Annual Newsletter of the Slavic Research Center, Hokkaido University
SRC Home
English News  No.5 , December 1997
back to INDEX>>

From the Director
Foreign Visiting Fellows
Our Current Staff
Exchange Programs with Overseas Institutions
Guest Lectures from Abroad
Visitors from Abroad
The Library
A day under the colorfol autumn trees in Takino Park ,Sapporo.
Essays by Foreign Fellows
Mordechai Altshuler
Boris N. Mironov
Volodymr A. Potulnytskyj
Vilmos Agoston
Oleg T. Bogomolov
Alfred F. Majewicz

Making Friends

by Mordechai Altshuler
(Institute of Contemporary Jewry, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, Foreign Visiting Fellow, SRC, 1997-98)

I came to Japan not only for academic reasons; to do research I could work in the USA or Israel, which also have extensive libraries of Russian materials. I wanted to be in Japan in order to experience living in a different and unknown way of life and culture. For this reason, a direct link with the Japanese people is very important to me.
My wish to make a closer acquaintance with my Japanese colleagues was partly fulfilled by invitations to my colleague"s homes. The first was Professor Tabata"s barbecue, which we enjoyed very much. First of all, we found that it was not just a barbecue but a whole feast. We had an opportunity to taste rich and tasty Japanese cuisine and found it delicious. At this party we were able to make new acquaintances and to deepen older ones. I learned that the Japanese people were more open and communicative than I had expected prior to my arrival in Japan. The party also revealed the singing talent of Professor Potulnytskyj, as he sang old Ukrainian songs of his homeland. We left the party with a very good feeling, enjoying the friendly atmosphere.
The other invitation was from Professor Ieda for a home concert and a birthday party. I will concentrate on this evening because it is still fresh in my memory. First of all I want to mention Professor Ieda's consideration by preparing chairs for us whereas the Japanese guests sat on tatami. Later, some of us also enjoyed this experience. For me the seating arrangements represented the mixture of the traditional Japanese and the Western modes of life that characterized this meeting in Professors Ieda"s house. The Western part of the evening was an excellent concert of classical music played by skilled Russian artists. During the concert one could feel the deep admiration the Japanese people had for Western classical music.
The real fun, however, started after the concert. The first activity was initiated by the guest artists themselves. They suggested at the end of the concert they play a popular Russian song, "Katiusha," and the audience - foreign as well as Japanese Ñ responded with enthusiasm. The Russian artists were joined by two little Japanese girls who played the song on violin. After this, the atmosphere became more informal, warm and friendly. All the guests intermingled - foreigners and Japanese, older and younger, children and adults. Despite the linguistic barriers we understood each other by the sparkles in our eyes.
The peak of joy came with the Japanese part of the evening when the meal was served. There were authentic Japanese delicacies, including sushi. Even though we were not used to Japanese cuisine, we enjoyed it. Some of us tasted sushi for the first time and found it delicious. The characteristic mixture of Japan and the West was reflected here by wines, as well as by the birthday cake with candles. Moreover, the birthday itself was an integration since the celebration was for a little Japanese girl whose name was written in hiragana letters on the celebratory banner, for an Hungarian student and for the Russian pianist, whose names were written in Roman letters. This reflects to some extent our small world, where people of good-will may understand each other.
During the feast, as the atmosphere became more and more lively, the artist from Moscow played a well known Russian song "Kalinka." Professor Mironov, a scholar from Saint Petersburg now at the Slavic research Center, began to dance the Kozachek and his wife joined him, with all the audience clapping hands. Later he danced a waltz with a little Japanese girl and our delight was complete. We sang and sang and for a moment we forgot that we were far away from our home, friends and family and felt very close to our new Japanese friends.
I think that this interaction of different cultures contributed to our good feeling. I believe that it is not unique to this successful party, but characterizes the Japanese way of life. In the trend towards the integration of traditional and modern, national-specific and global-universal, I find parallels between Japan and Israel, the country where I am from.

back to INDEX>>