留学生インタビュー

My Education in Japan

When I left the Philippines to study physics in Japan on April 22,1959,I had just graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the Ateneo de Manila University, the Jesuit School where I also completed my elementary and secondary education. Like most of the students from the Ateneo at that time, I was interested in philosophy, particularly in the certainty of the interconnection between cause and effect as taught by the Scholastic, philosopher/theologian Thomas Aquinas. I wanted to learn more about the relevance of Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle in Quantum Mechanics to the principle of efficient causality of Aquinas.

While philosophy and physics were interesting topics for study, I found myself gradually spending more time in understanding the Japanese people, learning their language, comprehending their culture and in trying to read their future aspirations and their contemporary frustrations. I decided that it was important for me not to let my studies interfere with my education. I therefore devoted much more of my time to meeting as many Japanese as possible with the hope of deepening my knowledge of Japan.

My five years as a student in Japan left me with three important impressions. First, the Japanese are a helpful people. My classmates and my professors always found time to assist me in my Japanese and Math studies. Without their understanding and assistance, it would have taken me more time to graduate. I also still vividly remember the hospitality of so many spouses of top government officials and CEOs of private sector corporations who found the time to organize dance parties and picnics for the foreign students, especially those from Southeast Asia.

Secondly, Japanese is a difficult language. I remember that after three months of Japanese studies, the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies organized an excursion to Kamakura. It was summer and warm. An old woman selling ice cream called at me: "Ice cream ikaga desu ka? (Would you like to buy ice cream?) I replied: Obasan ikaga desu ka? (How are you?) Another frustration with the Japanese language happened during my second year in Japan. After a one year Japanese language course at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, I was accepted at the Tokyo University of Education (presently Tsukuba University) Department of Physics. There, whenever I spoke in Japanese, my classmates would smile. It turned out that since most of my language teachers were women, my Japanese was somewhat effeminate. My Japanese was too polite for my male classmates. In my final year as a student, I had to join an alpine skiing trip to Zao, Tohoku in order to earn the required credit for physical education. To my surprise during dinner, our ski instructor shouted "Domingo, why don't you teach the local guys hyojungo "(the standard Japanese language). I just smiled, satisfied to know that finally, my Japanese has been accepted as standard. Of course today, I no longer worry too much about the Japanese language since I have had an exclusive Japanese language teacher for the last thirty-seven years in the person of my wife, Kazuko.

Thirdly, the Japanese are a hardworking people and highly cohesive. Most of the Japanese my age who went on to national public universities probably remember very little of their youth except preparing for entrance exams. I remember having worked during winter for three days and nights with my classmates at the Optical Research Laboratory which had only a hibachi for heating. My classmates insisted on continuing the experiment even under very difficult physical conditions until we got fairly decent results.

The Japanese tend to group together. This was also true for my classmates. Whenever we went out on excursions or ski trips we generally stayed together. I was however fortunate because I was considered one of them. This is a clear sign that once friendship is developed with the Japanese, the relationship is for life.

In my case, I have tried to nurture these human ties by meeting my former classmates and other Japanese friends during my periodic visits to Japan. For in our global village, nothing is more important than the human bonds that we have developed carefully in our youth.

Before the website became a global reality, the Japanese had already understood the importance of nemawashi (consultations before formal negotiations) and jinmyaku (human networking).

I am happy to join the Japanese government efforts in strengthening the old Japanese practice of jinmyaku (human networking) by establishing a website for former students to Japan and prospective students to Japan.

The initiative is laudatory. I would however suggest that as we in East Asia are now forming an East Asian community with ASEAN, China, Japan and Korea as initial members, it would be very useful if more Japanese university and graduate students could study in ASEAN, China and Korea. For indeed, mutual understanding could best be achieved when all parties know each other well.

It may be a good initiative for the Japanese government to use part of the Obuchi fund for human resource development to finance studies of Japanese students in ASEAN, China and Korea. This would complement the present Japanese program of attracting more Asian and foreign students to study in Japan.

Uploaded on 3rd September 2001