Japanese in the World – Mihoko & Genki Takata
This is an Iromegane´s new project, "Japanese in the world". There are many Japanese people living overseas and try to establish themselves in different countries. Some may have an easy life and some may not. Why they decieded to choose to live outside of Japan? What they do? How they feel about their new life?
The first episode is from Mihoko & Genki Takata who are both illustrators and recently started their new life in Berlin.
1. What´s your name and which part of Japan are you from?
Genki Takata, from Hiratsuka city, Kanagawa.
Mihoko Takata, from Oiso city, Kanagawa.
2. When did you come to Berlin?
3. Where were you before Berlin and what were you doing?
Genki: We were both in Hiratsuka city and working as illustrators. Same as now.
4. Why did you decided to come to Berlin?
Mihoko : Very typical answer but we wanted to get inspired by Berlin, which is one of the main stream city of art. Another reason was, although this is more my reason, I was interested in Berlin historically and regardless of whether we live or not, I always wanted to see the city. Then when we decided to move to overseas, among the places we checked such as Canada or Australia, we´d found out that it was a little easier for us to apply for the visa. Especially after finding out that Berlin gives preference to artists, it became our final destiny.
Genki: At the beginning I wasn´t so into Europe but then after researching, I´d found out that Berlin was now becoming a Silicon Valley in Europe. Since my future project is working in IT industry, Berlin seemed to be a good place for me too.
5. What was or is the most difficult thing to adopt?
Genki : Not especially. Although German language is much harder than we expected, other things; culture, people and the life style are easy to adopt. Comparing to Japan, Berlin has more capacity for accepting different things and people are just normal to have us (foreigners) around.
Mihoko : I can be myself. Japan seems to have a lot of norms in public. For example a couple shouldn´t be necking on the street or how to behave in the train etc… This can be tiring.
Genki : In Berlin people accept how other people are and respect them.
6. What have you changed the most after living in Berlin?
Mihoko : I´ve become more healthy. Now I´m more active and I want to move more. When I was in Japan, I didn´t need to go out; did shopping from home and if I needed to go out, I went by car.
Genki : You weren´t even conscious that you weren´t active.
Mihoko : I didn´t feel like going out. I was a little “Hikikomori” (Laugh). But now, I go out when the weather is good and practice Yoga in the morning. Both mentally and physically, I feel myself healthier.
Genki : What I think about Mihoko´s change is the environment in Berlin. Japanese people think Germans are very serious and square but they are not. They are easy-going and not so strict. Moreover, German people are more connected to the nature. In a way, they are more wild animals. Means, when the weather is good, people go to a park or to countryside to spend a day. Then during the long winter, they are grumpy. In a way, they are more natural and honest to their feelings. On the contrary, people have more virtual life in Japan. Temperature is well controlled and people can live comfortably inside the city. Therefore, people seem to have forgotten how to deal with the nature and lost the connection to the nature. What westerners think of Japanese as a spiritual nation is disappearing over the material culture. Perhaps being Christian myself makes me feel more comfortable in Germany. I felt myself a little outsider when I was in Japan. But having a Christian view, I think they have a stronger attitude when they face to a tough task, which I confirmed myself when the nuclear incident happened in Fukushima three years ago. As soon as they saw the problem, Germany decided to stop the nuclear plants where as Japan is trying to resume Fukushima plants.
Mihoko : Also in Japan, people are watching what you do and interfere. At the end, I got scared to talk to people because people started giving me lectures over what I mentioned. Here people are more individual and I feel free.
Genki : It´s nothing to do with the question but German people on the street look very happy and it was a culture shock for me.
Mihoko : Yes, even when I do something strange in public, people just smile at me.
7. What is your profession? Can you tell us about your work?
Genki : Both of us are freelance illustrator and most of our client are Japanese companies and publishers. The clients find us and we provide illustration they ask. At the moment we have job constantly but in future, we like to make our own work and sell them. In this internet era, it´s easy to work in distance.
8. What expectation do you have in Berlin?
Genki : Being in Berlin, I like to develop my creativity and explore clients in Berlin or in Europe.
Mihoko : Same to me. Since Berlin is the centre of Europe, it´s easy to move to many part of Europe. So we should take advantage of it.
9. What is your identity as a Japanese in this country?
Genki : I get really shocked to see myself in the mirror after spending all day outside. (Laugh) Not so many Asians on the street and many Germans treat us so normal that I forget I´m Asian. I even get disappointed with having an Asian flat face. Or when we go to a restaurant, sometimes waiters speak to us in Korean or Chinese. Perhaps if I were more nationalist, it would bother me but in fact, it doesn´t. I´m not saying I´m happy to be mistaken but it just doesn´t matter to me. I didn´t have much special opinion about other Asian people when I was in Japan but here I´ve realised for many Europeans we are all similar. If so, maybe I should just accept it and now I rather have sympathies to other Asian people as a same group. In this sense, my identity as a Japanese has been fading.
Mihoko : I felt other Asian people as completely different people when I was in Japan. China, Korea, Viernam, all those countries were far away for me. Now I live in Berlin and I´ve realised whenever I see other Asian people, they look so happier to see me just because I´m Asian and treat us a little different to other westerner customers. There they make me realise that I am Asian too. In Japan, people are trying to keep their identity in that small island but here, people think broader that we are Asian. I think my vision has become wider. Moreover, living in this green city, Berlin, I feel that even this "Asian" label is disappearing and becoming an united identity, "being". Our identity is a living nature, that´s what I think.
10. What music do you like to listen when you work?
Genki : We often listen to different music with headphones. I like Jazz, chill-out or lounge music. I like jazz and jazz-rock sound but somehow it doesn´t match for the view in Berlin and I started to listen to lounge or chill-out more often.
Mihoko : I like the sound of piano and often listen to Brad Mehldau. I also like classical music, like Bach played by Glenn Gould.
Genki : We listen European jazz like Neil Cowley or Søren Bebe together. They suit European cities.
Mihoko : But when I really have to work hard, I listen to techno as a substitute of caffeine.
11. What do you like the most about your work?
Genki : At this moment I draw for the clients but I like to send my messages to the world. Both are interesting. Of course drawing for the clients is also a help for them to send out the messages and I work as an interpreter. The best part of being illustrator is we can transmit the messages without words., means anyone can understand. Not only for expressing my messages but also as a voice for others.
Mihoko : I´m not good at expressing myself with words. And there are others who can express themselves with words but can´t draw like writers. I can translate their words into sensation, into illustrations. It´s interesting that I can work using my strong point to cover other person´s weak point. That way we can express better and get better understanding from the readers. I like that I can help people to understand the text better.
Genki : Our work is to open a book or a text to many different people and get more interests with our illustrations. And that´s I think interesting.
More information about Mihoko & Genki.
Mihoko Takata website : http://mihokotakata.com
Behance : https://www.behance.net/mihokotakata
Genki Takata website : http://genkitakata.com
Behance : https://www.behance.net/genkitakata
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