“Japan is far away, end of Asia” I forgot who said but this words made me notice the distance from India to Japan and from Japan to India were probably not equal. “Are there many Indians in Japan?” “Can you have Indian food in Japan?” I was asked these questions several times by Indian people. And I explained to them nowadays many Japanese are interested in India for business or tourism and so on. “Once you take local train in my city, you can definitely find some Indians because they are working as engineers in my city. My neighbor was Indian family. There were many many Indian restaurants near my office in central of Tokyo and we often went for lunch.” These specific explanations sometimes made my Indian friends surprise. They had never thought India is such close for Japanese people. At least, I had believed we have same conscious “We are same Asian.” However, it seemed not.
I remember the days in Goa or Darjeeling in 2010 when I was traveling as a tourist. World cup was going on and Japan became last Asian country in the tournament. People in small village in Goa said to me “I will support Japan tonight!” when they found me on the road. I could find Japanese flag even in small town in Darjeeling. After earthquake happened in March 2011, I was in Japan for sometime and could find some Japanese wrote on their blog that Indian people were worried about us so much. At that moment, I had more confidence that we were close each other.
I came to Mumbai, met many people. Basically, they are open for any foreigners and friendly. We talked about India a lot. But once I changed the topic about Japan, I noticed they don’t know much about Japan. “Japan is rich country and surely expensive. Japanese are honest. They provide good quality products.” What else? No more. They know about my country quite generally. Of course, I am not talking about every Indian people I met here. Some of them are curious about Japan and they can know more than me about some topics sometimes. Japanese course young students are crazy about Anime or Manga. But people whom I met here even who are always interested in foreigners and like to hear or know different cultures, they don’t know about Japan. Or I can say they don’t know Japanese. A boy concluded, “Maybe we have less social communications even if we have a lot of business relationship between India and Japan.”
A girl who had been working with me since I joined the company in Mumbai moved to work for Japanese company. The Japanese company is first branch in Mumbai and this is the one every Japanese know the name of it. “Kaori-san, I notice the Japanese who work at your office are not typical Japanese, they are more close to Indian…” She said after she completed few months as an employee at new Japanese company branch office. “They cannot speak English. They cannot cross road, always have their own drivers. Never tried to eat local food. And they have many manners to respect seniors.” She laughed. The Indian who is living in Delhi said, “I met many Japanese for business but they never joined dinner with us after work. I can say I have met many Japanese but not known about them. Are they just shy?”
I can always be the first Japanese they meet and talk. They see Japan through me. After some meeting, I make them meet another Japanese from my office. They are trying to find out what is Japanese. After few months, “Kaori, now I know Japanese more than before and figured out you are not like Japanese.” They conclude. I don’t know what they have in their mind about Japan or Japanese. But it is good to hear “I want to go to Japan” after some interactions anyways. I can feel the distance from India to Japan is now bit closer. I wish after 10 or 20 years, Indian people know about Japan more than Japanese know India. They are enough smart to make it true!