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Postcards from Japan: Scrapping the schedule and going camping, with Connie Sceaphierde

When Connie came to Japan for the first time, she loved it so much she returned a year later as a fresh graduate. Living in many different corners of Japan gave her an opportunity to get under the skin of the country, and she now works as a freelance writer and photographer. We talked about her career, best places to visit that not many people know about, and camping!

Hi, thanks for talking to us today. Could you tell us a little about yourself? 

Hi there, thanks for having me! My name is Connie, I am 26 years old and I grew up with one foot in the city of Bristol and the other roaming the hills and valleys of Somerset. 

I first came to Japan in 2016 as a Graphic Design student on an international exchange programme at Tokyo Zokei University. The following year – after completing my degree – I returned to Japan, got married and moved to Yamaguchi prefecture. 
We’ve since moved around quite a lot, and over the past five years of living in Japan, I have been registered to five separate prefectures. Though exhausting at times, it is this life of moving around that has allowed me to see what Japan is truly like, and it is also the driving force behind my work as a freelance writer and photographer.

These days most of my time is taken up by writing, but whenever I’m free, me and my husband like to load our car up with car camping essentials and go on adventures exploring the lesser known parts of Japan.

How did you become a freelance writer and photographer in Japan?

Though my writing career only really started officially back in 2019, I’d like to say that my whole life has been building up to it.

As a child, I would spend most of my free time with my head stuck in book, be it a fictional one, a book about travel or an encyclopaedia on the most random of things (my mother was a canine beautician, and following in her interests I had a handful of books about dog breeds that I studied so well that I can normally correctly guess a dog’s breed almost instantly upon meeting it – as a 26 year old, this isn’t as impressive as it was back when I was 10, but I still find it a useful skill at times).

Of course, any child who reads with such deep regularity, has most likely at some point imagined writing their very own book – and in my case, I was no different. I spent most of my late teens and early twenties trying to get a start on what I consider my ‘inner novel’, but after hitting numerous cases of writer's block, I decided to take a different path and began documenting my experiences as an expat on my personal blog. After some time had passed, I had accumulated enough writing experience to apply for writing jobs based in Japan, and in 2019, I managed to procure a freelance gig as a writer for an online media company, and am now a regular contributor of articles relating to Japan in a wide variety of categories, including travel, lesser-known cities and towns, and the introduction of new products, businesses and events.

As for photography, the road to get me where I am today has been a bit more of a bumpy one. 
My other childhood passion besides reading was drawing, and for years I dreamt about becoming an illustrator. Funnily enough, I never really had a care for photography during my younger years, and it wasn’t until I came to Japan on that study abroad programme in 2016 that I began to finally see photography as an art form that I could enjoy. 
Returning home with a GoPro full of photos of my time as a student in Japan had reshaped me, and my focus during my final semester at university in the UK saw me turn my attention from illustration to photography and filmography. By the time I came to Japan in 2017, I had acquired my first mirrorless camera, and was ready to share my version of Japan with the world through its lens.

What are your favourite off-the-beaten path places in Japan?

This is a really difficult one for me, as I feel that some of Japan’s best hidden gems aren’t even on the map. But if we’re going by places that are accessible without a compass then I have to mention Kurokawa Onsen and the Aso area in central Kyushu, the vine bridges of Shikoku’s Iya Valley, and the Kawazu Nanadaru waterfalls (seven waterfalls) of the Izu Peninsula. 

If you’re looking for a real adventure though, then my suggestion is to skim over the satellite and street views of Google Maps and pinpoint a location that looks interesting.
Just be sure to let friends and family know your travel intentions, and if you’ve chosen a forested trail bring along something that will make a lot of noise to deter away potential predators – most people choose a bear bell, but my suggestion is to bring a portable speaker and play a podcast or radio show through it. The reason being is that whilst a bell can alert animals to your presence, the sound of it might not be recognised as uniquely-human, and may instead lead to more interactions with curious wildlife than you’d like. My other top tip is to never hike alone, no matter how experienced you feel you are.

Do you have any advice for people planning to go car camping in Japan?

Oh, I have quite a few tips to share when it comes to car camping in general, but my number one piece of advice when sleeping comfortably inside a car in Japan has got to be to make sure that you have bug netting for the windows. It’s something we’ve only recently learned ourselves, as our three night car-camping trip this summer had us sharing our sleeping space with at least a dozen mosquitoes.
My second tip is to ensure you choose your sleeping spot carefully – you want to park legally overnight, so the best and safest options are road stations (known as Michi-no-eki) where you have access to toilets, running water and a place to grab a quick bite in the morning. 

What’s your favourite Japanese food that’s not well-known abroad?

I’m a big Okonomiyaki fan.
If you’ve heard of the dish, then you already know that there are two different versions – Kansai style, and Hiroshima style. Supposedly, Okonomiyaki originated in Osaka where most of the ingredients are mixed in one bowl before being grilled on the teppan like a pancake, but in Hiroshima it’s cooked in layers, and also features the addition of crunchy fried noodles.
My husband, who is from Kobe, is patriotic to Kansai style, and claims that because it is the original then it must be the best. I, however, am more partial to Hiroshima style, and don’t enjoy an Okonomiyaki dish unless it’s filled with crispy fried noodles.

Thank you!

You can see what Connie has been up to on her InstagramTwitter, and website or read her latest articles here



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