Friday, 6 June 2014

Despite being a growing community, Japs in city remain anonymous

On Monday (May 5), the miniscule community of 1000-odd Japanese citizens in the city celebrated 'Boys Day', one of their most important festivals locally known as Koinobori in the most discreet manner possible

Back in Japan, the traditional event is a national holiday when families hoist carp-shaped wind socks in honour of the sons in the family praying for their future and in the hope that they will grow up healthy and strong.

Despite having a growing population, mostly engineers working for major Japanese firms that have set shop in the city, there was hardly any koinoboris hoisted in the city and barring a few organizations working for the Japanese, nobody even knows about such a festival.

Koji Sugiyama, Deputy Consul General at the Consulate-General of Japan here says that since most of their citizens are on short term visits, they do not bother to celebrate their traditional festivals in this city. “We did have a display of the Hina Dolls marking the ‘Girls Festival’ that was celebrated on March 3 at the residence of the Consul General. But for most others, it is just not practical to celebrate cultural events and so we keep it within the family,” he says.

Over the past few years, thanks to the industrial boom, the population of Japanese in the city has increased manifold and is set to swell further. “We even have set up a Japanese Language School within the campus of the American International School for the children of these expatriates to study our curriculum,” Koji Sugiyama says. According to him, most of their citizens living Chennai are on short term trips and will return back to their country after a few years when a new batch would arrive.

But there are a few others who have made Chennai their home and are so happy with the city. For Hatayama Akira (61), faculty at theJapanese Language School run by ABK-AOTS DOSOKAI here, Choolaimedu has been home for the last twelve years.

Akira came here as an engineer working for Yamaha Motors more than twelve years ago and has fallen in love with the city since then. “Chennai is my home now and I do not like to stay for more than a week back home in Japan when I go on a holiday,” he says.

While there are few other Japanese families who have settled down permanently in Chennai, Akira feels there is no strong community feeling here. “Most people keep to themselves or their small groups. But, I like Chennai and go out shopping and eating like any other local,” he says.

The engineer-turned-language teacher, who lives alone in a rented apartment filled with Bonsai trees, says he loves the hot weather here. “I come from Towada City in Aomori prefecture (state) where it is so cold. I just love it here,” he says.  All those who crib about the Chennai’s weather should probably visit Akira’s hometown for a while.   

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