SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

  • Gloria Yu Yang “A Nomad’s Tale of Two Cities” (Series “Studying in Japan” No. 4)

     “What kind of people (and from where) ride on a Sunday train at 5AM?” I asked myself the question while sitting on a JR train bounding for Shinjuku and pretending to read a book. The book I held, “Kyoto-Ghirai (I Do Not Like Kyoto),” is historian Sho-ichi Inoue’s latest book, and it is peculiar. Books on the Kyoto culture generally sell a convenient-store set, made of “Maccha (powdered green tea)”, “Gion Matsuri (The Gion Ritual in Summer)”, Machiya (traditional townhouse)” and temples, featuring unchanging themes of “The Tale of Genji,” four seasons and the “heart of Japanese tradition.” Moreover, they also describe the vague term “ikezu (spiteful)” as unique to people and customs of Kyoto, exemplified in the restaurant’s rejection of customers without introductions, or the host’s notorious question, “Do you want to have some Bubu-zuke (a simple dish mixed rice with tea),” which was an indirect request for “Go Home.” Claiming to decipher the phenomenon related to “ikezu,” these books actually eulogize or mythologize the term as the emblem of the incomprehensive Kyoto. The book “Kyoto Ghirai, ” however, provides a different perspective. Examining his bitter personal experiences of encounters with the “ikezu” through a distant, analytic lens, Inoue reveals the social structure and essence of the “ikezu.” I admire his courage and enjoy his meticulous analysis of the popular image of Kyoto manipulated by the profit-driven mass media. “But isn’t he (Inoue) born in Saga, lives in Uji and works in Katsura?” Someone from Kyoto raised a small question with a light smile. For people who are familiar with the famous scenic spots of Kyoto, the Arasiyama (Saga) and the Katsura-Rikyu (Katsura Imperial Vila), the intention of the question was not clear. People who have lived in Kyoto, however, immediately recognized the alarming signal in the smirk: a war was waged towards people like Inoue, an outsider, who dared to explain the real Kyoto. Inoue begins with the history of the Saga region, explains the cultural connotations of the “Raku-chu”(inside of Kyoto) and “Raku-gai” (outside of Kyoto) and articulates the sense of superiority of people who live in the center and their discriminations against people who live in the outskirts. To briefly summarize, the question is all about, “You know nothing about Kyoto if you are not from Kyoto.” I lived in Kyoto for two years. I visited Japan several times before and spent a year in Yokohama, which made me thought I was used to life in Japan. To my surprise, I had a cultural shock in Kyoto—the food, language, expression, human relationship and custom—everything was completely different. This is not Japan—I told myself—a whole new world. No, maybe it is actually the traditional Japan lost in textbooks. To me, the tranquil lattice windows of traditional “machiya” houses suggested a labyrinth, where the scary “ikezu” Minotaur was waiting at the end of the dark, narrow hallway. The gap between ostensible “omote-nashi” (hospitality) and “ikezu” is not unique in Kyoto. It is a common phenomenon in tourist cities around the world, where sightseeing spots, products of tourist commercialism, present a different reality with the everyday space, where local social relationships take place. The double structure between the surface and exists in everything. For example, the invention of the “nogoya” structure, which inserts a layer of “hanegi” beams underneath roof beams to share the weight of the roof, enables medieval Japanese temples to build large roofs with slender materials. Invisible from the exterior, one can detect the existence of “hanegi” beams from the traces of nailed joints. Similarly, now matter how complicated and puzzling the surface looks, there is always a passage connecting it with the underneath structure. It is the training and pleasure for a researcher to find the “Toori-niwa (a small garden passage connecting the front and back of a “machiya” town house). As a passionate researcher, I dedicated myself to deciphering the social and cultural codes of Kyoto by reading previous studies (literature on “Ikezu” and authors from the Kyoto University), conducting oral interviews (rival gossips from paparazzi neighbors) and observing “Ikezu” behaviors in the streets. In the end, I still do not know everything about Kyoto, but have learned a lot about historical methodologies from Kyoto. For example, individual grocery stores and small restaurants outnumber convenient stores and chain restaurants in the residential neighborhoods of Kyoto. Rather than pursuing profits, these small businesses aim to sustain for a lifetime. For decades, regulars at the restaurant chat with the owner while enjoying their coffee and foods. In this way, they establish a special bound by spending time together. Kyoto is a town where people respect individuality and give priority to personal relationship over the popular trend. The historical perspective, which situates one’s thinking within the temporal and spatial context is a common mentality of everyday life in Kyoto. The studies of the ancient capital have made me enjoy the life in Kyoto. The historical way of thinking, modest life style, not-trendy fashion, delicious and reasonable food, the “Kamo” river, the summer evening festival at “Simogamo-jinja” shrine, “Kami-kamo-jinja” shrine, “Kifune” shine in the rain, Purple Mountain and Bright Water (an expression for place of outstanding natural beauty), practice of tea ceremony in the morning and a misty morning on the “Demachi-yanagi” bridge. The moment when I finally felt Kyoto as home, understood the old proverb, “the place you get used to is the capital,” and gained knowledge of survival skills in the ancient capital, I had to leave the capital and moved eastward. Like Inoue’s explanations of Saga reveal, Kyoto people are strongly attached to their homeland. Maybe because buildings are close to the ground, or maybe because there are so many families of hundred years, people seem to be locked within their neighborhoods by the invisible “genius-loci.” As a result, the autonomous association of each neighborhood forms a strong sense of local community, meanwhile, projects a strong rejection towards the outsiders. The rivalry is not only between Kyoto and Tokyo, or between rakuchu and rakugai (center and outskirt of Kyoto). Even within Kyoto, the Nishijin people battle with the Nakagyo people for the “authentic” center of Kyoto. Against the backdrop of strong sense of community, people find their local foods the most delicious, local friends the kindest and their homeland the most livable. They try to guard such living styles for generations. In this way, the locale has become the framework for personalities of the residents—people are categorized by where they come from. Outsiders, who do not belong to any locale, are not accepted because they do not fit in any framwork—just like the floating weeds. This is also why Kyoto people always begin a conversation with the question, “where (which neighborhood) do you live?” followed by the second question, “where did you come from?” These questions are not random chatting topics, but are the touchstones of one’s geo-cultural framework. That was the reason why I left Kyoto, because I do not feel strong attachments to my hometown. Since my child hood, my family have been moving around in the northern and southern China. After I went to Beijing for my undergraduate studies, I continued my graduate studies in the United States, where I began studying the Japanese language, and then I came to Japan for research. During the past ten years of studying abroad, the international environment, the society and culture of China have changed dramatically. As a result, like a person not able to ride the escalator of progression, rather than nostalgia, I feel futuristic whenever I return home. People also consider me as a “Showa” outsider who belongs to the outdated generation.   