Sunday, 17 June 2007

WHY Shizen-nou? (1)

After graduating from Tsukuba University, I went to Melbourne to teach Japanese language and culture at secondary school level. Because of my father’s work, from early childhood until I left home to study at university I was always surrounded by international students, who had a healthy appetite for learning about all aspects of Japan. My parents took good care of these students, and tried to treat them as members of the family. Continuous encounter with new and unknown lives outside Japan was an invigorating experience, and even though I was only a small child, I was proud to be their ‘teacher’, telling them about Japan. In hindsight, becoming a language teacher was something of a natural path. I wanted to introduce the ‘real’ Japan to the world, not only fuji-yama, sushi, geisha – later replaced by manga, anime, zen – but the multitude of other beautiful things Japan can offer.

After teaching for seven years, I moved to London. By then, I was ready to change my career. Although I am still heavily involved in education, my interests and focus has shifted to people from my own country. I want to help Japanese people learn more about Japan through the study-abroad experience. This may sound paradoxical, but from my own experience I learn more about my own culture by being overseas. Living abroad has the effect of broadening the mind outwards and inwards. Without realising, you explore deeper your internal world, raising questions about your own existence, your cultural values, and so on. I have always believed that encounter with things foreign is a wonderful way of discovering who you are.

In ten years of living overseas, I have met many Japanese desperate to escape from Japanese society, who somehow treat Japanese as a second citizenship of the developed world. Their bitterness and cynicism are saddening. There are so many beautiful things in Japan! The sentenced has echoed repeatedly in my mind. How can one be a global citizen without pride in your own culture?





1 comment:

Satoko Shibata said...

Hi Satoko-san,

It was really nice to know your wonderful blog about natural farming using Shizen-nou. Also it's great to know your backgrounds and how you feel about Japan. As I was reading this, I realised how important it is to understand our own culture values as well as conveying Japanese culture to outside world. I feel like I regret that I didn't tell English people much about beautiful things in Japan when I was staying in England. So I've decided I will have some knowledge about Japanese culture and will prepare to talk about that until I back in England again.