Why Japan.

“Do you want to be Japanese or something?”
When I first expressed my interest in Japan and started researching and gushing over Japan, that was the question that a lot of people asked me. And to be honest, it made me very very confused and for a very long time after that, I kept asking myself “Why Japan?”

Now I can easily say “No, I don’t want to be Japanese, and I’m really happy to be who I am.” because I’ve come to realise that I wouldn’t be able to appreciate Japan the way I do without my current cultural background. Me being a Singaporean, Indian, Vegetarian, 20-something theatre girl makes me see Japan in a very different way from how a 50 year old Japanese man might view the very same Japan. And I’m glad for this.

So I’ve made a list of the things I love about Japan and how I view Japan at the moment. I suspect this will change after living in Japan for a year, and I’m fine with that. :

1. Japanese traditional theatre.
This really made me appreciate the smaller things around me. It slowed time down and made me remember how to breathe.

2. Shounen Manga and Anime
A life-saver in times of stress and angst. One Piece, Bleach, Yakitate Japan!, Shingeki no Kyojin…all of them there for me to unwind at the end of the day.

3. Natural/Muji clothes and Layering
I developed my love for Natural clothes after graduation from Lasalle and boy am I glad I did that. They’re comfortable, look decent, aren’t too tight or too baggy, gives you just a little bit of kawaii and on the whole makes me happy. For a long time before that I’d struggled to portray a certain “image” of myself as a director especially at Lasalle. But the “professional” clothes never made me happy, until I found this style.

4. Language
I can’t get enough of hearing Japanese being spoken. It’s pretty as hell and I can listen to it even if I’ve got no clue what’s being said…..if only Kanji came to me in my dreams. : [

5. Architecture and Nature
Somehow I think architecture and nature blend really nicely in Japan. Not sure why, and I don’t feel like analysing this.

6. Philosophy
Somehow everything comes back to sounding pretty and aesthetically heart-warming and calming in Japanese philosophy. Or at least the philosophy that I’ve read thus far anyway…

I’d go on, but this is the core of what attracts me to Japan in most cases. I think you’ll see that I’ve said pretty and peaceful a lot…or at least that idea resonates with me a lot. And I guess that’s what I appreciate Japan for the most. Japan pleases my aesthetic appetite both visually and mentally.

I’d also like to go on to say that I’m not blindly in love with everything and anything Japanese. I SHOULDN’T love anything blindly or totally because everything has it’s flaws and NOTHING is perfect. There ARE aspects that I don’t like/disagree with. But these are not things that affect me directly. Nor are they things that matter so much to me, that I might boycott Japan entirely. So my love for Japan remains intact.

“But what about your Indian culture? What about being Singaporean?”
What about it? I’ve never been ashamed of it. I’ve never given it up or denied it’s existence in my life. Actually, I don’t think that’s even possible. I can’t deny my roots. I’ll always get a certain happiness out of eating home cooked Indian food. I’ll always have a place in my heart for Tamil. I can’t possibly give up what little Singlish I know because it’s so damn effective when I want to communicate to so many people. I can’t give up my love for multi-cultural/inter-cultural/multi-lingual interactions that was made possible by the fact that I live in Singapore.

I can’t NOT be who I am.

Being Indian is in my blood and Singapore is my birthplace and where I grew up. That will never change EVEN IF I were to change my change my citizenship some day. And this identity will always colour the way I see Japan and how Japan sees me. And that’s ok!

“So what are you gonna do with Japan/Japanese/Japanese culture/Japanese theatre?”
I don’t know. Sure, I have ideas. But the future has a funny way of working itself out. The thing is, I’ve started out this exploration, and I’ve got no intentions of being “half-assed” about it. I started studying Japanese and I don’t want to drop it half way. I’ve studied Japanese theatre and worked on it for my Bachelor’s thesis.

How all this will fall in line in my life however, is beyond me. I want to translate, I want to collaborate, I want to direct, I want to create, I want to teach. So many wants….but only time will tell.
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So my bottom line is that I’m at peace with myself and who I am.
Once upon a time, I was ashamed of my love for Japan because I didn’t know what to do with it, or where it came from, or why. But I’m not that person anymore. And I’m glad for that. 🙂

PEACE. 