Ten years of studying abroad have engraved my Chinese identity with fragments of languages, cuisine recipes and landscapes from various countries and cultures. I have been, am and perhaps will be “on the road” for a lifetime while being an “outsider” and a “local” in every place. This ostensibly free life style also bears solitary shadows. Having experienced a variety of societies and cultures, Kyoto has made me realize, for the first time, my identity as a “nomad,” who has no hometown but also enjoys everywhere as a hometown. Although I deeply miss the food and nature in Kyoto, I know it is time to move on. I do not fit in a place where people are categorized into stereotypes based on their geographical backgrounds.     Inoue applies a sociological approach to understand the internal structure of the culture in Kyoto. Not satisfied with the backstage stories or personal experiences, he explores the underlying social and historical reasons that shaped the stereotype of the ancient capital, including the national educational systems and regional differences. His conclusion points out a new possibility that an outsider can see Kyoto more clearly than a native, which is inspiring. In any society, there are various frameworks/stereotypes generated by regions, occupations, genders and races. Studies of societies can either conduct in-depth research in the vertical direction of a single framework, or analyze, in the horizontal direction, the interrelations among various frameworks. A diverse society relies on the coexistence of multiple frameworks and the tolerance towards the nomads who crosses boundaries of current frameworks. In the time of globalization, we see an increasing number of nomads, and we might even be able to define a framework for the nomad in the near future. On a JR train heading to Shinjuku at 5AM on Sunday, I saw a girl with none makeup just off from work at a hostess club, sleepy high-school students holding training bags of club sports, drunken businessmen who missed the last train, and colorfully dressed mountain hikers. What an amazing crowd. No one cares about other people’s opinions. Indifference in Tokyo also bears a sense of liberation and tolerance. It does not matter whether it is beautiful or not: the incomprehensible is fun. I can live in Tokyo with a Kansai accent and keep my Kyoto peculiarities. I am grateful to the support from Atsumi Foundation, whose events and activities contribute greatly to the coexistence of various cultures, establish a transnational community of international nomads, and broaden my perspective. They have made Tokyo my new hometown. Honmani Argiatoo! SGRA Kawaraban 503 in Japanese (original)  ( Ph.D. Candidate at Columbia University in Japanese Architecture and Art, Research student at Ito Takeshi Research Lab, Department of Architecture in University of Tokyo)   Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Mac Maquito
  • Moon Kyungnam “At my Completion of Doctorate Course” (Series “Studying in Japan” No. 3)

    I will complete my doctorate course (Greek Philosophy) at the University of Tokyo this coming March, 2016. I have been there for a long time. Though it is now full spring outside, contrasting with such spring scenery, I, who will start a new life at the age of over thirty years old, have a chilly feeling that ”it was a too long journey for me” or “now I am caught in academia” - not exciting thoughts.  It took me ten years to get this doctorate from the university. I think these “ten years” were not “too long”, when I consider that I had been in military service for two years and stayed in the United States for study. Moreover, I could enjoy my school life much more than several friends of same generation did, because I have fortunate and very grateful to a few foundations that helped me from my entrance into my university to finishing my doctorate course. Despite my tendency to be lazy, I am still clinging to my study which is very close to the one which I wanted to tackle seriously for the first time. As I am vaguely aware of my harsh life hereafter, I cannot remove such a chilling feeling. It will be a given condition for a newcomer to “university business” where I find myself in the world of global competition and decrease in the number of children. There would be only a handful of people whose existential value could be guaranteed by keeping their high standard in the field of their researches and studies – it will be a great effort just to keep up with the needed high standard. There are so many discourses and opinions about the present situation of “university business” examining closely and showing solutions. Actually, most of such opinions are worth listening intently and I try to read them as much as I can. But, I am afraid to say, I cannot still fix my way of looking at such themes. I do not have any confidence that I can classify and rearrange (as a scholar) and put such opinions in order. Nevertheless, this does not mean that I think lightly of the subject. I have to admit such situations, all the same, that we have serious problems which are similar to those of the former generations. I don’t say present universities are suffering historically extraordinary misfortune. If so, is it self-deception? When I try to step forward getting out of such feeling (self-deception), it is always my vague and impatient thinking that I like to sort out present problems immediately.It may be fruitless that I am just standing paralyzed without trying to solve the problem like I feel uneasy about my uneasiness without any reason. I know this, but I cannot step forward. I am aware of what I do not grasp “my actual feeling” that I deny my words immediately after my saying which were uttered forcibly. It will be plainly unproductive to stick to what I cannot explain. But, now I go out into the world finishing my work (a thesis for a doctoral degree), which is very far from getting “actual feeling” by myself.  I dare to like to stick to what exists outside of textbooks or what cannot become subject of discussions which are full of semiotics. It will be something of value to show a route of theory beautifully or to have discussion to defeat opponents. My writings hereafter would be so.  I like to arouse myself about the importance that I always bring any existence into my view which is going around diagrams of “problems and solutions”. It is my nature to have superficial discussions all the time and I am in a circumstance to be encouraged strongly to do so. Needless to say, what I wrote here will not be suggestive for the future of university nor Asia. There is no fresh assertion. If there will be a special meaning, when a certain person utters common words at this instant and at a certain place, such a sketchy murmuring makes me properly involved in the society where I live. It will be my work hereafter that will prove meaningful or not. (Written in March 2016) SGRA Kawaraban 502 in Japanese (original) (Assistant Professor / the University of Tokyo) Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Mac Maquito
  • Grib Dina “Studying Abroad in Japan, as my Choice” (Series “Studying in Japan” No. 2)

    Seven years ago my friend asked me “Oh my God! You, being old enough, will study in Japan for two years? What for?” I remember this conversation well even now. I did not understand why she asked such a question to me. I thought it was quite natural for me to wish studying in Japan after majoring in Japanese language and culture. Frankly speaking, at that time I have been denouncing people, who are not interested in studying abroad for being narrow-minded. But, I realize now that it would be myself who should be narrow-minded. It took me a long time to realize it. And studying abroad was the experience that helped me to realize. When I was in my master course, I attended an English class for foreign students. In this class, we had a discussion whether we should study the Japanese language or not. When I heard the theme of this discussion, I thought it would be meaningless because, as all of us were already studying at the Japanese university, and for sure we needed to study the Japanese language. And, contrary to my anticipation, foreign students eager to study Japanese language were in the minority. The majority of students claimed that learning Japanese language was a waste of time, as they managed to live in Japan and enjoy it without speaking Japanese. It was a real shock for me. It turned out, that it is not always necessary to study Japanese for living in Japan. That people can even live happily without learning foreign languages and without studying abroad. It even seemed to be more general and upright way of life. At