Interviewed & written by Isao Tokuhashi
Mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Larry Yamamoto (Canada)
Translator/Proofreader/English conversation instructor
(He’s been in Japan since ’89)
Look at the picture above. Nice smile! Larry Yamamoto is a happy and funny guy from Toronto, Canada. Japan is his roots and he has been exploring his ethnical background in Japan since he came here. However, he doesn’t seem to be too much serious, just enjoying his daily life with smiling and joking.
*Interview in Tama Plaza, Yokohama
Japan has been my roots.
I came to Japan on the JET programme (Japan Exchange and Teaching programme). I was always interested in coming to Japan since it’s been my roots. I wanted also to improve my Japanese as well. And when I was in university, I was interested in Japanese and Japanese culture.
I’m not a typical third generation. I was born in Japan and left Japan when I was 6. My parents had their education in Japan.
My dad was born in Canada. He left canada when he was 10. My mom was born in Japan. So basically, my parents’ first language is Japanese. I spoke Japanese with my parents at home but I spoke English with my brothers and a sister since English is our first language.
So I’m a kind of “semi-new immigrant”. But I am a third generation because my dad was born in Canada. My grandfather was the first generation but my mother is the first generation.
My schooling from elementary school to university was only in Canada. I was born in Osaka, western Japan, and we moved to Kobe, 15 miles away from Osaka. I attended a Canadian academy school there.
When I was 6, we went to Taiwan. I had been there for 2 years. Then, Canada. Montreal.
My family’s history.
My grandfather first immigrated to Canada and he worked in the railroad. He lived in Canada for 10 years. Then he went back to Japan. He went to Canada from Ibusuki, Kagoshima Prefecture (Southern Japan). In 1920s or 30s, I think there were a lot of Japanese at that time who left Japan from Kagoshima because Japan was really poor. So a lot of people in that area immigrated to Canada, Hawaii, US and down to South America for better opportunities.
10 years later, my grandfather came back to kagoshima. After that, he went back to Canada again.
My dad was born in Canada when my grandparents first immigrated to Canada. So my grandparents immigrated to Canada, my dad was born, 10 years later they went back to Japan. My father had been in Japan for 20 years. After my parents got married, they came back to Canada. Then I was born in Osaka on a third-trip to Japan for my dad.
So many people were smoking.
The culture shock was how crowded the trains are. You are packed in the train. I’m kind of used to it but I don’t like it much. Also cost as well. Things in Japan are expensive.
Back in 1989, it’s changed quite a bit now but at that time smoking was allowed in so many places. There was no no-smoking area back then. That was a very big shock. So many people were smoking. You can smoke in the office. You can smoke anywhere at that time. You hear that Japanese are so healthy in everything. But when you see a lot of people smoking, what gives?
Co-workers stay, you feel you’re obligated to stay.
People work too hard, but I think it might be changing now. However still I have that image of Japanese working until 9PM, 10PM, 11PM. If you’re one of regular staff, you feel you can’t go home until your boss leaves. Or other co-workers stay, then you feel you are obligated to stay.
It’s wasting time. And if you are getting overtime for staying because your boss or your co-workers are staying, then companies are wasting money.
What is Tokyo is to you?
It’s a city with a lot of excitement. Always a lot of things are happening. Japan is my second home, not Tokyo:-)