Most of you, my readers, will know that I have studied something connected to Asia. And if you’ve been with me at least since → this post ←, you will know it was Far East Studies and Asia Pacific Studies. But what happened before I got the chance to study what I was really interested in? Unfortunately we usually have no choice but to go through High School, and although I rarely mention it, I guess I’ll make an exception today. As a Junior High school student I liked writing stuff and thought I was good at it, so when I had to choose a High School, I was sure I wanted to go to one that had a class with an extended curriculum in Polish, English and History — a so-called “journalism class”. I won’t lie and say it helped me develop my writing skills — In some way I could say it kinda almost killed them at some point (as well as my passion for History), but now my skills and passion are back, so it’s all good. Where is this all going? There were 35 of us if I remember correctly. And if I’m not mistaken, only one person has actually pursued a journalism career. A few months ago she contacted me, asking for an interview for a local magazine she works at. And I said yes.
It’s nothing big, but hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day, right?!
…so here it is 🙂 (translated from Polish)
(I added some extra comments in purple)
In Stasia’s case, it was neither anime nor manga that sparked her interest in Japan — it was music. (In case you ever wondered, the very first music video from Japan I saw was MUCC – Saishuu Ressha) It all started with music, so different from all that was popular at that time. A unique stage look, colourful image — all that made me interested in Japanese street fashion and subcultures. An interest soon became a hobby, and a bit later something I wanted to pursue as a career. — she says.
Stasia started studying Far East Studies at Jagiellonian University, and later on Asia Pacific Studies at University of Leeds. She is linguistically talented. Her mother is Russian — as a 9 year old girl, Stasia read books for kids in Russian. (← I can still read and understand some, but sadly I don’t speak the language anymore). She studied English at school and picked up German while watching German television (It is true, although I also studied German for about 6 years — don’t remember much, but I can still get what German people on my Twitter timeline tweet about). When she started university, she started studying Japanese, but it wasn’t enough for her — she made Japanese online friends and practiced the language. (Twitter ♥)
Going to Japan was a dream that she never gave up on. Polish citizens are required to get a Japanese visa in order to live there. To obtain it, they have 3 choices: to marry a Japanese citizen, to sign up for a pricey language course or to find a job. Stasia knew that the last option was the only one she had. She decided to get work experience in companies connected to Japan. In London, she worked for a Japanese catering company serving passengers of Japanese airlines. In the evenings, she worked as a waitress at a sushi bar and her coworkers helped her practice the language. Also in London she had her first interview with the company that later hired her in Tokyo. She got the job and she could replace her tourist visa with a special visa for language teachers (Specialist in Humanities & International Services). For over two years she’s been working at the same school — she teaches both, daily conversation and business English. Among her clients you’ll find university students, housewives, elderly people, businessmen as well as kids, who show their gratitude by giving her colourful letters with cute drawings.
Dreams came true
In July 2012 she moved to Japan. At the very beginning I lived in a guesthouse, in an area considered rather boring, but I still feel nostalgia for it. Tokyo divides into two parts: Yamanote — tall buildings, clubs, high brands and neon lights, and Shitamachi — which is not as fashionable, and there’s lots of stray cats and senior citizens. I lived in different guesthouses in different parts of Shitamachi for about a year. That might be a good solution for foreigners, as moving in is fast, the fees are fixed and basically it is possible to communicate in English (which is NOT common in Japan), BUT it is not something I recommend for the long run — she says and adds that none of her rooms were bigger than 7 square meters.
BONUS! Here you can see all my rooms. Don’t trust the photos, they take them with a special lens that make the rooms look spacious.
After a year she managed to rent her own apartment with a small kitchen and a bathroom. For her it was “something”, but for her Polish friends it was just a tiny room. (Okay, here I want to mention that as for Japanese standards my apartment is definitely not tiny as I have two rooms for myself, I really need to write a blog post about it…) She admits that it didn’t take that much time to get accustomed to living in a big city like Tokyo; she already knew so much about the country, its culture and Japanese peoples’ lifestyle. But it was not always perfect. — Japan is a country with an unimaginable level of bureaucracy. One needs to make lots of phone calls, visit several offices and gather a pile of documents just to get one thing done. When my Japanese was still not good enough to deal with all that, I needed to ask my friends to help me. Getting used to the working style of Japanese people wasn’t that easy either. — she mentions as she speaks about difficulties she experienced at the beginning. Now, she has no trouble communicating in Japanese. (Well, yes and no. I can have a normal conversation, make phone calls, deal with banks etc. but discussing more complicated stuff like politics is still kinda hard).
She respects Japanese for being well-organized. — Everything is in a perfect order, everybody waits patiently in line for their turn. Laws must be obeyed, absolutely not broken. If you lose a wallet or a phone, you can be sure that if anyone finds it, they’ll take it to the nearest police box (or Lost & Found office) and you’ll get it back. Clean streets, safety, life according to the ethos “Do not do to others what you would not have them do to you” — she says and assures us that it’s the most convenient city in the world.
Every day is similar: full time job, studying Japanese and Korean, exploring Tokyo in search of cute cafes on her days off. Although she doesn’t have much free time, every Friday she visits an orphanage, where she volunteers (I need to add something here, recently the girl I used to spend time with got a part-time job so I can’t go that as often, but I still visit the place from time to time). She’s had some unusual adventures: she was featured in a Japanese magazine “Tattoo Girls” (it’s a magazine about tattooed Japanese women, but in the issue for 2014 a few foreign women were featured; Stasia has several tattoos), she has posed for photos a few times and took part in a TV commercial. (Read more about “Tattoo Girls” →here←. And the commercial… I can’t say anything about it yet, but when I’m finally allowed to, you can maybe expect a blog post about it?)
She writes about her life and experiences in Japan on her blog shichijyuuni.com. It’s name (shichi- 7 –> 7月, jyuuni -12 –> 12日 = the 12th of July) means the date that marks a new stage in her life. (and you can read about it → here ←)
(I skipped the part about prices in Tokyo, because I guess it won’t be interesting for you anyway if you’re not Polish)
Touches of Poland in Tokyo
After over two years as an expat, Stasia has no plans of coming back. — Japan still occupies a high position on the list of the best countries to live in and I can confirm it. And because living here is a dream that came true, I won’t give it up so quick. However, I can’t tell for sure there will be no changes some day– she says. She admits that what she misses the most from Poland is food: soups, bread, ham. This year her cravings were fulfilled at the annual Polish Festival in Roppongi, where she could buy things like Polish apple pie, sour rye soup and fruit beer — not that common in Japan. Japanese attendees could learn some more about Polish culture and customs. – I am observing more and more events connected to Poland, like the aforementioned event in Roppongi or a Polish Movie Festival that took place in Shibuya last year. In the biggest DVD rental store chain you can find more and more Polish movies, which naturally, makes me very happy– she says.
How does she remember our city? I attended high school in Tarnow, so my memories are also typically ‘high school’. Taking a stroll in the park after classes, rock concerts, coffee in my favourite cafe, delicious waffles with whipped cream… I’ll be sure to visit all those places again, if I only get a chance to be in Tarnow again.
It’s a total wall of text, so thank you if you actually spared a few minutes to read it! ♥