Who’s Haikugirl?

So Haikugirl, what’s your real name?
My real name is Alison Muskett, but everyone calls me Ali.

Where are you from?
I’m from Bognor Regis, in West Sussex. Bognor Regis is a much joked about seaside town on the south coast of England. It’s not that bad really, but I’m very glad to be living in Bristol in South West England now.

What is your favourite Japanese food?
I adore takoyaki and okonomiyaki. Also, I love Japanese sweets, and everything matcha (green tea) flavoured or with azuki (red beans). Oh, and Kit Kats, did I mention Kit Kats? Especially Japanese Kit Kats!

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever eaten in Japan?
Japan is famous for having some pretty unusual dishes. Being a pescetarian, I haven’t tried any of the strange bugs, living fish or animal parts that people talk of. So, I’d have to say the most unusual thing I’ve eaten in Japan would be a jacket potato flavoured Kit Kat, which was pretty nice.

Which Japanese drinks do you like?
I’m not much of a drinker when it comes to alcohol, but I do like the odd drop of good quality sake. On a day-to-day basis, my favourite Japanese drink is probably CC Lemon, and I also love green tea frappuccinos from Starbucks.

When and why did you start learning Japanese?
I first went to Japan in March 2006, and it was that following September when I first started taking Japanese evening classes. When I had gone to Japan I hadn’t known anything about Japanese, but the trip inspired me to start learning. It was frustrating not being able to communicate while I was there, and I realised the value of mastering another language.

What was the first Japanese word/phrase you ever learnt?
It’s hard to say for sure, but it was probably “sumimasen” (すみません) – excuse me/sorry. I remember saying it a lot on that first trip! I also had a post-it note stuck to the front of my phrasebook with “ikura desu ka?” (いくらですか) – how much is it? – written on it. That would have been useful, except I couldn’t understand the answers!

When did you live in Japan, and for how long?
I lived in Japan from March 2008 until April 2011. I spent two years in Nagoya (Aichi), and one year in Hamamatsu (Shizuoka). I spent the whole three years working for one of the biggest English language schools (“eikaiwa” / 英会話). I’m often asked if I was a JET or an ALT – I wasn’t. Working for an eikaiwa is a bit different.

Jizo in Koyasan

What’s your favourite place in Japan, and where would you most like to go next in Japan?
It’s hard to choose just one favourite place, but I do have a certain soft spot for Koyasan in Wakayama Prefecture. I went there on my first trip to Japan in 2006 after having read an article in the Independent called Tofu Soup for the Soul. I’ve only been there that one time and would absolutely love to go back. As for where I would most like to go next, that’s hard to say as well. However, there were some places I planned to go in April 2011 but wasn’t able to go to due to the March 11th earthquake and tsunami. Of those places, I would most like to go to the Ushiku Daibutsu (Ibaraki) and Nokogiri Yama (Chiba).

What advice would you give to someone going to Japan for the first time?
I would advise first-timers to do as much research as possible. I spent months planning my first trip and I’m so glad I did. All that advanced planning meant I was able to really enjoy myself while I was there without worrying too much about how to get from A to B or how what I should do. That first trip was so action packed, and I was thrilled with how much I managed to fit in. I would also advise people to consider buying a JR Pass. They are worth every penny if you’re there for long enough!

How do you manage to keep connected to Japan now that you live in the UK?
How to stay connected to Japan after returning to the UK was something that worried me a lot. Fortunately, I struck it lucky and managed to get a job in a Japan-related organisation, where I worked for a year. That gave me a great insight into UK-Japan relations, and I was able to make a lot of connections and friends who can help me stay connected to Japan while living in London. London is a great place to live because there are so many Japanese restaurants and a lot of Japan-related exhibitions, film screenings and other events happening all the time. It’s hard to keep up with my Japanese though, so I have to consciously make the effort to study and practice whenever I have the chance. After two years in London I moved to Bristol and struck it lucky career-wise, managing to get my dream job. Now I’m working as a Travel Consultant specialising in Japan. I should add that none of the content on this blog is in any way connected to my day-job, and that everything you see here is created purely for my own pleasure because I simply LOVE Japanese culture and can’t get enough of it.

My Neighbour Totoro

What’s your favourite Studio Ghibli film?
The first Studio Ghibli film I ever saw was Spirited Away (“Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi” / 千と千尋の神隠し). Because it was my first one, I will always love it. But, actually, my favourite is the classic Ghibli film, My Neighbour Totoro (“Tonari no Totoro” / となりのトトロ). There’s something so magical about that film, and it’s utterly gorgeous.

What’s the best thing you’ve ever bought from a 100 Yen shop?
If you don’t already know, 100 Yen shops in Japan are absolutely incredible! They sell everything you could ever want (and about half a million things you never knew you needed). I bought a lot of kitchen equipment and crockery in 100 Yen shops, and I still regularly use my extra long cooking chopsticks and sakura soy sauce dishes. But, I think the best thing I ever bought was a little ink stamper for school. It had three different layers with different pictures, and I used them when I marked the kids’ homework – they loved them!

If you could meet any Japanese person, living or dead, who would it be?
If I could meet one person, it would have to be Japanese swordsman and ronin Musashi Miyamoto. Having read Eiji Yoshikawa’s book about Musashi I’m quite fascinated by him and would love to interview him about what it was like to be one of the greatest warriors of all time.


Thanks to everyone who helped provide the questions above. If you have another question for me, please feel free to leave a comment below! (^_^)v

111 thoughts on “Who’s Haikugirl?

  1. last comment! (しつれいしました!)

    interesting dead women,
    Dorothy Parker, Okuni (the inventor of kabuki), Murasaki Shikibu (could be world’s first novelist), Louise Brooks (iconic silent movie star), Countess Markievicz (Irish revolutionary and first woman elected to Parliament )….

    To continue your question and answer theme:
    What actors would you cast in the movie of your life so far? in what roles?


  2. Ah… thanks for the list… will have to check them out!

    And thanks for the question:
    “What actors would you cast in the movie of your life so far? in what roles?”

    This is a tough one, but also one I’ve discussed many times in the pub… I think I’d probably have Fairuza Balk, Winona Ryder, Eliza Dushku or Jennifer Connelly play me. None of them look that much like me, but with a bit of make-up and some padding I’m sure they’d do ok!

    And who would play my friends and family?! This is tough… I think I’d like Alison Moyet to play my mum (I know she’s more of a singer than an actress, but she has done some acting and she could do a song in the middle to keep it interesting…).

    I’d like to include Johnny Depp, but sadly I’ve never known anyone who looks much like him… 😉 Bowie could have a cameo as himself, because there’d have to be a scene where I go and see him live in concert.

    I’ll have to think on the other roles… 😉


  3. Hi, came from your post on BAB forum. I wish you the best with your new life in Nagoya. Old message board had information on Nagoya, and I remember there’re some members from the area. Other ways to find out local groups are via Facebook, etc…

    They’ve periodical meetups for foreign women living in Tokyo, so perhaps you should join once to get information directly.


  4. Thanks for having a look! When I get the time I’ll be adding a whole bunch of new pages with more info about various Japanese things, such as music, fashion, and more on language… 🙂


  5. hello Ali
    I have really enjoyed reading your blog and am so happy that you are settling into Japanese life so well. Will keep looking……. good luck for next week.


  6. just saying hi….i think i commented on one of your posts…but now i can’t remember which one! LOL…good luck in Nagoya…I am in the next prefecture of Shizuoka!


  7. Thanks for stopping by my blog… Best of luck to you in Nagoya! I look forward to reading more about your adventures and all the cool things about Japan!lol


  8. Yes! Matcha Frappuccino!! I don’t recall whether or not they had them in London, but I know that the ones in the US are terrible compared with the ones here in 日本.


  9. PS Can I ask you who is in the main picture at the header of your blog? There’s something compelling about it, probably because it appears to be a Caucasian, not a Japanese, made up as a geisha. It wouldn’t be you, by chance, Haikugirl, would it?


  10. Hello Ali,
    sorry I’m not a very interesting person (being one of your mum’s friends!) but I was thrilled to be able to ‘tune in’ to your website and see what you are doing out there in Japan. I am told that your blog is very interesting so will keep up to date with your adventures that way, if I may. All the best. x P.S. Do they have pigs in Japan?!!


