I'd like to encourage all of you who are studying Japanese to hang in there. I know the grammar and those thousands of kanji can seem intimidating at times, but it's great when things start to fall into place and make sense. And , of course, learning the language is easier when you are dealing with it on a daily basis.
Living in Japan has provided me with a wide range of interesting experiences. In addition to the daily challenges of adapting to another culture, I've had the unexpected opportunity to see my own culture from a very different perspective. And that has been the biggest benefit of all.
Living abroad for an extended period of time is not for everyone, but for those willing to really immerse themselves in a different culture as a resident, the rewards can be enormous. I highly recommend it to anyone who is truly interested in learning about themselves as well as the rest of the world. If anyone is considering an application to the JET Program, or is otherwise interested in spending some time in Japan, I would be happy to pass along any information that would be of benefit.
Fondest regards to all at UW-O, and to those of you currently studying Japanese.
Hello!! Thanks for sending me your Newsletters. I'm so happy to know that the club is doing well with many activities.
It has been more than a year since I moved to New York. It is amazing even to me that I am still here in this big city. I didn't know how many times I cried and attempted to go back to Japan. My phone bill for long distance skyrocketed, which never happened in Wisconsin. I can tell you that this is one of the worst years in my life; however, at the same time, it has been the most important year for me since I learned so much about life.
Life goes on one way or another, and if you determine to stay, you have to make certain decisions and just do them. Many people who have lived in NY long enough tell me, "Yumi, be patient. You will get used to it." "Get used to it"&--this was the phrase I disliked so much when I first came here. And now I realize that I am getting used to NY. I take subways anywhere I want to go. I avoid eye contact with other people which invades their privacy. I am getting used to hearing criticism about japanese tourists and being treated like a tourist at stores, and I am gaining friends who accept my eye contact and talk to me. I have a tiny studio apartment. It costs me $850 a month, but it is my space. Besides, I have a new real job. The year of 1995 is almost over, and I am ready for the new year.
In New York, I lost this power. One can easily live without giving up any Japanese culture or language. There are many Japanese book stores, grocery shops and restaurants. And there are many Japanese. Some are dancers or students, others are salary men and women. Some came here for business, some to live in the American system, some because they don't know what to do in Japan, some because they couldn't fit into Japanese society, but also refuse to accept American life. And we are the Japanese. There are many other communities: French, Jewish, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, Greek, etc. People are living somehow within their own identity. NY is called a Melting Pot, but to me, this city is like a bucket of water with many colors of oil paint floating on it.
There are two kinds of menus--English and Japanese. For the Japanese menu, there was no price listed for sashimi. Customers order sashimi for two or four, depending on the number of people. "Oyakata" (chef and owner) makes a sashimi platter and says, "Charge $180 a plate." The bills are elegantly paid with major credit cards which are company accounts. Since Japan does not have a custom of tipping, customers often forget to leave a tip, even for a $1,000 bill. "Okamisan" (the owner's wife) pleasantly and cruelly says, "We are not a kind of restaurant to force customers to leave tip." For the waitresses who depend on tips as a major income, however, it is a big deal. So there are always games of checking the tip before Okamisan notices. I worked from 10:30 a.m. until 11:30 p.m., ate Japanese food, and spoke Japanese all the time.
When I felt I was losing my character as "Yumi" I cut my hair. Soon I was accepted at the UN to work for the library. It was time for me to move on.
My report might sound a little bit pessimistic, but this is my experience. I entered into NY life in a hard way, so I accept any reactions from you.
Next time I will write about the UN and my new office, the Korean Peninsular Energy Development Organization.
Thanks for reading. Sincerely,
We have a small Christmas tree in the office and it has already been neatly decorated, and it's time to send the annual greeting cards....
This year we had two terrifying news events in Japan. One was the big earthquake in the Kobe area in January. It is said that another big quake will hit Tokyo as well, but we haven't had it yet. (Scary!) The other was the poison gas slaughter in the subway conducted by a religious group. I was surprised to learn that the cult was constructing its own kingdom and the guru was trying to dominate the country, and that many people, including intelligent ones, followed him. To me he looks like just a selfish crazy man. After the guru and other leaders were arrested we seemed to regain peace and I hope there will be no more horrors.
Regardless of what happened in the society I had a good year. In July I conquered (!) Mt. Fuji, of course, the highest mountain in Japan. Since it was the best season for climbing mountains, the paths were jammed with people from the foot to the top. It was weird to see people keep going up even at midnight. I've never seen such a mountain. The weather was nice and the view from the top was wonderful, but I hated the crowd and the dust on the downhill path. As people say, It's a beautiful mountain to see, but not to climb.
In August I passed SDAF, the final exam of the beginning course in the German language school. With my ability I was more than lucky to pass. I was embarrassed being interviewed because I couldn't speak much and I knew I made grammatical mistakes every few seconds. I'm so happy now that I don't have to have such an awful interview again.
In October I took diving lessons. YES!! Diving with all the devices to survive in the water. To tell the truth, I'm a poor swimmer and I'm scared of the water, but this year a few friends of mine got diving certificates and persuaded me to get one too. It turned out that I have difficulty releasing water pressure in my right ear, but under the water I feel as if I'm in an exciting new world. When I first went under the sea, fish observed me taking lessons and I felt strange being watched by fish. In the sea I am the stranger, but it was fun. Now I have to practice a lot to enjoy it more, so these days I devote myself to swimming in the fitness center. (And it has brought about another effect: to take off my fat.)
We don't have a Christmas vacation in Japan, but I'm planning to take a day off and have a white Christmas with friends in a lodge in Aomori, an hour flight from Tokyo, on the northern part of the mainland. I like the lodge and the people there very much, and I can't wait to have the wonderful dinner they serve.
I wish you all a very merry Christmas!!
Love, Keiko Fujishiro
Former Japanese language assistant
After having spent a few years at UW-O as Dr. Earns' teaching assistant, Japanese instructor and a graduate student, I returned to Japan with my husband Erik Dieterle, who is also a UW-O graduate, and we spent two years in Kagawa Prefecture where Erik was assigned to work by the JET program. While we were in Kagawa I taught Japanese language to foreign students at a private language institute in Takamatsu City. The school was well known as a typical Japanese style school which means "strict and book smart." Two years ago, out of 20 of my students, 16 passed level 2 and 2 passed level 1 at the annual Japanese Proficiency Test with only 2 to 3 semesters of study! If you are familiar with the test, you know how amazing the student's accomplishment was! From the beginning of October, they spent at least 3 of 4 hours of class time at test preparation. With this "technique" my students could pass level 1 or 2, however, most of them could hardly hold daily conversations with Japanese people.
I also taught English conversation for 18 elementary school students in the late afternoon. Nowadays, English conversation seems like one of the most popular after school lessons for younger children. I found it difficult to reschedule a lesson if I canceled one because of the students' tight schedules. Piano, swimming, calligraphy, Kumon, and so on. They take 3 to 5 different lessons after school, however, the children manage to find some time to play with their friends after school or on weekends. (Lesson fees are about $40 to $60 a month for each subject! It is extremely expensive to raise an average child in Japan.)
Last September we moved to Minneapolis for Erik's graduate school. Since we moved into this big city I got a job as an interpreter for companies. And most recently, I was offered a teaching specialist position at the University of Minnesota. Wish me luck!!