Monday, June 13, 2011

Jeff Beecroft: Osaka, Japan

My name is Jeff Beecroft and I am a student at the University of Utah. My major is Asian Studies while I am also pursuing a minor in Economics. I have a love for traveling and I have been to many places before. During my travels however, I felt a special connection to the people and places in Japan. Tokyo, my favorite city, has been directly affected by the events of March 11th, the large earthquake that struck Japan and triggered a tsunami and following nuclear emergency. There are many people in the States that do not fully understand the situation, so I hope I can shed some light on it. The people of Japan are suffering immensely emotionally as a whole. Many people died in the disaster and the recovery is long and hampered by the continuing situation at Fukushima. At the time of this writing, the situation is still far from over. Everyday, people risk their lives to cool down the reactors and keep it from getting worse. However, Japan is alright. People go about their lives just like any other day, especially so in the Kansai area that houses Osaka and neighboring cities like Kyoto, Kobe, and Nara. The people of Japan are incredibly resilient. I saw firsthand just how everyone was keeping to their usual routine in a recent experience.
            I am staying in Habikino, an Eastern part of Osaka Japan. There was a community event in a nearby area of Habikino called Furuichi. People from many countries came to this event. The purpose was to share Japanese culture, to show the community it is more diverse than it originally thought, and to welcome exchange of different backgrounds. I and seven other people came to the event. Six in our group were all here for the Japanese study abroad program. The other two are friends from Japan that we have made at Shitennoji University, where we all study. When we got to the event, we were greeted with big smiles and immediately felt at home. After attaching a name tag, written in katakana (reserved for words not native to Japan), we found our seats.

            I, along with another student, was asked to give a short speech. Though not prepared and quite scared, it was good practice for my studies to use the Japanese I have been working on and put it into use. I talked about where I was from, my love of Japan, and the tragic event that happened. Japan will be great again, I said. No one in the room, whether from Thailand, India, Vietnam, China, or elsewhere, denied that fact. There is something about the people in Japan that sticks with you. They are hard working, respectful, and deeply connected to each other. Following the speech, we had a short magic show by a wonderful elderly man. He admitted at the end of the show that he was 84 years old. Even at that age, he was incredibly entertaining. We ate and had a chance to talk one on one with new people. I met an older man who had learned a little bit of English in New York while he was there on business years back. He was quite good. It is an incredible feeling to be able to speak and hear stories through another language. It is like new doors open and you hear things for the first time again. We continued on and played bingo, no translation necessary. I got a bingo and was fortunate to pick out a gift on a table, something I had not planned on. Besides food and the entertainment, they were now giving me a gift! What a great time to meet new people. Truly though, I felt more of a citizen of the world after that event. I think it is important for my generation and the one to follow to think as global citizens, sharing the world and working towards everyone's benefit.

            I hope to continue my studies in Japanese and become fluent. This event and the trip so far in Japan has been memorable to say the least. It will stick with me forever. I have made fantastic friends, learned first hand new culture, and gained a lot of ability in Japanese. In Japan, they have a word that is somewhat hard to define easily. Ganbatte means “to hang in there, to do one's best”. I think it is appropriate to use this in wishing the best for Japan. I also apply it to my own life and try to do my best in anything I set my mind to. The study abroad in Japan is truly a wonderful opportunity to experience culture. I am grateful for the opportunity and the memories I have made will stay with me for a long time from now.

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