  11. Hi!

    Thanks for stopping by! 😀

    Hmm… I assume they have pigs in Japan but I haven’t seen one yet… I might go to the zoo soon though – maybe I’ll find out there!



  12. Hello!

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Haha – yeah – I can never get enough macha!

    Thanks for the link, and yes, I’m familiar with it! Cheers! 😀


  13. I’m curious to know who else would you invite over for dinner & Monopoly among live people, along with Johnny Depp and David Bowie? Would you invite me, too, please? I know you don’t know me, but… well, any opportunity to look Johnny Depp in the eyes! I promise not to drool.


    Rokusan, a.k.a. Suexi


  14. I’m all for inviting Johnny Depp – couldn’t agree with you more! I’d also have to invite Martin Luther King because… gosh too many things.

    Love the blog : )


  15. Hi. Your blog of your mum’s visit is incredible – so thorough!! Sounds like you packed a lot into her visit!! Saw her on Tuesday when we went to drool over Hugh Jackman in ‘Australia’ and she is very well. x


  16. Your blog’s main photo is really beautiful! Very vivid. 🙂
    This is a great space, and I look forward to your future updates. And I see that you’re a fan of the Kit Kat range that Japan wonderfully puts on offer… now I am going to have to buy a Kit Kat the next time I go shopping because of you! Haha… it was just the other day that I saw the chocolate ‘Time Out’. Ahh, the mouth waters…


  17. Hey Guruguru Japan! Thanks for stopping by, and for your kind comment!

    Haha – yes, please do go out and explore the wonderful world of Kit Kats! Try the 7-11 – they have the best selection… 😉

    ‘Time Out’?? Man, I had almost forgotten those…


  18. Hi Haikugirl,
    Great blog, and congrats on your new 習字 hobby. I’m left-handed myself, and whenever I tried to do it, they always forced me to do it right-handed, so it came out terrible. Yours looks great though!! Keep it up!


    • Nice site, Charles. Thanks for alerting me to it! I’m very interested in Hokkaido, so it would be good to read some more about the area.

      I’m happy to add you to my Blogroll… do you think you could return the favour? 🙂



  19. Cool, very cool. Some really well written episodes here, I really enjoying reading it. You’re from Nagoya right? I actually live in Nagoya and also have a nagoya based website. Its more of an info site than a blog but im thinking it would be great to incorporate some kind of on going blog like yours. Hey, maybe you could work with us on our site……contact me. btw our website is http://www.nagoya-info.com


    • Hi there

      Very good to meet you, Robert. Nice Nagoya site! Yeah, I’m living in Nagoya right now I’ve actually been working on some more Nagoya info for this site but I haven’t put it up live yet (too busy!). I’d be interested in talking about what we could do together though.

      Thanks for stopping by!



  20. Hi Alison,

    I am the editor for the largest tourism newspaper here in Japan called, “Japan-i” (www.japan-i.jp) and I am actually looking to trade links with websites worldwide to increase our website visibility. We’re looking for any links that are relevant to Japan, Japanese culture, and Japanese tourism. I came across your website and I thought your website would be suitable for the link exchange. If possible, I’d like to send you a PDF about our link exchange campaign and hope this interest you.

    Many thanks, I hope to hear from you soon.

    Best regards,

    Christopher Jue
    Editor, Japan-i
    Japan-i Web: http://www.japan-i.jp


    • Thank you for stopping by, Christopher. I have sent you an email (please chack in case it’s in your spam folder!). I look forward to hearing more about the link exchange campaign soon!


  21. Hi, I came across your blog while searching for teaching programs in Japan. I couldn’t find anywhere that said which company you ended up working for… if you don’t mind my asking, which company did you end up working for and would you recommend it?


    • Aw, thanks, that’s very kind of you! I’m just a beginner, but I enjoy doing it!

      Your page is awesome, by the way! I’ve added it to my ‘blogroll’. It’s making my stomach rumble!! 😉


  22. Hi!

    I’m the author of NihongoUp, a Japanese educational game & reviewing tool – http://nihongoup.com/

    I would be glad if you would try it out or even review it on your blog 🙂 I’m currently running a contest on my blog (http://nihongoup.com/blog/japanese-resources-contest/) and so you’ll even have a chance to win some interesting prizes!

