Monday, December 1, 2008

Interview With Family Part 1

I wanted to gain some more personal insight into the question of Civilization Exclusivity, figure out just what my own opinion would be if I could shift from “comme ci comme ca”. So I interviewed part of my family, whom are attached to the Japanese culture in some way, looking for answers on what Japan is about, how it transfers to Canada, and if things change or stay unique. What I found was that there were as many similarities as there were differences in opinions. I decided to split my interviews in half. The first post being more general, the second post focused around my family’s involvement in Judo.

My Uncle Touke, is Japanese and came here in 1976 when he was 26 to help the Montreal Judo Olympic team. Here he met his wife, my aunt, who is a white Canadian and they had two children; Ian and Kimiko both of whom were involved in Judo. Kimi so much so she was in world competitions. Ian, now 26, has a fiancé named Yuko who is Canadian born Japanese, meaning both her parents are Japanese. Yuko sees herself more as Japanese, but born and raised in Canada. I interviewed them all, allowing for a very diverse group of answers. I stayed around certain themes, asking them all very similar or in some cases the exact same questions. So how I am going to present these interviews is by explaining the question, attaching the answers and then giving my interpretation of the answers at the end of each grouping. I am going to start with some of the lighter questions and move into the more in-depth.

I asked both Kimi (Kimiko) and Yuko about their names. I got Kimi to elaborate on hers because as a child she didn’t like to be called Kimiko, but as she aged has used it more and more.
It means “beautiful princess” that’s why my parents chose it. When I was younger I wanted to fit in more, hence “Kimi” . I didn’t want to be made fun of. Now I think it’s a beautiful creative name and represents half of where I came from.
My name means “Brave Child”. FYI: because Japanese uses Chinese characters, there is no meaning to the sound, but the character assigned to it. So there are other “Yuko’s” but their name could mean child of friendship, child of sunset etc.

I wanted to know from my cousins Ian and Kimi when they really realized that they are both “Japanese” and “Canadian”.
I always knew that I was part Japanese but I didn’t really start to become aware of it or understand it until High School when I started thinking about the differences. I started learning Japanese classes.
I can’t remember exactly, but very young. Probably when we visited my grandparents in Japan.
I thought this question was important because Ian and Kimi were raised in a household where only one parent was Japanese and so the specific identity association may not have been as strong as that in Yuko’s home, where both were.

This lead me to ask Ian and Kimi what aspects of themselves they see as “Japanese”. In order to connect with this, I asked Yuko how her Japanese household has influenced her and what she doesn’t think she would have gained without it.
My shyness maybe?
I think I get my respect for elders and other people from that side. Always saying “please” and “thank-you”, not wanting to accept gifts, my personal presentation to others. Also my work ethic and discipline.
One thing that has probably helped is being more sensitive to situations. Because Japanese people can’t say “no”, they actually have to come up with different ways to convey this. This actually turns out to be useful at work when I am trying to tell my clients something without being offensive.
What interests me about this group is how detailed and subtle Yuko’s answer is compared to Ian and Kimi’s. Ian, I believe, wasn’t really sure what to say, and Kimi’s was no doubt influenced by her experience with her Judo. Yuko’s answer suggests that she has been in contact with a sensibility that really is uniquely Japanese, and just growing up in a Japanese household in Canada, that sensibility was still strong.

I asked everyone (except Kimi, forgot to, oops!) what they thought were key Japanese morals/values or sensibilities, and also if they were similar or different from Canadian ones.
There are a lot of cultural differences between Japan and Canada. The biggest might be work related. In Japan, when you get hired into a company, they take care of you for life. Some people never change jobs once they have been hired at one place. Unlike here where people seem to always be changing jobs constantly, and don’t feel much responsibility or attachment to their jobs.
Politeness and being proper, respect for others, blending into the mass, not showing that there are problems. Japanese and Canadian values are very different. Canadians value their freedom, and are very open (not quite rude, but some people may think so) and their uniqueness. Where as Japanese value their politeness (speaking properly to others using polite words. Japanese language has 2 types of speaking, formal and non-formal. I speak to my parents and friends in the non-formal manner, but formal to strangers, and elders.) and “blending in” (example: Schools have school uniforms that are identical and have very specific rules about accessories, hair styles etc.). Boasting about your skills or accomplishments is frowned upon (so a parents bragging about their child is not done)/ My parents didn’t really compliment me on my accomplishments ( I guess in some ways it is expected of you to excel), which is very frustrating for me since all the other kids were rewarded. Also in the Japanese culture you don’t say what you want or don’t want, in Canada you do. So in Japan if you want something done you would bring the topic up and skirt around the topic until the other person gets it. If you don’t want to do something you don’t say “no”, but skirt around the topic again (e.g. “So next Saturday, huh… well… lets see… we are kind of busy these days with this and that… Saturday may be a bit tough for me… I could try to squeeze you in somehow… but…”. Where as in Canada it would be: “Sorry I am busy Saturday. We’ll have to pick another day.”)
Fitting in is very important in Japan. Being a very different person is not valued in the same way that it is in Canada. Working well with groups is important. Individual achievements should be put aside for the good of the group. In Japan things are much busier in the cities, and work hours tend to be longer. The diet is quite different, and has more fish in it. People live in much smaller spaces, houses are much bigger in Canada. (* I combined my Uncle Toukes answer about Japanese sensibilities and how Japan is different from Canada for this answer, but the wording and order is untouched)

No comments: