Kate Smurthwaite

Kate Smurthwaite

Maki Nibayashi

Convertible Bond Analyst for UBS Warburg (and aspiring novelist!)

Time in Japan:

7 months

Where are you from?
London, and before that Ipswich (come on, you blues!!).

What brought you to Japan?
My job. I came out to replace someone who had left. I' been working for the company since 1997.

What do you do now?
I do Japanese Convertible Bond Research for UBS Warburg. I produce daily, quarterly and other timely reports for our convertible investors. I've been doing this kind of research for just over three years, but only the last year of that has focussed on Japan. As soon as I started covering Japan (from London), I started planning the move out here. And I'm writing a novel and some short stories too.

What was your first impression of Japan?
I suppose I should admit, like a lot of other people before me, my first impression was that I'd made a terrible mistake! Stuck in a temporary apartment with somebody else's "taste" (ah-hem) in furniture and just the BBC World Service for company. I had to take Japanese Regulatory exams in order to be allowed to do my job, which meant hours of dull studying. Added to some personal trauma from friends back home who I couldn't get back to see and help, the only reason I didn't head straight to Narita after a fortnight was that I was too proud to crawl back to London and own up to not being able to cope! Now, I'm glad I stayed.

Did you have any difficulties with the moving process itself?
Well my flat out here came with no furniture whatsoever, unlike rented rooms in London, so I had to buy a lot of stuff. And of course half of it came in pieces with assembly instructions in Japanese! I even had to buy a cooker and that was a bit of a disaster: I was marginally worried about connecting it to the gas properly, but it didn't seem to be too tricky. Once I'd done it, I tested one of the pot-stands, which was fine, then turned the grill on to heat up so I could in turn test it out with some chicken I'd got in my equally new fridge. A couple of minutes later there was a nasty smell and I started wondering whether that was normal with a new machine or not. It subsequently got rather worse so eventually I opened the grill and there was the instruction book, blazing merrily away! No great loss as it wouldn't have been much help anyway being in Japanese too.

Is being foreign and female an obstacle here in Japan?
Of course it is! Superficially, Japan often seems to contain only three types of people: the fluent Japanese speakers, the families and the (mostly) men who go to bars and strip clubs in Roppongi. Some people seem to be all three, and I'm none. It doesn't take long though to start finding things going on outside that range. And I'm making good progress learning Japanese - which really opens your options up - mostly thanks to Jun, my new boyfriend!

What do you like the most about Japanese culture?
I bet everyone says this, but people are so friendly and the service you get is amazing. One time, my local bar was closed and the manager waited outside in case I arrived - then he walked me around the corner to an alternative bar he thought I might like!

What's your recipe for a happy and successful life in Japan?
I think it's different for everyone, but the woman with the right cookbook is my friend Caroline. She knows so much about coping with, not to mention enjoying, life out here as a gaijin woman, that she's written a book about it ("Being A Broad," published in the new year... plug, plug, plug). But I do mean it quite sincerely, I'm not being bribed to say this - she's been an enormous help and I'm delighted other women will be able to benefit from her expertise in the near future.

Kate Smurthwaite spoke to Maki Nibayashi.

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355: Alec McAulay
352/3: Mary Frenzel
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350: Kate Smurthwaite
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349: Tim Spangler
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318: Sid Lloyd
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314: Ira Bolden
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312: Dr Jonna D. Douglass, PhD
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310: Neil Day
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305: Kevin Meyerson
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304: Randy McGraw
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303: Roy Ron
302: Antonio Plozay-Liberatore
Economist/TV Talent
300: Miguel Angel

Issues 250-299

Issues 150-199