• The Secret to Having Fun with Japanese Study is Making Friends

    [From June Issue 2015]

    Ari TAMAT
    “I like Japanese architecture. Buildings in Europe are regulated because of the history of its cities, but in Japan, unique buildings keep popping up. In addition to this freedom of design, there is abundant funding available to implement advanced architectural technology. All this drew me to Japan,” says Ari TAMAT, from Indonesia. He speaks Japanese fluently and his pronunciation is perfect.
    Because of his father’s work as a scientist, Ari grew up in both Indonesia and Australia. “As a child, I spoke English better than Indonesian,” he says. “My father had traveled to Japan several times for work, and told me that Japan was the most technologically advanced nation in Asia and that the people were nice. That’s partly why I chose to study abroad in Japan.”
    A scholarship from the Japanese government enabled Ari to study in Japan. “I had already enrolled at the prestigious Institut Teknologi Bandung, but because I was going to study abroad, I dropped out after the first six months. I learned hiragana, katakana and basic conversational Japanese in Jakarta before I came to Japan in the spring of 1994.”
    He attended a Japanese school affiliated with Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, and during the course of one year acquired a proficiency in Japanese sufficient to graduate from high school. “Japanese grammar and pronunciation were not as difficult as I had imagined, but kanji were difficult to learn,” he says. “At the Japanese school we studied about 13 kanji every day. I practiced them repeatedly by writing and reading them out loud. I also tried to memorize them as pictures, to understand the concepts behind them and to compare their current meanings in Japanese with their original meanings in Chinese.”
    I think the reason my Japanese improved quickly is that the teachers and the program at the Japanese school were great. I was able to remember my lessons because the teachers made the classes fun by telling a lot of jokes,” says Ari. “Moreover, my classmates were exchange students from all over the world. We lived in the same dorm and used Japanese to communicate, which helped a lot, too.” In addition, Ari made Japanese friends outside his Japanese school; he joined an exchange group and in order to create more opportunities to use Japanese, participated in activities with Japanese people.
    Ari studied architecture at Yokohama National University. “The biggest difficulty I had was not being able to read my professors’ messy handwriting,” Ari laughs. “College life was very enjoyable. Together with my classmates, I designed and actually built a beach hut and constructed a booth for a school festival.” He went on to graduate school at Tokyo University and majored in city planning.
    Ari got a job in the real estate industry. “I didn’t have trouble using Japanese, but I struggled with business etiquette because I didn’t study it in college,” he laughs. “By observing my superiors and bosses, I learned how to exchange business cards, where to stand in an elevator, and where to sit in a room. In order to learn honorifics, I would recommend using them as often as possible so they come to you naturally,” he says.
    Now he works in finance. “I’m interested in work assisting Japanese companies to expand into Indonesia’s booming economy,” says Ari. “But I like Tokyo a lot, so I would prefer to keep on living here. What’s great about Tokyo is that it’s one of the largest cities in the world, and brings together unique places such Shinjuku and Asakusa,” he says with a mischievous smile.
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo












    Read More
  • Story of a Boy who Wants to Toughen Up

    [From June Issue 2015]

    Is it Wrong toTry to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon?, Cover of first issue