that moment I began to feel doubtful about my choices, about devoting all my energies to learning the Japanese language, about coming to study in Japan. Actually most of my foreign friends who are studying here in Japan feel uneasy for their future and seem somehow to be hesitating. And so do I. I came here intending to spend two years in Tokyo, but seven years have already passed. Still I have not finished my studying yet. And still I am not sure if I can give other people a convincing reason or excuse for spending so much time studying abroad. The generally acknowledged advantages of studying abroad are improvement of linguistic abilities, experiencing different cultures and making new friends. I think most people would agree as well, that studying abroad makes a person more independent, helps to broaden one’s view and tolerance level by contacting with different culture. However, I have to admit, that short-term studying abroad as well can clear these points. So what were my reasons for long-term studying abroad? Originally, I just wanted to deepen my knowledge about Japanese history and polish my ability of the Japanese language. And may be, I was looking for a chance to bring some diversity to my life, to change my “ordinary life”, as well. Though I have been enjoying my life in Russia before I came to Japan, it is also true that I had a mannerism. So I just escaped from it, and I was lucky enough to forget about the “ordinary life” for several years. While studying as a research student, and even after starting my master course, I traveled around Japan as much as possible, meeting new people, enjoying festivals, visiting museums, joining every study tour or cultural exchange available. Searching for new experience I climbed Mt. Fuji, visited Noh and Kabuki performances, watched cherry blossoms, experienced wearing maiko dress in Kyoto and samurai armor in Shimane, and so on and so forth.   But my priorities have gradually changed. My research became a matter of primary importance for me. Now I feel like being just “a doctoral course student” rather than “a foreign student”. Studying in Japan has become my “ordinary life”. It is not a constant amusement any more, but it has filled with new sense for me. Instead of sightseeing or travelling I keep to a library of my university for long hours. And if I go travelling now, it means mostly attending academic conferences or study camps. People might think I am spending dull time. But, I enjoy it. I sometimes think how I would have been if I have kept staying in Russia not going abroad for studying. I might spend a calm life, not worrying about my future. But, I would have lost my chance to meet with a lot of people and to get new experience and knowledge. And moreover I wouldn’t have found the joy of making my own research, the joy of struggling to become a researcher. After all, I cannot say for others whether people should study abroad or not. At least my experience helped me to overcome my narrow-mindedness and realize, that it depends, and there is no answer, that fits everybody. In my case, even if I could return to the time seven years ago, I would have made my choice to come to Japan without hesitation. Even if others don’t understand and approve my choice to have studied in Japan, I am sure that including my anxiety and worries, it was the best choice for me. SGRA Kawaraban 498 in Japanese (original)  (Graduate School of Tokyo Metropolitan University) Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Mac Maquito
  • The Third Asia Future Conference (AFC#3) Report

    The Third Asia Future Conference (AFC#3) was held from Friday, September 30th to Sunday, October 2nd in Kitakyushu, with 397 registered participants from 20 countries. The City of Kitakyushu developed as an industrial city with a strong base in the steel industry. Because of this, by the 1960s the city started to experience severe water and air pollution. Since then, however, due to the efforts of its citizens the environment of the city has greatly improved. In 2011, it became the first model city in Asia for urban green growth under the OECD’s Green City Program. Inspired by Kitakyushu’s story of coexistence between mankind and the natural environment, the overall theme was chosen to be “Environment and Coexistence” including broad range of issues based on the theme of coexistence in various social and cultural environments. Under this theme we had a keynote speech and symposium, forums and roundtable discussions, as well as a large number of research paper presentations, promoting international and interdisciplinary discussions. The night before the conference, at 7:00 PM on Thursday, September 29, the 10th SGRA China Forum “Toward the East Asian Cultural History Without Borders” was held at the Kitakyushu International Conference Center. SGRA has been hosting China forums once a year in Beijing and other cities in China, but this time it was hosted as a pre-conference of AFC#3. In this forum, the points of discussion and achievements from the last two forums in Beijing were introduced and reviewed, and with the new contributions, the theme of wider cultural history was further developed. On Friday, September 30th, from 9:00AM to 12:30PM, four parallel forums and roundtable discussions were hosted in the Kitakyushu International Conference Center. All of the four session rooms were full. (Simultaneous translation between Japanese and Chinese) n  Roundtable Discussion “Dialogue of National Histories; Japan, China and Korea” (Grant: Tokyo Club)We all agree that we have to overcome our history in order to realize historical reconciliation, rebuild mutual trust among people, and to stabilize cooperative relationship in East Asia. The first step should be to “establish a dialogue” among the three national histories of China, Japan and Korea. Intellectual exchange among the respective “national historians” will lead to a “Shared History of Asia”. This roundtable discussion was the first of a series of 5 forums of the same theme aiming at establishing a “Dialogue among National Histories” among researchers from Japan, Korea and China. (Simultaneous translation between Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans) n  Roundtable Discussion “Religious Responses to Changing Social Environments in Southeast Asia” (Grant: Japan Foundation Asia Center)This roundtable discussion took into consideration the present situation wherein religion tends to be viewed as the cause of conflict and clash in recent years, despite its genuine aim of achieving the happiness of humankind and society. Based on Southeast Asian country case studies, which reveal the unique religious and social relations that form a mosaic of ethnicity and religion, invited researchers from this region, together with foreign and Japanese researchers active in Japan, actively discussed universal themes such as the relation of society with religion, as well as social changes and the role of religion. (Language: English) n  Roundtable Discussion “Humans and Robots: Towards a Society of Coexistence” (Grant: Kajima Foundation)In this roundtable discussion, after the introduction of the present situation of development of robots in Japan, Korea, Russia, Europe and China, the problems for the development of robots, which aim at coexistence with human beings, was discussed. The discussion about the society in the near future where human beings and robots can coexist was further elaborated by the comments of young scholars in the fields of philosophy and art. (Language: English) n  AGRI(?) Economic Forum “Population Problems and Solutions in Asia" (Host: Asia Growth Research Institute)Currently, many Asian countries are facing a variety of population problems including declining fertility, aging population, declining population, migration, urbanization of the population, the entry of foreign workers, and gender differences. For these problems, it is critical for each country to conduct comprehensive analysis and introduce solutions urgently. In this forum, four specialists from the Asian Growth Research Institute took up various population problems facing Asia and discussed these problems, their impact on the economy and society, solutions to these problems, and lessons for other Asian countries. (Language: English) After the lunch break, from 3:00PM, the Opening Ceremony commenced with a welcome