Jayne Nakata is a New Zealander living in the city of Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, and the voice behind the award-winning “Transformations with Jayne” podcast. Upon returning to Japan after a transfer to Sweden with her family was cut short by the pandemic, Nakata has created PodLaunch Family, a network of podcasts that focus on community and empowering women. She has also resumed her involvement in efforts to promote tourism in her region.

1. How did you get into podcasting with “Transformations with Jayne”? As a mother of two small kids living away from Tokyo, I was feeling very isolated and alone. I went in search of a podcast about foreign women living in Japan and didn’t find one, so I decided to start my own.

2. What kind of guests do you interview? My guests are women living in Japan who are making the most of their lives here. I love to give people a chance to speak about themselves.

3. How was moving from Sweden to Japan during the pandemic? We were very excited to embark on our three-year posting to Sweden, just five months before COVID-19 really kicked in. It was disappointing to have to move back so soon, and returning during the pandemic wasn’t easy.

4. Any tips for those facing an overseas move in the near future? Just know that it will take much longer to do everything (four months for our furniture to come back to Japan) but that it is possible. Not worrying about things we couldn’t control was vital throughout the whole experience to avoid getting stressed.

5. What changes have you seen in the podcasting community since returning? With the rise of COVID came an increased interest in podcasting in general, and as an early adopter of podcasting in Japan, people started to approach me for help with developing and launching their own shows.

6. What is the current situation for women in Japan with podcasting? Women are underrepresented in podcasting in general and Japan is no different. Women may struggle to get started and a lot of podcasts never make it from idea to reality. I often see “best podcasts about Japan” and if you look closely, they are mostly shows by men.

7. When did you start PodLaunch Family? It started this year with one show — mine — and has grown to six shows that we currently manage, with three more to launch soon and a growing network of affiliated podcasts.

8. What do you enjoy about it? I noticed as I was helping other women with launching or managing their shows that it was actually really fun to do this together! So I decided to build a community around what we are doing.

9. What has life been like since coming back to live in Fukushima? Going to Sweden helped me to see even more just how much of an anaba (well-kept secret) we have here in the city of Iwaki.

10. In what ways? It is a “hidden” resort, in that even the locals have no idea that they live in a resort! We have beaches, golf courses, onsen (hot-spring resorts), mountains, fishing and even hula dancing.

One thing people may not know about Jayne Nakata is that she's an introvert. That doesn't stop her from being sociable on her podcast, however. | IPPEI & JANINE PHOTOGRAPHY
One thing people may not know about Jayne Nakata is that she’s an introvert. That doesn’t stop her from being sociable on her podcast, however. | IPPEI & JANINE PHOTOGRAPHY

11. What perspectives are you trying to bring for local tourism? As a new member of Iwaki Tourism Labo (a collective of various stakeholders to promote the region) and as a long-time supporter of the Yumoto Onsen hot-spring town here in Iwaki, I hope that I can help local people to take more pride in what is already here and encourage others to visit.

12. Why would you recommend Iwaki to visitors? In just two hours you can drive the Joban highway up to Iwaki from Tokyo, and be away from crowds. You can generally park for free at the place you want to visit, so even if you come by train, using a rental car for a couple of days is a great way to explore the different bays of Iwaki and support local businesses directly.

13. How has COVID-19 affected a small hot-spring town like Yumoto Onsen? It has struggled a lot since the events of 2011, and then to have the hopes of having many visitors for the Olympics dashed by COVID was such a disappointment. I had been working with the okami-san of Yumoto Onsen to help them learn English, but the international guests never came.

14. Yumoto Onsen’s okami-san have other talents, too, don’t they? Yes, hula dancing! Iwaki used to be a coal mining town and reinvented itself as the “town of hula” (as shown in the popular 2002 movie “Hula Girls”). Since then, the okami-san in Yumoto Onsen started learning hula, too and they put on regular performances — wearing kimono!

15. What aspect do you miss most about life in New Zealand? I miss the year-round outdoor lifestyle that is so easy to have in New Zealand.

16. What’s your favorite aspect of life in Japan and why? I think it’s the amazing opportunities that have come to me. Being able to be involved in things like the Rugby World Cup and travel across Japan for a national TV show were just a couple.

17. What’s one surprising thing that most people don’t know about you? I’m the host of a podcast but I am actually very introverted. Being introverted doesn’t mean you don’t know how to socialize or be with people; it just means it’s draining rather than energizing, like it is for extroverts.

18. What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you were 21? That in life the hard things are the things that give you the most chance to grow. You’ll never regret that you did something, only that you didn’t do something.

19. Where can you usually be found when you’re not working? I’m usually taking my dog on one of our many walks around our neighborhood.

20. How does it feel to be the interviewee for once? It’s quite nice actually. One of the things I struggled with most when starting my own podcast was that I wouldn’t have any questions to ask my guests!

For more information on the “Transformations with Jayne” podcast and the PodLaunch Family network, visit jaynenakata.com.

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