Name: Yasmin Bottos
Tell us about a place you like in Japan
That’s very difficult, because I did quite a bit of travelling in Japan and there are many places that I like. It was always my goal to go to Okinawa, because I’d studied quite a bit about what happened there in terms of war and the issue of US bases. Also, I’d seen from pictures how beautiful the beaches and scenery were. So it always struck a chord with me. I stayed there for about a week and went to many different places, tried the local food, listened to traditional music and went sightseeing.
I really loved the experience of being in Okinawa. It has a different sort of ambience to mainland Japan, it’s kind of a mixture of influences. And Okinawa was an independent kingdom before it became part of Japan, so there’s also that element. Down south near Itoman there are quite a few areas of interest. One is the Memorial Museum. The day I went it was closed! But they had many other memorials and museums nearby, such as Himeyuri Peace Museum. I really recommend Okinawa if you are interested in history.
What did you do when you lived in Japan?
I was studying on exchange at Okayama University as part of my 4th year. I took intensive Japanese classes, as well as classes taught in either Japanese or English (and sometimes classes in a mixture of Japanese and English!). I studied social linguistics, media literacy, tea ceremony culture and history - a real variety. I was also working part-time at Okayama University’s L-Cafe (language cafe), where Japanese students could come in and practice their conversational English with the exchange students working there. I’d also teach small groups of students 1-2 hours a week, and there was some translation work on the side too.
I did take my studies seriously, but because I was an exchange student I had a bit more free time (compared to student life here in Adelaide). There was less homework! So I spent a lot of quality time with friends, which was good because I had a chance to make new friends and practise Japanese. I also spent time with other international students from many different countries, so I was able to learn about their cultures too. We’d just hang out at L-Cafe, talking, eating snacks, helping each other with homework and making origami! I was able to develop close friendships with people. Making friends was something I was worried about before I left, but it wasn’t a problem in the end. It was a very cosmopolitan experience. The university is definitely trying to promote more of a global image.
What interests you about Japan?
I started becoming interested in Japan through my love of anime, which is how a lot of people start. I think that’s why Japanese is so popular. When I was younger I loved watching Pokemon and Dragon Ball Z. Then, my friend introduced me to some new anime, but this time in the original Japanese. We started watching them together and I developed an interest in the Japanese language. Just through watching anime you pick up a lot. I enrolled in Japanese classes at School of Languages, because they didn’t offer it at my school. I studied there for 4 years and then I went to university and continued Japanese studies. I still love anime, but also I’m really interested in basically everything related to Japan: the history, culture, society, politics… Currently I am writing my thesis on right-wing nationalist groups in Japan. I’ve developed an interest in new areas that I couldn’t have predicted when I was younger.
How do you imagine your future in relation to Japan?
I’d like to work in Japan. I am planning to apply for an internship role at the Australian Embassy in Tokyo. I’m also thinking of applying for the JET program as a CIR (Coordinator for International Relations). You work in a municipal office and have a variety of roles: interpreter and translator, managing exchange programs, contributing to projects. That sounds quite interesting. I would like to go back to Okayama because we have a sister state relationship, so it makes sense that I would promote that relationship.
Can you tell us something memorable about your time in Japan?
For me the most memorable times were the simplest ones. For example, one night I went to my friend’s apartment with other international students (from Korea, the US, Guam, Madagascar and Australia!) and had a nabe (hot pot) party with the kotatsu (low wooden table with a heat element underneath). It was great! I think nabe brings people together on a cold night, just talking, eating and laughing… I wish we had that sort of thing here. Very simple, but that was the most memorable thing for me.
Edited: August 2015