“I became very very 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 6 ~Olivier-san from Lyon in France~
◆What brought you to Japan?
Japanese animation inspired me at first. When I was a child, I watched some
anime in France, like “Goldorak (UFO robot grendizer)” and I also practiced Karate. Although my karate coach was French, he learned his skills from a famous Japanese karate sensei, so he taught me not only Karate but also the Japanese philosophy.
This caused me to grow my interest about Japan. Then I started studying Japanese by myself as I was in high school. And I majored in Japanese language at university. Studying Japanese was interesting. I think Kanji(Japanese character) is especially awesome, because Kanji expresses meanings by just a single character.
The theme of my master's thesis was HAIKU, which is the shortest Japanese traditional poem and my favorite Haiku poet is Yosa Buson of the Edo period. But it took some time before I understood this kind of subtle sense, which is called“Wabi-sabi : Japanese senses of beauty within simplicity”. We do not have this concept in France. So I gradually got to understand the unique sense of Japan by asking my teacher and my Japanese friend.I also learned Japanese culture, history and economy in university. The more I learned, the more I wanted to go to Japan.
◆How did you get involved with translation for Hayao Miyazaki’s comics?
First of all, I just tried to translate a Japanese comic into French by myself. And I brought my translation of Osamu Tezuka’s Manga”Adolf” to a French publishing company. This wasn’t adopted, but I got an offer for another Manga translation.This made my debut as a translator. As I translated some works,I was selected as a translator of a well-known artist, Hayao Miyazaki’ s Manga”Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind”. This work was a bit tough because of some conditions that you can’t translate of the uniquely Japanese mimetic word, such as “Dadada-“.It was difficult but fulfilling.
Translating is required the skills to express many things, including the cultural backgrounds. So, I feel daily stories are more difficult to translate than stories of fantasy. I’ve worked on about 20 translations including Studio Ghibli and other works.One of my past works, popular Manga”Ghost In The Shell” was recently re-evaluated and I was asked to translate to help make the perfect book that was the completed series of this Manga during 1995~2007. This offer made meproud.I just finished it up in June.
◆When did you come to Japan?
I came to Japan in 2001.I lived in a downtown area in Tokyo and started job- hunting.I got a job in a hotel while I continued translation at the same time.In the next year,I found employment at a luxury hotel in Hokkaido named”The Windsor Hotel TOYA” where the G8 summit was held in 2008. I spoke polite and formal Japanese at the time more than I do now, that’s why the job interview went well.haha. After working there for 2 and a half years,I got a job offer from Yokohama Pan Pacific Hotel and I left Hokkaido.I worked at this hotel for about 5 years.After that my Japanese wife and I established our own company, which does business events, planning management, trading, translation and so on.
◆Were there any surprises when you actually came to Japan?
I learned about Japan so much in France that I didn’t suffer culture shock at all.When I actually came to Japan, I was sure I could live in Japan.I’m a type of flexible person. As the proverb says ”When in Rome, do as the Romans do”,I don’t feel uncomfortable to accept Japanese society and the culture.
I haven’t had big problems so far. I might have been Japanese in my previous life? Now I don’t have a long vacation in the way that is French style and I work instead, like Japanese style. I may have become very very Japanese😅
◆What is the difference between France and Japan?
Meal dishes are served one after another in France, but the dishes you order are served all at once in Japan.It surprised me.The other thing is when you order drinks at restaurants or bars with somebody, EVERYBODY says ”Toriaezu beer!”,which means”To start off with, I’ll have beer!”. French people order the drinks that you want to drink,because French are individual. And I used to get upset, when my Japanese company poured drinks for me. Now,I understand this is the Japanese custom called “Oshaku”.People often pour drinks for each other as companionship. These things are cultural differences.
◆Could you tell us your favorite thing about Japan?
I like that Japanese people are considerate to others.This is one of the reasons that I live in Japan comfortably.When my mother,who uses a wheelchair,visited Japan from France,people gave a helping hand to us kindly in stations or any public places. Hotels and facilities also gave us polite service.My mother and I were really impressed by the essence of Japanese hospitality, called”Omotenashi” .There is not this quintessential hospitality in France.I surely love Japanese culture ,food and Japanese Sake!But…I only don’t like Natto. Even though,I tried to eat it sometimes, the sticky texture and the smell..it did not pass my throat…
◆How did you become interested in Japanese Sake?
Actually,I hadn’t drunk Japanese Sake so much and hadn’t become a big fan of it before, even after living in Japan for a long time. It was 3~4years ago.I visited my friend who lives in Hachinohe city in Aomori prefecture and I drank a local Sake, brewed using local sources, named “Mutsu Hassen”.This was an eye-opener to me.The flavor,the taste and the refreshing feeling of its aftertaste.. I was shocked by how great it tasted, so that I drank up as much as a huge bottle of Issho-bin(1,8 liter) .Since then, I’ve got into Japanese Sake and I finally got a qualification of a Sake Sommelier,which is a certified Sake Service Institution.
◆Does Japanese Sake go well with French food?
Yes.I’m French.And when I worked in hotels in Japan, I produced menus for restaurants as chefs and I exchanged our opinions.From this background I tasted Sake,I came up with the idea “This Sake would go well with that type of cheese” or “This would be for foie gras”.The matching of French food with Japanese Sake is profoundly interesting.But I wonder what Japanese people think about ‘marriage' combination of what I propose. I’ve held events about the marriage of French food and Japanese Sake and I hear Japanese people’s
◆Could you tell us about your dream in the future?
I want to open a Sake bar in France where French people could enjoy the marriage of French food and Japanese Sake. Even though, Japanese Sake is popular in France now, many people still misunderstand Sake and think it is like a kind of Chinese liquor. It is so sad .I want French people to know the genuine tasty Japanese Sake! I also want to open a Sake bar in Japan where Japanese people could discover the taste of French food that is brought out by Sake.Making a bridge between France and Japan through food and Sake.That would be great.
Olivier-san, himself, is the best marriage of France and Japan! His presence really shines. Once he’s interested in something, he runs hard towards his goal with diligence and activity.And he knows about Japan rather than Japanese people! I can understand the reason he was selected to be the translator for Studio Ghibli comics. Nyapan wants to read “Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind” in French someday.The Sake event also sounds really interesting for Nyapan!