speech by Dr. Michiaki Kondo, President of the University of Kitakyushu, followed by the proclamation of the opening of the conference by Mr. Yasushi Akashi, Conference Chairman. The keynote speech was given by Yoshikazu Tanaka, Chief Engineer of MIRAI, Toyota Motor Corporation on the theme “Development of the Fuel Cell Vehicle, MIRAI and the Challenges towards Hydrogen Society”. The Commemorative Symposium of the 70th Anniversary of Foundation of the University of Kitakyushu “Sustainable Development and Asian Civil Society -Toward the Hydrogen Energy Society-” started right after the Keynote Speech, in which researcher, NPO director, and entrepreneur reported their own activities. (Simultaneous translation between Japanese and English) Program of Forums, Keynote Speech and Symposium are available from the following link:http://www.aisf.or.jp/AFC/2016/conference-program/ At the end of the ceremony, after the speech of Vice Mayor of Kitakyushu City, Mr. Teruhito Matsumoto, the Sake Barrel Breaking Ceremony was held to celebrate the 70th Anniversary, using the sake produced in a collaboration between the University and local producer. When the participants went out from the Hall after the ceremony, 300 participants were offered this sake in the courtyard, where miraculously the rain stopped. After the participants, mainly from Asia, enjoyed casual food served at portable stalls (yatai), there was a local drum performance, followed by this conference’s highlight event, projection mapping, which showed the 1500-year history of Kitakyushu in 3 minutes on the big wall of Conference Center. On Saturday, October 1, all the participants went to the Kitagata Campus of the University of Kitakyushu, where 225 papers were presented in 58 panel sessions, including 8 arranged group sessions. As the Asia Future Conference aspires towards an international and interdisciplinary approach, each session was arranged by the topics such as “Peace”, “Happiness”, and “Innovation”, which the presenters selected during the submission process. As such, each session did not necessarily consist of specialists in a specific academic field. Although different from academic conference in specific fields, this approach helped foster many rich and diverse discussions. 109 people in total including invited guest speakers kindly agreed to act as the chairperson of the panel sessions. Poster presentations were displayed next to the coffee break corner. Piano performance and tea ceremony were conducted by the students and volunteers of the University of Kitakyushu. The Best Presentation was chosen by two chairpersons in each of the 50 sessions (excluding arranged group sessions). The list of Best Presentations can be found at the following link:http://www.aisf.or.jp/AFC/2016/files/2015/04/best-presentation.pdf Two Best Posters were selected by the AFC Academic Committee from the 10 posters that were displayed in the Conference.  The list of the best posters can be found at the following link:http://www.aisf.or.jp/AFC/2016/files/2015/04/best-poster.pdf In addition, the Academic Committee chose the Best Papers before the conference. and the awards were presented during the Farewell Party on the last day of the conference. 46 judges reviewed 115 full papers, which were uploaded to the AFC Online System by February 28, 2016 (with abstracts submitted by August 31, 2015). The papers were divided into 13 groups, and 4 reviewers read each group. Reviewers were asked to evaluate based on the following 5 criteria: (1) Is the theme of this paper in accordance with the AFC Theme "Environment and Coexistence"? (2) Is this paper perspicuous and persuasive? (3) Is this paper original and innovative? (4) Does this paper hold international aspects in some points? (5) Does this paper have an interdisciplinary approach? Each reviewer recommended two papers out of nine or ten in each group. After compilation, 20 papers were selected as the Best Papers. The list of the best posters can be found at the following link:http://www.aisf.or.jp/AFC/2016/files/2016/06/AFC3-BEST-PAPERS.pdf At 7:00PM at the Station Hotel Kokura, the farewell party started with the brief conference report by myself as the Organizing Committee Chair, followed by toast by the Vice-president of the University of Kitakyushu, Dr. Saeko Urushibara. Before dinner is over, AFC Academic Committee Chair, Dr. Hitoshi Hirakawa, Professor of Kokushikan University, gave a selection report and then the Award Presentation Ceremony was held. 20 authors of Best Papers came on the stage and the Conference Chair, Mr. Yasushi Akashi, handed a Certificate of Best Paper to a representative. Then 2 Best Poster authors and 50 Best Presentations awardees were commended. On Sunday, October 2nd, participants took part in organized study tours and excursions, which included a Study Tour to Minamata, going to Akiyoshidai Cave and old town Hagi, sightseeing in the City of Kitakyushu, Kitakyushu Environmental Study Tour, and a hot spring experience. The Third Asia Future Conference “Environment and Coexistence” was hosted by the Atsumi International Foundation Sekiguchi Global Research Association (SGRA), co-hosted by The University of Kitakyushu and City of Kitakyushu, supported by Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, received grants from The Japan Foundation Asia Center, The Tokyo Club, The Kajima Foundation, collaborated with Kyushu Economic Federation and Asian Growth Research Institute, and sponsored by Aso Cement Co., Ltd., Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd., Daiichi Koutsu Sangyo Co., Ltd., Honjo International Scholarship Foundation, JR Kyushu Railway Company, Kajima Corporation, Kajima Oversea Asia PTE Ltd., Kajima Road Co., Ltd., KOKUYO Co. Ltd, Kyudenko Corporation, Kyushu Electric Power Co., Ltd., Mera Group Corporation, Moji Koun Kaisha Ltd, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, PT Senayan Trikarya Sempana, TENO Corporation, TOTO Ltd, West Japan Industry, Trade Convention Association, The Yamaguchi Bank, Ltd., Yaskawa Electric Corporation, Zenrin Col, Ltd., The Organizing Committee and Academic Committee for this conference were organized by former Atsumi scholars (known as “Raccoons”), and together with the SGRA Steering Committee members, they voluntarily took part in almost all aspects of the holding of the conference, from planning the forums, maintaining the home-pages, selecting the best awards, to taking charge of the reception. A separate Organization Committee was established in the University of Kitakyushu with more than 120 professors, staff members and student volunteers. We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to the more than 400 participants, as well as to those who supported the holding of the conference and all of the volunteers who provided assistance in many ways and helped lead to the success of the Third Asia Future Conference. The Asia Future Conference is interdisciplinary at its core and encourages diverse approaches to global issues that are both mindful of the advancement of science, technology and business and also take into consideration issues of the environment, politics, education, the arts and culture. This conference is organized with likeminded institutions, in order to provide a venue for the exchange of knowledge, information, ideas, and culture, not only by SGRA members, but also by former foreign students of Japan from various educational institutions throughout the world, by their own students and collaborators, and by anyone interested in Japan.  The Asia Future Conference started in 2013 and was originally planned to be hosted five times within a span of ten years. After hosting AFC successfully for three times, the Atsumi International Foundation has decided to continue even after 2020. The Fourth Asia Future Conference will be held in Seoul, Korea, from August 24th to 28th, 2018. AFC#3 highlightshttp://www.aisf.or.jp/sgra/active/photo-gallery/2016/7596/ AFC#3 photos shown in the farewell party (movie)https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAk_M934JmM&feature=youtu.be AFC#4 flyerhttp://www.aisf.or.jp/AFC/2016/files/2016/10/AFC4_Chirashi_light.pdf We would like to ask for your continued support, cooperation and, most of all, your participation.  Junko Imanishi,SGRA Chief Representative  
  • Viktor Virág “Professor, do I have to go back to my country?”

