May 2016
Interview 01

A City Foreigners Want to Live in Forever

Children can go out on their own here. That would be simply unimaginable in the States.

Mr. Simha (right), from India, enjoying a game of billiards with his friend, Mr. DeCandillo (center), who lives in the same apartment building. Mrs. Simha is pictured left, and their son is also there.

Foreigners have been living and working in Kobe for a long time. About 1 in 10 people in Kobe City’s Chuo Ward are foreign residents with differing nationalities, occupations, and residential histories. In the local parks, many foreigners can be seen jogging early in the morning and walking with their children in the afternoon. There are also several foreign community groups and societies here that act as places of exchange for many of the foreign residents. We interviewed the DeCandillo family, from the United States, and the Simha family, from India, both of whom are living in the same apartment building in Chuo Ward.

The Deciding Factor was the Child-Raising Environment

— You are living in a beautiful high-rise apartment. When did you move to Kobe?

Mr. DeCandillo

The four of us moved to Kobe in 2013 when my wife was transferred to the Osaka head office of the pharmaceutical company she works for. This place is very convenient, with a train station close by, and we are in love with the fantastic view. My wife is from New York, and I am from the neighboring state, Pennsylvania. We had been living in the States before we came to Kobe.

— Why did you decide to live in Kobe, not Osaka where your wife’s office is?

Mrs. DeCandillo

I had come to Tokyo, Osaka, and Kobe on business in the past. But I just could not imagine raising our children in Tokyo or Osaka, where things seemed too busy. I didn’t get that busy impression from Kobe, and I thought that Kobe would be more suitable for raising children. That was the deciding factor.

— Mr. and Mrs. Simha, you are also living in the same building.

Mr. Simha

That’s right. We often get together at either our place or theirs. We got here in 2014. I was transferred to the Kobe head office of the pharmaceutical company I work for. Both my wife and I are from India, but I got a post in the States in 2000 and lived there for 14 years.

— Did you have any concerns about moving to Kobe?

Mrs. DeCandillo

Both my husband and I were very much looking forward to it. However, our daughter was 8 and our son was 6 back then, so we were worried about the schools here. We even told Sophia, our daughter, that she could live with her grandfather in the States if she wanted to.

Mrs. Simha

Same here. Our son was 5 at that time, so we were also concerned about the environment in terms of education. We took him to observe the international school which we were thinking to send him. We were so relieved when we saw that he liked it there very much.

A School Environment that New Foreign Residents can Naturally Assimilate Into

— How are your thoughts on schools in Kobe after actually experiencing school life here?

Mrs. Simha

We are very satisfied. The school here is much smaller than the huge schools in the US, so children can receive close attention from the teachers. The ratio of foreign students and Japanese students is about fifty-fifty. Our son now has many friends, and he is very happy going to school every day.

Mrs. DeCandillo

Our children are going to the same school. Their school life here doesn’t seem to be all that different from in the States, so we feel relieved. The education level is slightly higher than before, and sometimes our children complain that they have too much homework. (laugh)

A City Where Children Can Walk Around By Themselves

— What surprised you the most when you came here?

Mrs. Simha

First of all, children can go do activities by themselves. My son goes to school by train by himself, and that takes about 45 minutes. That would be simply unimaginable in the States. Not to mention that a child can safely walk around downtown all alone. When we went out in the States, we went everywhere with him, to the restroom, crossing the road, and so on.

Mr. DeCandillo

It was new to us that we could walk almost anywhere from home. We had been accustomed to a lifestyle where you cannot live without a car in the States. In Kobe, there are shopping areas on the way back from school, restaurants where all of our family can enjoy dining together, and museums and libraries that we visit on our days off. There are also many parks such as Minato-no-Mori Park and Higashi Yuenchi Park. There are a number of events held at Higashi Yuenchi, including the recent EAT LOCAL KOBE farmers market. It is nice that we can just walk over there and join those events.

Mrs. DeCandillo

Another point that should not be missed is excellent transportation and access to other places. It only takes 20 minutes to get to Kobe Airport from our home, and even the Shinkansen (bullet train) station is 15 minutes away. This makes it very easy to go on a trip. The trains and buses are always on time, and it is all so very convenient. Safe, convenient, I can’t find a single negative thing about it. Kobe is the best city in the world.

More Family Time

— Have there been any major changes in your life from working in Japan?

Mr. Simha

When I was working in the States, I could not spend much time with my family. But now my office is just 5 minutes away on foot, so I can spend much more time with them.

Mr. DeCandillo

We too have more family time than before. I used to work weekends as well in the States, so our holiday schedules didn’t match. My wife is off on weekends, so we decided that I would do the housework after we moved here.

Besides taking care of the housework, I am one of the board members at the Kobe Regatta and Athletic Club (KR&AC), which is a sports club for foreign residents. I also coach a basketball team and volunteer for an NPO called Peace & Nature, where people from various countries mingle to think about the environment through agriculture.

Since we moved to Kobe, we have taken a lot more family trips. We have been to Okinawa, Hiroshima, Tottori, and Hokkaido. We climbed Mt. Fuji, too. The best so far was a place in Matsuyama. We stayed at an inn that was like an ordinary house, and we spent time there with the local people as if they were family. During the stay, we could get a real taste of Japanese daily life. In fact, we have been to Matsuyama twice already, and we are talking about visiting again this year.

Getting Information in a New Locale

— How did you get the information you needed for day-to-day life in a place you had never been before?

Mrs. DeCandillo

When we had just arrived here, I was at a loss where to go to buy what. One time I could not find what I was looking for after an hour of searching at a supermarket. It was very helpful to have a foreign community here. I could always feel free to ask someone for information.

Mrs. Simha

Thanks to the foreign community and the people at my husband’s company, I could find an English-speaking doctor immediately.

Mr. DeCandillo

There are many diverse communities in Kobe made up of different nationalities, religions, and activities. Anyone can find his or her own place. Various sports are also available at KR&AC, and it is wonderful to meet many people through sports.

A Nice Balance of City Life and Nature

— Could you please describe what Kobe means to each of you?

Mr. Simha

Kobe’s appeal is that it is convenient, with everything at your fingertips. And there are people of many different nationalities living together like a big family. If something happens, people will help each other. It is a pleasant place to live.

Mr. DeCandillo

Kobe is a city, but at the same time it is surrounded by mountains and the ocean. So you see the beauty of nature all around you. Our place has a typical Kobe view: The ocean stretches across the south side of the buildings, with ships floating on the water and bridges crossing over the ocean. When you look up to the north, you see the mountain range standing as if it were protecting the city. I think Kobe is ideal for people who love nature but don’t want to give up living in a city at the same time. Moreover, Kobe is an excellent environment for children.

Interviewer/writer: Remi Hamabe

Photographer: Kyoko Kataoka

Interview Date: March 13, 2016

Interview Location: The DeCandillo residence and the Kobe Regatta & Athletic Club (in Chuo Ward, Kobe)

Translations by: Nathan and Kayo Bryan, Gaijins