    Is it Wrong to Try to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon?
    In Japan, “light novels” are a literary genre. Written for young people in a light and easy style, many use cartoonish images on their covers and in their illustrations. This manga adaptation of a novel won the first prize in the new work category at the “These light novels are great! 2014” Awards. It’s been serialized in Young GanGan magazine since 2013 and four volumes of the series have been published so far.
    Set in a dungeon similar to those found in video games, it’s the story of a boy who wants to toughen up. The dungeon is a maze divided into several levels in which all kinds of ferocious monsters appear. Those who venture into the dungeon obtain “fairy stones” by killing monsters.
    “Gods,” “elves,” and “prums” (a tribe of dwarfs), live alongside “humans” in Ororio, a megalopolis built above the dungeon. The main character Bell CRANEL is a typical human in that he is pursuing wealth and women in the dungeon. He is not an accomplished adventurer, but he dreams of impressing cute girls by killing monsters in front of them.
    One day, seeking an encounter with a woman, Bell sets off on an adventure and ascends to the level above. There, he’s attacked by the Minotaur, but is saved by a girl called Ais WALLENSTEIN. Bell falls in love with the beautiful Ais, who has long blond hair and golden colored pupils, and hopes to become as tough as she is.
    All adventurers are members of “Familia,” each of which is centered round a deity. Each deity grants its adventurers powers to fight monsters with and is sustained by the fairy stones that the adventurers bring back. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship and Bell believes that by joining a Familia one becomes part of the deity’s family.
    Bell’s Familia is led by the goddess Hestia, and he is the only member. They have difficulties making ends meet and Hestia works part time, even though she’s a goddess. Moreover, she gets heavily in debt after asking a friend to make a weapon that only Bell can use. As a result, she has two part time jobs. She cares so much for Bell that she even forgets her divine pride and hopes to one day become his lover.
    As his love deepens for Ais, Bell’s skill as an adventurer improves. Because he’s genuine and kind, it’s not only Hestia who gives him a helping hand, but also other women he encounters. The goddess Freya takes a fancy to him and attempts to lure him away from Hestia. As he matures, even Ais begins to care about Bell.
    The attraction of this story is not only in seeing how this boy becomes a man by battling monsters, but also how each awkward romance develops.[2015年6月号掲載記事]











    Read More
  • Theater Specializes in Adaptations of Manga and Anime

    2.5-Dimensional Musicals

    In March, 2015, AiiA 2.5 Theater Tokyo opened in Shibuya, Tokyo. It is the world’s first theater dedicated to “2.5-Dimensional Musicals,” that is theatrical productions based on manga, anime, and video game titles that faithfully recreate the original’s atmosphere and characters.
    Recently 2.5-Dimensional theatrical productions are increasingly being staged in Japan and audience numbers are growing too. In 2013, about 1,600,000 people attended a 2.5-Dimensional performance. In 2014, the Japan 2.5-Dimensional Musical Association Secretariat was established and began its activities, performing tasks such as compiling and sending out information on all performances both within and outside Japan. The association also opened the dedicated theatre.
    There is an English page on the association’s official website, and it’s possible to purchase tickets from outside Japan. In addition, subtitles are available through a wearable terminal at the theatre. Audiences can choose from a maximum of four optional languages, though the subtitle languages available do change depending on the performance.
    “When the popular musical ‘Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon: The Musical,’ was staged, 20 to 30 percent of the audience was from outside Japan. When this dedicated theatre was opened, in the hopes of getting more foreigners to see our shows, we installed a subtitle system,” says TODA Naomi, head of PR. “Since it is wearable, it’s possible to read the subtitles without taking your eyes off the actors.”
    In Japan, in 1974, works like “The Rose of Versailles” were adapted into musicals, since then there have been theatrical productions of original manga and anime. “There is a long history of manga and anime being adapted into theatrical productions. But the genre only started to gain wider recognition when the ‘MUSICAL THE PRINCE OF TENNIS’ was staged in 2003,” says Toda.
    This musical was well-received by fans of the manga, for its skillful recreation of the original work’s atmosphere. It also went down well with theatrical fans for the production effect of showing the movement of a ball with a spotlight. “It was a good example of how the world of manga could be successfully adapted for the stage,” says Toda. As the appreciation of both manga and anime rose at home and abroad, the number of adaptations that stayed faithful to the original increased. This resulted in the birth of the so-called “2.5-Dimensional” genre.
    “Rather than mimicking characters, actors play these parts by trying not to undermine the image of the characters in the original work. The director also does his best to recreate the world shown in the original work on the stage. And that’s why the audience’s imaginations are stimulated to fill in the blanks, thus enabling them to visualize the original work on the stage,” says Toda. The 2.5-Dimensional Musical, “Live Spectacle NARUTO” is scheduled to be staged in Macao, Malaysia, and Singapore. Plans to promote this genre to the overseas market are advancing.
    The Japan 2.5-Dimensional Musicals Association Secretariat

