Gaijin is the word used to describe foreigners in Japan. Literally translated, the word simply means “outsider”, but can be loaded with undertones depending on the attitude of the speaker. And just as in every other country, Japanese attitudes toward foreign immigrants run the political spectrum from conservative to liberal.
Often our unfamiliarity with Japanese customs sometimes leaves people annoyed or shocked and sometimes just amused. But there is also curiosity: Why did we foreigners come here? Why do we stay? What do we like about our lives in Japan? And to address those questions, local television shows sometimes like to interview “an interesting gaijin“.
So all of that gives a little background of how I wound up taping a segment for Japanese TV this week. The show will air in mid-October, but the taping took place at my house yesterday afternoon. Shown above are Hiroko Hayashi, who translated for me and the director, Takashi Matsushita as they prepared to begin taping. I admit to being quite nervous at the start but both Hiroko-san and Takashi-san were such wonderfully charming and delightful people that I soon relaxed. Sharing my love for Kyoto and talking about how much I have learned from Japanese design made conversation easy.
Computer embroidery is a highly developed commercial industry in Japan, but home embroidery machines don’t seem to be as popular here as they are in other countries. Perhaps that’s why the producers found my efforts to digitize so surprising. As he left, the director said he thought it was one of the better segments he had filmed and promised to send me a DVD of the finished segment. So I suppose in a few weeks, I’ll see how it turned out.