This article is one of a series of posts dedicated to our latest project, Humans of La Tour. Inspired by the successful Humans of New York by Brandon Stanton, Humans of La Tour is comprised of a series of journalistic portraits created by the Journalism students at La Tour. They seek to highlight a few of the people who make up the La Tour community: those we see every day as our professors and classmates, as well as those whose hard work and dedication keep the school running smoothly on a daily basis.
Each portrait was created by an Anglophone Section student in Ms. Temple’s Journalism Elective as part of their final project for the Spring Semester 2021.
“In fact, there are many sides to a country.”
Name: Y. Negoro
Profession: Japanese teacher (sensei) at La Tour
By Adrien Benaroch (1EA)
I’ve known my Japanese teacher for more than three years, but we never talked about her career or her life. When I had the opportunity to interview a person from La Tour, I immediately thought of her. In fact, I don’t regret my choice at all because we had a super interesting conversation about her background as well as Japan in general and the differences that there may be with France.
Sensei Negoro grew up in Japan, but she came to France three times for her studies. Her first time here was not the best, and she didn’t enjoy it much. In fact, she didn’t have much money, lived in a youth hostel in the south of Paris, and as she didn’t know a lot of people, she couldn’t hang out with friends. It was not an easy task to arrive in a foreign and unknown country, far from her family, especially when it was the first time she lived alone. Contrary to the general vision of her compatriots, she told me that the principle view she had of France at this time was not beautiful, as it was the one of the RER that she took every day to go to the Université de Paris-Dauphine, where her exchange was. It was, in fact, when she met new people that she started to really appreciate France: “In fact, there are many sides to a country,” she reflected, thinking back to that time.
Negoro Sensei (teacher in Japanese) then returned to Japan, but before finishing her master’s degree there, she came back to France a second time, this time for few months. At the time, she wanted to teach young students in Japan, but her second time in France made her change directions, because she decided to teach the Japanese language to foreigners. She told herself that “it could also be very interesting as [she] likes to travel and to discover other cultures.” Eventually, she came back to France, sent by the Fondation du Japon (the Japan Foundation), an organization paid by the Japanese government to select and send Japanese teachers throughout the world. She arrived in 2000 to teach secondary education and has stayed for more than 20 years now.
She first taught Japanese to senior students at Sciences Po Paris (The Paris Institute of Political Studies): “I liked graduate studies with senior students a lot, but I told myself, ‘Ah, why not try to change?’, because in Japan, I wanted to become teacher for middle/high school.” So, when she had the opportunity to teach at La Tour, she accepted it without any hesitation.
Next, I asked her about her return to Japan; if, since she had lived in France for so many years, some things surprised her when she went back, and she answered: “In Japan, […] the gaze of others is very important. […] But I feel freer in France.”
As we talked about the differences between Japan and France, she told me that now, it would be difficult for her to work in Japan. In fact, you always have to be well-dressed, even to go to the local supermarket, and she’s not used to it anymore. One time, when she went back to Japan during holidays, she was more relaxed and didn’t really pay attention to her outfit, and as she was about to go out, her little sister called out to her saying she couldn’t go out like this. “In fact, in France, the important thing is: You, how do you think? […] One respects the choice of others and does not force anyone.”
She also explained that in Japan, the majority of people is both Shintoist and Buddhist at the same time. These beliefs consist in respecting traditions and seasonal events, things she does when she is in Japan, but that are harder to do in France as she would be alone to do them.
Finally, I asked my teacher to tell me one thing that she would like to change in her life, and she answered: “One thing that I want at the moment, maybe due to Covid, would be that Japan be closer, like for example the existence of a machine that I could use to go instantly to Japan.” In fact, this distance from her native country bothers her more and more as her parents are getting older and as under the current circumstances it is hard to fly.
When I asked her to choose three words that correspond to her, she told me “Japanese”, but couldn’t decide which others she could say, finally laughingly ending her reflection in “indecisive”.
More than her indecision, I’ll take away from this exchange a real discussion that allowed me to learn more about the life of my teacher and the Japanese culture which interests me a lot.
Finally, I want to thank her for giving me her time so that I can do this interview.
Quotations transcribed from French by Adrien Benaroch