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Q&A – Why Did You Come To Japan?

Mariusz

Welcome to a new set of posts I hope to introduce into my site over the next number of months. Questions and answers. I go through a lot of basic questions from students while in Japan and quite often I don’t have the chance to answer them as fully as I’d like. Quite often they can be fun questions to explore and talk about and over the next while I hope to put together some entries online that will talk about those very questions.

I’ll keep it brief, introduction wise, but if anyone would like a question answered then by all means, don’t hesitate and send them to me via the contact system, facebook or twitter. I will try to answer them as best I can.

Today I hope to start with a pretty basic one, a question I get quite regularly from Japanese people I meet here in Tokyo…

Why did you come to Japan?

Where to begin on this one? Although as standard of a question as this may be it is quite often a bit difficult to answer. The short answer is that I’ve always had a dream to live and work in Japan, especially Tokyo. The long answer on the other hand is a bit more complicated and involves exploring my time growing up.

I began getting interested in Japan back in junior high school when I was just starting grade 7. Although I can’t quite pinpoint it at that particular time I know that somewhere between grade 7 and 8 we did a unit in social studies class on Japan and some of the lifestyle differences between the two countries. Although I was still rather immature and didn’t pay as much attention in class as I should have it still left an impression on me, especially the idea of bullet trains and in general how different the way of life seemed. Unfortunately at the time this wasn’t enough to spur me into action but it certainly got the ball rolling. During those years for better or worse anime was starting to make some waves within the western scene and I started watching shows like Dragon Ball, Samurai Pizza Cats and Sailor Moon (perhaps an embarrassing one to admit to at the time). This also wasn’t a motivating factor for me but the sheer strangeness of it all helped to coalesce my interests into some action in the end.

Things didn’t really take off until a few years later. During high school I began to get interested in karate again, having been forced into taking it a number of years prior. At that time it was nothing more than a chore but in the later years of junior high I got involved with a different school and genuinely enjoyed it. It wasn’t enough though. I was young and I wanted to do something that involved swords. Like any child I had an interest in that sort of thing. After making some effort to research martial arts school that involved weapons I came across a Japanese one teaching Kenjutsu. At the time I wasn’t aware of how rare this would be. I spent some time trying to get into the school, all of which resulted in failure, something that luckily my determination and stubbornness managed to reward me with in the end. The people in charge at the school found that despite my lack of manners I had the determination to keep trying. Eventually I was allowed to join the school, at the time, as the youngest member to do so.

This is when things began to snowball. Not only did I slowly become much more interested in the customs and traditions that were taught along side the classes but I managed to meet a number of Japanese students which were partaking in the school. This was for the most part my main point of contact with people from Japan. I began to really appreciate the differences and from there grew, rather quickly at that, an interest into the culture, the people, the language, the life style, and the food. At this point I was hooked.

From that point on I began studying the language, by myself, using books, internet resources and anything I could find. I began spending time exploring the foods, meeting people and in general getting involved with the community as much as I could through outlets such as local cultural festivals, volunteering and international communities.  Over the years this basically led me to be surrounded by the local Japanese community, and become involved in the international groups that would come to study or spend time in the city. It developed into a genuine appreciation and became a way of life, my way of life.

To this day that interest has not abated and I knew during that time that I would eventually find my way to Japan, despite what proved to be many failed efforts over the years.

I met a lot of interesting people along the way and eventually in the Fall of 2011, after facing some difficult and interesting aspects to life I worked up the will to take a trip to Japan, my first one, which would then push me towards doing a working holiday here. Following that I knew this would be a place I would want to make home and it is something I appreciate to this very day. During that time a dream was born in me to be able to experience, write about, and document the things I come across here. It has been something I wanted to do for a very long time and now I have been given that chance. I hope to continue it until I am no longer able to.

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