My Own Japan: The Chase - Fulfilling One Dream after Another

December 14th, 2017 By Aja Alano
My Own Japan
My fascination towards Japan can be traced as far back as 10 years ago, 2007, when the local television in my country started broadcasting dramas from Japan. But it was until I watched this certain drama series entitled Hanazakari no Kimitachi e that I totally got hooked and curious about the country. As a young girl back then, all I could do was to read things on the Internet and hold on to the dream that I would be able to set foot on the Land of the Rising Sun someday.

"People understand things better after they are exposed to it."
anime1As I grew up and my attention focused on school and other interests, it was five years after when I discovered that that tiny light was still kept in the corners of my heart, when I rewatched the same series. And that’s when everything began to blossom. I was in the third year of my college at that time, and was about to take up a foreign language elective as part of our curriculum. Though we had the freedom to choose the language we wish to study, the final say rests on the university’s enlistment system. As fate would have it, I ended up getting a Japanese language class. Honestly, I was a bit hesitant at first because Japan’s writing system sort of scared me. I grew up knowing only ABC’s but Japan not only has a totally different alphabet, but it includes three sets of characters namely Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. I thought it would really be stressful to study especially that junior year was a tough time with my degree major subjects. I didn’t want an elective to add to the heavy load. But that was absolutely not how it turned out. It came to be my favorite class in that semester. I was always excited to go to class and was eager to do assignments – even disappointed when we did not have one. I enthusiastically reviewed lessons, even studied in advance. The pages of my notebooks in other subjects even became filled with Japanese characters. Contrary to what I thought, that class definitely transpired to be my stress reliever. Though I wanted it to last, the class ended as the semester did. Nevertheless, my study of the language did not end with that as I continued to study by myself.

"Encountering something unexpected can be a wonderful thing."
A semester after, I learned about a short volunteer exchange program in our school and applied in the hopes of going to Japan. I was interested to go on exchange in Japan but university programs usually lasted for a year. I did not want to delay my graduation so I was really delighted when I found out about the volunteer program which only lasted for six to eight weeks. However, programs in Japan proved to be scarce so I ended up in Malaysia instead. Though it was not where I originally wanted to be, I did enjoy the experience. Moreover, my whole college life has been busy and even during supposed summer breaks, I took summer classes; so going on exchange at that time did serve as a good break to me. While the volunteer work was fun and pretty much light, I also had a good amount of free time in between work, and during the night. That led me to spend that time on my hand into watching Japanese anime. Though I actually grew up watching anime on Philippine TV, I became more interested to anime now since I can understand and appreciate the storylines and characters better. As I watched more, the more I got dragged into that world. I also watched Japanese dramas and movies from time to time.

anime2When I came back to school, I was already in my last year and began working on my thesis. And what’s the best thing to research about other than something you’re really interested in? I finished my Broadcast Communication degree with a 200-page thesis on anime fandom. I was really glad that I was able to relate my personal interest to my course. Because of that, doing my thesis was not much of a suffering, as most students would claim. I somehow enjoyed it, especially at times when I used my thesis as an excuse for doing anime-related activities.

In the same year, in the middle of the first semester, I learned about this program called JENESYS 2.0 of the Japanese government. It was a 9-day trip to Japan for mass media students, with all expenses paid! I did my best, applied, and thankfully got selected. And so on the fateful day of September 29, with a palpitating heart not caused by coffee, the dream I have held onto for years finally came true. Right before my eyes and beneath my feet was Japan. We visited historical and tourist attractions, the local government office, a local industry, and a university, in Tokyo and Hokkaido. But the most memorable part of the trip was experiencing homestay in a local Japanese family. I not only loved the place more, but also the Japanese people.

"You can't surpass the bar on your own. Live for someone. That way, you can surpass anything."
Fulfilling the dream did not stop me from dreaming again of going back to the country. In addition, as I delved deeper into Japanese media, my interest in the country also deepened. Though my self-study on the language did not stop, I realized that it was not enough if I wanted to be really fluent in the language. With the blessing of my parents, I was able to go back to Japan as a Japanese language school student. I believe that actual immersion is crucial for learning so I can learn best if I am in the country itself. Because of the gratitude I felt from all the valuable life lessons that I have learned from watching anime, I wanted to be part of the team that creates anime. I wanted to reach people, touch lives, and simply make people happy. The one-year long study and part-time work life was like a one-year long dream. I learned how real life was different from what I saw on dramas and anime, but I still kept on falling in love with this country. Though I wanted it to last, the year passed by quickly.  Fortunately, I was able to find a job after so I am still here in Japan. However, it is not related to the line of work that I really wanted to pursue.

anime4The cruel reality dawned on me that my dream of entering the anime industry would still entail a very long, thorny journey. As my Japanese language ability is far from enough to get my dream job, I am still in the process of building my career. Right now I am still striving to continue studying the language by myself. To cheer myself up, I started going to anime-related events around the city. I thought I should make the most of my stay in Japan because I do not know until when I can stay here. But it did not end there. I posted pictures, videos, fan reports, article translations, and the like in my personal blog for the knowledge and enjoyment of fans outside Japan. At first, I was just doing it for recording purposes, but when I started getting positive feedback from them, I realized that people are actually hungry for content. As I am fortunate enough to have access to these things, then why not take advantage of this to bring this to people? Yes, my Japanese language ability may be lacking for now, but I can still share my passion by utilizing an international language that people from many parts of the world can understand. And so from this, a new dream has been born again. I may not be an official part of the anime industry yet but as I realized, the essence of sharing these stories in my blog is very much similar: to touch people – whether to simply brighten up their mood with entertaining content or to encourage them to actively go out and personally experience Japan.

anime3
Screenshots from my blog

“Hard work will definitely be rewarded.”
Now I am searching for ways to do this professionally as I want to prove that my passion can be translated into a job especially that I have an academic background in the media industry. Through the online platform, I want to bring Japan closer to the international community while at the same time, enjoying my stay in the country. As a matter of fact, I consider this project as one of the big steps to further pursue my passion. Moreover, I have also started working as a freelance writer in a website that shares interesting stories about Japan.

It has been a long journey, and will still be a long one. Many times I have thought of giving up and just go home to my country, but then it still all comes down to the fact that I want to stay here, and make dreams come true here. After all, unexpected things brought about precious experiences while dreams kept springing one after the other. Though I have always done things while worrying about the future, I have also learned that it important to treasure the things in the now. The best thing right now is that I am in Japan and while that holds true, I believe I have chances to chase after my dreams, while enjoying some detours along the way.

"Enjoy the present to its fullest. Flowers in full bloom do not last forever."


Note: All the quotes I have used in this article came from none other than my favorite Japanese drama of all time, Hanazakari no Kimitachi e