Q’s オーストラリアレポート

Coober Pedy – Opal Town

Coober Pedy 1

Coober Pedy is a small town in the deserts of South Australia with a population of less than 2000 people. In spite of this, it is known as the “Opal Capital of the World”. The first opal was found in there 1915 and now more opals come from Coober Pedy than anywhere else in the world.

Coober Pedy 2

The town is in the middle of the desert. It gets very little rain and has very little vegetation – the first tree ever seen there was actually welded together out of scrap metal! Temperatures in summer have reached as high as 47 degrees.

Coober Pedy 3

Coober Pedy is also famous for its below-ground houses, called “dugouts”, which people build because it is so hot during the daytime. Building dugouts costs around as much as building a surface houses, but they remain at a fairly constant temperature all-year-round, which saves a lot of money on air-conditioning bills.

Coober Pedy 4

Coober Pedy is about half way between Adelaide and Alice Springs (near Ayers Rock), so it is a popular stopover point for tourists. I remember visiting as a child and having great fun searching for opals and running around in some of the underground shops and museums.

Coober Pedy 5

Puffing Billy

Puffing Billy1

If you are ever in Victoria, you may want to make some time to take a trip on Puffing Billy. Puffing Billy is an old steam train that runs from Belgrave, on the east side of Melbourne, east into country Victoria. It travels through some beautiful forest and farmland and is especially popular with tourist and school kids.

Puffing billy map 3

Trip length is 3 hours return to Lakeside or 5 hours return to Gembrook. In both cases there is plenty of time to get off the train to have a walk around and get something to eat at the end of the line before returning the Belgrave.


The train pulls several types of carriage, and the number and type changes with the seasons and time of day. There are also special events, like murder mysteries, night journeys and packages including old-time dancing.


There is usually a dining car or two on the end of the train. You can book a table to have either a full meal or high tea, with dessert and coffee served on the way back. Last time I went on Puffing Billy I had the high tea – it was heavenly!

puffing billy 4

Animals of Australia #1

Let’s have a look at four interesting animals from Australia. This time we’ll focus on animals with fur.


Kangaroos are possibly the most famous Australian animals. There are many different types, with adult sizes ranging from about 45cm/1.6kg up to 200cm/90kg (that’s really big!). They are marsupials – animals that raise their babies in a pouch on the front of their bodies. 70% of the world’s marsupials are found in Australia.


Koalas are another possibility for most famous Australian animal. Their diet is almost entirely made up of eucalyptus leaves and they are asleep most of the time – they are only awake for about 4 hours a day! They are also marsupials, like kangaroos.


Dingos are Australia’s only native dog. They are a bit like small wolves, but less dangerous and they generally avoid humans. They don’t bark very often, but they like to howl and whimper. Dingos are found mostly in the northern part of Australia. I have lived mostly in the southen part of Australia and have rarely seen Dingos in the wild; so when I do it is quite a shock!


The Bilby is another small marsupial that lives in the desert. They get their water from the insects they eat at night, so they don’t need to drink. They dig tunnels like rabbits and live in underground cave systems. There is a movement in Australia to replace the Easter Bunny with the Easter Bilby – because some people feel it is better to use an Australian animal.

The Colour of Australia

blue mountains

A friend recently asked me about the difference between the countryside in Australia and Japan. One big difference is the general colour of the vegetation. Japan’s is mostly a deep or lush green, whereas Australia is dominated by gum trees and is more a muted green, olive or khaki.

gum leaves

Gum trees, also called eucalyptus trees, cover much of Australia and make up an amazing 75% of the forests here! There are over 700 species of eucalyptus and nearly all over them are native to Australia – only 9 species are exclusively non-Australian.

Mountain Ash

Mountain Ash

Gumtrees can be just small bushes or huge trees, depending on the species. One species, the Eucalyptus Regnans or Mountain Ash is the tallest flowering tree on Earth and one of the tallest trees in general. Compared to most other trees, they drink a lot of water, are weak against frost and cold but good at surviving fires.

eucalyptus oil

Eucalypts are famous for a few reasons. Perhaps they are most famous for being the only food of Koalas. They are very important as sources of firewood, timber and oil in several counties. They are also know for their flowers, which can be white, cream, yellow, pink or red. They are nearly all evergreen, and with so many of them around they have a huge effect on the colour of the Australian countryside.

koala gum

Star Formations in the Southern Hemisphere

People often say that the night sky is particularly beautiful in Australia, especially in the countryside, far from the city lights. There are also quite a few famous dark-sky parks* here. So, what stars can only be seen from the Southern hemisphere?

