Interviewed & written by Isao Tokuhashi
Mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Evelyn Martinez (Mexico)
Spanish/English instructor (Kumamoto)
Evelyn Martinez is from Mexico. She’s been in the United States for several years and met a person she loves. She got married him and came to Japan one year ago.
She is living in Kumamoto, Kyushu Region (Southern Japan) so It’s not an interview with a Tokyo resident. But she tells us the differences between Japan, Mexico and the US. How does she feel about her life in Japan?
Tokyo is too big for me.
I was in Tokyo almost 10 years ago when I came to Japan for the first time. I really like Tokyo because it’s a big city and it has a lot of stuff. But I’m not sure if I would like to live here. I like big cities, but Tokyo is too big for me.
It’s really crowded. Usually I like to see the blue sky. It’s really hard to see it here. And maybe lifestyle in Tokyo is kind of quick.
There’s always a wall between Japanese and I.
Japanese people are really nice, but it’s kind of hard to get to know them. They don’t open themselves up very much. Even if my Japanese friend has a problem, he/she wouldn’t talk to me about his/her problem. It seems they don’t ask for help. They don’t open up their heart. There’s always a kind of wall between them and I. Right now, I understand that wall. But I thought, “my friend doesn’t trust me?” at that time. I couldn’t understand why that kind of wall exists.
As for me, I would say to my friend, “I have a problem, so can I talk about that?” Because I want to share it with my friend. But when my Japanese friend has a problem, he/she doesn’t share it with me. I felt that kind of attitude was kind of “rude” because he/she didn’t seem to trust me. But I’ve learned how to deal with that kind of wall. I understand and respect that privacy. That’s their culture.
“I thought foreigners have blue eyes or green eyes.”
Right now, I’m teaching English to pre-school and elementary school kids. Also I teach Spanish to adult people. It’s really hard for foreigners to get jobs here in Japan besides work related to languages. But I’m really happy with having gotten this job.
A kid in my class says to me every time he sees me. “Are you really a foreigner?” I say, “Yeah, I’m a foreigner.” He says again, “Are you really a foreigner?” I say, “Yes. Why do you ask me that?” He says, “Because your eyes are brown. I thought foreigners have blue eyes or green eyes.” I have brown eyes and brown hair so he thought I’m not a foreigner. I don’t know why Japanese people have that idea. Foreigners speak only English and they are blond and tall. Japanese have a certain image of foreigners but it actually refers to only American or European white people. Japanese should have a wider knowledge of foreigners.
I feel I’m an alien, I’m a weird existence.
My Japanese co-workers have lived in different countries. I think if Japanese get out of Japan, thieir ways of thinking will change. I really can see the difference between a person who has been only in Japan so far and someone who has been in another country. People who have been in differnt countries before are more open. They know how to communicate with foreigners. So it’s really easy for me to work with them.
But kids’ parents are different from my Japanese co-workers. They come to pick up their children and they talk to only Japanese teachers. I don’t know why, but they don’t talk to me very much even though both Japanese teachers and I greet parents at the door. But they don’t even look at me. Because, I don’t know, maybe they are shy or they don’t know what to say to me. So I feel I’m invisible.
In another case, I live in an apartment complex and its residents have to clean around there once a month. When we do that, some of them talk to me and others don’t talk to me. They just say hello. They also don’t know what to talk to me.
Then I feel I’m an alien, I’m a weird existence just around there. I understand that it’s because of a language barrier. If I could learn Japanese more, I would be able to communicate with them and they would also realize that we could communicate each other. Then it would become easier to break the barrier.
“How cute!” “It’s delicious!” Are those really coming from bottom of their hearts?
Here in Japan, people are too conscious of seasons. If I say I want to eat shabu-shabu (see this page) in summer, Japanese look at me and they feel it’s weird. “Why do you want to eat it in summer? It’s so hot!” But I don’t care. I just want to eat it.
Also I saw a woman on TV and she said, “I don’t know what to wear.” Actually it was hot even in fall in Kumamoto. “Should I wear summer clothes or autumn clothes?” She seemed to be in trouble. But I felt, “Just wear whatever you feel good. Don’t care about the season.” Everything is connected to the seasons.
They really don’t care what they feel. They care about how other people look at them or how other people judge them. That’s what I really don’t like.
Sometimes I go to a hair salon and a hairdresser talks to me and asks me some questions. If I say I speak Spanish, she says, “Oh, amazing! I want to learn Spanish!” I feel she is too emotional and it’s not true emotion. She says that just to be nice to me.
Other people are also like that. They say, “how cute it is!” “It’s delicious!” Are those really coming from bottom of their hearts? They just seem to try to be nice or do what other people do but I think what they say does not come from their hearts. It’s also a wall.
After all, I love Japan.
Other than those things, I love everything in Japan. I have been so relaxed here since I came to Japan. I can walk on streets and go shopping even at night and nobody bothers me. Especially in Kumamoto, because it’s a small city. Maybe in Tokyo, I would have to be conscious of security more but still it’s much safer than US. That’s the biggest difference and a thing I like here.
I love nature in Japan. It’s so green and beautiful. Japanese temples are really beautiful, too!
Photos by Toshihiro Odo
What is Japan to you?
It’s my dream that has come true. If I had a previous life, I think I was a Japanese in it. So I feel Japan is the place I was meant to be.