Updated: Jul 5, 2019
Reflecting on my first couple of months working here, there’s a lot to talk about. But for this blog, I want to focus on the one thing that stands out for me personally: The World Watching presentation that I gave at the end of May. The World Watching presentations are given twice yearly by foreign people by way of teaching the good people of Yasu about different cultures and societies around the world. At the end of March Takeda-san asked me if I’d like to present. Not having the full details, and with absolutely no reasonable way of saying no to my brand new employers, I said “Yes, I’d love to!” in the most positive voice that I could muster.
I’m fairly nervous about public speaking even in English on occasion, but to give a speech in Japanese for 90 minutes was a new thing indeed for me. I spent the Saturday before flitting between panicking about the grave importance of the presentation, and remembering that a bunch of people going to a community centre to watch a free speech probably weren’t going to be overly discerning. By Sunday morning, the latter feeling had won out, and I felt pretty relaxed. Especially after I’d met all the YIFA staff and members, and realized they all were right behind me. Everybody wanted me to do well.
I decided rather than preparing a script perfectly beforehand, I would just rely on more natural, off-the-cuff language. I hoped doing so would make it a bit more personable and interesting for the audience, and I think it probably worked out that way, save a couple of times where my Japanese failed me… I prepared some interesting material* and worked hard on the PowerPoint, so the core of the presentation went quite well, and even those who were bored senseless must have been happy when I busted out the CORNISH PASTIES (see pictures below) halfway through. Bringing home-made pasties was basically just a bribe to make people like me, but—in my defense—it was a resounding success. People gave me good feedback, the best of which was one fellow who reported that Cornish pasties (a very simple pie filled with meat and potato) are like a mix between taiyaki, pizza and nikuman... Imagine that!
Towards the end of the presentation we had a group discussion about similarities differences between Japanese and British people where some interesting (and hugely generalist!) ideas came up. Some examples included: SIMILARITIES
A history of imperialism Driving on the left Speaking quietly indoors Being bad at foreign languages DIFFERENCES Relative warmth of toilet seats Groupism VS Individualism
Different sense of time Relative safety in the night-time Paying with cash/ card
Speaking of the differences in terms of thinking about time, at the end of the presentation I showed a video by Yuriko Kotani, a Japanese comedian who lives and works in the U.K. I painstakingly added the subtitles to the video file, so I was glad that it was so well received by everyone. I’ll pop it here too, just in case anyone has A) actually read this far and B) is interested in watching it.
Just when I was ready to run out the door, I had a microphone shoved back in my face in time for the dreaded audience questions. This was the time when my Japanese let me down the most to be honest, though the audience remained patient enough with me. The questions were various, ranging from the simple: Question: Why don’t Brits eat snacks when drinking beer? Answer: Because we view that as a waste of stomach space. To the basically incomprehensible: Question: something…blah blah blah…textbooks… blah blah …biographies … something …Japanese … pottery… blah blah blah… children in Britain? Answer: Shakespeare is a good and famous writer.
Overall, I was very happy with the presentation, in spite of some difficulties (mainly language-based ones). Funnily enough, I was both proud that I was able to do a (largely) successful presentation all in Japanese, while also feeling that I really need to improve my language skills. I hope I’ll have another chance to do a presentation like that, and next time I think I’ll be able to do even better.
Our next World Watching will be in December (subject not yet decided) and I hope you’ll consider joining us for it. Please check the website for more information closer to the time!
*example of said interesting material: 76% of the U.K is farmland compared with 13% of Japan... INTERESTING