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“Japan is the right place for me.”

Nyapan has an interview with a real-life Wan-kun who is from overseas living in Japan.Akadama FAN(Friend’s Actual Note)

Episode 4 ~Peta-san from Torquay in England~

◆What brought you to Japan?

I had a dream to support young people since I was a teenager.I managed both studying in a university and working in a church when I was younger.

And after graduating from university, I entered the management team of an NPO for a children’s charity in the UK.At the same time, I went to graduate school and kept studying.In those days, I read research papers and had a chance to listen to a lecture about the case of children’s homes in Japan. I regarded Japan as a wealthy country,but, it was reported that NPOs were run under difficult situations.This was the thing that got me interested in Japan.I came to Japan three and a half years ago for the first time, in order to research Japanese NPOs as a theme of my master's thesis.I stayed in Japan for two months and went around NPOs, children’s homes, elementary schools and free schools in Tokyo,Nara,Osaka etc.. I interviewed over 50 people who were teachers or students.

◆What is the difference of NPOs between the UK and Japan?

A number of young people in the UK have the same problems as some Japanese,such as absenteeism, isolating from society or living in children’s homes.The different thing is that the UK has some budget for NPOs from the government and working staff are reasonably paid.But the pay is low in Japan because NPOs can’t afford to offer much money to workers.Besides that, many people are aware of social issues in the UK because the media often take topics about social problems even if it is a small one.You can see a lot of advertisements for contributions in the Christmas season and donation boxes are always set in convenience stores. NPOs in the UK have a long history for about 200 years, which makes the culture a good working environment for NPOs.Meanwhile, Japanese media doesn’t often cover the same kinds of social issues. I haven’t often heard many Japanese people talking with concern about things like children’ homes.It is maybe something obvious, because there are not many chances to see and to know about problems….

◆Did anything make an impression on you when you were researching and traveling in Japan?

I met a school teacher in Nara prefecture.He made a project to support young people who are Hikikomori - for instance, they maybe skip school and stay home all day, at his own expense and he tried to save them harder after finishing his job. I was so moved by his behavior. I,from the UK, could get enough salary to work;on the contrary, working with young people in Japan, it tends to be thought as if it were a volunteering or a hobby, disappointingly.

This researching travel in Japan inspired me to come to Japan.I wanted to do something for Japanese people. And I moved to Japan in January 2014.

◆Why did you choose Sapporo to live?

It just happened.I was searching for a Japanese language school in Sapporo on the internet, because I had an acquaintance who is a professor of HokkaidoUniversity.And I found” HOKKAIDO GLOBAL LINX”.I emailed them a message, explaining that I wanted to live in Japan and wanted to learn Japanese.They replied and said to me “Would you like to work as an English teacher while learning Japanese here?”.The owners of the company and I talked on Skype.Even though,I couldn’t speak Japanese well at the time and they were not fluent English either, I understood the idea of what they wanted to achieve.That they not only wanted to build a language school but also a community, they wanted to create a place for young people in the future,like a free school. I felt their idea was connected to my future dream.This was a lucky encounter for me.

◆You have met wonderful people in Japan, haven’t you?

I have met a lot of great people who inspire me.Among them, the biggest thing is that I met the one, O-chan(They just got married in this April!).We met each other when he started opening a new guest house that he runs.A friend introduced us and I could help renovate with paintings.We became good friends and gradually became close. He has a special personality. He’s faithful, has a big heart and is open-minded. When he sees people in need of help, he can’t help giving his hand.Young people who have some problems sometimes come to his guest house.In those cases he has asked me how to talk with them and there are times when we can talk with those young people.

◆Could you tell us about your dream in the future?

Young people who drop out of high school for various reasons tend to have further problems.In the UK, if you leave high school, there is a chance to come back to a school or college.In Japan, once you quit high school, it is difficult to come back.But I think young people can see light at end of the tunnel if there is a supportive project for them.Although most children have to leave a children’s home at the age of 16 or 17 years old in Japan, I think the age from 17 to 19 years old are the important time to learn how to be an adult.O-chan and I have a dream to open up a “safe house” where young people can stay with us.We have a plan to buy a house in some suburb,

which has enough space.There would be a guest house and then part would be our home and have rooms for young people.The place where we cook, eat or do the laundry together. There are intimate and homely children’s homes in the UK. It is an important thing that you have people who stay with you, love you and support you and you can go to a school/college if you loose your family. We are preparing to be ready for our dream.

◆Would you like to live in Japan for good?

I thought I would live in Japan for good before getting married,because I feel Japan is the right place for me.This is the place where I can be open, the environment my dream can come true and I have people who support me here.In my case, it is Sapporo and there should be a right place for everyone.There are same kind of problems with young people in other countries, not only the UK but also countries in Europe and more. It is because they can not find a “place”, which causes them to feel like losing hope in the future.”Right” also means “You can be satisfied”. Many people think,”I want money, I want a fame, a good job, a good house..want, want…”.

I think only grabbing your ’want’ doesn’t really satisfy you.Rather,when you open your hands, that you have many things that you can give and receive.

I think sharing good things and also bad things with many people makes a happy life and satisfaction.I hear people’s story and people share in my story. It is able to establish relationships of trust.This is my pleasure that people help each other in the way.

◆Do you have any problems or difficulties in Japan?

Japan is one of the most hi-tech countries and offers the most wonderful customer service.Despite it, the procedures in the government office is still analog somehow.You are required to do excessive paperwork!You have to write papers all by hand and fill them in the unique Japanese style.It was hard to do that.I ordered some certification from England and went to the office in Japan again and again.I wondered why? because I can get a quick response other than that.The procedure of registering marriage was hard to do too.

◆Could you tell us your favorite thing about Japan?

I love Japanese people!I have many friends.My British friend who lived in Japan told me before”Japanese people are shy. It is difficult to make friends unless you speak Japanese well”.But it was not true.If you open up your heart, you can make good relationships.The language is difficult but try to speak! People are nice in Sapporo and there are a lot of delicious foods.

I love soup curry,Jingisukan and Sushi.And milk products,such as Ice cream or cheese cake is excellent.I am glad I came here.I’m going to get more experience and learn and connect with people.And I want to keep supporting young people.

<Nyapan’s Note>

Peta-san pursues her dream,which is working with young people, while she’s been learning and working.Her husband, aiming for her goal with her is Mr.Ohata(O-chan) who runs three guest houses and helps travelers or students from overseas.Nyapan attended their wedding,which was held the other day.A number of friends and families got together to celebrate them.Both of them were so beautiful and the ceremony was solemn and moving. The party was outdoor style.That was also the truly happy moment when everybody celebrated Peta-san and O-chan by big smile with singing and dancing freely.They shared with me happy feelings.

My heartiest congratulations to you both and Happy ever after!!


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