Inspired to Go to Japan by Japanese Idols

Category : Japanese in Japan

 

Rassawan KONDEJADISAK

“I like Japanese idols,” says Rassawan KONDEJADISAK, describing the interest that brought her over from Thailand to Japan. “I especially like Johnny’s ‘Hey! Say! JUMP’ When I was watching their concerts on TV programs and DVDs, I felt I wanted to study Japanese because I wanted to understand what they were saying.”

Rassawan came to Japan in 2011 and without delay entered Yokohama Design College. Although the school specializes in design, they also have a Japanese language course aimed at foreign students. Rassawan, who had not studied Japanese before, started with the basic reading and writing of “a, i, u, e, o.”

“I did not understand any Japanese,” says Rassawan. “I could not read books nor magazines and I could not understand what they were talking about on TV. At first I was quite worried because I could not even manage basic conversation. But by continuing with my studies, I gradually became able to understand Japanese and that made things surprisingly enjoyable.”

“Now I can read books that I could not! I can understand conversation that could not! Before I knew it, the uneasiness in my heart changed to joy. I wanted to study more and more every day and I wanted to know more about things I was ignorant of.”

“Although three years have passed since I started to live in Japan, there are still many things I cannot understand about the Japanese sensibility. Why do I have to do this? Why don’t I have to do that? Sometimes it is a mystery to me. There are some similarities to the Thai way of thinking, but other things are totally different.”

“I felt uneasy when I became a fully paid up member of Japanese society. But I don’t want to limit myself to just Japan and Thailand, I want to understand the feelings of people in other countries, too.” Rassawan is now doing PR work at Relation Japan., Inc., promoting Japan to Thailand. The company produces advertisements for Japan in various media, including travel magazines and TV, it also operates booths at travel fairs. Rassawan is in charge of design and of communication with Thailand.

“Japan is a country that places importance on public order. It is quite different from Thailand, which has an easy-going attitude. But I am really happy because the people of both countries are kind hearted.” On her days off, she often goes to Shibuya, Harajuku, and Omotesando. “I enjoy going to stylish cafes. I like reading books in such places. And, of course, in the concert season I go to concerts!”

[From Decemberber Issue 2014]


Coming to Japan on a Working Holiday Visa

Category : Japanese Language

 

Ada TSO

“I came to Japan on a working holiday scheme and I’m enjoying working and traveling,” says English language teacher Ada TSO. “I’d recommend working holidays to people who’ve just graduated from college and to those who want to start a completely new life. I myself quit a job to come to Japan because I wanted to live and work here while I was still young.”

Ada was born in Hong Kong and grew up in New Zealand. “Every day I communicated in Cantonese and Mandarin with my family and Chinese immigrant neighbors, while speaking English at school,” she recalls. “When I was a child, my older brother often watched Japanese cartoons translated into Cantonese and I enjoyed ‘Doraemon’ and other programs with him. That’s how I came to be interested in Japanese anime and manga. I love ‘One Piece,’” she says with a smile.

Ada took Japanese language courses in high school and university. While still in university, she came to Japan on an exchange program and studied at Sophia University for half a year. “It was a marvelous experience,” she says nostalgically. “So many Japanese students wanted to be friends with foreigners. We traveled a lot together. Some of them came all the way to New Zealand to visit after I returned home.”

After graduating from university, Ada worked for a radio station in Auckland. “I worked as a news reporter and also as a moderator in public debates before elections.” She left that job after two years and returned to Japan for a year.

“It’s a pity that because I teach English, I don’t have much opportunity to speak Japanese,” she says with a wry smile. She doesn’t attend a Japanese language school. “That’s why, when I get the chance to speak Japanese, I try practice my conversation as much as possible. On my days off, I memorize grammar and words with study-aid books. Unlike my student days, I now work full-time and it’s hard to maintain my motivation for studying. To spur myself on, I’ve made a goal of passing the N2 grade (of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test) before the end of this stay in Japan.”

