“A fateful encounter made me Japanese”
Nyapan has an interview with a real-life Wan-kun who is from overseas living in Japan.Akadama FAN(Friend’s Actual Note)
Episode 5 ~ Daniela-san from Romania ~
◆What brought you to Japan?
When I was a child, I was absorbed in watching Japanese animation and old movies by a famous director called Akira Kurosawa. These films captured my heart. Then I imitated making green tea and started studying Japanese by myself. There was not a Romanian-Japanese dictionary at the time, so I tried to transcribe the pronunciations from checking words in an English-Japanese dictionary into Katakana (Japanese character), and then converted Katakana into Romanian. I deciphered Japanese in that way. When I was sixteen, I got a chance to learn Japanese from a Romanian teacher who had learned it in Japan. I was amazed at hearing the teacher’s Japanese. Because people in the Samurai movies that I had seen so far always spoke in angry tones^^ After that I got a license as a tour guide for Japanese and English and worked as a guide for bus tours in Romania. Even though Japan was my fascination, going to Japan was just a fantasy for me. I’d never even thought about it because it was really difficult to get a passport under the Ceausescu regime in those days, so going to Japan was not an option. Then I met a Japanese person who was a journalist covering Romania and East Europe for his job and now he is my husband.
◆What impressed you when you came to Japan?
A few years after we met, my now-husband asked me to come to Japan, as he had already returned. I was very nervous because I didn’t know if I could truly grow to like Japan and if I could live in Japan. He came to Narita Airport to pick me up. I saw many large scale escalators loaded with hundreds of similarly looking suit-dressed people for the first time in my life. I thought ”Am I here on Earth or another planet?” Japan looked as if it were a space country. On the way to Tokyo, I saw walls shaped like an arch on both sides of the highway. He told me they were for the prevention of car noise. I was so surprised “Wow! What an awesome country!” And as we were talking while driving to Tokyo, I started to feel relaxed and I felt like coming back “home”.
We got married and I’ve now already lived in Japan for 26 years. One day, I got see a medium who said that in a past life I was the wife of a fishmonger in Shinagawa, Tokyo, some 500 years ago. In fact I love fish and I can eat fish just like cats do! I think this probably is fate and it explains my love for Japan.
◆What is the difference between Romania and Japan?
With European people, families always come first. On the other hand, for Japanese people work often comes before family. I think the expression of love is different. Japanese people work harder from the early morning to late night for their families. My husband worked hard, when we were freshly married, and the harder he worked, the more his wage increased due to promotion. At the same time,pains and fetters went on increasing….. it’s like putting the cart before the horse. I was anxious about him and told him to”Quit!”. Then we started our own business, importing Romanian wines and foods to Japan. We also started to be coordinators for theatrical companies, which participated in international theatre festivals including Romania and we took care of the itinerary, logistics, setting up the stage, all translations and also of members’ health around the world. It worried me there were no substitutes for the actors, and everyone had to be in top condition until the performance was over. That brought a lot of responsibility in keeping them healthy and I made good use of my knowledge of health and nutrition. I developed that knowledge because in my fifth year in Japan, I caught a cold and went to see a doctor but I couldn’t communicate well with the doctor who was treating me and he had no empathy. It made me feel bad. I didn’t want to see a doctor anymore. I thought that if I could just stay healthy, I wouldn't need a doctor. I read a book written about raw food, which was sent from my mother in Romania and this inspired me and I started studying and practicing. Since I kept my raw food life, my terrible cramps after each meal went away and I never had sickness or a headache. However, I became too thin, and I lost friends because I couldn’t socialize freely over food. That experience gave me a deep interest about the effect between health and food, and how this leads to a good condition. I attended learning societies or seminars in Europe and America and studied it enthusiastically. In those days, I encountered Dr.Takuji Shirasawa who is known as an authority of Anti-Aging medicine. He recruited me as cooperating researcher to his course at Juntendo University Graduate School of Medicine and I entered his team in 2010. Since then, I’ve published 35 books, and a recipe book on foods for healthy brain in English was published in Singapore, Malaysia and so on.
◆What Japanese food do you like?
Kaiseki ryori is my favorite.This is a traditional Japanese multi-course meal served with small potions and made with many diverse ingredients. I like eating a variety of foods. The good thing about traditional Japanese ingredients, such as Miso, Shoyu (soy sauce) and Su (Japanese vinegar) is that they are all fermented foods.The power of microorganisms to protect our body is very strong. People nowadays tend to care about aseptic or food being”clean” - but I think this causes a number of allergies for people. Compared to the time when I came to Japan, raw food and carbohydrate-restricted diets have become accepted in society. I am sometimes asked questions like”what is the Shusyoku (staple food) in Romania?” Calling cooked white rice a staple food, is only a Japanese thing and actually is a recent concept. Romanian people don’t call bread a staple food. Kaiseki ryori serves a small rice dish at the end of a course meal, right? Having vegetables, beans and fish or meat before having rice is healthier for it helps keeping the insulin levels low. Rice also wasn’t thought of as a staple food originally in Japan. During the Meiji period (1868~1912), the government coined the word ”Shusyoku” so that farmers and common people could afford to eat polished white rice, which was out of their reach except for warriors and upperclass merchants, in order to get the political support of the public. Common people ate only millet (awa, hie) and white rice was not called ”Shusyoku” so far. Even though the obsession with white rice is very deep both historically and culturally, these days rice is rarely eaten 3 times a day and especially breakfast was replaced by western bread. Japanese nowadays even though consider white rice their staple food, enjoy western cuisine more than ever before.