    「役者は原作のキャラクターをまねするというよりも、そのキャラクターの持つイメージを損なうことなく演じ、演出家も原作の世界観を舞台上に再現します。だからこそ観客は想像力を刺激され、欠けている部分を空想で補って原作そのもののシーンを舞台上に見るのです」と遠田さん。2.5次元ミュージカルは、「ライブ・スペクタクル NARUTO -ナルト-」がマカオ、マレーシア、シンガポールでも上演されるなど、今後は積極的な海外進出も予定されています。

    Read More
  • View Monkeys Up Close at Monkey Park

    [From May Issue 2015]

    At Jigokudani Yaen-koen (Monkey Park) in Nagano Prefecture there are macaque monkeys known for their habit of bathing in hot springs. Visited by tourists the world over, these macaques are called “snow monkeys” in English.
    The Park has some rules for visitors. Feeding the monkeys is forbidden because they can attack tourists for food. Touching the monkeys and prolonged eye contact isn’t allowed either because they will become wary. You can bring neither dogs nor cats with you. The monkeys are unafraid of humans and aren’t bothered by the tourists’ excited cries nor flash photography because visitors have always followed these rules.
    The monkeys of Jigokudani used to flee as soon as they saw humans. In those days, some locals tried to exterminate them because they were running amok in fields after their habitat was lost to mountain and forest development schemes. Couldn’t there be a way to protect the farms and people’s livelihoods, while also protecting the monkeys and their living environment? Those who thought this way tried to keep the monkeys from going to the farms by creating a feeding site in Jigokudani far from any human habitation.
    At that time Jigokudani was a small resort town with only one old inn and a vigorous hot spring. If its monkeys, its un-spoilt natural habitat and hot spring were turned into tourist attractions, the municipality would reap the economic benefits. This idea, which predated the emergence of ecotourism, kick started the effort to get the monkeys used to humans. With help from the inn, the locals successfully fed the monkeys and five years later in 1964, the park opened.
    The monkey bath was created after baby monkeys started playing in the open-air bath of the spa inn – that had been lending its support to the park. Today, the park has open-air baths for the monkeys where many of them bathe on cold days. People visit in droves to take pictures. In this way, photos taken there have won prizes both in and outside Japan and created quite a buzz. In recent years this has led to an increase in the number of winter visitors and foreign tourists.
    Though some might think the park is a winter attraction, it’s actually open throughout the year. It’s not only for tourists, but is also an institution for education and research. In the spring baby monkeys are born one after the other. Their hair is still black and you can witness the charming spectacle of suckling babies cradled in their mother’s arms. In the summer, you can see them enthusiastically playing around, independent from their mothers.
    As records of the name and mother of each and every monkey covering the past 50 years have been kept by the park, university researchers visit for fieldwork from within and without Japan. The park is also used by elementary and junior high school students for outdoor classes. To get to the park, it’s a two-kilometer half-hour walk on a mountain trail from the dedicated Monkey Park parking lot. Hiking clothes will therefore be necessary and you’ll need to prepare for cold temperatures in wintertime.
    Jigokudani Yaen-koen
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2015年5月号掲載記事]


    Read More
  • Georgians Can Compete With Japanese Standards of Hospitality


    文:砂崎良[:en][From May Issue 2015]

    “The first European sumo wrestler to be promoted to the juuryou (junior grade) division was Georgian. Today we have two successful Georgian sumo wrestlers and we have won gold medals in Olympic judo,” says Dr. Levan TSINTSADZE, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Georgia to Japan. He laughs when he explains that wrestling is a traditional sport in Georgia and that Georgians are strong by nature.
    The Ambassador first came to Japan in 1994 as a scientist, and conducted research into plasma physics at the Universities of Hiroshima, Osaka, Kyoto, Tsukuba, and also at the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute. After he returned to Georgia, he went to Japan again in December, 2013, this time as an ambassador. “I’ve spent so much time in Japan, so it’s a pleasure and an honor to be able to do something for the country. Both Japan and Georgia are such wonderful countries that I’m glad I can work to strengthen our relationship.”
    His first impression of Japan was that it was a clean and well-organized country. “Japanese people attach importance to duty and obligation. You find self-organized people in any country of course, but I think the number of Japanese with those values is very high. I’d like to see more people like that in Georgia,” he says.
    He quickly got used to life in Japan. “Naturally, any European will have some difficulties in Japan if it’s their first time; just like when Japanese go abroad. I haven’t had any difficulties that I couldn’t overcome,” says the Ambassador. “In the beginning I had a startling impression of the TV programs. I found them a bit strange.”