Ada sometimes works as a narrator in English and Cantonese. Most companies, however, don’t want to hire foreigners with a working holiday visa. “That’s why the majority of people here on a working visa have no choice but to become English teachers,” Ada says regretfully. “People who want to improve their career prospects, would do better to obtain a working visa by finding a Japanese employer before entering Japan,” she says.

“Prices are high in Japan, but there are ways to save money. I found this site called tokyocheapo.com and discovered there were cheap shops like 100-yen shops and Matsuya,” says Ada. She now lives in a shared house to save on her rent. “The lower cost isn’t the only benefit of a shared house. You also get to know people from different countries, so you can make friends to go sightseeing with around Japan.”

Ada visits cafes in her free time. “For me, the ideal confectionary does not only taste good, but looks good and also smells good. I’m researching exceptional confectionary by taking photographs. After returning to New Zealand, I want to work and save money in order to have a cafe of my own one day. I think the experience of tasting sweets and green tea in Japan will be useful then,” she says.

Text: SAZAKI Ryo

[From Novemberber Issue 2014]


Interested in Differences of Temperament Between People of Different Regions

Category : Japanese in Japan

 

Eleonora FLISI

Eleonora FLISI came to Japan from Italy a year ago. She’s been working for the past half a year as a PR representative for a company that manages Italian restaurants and a catering service. Seventy percent of their clientele are Japanese, so she mostly uses Japanese at work. On hearing her speak she sounds as fluent as a native Japanese person, but, she says, smiling awkwardly, “I’m not good at writing. Handwriting is particularly difficult.”

Eleonora started studying the Japanese language at university. An economics major at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, she chose Japanese for her primary foreign language as the university was well-known for its Chinese, Korean and Japanese programs. “I also studied Chinese, but I chose Japanese because its pronunciation is closer to Italian.”

During her studies, she twice made use of an exchange program to study abroad at Meiji University. She was surprised at the differences between colleges in Italy and Japan. “Colleges in Italy have neither sport events, nor school festivals. I didn’t have any seminar activities, either.” In those days, she lived in a dormitory and spoke Japanese with her non-Japanese roommate. Even now, she spends some of her days off with friends from those days.

“I wanted to live abroad while I was still young. I thought Tokyo was safe and easy to live in.” She came back to Japan upon graduating and started life in Tokyo. Even though she had learned enough Japanese in her mother country and had studied twice in Japan, she studied at the Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute for the first six months. “I hardly used any Japanese in my last year in college because I had been concentrating on my graduation thesis. I had forgotten my kanji.”

She says she finds grammar particularly difficult. When she doesn’t understand something, even after consulting a grammar book, she asks her Japanese friends. “It’s easier to understand because they teach me with example sentences that apply to particular situations.” She has a friend who’s knowledgeable about Italian matters. “She knows what Italians have difficulty understanding, so she fine-tunes her explanations for us.” Her Japanese has improved with help from such friends.

That said she’s worried she won’t improve her Japanese further. “Starting from zero you make speedy progress. This slows down, however, once you’ve reached a certain level. That’s the stage I’m at right now.” She says she hopes other people studying Japanese in a similar fashion won’t give up.

Eleonora is interested in food. She likes sashimi and ramen, and often makes yakisoba the way her friend taught her. She of course looks forward to eating delicious food when she travels around Japan. But she has another goal for these trips. “I want to discover differences between Tokyo and the rest of Japan,” she says. This is because she’s under the impression that people’s temperament differs between Tokyo and other regions.

“I’ve recently been to Osaka. I was taken aback when someone said to me, ‘Where are you from?’ Tokyoites seldom come up to talk to me. Osaka’s citizens are like talkative Italians.” She and her Italian friends compare the lively character of Osaka people to those from Naples and the cool atmosphere in Tokyo to Milan.

Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute

Text: ICHIMURA Masayo

[From October Issue 2014]


I Love my Job Which Allows Me to Talk a Lot

Category : Japanese in Japan

 

Rukshona ESHPULATOVA

“When I can explain in beautiful and courteous Japanese, customers are pleased and say, ‘I’ll buy another one,’ or ‘Please help me next time, too.’ That makes me glad and gives me a sense of purpose; the more customers I’m put in charge of, the more my salary increases,” says Rukshona ESHPULATOVA. Rukhshona came to Japan in April 2013, and joined Somo Japan Inc. this January. She is in the car exporting business.

Rukhshona is from Uzbekistan, a country in Central Asia. When she was a child, she encountered Japanese tourists and became interested in Japan. Then she learned the Japanese language from Japanese teachers at the Samarkand College of Tourism. “There are a lot of tourist attractions in Samarkand. I took the teachers there and guided them in Japanese,” Rukhshona says, reflecting back.

However, she later enrolled at the Samarkand State Institute of Foreign Languages, which in those days did not have a Japanese studies department. Rukhshona studied in the English department and became a tour guide after graduating. “Because my major was English, I could not obtain the necessary qualification to become a Japanese-speaking guide. Before long I had forgotten Japanese,” she says regretfully.

Rukhshona thought of going to Japan to study the language once again. Her older brother who lived in the United States helped her out financially. “I watched online videos of the classes provided at the various language schools in Japan. Out of them, I thought that the Academy of Language Arts in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, was a good fit for me. Most importantly, the teachers are friendly and cheerful. In addition, they let the students speak a lot while incorporating information useful in everyday life. I thought that their teaching methods were good,” says Rukhshona.

Because prices in Japan are high, she had to start working part time as soon as she arrived. On weekdays, she would go to school from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm and then work afterwards at a restaurant until 11:00 pm. “Because I also worked on Saturdays and Sundays, I was very busy and it was tough. So I used to review the expressions that I learned during class at work the same day. In order to learn the words I did not know, I asked ‘kore wa nan desuka’ (what is this?) to my fellow part-timers,” Rukhshona laughs.

Rukhshona was brought up in an environment where Tajik, Uzbek, and Russian were used. “Because I studied Japanese and English after I grew up, I use Uzbek as a reference when I speak Japanese since the word order is similar. English is close to Russian, so I use Russian as reference when speaking in English,” says Rukhshona. “Also, when I used to do guide tours in English, I learned to check if I was speaking well by observing the reactions of the person I was addressing, as well as ways to control my uneasiness when speaking in a foreign language. This experience has now come in handy with my Japanese study.”

Currently, Rukhshona uses Japanese, English, and Russian for work. “I often explain things in Russian to customers as I read Japanese documents. English words written in katakana like ‘support’ and ‘inner panel’ were very difficult. However, as with difficult kanji, if I use it for work, I can remember it. Also, since I like talking, I love this job because I can talk to customers. I am very happy because I have a job that I love doing,” she smiles.

Text: SAZAKI Ryo

[From September Issue 2014]


Working Visa Obtained on Eighth Visit to Japan

Category : Japanese in Japan

 

Sonia SOMOZA

“Since 2005, I went through a cycle each year of coming to Japan to live for a while, and when I ran out of money, returning to my country to work, then I’d save some money, I would quit my job and return to Japan,” smiles Sonia SOMOZA from Spain. “I came to Japan for the eighth time two and a half years ago. Because I found work and obtained a working visa, it has been my longest stay yet,” she says with glee.

Sonia has liked robots since she was a child. “I was attracted to the Japanese robot ASIMO and the manga ‘Dr. Slump Arale-chan,’ which had robots in it. It triggered my interest in Japan and this led me to begin reading websites written by Spanish people who lived in Japan, and to watching Japanese TV dramas and movies. Movies by the director KITANO Takeshi, TV drama ‘Stand Up!’ and the actor WATANABE Ken, made a big impression on me” she reflects.

When Sonia was a university student, she also went to a language school to study Japanese. “Japanese is rumored to be a difficult language, so I thought that if I could use it, this would enhance my skills,” says Sonia. “But I didn’t get along with the teachers in the language school and this made me dislike Japanese so much that I stopped studying it,” she smiles wryly. After that, she learned Japanese from a Japanese person residing in Spain.