    Japanese universities must fundamentally rid themselves of the premise that international students go back to their countries. Already thirteen years have passed since I first came to Japan. I have spent most of this period at institutions of higher education. Yet, I still feel uneasy about the kind of education that takes it for granted that international students go home after graduation. After majoring in sociology, a discipline that is supposed to be open-minded and sensitive about various biases, I have chosen the field of social work and social policy where a tolerant attitude is a must. In spite of this, I have been directly asked numerous times the questions ‘What will you do when you go home?’ or ‘How will you make use of what you have learnt in Japan in your home country?’. In addition, I cannot even count the occasions when I have heard the same questions targeted at international students around me. Going home after graduation and contributing to one’s country of origin are sometimes even included in the requirements for scholarships in Japan. If for long years on a daily basis you face insensitive manners that not even assume any choice other than going home, naturally you cannot help but think of the psyche behind it. First, I feel that a sort of exclusionism or for lack of a better term, xenophobia is deeply rooted, that is why people tend to think negatively about the diversification of Japanese society by the settlement of international students after graduation. Let us compare this with the 2020 Olympics and recent buzzwords. While people are ready to do their best to ‘pamper’ only temporary ‘guests’, principally they tend to treat them as the ‘other’. There are many people who cannot step beyond this frame of othering. So the person always remains ‘the one outside the wa (輪, circle)’. ‘The one outside the wa (輪, circle)’ is not Japanese and he or she disturbs the harmony, hence of course seen as ‘the one outside the wa (和, harmony or Japaneseness)’. Literally, the person becomes a gaijin (外人, outsider). In other words, he or she does not get the chance to stand in an equal position on a level ground. What is more, amidst the narrative that necessarily associates cultural diversity with higher crime rates, there is an extreme tendency to speak of such gaijins (外人, oursiders) as if they were gaijins (害人, harmful individuals). However, I believe unconscious influences on the trend to prefer international students going home are more serious. In short, a considerable proportion of people have a sense of superiority without any purposeful ill feeling. Namely, one can find the implication in the background suggesting that ‘Lucky enough, you were given the chance to study in advanced Japan, so make use of it and work for your backward home country!’. It seems that such thinking about international students considering them coming to Japan as a form of overseas aid or international contribution in the form of knowledge and technology transfer is especially strong towards students originating from non-western countries. Still, it is not only the theory of Japanese uniqueness turning into racism or nationalism combined with supremacist features, not even something as simple as ethnocentrism resulting in a one-dimensional view of the world. Rather, it reminds us to the arrogance and paternalism that developed nations show towards developing ones while drawing on some colonialist lineage too. Students from countries of the Asia-Pacific may just recall the ideology of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Obviously, there are many who consider ‘international study ending in going home’ without thinking about it deeply. But we must not forget that such lack of imagination or rather ignorance is also unconsciously influenced by the above mentioned ideologies. Deep-rooted ways of thinking appear to lurk behind attitudes that make the premise for international students to go back to their countries after graduation. Further on, it is also true that insensitive approaches and attitudes easily shift into actions such as prejudiced treatment. For instance, the aforementioned clause in scholarship applications is a manifestation of the most outspoken institutionalized discrimination. Also, we might as well look at examples in academic advice. In the author’s experience, academic advisors who encourage studying one’s country of origin even though they are in Japan are unfortunately not rare in the field of social sciences. The environment for such studies is of course not ideal in Japan and the meaning of international study itself becomes ambiguous. Moreover, in case of students from East Asia, research on the Japanese colonial or occupation period tends to be preferable. Let us assume that Chinese or Korean students go home just as many in their surroundings want them to. It may depend on the arrangement of arguments or the final emphasis, but it is certain that there will be serious difficulties that have to be faced with the evaluation of a final thesis about the Japanese rule era in one’s country of origin. The possibility and the risk remain that one cannot even feel safe to explicitly write on a resume about the research undertaken while studying in Japan. I may read too much into and think too much about a simple exchange of words. Yet an environment where international students in Japan have to day-by-day stand a storm of questions based on the premise of going home cannot be worthy of university education in a globalizing age. In any case, the message that ‘international students are OK, but they are not really welcome as people who work or settle here’ is clearly being sent out even if it is unintentional. In addition to the ethical perspective, what we have to think of here is the loss for Japan. Due to the common problem of low birthrates and aging faced by developed countries, the struggle for a global workforce has already started on the international labor market. In the future, competition between countries will only get more and more tense. In Japan, a country that unwillingly leads the global tendency of low birthrates combined with population aging, the issue of securing human resources is an urgent imperative in many different areas. Establishing an atmosphere on campuses that recognizes domestic employment and settlement in Japan in a more positive way is necessary for becoming a country that can attract workforce and ‘people’ ultimately. Furthermore, building a country where anyone can reside safely and a society where anyone can live in comfort is one of the absolute conditions for Japan to become more multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. Henceforth, the internationalization of universities while keeping in mind a more open position about careers after graduation is a very meaningful initiative with considerable expectations and responsibilities. (Part-time Lecturer at Sophia University & School of Social Welfare, Hosei University, Showa Women's University, and Tokyo Metropolitan University. Research Fellow, Social Work Research Insitute, Japan College of Social Work. Secretary for International Affairs, Japanese Association of Schools of Social Work. Assistant to the Regional President, International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) Asia-Pacific.) SGRA Kawaraban 486 in Japanese (original)
  • Sangryul JEON `The Fifth SGRA Fukushima Study Tour Report “Iitate, Challenge for Return” ´

