My dabblings with Japan

Well, well, this blog is not about my connections in Japan in true sense. I have never been to Japan yet. It is actually a blog about my experiences in various forms about Japan, without even stepping my feet in that land. I was tempted to write about all that when I reviewed very old book in Marathi titled Tokonama, by famous Marathi writer Prabhakar Padhye. It is also a blog about how I have been coming across various cultural elements of Japan. I am sure you will find it interesting.

As far my memory goes, my connection with Japan started with a classic television daily soap on Doordarshan(DD) which was telecast in 1990s. The daily soap was named as Oshin. It was very touching story of a girl who faces hardship of woman, right from her childhood. In 1991, I remember going to Mumbai for interviewing with a Japanese company called Recosoft and was interviewed by its CEO P S Chadha. Things did not work out for me that time, otherwise, I would have been living in Japan now! This company is still in Japan. Now I wonder how come Indians went to Japan and setup a company that time. Few years later, when I went to work in USA, I became friends with Abhijeet Diwekar from Pune. His father Ramesh Divekar, is credited to be one of the earliest persons who went to Japan, way back in 1960s and also who started Japanese language education in Pune as early as 1971.  While in the USA itself, in San Franscisco Bay Area, which is a mecca of world cuisine, I got opportunity to eat Japanese food item, sushi, in one of sushi bars.

The came the deadly Tsunami which Indian Ocean, Indian coast, islands of Andman and Nicobar in 2004. The Japanese word Tsunami, its meaning, and the what exactly happens during those events, was interesting to understand, and taking me back to Japan again. Around same time, I had joined Indology course at Pune’s Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth(TMV), where I learnt about their graduate and post-graduate courses around Japanese language. I was able to interact with some students learning Japanese, and came to know that Japanese is similar with Marathi in many ways, which was interesting to know. This helped me during my involvement in a project following year on making a software system work for Japanese language. I was involved in interacting with native Japanese translator in Japan and it enriched me in various ways due to interactions with her. The Indology course also had subjects around greater India or influence of India over neighboring countries, where impact of Buddhism and other facets of Indian culture in Japan were discussed.

Few years later, in 2010, our group of like minded people were learning Sanskrit under guidance of Prof V N Jha who has been former director of CASS. Through him we learnt about Japanese students in India learning Sanskrit, and also how it is being taken by Japanese students in Japan as well. In fact, we referred a Sanskrit Reader book authored by Sanskrit scholar from Japan called Hidenori Kitagawa way back in 1977. He was student in University of Pune before that.

In 2011, I came across a book titled Tottochan. This book had a story about child education expert in Japan who adopted unconventional methodologies almost half-century ago. The book was written by student of hers who carried his legacy further. This gave a further peep in to Japan, and various issues around education that time. The same year, I also attended a Japanese performing arts event in Pune Rokugu about which I have written here on my blog. In the meantime, I attended couple of exhibitions in Pune, organized by groups of various organizations such as Consulate if Japan, Japan Foundation etc, where I came across person from Pune named Jayant Sathe, who has been having a hobby of making Japanese dolls, exhibiting them at those exhibitions. There seems an interesting tradition of art of making dolls in Japan. Here is a photo of one of the dolls I purchased from him.

While watching that dolls exhibition, I came across Geisha dolls, and was introduced to rich history and tradition of Geisha women in Japan. Around the same time, in 2015, I came across famous book titled Memoirs of Geisha which landed itself into controversy. The Geisha depicted in that book, later came her own book titled Geisha of Gion, which also became bestseller. I have both of them, and yet to read them.

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This year, that is in 2016, I came across three references to Japan tradition and history which I have enriched me further. First one was about a Japanese armored marshal arts sport called Kendo. One of colleagues in the USA has been learning it, and during his recent visit to India, he made it a point that he visited few places where there Kendo associations, for practicing purposes. Here is a YouTube video, if you are interested to know as to what it is. The next two are news items I came across in the newspaper. One is about a village in Japan called Nagoro which has earned a recognition for itself as town of dolls. This started by one woman who started making dolls, scarecrows and placed at various places in her village, which was being deserted by the population to migrate to cities. Now this is a problem China is also facing, and India will soon face, turning, villages to ghost villages. The next one was about a rice paddy art depicting Lord Ganesha in Pune. This art is a not traditional art, but seems a recent trend, in Japan, as a promotional event, at a place called Inakadate in Aomori region, has interesting history on Wiki. There was another interesting news recently. Japanese aid to Ajantha-Ellora caves is well-know since quite a few years now. As part of next phase, it is decided to setup a model Japanese village around the area, with a joint venture between state government and Wakayama region of Japan.

Anyways, I think I should stop here, rambling about Japan now. I am sure you must have come to know how eager I am now to visit Japan and I hope to make it soon!

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2 thoughts on “My dabblings with Japan

  1. Hey Prashant, quite an interesting post. I am getting connected to Japan stuff in recent months (May- June 2016 roughly) because I came in contact with Rahul Deo who spent 15 years over there and is back making japanese bread items popular here (he worked in Japanese bakery for a year just to learn!) I can call u next time he makes an event or cooks. And yes I would like to read one of those books you have. I am referring your blog to Rahul as well.

    Like

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