When Sonia visited Japan for the first time, she was surprised at the difference in customs. “If you give up your seat for someone on the train, rather than saying ‘arigato’ in gratitude, they apologize, saying ‘sumimasen.’ The food was totally different from Spanish food, too. I wondered about this difference and thought, ‘I want to know more about Japan.’”

After 2010, she worked part-time in Japan and attended a Japanese language school. “I went to Kai Japanese Language School and studied grammar, reading and writing, kanji, and conversation for four hours each day. As my skills improved, I was able to select my own classes. Since I had trouble reading, I took classes in which we read novels; works like MINATO Kanae’s ‘Kokuhaku.’” Thanks to this, she also passed Level Two (second highest level) of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.

The high cost of living in Japan was a problem. “When I stayed in Japan for three months while attending Japanese school, it cost at least 5,000 to 6,000 euros. I economized by doing things like buying cheap from wholesale supermarkets.” During her stay in 2011, the East Japan Great Earthquake hit. “I went back to my own country once to reassure my parents, but I came back again the following year and have continued to stay here ever since,” she laughs. Her parents, who were worried then, now look forward to the Japanese snacks, nibbles, and radio controlled toys that Sonia buys and sends to them.

Using her English, Spanish, and Japanese, Sonia currently works at a real estate agency called Asiavox Plaza Housing. “Many non-Japanese customers often say that they do not want to pay key money (money paid as a gift to landlords). When this happens, I accompany them to the property so that they can understand that those places requiring key money are more comfortable than those that don’t.” She enjoys shopping on her days off. “I buy unique clothes and accessories in Harajuku, and search for stationery at Tokyu Hands. Because my younger sister is into erasable ball-point pens, I often buy some to send to her,” she says.

Text: SAZAKI Ryo

[From August Issue 2014]


Gaining Maturity through Japanese Study

Category : Japanese in Japan

 

TRAN Minh Hoang

In the fall of 2013, at the “13th IM Japan Writing Contest” – a contest organized by the International Manpower Development Organization, Japan (a.k.a. IM Japan) – “The Color of My Life,” an essay by Vietnamese national TRAN Minh Hoang, won first prize. Many people were touched by Hoang’s ability to write beautiful Japanese and by his idea of expressing his feelings about life up until that time in colors.

Through a Technical Internship Program that was set up by the Japanese government, IM Japan accepts numerous highly skilled interns sent by the governments of Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. Taking advantage of this scheme, Hoang came to Japan in June 2011 with 12 colleagues. He’s now receiving technical training at MHI Ship & Ocean Engineering Co., Ltd. (a.k.a. MSK) in Nagasaki City, Nagasaki Prefecture.

Located at the Nagasaki shipyard of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd., MSK engineers and manufactures tankers, container ships, cruise ships, and more. Trainees like Hoang learn manufacturing skills like welding.

Hoang says, “The Japanese language is difficult, especially honorific expressions.” MSK encourages trainees like him to study by providing them with two Japanese lessons a week and advising them to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.

By responding to the company’s expectations that he take an interest in Japanese and throw himself into his studies, Hoang has been seriously applying himself, sparing no effort. He has thus far managed to pass the notoriously difficult N2 grade (second highest qualification) Japanese Language Proficiency Test.

Before reaching that level, he drew strength from the encouragement of older colleagues. They not only guide trainees at work, but also take an interest in their health and daily lives. Hoang says of his group leader KANAZAWA Akira and manager UEDA Yosuke, “They are like real family.” At times they seriously reprimand him, telling him that “Alcohol and smoking are bad for you.”

Hoang will soon finish his three years of training and return home to Vietnam. “I’ll be glad to see my family back home, but I’ll be sad to say goodbye to the folks at MSK,” he says. After returning home, he wants to build on the language and professional skills he acquired in Japan and work towards building ties between Japan and Vietnam. His dream is to someday return to Japan and open a Vietnamese restaurant in Nagasaki.

