An evening with Karen Hill Anton – Recap


FEW Japan welcomed legacy speaker Karen Hill Anton, a great author, columnist, consultant and coach to speak at our February 2022 monthly meeting. Karen Hill Anton has seamlessly crossed cultures in her adopted home town in rural Shizuoka. She has done this while remaining true to herself and her identity and yet enjoyed the friendships cultivated with her neighbours in her community. 

Karen started by reading her favorite passages from her multi-award winning memoir “The View From Breast Pocket Mountain”. She shared how adjusting to life in Japan was a process, she had to adjust and adapt and ultimately accept the society she had chosen to live in. It has largely been a painless process but there were challenges along the way. She had a lot to learn, and early on she realized that she would benefit by paying attention and observing, and over time she did not only grow but change. There were ways in which she was expected to behave, speak and even dress. She however had a free will lifestyle which made her rebel against the expected norms and refused to do what everyone else was doing just because that’s the way it was done. She later blended in and came to see that it was impossible to live in a Japanese community and not accept their culture. 

The evening was followed by a powerful visual narration of Karen’s life through vintage photographs. She shared photos of her family, before they moved to Japan and their journey through to Japan. She also shared pictures of her first home which inspired the name of her memoir. Other pictures that she shared include pictures of her children, husband, friends, neighbours, doctor, her dance class, her calligraphy works and their current home. 

We then moved on to an interactive question and answer session which brought the following key takeaways for the audience:

  • We should have a willingness to not hold on to something so strongly, we need to adapt and adjust in order to achieve a healthy, effective and wholesome, cross-cultural communication. It’s a different culture but we are all human beings. 
  • Culture behavior is learned and once it’s learnt it’s pretty ordinary. We are adaptable beings and can easily adapt to different cultures.
  • Don’t be so attached to material things, it makes it easy to move on when you lose them or when you have to move on and leave those things behind.
  • It doesn’t really matter if you make your own choices despite being not culturally “correct”.
  • As you adjust to different cultures and societies, you discover a whole new person within you which you never even knew existed. You may discover that you are more than who you are. We are multifaceted and living outside our cultures gives us an opportunity to explore ourselves.
  • Do not be easily shaken by what other people do, say or think about you, stay true to yourself and be authentic.
  • You don’t have to change your identity because of cultural norms.
  • Design your life in the way you want to live.

Thank you Karen for such an inspiring session. We loved hearing about your stories and how you stayed true to yourself and navigated the Japanese culture in rural Shizuoka since 1975.