Southern Cross

Southern Cross
This is the most famous star formation for Australians. Some people say it looks more like a kite than a cross though…


Carina (The Keel)
They call it the keel because the bottom stars make a ‘U’ shape that looks like the hull (keel) of a boat. I’d never even heard of Carina before I did a little research to write this post.


Centaurus (The Centaur)
A centaur is a mythical half-man, half-horse. You need to use your imagination for this one… I never talked with anyone about the stars in the sky at night in Japan when I lived there. I wonder if there any star formations named after mythical Japanese creatures, like the kappa or tengu?


Sagittarius is a centaur too! Though many people know just the bright stars in the middle as something that looks like a teapot. This formation can actually be seen from the Northern hemisphere as well, its just a lot easier to see it from the Southern Hemisphere.

Another picture of Sagittarius.

Another picture of Sagittarius.

*Dark-sky park (also called dark-sky reserves/preserves): – an area, usually far from cities, that has local light restrictions at night so that the stars can be seen more clearly. They are popular with tourists and especially amateur astronomers and stargazers.

Seasonal Foods in Australia – Fruit

One of the things many visitors like about Japan is that there are many seasonal foods. I’ve been asked by my Japanese friends and students if Australia also has seasonal foods. In my opinion, we do, but it feels like it is much less obvious or culturally defined in comparison with Japan. Traditionally, many seasonal foods were based on seasonal crops and the markets would be fully of produce matching the season. These days agricultural technology enables growers to bring produce to market in the off-season, so it is sometimes hard to notice the variety of fruit in shops change at all. Still, things like fruit are cheaper when they are in season, so people use them in their cooking more at that time.

Apricots - summer

One well-known summer crop is apricot. Apricots are often used in deserts and are also a popular dried food. Dried apricot is common in Australian breakfast cereals – like muesli – and in trail mixes.

Grapes - Autumn

Some types of grape are best picked in autumn. Most of these are used in wine production, but many people enjoy eating them them raw. Some people like to make jam out of them or even use them in salads.

Kiwi - winter

Kiwi fruit is still mainly only available in winter. They are mostly used in deserts or salads. They are also often seen atop Pavilova – an iconic Australian desert.

Strawberries - spring

Strawberries are very popular and are abundant in spring. They are especially common in cakes and jam. Children seem to love them in particular.

Housewives in Australia

Sometimes my friends in Japan ask me about Australian housewives: what do they do during the day? What are they interested in? And so on. It is actually pretty hard to answer without changing the terms a bit.

Mother 1

If we take ‘housewife’ to mean a married woman who stays at home while her husband works who also doesn’t have children, these people are very rare. Perhaps an example might be a women who was unemployed before she got married, someone injured or sick, or the wife of someone mega-rich. I don’t personally know anyone in this category and rarely hear of any one like this in real life. Generally speaking, marriage is not a reason for women to leave work in Australia. Like many Western countries, women are expected to contribute to both the family and to society, and therefore staying home (without children) is hard to justify. Most people, upon hearing about someone who left work after her wedding would expect there was a special reason, and be curious about the situation.

Mother 2

If we take ‘housewife’ to mean a married woman who doesn’t work and stays at home to look after her children, then there are many, but we call them ‘stay-at-home mothers’. However, there are significantly fewer stay-at-home mothers in Australia than in Japan. Dual income families are the norm here, perhaps becuase the cost of living is higher in Australia than Japan. This is in large part due to a very long housing boom (housing prices have risen rapidly since 2001). It is often a tough financial decision for a mother to leave work to raise children full-time.

During the day, stay-at-home mothers in Australia do much the same things as they do in Japan. Most of their time and energy is taken up with looking after their children and doing house work. Where they can, some like to watch TV or Netflix, others might read. As the children get older many stay-at-home-mothers no longer stay at home, but take on part-time work or study.

Mother 3

My experience is that the role of stay-at-home mother in Australia has much less status here than in Japan, and it is a smaller segment of the population, further lowering its position. Being a stay-at-home mum is not a fashionable or enviable role. It is rare here to see a group of mothers out of the house enjoying each other’s company noisily at a cafe or park like in Japan. The flip side is that compared with Japan, it is easier for women to get jobs in Australia, to hold a high position in the company, and to make a salary more or less equal to men’s salaries.

Careers in Australia

Having lived in both countries, the type and spread of jobs and careers in Australia and Japan doesn’t seem so different to me. Perhaps the most notable variation is that there are more jobs involved with manufacturing and heavy industry in Japan, and more jobs involved with agriculture and natural resources in Australia.