In “The Colors of my Life,” Hoang writes, “From now on, I don’t know what colors my life will be painted in, nor do I have any idea of what kind of painting it will be in the end, but I’m learning to enjoy my growing maturity through the study of the Japanese language. Why don’t you try learning a foreign language yourself? You’ll certainly encounter a new you.”

Text: KOMIYAMA Ranko

[From July Issue 2014]


Once Indifferent, Now Fond of Japan

Category : Japanese in Japan

 

Dongi USENG LAFI

“To tell you the truth, I used to have no interest whatsoever in Japan,” says Dongi USENG LAFI from Taiwan with a wry smile. “Many people in Taiwan love Japan and sightseeing trips to Japan are very popular. But I never participated in any. Having an interest in Europe, I studied German in college.”

However, Dongi came to Japan in October 2012 when her boyfriend was transferred there for work. “I didn’t speak a word of Japanese and on top of that my parents were very concerned because it was after the Great East Japan Earthquake. However, I’d made up my mind to go along with my boyfriend.” Since coming to Japan, Dongi has taken quite a liking to the country. “Everywhere you go in Japan the streets are clean. Trains operate on time. The people are all polite and well dressed. Waste is properly recycled. I think we Taiwanese should learn from this side of the Japanese.”

She’s been won over by Japan’s culture and nature. “I’ve always been fond of flowers, so I’m practicing ikebana (flower arrangement) and kokedama (moss ball making). While pursuing those activities, I’ve come to acquire a powerful sense of the beauty of flowers. When I saw cherry flowers in full bloom for the first time in the spring of 2013, I was moved to tears.”

Dongi has also come to like Japanese cuisine. “My boyfriend hated nattou at first. But he liked yuzu chili paste, so I put it in nattou for him. Then he just fell in love with nattou,” she says. “On special occasions, we look forward to eating Kobe beef. We also often go to a chanko-nabe restaurant near our place.”

She also finds some things problematic. “I was shocked by the high prices in Japan. They are about three times as high as in Taiwan,” says Dongi. “The house we live in now is close to a station and convenient. It gets a lot of sunshine and it’s a good house, but I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard how much the rent cost. In winter, electricity for heating is quite costly.”

Dongi started studying the Japanese language as soon as she came to Japan. “Thinking that if I was going to live in Japan, it would make sense to study Japanese, I enrolled at the Evergreen Language School (Meguro Ward, Tokyo). School fees are about 700,000 yen a year. I study Japanese for three and a half hours in the morning and work part-time in the afternoon. At night, I study Japanese until late at home. The good thing about Evergreen is that there are never any more than eight people per class. Right now there are five people in my class and we are able to talk a lot.”

Dongi enrolled in April 2013 and passed the N2 (second highest level) of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test in July. “Next time, I want to take the Japanese Business Proficiency Test,” she says, explaining her goal. “Even though I’m pretty busy with work and Japanese studies, I’m enjoying life in Japan. Japan has lots of shops selling well-known brands second hand. I’m glad I can buy good quality items cheaply. My Taiwanese friends ask me, ‘Have you become rich overnight?’” she laughs.

Evergreen Language School

Text: SAZAKI Ryo

[From June Issue 2014]


Taking Up the Challenge Precisely Because It’s Difficult

Category : Japanese in Japan

 

Casey NOVOTNY

“I wanted to challenge myself with something big,” says Casey NOVOTNY from Canada. “When it was time to decide my future during my third year of junior high school, I was interested in Japanese culture, history and animation. So I did some research about Japan in a library and learned that the Japanese language has kanji, hiragana and katakana. Having three types of characters, I thought that Japanese must be difficult. For this reason, I wanted to take up the challenge.”

Casey chose and went on to a senior high school that had a sister school in Japan. He then took Japanese classes for an hour every day. During the first five months of his third year, he studied abroad at this sister school: Meitoku Gijuku High School in Kochi Prefecture. “I’d been longing to do kendo and was able to do it as an extracurricular activity,” Casey recalls.

