留学生インタビュー

My Education in Japan
1. The reason why you studied in Japan

From the beginning of the sixties, I was fascinated by Japanese movies such as Sansho the Bailiff, A strory from Chikamatsu and The Life of Oharu directed by Mizoguchi; Kwaidan and Harakiri directed by Kobayashi; and The Throne of Blood, Seven Samurai, The Hidden Fortress and Rashomon directed by Kurosawa, as it was very easy to watch them at the "Cinemateque of Chaillot" or at many cinemas which were showing art films at that time in Paris.
It was not only the aesthetic part of those movies, which were based on very strong stories and so remarkably directed, but also the homogeneity of the Japanese culture that appealled to me (the script, the costumes, the architecture, the martial arts, the Zen gardens, and so on), and the stylization of forms, that captivated me so much.
During my studies in Paris, at the National Superior School of Fine Arts and Architecture ("Beaux-Arts"), I noticed that buildings in Paris, Tunis, Montreal, New-York or Geneva had similarities. Particularly after I could admire the wonderful buildings drawn by Kenzo TANGE for the Olympic games of 1964; Yoyogi Hill's ice rink and swimming pool, I had the feeling that Japan was entering modernity while remaining traditional. And this is what I wanted to check in Japan. On the other hand, the fact that I started practicing Kendo and Iaido-- the beauty of gesture which amazed me from 1969, intensified my desire to discover Japan as a whole.

2. About your life in Japan

For the first six months, I devoted my time to learning Japanese for 8 hours a day, so that I could pass my exams at Osaka Gaikokugo University (Osaka University of Foreign Studies). Nonetheless, I trained for Kendo everyday at the Shodokan of Osaka Castle, which is one of the most famous Dojo of the Kansai area. At weekends, I visited Nara and Kyoto, which were not far from the Dojo. There, I thoroughly visited temples and gardens, which were the sort of places that would always interest an architect like me.
After that, I went to Tokyo to write my thesis about earthquake-proof constructions. Meanwhile, I kept training, and met an old and extraordinary Kendo Master, which I had been recommended to for daily basic practice: OKADA Morihiro, 8th Dan Hanshi, who was the former Kendo Master of the Imperial Dojo. Thanks to his extraordinary culture, he taught me rigorously not only the art of the sword, but also a lot of things about Japanese traditional architecture. He had also 8th Dan of Shodo (calligraphy), so he kept encouraging me to draw again and again with a hair-pencil so that I could become a good architect.
As I was curious about everything, I used to watch Sumo fights with passion. I often went to the top floors of department stores where various exhibitions were held, I visited a lot of museums, and so on.
As Kendo is a discipline practiced by a lot of remarkable people and thanks to my new friends at the Dojo (Shimotakaido's Shodokan), I had many opportunities to visit very interesting building sites: reconstruction of old temples, special foundations works for modern buildings, and so on.
During my stay in Japan, I wrote a diary, which enabled me to write my first books about Japan.

3. Relationship with Japan after you went back to your country

I never lost touch with Japan and my Japanese friends since I left the country. First, because I have kept training harshly for Kendo, where I often meet Japanese teachers and pupils who become friends of mine. And also because I still go to Japan every two or three years. I take three weeks of vacation to go to the Dojo of Shimotakaido, which is now managed by OKADA Morimasa, the grandson of OKADA Morihiro. OKADA Morimasa has created a Franco-Japanese Association, the Shodokai which I am the acting President.
Moreover, I welcome him and his Japanese delegates every summer for special training which he organizes in Paris. As a former disciple of his grandfather, obviously we became friends very quickly.

4. Messages for students who want to study in Japan or/and foreign students already studying in Japan

I would recommend that other than learning a specific discipline, find a traditional art to get interested in. As far as I am concerned, the Kendo seems to be ideal because it represents the soul of Japan and its culture, but it could also be the Shodo (calligraphy), the Kado( flower arrangement), the pottery, the art of lacquer, or the Ishigumi (the art of erecting stones in Zen dry gardens). Any one of them should be an interesting experience for you. For example, one of my friends, a Chinese man, who was also a student in Japan, learned how to sculpt Noh theater masks. From what he told me, it was really fascinating. Getting a deep, sincere and determined interest for any traditional art is a unique experience for you, because it is an initiation toward any other arts of the country and the spirit they contain.
I truely think that every foreign student should have the courage to experience that for himself or herself so that they do not miss experiencing the "real" Japan. It would also be a good opportunity to practice speaking Japanese and to understand things in Japanese. As an old Kendo saying goes: "Practice and knowledge are one."

Uploaded on 5th June 2003