Archive | October, 2011

The Japanese Mentality

23 Oct

This past week was the most grueling week I have probably ever experienced. It was mid-term week and I literally had an exam every single day. Monday was a Kanji test, Tuesday was my reading aloud exam for my Reading and Writing Japanese (RWJ) class, Wednesday was my Koutou Shiken (oral exam) in my Spoken Japanese (SPJ) class, Thursday was my written exam for my SPJ class, and Friday was my written exam for my RWJ class. I have never had so many tests so close together that were all worth a good portion of my final grade. I was so nervous for all of them and I was always studying. What I found helped in my studying, though, was not just going through the vocabulary and grammar points over and over by myself, but also using them in the conversations I had with my friends. I think that is what helped the most and is something you can’t really do when you study a foreign language in America because you have nobody to practice on so the only time you ever use the words and sentence patterns are while you are in class. So anybody who really wants to get better in a language, I would highly recommend going to a country where you can practice that language on a daily basis because that’s truly how you get better. What is really impressive about many of the Japanese students here is that while they are speaking with international students they will practice their second or third language so with me they will practice their English, but with my friend from Spain they will practice and learn Spanish, and with students who know French they will practice their French.

The people that surround me here in Japan are full of energy, enthusiasm, and joy. They laugh out loud and don’t hold back. They work so hard, and when something doesn’t work they just try harder. My days have been light and easy being around such people. That isn’t to say that I slack off and have fun all of the time. I have just come to adopt the Japanese value of 「けじめをつける」(kejime wo tsukeru), which translates to: When it’s time to do something, you do it; when it’s time to play you play. When the Japanese do something, they do it with their all. They always put their best foot forward, but are willing to keep putting in the effort to get something done right if it is done poorly the first time. This mentality is something, I think, a lot of Americans have trouble with. If something is not going right, say a class at university, they will give up or drop the class instead of working harder in it. Americans seem to need a quick fix to their problems because they are only looking at the short-term. I think what I have found to be true of my Japanese friends is that they are willing to admit defeat in the present and work harder because they are thinking about their future. I have been thinking a lot about my future lately. I know now that in the future I want to live and work in Japan. So, looking forward towards that goal, I will push myself hard in studying the language and in school so I can get into a good medical school and be able to practice here. ^^ Ganbarimasu がんばります!


10 Oct

You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something, your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path, and that will make all the difference. – Steve Jobs

Looking back on my life, I see how the dots have all come together and have created such a connection to get me where I am today. If I didn’t decide to take Japanese in my second semester of my first year at Lehigh University, I might not have majored in Asian Studies and probably wouldn’t have come to Japan to study abroad in my fourth year of university. If I hadn’t chosen Lehigh who knows where I would have ended up and if they’d even have a program to let me study abroad here. If I didn’t live in Tokyo, Japan for 4 1/2 years between ages 8 through 13 who knows if I would even have had any interest in seeing my home country. Many of my relatives, who are Japanese American, still have never set foot in the land of their ancestors, which surprises me. I love seeing my roots and understanding the culture here because much of it has actually been adopted by my relatives but slightly modernized and Westernized. The first dot in this connection, though, was my adoption. If, at the age of 2 weeks old, I had not been adopted by my two loving parents in Japan, who knows where I might be. I could be with a different family in a different country or part of the country and have had a completely different life. I might even have still lived in Japan with the name Yuka Takahashi, the name my birthmother gave me. There have been times when I have looked back on my life and wondered if one thing had changed how the rest of my life would be so different. Right now, though, I am content and wouldn’t dare change a thing because if one of those dots were missing I could be somewhere else right now, but I love where I am right now. This has already truly been the experience of a lifetime, or my lifetime so far. I am sure there will be many great experiences to come in my future, and I will trust that all of the events that will happen are for some greater good to get me to a place like I am now.

I Wish I Could Be Half As Driven!

2 Oct

I always knew that Asians had a reputation for being very hard-working and driven, especially when it came to school. But it seemed that the Asian-Americans that I noticed working hard were usually being pushed by their parents to succeed and do well academically. My parents are 3rd generation Japanese-Americans and have both done very well for themselves, have MBA degrees and worked a long time at IBM. They aren’t what I would consider to be a typical Asian-American parent, though. They pushed me and my younger brother in school, but not to a scary degree. We were both driven, so they didn’t have to push us too hard. The degree to which the Japanese students here at Kansai Gaidai University, though, is amazing! They work so hard in school and are so devoted to the clubs and groups they are a part of. When I walk through the library at school it is dead silent. And while the students obviously enjoy their leisure time and being with friends, they seem to always put their studies first. Some of my Japanese friends have even stayed up until 3 am studying, and then have to wake up around 6 or 7 am just to commute to school! What I also find incredible is how amazing they all are English! Granted, they started learning it in Junior High School, which starts at 7th grade here. But the level at which they are at now far surpasses the level to which most Americans are at their second language that they started at a similar year in school. The TOEFL test that almost all of the students take in order to be granted permission to study abroad looks almost as difficult as the SAT! Seeing all of these students work so hard and be so driven has sparked in me a desire to study more so I can get better at Japanese. I hope that at least by the time I’m 30 years old I can be as fluent in Japanese as they are in English!