Thursday, 21 March 2013

Japanese Speaking Salon

I'd like to introduce to you the Japanese Speaking Salon in Fukuoka. I'd first heard about it in the first few weeks we were here, but due to bad timing and a cold Wes and I didn't get round to going until mid-February. It's basically an event that's held every first and third Thursday of the month in Tenjin by volunteers who support international exchange within Fukuoka. Snacks and drinks are even provided which is great! Foreigners and Japanese people of all kinds of ages turn up and talk Japanese for several hours. Although the majority of foreigners are young people normally studying at a school in Fukuoka and the Japanese people are either students or retired people (well it is in the middle of the day so no surprise there).

So Wes and I turn up to our first Speaking Salon on the 21st February and there's about 15people chatting. We sign in and get given pieces of paper to write our names and country on to have in front of us when we're talking to people. Then we sit down at a table with two elderly men and a young girl. Conversation is then mostly run by the older guy and I begin to feel sorry for the younger Japanese girl as they point out how strange young people are and how much like a non-traditional Japanese girl she is and assumes that her mum does everything for her. I quickly deduced that when old people are talking there's nothing you can do about it, and an elderly person is higher up than the younger generation. (This happened the second time Wes and I was there with the same elderly man and a young man, and the elderly man began to prod and pick at the younger guys suit explaining how Japanese men dressed for work and the younger man just sat there and let him do it). So I moved over closer to the younger girl when there was a gap in conversation and while the older men talked with Wes I chatted to her about the UK and Korea and stuff.

Half way through the afternoon and everyone swapped tables/seats to mix things up a little (I was quite sad that they didn't do that on the other 2 times we're gone). I ended up talking to a younger Japanese guy who was really nice and spoke a good speed and would even correct my Japanese when I got it wrong! This was great because people won't correct you if you say something wrong, they just nod and smile and you think you've said what you've meant to say (which means the possibility of making the same mistake again without realising it).

The second and third time we went (7th and 21st March) Wes and I took other people and both times we got stuck with the elderly men, which was ok because although they talked a lot one of them gave Wes and I a lot of advice on businesses within Japan. Well he mostly gave Wes advice, I felt a bit ignored but I think that might be because of the subconscious hierarchy of Asian -> Man -> Woman. Basically if you're in a restaurant in Japan and there's an Asian person in the group the waiter will address them first assuming that the other foreigners don't know Japanese and not realising the Asian person he's addressing is Chinese/Canadia. And so on. This is a personal theory based on a few observations and isn't the rule for every Japanese person, and it's not because anyone's being racist or sexist, it just makes sense to assume that a) Asian person in Japan is probably Japanese and can speak English, or B) the man is paying/in charge so they should address him. And this was an elderly Japanese buisnessman who was probably once the director of a trading company so I wasn't particularly jaded by the fact that he was addressing Wes a lot more than me.

Anyway, I'm rambling. The third time we go Wes went off to do something else before hand so it was just me and a new girl talking to him. This was a bit easier as we were joined by another elderly man and they were talking to the new girl because her Japanese wasn't so fluent. So conversation was slow and simple at first but as they got carried away they began speaking super fast and every now and then I'd turn to the new girl Kate and translate something which she'd make a note of to study later.

What was weird about the last meeting was what happened afterwards. Now the whole time Wes had been on another table talking to other people who then invited us out for pictured with the cherry blossom which are coming out right now. So a small group of us walk down the road and get some random pictures with the cherry blossoms. I'd only just met these people and wondered if it was ok...well, for a short while but then I got distracted by someone walking their dog and a group of people who'd just finished their shift at H&M and wanted pics with the blossoms. Two of them could speak english so we ended up chatting for a short while. It was all very random.

I also didn't take my camera on any of those days so I sadly have no photos, but Wes and I will be going again hopefully every time they hold an event.


And because someone requested me to translate this into Japanese I've decided to give it a go...







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