Lives of the Nikkei scholarship 'Dream Come True Project' students ～ Ayumi Kosaka
Why did you decide to study in Japan?
After graduating from University, I worked in a research institute in a University in Paraguay. At that time, I was searching for a possibility of a joint research or a workshop between the research center I was working and the former JICA Research Center (currently operated by an agricultural cooperative). However, in those days, the Nikkei immigrant community had a closed mentality and they did not welcome interaction with the Paraguayan society. It was then I became interested in JICA’s Nikkei trainings and I decided to study in Japan to gain more specialized knowledge.
How is your life in Japan?
In the beginning I was a little puzzled since the image of the Japanese that I had and the reality was quite different. Having Japanese looks, the name and fluency in the Japanese language, I am expected to behave like Japanese. However, when I do not behave in the expected way, I was rejected which was painful. One day, a person who has lived abroad for a long time said to me ‘You are not Japanese, so you do not have to try too hard to fit in’. These words freed me and after that I stopped worrying too much.
The Nikkei Scholarship program enabled me to study in the doctorate course. Many of the staff in the Japan Foundation and the Association of Nikkei and Abroad have the experience of living abroad and what I appreciate the most is that they try to understand us. Such moral support is very encouraging for us Nikkei who are not Japanese. I very much appreciate the scholarship which provides opportunities for trainings and exchange with other scholars.
Tell us about your present study or research.
I am currently doing a research in the field of plant pathology, studying about the defenses that plants show against pathogens. Unlike humans or animals, plants cannot move. Therefore, the mechanism of defense against pathogens also differ. During evolution, plants have acquired the ability to defend themselves against various pathogens. Sometimes through common and sometimes through more specific mechanisms. In my current research I have found out that plants synthesize anti-microbial metabolites after recognizing the arrival of a pathogen. We have also found that plants induce the sysnthesis of the said metabolite after having recognized several types of fungal pathogens. By studying the mechanisms of defense, we could reveal why certain plants are infected by pathogens while others are intact.
Did your consciousness as a Nikkei change in any way through studying in Japan?
I believe I have changed a lot. First of all, Nikkei are not Japanese who have adopted foreign cultures. Even though we have similarities in appearance, we feel and think different from Japanese. However, this may be different according to different Nikkei generation.
Among many things which I like about Japan, one of them is that there are Japanese that I have imagined to be before arriving in Japan. Having met people who try to appreciate others and those who take good care of things, these made me want to become a Nikkei with such traits.
What is your dream for the future?
In the beginning, I was thinking to apply what I have learned in Japan when I returned to Paraguay. However, after continuing my research and meeting up with many people, I began to think a little different. Paraguay and Latin America are major agricultural countries and are expected to face difficulties and challenges in the coming future. Rather than immediately going home, I should continue gaining more experience to build up strength so that I can make contribution to Paraguay and Latin America in a more sustainable manner.
Please give a message to students who are considering studying in Japan.
Japan is one of the few countries which values making efforts. During a research, we face many difficulties. In order to complete a doctorate course, a publication of a scientific article is essential which makes us very frustrating. However many Japanese teachers ensure to lead us in the right direction so that our efforts bear fruit. The experience of living and studying in a country far away from our home provides us opportunities to learn important things in life. Of course we gain knowledge in the academic field, but the experience also makes us grow as a person and we learn important things in life.