According to the most recent government data, the most common careers in Australia fall into the following three categories: Professionals (22.2%), Clerical and Administrative Workers (13.6%) Technicians and Trades Workers (13.5%).

‘Professionals’ includes qualified workers in areas areas such as arts, science, business and engineering. The percentage of the Australian workforce employed as professionals is increasing (up by 10.5% between 2012 and 2017).


‘Clerical and Administrative Workers’ are roughly what most people think of as office workers. While a lot of the Australian workforce is employed in clerical and administrative work, the total number is slowly decreasing (down by 2.3% between 2012 and 2017).

‘Technicians and Trades Workers’ includes occupations like carpenter, auto mechanic and plumber. The percentage of the Australian workforce employed as technicians and trades workers is slowly increasing (up by 1.6% between 2012 and 2017). Interestingly, the highest paid job in this category is electrician, and tradespeople are 99% male.


In terms of educational background, the most common occupations for people with a bachelor degree or above are registered nurses and primary and secondary school teachers. Men with a bachelor degree or above were more likely to be accountants or software applications programmers, whereas women were more likely to be registered nurses or primary school teachers.

For those with other non-school qualifications, the most common occupations were sales assistants, electricians and child carers. Men with other qualifications were more likely to be electricians or carpenters and joiners, whereas women were more likely to be child carers or sales assistants.


My personal impression is that a lot more women work in different roles in Australia compared to Japan, and that jobs are not as polarised by gender. However, the data above shows that at least the same types of jobs are still dominated by the same genders in each country.

Bendigo – My home town


I’ve lived in so many places, but Bendigo is the place I think of as my home town. I went to high school and university there. No one in my family lives there anymore, but I went back to have a look around a few weeks ago and felt very nostalgic.

Centreal Deborah Gold Mine.

Centreal Deborah Gold Mine.

While it’s not so popular with teens and young adults who usually wish they lived in a big city or on the coast, people from most other age groups like it there. It has all the facilities of a city, but very little of the noise and traffic.

Bendigo is a famous tourist location and was an early gold rush town. It’s most famous mine is the Central Deborah Gold Mine. It operated as a commercial gold mine from 1939-1954, but is still open today for tourists – offering authentic underground mining tours. It is also at one end of the popular Bendigo Talking Tram line.

Sacred Heart Cathedral.

Sacred Heart Cathedral.

As a result of the wealth generated from the gold rush (starting around 1850), Bendigo has some of Victoria’s oldest and most beautiful buildings. They aren’t very old by Japanese standards though, only around 150 years old. One example is The Sacred Heart Cathedral. It’s much smaller than the famous cathedrals in Europe, but it is still an impressive structure.

The Shamrock Hotel

The Shamrock Hotel

The Shamrock Hotel is another famous landmark, and due to it’s Irish heritage, it is a very popular drinking venue on Saint Patrick’s Day.

Australians on Vacation

Holidays! Simply hearing the word makes me feel happy and relaxed.

I think people in every country feel the same way. However, different people have their own ideas about what is a good holiday.

Many people in Japan enjoy traveling around Japan during the holidays. Australians are the same way. They enjoy traveling around Australia and it’s easy to see why. Australia has many different terrains, including beautiful beaches, off-coast islands, interesting deserts for camping or stargazing, rivers, mountains, and stylish cities.


Some Australians like to go overseas for holidays. Bali is a top tourist destination because it is not far away from Australia. It is only a few hours by plane. Also, as anyone who has been to Bali knows, Indonesia excels in hospitality and tourism, as they are some of its main industries. As a result, Balinese hotels, tourist sites, food, etc. are all crafted to fit Western tastes, so vacationing there is very comfortable for Australian people.


The next most popular place to visit is the USA. America is certainly not convenient to travel to from Australia—it takes a minimum of 21 hours in transit to get there! But the country is vast and diverse enough that there is “something for everyone.” If you like nature and the outdoors, you could visit Big Sur or Yellowstone National Park. If you like cool cities, try San Francisco, Las Vegas, or New York. Some people love road trips—renting a car with friends and driving across America. America is also comfortable to visit, because Americans and Australians share many cultural values and speak the same language.


The third most popular place for Australians to travel for holidays is New Zealand. New Zealand has all the convenience of domestic travel- only a 3.5 hours plane ride from Melbourne! But the population is a fraction of Australia so it is peaceful and relaxing. In addition, New Zealand has some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes. There are plants, animals and terrains that do not exist in Australia, so in spite of being convenient for travel, vacationing in New Zealand feels like an escape to another world!

Do you think you’d like to go to any of these countries? Why or why not?