Lives of the Nikkei scholarship 'Dream Come True Project' students ～ Jun Ishida Castañeda
Why did you decide to study in Japan?
I decided to study in Japan, because I have always loved coral reefs. the University of the Ryukyus is in Okinawa Prefecture, and has a large research center of coral reefs. A coral reef specialist of the University of the Ryukyus is globally known for researches performed at this center. I decided to study at this university consdering the research achievements of this mentor, the geography and the technology of the facilities.
Although there are good research groups of coral reefs also in Colombia, they are scattered among institutes and organizations across the country, which makes it difficult to exchange knowledge and information. On the other hand, Sesoko-jima Island functions as the hub of all research groups, so the University of the Ryukyus is a place that facilitates academic research.
How is your life in Japan?
Japan is very safe to live in, which I like more than anything else about Japan. For the first six months after coming to Japan, I studied at Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute, which is one of the best Japanese language schools in Tokyo. At this school, I could learn a lot of things about Japanese culture and life in addition to the language. Thanks to this school, I got accustomed to Japanese life soon.
There are many things that I experienced for the first time in Japan, such as enjoying the view of sunrise from the top of Mt. Fuji, praying at temples and shrines and skiing in Nagano Prefecture. Of course, no country is perfect. Life in Japan feels lonely sometimes, even if I have everything that I need. It is important to contact reletives and friend everyday, so that I don’t miss my family and friends too much. It is also important to study the Japanese language, because the Japanese language skills are necessary in order to make Japanese friends.
Tell us about your present study or research.
I currently live in Okinawa, which is located in the south of Japan, and I have started to study coral reefs in doctor’s course of the Univrsity of the Ryukyus. While I want to know how a high temperature of seawater affects corals, what interests me the most is how a high seawater temperature affects coral DNA. By finding the answer to that question, we will know how the climate change forecasted for the next 100 years will affect coral reefs, which will in turn enable to take more effective measures than ever to protect them.
My research team is international, so I can exchange intellectually and culturally with researchers from different countries. The teachers of the university are highly knowledgeable, and the facilities and machines of the laboratory are of latest styles, which enables cutting edge research. For the moment, I am very satisfied.
Did your consciousness as a Nikkei change in any way through studying in Japan?
My Nikkei identity has been gradually changing since I started living in Japan. I had lived in Colombia, and I was raised by my Colombian mother, because my parents divorced when I was a child. With little influence of Japan, I considered myself as 100% Colombian. My DNA is half Japanese and half Colombian, but when I spent some time with Japanese people in Colombia during Japanese language classes and Japanese community events in Colombia, I sometimes felt that I needed to find a lost part of myself. However, I didn’t know what I was feeling then.
After coming to Japan, I realized how lucky I was to be a Nikkei. Moreover, I recognized the importance and the responsibilities of being a Nikkei, because Colombia and Japan are so different culturally, historically and economically. As I am in the center of the two countries, I want to become a person with both virtues. I want to bring Colombia and Japan together using this knowledge and develop various projects.
What is your dream for the future?
There is only one dream for the future: to make the world a better place than when I was born through my activities. In the field of environment, which is of course related to orceanology and coral reefs, I would like to develp projects of preservation and restoration at different places in the world. My biggest goal is to give specific, direct and positive impacts to coral reefs through those projects, and I would also like to improve the projects on a continuous basis. In implementing more than one project, what is important is environmenal education for those who are concerned with coral reefs. For example, I would like to think how to strike a balance between giving benefits to those who are benefitting from coral reefs and preserving a good ecosystem. I am currently engaged in research so that I can make at least some part of the dream come true taking advantage of what the teachers have taught me.
Another dream is more personal: to improve the lives of the people around me by being kind and respectful in daily life. It is a small but important thing, because it is deeply connected with life.
Please give a message to students who are considering studying in Japan.
Everybody is different. Likewise, every Japanese town is different. I think that such my idea is based on my own experiences. For me, studying in Japan is a very rich experience. I could learn new things through a variety of personal, cultural, academic and intellectual experiences. As I mentioned earlier, nothing is perfect, of course. However, the most important point is to learn one thing from what is experienced. Please find one good thing always from happenings in daily life. Please always thank for everything you receive.
If you want to study in Japan, you have to study the Japanese language. Reading is as important as speaking. If you don’t understand Japanese, you will not be able to enter the Japanese society. Some friends of mine are failing to establish a good relationship with the Japanese even after living in Japan for years. Their social circle is limited to the Japanese who speak English and foreigners from other countries. You are the only person who is responsible for living a good life in Japan or not.