    “My spare time is devoted as much as possible to my son. We take walks in parks, we also used to ride bicycles together,” says the Ambassador. “Other than that, my pastime is reading. I read literary works from different countries in the original language if I can, or in translation if I can’t. I’ve read Japanese literature, too. I enjoyed it and it helped my understanding of Japan’s culture and history.”
    Georgia is on the eastern coast of the Black Sea and is about a fifth of the size of Japan. With the discovery of 1.8 million-year-old human bones and evidence of wine-making dating back 8,000 years, Georgia is regarded as the birthplace of the first European civilization. Georgia is the birthplace of wine as well. The wine making tradition has been practiced in Georgia for thousands of years and has been preserved until nowadays almost unchanged.
    “After arriving in Japan, I tasted Koshu Wine for the first time and thought it tasted like Georgian wine. That impression was reinforced when I went to Yamanashi Prefecture,” says the Ambassador. A group of researchers has since determined by DNA analysis that Koshu grapes have their origins in Georgia. Georgia is at the crossroads of Western and Eastern civilizations. Koshu grapes must have reached Japan by the Silk Road.

    Japan and Georgia have other things in common besides the flavor of their wines. “Both countries have existed since ancient times and we’ve preserved our culture and unique traditions to this day,” says the Ambassador. Japanese hospitality is well-known, but Georgians can compete with Japanese in that area. Georgian hospitality is legendary, guests are considered to be a godsend in Georgia. If someone comes to your place, it means the host is a person worthy of that guest.
    The Ambassador says that Georgians consider Japan to be a great country with a long history. He says that it has produced excellent literary works and movies and is a super modern nation that also preserves its old traditions. “Unfortunately, not everyone in Japan knows about Georgia. The number of Japanese tourists to Georgia is increasing, but I’d like this to double or triple. I bet Japanese people would love Georgia once they visited it.”
    The Ambassador says that the charm of Georgia is in its rich variety of natural sites. By car, you can cross Georgia east to west, or north to south in about seven hours. The climate keeps changing as you travel. The country has as many as 12 different climatic zones. “After having a good time on the coast of the Black Sea, you can drive to mountains 2,000 meters above sea level. Is there any other country where you can enjoy bathing in the sea and skiing on the same day?” he says, smiling.
    “I’d recommend Georgia’s mineral water. The country has as many as 2,400 springs and they are popular for their healthy water. The soil of Georgia is so fertile that our fruits and vegetables are all delicious. Khachapuri, a dish that resembles a cheese bread, is especially good. Georgian cuisine developed under the influence of various Eastern and Western civilizations over the course of centuries. Each region has its specialty and that’s also due to the diversity of climate.”

    “Our historical buildings are gorgeous,” says the Ambassador. “Iron making and agriculture have been practiced since ancient times in that part of the world. Georgian is one of the oldest living languages in the world and has its own unique alphabet. Georgia was one of the first countries to accept Christianity as its national religion. We’ve preserved our unique culture despite constant interference from surrounding powers.”
    “For sightseeing, I’d recommend historical and cultural monuments, some of them from the fifth century, that are listed as World Heritage sites. The cave dwellings carved into rocks from the 12th century are also impressive. Those who want to relax can see beautiful sights and unwind. Active people can climb mountains or hunt. History buffs can go to historic sites. There are so many ways to enjoy yourself.”
    There were quite a few important Georgians well-known in Japan during the days of the former Soviet Union. They were fir-rate scientists, artists, actors, ballet dancers, and singers. Georgians are very talented and positive people.
    The Japanese Government changed the transliteration of the name for Georgia from “Gurujia” to “Jo-gia” in April 2015.
    Georgia Embassy
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[:]

    Read More
  • World Heritage Site: Gokayama, Known for its Steep Thatched Roofs

    [From May Issue 2015]