    BTW, I’m also passing JLPT 3 this year 🙂 I hope that we’ll both be able to make it…



    • Hi there Philip

      Thanks for stopping by and introducing me to NihongoUp. It’s an interesting tool which I will investigate more this weekend.

      I love how you say “I’m also passing JLPT3 this year”! Such confidence! I hope we both do!




  23. i just came here from FB…
    What are you doing in Hamamatsu?
    Actually i joined Hangmates…but havent gone the meeting at Starbucks yet..
    Hope to see you soon!!


    • Hi Fumi
      Thanks for stopping by! I’m working as an English teacher in Hamamatsu. You should come along to Hangmates – it’s fun! 🙂
      Hope to see you soon!


  24. Hi Ali! Glad I found your blog and thank you very much for adding mine (Surviving in Japan) to your blogroll! I will certainly return the favor. 🙂

    Looks like we are also fellow Shizuokians! Though I’m located closer to Shizuoka-city (I used to live 20 minutes from Hamamatsu though!) Anyway, glad to meet you and just wanted to drop a note to say “hello” and “thanks”.


  25. Hello there!! I came across your page while looking for Hello Kitty stuff!! slighty obsessed with that little white japanese kitty that she is!! I thought your page was great, I love Japenese cluture too!! Have you ever been to Japan?! (Wasnt sure if you still lived in England) It would be great to hear from you!!


    Jeri x


    • Hi Jeri

      Thanks for leaving a comment! Yeah, I love Kitty-chan too! Haha! 🙂 Yes, I live in Japan right now. I’ve been here almost three years but I’m going back to England in April. How about you – have you been to Japan?

      Thanks for reading!

      Ali (*^^)v


  26. Hello Haiku girl . I want to say I enjoy your blog. I like seeing foreigners eyes how they see Japan. By the way, where did you get your maiko picture done? I want to do it someday, but my eyes are small not big like yours. 🙂

    I look foreward to new post.
    Rie from Tokyo


  27. Hello,
    I just ran across your blog recently and I really love it. The pictures are neat, I love seeing the temples and just different views of Japan. I only got to go to Japan for a week last April – I was visiting my dad at the end of his 1 year stint as a contractor for the US Navy – and it was mostly in Yokosuka, where my dad lived. I absolutely loved it and have wanted to go back really bad. I’ve been trying to learn Japanese as well, but right now, I’m mostly learning what I can from anime. Do you have any suggestions on a way to learn Japanese?
    ^.^ Brandi


    • Hi there Brandi
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. 🙂
      I’m happy to hear that you’re trying so hard to learn Japanese. Learning from anime is a great, fun way. I also recommend taking a class if you can. I found that there was only so much I could learn by myself. Also, of course, the best way is to be in Japan. If you have the chance to come again, try to make some Japanese friends and talk with them. I studied in London before living here, but I’ve learnt so much more by actually being here surrounded by Japanese.
      Ganbatte ne!
      Ali (*^^)v


  28. Hi,

    I’d like to invite you to participate in my research: “What Do Bloggers Want to Preserve? Defining the ‘Essence’ of User-Generated Content for Preservation.” This study will gain an understanding of how bloggers value their blogs and what elements bloggers think are important for preservation.

    You are being asked to participate because your blog posts are tagged as being related to the theme of travel in one of the blog-hosting services and because your blog is not hosted by any commercial agency. Your participation is completely voluntary.

    The survey is NOW OPEN and will remain open until midnight (EDT) 20 April 2011. If you are interested and would like to part in take the survey, please visit this URL: http://bloggersurvey.web.unc.edu/

    Thank you in advance for considering participation in my study!
    Ayoung Yoon
    Doctoral Student
    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    School of Information and Library Science


  29. Dali said the clocks were inspired by melting camembert chese he once saw. How that relates to the persistence of memory is anybody’s guess.


