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29 June 2014

Great words from a Canadian principal

I have recently become a big fan of TV drama "Hanako and Anne" aired daily on NHK, Japan's public broadcasting station.

It is a story on a real woman who lived between end of 19th century and 1960's. The woman's name was MURAOKA Hanako. She was a translator who translated famous English books including "Anne of Green Gables" and "The Prince and the pauper."

She was born in a poor family but she could attend most prestigious girls' school established by a Canadian Christian missionaries in Tokyo because of charity. She learned hi-society manner and English there.

After she graduated from the school, she became a teacher, publisher, translator and radio announcer. She was also a sufferagist.

Surprised to know there was a life like hers. She met great people in life. Her life was far from average women at that period.

She lived through the second world war. During the air raid on her town she translated Canada's famous children's book "Anne of Green Gables", which she was given from her Canadian friend who left Japan because hostility erupted. In the war time, she could never expose herself to be English speaker in public. English was treated as the enemy's language. But she kept on translating the book although she never knew who would publish it.  

Why could she hold on hopes in such severe time?

Maybe because she remembered words from her school's principal, Ms. Blackmore.

"If some decades later, when you look back on your time with us, you feel these were the happiest days in your life. Then I must say your education will have been a failure.

Life must improve as it takes its course. Your youth, you spend in preparation because the best things are never in the past but in the future. "

That was very impressive words.

In fact, her translation of the book was published 7 years after the war ended and became a best-selling novel, giving hopes to Japanese in the post-war era.

Yes, we should not give up hopes and look to the future, never look back the past.

Then we will make things better than the present.


13 February 2013

Learning Japanese heritage from a Canadian

I went to Kyoto last weekend holidays. The main purpose of the trip was to meet a foreign instructor of Japanese Sado. Do you know what Sado is? Sa means tea, Do means way, meaning "Way of tea." You can learn how to serve tea and sweets to guests and how to be served as guests.

Some people not only foreiners but even Japanese claim that it is too much of formality. I always thought that way. But my encounter with this Sado instructor changed my view.

His name is Randy-san. He manages a cafe in Kyoto. He is a Canadian man who has lived in Japan for more than 20 years. He first came to Japan to learn martial arts but later found out he had to be skillful for both martial arts and academic things. Then he chose Sado.

I joined his cafe's tea ceremony lesson for beginners. 6 students including me attended the lesson. His Japanese is excellent. He wore a very suitable kimono for tea ceremony. Only I wore kimono among 6 Japanese attendees. Actually my kimono was not suitable for tea ceremony.


He could explain every detail of Sado such as how to prepare and proceed.  

Then each student was instructed to perfom how to do each act of pouring hot water, mix with tea powder and then serve guests and how to be served. It is precisely ruled like social dances. No free form on your own. You have to memorize each act and perform that in public to be a good host and guest. That is kind of a hard thing to do. Interesting those things should be taught by a Japanese instructor but this time the other way around. I, Japanese was a student and Randy-san, Canadian was an instructor.

kyoto,kimono, tea ceremony,

He said "up, pull, cover" when I try to bring up hot water from the pot. I had to repeat that 3 times. Weird, just for bringing up, you have to know how to do each act. But that is the way of tea ceremony.

I asked him why we should follow so many rules just for tea ceremony.

He answered that we should not consider them rules rather these are manners. It is fun to have meals and drinks without manners in casual clothes relaxing at home. But you can also enjoy formal dinner at high class restaurant wearing formal clothes. Just like that. You can enjoy such formality.

He said significance of Sado is like significance of life.

Wow, it seems a foreinger, westerner had a better view on Japanese culture because he sees things objectively.

Maybe that is a dilenma we, Japanese including me have had for a long time. He just seemed to solve that instantly.

It is like how I learnt why Geisha girls put thick white make-ups on their faces by a Hollywood film "Memoirs of a Geisha." In the old days party rooms were so dark without strong lights that Geishas needed such make-ups to shine their faces to be recognized. Japanese films don't usually show indoor darkness of the old days. Without knowing darkness of that period, you can never learn how the old time people live and see the world. Hollywood did a better job in that sense.

Ironically Randy-san got me more interest in one of my country's heritage. Similar thing happened in sports field recently. Judo has been criticized for causing scandals such as harrassment and violent instruction to female athletes. International Judo organization denouced that scandal saying that violent instruction is against original philosophy established by a founder of Judo, Kano Jigoro.

We, Japanese are forgetting what we really are. We have to bring it back!


12 August 2012

Translated Novel: "Let's Fundoshi" Chapter 1

This is translation of Japanese novel on my Japanese blog site. The original title of the novel was "Nihon Danji wo Yamerarenai (Can't stop being Japanese traditionl man).

A Candadin man experiences FUNDOSHI, Japanese traditional male underwear, swimming suit and custume for festival.

Jacques Charbonneau was a Canadian man born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He belogns to majority of that reigion, so called "French Canadian."

From his childhood, he spoke French at home. His parents and relatives were all French Canadians. But he spoke English at school. Half of his friends were Englisha dn the other half were French.

Therefore his native languages were both Englisha and French. He was a billingual but since he entered Tronto University in State of Ontario, one more language was added and then he became tringual. The third language was Japanese.

Why he studied Japanese was he met a Japanese girl named Yuriko Watanabe, whom he fell in love with. She could speak English but he wanted to speak to her directly in her mother's language. The he chose Japanese as his major. With help of Yuriko, he mastered Japanese. His Japanese was excellent so that even Yuriko said that he could speak like Japanese national. He graduated from Japanese department of the university with top rank. After graduation, he started translation and interpretation among English, French, and Japanese. Afterwards, Yuriko became an important job partner and finally a partner in his private life.