    In Nanto City, Toyama Prefecture there are two villages with unique so called “gasshou-zukuri” style steeply sloping thatched roofs. This year marks the 20th anniversary since they were registered as a World Heritage Site. While most of the houses were built around 100 to 200 years ago, some of them have a history of around 400 years. Residents still live in them and at houses where accommodation and meals are provided, guests are served edible wild plants and iwana mountain trout by the hearth. The site is also a centre of production for washi Japanese paper and visitors can make round fans and postcards by taking part in the Japanese paper-making experience. From around mid-May every year, Ainokura Village is illuminated to create a magical Japanese countryside scene that will delight visitors.
    Access: At JR Shin-Takaoka Station, get on the “World Heritage”bus, get off at “Ainokuraguchi”and walk about five minutes to Ainokura Village, or get off at “Suganuma” and walk about three minutes to Suganuma Village.
    Gokayama Tourist Information Center
    Opening hours: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
    To park in the villages you must pay a fee that will be used for the conservation of these properties: 500 yen for standard or light vehicles, 100 yen for two-wheeled vehicles.
    Text: KAWARATANI Tokiko[2015年5月号掲載記事]

    500 yen for standard or light vehicles, 100 yen for two-wheeled vehicles.

    Read More
  • Gusto

    [From May Issue 2015]

    “Gusto” is Japan’s only family restaurant chain to have a branch in every single prefecture. The number of these stores exceeds 1,350. Here you can enjoy a wide variety of dishes for a reasonable price. The chain started as a self-service drink bar. Gusto is a community restaurant with close regional ties. There is also a sister chain of restaurants called “Steak Gusto” that focuses on steaks and hamburgers.

    [No.1] Cheese IN Hamburger 499 yen

    One of Gusto’s signature dishes. Four kinds of cheese, including camembert and mozzarella, are used. When you cut into the juicy hamburger with a knife, cheese oozes out.

    [No.2] Generous Helping of French Fries 299 yen

    These crispy potato fries have been enjoyed by customers since the company first opened for business. Recommended for groups to share.

    [No.3] Omelet and Rice with Beef Stew Sauce Plate 699 yen

    Fluffy omelet on a bed of rice covered with a thick beef stew and red wine sauce. The beef is cooked until it is very soft. Comes with a side salad.
    ※ Availability and prices vary depending on the restaurant.[2015年5月号掲載記事]


    【No.1】チーズINハンバーグ 499円


    【No.2】ポテトフライ(山盛り) 299円


    【No.3】オムライスビーフシチューソースプレート 699円



    Read More
  • By Concentrating on the Fragrance You Become one with Universe

    [From May Issue 2015]

    Incense Specialist
    WATANABE Eriyo
    Kodo “the way of incense” is a traditional art in Japan. Rather than saying “smell” the aromatic wood, we say “listen” to it. Listening to incense means appreciating its fragrance with keen attention. “Japan has four seasons. It’s blessed with the scents of different trees and flowers each season and a moderate level of humidity,” says incense specialist WATANABE Eriyo.
    “The climate, too, from Hokkaido to Okinawa, is diverse; the country has 3,000 meters high mountains and a rich ecosystem. This environment has nurtured the delicate sensibilities of the Japanese people, especially our sense of smell and taste. I’m interested not only in Japanese aromas, but also in aromas from other countries, from history and how these relate to each other.”
    Watanabe opened her “Setagaya Incense Salon” in Tokyo and from this base, she organizes workshops in which people make nerikoh (blended incense balls made by mixing together the raw materials and honey) based on a 1,000-year-old Japanese recipe and learn, through incense, about Japan’s classical literary works and traditional culture. All kinds of people participate, from foreigners who want to “experience something typically Japanese” to regulars who “look forward to listening to lovely fragrances.”
    Watanabe organizes gatherings at which participants simply listen to incense. Many come just for one day. “When a workaholic listens to incense, their expression softens as if a mask has slipped off,” says Watanabe.
    “It’s of course wonderful that kodo is such a rich subject, but it can also be a mental challenge because differentiating scents by ‘listening’ to them and comparing them is competitive. I want people to enjoy the calming and relaxing effects of incense, so they don’t compete with each other, they simply fully enjoy the fragrances. Since ancient times, incense has always been referred to as food for the soul. If you concentrate only on the fragrance, you lose your ego, become one with the whole universe and experience a state of bliss,” says Watanabe.
    The reputation of Setagaya Incense Salon is spreading by word of mouth. The salon has been mentioned on an Australian travel website as one of the “Top Ten Things to Do Only in Tokyo” and on a German travel website as “a relaxing place.” “The enjoyment of scent has always been a cultural practice that has spanned the globe,” says Watanabe. Burning incense is a sacred act in Christianity, Islam, and in Buddhism. Since antiquity, there has been an international trade in the raw materials used to make incense.”
    “As a student of art history in London, I rediscovered Japan when I learned that ‘Japan’ also meant lacquer ware. I later studied expressive arts therapy in Boston and while working in that area, I realized that incense had the same effect as expressive arts therapy. My biggest personal asset is the cross-cultural experience acquired on trips to 48 countries and during the time I lived abroad for ten years.”
    Watanabe says enthusiastically, “When I burn incense that I made with a wish or a prayer, it feels as though that wish or prayer reaches heaven. I’d like to create new kinds of incense equipment and market them to the world.”
    Incense Research Institute
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo/文:砂崎良[2015年5月号掲載記事]