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Operation Herbivore: Okayed

Quick update. I’d heard all too many stories about being vegetarian in Japan and as advised, I promptly voiced my concerns to my supervisor once she contacted me. Here’s her lovely lovely reply.

Dear Yagnya,

Hello!


Thank you for your reply!

I knew you are worried about being a vegetarian.

But I used to work with a vegan ALT,

so, I don’t care it at all.

As for receptions, or “enkai”, it is OK if we let party organizers know about it.

In most cases, restaurants will prepare vegetarian food if informed beforehand.


We‘re glad to hear you use some Japanese.

Probably students will feel close to you if they hear you speak Japanese!

KOCHIRAKOSO YOROSHIKU ONEGAI ITASIMASU!! ( :-D)

I guess this may not seem like a big issue to many people, but I’ve never eaten meat or fish all my life and my whole family has been a herd of herbivores since time immemorial…so throughout the waiting process, I was worried about explaining my vegetarianism to my colleagues.

The net is filled with stories of people being expected to eat school lunches despite their diets, and how nobody in Japan understands the meaning of vegetarianism and how people just became pascatarians (no meat, but fish is fine) for the sake of convenience and harmony…(I’m sure some parts were exaggerations)

Now, I pride myself on my ability to adjust to most situations, but it would be impossible for me to change my diet. So it came as a tremendous relief when I got the above e-mail from my supervisor.

I can sleep well tonight. 

Back from India, and LOTS of e-mails!

It was decided that I’d go to India for at least a week when I found out that I’d gotten through the JET programme and since I was working till 7th June, I decided that I’d go on the 8th and come back by the 14th.

I’ve got my aunts, uncles and grandparents from my mother’s side all living in India, so I felt that it would only be right for me to visit them and get their blessings before I scooted off to Japan. It would also be a great opportunity for me to buy whatever I needed at a cheaper price than what I’d find in Singapore.

So, I notified everyone about my 1 week absence, the potential lack of internet, ended my rehearsal on 7th and rushed to pack my bags overnight. And soon, I was on my way to Chennai by Jet Airways.

Chennai was a whirlwind of surrealism.
A work in progress, “almost” city which contained pockets of rural life that continued to exist.
The cows and goats that used to roam freely on the roads were now hardly sighted.
The cars were all bigger and shinier than they were 2 years ago.
And yet, when I went to visit my grandparents, the past seemed frozen in place.
I like to think that saw 2 Chennais during this trip, but my brother would just call me a pretentious hipster.

It was his 87th Birthday.

Taken on 10th June 2014. It was his 87th Birthday.

I spent the whole time being well-fed and pampered by my aunts (mum’s 2 sisters), uncles and grandparents (mum’s parents).
No seriously, I’ve never felt like crying after drinking rasam (google it if you don’t know what it is) before.
Grandma is THAT awesome.

And who could forget the shopping?

Levi’s jeans for just SGD$50!!!!
*_* So naturally the Singaporean in me bought 2 cuz, you totally wouldn’t get that deal even at GSS.
I also ended up getting a pile of Indian Kurta tops to bring to Japan
Cuz, cultural exchange and all…
AND, I got all the Indian spices/ingredients/ready to eat stuff that I’d need for Japan.
Cuz, Indian food in Japan costs an arm and a leg.

E-MAILS

While I was busy having fun, I also started to receive e-mails/mails from just about everyone regarding the details of JET.
I’ll draw up a list of e-mails/mails to make this easier:

  • Mail parcel from the BOE reached Singapore, and was collected by my mum.

This was just a hardcopy of all the info I received in the first e-mail from the BOE, so this wasn’t so nerve-wrecking. (the details about this are on my previous post if ya’ll be interested)

  • E-mail from my predecessor

This was with all the crucial details filled with the who, what, when, where, whys and how much. I still haven’t digested the info yet, but it was super clear and was extremely positive. I was also asked what I’d prefer my students to call me.

  • E-mail from Toyama PA

This e-mail had the same contents that was sent to me by my predecessor but also welcomed me to the Toyama JET community.

  • AND this lovely welcome e-mail from my supervisor at my base senior high school.

Dear Ms. Yagnya A,

Hello! My name is XXX, working at XXX SHS in Toyama, Japan as a teacher of English language.

