I interviewed a 24-year-old male Japanese student called Koji Mizushima. He is a mechanical engineering student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I know him because he is a classmate to one of my best friends, and we also live in the same neighborhood. I decided to interview Mr. Mizushima because I am rather intrigued by the Japanese culture and way of life. I would like to pay the country a visit one day, and conducting the interview gave me an idea of how life in Japan is. I conducted the interview face-to-face by organizing an 45-minute appointment at a quiet public park.
In the course of the interview, Mizushima told me that he is from the Japanese city of Kobe. He came to the United States to study mechanical engineering in an English-speaking nation as he feels it would increase his chances of getting a prestigious job upon graduation. He has been living in Boston for the last two years or so. One thing I noticed about him is that he spoke very fluent American English with minimal traces of Japanese accent. He told me that he was an English language freak who was very enthusiastic about its dialects. He has been an ardent fan of American films and music since childhood, something that contributed to his fluency in the language.
Mizushima also told me that he lives in a home with his parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces and grandparents. He found it surprising that here in America people are not that interested in living in family members. For instance, he was somewhat dismayed when I told him I stopped living under my parents roof when I was just 19 years old. He also told me that within the Japanese culture, public display of emotion and affect was heavily frowned upon. He appeared shocked to see couples hugging, holding hands or kissing in the park while the interview was taking place.
Culture & Geography
What the interviewee told me about him living with members of his extended family appeared to confirm a certain trait about the Japanese culture. In Japan, it is common for three generations of the same family to live under a single roof. While this trend is becoming less common as time goes by, it is still quite prevalent especially in the urban centers. Homes there are rather small due to insufficient space, although they are still comfortable. In addition, many things in such homes still maintain a traditional setting. For instance, a family made up of four members may live in a home having two or three rooms, with a kitchen and a bathroom. In such a setting, the two rooms also play the role of sleeping and living areas.
I deduced that the interviewee was an introverted individual who valued privacy. This appears to confirm that the concept of privacy in Japan is more of a state of mind as opposed to a condition of solitude, considering that personal space is hard to find in the country. Japanese people are quite good at isolating themselves from the world and maintaining privacy, even when they are surrounded by others. They do this by reading various types of books or taking naps.
The interview was quite productive both for me and for Koji Mizushima. I got to learn several things about the Japanese culture that I did not know previously. It gave me some insight on what to expect if I ever made the trip to Japan that I have been planning for a long time. On the other hand, Mr. Mizushima got an opportunity to learn how to interact with an American.
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