If you are desperate to get back to Japan or have never been and can’t scramble the funds or time to get there, it’s okay! It’s possible to connect to Japan from afar.
Part 1 covered movies, food and websites. This post adds five more ways from consulates to gardens.
Japanese Consulates and Embassies
While some embassies seem like (or are) fortresses and consulates are reminiscent of a visit to the principal’s office, I’ve been surprised at how accessible government offices can be. If you are lucky to be reasonably close to one, you don’t necessarily have to have an official reason to visit.
Consulates and embassies can be a superb resource for events, activities, and materials. The best free publication at the consulate in our region is niponica, published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. The magazine highlights points of Japanese culture with interesting articles and fantastic photographs in both English and Japanese. If you find older issues, I still recommend checking them out. As an aside, a regional Japanese association carries more current and back issues.
Another enjoyable read is the journal, Japan Echo. The translated articles are technical and lengthy but worth a look if you enjoy critical discourse.
Consulates sponsor film festivals, photo contests, sake tasting, summer festivals, and art shows. They also offer information on studying Japanese in Japan and other scholarships. I’m not eligible but perhaps you can get to Japan on the government’s tab!
Japanese Speech Contests
If you are learning Japanese or would like to hear it live, Japanese speech contests take place around Canada every March. Winners of local contests compete their way up for a chance to show off their skills at the national level. It is impressive to hear the public speaking, presentation and Japanese skills of the student contestants! While my Japanese was not good enough to understand much of the content when I attended last, I could appreciate the effort to communicate in another language.
Associations can be a fantastic place to meet people who are interested in or connected to Japan. Those in our region have clubs including flower arranging, drumming, martial arts, painting and papermaking, bonsai, and calligraphy. While Hitoshi and I haven’t joined a club due to scheduling conflicts, the ikebana class and taiko practice we attended showed how committed club members are to their passions.
Associations also sponsor or participate in events such as tea ceremonies, education programs for students, summer festivals, cooking classes, and history projects. The local summer festivals have been a lot of fun! We have been impressed with how closely they resemble festivals we’ve attended in Japan.
If you are interested in learning Japanese, the local association may offer a language exchange, private lessons or formal classes. My parents have been taking classes through the local association since Hitoshi and I got engaged. The classes are reasonably priced and cheaper than through local education associations or colleges/universities.
Local associations may have lending libraries and newsletters to keep you informed of what is happening in your community. To become more involved, there may be opportunities to join the executive and/or board of an association.
Japanese Cultural Centres
Along with associations, cultural centres and museums are another way to get to know Japanese culture better. While there are none that we know of yet in our neck of the woods, I recently found out about the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre in Burnaby, British Columbia. Hopefully we can visit in the next year but until then, their podcast on Japanese Canadian history caught my attention. We will offer our thoughts once we listen to a few more podcasts of Sounds Japanese Canadian to Me. If you have been to a centre in your area, please comment!
Japanese gardens are varied and unique, especially those created outside Japan using indigenous materials and following geographic features of a particular zone. Gardens in our region host events for Children’s Day, hold tea ceremonies and maintain a secluded bonsai nook, which is my favorite feature. Gardens are also a peaceful place to spend an afternoon planning your trip to Japan!
What do you do to stay connected to Japan in your community? How do you make Japanese connections if you have never been to Japan but want to go?