Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Indonesia - A Partner for Mutual Nurturing of Vibrant Culture
KAIKIRI Sugako / Japanese Theatre Producer Based in Indonesia

September 15, 2023
In June 2023, Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan visited Indonesia for an extended stay, with the media covering their daily activities. As I observed them, I experience two distinct emotions in my heart.
Their Majesties' quintessentially Japanese composure, characterized by unwavering serenity, filled me with immense pride in my home country. However, I also felt a surge of joy when Their Majesties could no longer maintain their serene composure as they interacted with the excited and carefree Indonesian youth. This is Indonesia- a remarkable nation that brings smiles to everyone's faces. After having the privilege of living in this country for 30 years, I often find myself feeling this way.

I came to this country as a teacher of the Japanese language. In January 2009, the Japanese musical theater company "Theatre EN Juku", which was comprised of Indonesian university students, was formed. The core members were 15 students studying Japanese in Jakarta. The theater company's name, "enjuku" (mature), comes from the phrase "hanjuku (half-boiled) kara enjuku wo mezasu koto" which means "striving for maturity from inexperience". We dedicated ourselves to crafting scripts, composing music, and honing our skills in Japanese dialogue, singing, and dancing. Before we knew it, the troupe had swelled to 90 members from 20 universities and was operating autonomously. Members would leave the troupe upon graduating from their universities, and auditions would be held to welcome new members. Every year, tickets for the main performance in Jakarta would be sold out, and we would receive warm welcomes at performances in various locations in Japan.

After 12 years, on April 25, 2021, Theater EN Juku was disbanded. Everyone cried at the final ceremony. We cried as we reminisced, cried as we embraced, and cried as we sang. That was the first time in this country that I saw so many people crying. It was then that I realized something profound. In the twelve years since the formation of the troupe, I always aspired to be their guiding light, while, in fact, I myself was growing under the guiding light of the the 832 members.

A year and a half after coming to terms with the loss of this light, in November of the previous year, I started a new theatrical project. Instead of a theater company, this time we recruit members once a year and disband when the production is finished. The theater program and production group then begin plans for next year's project. Now that I find myself in the latter half of my life, I realize how much the people of this country have nurtured me.

When I first came here as a Japanese teacher, I was puzzled by the easygoing attitude of people in this country. I was often frustrated by the "carefree, casual, and irresponsible" attitude reflected in the often-used phrase "tidak apa-apa (it's okay, no problem)". To be honest, I still am!
However, I find myself wishing that I could spend the rest of my life here. Incidentally, there are so many Japanese here in Indonesia who feel the same way.

Without fear of being misunderstood, I can confidently assert that Indonesia is not widely recognized in Japan. In Indonesia, the opposite is true. The number of people studying the Japanese language in Indonesia is the second largest in the world after China. Even without mentioning the obvious anime and cosplay, quite a few young people are very interested in Japanese words and culture such as "nomikai" (drinking parties), "warikan" (splitting the bill), "gokon" (matchmaking parties), "danshari" (decluttering), "wabi-sabi" (finding beauty in imperfection), and "yaoyorozu no kami" (countless deities). Consequently, when they have the opportunities to meet Japanese people, they are already very interested and curious. Japanese-themed festivals invariably draw large crowds.

The "Festival of Japan" held in 2008 commemorated the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Indonesia. Due to the positive response, the Jakarta Japan Festival (JJM) was launched the following year as a joint public and private effort to provide a venue for the people of Japan and Indonesia to promote mutual rapport. Subsequently, a series of delightful Japanese festivals such as the Ennichi (temple) Festival, the Sakura (cherry blossom) Festival, and the Momiji (maple leaf) Festival followed in quick succession. I am grateful for the many opportunities that EN Juku had to operate booths and sing on stages at those festivals.

It is worth mentioning that at the festivals in Jakarta, the attendees offer better performances than the organizers. They come wearing cosplay outfits or yukata. They enjoy shopping in Japanese. They have a great time at the booths. Those crowding around the stage are as excited as people who attend the live concerts of big-name stars in the Tokyo Dome.
Witnessing their enthusiasm, an increasing number of organizers are considering the possibility of shifting the responsibility of hosting the festivals from Japanese to Indonesians, especially those of the younger generation. Currently in Japan, where these celebrations originate, nostalgia alone is not enough to draw people to bon dancing and festivals. Here in Indonesia, the organizers may be inclined to reexamine those festivals where the Japanese side sometimes put cultural pressures to suit their preoccupations, and may be probing for ways to promote new forms of festivals in foreign countries.

The initially one-sided interest has evolved into mutual appreciation, and through private events, our two countries have cultivated a shared culture. There is an ongoing process of a limitless pursuit for paths to act on the same stage. Isn’t this a remarkable case of jointly developing a culture?

I said to the young Indonesians, "When I met the Emperor and Empress, I was too nervous to speak." In return they replied, "Even though Indonesians would be excited to meet presidents and kings, we would not be nervous." For the Japanese people who tend to think too much and are too cautious and rigid, there is no doubt that Indonesians are the strongest partners for developing a joint culture.

KAIKIRI Sugako is a Japanese theatre producer based in Indonesia.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

インドネシア 強力な文化の共同開発パートナー
甲斐切 清子 / インドネシア在住日本語演劇プロデューサー

2023年 9月 15日



日本語教師として来たばかりのころは、この国の明るさに戸惑うこともあった。「Tidak apa-apa(大丈夫、問題ない)」という頻繁に使われる言葉の持つ「いい加減さ、適当さ、無責任さ」にいらだつことも山ほどあった。正直に言えば、今もある。







一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Indonesia - A Partner for Mutual Nurturing of Vibrant Culture