  30. Pingback: La Avventura is Versatile « La Avventura

  31. I think you might be interested in my new ebook, JAPAN’S TIPPING POINT. See http://www.markpendergrast.com for more info. I’d be glad to send you a review copy by email. Here is an overview:

    Japan’s Tipping Point is a small book on a huge topic. In the post-Fukushima era, Japan is the “canary in the coal mine” for the rest of the world. Can Japan radically shift its energy policy, become greener, more self-sufficient, and avoid catastrophic impacts on the climate? Mark Pendergrast arrived in Japan exactly two months after the Fukushima meltdown. This book is his eye-opening account of his trip and his alarming conclusions.

    Japan is at a crucial tipping point. A developed country that must import all of its fossil fuel, it can no longer rely on nuclear power, following the massive earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011. Critically acclaimed nonfiction writer Mark Pendergrast went to Japan to investigate Japan’s renewable energy, Eco-Model Cities, food policy, recycling, and energy conservation, expecting to find innovative, cutting edge programs.

    He discovered that he had been naive. The Japanese boast of their eco-services for eco-products in eco-cities. Yet they rely primarily on imported fossil fuel and nuclear power, live in energy-wasteful homes, and import 60% of their food. That may be changing in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Maybe. But as Pendergrast documents, Japan lags far behind Europe, the United States, and even (in some respects) China in terms of renewable energy efforts. And Japan is mired in bureaucracy, political in-fighting, indecision, puffery, public apathy, and cultural attitudes that make rapid change difficult.

    Yet Japan is also one of the most beautiful countries in the world, with friendly, resilient people who can, when motivated, pull together to accomplish incredible things.

    As an island nation, Japan offers a microcosmic look at the problems facing the rest of the globe. And as Japan tips, so may the world.

    Mark Pendergrast, the author of books such as For God, Country and Coca-Cola, Uncommon Grounds, and Inside the Outbreaks, entertains as he enlightens. As he wrote in Japan’s Tipping Point: “The rest of this account might seem a strange combination of critical analysis, travelogue, absurdist non-fiction, and call to action. It might be called ‘Mark’s Adventures in Japanland: Or, Apocalyptic Visions in a Noodle Shop.'”


  32. Hello! ^-^
    It’s funny that we came to Japan at the same time!
    I also started working for (a very small family-run) eikaiwa in March 2008.
    The only difference is that I’m still here, moving in a few weeks to another city and another job.

    Just like you I’m worried if I’ll be able to keep up with Japan(ese) once I move back home (to Germany).


    • Oh, that’s funny that we came to Japan at the same time! To be honest, I wish I was still there sometimes, but I’m finding a lot of ways t keep up with Japanese culture here in London. (Japanese language isn’t quite as simple…) Good luck with your new job! ^_^


  33. 先ほど日本のMXーTVを見ました!


  34. I watched in Japan the program by which you were interviewed today. And it was impressed very much. Thank you for sending Japanese culture from London. I am a 23-year-old Japanese


  35. I enjoyed the post about Kit Kats! Think i have sampled all off them. My favs are strawberry and fruit salad. Have you been to the Kit Kat shop in Osaka?
    I have pics!


  36. Hey I just stumbled across your blog. Really great read, and particularly loving the Kit Kats section haha! I went on a Kit Kat finding mission when I was in Japan last month, brought back some for my friends to sample too. I really love the Strawberry Cheesecake ones too… Gonna be gutted when they’re all gone ha!

    On a serious note it’s great to read about your passion for Japan. It was always the number 1 country I’d wanted to visit before I finally made it there last month, and I hope it’ll be the start of many more 🙂 I’ve got a heck of a lot more I need to see and do there.

    Looking forward to reading more on here!


    • Hi Carl! Thanks for the kind comment – I’m really glad you like my blog! Aren’t Japanese Kit Kats amazing? 😀 I brought loads back from Japan when I left and they really didn’t last long enough. Next time I go I will have to bring and extra bag just for Kit Kats!

      I’m glad to hear you’re so enthusiastic about Japan too. It’s an amazing country with so much to discover. I don’t think I could ever get bored of Japan.

      I’ll look forward to reading about your travel adventures too! (*^_^)v


    • Some Japanese Kit Kats are available in the UK at places like the Japan Cente, Sushi Noms and Tofu Cute, but they’re quite expensive! Sushi Noms is my favourite distributor, but I can’t wait to go back to Japan and buy them there!