    SGRA (Sekiguchi Global Research Association) have fulfilled a study tour on Iitate Village every year since the autumn, 2012. Iitate-Village in Fukushima Pref. is a disaster- stricken area of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster. This year, SGRA carried out the Fukushima Study Tour, with the theme “Iitate, Challenge for their Return”, from May 13(Fri.) to 15(Sun.) It was the fifth SGRA Fukushima Study Tour. The number of participants of the tour this time was ten;Raccoon members, foreign students, professors of universities,and members of societies and they came from several countries such as America, Italy, Canada, Korea, Sweden and Japan. Only SGRA can do this type of tour. On the first day, May 13, we left Tokyo at 9:24am by Tohoku-Shin-kansen “Yamabiko-113”.for Fukushima. Firstly, we visited the “Fukushima Renewal Energy Building” and got an explanation that this building is run by several companies or organizations exchanging and cooperating with each other. These organizations are “Resurrection of Fukushima - Fukushima Saiseino Kai” which receives us every year, “Iitate Electric Power”, “Aizu Electric Power” and “Iitate Madai-Life Association” (*”Madai” is regional dialect which means “slowly” or “leisurely”). We left this building and visited “The First Matsukawa Temporary Housings” in Fukushima City and were told by Chairman, Ichiro Kihata about “a life in temporary house” and “uneasiness for their return”. Then, we took lunch at ramen shop in the premises. (Kohaku-Ramen, it was so nice!) After lunch, we visited the Iino-Branch Office of Iitate Village Office which was the last visiting site of the day. We were told by Deputy Village Headman, Mr. Nobuichi Monma about their scheduled return (to Iitate Village). After visiting the other places in Iitate Village, we arrived at “Ryozen Center” which is the activity base of “Fukushima Saiseino Kai” and deepened our friendships, enjoying home-cooked food prepared and brought by the tour participants from various countries. On the second day, we visited the house of Mr. Muneo Kanno, who is the deputy chairman of “Fukushima Saiseino Kai” and worked setting up “electric fence”. In the afternoon, we inspected the village together with people from NPO “Platinum- Guild”.We visited the house of Mr. Keiichi Kanno first in Hiso and were informed about details after the disaster and the present conditions. We were also enlightened about the decontamination work of “Igune” (regional dialect meaning “windbreak woods surrounding houses”) and the program for pilot houses (huts). Forests in Iitate are excluded from the object of decontamination works. In such situations, this is a test for the works on how the forests or the woods are contaminated and how it becomes possible to decontaminate. Listening to his words, we had a feeling how the situation is complicated and difficult to solve We also made a study tour to the gate of Nagadoro, a restricted area and special vehicles for radioactivity measuring. In the evening, we had “a big gathering (about 60 persons)”, at a dining room of the Ryozan Center, who came from the village and Higashi -Tamano-area. Without formal compliments, we talked with each other friendly and freely. We were able to establish a new circle of friends. It was a wonderful night.  In the morning of the third day, we visited Mr. Kinichi Okubo’s house in Komiya area. After getting explanation about decontamination of fields from Prof. Suguru Mizoguchi, Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Science, Faculty of Agriculture, The University of Tokyo, we did paddling works for decontamination of the test field in Komiya area by ourselves. After paddling by a tractor, we drained water by brushes. We repeated such works. They have been experimenting everyday honestly, based on scientific theory and by using new idea and their experience, as to what extent decontamination of field is possible. After such works, we returned to Kanno-san’s house and listened to his remarks, while taking “onigiri (rice ball)” lunch and each members of the tour exchanged their impression about this study tour . Radiation value, which was most concerned for us, was 0.1-0.3 micro Siebel (μSv) at Ryozan-Center where we lived and did works, Kanno-san’s house and field, and test field at Komiya. When we left Iitate on the last day, my own measuring equipment showed 10-13(μSv). The study tour this time was a tour of “looking, knowing and thinking”. As Mr. Kanno said, “I remember what I saw and experienced at the disaster-stricken area, and think what I can do and try to let the people, as much as possible, know the present Fukushima (people’s interests are gradually fading)”. If I have a chance to visit Iitate again, I hope the present feeling of “uneasiness and fear for their return” would change to “hope and smile”. Photos of Fukushima Study Tour 2016  (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo)   Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Mac Maquito SGRA  News  [2016.06.23] in Japanese (original)
  • Lamsal Bikash “The First Health Camp in Japan for Nepal People”

    In any situation, there is an important thing as long as we live.  It is a healthy body. Without a healthy body, we cannot do anything well or we lose our motivation.  Especially in recent years, there are quite a few people who cannot take care their own health, being engrossed in their works. Health will be the most important thing especially for foreigners living in a country, not their home country. In case of disorder in their health, these foreigners find it difficult to get medical help; unlike in their  home country where they can easily go to a hospital any time and get the needed medical care, . In Japan there are many problems if foreigners would go to a hospital, without knowing the Japanese language. There are about 3700 Nepalese students, technical trainees and self-employed persons in Tochigi and Gunma Prefectures. There are many of these people who cannot go to hospitals since they have no national health insurance cards. The Nepalese people suffered big damages from the earthquake in Nepal on April 25, 2015.  After the earthquake, there was an activity in Japan to help Nepal and its people In the City of Ashikaga, Mr. Yoshimi Watanabe and Chief Priest Genda of a Buddhist temple, called out to enterprises in Asikaga City; 15 companies agreed to support this activity. I went to many places and consulted with many people as I wanted to initiate a project to have a “health camp” for health check-up of Nepalese in the city. The project is to be supported by Mr. Watanabe and Priest Genda.  Thanks to them, I got people who helped and supported me to establish the “Ashikaga – Nepal International Association”. On April 30 and May 1, 2016, we were able to put up a “health camp” where Nepalese could get free health check-up and enjoyed meeting at the campus of Ashikaga Institute of Technology where I am enrolled The health camp started on April 29.  At 6:00AM, I left Ashikaga for Tokyo to fetch six Nepali doctors who were joining the health camp. After getting lunch at Ashikaga station with  the doctors, I went to the campsite and put up the signboards. At 6:00 in the evening, I went to the Asikaga Kenkou (heath) Land to welcome the doctors. At the welcome party, 17 people from the enterprises which supported us, three from the Ashikaga Institute of Technology, three from the Nepal International Association, 10 doctors, 3 volunteers and one reporter, altogether 36 members met together to organize and manage the event. After welcome party, doctors and some volunteers stayed at the “Health Land”.  On April 30, I arrived at the camp early in the morning as the event was to start at 9:00 AM. After preparing and installing the signboards and guideboards, we had a morning gathering with the doctors and volunteers. We set up two information desks, one for interview and another for registration of patients. After connecting a PC to a network, we prepared data for doctors who could easily access basic data of patients’ private information. The Nepalese doctors said “we are very glad to examine patients using the  Nepalese language in Japan”. Patients also said “we were examined in Nepalese language after a long time” and “we thought we were at home in Nepal”. On this day, 82 patients were examined during 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM . On the next day, the event went as smoothly as the first day: 68 patients were examined. At first we forecasted that the number of patients on the second day would exceed the first day.  But, I was pleased that everybody was satisfied with our work. There was one Nepalese patient who was not understood in a Japanese hospital due to a difference between American English and King’s English. She sadly narrated: “I was not understood though I spoke properly. ’Piles’ in King’s English is ’hemorrhoid’ in American English. In Japan, American English is main stream and ’Piles” cannot be understood. In India, Pakistan and Nepal, which had been English colonies, they use “piles” even now.  