◆Could you tell us your favorite thing about Japan?
I have a lot of favorite things! I’m especially impressed that people see the value of taste including a nuance. I didn’t understand the expression of “Shibui” or “Aji ga aru” at first. It means like “looking old but tasteful”. For instance, when I chose a plate I preferred colorful or bright color and pattern and thought this was beautiful. But when I put Japanese food on that kind of plate, it looked too busy…Now, I serve food on a plate, which gives you the feeling “Wabi-sabi : Japanese senses of beauty meaning Beauty within simplicity.” Food gets more highlight this way. Of course, if the dish is made with sauce like a stew, or Chinese stir fried rice or mabodofu, the plate can be heavily decorated, it will not disrupt the presentation of the food and most of decoration will be covered by the food. But Japanese food is more singular and ingredients are made to come to life in the plate. It took some time before I understood this kind of subtle taste. And Japanese people make art of common things, like drinking tea or decorating flowers and value and protect each school’s perfect rules for hundreds of years. This is one of the reasons that I think Japanese people are awesome.
◆What did you think about cultural differences and gaps in values?
I like Rakugo (traditional storytelling comedy) very much because I can learn traditional cultural and social values from it. My favorite piece is ”Yabu-iri”. The episode is one typical of the Edo period. The story is about when a young son who had to work as servant for several years before he returned home just for one day holiday, which is called ”Yabu-iri”. When he arrived home, his parents were really overjoyed and right away sent him to public hot bath before anything else. While the son was taking a bath, his parents wanted to put some money for him in his wallet but instead they found 3 big gold coins, a sum too large for his age to earn, so they considered the possibility that the son committed a theft. Father got really angry, mom got really worried, but just to find out in the end that the boy received the money by catching rats, and then it was all settled…When I saw this Rakugo story, I laughed all the time, and went to see it again the following day but this time it brought me to tears, because I realized the concept “Life engagement employment” from this story. To understand why Japanese people connect less with parents and family than in western society, we need to understand that long time ago, children were sent to work and would stay with the employer’s family for years before returning home for one day holiday. Even though family is important, devotion to work and employer becomes primary. I thought this was the origin of the Japanese sprit towards work and I became accepting the gap. The sound of slurping noodles is also a big gap. When my husband and I ate ramen noodles, I ate it with a spoon and chopsticks without making a sound, very elegantly and well mannered in my mind. After finishing eating, I noticed that I splattered soup on my shirt and the table, but he kept himself clean. He slurped noodles like a a vacuum cleaner in a way that didn’t make the soup splatter.. This made sense to me, as a way of eating efficiently especially at traditional small and short legged family tables chabudai where all the family had to eat crowded around it.
◆Are there any surprises in Japan?
When I took a seat in the subway, people who sat next to me moved away a little. That action hurt my feelings at first because I thought it was discrimination. The truth was that people gave a little sitting space for me. I do the same thing now. In Europe people in the train stared at me and sometimes talked to me, but Japanese people try to not look other people in the eye. Another train situation, I was shocked when I saw even adults were reading Manga without any hesitation in a train. The other surprising thing is that you can buy pornography in convenience stores or the news of high school girls dating for money through the Internet…Yes, Japan is one of the safest countries in the world, yet, you should create an environment to protect children more. I’m now concerned that the nuclear issue of Fukushima is far from being solved. The government has been slow to take action. The local residents and children have been falling victims. The government should accept the fact and should talk the truth in the mainstream media and take better measures to solve the crisis. When the Chernobyl disaster happened, iodine pills were distributed to every citizen in Romania and we were advised not to walk outside or get in the rain for a few days without thoroughly cleaning our clothes and shoes. Because we were down the wind and quite close to Chernobyl, the radiation flew to Romania depending on the wind direction. I am really upset that the Japanese government does not do more to warn and help its people.
◆Could you tell us the key to get healthy through food?
I thought that a strict raw food diet was everything at first, and especially designed by God for humans. Now, I think a bit differently. As a treatment of an ailment or obesity, one can consider fasting if done under a medical doctor supervision and medical tests are made to supervise it, the second is raw food diet for a couple of months and the third is eating steamed vegetables and bone broth. They are all efficient, in my opinion. Also people have different genetics depending on their race and environment. I had a DNA examination by a German doctor and I found out that my constitution needs meat and I was vegetarian for 20 years at that time. I think vegetables, fish and rice agree with Japanese and Asian people more, while vegetables, meat, diary products and wheat agree with European descent and strict vegetarian agrees with African descent that lived in lush jungle areas.
I’d like to do something for Japanese people with my knowledge so I’ll continue offering information about food and anti-aging and contribute to making Japan a healthy happy nation!
Romania reminds Nyapan of Comaneci (a gymnast, Olympic gold
medalist). She said every time Japanese people hear Daniela-san is from Romania, they ask her about Comaneci.She told us she feels at home in Japan and loves Japanese food. Her personal identity seems Japanese by nature! And Nyapan was touched by her basic thought because she has an active part in making efforts to support anti-aging, health, raw food, healthy food and longevity in order to help Japanese people that she loves. She sure is in great shape and her skin shines. And she is so charming!
◆For further information her works 『Daniela's Beautiful Life』
Ms.Daniela Shiga offers cooking demonstrations,giving lectures and book planning etc. to promote your health.If you are interested in working on a project with her, please visit her website.