(Institute of the History of Natural Sciences and Technology,
Russia, Foreign Visiting Fellow, SRC, 1998-99)
- My father, Vladimir Mikhailovich Konstantinov (1903-1968), told
me a lot about Japan. He had spent nearly fifteen years (throughout
1920s and 1930s) in Tokyo, graduated from Wasada University and won for
himself a prominent name in the field of Japanese Linguistics. He knew
and deeply loved the country and her people. When I was seventeen years
old, I became acquainted with my father, who at that time had been
rehabilitated and released from Stalin's Khabarovsk camp, where he had
spent eighteen years of his life. He told me a lot about Japan's
enchanted nature, her fascinating history and ancient culture.
- From the 1960s onward, Japan, his beloved country, became my
dream, which I never imagined would be fulfilled. Now that my dream has
been fulfilled I find that my father's infatuation with Japan was very
well grounded; as the Russian proverb says It is better one time to see
than hundred times to hear.
- Although my wife Valentina and I thought ourselves to be well
prepared for Japan's wonders, our first days here demonstrated how
scanty and incomplete our knowledge was. We first discovered this when
we met Japanese people. During our first hours on Japanese soil, and
while flying from Tokyo to Sapporo, we "discovered" the unique
amalgamation of self-esteem, civility and traditional courtesy, which
is implanted in Japanese employees at all levels. Their bows of
greeting and thanking reminded us of the civility which had been
typical in a by-gone Russia.
- We were lucky to get here in the early summer with the
blossom of flowers, birds' songs and two June festivals which
demonstrated devotion to old tradition, music and dance. We derived
great pleasure in experiencing ancient and exotic culture and
tradition. Japanese dances, theatre and national festivals are
extremely colorful. Their music has very much in common with our
melodious and sad Russian songs, so it was not a surprise, that they
were very fond of Russian folk songs and classical music.
- Being a geographer I could not fail to be deeply impressed by
Japanese love for nature and for profiting in working to keep the land
as beautiful as possible. It is fascinating to follow their efforts to
keep Sapporo's streets flowered in all seasons, with flowers constantly
replaced so that even different light-poles, walls around construction
sites, garden fences and so on are always fully in bloom. Japanese
Ikebana is known all over the world, but we did not imagine, that it
was possible to create such magnificent blossoming compositions on the
scale we saw in Odori Park, where a symphony of flowers was
complemented by beautiful fountains. Even temporary markets and
exhibitions (for instance, beer gardens) could not spoil the effect.
Regarding business and advertising, in Sapporo these activities are
also positively influenced by embedded Japanese culture. Even TV
commercials here are not as annoying as in many other countries
(including Russia), and in many cases they are quite nice and
entertaining. We were also pleasantly surprised to find small kitchen
gardens near many of Sapporo's houses (including our International
Guest House), a familiar sight for Russians having dachas. Urban
environment notwithstanding, the owners of these gardens labor devote
each free moment on them and are rewarded with an abundant harvest.
- The main treasure of Japan is her industrious, sensitive,
romantic and family-loving citizens. The only reality we are reluctant
to accept is the reckless, sometimes dangerous, style of bicycle riding
which is typical of Sapporo's high school students.
- We learned Hokkaido is very different from the rest of Japan.
is more like Russia in its nature and climate, and bears some traces of
Ainu culture. Living here and working at the Slavic Research Center has
been pleasant and productive for us. The Center is an outstanding
collection of persons wholly dedicated to science, helping us in our
studies and everyday life with all their might.
- Upon his release from imprisonment my father published his
monograph Orossiakoku Suymudan (Dreams about Russia), a
translation from Japanese, complete with commentaries and historical
background about the adventures of some Japanese fishermen who were
shipwrecked in Russia in the late eighteenth century.* The Japanese
fishing boat "Sinse-maru" had foundered in the North Pacific when its
crew was saved by Russians. After spending many years in Russia, the
crew returned to their native land with pleasant dreams about their
host country, which had been virtually unknown at that time in Japan. I
am sure, that when we return to Moscow, our experiences in Sapporo,
Hokkaido and Japan will have a prominent and treasured place in our
memories and dreams.
*See: Konstantinov V.M. (text editing, translation
commentaries) Orosiiakoku Suymudan (sny o Rossii) [Dreams about
Russia]. Memorials of Literature of Peoples of the East. The small
series. XI (Moscow, 1961); Konstantinov V.M. "Svedeniia ob ekipazhe
korablia ." [Data on the crew of the ship],
Problemy vostokovedeniia, #3 (1959).