She thought she would be understood in Japanese hospitals, but she was not. There was one case which we could not solve in the health check-up time. It was a consultation from a young lady. She went to the obstetrics and gynecology hospital in Japan to remove “Norplant” which was inserted in Nepal, as she wanted to get pregnant, But she was refused service because Japanese hospitals do not deal with “Norplant”. “Norplant” are simple and slender tools which are inserted under the skin. Removing it will require a small surgical operation.  We stopped the medical check-ups at four o’clock as the Charge d’Affaires of Nepal would come to the place at 4:30. We fixed up the place in a hurry. A thanksgiving feast started after the arrival of the Charge d’Affaires, Gahendra Rajbhandari. Forty seven  persons, including Charge d’Affaires, Gahendra Rajbhandari, Mr. Yoshimi Watanabe, Chairman of the Ashikaga – Nepal International Association, and Priest Genda, Vice-Chairman of the Association participated in the thanksgiving. Hon. Gahendra Rajbhandari said “I realized, on the occasion of the Nepal-Japan Friendship 60th anniversary, how strong is the friendly relation between Nepal and Japan.  And we could have this event as we have such friendship”. Hon. Gahendra Rajbhandari presented the Certificate of Appreciation to Ashikaga Institute of Technology and the Ashikaga – Nepal International Association. Mr. Watanabe and Priest Genda, Chairman and the Vice-Chairman, respectively, of the Association presented the Letter of Thanks, covered by the Nepalese “DakaTopii” (Nepalese yellow and sacred cloth- Kada), to Dr. Hidemaro Tochigi, the Director of Tochigi Obstetrics and Gynecology, and to the volunteers.  Lastly, the event ended with light meals. Many patients told us “thank you very much for such a nice event!” or “I hope there would be such an event twice a year.” Volunteers also expressed their thanks saying ”I appreciate to have joined this event”. It seems this event was very impressive for all of us. (Ph.D. candidate, Ashikaga Institute of Technology)  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Mac Maquito SGRA Kawaraban in Japanese 494 (Original )
  • Kim Woonghee The 15th Japan-Korea Asia Future Forum “International Development Between Japan and Korea, Hereafter”

    The 15th Japan-Korea Asia Future Forum was held at the Tokyo International Forum on February 13 (Sat.) 2016, (the second consecutive year in Tokyo) under the theme “International cooperation hereafter for development of Japan and Korea:Group for Co-evolution in Architecture”. We have an awareness of the issues how Japan, as a front runner in the field of ODA (Official Development Assistance) and Korea which has some experience in the field of development, contribute to sustainable development in East Asia and its regional cooperation. We can deeply consider about the concept of international politics and economy of ODA in which the institutions and interest of Japan and Korea are mingled.  Following the opening address by Professor Li Jingyu, the chairman of the board of director of the Center for Future Human Resource Studies, keynote speeches by both Japan and Korea were made. This time, we introduced new attempt, proposed by Professor Fukagawa, that researchers of Japan and Korea report alternately. Firstly, Professor Song Hyokusan of Kyung Hee Unversity、introduced Korean viewpoints on Japanese ODA. He discussed the similarities and differences between of ODA by Japan and Korea through his systematic summing up of the results of analysis and points by Korea researchers who reported in the papers about the ODA by Japan. He argued mainly on the objective and motive of the Japanese ODA, background of establishment of the new JICA which is an executing organization, details and changes of scale and projects of ODA and participation of citizens. Especially he insisted that Japan is a textbook for Korea in the field of ODA, and the “Japan Model” should not be criticized.  Professor Yukiko Hukagawa, Waseda University, Institute for Research in Contemporary Political and Economic Affairs, urged that Japan, as a smart donor, should lead economic development and poverty reduction in the international societies. And it is an important key, in the stream of economic aid, to cooperate with Korea which is closely sharing the experience in the development of industries in East Asia. She said that it is the same in Korea. Under such awareness of the issues, she introduced how such experience is reflected in the Korean ODA and discussed the example, Saemaul Undong as a Movement and KSP as a Knowledge Sharing Program. She explained how the inclination of sharing experience relates with the preparation for an ODA system in Korea. As a conclusion, as Japan has similar experiences with Korea in industrialization both countries complement each other in advantage and weakness, this relationship it will be a big advantage for Japan, which is aiming to be a smart donor, to cooperate with the Korean ODA. She emphasized that it is essential for Japan to fully understand the details of the economic development of Korea and the characteristics of Korea as an ODA grant country. At the same time, it is essential for Korea to have a conversation for it to fully understand the benefit of segregation and cooperation strategically.  After the coffee break, Professor Hitoshi Hirakawa made short speech titled “Looking Back over ODA in Japan” as a basis for discussion. He said that self-recognition of the “Japanese ODA model, as a successful experience” became stronger because Asia made economic development in the 21stcentury. And, he added that it will be necessary for us to shift to a well-balanced “theory for aid” through re-evaluation of practices of the people who have actually been involved in traditional aid activities.  Dr. Ferdinand Maquito, lecturer at the Temple University, Japan, reported briefly from the viewpoint of “partner countries” (recipient countries). According to him, ODA from Japan and the West are a little different. One of the reasons for such difference comes from the different of experiences of development of the donor countries themselves. As in the case of the ODA by Japan, he pointed out of uniqueness of development financing which was made domestically in Japan. This is a shared-growth type of ODA with a distinctive feature of Japan’s experience for development.. He explained, through an example in the Philippines, meaning or question in applying to policies for ODA for economic development model.   After such speeches, Professor Tetsushi Sonobe from the National Graduate Institute for Policy, Mr. Kouki Hirota, JICA Chief Economist and Emeritus Professor, Chang Hyonsik, Seoul University, postgraduate school for public policy(former Director for Planning and Strategy、KOICA)had a lively discussion. The discussion went further, not only just the comparison of difference of the ODA of Japan and Korea, they also talked about the possibilities of building up a new ODA as a “Model of East Asia” evolving and cooperating together based on their standpoints and specialties. It was a wonderful discussion of their own dreams.  I think, as I mentioned at the forum last year that, in order to make the “Japan-Korea Asia Future Forum” more fruitful hereafter, on the subject “an issue between Japan and Korea in the post-developing period and cooperation in East Asia”, we have to deeply investigate a more concrete subject, and not limit to general discussion. We will take up ODA issue for three more years from now, and we like to proceed more carefully at the next forum, watching for a presence of China in the field of international development. I like to express my deep appreciation for Ms. Junko Imanishi, Director of SGRA , Mr. Li Jingyu and all the staff members of SGRA for their support to this 15th Forum.  Please access the following for the photos of this forum. http://www.aisf.or.jp/sgra/active/photo-gallery/2016/8295   (Professor/Inha University, Korea)   Translated by Kazuo Kawamura English checked by Max Maquito   SGRA News(17th March,2016) in Japanese (Original)
  • Xie Zhihai “Japanese Market Hereafter Depends on India ?”

