Camera Totin’ Gaijin

I’ll be honest, this past week has seen me running all over the place with a camera and a tripod, and I guess that counts for an adventure.

Not only am I heading up my own documentary project, I’m helping out my friend Adrian as he conducts research on youth and Japanese politics. This means I get to do my favorite thing, make the video pretty and shiny and organized while someone else interacts with people and coordinates interviews. It’s great.

One such interview excursion was to Kyoto city hall to interview the youth coordinator for the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). This would be the most formal situation I’ve ever been in here. Sure enough I donned the most business-esque outfit I could dig up and biked to campus (tripod and all) to meet Adrian. By the time I got there I was a sweaty mess but I got to chat with Cameron, a study abroad student at the highest level of Japanese, and therefore our translator. He too was in the business attire, dutifully enduring a tie despite the smothering, sticky heat.

Adrian arrived and we got on the bus and found ourselves dropped off in front of city hall.

There we were, a three man team of kids in their twenties about to do official stuff in this official government building. No sweat.

Actually a lot of sweat, it was hot.

But anywho, we went on in and inquired with several layers of posted secretaries about our appointment, Cameron being a champion using the polite form of Japanese “Keigo” (敬語), that I could definitely use some work on. (You only use it with people in authority or really polite situations).

Finally we were ushered in to a lounge and seated at a row of plush couches. I fidgeted with the tripod and started setting things up, and yet another secretary dutifully brought us fresh chilled barley tea (麦茶).

And then the moment of truth, in strolls Terada-san, fanning himself and gratefully going for the barley tea. We then started formal introductions- my first time doing it for real- using such lengthy phrases as よろしくお願いいたします。And then the infamous business card ceremony was performed, with synchronized bowing and receiving with two hands. After the pleasantries the interview began.

Keigo is a mysterious version of Japanese, and Cameron blew me away with his ability. Not only was he using a version of Japanese even Japanese people have trouble with, he was talking his way through political jargon and coming up with on the spot translations for Adrian’s questions. I monitored my camera and realized I had a very limited idea of what they were saying. I still have so far to go, even after all my improving, but honestly all this realization did was wake up that familiar little burst of energy I get when I see a challenge I want to tackle. Right there I wanted to hit my vocab practice.

After the interview Terada-san was kind enough to show us the council room, a really lucky experience for us random gaijin students to see see. It’s so steeped in history (being used as far back as pre WWII), and is used regularly for all of the city’s politicians to meet. We even got a picture.


Of course I’ve been juggling my own interviews as well, and I’ve started the editing process for my doc. Movie club wants me to turn it in by Monday, so I really gotta bust my butt. I know it’ll be at least decent, but I’m not sure how much other film I want to take, even after the movie club screening, before I call it a wrap. My main concern is that I have to make Japanese subtitles for it before I turn it in, in addition to making them a trailer. (AKA pray for me)

I’ll post the Japanese version (probably, if it’s not a horrible disaster) by next week for your viewing pleasure. See you then!

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