  37. Hi Alison,
    Just read your bio above – and got really excited because I use to live in Hamamatsu too! I was there in 2006 and 2007, and just fell in love with the city and Japan. Looking forward to reading more of your blog.
    Claire xx


  38. I stumbled across your blog and found it to be very engaging. As a fan of Japanese culture. I would love to go there soon. Recently, I applied to the JET Program and hope to get accepted this year. It is one of my goals for 2014. Currently, I am working on a blog that discusses lifestyle and pop culture in Japan. If you get a chance, check it out. My website is http://internationalwayne101.wordpress.com


    • Hi! Well, I’ve been writing this blog since 2007 so it’s taken me a while to build up my readers. 😉 I have 1,095 posts to date and have made a commitment to post *at least* once a week all year. (*^_^)v


  39. Have just stumbled on your site and will explore more. I have visited Japan five times, including staying in several local homes. I recognise much of what you mention.
    I tend to get “off the beaten track” and have been told by many Japanese friends that I am more Japanese than they are, having worn full samurai armour, beaten a katana in the factory at Osafune, operated a bunraku doll, made a pilgrimage trek to Hieizan on the marathon monks’ trail, boated the Okoke/Koboke gorge etc. And, yes, Koyazan is very special but where do you start in describing the wonder of Nihon?
    Greetings from Fleurieu, South Australia.


  40. Hello Ali. Greetings from Belgium. Amazing site you have created over all these years. Good photography too. If Japan needs more tourists they should lead them to your blog 😉


  41. Hi Ali. I’m posting in the hope you’re still attending your site (can’t help but notice your attention has strayed a bit in the last year or two :-). I’ll be visiting Tokyo again for a month in December/January and I’m very keen to find a few interesting and perhaps offbeat things to do with my 10-year-old son while I’m here – once we’ve dispensed with the Kit-Kats of course. If you’re available for a local recommendation or two, then please, dozo. With thanks! All the best!


    • Hi Peter!

      Thanks for stopping by and for reading Haikugirl’s Japan. Although I don’t live in Japan anymore I still post at least once a week about various aspects of Japanese culture and travel in Japan. In fact, I’m travelling in Japan right now as I write this and there will be lots of new posts coming up towards the end of the year.

      Visiting Tokyo for a month sounds great, but why don’t you visit some other parts of the country too? There are some great spots not far from Tokyo for a one or two night stay in the mountains or the countryside. Nagano is one of my favourite spots, and it’s close to the famous snow monkeys in Jigokudani Monkey Park, which I’m sure most 10-year-olds would like!

      Have a great time in Japan! (*^_^)v


  42. Hi! I feel so blessed today coz i’ve found your blog.I went to Japan recently.About 2 weeks i spent time in tokyo n sapporo.Now i’m back yo my country with lots of love from Japan.Really falling in love with the people,country,nature..everything about Japan.
    Now,i determine to learn japanese language n hope i will be back again n can speak japanese.Hope i can learn a lot from.


  43. Just wanted to say that we enjoyed your article about Matsumoto, especially the explanation of the derivation of “Frog street” which had had us baffled. In fact I’m typing this out on my phone in Cafe Sweet on Frog street. We have just had an excellent tour of the castle with a free English speaking guide and learned loads about it’s history. Thanks for the article. Genki de. Tony & Olga


  44. I visit Japan 3 times a year for a month at a time. I have done an enormous amount of work studying both the Old Tokaido Road, the Honjo Masamune (sword) and the Tokugawa clan’s stranglehold on the Shogunate through the Edo period.
    I will be walking several sections of the Tokaido over my next few visits.
    My 2 historical heros are both Miyamoto Musashi and Minamoto no Yoshitsune. In fact I have the 49 episode series of both (with English subtitles) as shown on NKH tv.
    I am currently, as it happens, reading Yoshikawa’s Musashi for the second time. I find that the places described mean more to me now that I know central Honshu so much better. In fact I want to visit the Sekigahara festival in October.
    I teach 3 Japanese weaponry arts (sticks and swords) among other things, and my Japanese friends suggest that I was Musashi in a former life lol..
    Anyway, I’ve only just found your blog and thank you for sharing…
    Domo arigato gozaimasu.


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