Friday, September 27, 2013

Before I knew it, 20 years had passed

   We recently went to Kagami in Kochi City to Michael Kahn’s house. Michael is originally from Arizona in America, and lives with his wife and three children.
Michael looking back on 20 years in Kochi

What was the reason you decided to come to Japan?
   My father was a university lecturer of Japanese history. We came over for his work when I was 8 years old, and lived in Tokyo for one year. I went to a Japanese elementary school and learned to speak a reasonable amount of Japanese, but gradually forgot it after I returned to America. However, I really wanted to be able to speak a language other than English fluently, so I applied for the JET programme* when I heard about it at university.

What was your first impression of Kochi?
   I originally only planned to participate in the JET programme for one year. Rather than living in a big city like Tokyo, I wanted to live in the country side. I asked my Japanese roommate at university about it and put down preferences for Tohoku, or Shikoku at his suggestion which ended with me getting a placement in Kochi.
   The place I would be working was in the center of Kochi City, and my first impression was that it was a lot more city and less country than I had imagined, so I was slightly disappointed. As I slowly learned my surroundings, I came to appreciate that it was just very compact, and it really grew on me.
Why did your plan to stay for only 1 year, grow to be 20 years?
   While working on various proposals and getting approval to implement them from my superiors, the months and years just flew by, and before I knew it I had already been here for three years. Right at that time, I was making a bilingual Japanese and English quarterly magazine for work and was approached by the mayor for Kagami Village asking me if I would be interested to make one for them, which led to me staying in Kochi after the JET Programme.
In front of the house

How is life in the village?
   Kagami in Kochi has become the place where I have lived for the longest amount of time in my life. Since the village was absorbed into Kochi City, I have been working as an English teacher to make a living. Ultimately I am aiming for self-sufficiency, so I cultivate vegetables in my fields, use a firewood stove for warmth and cooking, whilst the water I use comes from a mountain stream. In my free time I interview the elderly in the village, and record the conversations to preserve them for future generations.

Finally, please say something to people thinking of migrating to Kochi.
   I know many people, both from Japan and abroad who are considering moving to Kochi. However I think that the type of people I would like to come are those who want to connect with the locals enthusiastically. The reason for this is that life in the countryside is extremely busy so many people are needed. We need all the help we can get.

*The JET Programme refers to the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme run by local authorities in cooperation with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT).


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