I tend to write long introductions when what I really want to do is to get straight to the point. Okay, so I’ll try not to go off the topic too much today. Have you noticed I don’t write much about kawaii culture (I did my thesis on that, so I might share pieces of it sometimes though), idols with high-pitched voices, Lolita fashion, that sort of thing? I think there’s been enough articles written about that stuff on the interwebz.
Anyway, what I want to say is… Japanese girls are much more than just a pile of kawaii stuff.
I’d like to present a few short interviews to you, or should I say “girl talks”, I had with the girls and women I know. They all agreed to be a part of my little project and they all had some interesting thoughts to share. Please spare a minute or two to learn about the world from their point of view. I didn’t add anything from myself, all I did was provide a translation. It’s all their own words.
She’s a lovely and talkative 17-year old girl. When I first met her, I was surprised to see how serious she is about things. She studies hard to get into her dream university. She loves fashion and designing her own clothes. She loves Harajuku fashion and she dreams of being one of those young designers you can meet there. In this photo she’s wearing a top her mom used to wear as a young girl and some accessories she made by herself.
Rino about me: First time I met you I noticed your blonde hair and thought “She looks like a ‘real’ foreigner” — a foreigner like I had imagined them. You were friendly and fashionable. I like talking about fashion with you and I want to go shopping in Harajuku with you one day.
Rino about fashion: I have always liked cute things and had an interest in different styles. Once my friend, who is just one year older than me, organized a small fashion show by herself. It was very low-key, with just a bunch of her friends. We all enjoyed it and that’s when I saw that fashion can make people happy and we can express ourselves with it in so many ways. I started making accessories like brooches and bracelets. I’m still a student so I don’t have much money to buy clothes, but I can make them! My mom gave me a lot of clothes she wore as a teenager and I love second-hand shops, where I find interesting pieces of clothing and play with them. I have a big dream of working in the fashion industry. I could be a minor designer, or even just work for a fashion magazine. They wouldn’t even have to pay me, I’d even be happy if I could do it as a hobby!
Rino about the future: I’m a little scared of the future. I realize it’s really difficult to get noticed in the fashion industry and it’s often not really a stable job. Sometimes you don’t even have money to support yourself, let alone your dream.
Rino about life here: In Japan, they always show Paris on TV… that’s why so many Japanese people want to go there and that’s why they imagine it’s so great. European cities are beautiful, aren’t they? I did a homestay in England a few years ago, but I couldn’t speak any English at that time. I remember that everybody told me the food would be terrible, but guess what! I really liked it. And we always drank tea over there, I guess that’s a really British thing. Kids at school were so talkative, they would tell their opinions and take an active part in debates. They could drink juice in class and I envied them, because they seemed so free. Here in Japan, we can’t say anything at school, we don’t have discussions and don’t express our opinions. Everybody has to have their mind set on one opinion. We are really good at adapting to situations, ‘cus we don’t want to stand out. Maybe that’s why so many Japanese people are not good at communicating with others? We get embarrassed really quickly. But of course, don’t get me wrong, I love Japan. I like that even if you lose something valuable, like your phone, you will get it back because no one would even think of keeping it. I love Japanese food, everything is delicious, right! I like that Japanese people do everything properly — but it also depends on the person, of course. I feel that Japanese feel very confident while walking in a crowd of people. You know, we don’t wanna stand out, we just keep walking as one group.
I’d like to be different, though. When I go to university, I want to dye my hair or perm it, I dont know, do something to look different.
Rino about boys: I have to study for exams, I’ve never even thought about my ideal type or anything. Looks don’t matter, but I like boys who wear glasses. They look smart and I think that what boys really need to be is smart, not necessarily handsome, right? Anyway, for now I will study, study and study some more. I will work hard to make my dreams come true.
Mika is 17, too. I met her at the orphanage where I volunteer. I remember meeting her for the first time. She was really bubbly and, unlike I expected, she wasn’t shy at all! She started talking to me straight away, from the moment we met a million words pouring out of her mouth. Since the very beginning she seemed to take my presence at the kids house as something obvious, like “Yeah, Stasia visited us and she will come here every week from now on, we can talk and study English and watch movies together, that’s nice”. She’s a lovely, smart girl. I can see how much she has changed since the time we first met, how much she has grown.
Mika about me: I thought that you were fun and beautiful! The adults* told me that a foreign girl will visit me every week and I just couldn’t wait to meet you! I think I would have been a little scared if you were a guy though. I didn’t really know what I should talk about with you, but that was before you came here. Now I know that we can just do whatever and it’s fun.
(*they call their caretakers “the adults”)
Mika about the orphanage: I came here when I was 12. I like it here. We’re like a big family. I’m the oldest girl on this floor, but I don’t mind spending time with smaller kids. When I get older, graduate from the university and all, I want to work here. I will take care of all the kids! Why? I love them! Of course it’s hard sometimes. Kids get angry, they shout and cry and hit walls with their little fists when they get frustrated. But I understand it. I remember being angry myself. I was at that difficult age, everything made me angry. But it’s over now and it will be over for them too, we just have to be patient, right?
When I first came here I was scared. There are strict rules, there are many things we cannot do, we have to go to bed at 9, we have to study hard. I knew it was for our own good and I quickly got used to it I guess. When the time comes and I have to leave this place, I will really miss it. The adults and the kids. That’s why I want to come back here and help, like they helped me. I guess the kids will be really grown up by the time I come back here though!
Mika about school: Studying is difficult. Our classes and teachers are so boring. We don’t do anything fun, creative, all we do is read textbooks. I like Western pop groups, they’re really cool. I wish I could understand their lyrics or sing along with them. I hate English. I mean, I love English, but not the English I study at school. It’s all too difficult and I can’t memorize grammar formulas and words and phrases and all that… I like music, it makes me so happy when I understand even single words in the songs. But classes are so boring, I don’t think I’ll ever learn anything. Can you imagine how boring my classes are? Most of my classmates sleep through the class. Teachers see it, but they don’t do anything. They know we’re tired and bored. I will soon go to New Zealand for 3 weeks, I’m so excited to see something brand new! I worked hard to make it come true. I got a part-time job and paid for everything by myself, though I couldn’t buy anything nice while I was saving up my money. It’s okay, I’m really happy I got this chance. I will stay with a host family and I really want to study real English!
Mika about boys: There’s a boy I like, but I don’t think he sees me as a girl. He just sees me as a buddy and it’s okay because we can spend time together. Boys should be nice. And tall! But honestly, I don’t care what they look like, as long as it’s fun being together. I think that’s very important. What if he’s really handsome but you’re bored with him and he can’t make you laugh? That’s kind of pointless, isn’t it?
Mika about life: What makes me happy? Everything! I love everything! I really love food. Sweet food, spicy food, sushi, gratin, burgers, ramen. I’m happy everyday, but sometimes I get sad when I’m bored. I start thinking about things. Thinking too much, do you do that too? Then I try to think about everything I love and I’m happy again.
Thank you for reading the thoughts of two amazing girls. If you’d like to tell them something, I’d be more than happy to pass it to them. Thank you ♥