I will be your adviser here at XXX SHS.

I’m looking forward to working with you soon!

Perhaps we can talk in Japanese!

 

XXX is a local town filled with beautiful natural environment

I hope you will like it.

 

Will you contact XXX, the current ALT?

You can exchange a lot of information with each other.

 

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask us!

Sincerely,

XXX

Mind you, I appreciated all of this, but it didn’t prevent me from feeling a tad bit overwhelmed, excited and jittery all at the same time and I was so very lucky to have internet access for most part of my trip when I stayed with my aunt and uncle. So, I managed to send off quick replies/acknowledgements to all of them in-between all the shopping and eating.

And all too soon, the surreal dream came to an end and I boarded my flight from the newly renovated Anna airport and was back in Singapore…back to reality… and now I’ll be spending the next few days organising all the questions in my head, making lists, and drawing up a proper budget.

What a week. @_@

Oasis in a Desert and Packing my life into a box.

5th June 2014

The BOE got in contact with me!
And for the next year or so, I’ll be in Toyama City.
I’ll teaching at 1 senior high school which will be my base school, and I’ll be visiting 1 special needs school once a week.

I don’t think I’ve ever taught students of senior high school level (sec 4-JC 2 level) and I just feel incredibly honoured to be trusted to work at a special needs school. I’ve worked with children with special needs before and even attended a one day training on how to take care of a girl with severe developmental disorder…but I’ve never done anything like this and I see this as a great learning opportunity. Here’s a part of the e-mail I got, I’ve XXX-ed some of the details but you get a general idea of what the e-mail looked like:

This email is to notify you that I will send the same official
documents attached to this email to your permanent address by express
airmail (EMS) this week.
 The four attached files are as follows:
   1. Notice of Appointment
   2. Terms & Conditions
   3. Statement of Agreement
   4. Welcome Letters

 I hope you will receive an airmail package with the enclosed documents
listed, in a week or so.

 You’ve probably heard about “base” schools and “visiting” schools from
JET materials you’ve received. I’d like to give you some information
about the school you will work for:
 Base School: XXX Senior High School (SHS) in Toyama city
 Supervisor: XXX
 Current ALT: XXX
 Visiting School: XXX School ( Special Need School, one
day a week)

 The current ALT (your predecessor) or your supervisor will give you
further information after June 11th about the schools where you will
work, and your apartment including the rent, key money, security
deposit, etc. after you accept this job offer.

On a slightly unrelated note, I’ll be in India from 8th June-14th June to visit my grandparents before I fly off. So I informed the person from the BOE that I might be not be contactable for a week. I also took the opportunity to inform her of my vegetarianism. Her reply was super understanding and warm and on the whole reassuring.

Again, I went back to googling up more information and the locations of my 2 schools.
For privacy’s sake, I won’t be putting up any addresses or school names for now…but I’ve got some neat pictures. Imma be surrounded by MOUNTAINS!  Hyukhyuk!

Senior High School

Senior High School

Special Needs School

Special Needs School

I also found the Toyama City Global Site:
http://visit-toyama.com/en/

I’ve google mapped everything, and it seems like both my schools are about 40-50 minutes away from my house by train. So that’s another great thing…cuz I don’t drive and I love trains. : P

Reality vs Reality
So the packing began.
My life is being packed into boxes.
Walls are being stripped down.
As a semi-hoarder, I’m in awe.
And I feel amazingly liberated.

As one reality takes shape in Toyama city, my reality here is beginning to slowly fade away. I checked out the winter clothes that I own to see if they were still in working condition….surprisingly, they are.

The number of people I meet online everyday just keeps increasing and I’ve bumped into my predecessor on facebook too…and the more I hear about Toyama, the more Toyama begins to look like a real place in my head…

7th June 2014 (today), marks my last day at work with TNS on their latest show….so now I’ve truly got nothing left to do here except get ready to leave.

Yet, I feel nothing but relief. The desire to let go, and jump into the unknown has been bubbling under the surface of my mind for so long. Not that I won’t miss Singapore….but 2014 called for some change in life, some change in pace, a little something different.

Now all I need is a packing list…

Cheers to that. 🙂