I was born and brought up in Swansea, South Wales. Although my mother and maternal grandparents were fluent Welsh speakers, my English father objected to my learning Welsh and my knowledge of the language remains rudimentary. However, my exposure to a bilingual environment gave me an enduring enthusiasm for other languages and I studied French, German, and Latin at school. In my final two years at school, I opted to take Japanese as a minor subject, which inspired me to go on to do a Bachelor’s degree in Japanese Studies, a decision that has shaped the course of my life to date.
Having fallen heavily for Japan during my year abroad in Kumamoto, I returned to Japan soon after graduating in 1998, as a Coordinator of International Relations on the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme. Although I only planned to be there for two years, I ended up spending eight and a half years in Niigata Prefecture, as I went on to work as the in-house English translator at an economic research institute focused on Northeast Asian issues. It was there that I met my husband, who is from Khabarovsk, in Far Eastern Russia.
When our relationship became serious and we began thinking about the future, we decided that our best course of action would be to move to a country with an easier route to permanent residence and better job security than we had in Japan. Neither Russia nor the UK appealed to us, but my husband’s brother was living in New Zealand, so we visited, found it to our liking, and were lucky enough to have our application for residence approved. We arrived in Auckland on 10 December 2006 and I quickly succeeded in finding work at an international assistance company, supporting clients of travel/medical insurance companies who needed help while overseas. I also continued to freelance as a translator for agencies and direct clients in Japan, something I’d been doing since 2000, and in February 2012 I gave up the day job to focus fully on translation through my company Kinsho Language Services.
In my spare time, I study Japanese brush calligraphy and am a practitioner of the Urasenke tradition of the way of tea, serving as president of the Urasenke Tankokai New Zealand Association and secretary of the NZ-Japan Society of Japan Aoteakai Tea Ceremony Club. I can be found on Twitter @zaichishka.