Natsumi Hara・XinYee Tee
♈Before the interview♈
Natsumi: Thank you so much for meeting us this beautiful morning!
Xin: We heard that you just came from New York last night!
Kyoko: Yes, we arrived at the hotel at about 11:30… and by the time I went to bed it was like 1 o’clock.
Xin: That was late! How do you feel today?
Kyoko: Good! I just came back from Spain and Italy last week, so there is often jet lag. I’m making a film about Samurais.
Natsumi: As I know, this is your 3rd film, right?
Kyoko: Yes, the movie is almost done, and I went to Spain to film.
Well, I have a question first of all, why did you decide to start a paper?
Natsumi: We found out that many students don’t know what to do in Boston, and we’d like to let everyone share their experience in Boston with each other.
Xin: And the reason why we’re starting ‘Biz Times’ is that we think everyone is very talented, even though some of them don’t write articles. We hope they can show their talent in different ways, such as photographing, video making or illustrating.
♈About International Experiences♈
Kyoko: Let’s start the interview!
Xin: We’ve so many questions that we would like to ask you!
Natsumi: I wonder why you decided to come to America?
Kyoko: This is my fourth time living in the U.S., but actually England was my first trip abroad. When I was 15, we had an exchange program to England to study English. In England, we could attend different classes such as horse-back riding after the regular classes. That was the first time I realized that I have the right to choose my own path. I came from a traditional family and my mother used to decide for me what I should learn. From that experience I decided to learn more. And therefore, I decided to study at a high school in Oregon for a year when I was 18.
When I was a high school exchange student, my host mother was a hair dresser and a very independent person. It was my first time I was exposed to a modern working mother, and she seemed to be enjoying it a lot.
Natsumi: Did you go back to Japan after spending a year in Oregon?
Kyoko: Yes, I went back to Japan and entered Sophia University in Tokyo. I decided to major in English at that time, but the principal encouraged me to learn an additional language, and I obeyed. But that turned out not to be enough for me.
Natsumi: And after that, did you go abroad again during your university year?
Kyoko: Exactly. Even though I was majoring in Spanish, I had so many interests such as journalism, communications, Spanish and English. I started to think how I could study all these. So instead of going to a university in Spain, I decided to go to an American university in Massachusetts (UMASS/AMHERST). In the university, I started studying about TV journalism, and by doing that I realized I really liked telling stories.
♈About Kyoko’s Daughter: Anna♈
Xin: Let’s talk a little about your daughter whom I am really interested in! Before we start the interview, you mentioned about your daughter Anna that she speaks many languages, for example French, Spanish and Italian. As you mentioned, your daughter loves languages and is a person who explores the world. I wonder – what are the Japanese characteristics you find in her?
Kyoko: Good question! I was so busy when we were in Japan, when she was a child, I didn’t have any time to be with her. It was my mother who raised my daughter. My mother is very traditional and my daughter also learned Japanese from her, and Anna’s Japanese is very polite and beautiful. When she visited Japanese families in America, Japanese mothers were actually fascinated. That’s because English is her native language but her Japanese is as good as her English.
This is very interesting because Japanese people have so much ‘omoiyari’ (concern for other people’s feelings), while American people are more about ‘me’, right? Therefore, when Anna went to school, even though she is smart, sometimes she would hold herself back. She used to struggle to express herself and now I think she is getting better, but she is not a very aggressive person.
Xin: I think I understand Anna’s feeling in some way. Because in my case, I’m Malaysian Chinese, and I love my language. But the problem was, I struggled so much because I was not able to express myself in English. And, I hated English because I think it stopped me from communicating with people.
Kyoko: Interesting! When I was in high school, I was able to understand what people said (in English), but I was not able to speak well. People also thought I was stupid since I didn’t express myself.
In the second semester, I became more confident and I had more friends, and my host family was very kind to me. They said it’s okay to speak up even though you may be wrong. I took the advice and started to talk louder. And people around me felt relieved because I did speak up. It was nice. You don’t have to be aggressive; some people just speak and never listen, but if you listen and speak, it’s really good.
Xin: Do you think your daughter ever suffers from language issues?