    Read More
  • Food Manufacturer Popularized Snack Gashi in Japan

    [From May Issue 2015]

    In Japan, fried carbohydrate snacks of corn, potatoes, or beans, are called “snack gashi.” CALBEE, Inc. products account for a 50% share of this market. The word Calbee is neither Japanese nor English. It conveys the sentiments of the company’s founder who was thinking of the nation’s good health when he coined the word.
    Founded in Hiroshima Prefecture in 1949, the company was formerly known as Matsuo Food Industries. MATSUO Takashi, then president, was concerned about malnutrition among post-war Japanese people and aimed to create products that would improve the health of consumers. The company name was changed in 1955 to Calbee Foods and Confectionery Co., Ltd.; a name that combines calcium, “cal,” and vitamin B1, “bee.”
    In that same year, the company succeeded in making arare (roasted mochi pieces) from wheat rather than rice – the main ingredient up until then – and marketed it as “Kappa Arare.” In 1964, “Kappa Ebisen,” a snack made from mixing ground raw shrimp into wheat dough, was developed. It became a big hit and the jingle “I can’t stop, I won’t stop, Calbee, Kappa Ebisen” made the Calbee name popular throughout the nation.
    The year 1972 saw the launch of the potato based snack, “Sapporo Potato.” The company’s name was shortened to CALBEE, Inc. when its head office moved from Hiroshima to Tokyo in 1973. In 1975, “Potato Chips” was launched, a snack which later became one of the company’s core products. In 1985, the material used in the packaging of all products was switched from vinyl to aluminum film. This prevented any loss of flavor caused by oxidation.
    Calbee takes great care in its control of raw ingredients. For example, shrimps – one of the ingredients in Kappa Ebisen – are carefully selected, flash-frozen while fresh to a temperature lower than -30 °C and transported to the factory. In the factory, the entire shrimp, including shell, is ground up and used. Red particles on the exterior of Kappa Ebisen are proof that the whole of the shrimp is used.
    Approximately 330 thousand tons of potatoes are procured yearly to make potato chips and other products. From breeding potato varieties to cultivation, to storage, to transportation, to sales, an agreement has been made with other manufacturers to work in cooperation with each other to ensure the entire process goes smoothly. Currently more than 1,000 producers in the Hokkaido area alone have entered into this contract. The so-called field men of Calbee Potato, Inc. (an affiliated company in charge of potato procurement, storage, etc.) support the producers with surveys, advice and an exchange of information concerning cultivation.
    Calbee products are consumed in ten other countries. For example, “Harvest Snaps” made from beans are popular in the US, Canada, and the UK. In Singapore, “Hot & Spicy” potato chips are a hit and in Thailand, “Kappa Ebisen Original” – developed locally for the Thai palate – is selling well.
    The total number of products produced by Calbee in Japan in the financial year of 2013 was 1.8 billion. The company organizes “Calbee Snack Schools” to teach children how to have a healthy enjoyable diet. In 2013 62,251 children in 787 schools across the nation attended the course. This project not only increases the number of Calbee fans, but is also the company’s way of contributing to regional development.
    CALBEE, Inc.
    Text: ITO Koichi[2015年5月号掲載記事]


