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Kazuko Yoshida's Story

Untold Stories:
Where exactly are you from in Japan?

KY: I am from Hakodate on Hokkaido the northern Island of Japan. It is a big fishing port. (Photo: Scan in picture of Japan with pointer to Hakodate.)

Untold Stories: What was your work in Japan?

KY: I had a restaurant and I was a chef specialising in Japanese and Russian food. (My grandmother was Russian from the Chamchatka peninsula – far eastern region. My Japanese grandfather had a fishing business on the coast. It was lost at the end of World War II.)
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Untold Stories: When and why did you come to the UK/Cambridge?

KY: I came to Cambridge in September 2005. I was invited by my future husband. When  I came here first I attended the Bell School English language lessons.


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Bell School EFL group, ’UK Culture Lesson’. After lesson meeting at the Mariners’ Pub
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Untold Stories: Before you came to England – what kind of feelings, images and impressions did you have of England and English people?

KY: For me, all about England came from a book. When I was young, I read many books and my image of England – it was like, Oliver Twist, Jane Eyre all mixed up, a very rich, special life. We in Japan have very small houses, for example. Teacups, coffee cups, plates, towels, tablecloths, plates – everything for this fantastic image is easy to buy and not too expensive in England. But in Japan all these things are very expensive to buy.

Untold Stories: What was your reaction to England when you came first?

KY: The landscape (countryside) – very, very beautiful very lovely. Big grounds the same image as I had from Oliver Twist and Jane Eyre – very beautiful and nice.

Untold Stories: What about the town/city of course?

KY: Beautiful – because in Japan there are many, many electric cables. Too many commercials and a bad mixture of traditional building and new style building, making a very bad balance. England was like a movie set – too beautiful.

Untold Stories: What about food?

KY: The first time I thought maybe it was very expensive and not a good taste. This was only my Asian different taste.  But now I understand (know) all the food... I don’t think so any more.

Simple food for first time not good sense – but now people everyday food they  eat – not fantastic – mother and grand mother --- traditional...

Untold Stories: What food is especially good?

KY:  Fish and chips – the price and quality is just right.

Untold Stories: What food did you not like?

KY: It would maybe be … maybe I don’t like fish much – this country has different fish … maybe not good … if cooked by a French person it might be different – they know how to cook. The English – as for cooking – have no sense, they do not cook fish well.

Untold Stories: What about the UK people, what did you think they were like?

KY: I think people were – for me – just people. In every country people are the same – some percentage are killers, some steal, some people are very bad, some too right and some too left. I have never met rich people.  Before I came all the Japanese told me people are very bad racists in UK... but I have never met racist people. Maybe some day I will.

Untold Stories: What about work in England?

KY: I`ve only worked with the Chinese in a restaurant. (I have no experience working in other places because my English is not very strong.)

Untold Stories: You went into schools while you were here – what did you do?

KY: With my husband I told Japanese folk tales in a few schools in Cambridgeshire. Then in February and March 2006 we did a Japanese Culture Project with two classes in Thriplow, a Cambridge village primary school.

Untold Stories: What was your feeling/reaction to visiting and working with children in school?

KY: Everything was a surprise – a very good surprise. Almost entirely different from Japanese school. In Japanese schools there are many suicides. Even children in elementary school (6-12) – but now nine, ten and eleven-year-old children commit suicide. I never hear in England of small children killing themselves. Even in state school 25 or 30 did. I went to four or five schools – every one for me was a very fantastic school. Because when we went to the village school in Thriplow it was very good, I had thought it was a private school – but it was a surprise, it was a state school.
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School chilrens' presentations

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Untold Stories: Can you give me examples?

KY: Teachers. I saw good teachers and so-so teachers – but even with the so-so teacher everybody had a chance to talk. Also there was an assistant in the classroom. Everybody put their hand up and everybody was relaxed – I think it was all different from Japanese school. So I understand … if people had this education when they were a child, it gives a good imagination – very good inspiration. But in Japan – everyone is like a soldier. Everyone had to do the same thing. Being and doing the same thing was important. The same clothes, the same ideas, the same answer. This was most important in shogakko (primary school). But in this country children are and can be different. But in Japan – the same – if anything is done differently it is seen as bad. Everybody must be the same. It’s important that everybody is the same.

Untold Stories: Did you speak to the children?

KY: They were very lovely – very interested in the different country and different culture. I liked this part – if some foreigners were to go to Japan maybe Japanese children would be the same. But it’s not as relaxed in Japan. When the children asked questions they were very simple and very good – maybe many times they have met many kinds of foreigners. In Japan there are only Japanese – everyone has the same image. Sometimes in this country there are black people – it is more relaxed – with different people it is more relaxed.

Untold Stories: What about travelling in the UK?

KY: For me travelling in the UK is very complicated because, for example, train announcements are difficult for me. Everything in Japan is more kind. If there is an accident – they explain why they stop the train. But in this country – they don’t explain why the train stops.

I think the B&B system is very good, for example in Wales and even Cambridge, B&B is very interesting. The people and the house can be interesting.

Untold Stories: What about other things about coming to the UK that maybe surprised you, good or bad?

KY: Everything was very, very expensive. In Japan there are 100 yen shops (i.e. 50 pence shops). But in the UK sometimes the price is five times and even ten times more expensive.

But I only came two years ago … maybe now I have a different feeling. Because when I came everything shocked me and I was very angry. But now it’s OK … I misunderstood a little.

Now things are a bit more comfortable. Getting things done is slow, for example. If I called a builder in Japan to renovate, he would come that afternoon, we’d agree a price, then in three days he would come and renovate. But here in the UK it would maybe take three years. But now I’m more relaxed about it. This is now normal so I am more relaxed.

Untold Stories: What about the weather?

KY: The weather is very nice – fantastic for me because I come from a northern place in Japan. In the UK winter, summer, autumn and spring are very nice. I lived in a northern place in Hokkaido where maybe from December to March there is snow and no colour – all the green is gone. Sometimes in Japan – if I went to Tokyo – it was green and I was surprised. But in this country – every season is green!!

Untold Stories: Now – what things do you think about when you are here – what Japanese things do you miss?

KY: Convenience stores – Lawson and 7/11 – because if I needed something, for example a copy, it was easy to do. And a colour copy was just 20p. Everything was very easy, very convenient. In this country there would be no paper or something. But in Japan it would only take one minute and everything would be finished.

Untold Stories: Anything else?

KY: Maybe many things. Shopping, for example. Cambridge has a population of 90,000 – if in Japan there was the same population, there would be more good department stores and more things like an artist shop. There are not enough public shops only John Lewis for a 90,000 population. I can order from Tokyo, though.

Also, service is better in Japan. And of course service in restaurants. Service is poor in the UK. But this is the owner’s responsibility. If the owner is more careful – education I think is needed by the owner.
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Traditional Kamishibai storytelling around the table

Untold Stories: What about stories in school – can you tell me about storytelling in Japan, traditional  storytelling – kamishibai?

KY: When I was a child, two times a week the storyteller came with pictures. He would come and sell some sweets very cheaply for 1p or 2p. That was about 30 or 40 (laughs) actually 50 years ago. In 1957/8 in my house, my family bought a TV. Then kamishibai (storytelling with picture cards) began to finish.
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