    Rapid progress of technologies and internet has made the world “borderless”. However, international issues became more complicated though it seems to be a contradiction to borderless. For scholars or analysts of economics, it is very difficult to forecast the economy or the international situation of the year 2016. Present anxieties for the world economy are decline in oil prices, slow down of the Chinese economy, opaque future of the economy in EU and difficulties in the growth of US enterprises.Furthermore, the Bank of Japan announced “Negative Interest Rate” first in the end of January.  After the announcement, the Nikkei Stock Average fluctuated violently and has kept on declining. According to the Nikkei (newspaper) which I gave a once-over,  an analyst of the stock market says “in order to turn the Nikkei Stock Average to an upward trend, it is necessary to have a new theme like acceleration of progress of the economy of India”.I pay attention to India, not ASEAN. India is now attracting world attention not only in its economy but also in various phenomena. As I live in Japan, I cannot get information about India as expected, although the Japanese people like Indian-curry.  India, a faraway country, is now becoming familiar to Japanese.Masayoshi Son, president of Soft Bank, chose an Indian, not a Japanese, as his successor.This news, together with the huge amount of his officer’s compensation, made the headline all over the world. At the same time, we came to know that Mr. Son invested huge amounts of money on enterprises in India.  Since Indian Prime Minister Naredra Modi’s visit to Japan in 2014, the Japanese people have now become interested about India. Does the economic growth of India have a power to push up the Nikkei Stock Average? The more we know about the country and people of India, the more we realize that Japan and India stand in the exact opposite positions: Japan is ahead as an aging society, but low in birth-rate.On the other hand, the population under 25 years old in India is about 50% and its population density is high. They do not control their population like China. Population in India is increasing. We are overwhelmed by such energetic image. We notice now that India is producing many excellent business executives to the world. We can see a lot of Indian CEO names in the world’s big enterprises. The Nikkei Business (magazine), issue of September 28, 2015 featured under the title “Indian CEO control the world” and analyzed three points as the reasons for “why Indian CEO?” ―Large number of men of talent who have IT skills, for example, which can be used in the world. ―Way of thinking or management styles which are set forth for assumption of diversity ―Patience, creativities and response capabilities all of which have been developed by its severe circumstances.It comes as no surprise that these three points affect the Japanese economy. These three points may be insufficient in the Japanese people. For this reason, Mr. Son did not choose a Japanese CEO as his successor. I am not saying India is stronger than Japan. There are a lot of troubles in India like the deep-rooted caste systems, confrontation among religions as India has various religions or a male-dominant society.  I think they can live in the global world only after they crawl their way up from such a complicated society. Both in China, my home country and in Japan, where I am living now, people are still interested in India these days. (Full-time Lecturer of Maebashi Kyoai Gakuen University)  Translate by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Mac Maquito SGRA Kawaraban 484 in Japanese(original ) 
  • Wang Huijun “Assisting Foreign Students in Japan to Learn Japanese Language”

    I realize that it has been already ten years since I came to Japan in March, 2007 to pursue a master’s degree course at the graduate school of Waseda University.In the summer of 2005, I came to Japan first as a trainee under an internship program and spent the summer holidays of the 3rd-year in the University in Tokyo. It was my first time of living abroad and I felt freshness and excitement during those two months. I used Japanese language which I have learned since I was freshman in the university and it was the time when I became conscious of the pleasure of speaking Japanese with a lot of people, home-stay family, staff members of the training institute, and friends with whom I got acquainted in Japan. When I thought of my job after graduation, I realized, from my stay in Japan, that it would be good if many foreign students who have learned the Japanese language can enjoy speaking and understanding Japanese like me. Furthermore, I hope to work in a job which supports foreign students who have learned the Japanese language. And, finally I decided in my study to major in Japanese language education in the graduate school of a Japanese university. After proceeding to the graduate school, I have been intent on my research. In April, 2015, I worked as an assistant of Japanese language education research in the university which had a class in Japanese language mainly for foreign students.I studied for 8 years since 2005 as foreign student, and now I am working as  an assistant for educational activities supporting foreign students who study Japanese language.  Actually I do not have any class for Japanese language, but I can help foreign students from a closer standpoint so that they can take better opportunities for learning Japanese language.  As I chose a way which I learn Japanese language enjoying communication by Japanese language, I can say that this job is just my heart’s desire. I never dreamt of getting such job in Japan when I first came to Japan. One year has already passed since I got the job as an assistant. Sometimes I remember my first individual consultation meeting for a Japanese language curriculum, which was very impressive. When I arrived at the meeting place on that day I found that just before the meeting, everything was prepared and made ready. Teachers who actually had classes and volunteers who could communicate in English, Chinese and Korean were already seated.  Foreign students began to arrive on the starting time outside the place.  But, it seemed some of them were too nervous to enter the place and were just watching and hesitating to enter into the hall.I called out to students who were hanging about outside the hall and guided them inside.  Some of them gave me worried glances.  The glance of a student, who could not speak Japanese seemed to me like a voice which he cried for “help!”  I tried to listen to his concern or problem as carefully as I could, so that his worry could be eased. When I assisted in such guidance sessions, I noticed one thing. All students were supposed to come here for consultation about their curriculum of the Japanese language study, but actually some students did not understand what they should be consulting with us.  When I guided Chinese students to the teachers or volunteers, I was told: “I will come again after I decide what I should ask”.  Frankly speaking, I was surprised a little at the comment, though I clearly understand their nervousness, based from my own experience as a foreign student. The individual consultation meeting was established to assist foreign students to solve any problem which they may have. But we came to realize that it was not easy for foreign students to come to such meeting. We understood that they hesitate to come because they cannot understand Japanese language well. But, it seems that the language problem is not the only concern. They are not familiar with getting consultation or assistance from people with whom they are not acquainted in a big hall and they have never experienced consulting with others. I was impressed with their seriousness that they were thinking carefully about their question before they left their chair for our consulting table. And, at the same time, I had a feeling which I, as a foreign student, did not experience before.  When I came to Japan, I had no trouble in speaking Japanese because I had learned Japanese language in university.  I had a feeling now, also, especially during this one year when I was working as an assistant, that there are many foreign students who cannot speak Japanese well. Moreover, I realized that now is the time for diversification. When they left home country, these students had varied purposes, backgrounds and experiences,  and their level of knowledge of the Japanese language were also different. When we assist various foreign students who are learning Japanese language, I think   there may be a lot of things which I could not imagine if I follow my experience. Of course, we can solve some of their concerns based on my experience. However, we cannot solve their worries or trouble like an equation because their backgrounds or purposes are different. We have to listen to what they are saying first how much they have learned by then, what are they aiming at and what kind of worry or hesitation they have now.  In March, we will receive new students and our activities for such foreign students will be developed again. Though I have little experience, I like to do my best keeping my posture of scrupulously listening to what each foreign student is saying. (Japanese Language Research Assistance at Graduate School, Waseda University)  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Mac Maquito SGRA Kawaraban 483 in Japanese(Original)
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