    Read More
  • I Improved my English while Learning Japanese

    [From May Issue 2015]
    Furat BANTAN
    “It’s gotten so that when I’m with non-Japanese friends in a restaurant, waiters only address me. Of course, I can speak Japanese and added to that, since I am of Indonesian descent, I appear to be Japanese, however I am a Saudi Arabian born and raised in Mecca,” says Furat BANTAN in a droll manner with perfect pronunciation. “I am Bantan, just like junbi bantan (completely ready,)” he jokes.
    Japanese anime and games are extremely popular with young people in Saudi Arabia. Bantan also became interested in Japan because of this. “I watched Japanese anime and played Japanese games that were not translated into Arabic with the help of English subtitles. Thanks to this, I became accustomed to the Japanese language and, since I often checked words in the English dictionary, I memorized English words as well,” he laughs.
    After graduating from high school Bantan won a scholarship from the Saudi Arabian government to study aboard and elected to go to Japan. “In Saudi Arabia, Japanese cars, air-conditioners, TVs and so forth are highly prized. I also wanted to learn about such advanced technology,” he says.
    When Bantan came to Japan he attended a Japanese language school in Osaka. “Teachers admired me and said ‘Bantan, your Japanese is very good,’ but my listening, pronunciation, and keigo (formal language) skills were all down to watching anime,” he says modestly. One year later, he entered the Tokyo Institute of Technology – one of Japan’s most prestigious universities.
    What awaited him at university were classes in which scientific and technical terms were frequently used. “I didn’t even understand which textbook I had to open. I asked the Japanese student sitting next to me ‘which one is it?’ and received an astonished look,” says Bantan. Moreover, the classes and textbooks were aimed at students who’d studied the curriculum of Japanese high schools. “Classes progressed as if I would naturally know things I had not learned at high school in Saudi Arabia.”
    Bantan could not keep up with the classes at all and he had to repeat his first year. “It was so difficult that I wanted to die. There was an exchange student from my own country in my dormitory, so we survived by cheering each other up. After all, kanji is difficult. Arabic letters are phonetic symbols, so I had a very hard time with kanji which have numerous pronunciations,” he says.
    Bantan bought textbooks written in English and studied by comparing the Japanese textbooks to them. “I taught myself from the most basic level with titles like ‘anyone can understand’ and ‘for Dummies’ (for people who do not know the subject). Because English was not my mother tongue, it was difficult to understand the contents. But I came to understand the technical terminology as I checked the equivalent term in English.” After about a year and a half of entering university he came to understand what was being taught in class. He passed the N1 grade of the Japanese proficiency test when he was in his senior year.
    He also experienced the Japanese system of job hunting. “Because Japanese companies demand that I act the same way as Japanese natives, I wore a suit and carried a bag just like them,” he says humorously. When (the then) Crown Prince Salman visited Japan from Saudi Arabia, Bantan acted as an interpreter. Currently, he works at a Saudi Arabian government office located in Tokyo. “I want to encourage interaction between Saudi Arabia and Japan. In addition, it’s my dream to someday start a business. I want to dedicate my entire life to creating the Bantan Group that will establish and run schools teaching Arabic, regular schools, mosques, and more.”
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2015年5月号掲載記事]

    バンタンさんは英語で書かれた教科書を買って、日本語のものと読み比べながら勉強しました。「タイトルに『だれでもわかる』とか『for Dummies』(わからない人のための)とか書いてある、いちばん低いレベルから独学しました。英語も母語ではありませんから、内容を理解するのが大変でした。でも専門用語は英語と突き合わせているうちにわかるようになりました」。入学して1年半ほど経った頃から授業がわかるようになりました。4年生のときにはN1に合格しました。

    Read More