When they got married, Yuriko's father, Taizo Watanabe flew to Canada and approved their marriage. The wedding was held in a small church with attendance of small number of people. Taizo was her only family member since her mother was already dead and she was the only child for Taizo.

Jacques wanted to visit Yuriko's hometown but he had been busy for his work and he was too afraid of flying. He could not have chance to visit Japan. He always regretted that he never visited his wife's hometown. He thought he should overcome flying phobia and visit Japan. He could speak Japanese fluently but he could only use it to his wife and Japanese living in Canada.

Yuriko never recommended Jacques to visit Japan. Her hometown was one of most conservative place so localies never welcome a foreign white man like Jaques. She heard that localies did not think her marriage to a foreigner was a good thing. So They thought they did not have to regret it.

But in the third year of their marriage, the couple had to visit Japan. Taizo got sick and was hospitalized. He got out of the hospital but had to stop working and stay home for rehabilitation. A woman who lived nearby sometimes visited him to see how he was but he seemed so depressed that Yuriko should look after him to help him recover his condition.

Yuriko was so worried that the two decided to go there. Translation work could be done even after they moved to Japan as long as they could maintain internet access. They checked the IT environment there and found out there was no problem doing it.

Jacques stood for more than 10 hour flight and finally arrived in Kansai International Airport in Japan. The two travelled to her hometown, Awai Town. The town was on the coastal line of the Sea of Japan in Chugoku region, it was a fishery town. From her home, spectacular ocean view was seen from a window. Taizo gladly welcomed Yuriko and Jaques after a long absence. Taizo was a local fisherman.

They used the room Yuriko had used from her childhood. They started getting along as family. Jacques found Taizo very weak comparing what he saw at the wedding. He got thinner and looked pale. He was as tall as Yuriko but looked smaller than before. He wished he would come back his fishery work afte he regained health. He thought about how to deal with him. Jaques called hime "Otosan (Father)" like Yuriko did.

A week has passed. Things happened as expected. Localies called him "Gaijin (Foreigner)." They spoke about him behind him but they never greeted. They treated hime like outsider. He tried to understand what they said but the language they used was blended with strong accent and dialect. With Yuriko's help. Jacques gradually understood what they said.

Even after they understood the language, living in conservative and closed community was hard for him. Furthermore he was a tall white Canadian. Some stayed away just by looking at him. He was appearently discriminated.

One more troubling thing happened, that was because of season he visited.

Hot and humid climate. It was far different from where he grew up. Even Montreal could get as hot as 30 degree but such hotness was what he never experienced before. It was because of Japan's humidity.

He got sweat very soon. Japanese got used to it but Jacques never resist such wet feeling. He was adapted to the coldness but not such humidity sweating so much.

His body finally responded to it. He got eczema. It was itchy and reditsh. He could not stop scratching. What should he do? He came over to help his father in law recover but he, himself became sick.

Yuriko advised him to see a doctor. The doctor diagnosed his symptom. The result was "latex allergy" in other way, it is called "Rubber allergy."
Jacques asked a doctor "Why did I get such allergy?"
"It is because of underwear you are wearing. The rubber band got soaked and melted down to your skin. Japan's humid summer melted rubber and got into your body that caused allergy symptom. Unless you stop wearing it, it can never be cured."

"You tell me never to wear underwear? Oh, no!" Jacques was shocked to hear that. It was never comfortable living without undewear. Especially for men it was necessary to tighten private zone to stay normal.

"Since you can't wear conventional underwear, we advise patients to wear something else instead" the doctor said showing him white long cloth.


Continued to Chapter 2.

06 September 2007

Dear Canadians: "Anne of Green Gables"

The purpose of this blog is to send messages to American readers. But since this is written in English. I believe other English speaking people should be reading. So I decided to post messages to them from time to time.


Today, I write an article for Canadians. The topic is "Anne of Green Gables." The book was written by Lucy Maud Montgomery in 1908.


When we hear Canada, the first thing to come up with is this story. Many people in Japan know that. The story is introduced in Japanese school textbooks. It became popular cartoon program. You can see the program by clicking on this site. My family watched that show.


The story took place on Prince Edward Island in the end of 19th century. An orphan girl named Anne, came to the island. She was wainting for a farmer named Mathew Cuthbert. Mathew and his sister, Marilla was planning to adopt an orphan boy who could help their work in the farm. At first, they were upset with Anne's arrival but later they came to like her and decided to adopt her. Anne was talkative and imaginative girl. She met wonderful people and had wonderful experiences on the island.


In Japan, translated version was first introduced in 1950's. The title in Japan is "Akage-no-Anne (Anne of Red Hair)." If you have read this book, you know how "Red Hair" is important words in this story.

 The most impressive words I read in the book was "Without my imagination, I could never go through such hardships in my life." I really think imagination is very important in our life.

Kind of girlie version of "The adventures of Tom Sawyer" by Mark Twain, the story was in fact reflected by the author's childhood memories on the island.


One Canadian guy I know told me Prince Edward Island, which they call PEI is boring place. He said the island wastes tax by getting provincial status. But this place is very famous for the place of this story among Japanese people. A lot of Japanese tourists visit there. Anne contributed to Canada's tourism industry.  


Surprisingly, Canada's closest neighbor, Americans don't know this book. Even a teacher of English literature in college.

Americans should know such a wonderful story exists in their closest neighboring country.  


21:15 Posted in Books, Canada | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: literature