is the creative collaboration of the friends and colleagues of
Maiyim Baron -
and everyone else who wants to join in the fun!
Maiyim is a professional Japanese interpreter,
who runs a company www.JapaneseInterpreter.com,
which offers communication services specialized in Japanese. She
has been going to Japan regularly for over thirty years, and after
one fabulous trip in the spring of 2002, suddenly felt compelled
to begin writing to share some of her experiences and the insights
they led to about the differences and similarities between Japanese
and particularly American culture.
Interview with a Henna Gaijin
Most gaijin in Japan
go through interviews like this regularly. Here's how Maiyim answers
these questions. E-mail Your answers and we will post them
What first got you interested in Japan?
It was a book I had
as a child, "Strange Tales from Many Lands." It was
an old volume, with beautifully engraved and sparsely colored
prints. The scene of the woman in kimono, holding aloft a candle
lantern, captivated me. It was a story about O-Bon, the festival
time in summer in Japan when departed souls may most easily return
to their ancestral homes, as does everyone who can.
If any readers out there have this book or find it, PLEASE let
What took you to Japan in the first place?
Doors kept opening in front of me.
No, like what was actually happening in your life?
I was offered opportunities in high school and college to study
first Chinese, and then Japanese, and I kept saying yes. My university
asked me if I wanted to go to school in Japan, and I said yes,
and they arranged my entry into Waseda
University in Tokyo, one of Japan's best private universities.
I was 19, and lived first with a Japanese family way out in Mitaka,
who were willing to take in a foreigner. When I was at Waseda,
the trains between Shinjuku and out Mitaka was got pretty sparse
as the evening got later.
How did you learn Japanese?
I'm still learning! And it is thanks to all my dear Japanese
friends who have been so careful about my upbringing that I can
speak at all!
I will say that I take notes all day, and review them at night.
When I'm in Japan, that often means notes on the language, and
work with my dictionaries late at night.
Some would say I collect dictionaries, and I'm not shy about
having one with me or consulting it at any moment in a conversation.
Learning to swiftly and skillfully use dictionaries is one of
the best things I think you can do for yourself when learning
a foreign language. At least, that's been my experience with Japanese.
What was driving you?
What was driving you to Japan? Why you were studying Japanese
at age 15?
Aesthetics. it was the clean lines.
The clean lines?
The lines in the architecture, in the clothing. It was the traditional
ways of doing things, the wrapping, the lines in tatami lining
up with the lines in the shoji, and the patterns in things. I
was fascinated by the lines the brush made with the ink, and the
way the paper took the ink. The swirling brush dance of kanji.
It was the light, it was the light through shoji
Visit her professional web site www.JapaneseInterpreter.com