Louise & Erica at the Shiramizu 'Goodbye Louise & Erica, but Welcome Pete' Party!
(June 2010) from Sensei's blog
(June 2010) from Sensei's blog
While I was busy distracting Erica with her exit interview, Louise made good her escape back to New Zealand. But such is the power of the internet she could not escape my ever-impending questions (evil laugh)...
Pete Williams: So, after a year of Japan, how has your image of Japanese life changed? What are your positives and negatives?
Louise Fisk: Maybe now I understand the Japanese world view a bit better, how it is based on obligations to and respect of others, and how important the good opinion of others is to them.
In some ways this is very good, because it generally creates a society which is on the surface polite, respectful, law-abiding and safe, especially compared with many other countries. And I think it is comforting to live within set social boundaries.
But I also think that the weight of obligations is very heavy on the Japanese, always having to worry about if you're doing the right thing, and worrying about what people think of you.
PW: What has been your crowning achievement for the year? Is it the same as your most treasured memory?
LF: I actually think that my greatest achievement is something that's accumulated quietly throughout the whole year. That is, a step up in the level of my karate, especially my speed and kihon. Most of the lessons at Shiramizu were very much the same: kihon standing on the spot, stepping kihon, kata then kumite drills. We also had to keep up with the high school students we often trained with who,were very fast, so I feel the combination of these two factors as well as Arakawa Sensei's valuable teaching helped me to achieve better karate.
My most treasured memories (there are several of them) are of the Shiramizu people supporting each other, while working, training or having fun together. For example, during the Shiramizu club tournament, and at the parties we had together. I am honoured to have been included in the Shiramizu clan.
PW: Did you get to see much of the rest of Japan? Where is your favourite place?
LF: In the public holidays and weekends I tried to travel a bit, though mostly within Honshu. I went north to Akita Prefecture, to a few mountains around Tokyo and the Kanto area, and on my big New Year trip I went west to Nara and Hiroshima, among other places. In Golden Week I also visited the northern part of Kyushu and looked at volcanoes there.
My favourite place is a beach on the northern Kyushu coast, about an hour's drive from Fukuoka. It has the softest sand, very clear water and lots of cool granite rocks at the end to climb on.
PW: What was the low point of your year?
LF: Catching influenza was pretty low. I seemed to get sick easily in Japan, maybe because I have a different Southern Hemisphere immunity, and was not used to being in contact with so many kindergarten kids.
PW: Erica said she found the Shiramizu sensei like family and friends as well as respected teachers. Have you become close to them too? Who will you particularly miss?
LF: Yes, the Shiramizu dojo has become a lot like another family. They welcomed us with open arms and always looked after us extremely well. I think this is truly outstanding when you consider that they do this for a new foreigner or set of foreigners every year.
There are too many people who are special to me at Shiramizu to list all of their names, but we had the most contact with Arakawa sensei, and our two dojo mothers, Yoshihara sensei and Yamazaki sensei, so I will miss seeing them and our conversations together.
PW: So with all that contact with Arakawa Sensei has he challenged, or changed, or even reinforced your perception of karate? If so, how?
LF: Training with Arakawa Sensei has reinforced my perceptions that karate is a discipline that should develop a person mentally and emotionally as well, not just a sport that is only about physical development. Maybe it is because that is how the Japanese are generally, but Arakawa Sensei was big on respect to your teachers, seniors and classmates. This was shown through proper greetings as well as behaviour. I liked this aspect of Shiramizu, because I felt it created an environment where people were training their hardest in order to lift their classmates as well as themselves, through competing with each other but also supporting each other.
PW: With this in mind, what are your plans for your future? Does it involve a deeper relationship with karate, or teaching children?
LF: My year in Japan has certainly strengthened my plan to continue training karate or some form of martial arts for the rest of my life. There always is something more to learn, and my progress this year has encouraged me that I am still learning and am still able to learn. Teaching children is a big responsibility, but at the moment I don't want to settle down in one place and take up that responsibility as I have plans to continue exploring the world.
PW: Finally, how awesome is the current intern, and what advice can you give him to make his year go more smoothly?
LF: Ha, ha, oh certainly, your awesomeness is off the scale. In the short time we worked together, I noticed that you have the right attitude and openness of mind to learn all the new things and ways of thinking in Japan.
I'd advise you to learn as much spoken Japanese as you can, which will make communication with the staff at your jobs and at the dojo much smoother. This also makes it easier to make friends, which is my other bit of advice: make as many Japanese friends as you can. Then they can show you around, tell you things you'd maybe not find out otherwise, and you can become more of a part of the country you've adopted for a year.
PW: Yep, I'm following your great advice already!