuses on women's ability to look after their appearance and being insightful enough to care for others, as well.
In her article, author Marina Hanihara says the term refers to a woman who spends a significant amount of time on her looks but at the same time is a motherly figure aware of her surroundings.
I wondered if the girls were disappointed in the kind of woman I was. Neither concerned, too much, about her looks, and aching to be a better motherly figure.
But if there's one thing my moppets have taught me (and try and Google translate the meaning of moppets) is that perhaps we should just all chill a little bit when it comes to figuring out who we are and who we want to be. And just be us.