SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English
YU Ning “The unpredictable journey that leads me to Japanese Language”
I was often asked about the reason why I started studying Japanese. Perhaps it was my destiny to enter the Department of Japanese language, even though it wasn’t my original intention. Or perhaps it might have originated from my mother’s love of YAMAGUCHI Momoe and MIURA Tomokazu.
I did not initially choose “Japanese language” when I was filling out my university application, because I had no intention to major in foreign language. But there was a question in application form that says, “Do you still intent to enter the University, even if the major you desire is unavailable to you?” and I answered yes. I was accepted to the university of my choice, Nanjing University. But unfortunately, I couldn’t get into the major that I wanted. I was instead made to change into Japanese Language major, which was still available for enrollment at that time. I thought about taking a year off, because this switch was quite unanticipated. But it was my mother who encouraged me to enroll in Japanese Language course. She even joked, “when you learned how to speak Japanese, you can take me to Japan, and even interpret for me when I meet Momoe and Tomokazu.”
My mother has been a big fan of Japanese movies since her young days in the 80s. During that time, a lot of Japanese movies were imported to China. A lot of Chinese, including my mother, became fascinated by the actors in these Japanese movies. As a result, I would hear about these movie stars’ names over and over again during my childhood. So even though I had no clear idea what I would do by studying Japanese language, at least, in my mind, it might be helpful someday when my mother gets to meet these movie stars.
Once I started to learn Japanese, I found myself enjoying language study more than I expected. The more I learned about Japan, the more I was drawn toward Japanese culture. I was grateful to have enrolled into Japanese language major despite not being my first choice. When I was a junior in university, I accepted the invitation from Japan-China Friendship Association to homestay for a week in Komoro City, Nagano Prefecture. It was my first visit to Japan. I stayed with a Japanese family, and got to participate in the local town festival too. It was a valuable experience for me to learn about Japanese culture in such intimate way. It made me realized the limitations of learning only from textbook, and as a result, I decided to continue my post-grad education in Japan.
Despite having decided to come to Japan, I had a hard time choosing which field of research I should advance. Some of my classmates majored in Japanese language because of their love for anime or Japanese idols, but I had a hard time searching for a field of study that I would be passionate about. At that time, Soushoku-Kei Danshi, or “Herbivorous men” in English, had become the hot topic in Japan and China. Someone in my class joked with me by calling me such term, and through this exchange, I got myself very interested in “Gender study”. Just as I had this realization, I coincidentally crossed path with a lecturer, who was presenting movie analysis from the gender viewpoint, at the annual intensive joint course held by Nanjing University and University of Tokyo. Instantly I made the decision to major in gender theory and film studies, and that lecturer would later become my current academic supervisor.
I finished my undergraduate thesis under the title “Herbivorous men” and was subsequently accepted to post-graduate program in Tokyo University, which I am still continuing currently. Every time I was asked about the reason why I came to Japan, I get a renewed understanding of how I get to where I am was the result of series of unpredictable occasion. These unplanned events changed my life course beyond my expectation. Even though these paths were not my initial choices, I believe I am heading the right way.
Amidst all the unpredictability, I am grateful to my mother for pushing me toward taking this path. Someday, I would like to bring her to Japan to enjoy the sceneries she once saw in movies. And if by a miraculous chance we get to meet YAMAGUCHI Momoe and MIURA Tomokazu, I would try my best to be the prefect interpreter for her, and convey her love and admiration to the couple as clear as possible.
YU Ning / 2020 Raccoon, Researcher of Gender Research Center at International Christian University