Kyoko: Emm…yes, I think she has. This is a very interesting story. When she was 2 years old, she went to nursery school because I was busy. One day she suddenly said to me in Japanese, “Mama, it’s time for me to go to kindergarten, not nursery school.” And I took her to my kindergarten.
But she said, “No, this is too far to go. I don’t want to use the train to go to kindergarten.” And I sent her to the nearest kindergarten, and she said, “Okay, this is good.” Because the kindergarten was so close, my mother could go to the school with her.
After that, she entered an international elementary school. One day, she came to me and said, “Mama, I don’t understand what people say, I don’t have any friends. I want to quit.” But I decided to wait and see for half a year. Six months later, I talked to Anna and said, “Anna, if you don’t want to stay in this school, we can change to public school. What do you think?” “No, Mama. Now I have many, many friends, they help me. I want to stay,” Anna said. And her English really improved. The first six months was really difficult, she suffered. Because of that experience, once she was in America, she was already fluent as an eight-year-old girl. So the language problem is already out of the way.
Xin: As you mentioned, Anna was raised in Japan when she was a child. But from the story, she didn’t sound like a typical Japanese child, because she spoke up for herself even though she was only 2 years old! That’s very rare in a Japanese child, right?
Kyoko: Right! I really respected her from the beginning, as a human being. Not as a daughter and mother. And it was so interesting, the first word she said was not “papa” nor “mama.” She said “jibura,” when she was trying to wear shoes by herself. She was saying “jibunde” (doing it by myself). She was very independent from birth. I realized this little ‘woman’ was really independent.
♈About Kyoko’s Family♈
Natsumi: When you decided to go to America, did your mother try to stop you from going abroad?
Kyoko: No, my mother said “YES” and my father said “NO,” because he thought America was dangerous. But then my mother convinced my father, and I was able to go.
There’s a story behind it. My great-grandmother always protected my mother, and my mother had no independence. She wasn’t allowed to go somewhere three stations away, even when she was in 5th grade. At that time, my mother started thinking “If I have a child in the future, I want her to be very independent so she can go anywhere.”
Xin: I think you are very lucky to be born in this family, because even though your mother is traditional and strict to you, you were allowed and given a chance to go to America. I think that was rare in Japan at that time, right?
Kyoko: Right, right, right! Nobody really stopped me. That was really important. So I am not stopping my daughter. When she was deciding her college major, I didn’t say anything because she is an independent person, she knows what she wants to do.
Natsumi: We watched your film Mothers’ Way, Daughters’ Choice, and the last scene was really impressive. You asked your mother in the film “What do you expect me to be like in the future?” and she replied, “I want you to see more.” “More? Mom, you are really expecting great things of me!”
Kyoko: That was amazing, right? I was not expecting her to say that.
Xin: That’s really funny!
Kyoko: Right! That’s why I love documentaries, you could never write that.
Kyoko: I want to do feature films in the future, but right now documentaries are the way.
Xin: Thank you so much for sharing your story, we’d like to ask more and more questions, but unfortunately we have to conclude this interview.
Kyoko: This is the thing I want to tell you before the end; I’m now 53 and how old are you?
Kyoko: So 19 and 20 year-old girls or women. I look like such an established woman to you, right? Nice career and family. But it’s not right, you should never compare like that. And I don’t want to tell you the story that “I’m so good.” That’s stupid. Some people do that, but that has no meaning. I’m telling you my story and so you can learn from my mistakes and then from my success, so that you can use it. That’s why I accepted the interview.
Xin/ Natsumi: Thank you very much and let’s take a photo before ending this interview!
Kyoko: Sure. Please send me a copy of your paper when it is published!
♈After the interview ♈
Xin: Before we met Ms.Gasha Kyoko, I turned to Natsumi and asked her “It’s the right decision to interview Ms.Gasha for our first ever interview, isn’t it?” At that moment, I just realized that we were going to interview a professional journalist and film maker, without any experience interviewing. However, the interview was really amazing and it was more like a casual conversation than an interview. We have heard interesting stories from her which we could never have Goggled online. I think Ms. Gasha is a really inspiring person, and it is a great honor to have her as our first guest.