As a granddaughter of Japanese immigrants from Okinawa in Peru, I always wondered what it must have been like to come to a new country from which one had zero knowledge about, having to learn a new language and adapt to a totally new culture and the idiosyncrasy of its people. Life must have been definitely hard for them, especially around the WWII days.
By the time I was in high school, I had this desire to understand that past that was linked to me through my ancestors. I wanted to go to Japan and study there, not because of any family pressure, but because it just felt like that was what I must do. It took a few years and a Bachelor’s Degree to materialize this dream. My father told me about a scholarship offered by the Japanese Ministry of Education and encouraged me to apply. A year later I was on my way to Japan.
This two-year scholarship was given to students who had either obtained a BA or were professionals in any field and were interested in doing a research project in their fields of study in Japan. It also gave the students the possibility to apply to the Master’s Program with the consent and help of their professor/advisor. Many things happened during those first two years in Japan, but to make the story short, I did not get the support I was hoping to get from my professor. This of course implied that I would not get an extension of my scholarship. I decided to apply to another university and once I got accepted into the Master’s Program in Social Anthropology at Saitama University, I had to look for a few part-time jobs.
I called a couple of language schools in Tokyo and managed to set interviews for teaching positions. I went to the first one knowing that they were looking only for native English speakers which I am not. The secretary told me that the interview would last fifteen minutes and guided me to her boss’ tiny office. It all started fine. He introduced himself as Mr. Saitama and I thought, “Huh, what a coincidence, I’m attending a university with the same name.” He asked me what I was studying and I answered in my most polite manner. He told me that he had also studied Anthropology in Chicago and I was thinking to myself, “and is this going to be my prospect for the future?” Then his next question was,”Do you believe in reincarnation?” “Reincar whaaat???” I immediately remembered reading the word in some obscure esoteric magazine way back then during my teenage years back in Lima, but I had never given it not even a minute of thought to that! “Well”, I said, “I have no argument against as to why souls cannot come back for another chance”, or so. Mr. Saitama ordered his secretary Mitsuru-san to close the door and to remain in the room with us. This “interview”, which should have lasted only fifteen minutes lasted six whole hours! He bombarded me with questions I had never even thought about, ever. We talked about from Jesus Christ to the so-called “Space Brothers”. Six hours of a subject that I had no clue I could talk about so extensively! Something in me was awakened that I never knew I had inside.
By the time we said good-bye to each other, both of them guided me to the door. I turned around to thank them for their time and as I looked back at them, I had this strange, warm feeling of “long-time-no-see!” I left without knowing if I had gotten the teaching position or not, but that did not seem to matter anymore. I was in a “natural high” state, a feeling like if the pieces of a puzzle were starting to fall into place. I knew then that life would never be the same again.
I did get the teaching position, by the way…