He also had difficulties, too, however. His life at the dormitory was completely scheduled from morning onwards, so finding time for both his studies and extracurricular activities wasn’t easy. Furthermore, he was embarrassed of sharing a bath with classmates. He was refused when he asked “Is it okay to wear swimming trunks?”

He got homesick, too. “In those moments, I would show my roommate pictures of my family and tell him a lot about Canada. I only had a smattering of Japanese, so he listened to me carefully, asking me to repeat what I had said and wrote down what I was saying on paper. I talked a lot and as a result, my Japanese improved. My homesickness was gone and my roommate became like a brother to me.”

After returning home, Casey had an overwhelming urge to go to Japan again. So he matriculated at the University of Manitoba; a university that had an exchange program. In his sophomore year, he came to study abroad at Kokugakuin University for a year. “I was startled by the crowds in Shibuya. And yet, I was happy at the same time thinking, ‘This is Japan.’ Even busy intersections and riding on crowded trains made a big impression on me,” says Casey, laughing.

Around the time he graduated from college, Casey passed level one (the highest level) of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. He then applied for the JET Program (Japan Exchange and Teaching Program) and returned to Japan. As someone well-versed in Japanese affairs, he became a CIR (Coordinator for International Relations) in charge of counseling ALT (Assistant Language Teachers). One day, an ALT got in touch with him to complain, “Even if I have nothing to do, I can’t leave work before the official end of the working day.”

“I suggest you first act as your Japanese colleagues do. When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” Casey advised. “If you don’t agree with my advice, I suggest you propose some positive way to improve things. If the situation doesn’t improve despite this, you should consider how to make the best of your time here.”

Casey is currently doing work with study abroad programs at Asia University in Tokyo. “By contacting colleges in North America on behalf of Japanese students, I feel that I’m working towards bridging the gap between Japan and North America,” he says. “With Japanese, kanji and their stroke order are difficult, but nowadays you can type them on a PC if you know how they are pronounced. You should use a lot of keigo (honorific language), in order to commit it to memory while you are still a student,” he advises.

Asia University

Text: SAZAKI Ryo

[From May Issue 2014]


Japan is Safe and Has Many Kind-hearted People

Category : Japanese in Japan

 

Meghan SAHARA

Meghan SAHARA from Pittsburgh, United States, teaches English conversation to junior and senior high school students at Musashino Joshi-Gakuin High School in Tokyo. She decided to come to Japan on the advice of a friend who had lived in the country. Meghan says she was already interested in Japan because she was fond of films by directors OZU Yasujiro and KUROSAWA Akira.

“I’ve been here nearly five years. It’s very easy to live in Japan and I like it. It’s safe and there are many kind-hearted people here. I like Japanese food. I can eat nattou (fermented soybeans), too,” laughs Meghan. She studied the Japanese language in college for about a year and says, “Japanese is a beautiful sounding language.”

Meghan studies Japanese at Iidabashi Japanese Language School at Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. Honorific expressions and kanji make her feel that Japanese is difficult. “Kanji is hard, but fun. I use a smartphone app called ‘Anki’ in order to study it. The app works in the same way as flash cards and it’s handy that I can share vocabulary lists with friends over the Internet.”

Meghan got married to a Japanese man and moved to Tokyo in the summer of 2013. Before that, she lived in Hiroshima City, Hiroshima Prefecture, where she taught English at a senior high school. When she met up with her friends over the summer to go to a festival, she met the man who is now her husband. On her days off she spends her time going out for meals or to the movies with her husband.

One of the tourist attractions she wants to visit in Japan is Tokyo Disneyland. Even when she lived in the US, her native country, Meghan had never been to Disneyland. When she said this to her students, they were very surprised. “They suggest I go soon,” she laughs.

When she started working in Japan as an English teacher, she was surprised at the strict timekeeping and politeness of students at Japanese schools. She was most surprised by ‘clean-up time’ (when students clean their classroom at the end of the day); something that doesn’t exist in American schools. Meghan says, however, that cleaning one’s school is a good thing. “I think it’s a practice that makes you proud of your school.”

In her classes she tells a lot of jokes and plays games to create a relaxing mood. “The practice of picking on students one after the other to speak out aloud makes them nervous. Because it’s so unfamiliar to them, it’s quite understandable that they are embarrassed of speaking English in front of classmates. So I first let them practice in small groups.”

Meghan says that it’s great fun to teach English conversation to students. “Once they understand they can speak freely, without thinking about entrance exams like in other classes, they begin to express their ideas with great flair. It’s rewarding to see the pleasure my students get from understanding what they’re saying in English.”

Iidabashi Japanese Language School
(Coto Language Academy)

Text: TSUCHIYA Emi

[From March Issue 2014]


Improving Japanese through Conversation with Host Family

Category : Japanese in Japan

 

Ariadna ROVIRA TENAS

“Learning languages isn’t difficult at all for me. Stuff like math and calculation feel very hard, though,” laughs Ariadna ROVIRA TENAS. Ariadna is Spanish. She speaks Spanish, Catalan, German, French, English and Italian. In college, she studied language interpretation, translation and Japanese. “I passed yon kyuu (the fourth level) of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test two years ago. I want to try san kyuu (the next level up) next time.”

In her teens, Ariadna became interested in Japan because she liked Japanese cartoons such as “Crayon Shinchan.” When she was 19, she did a homestay in Japan for a month. She liked Japan even more, so she started studying Japanese in college and came to Japan in October 2013 for another homestay. She used Nextage Co., Ltd. / Homestay in Japan each time.

“At the moment I’m planning to stay for half a year, but I’d like to stay in Japan as long as possible. So I’ve started working part-time for a Spanish restaurant,” says Ariadna. Before returning to Japan, she got together 14,000 euros for expenses for half a year. “This consisted of 7,000 euros from my grandmother, 3,000 from my father and 4,000 from my savings. The money was saved working in the restaurant my mother runs.”

At first, her grandmother was against her going to Japan for the second time. She said, “I may not be alive when Ariadna returns.” “But I had a deep desire to go to Japan. When I told her this, she gave me the money she’d saved up over many years.” Ariadna called her grandmother by Skype as soon as she arrived in Japan. “My grandmother was surprised to see my face for the first time on Skype. She looked very happy, though.”

She’s now staying with the HIRASAWA family; a household of three people: father, mother and daughter. Her Japanese language school is a 15 minutes bike ride away. She gets up at eight in the morning, attends classes from nine to one and works from five to eleven pm. She now makes 800 yen an hour, but might get a raise if she applies herself.

She often cooks with Tsuyako, her host mother. “I like most Japanese dishes such nikujaga (meat and potato stew), okonomiyaki (Japanese pizza) and shabushabu. I don’t mind the sticky texture of okura, either. But I can’t stand the texture of konnyaku, nor nattou, which smells like the soles of socks. I recently prepared a Spanish dish and they all loved it.”

For fun, she goes to all kinds of places with her host sister Ami. They’ve been to a music event near Mt. Fuji as well as to Tokyo Skytree. “If there’s something I don’t understand, I ask my host mother or Ami right away. There was a rather large earthquake the other day. I was told to take shelter under a table when the ground shakes. They also took me to a school that becomes a shelter in the event of an emergency.”

As soon as she hears new words in conversations, Ariadna writes them down on word cards. “I recently added the word moto-kare (ex-boyfriend) after hearing it from my host mother,” she laughed. “I converse as much as possible using words I’ve learned from the cards. I make full use of my brains doing this and the words stick in my memory. Because I can talk with my host family whenever I want, my lifestyle now is well suited to study.”

Nextage Co., Ltd. / Homestay in Japan

Text: SAZAKI Ryo

[From Hiragana Times January Issue 2014]


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