I know some of you have been waiting for this one! Sorry it has taken so long to get around to, but here it is.
I spent about 3 and a half days working on my presentation before the hard part began. I started out by making two versions, a Japanese and an English version, and outlining what I wanted to say. After I had a rough idea of what I was going to cover in each slide, I started putting pictures in to help my audience visualize what I have actually learned so far. I then began working on the English version full force, translating easy parts into Japanese where I could. I wound up making a very long presentation with a lot of notes. By the time I had to start translating it into Japanese, the presentation was only two and a half days away. I did as much as I could by myself, but after realizing how monumentous a task this would be for a non-native speaker, I finally gave in and asked for help. On Tuesday night, several of the employees in the International Relations Division stayed until 7 to help me translate much of it into Japanese. A special thanks here for Ms. Abe, Mr. Yasuda, Mr. Mori, and Mr. Takahashi for helping me!
Each person wrote their translation for their part of my presentation, then e-mailed it to me. I went to eat when we left at 7, then came to the Internet Café for 3 hours to copy and paste and look up the readings for characters I didn’t know. I arranged a script to read with furigana (readings) above the difficult kanji (characters) and saved it. On Wednesday morning, I finished the translation and organization of my presentation. I then had a rehearsal in front of the International Affairs Division employees in the afternoon. It went slowly, because I had only had about 5 hours of sleep the night before and it was the first time I had actually read the whole thing out loud. We made some last minute corrections to the presentation and my script. I printed it out and headed for Tokyo right after work. I met up with Maiko, Jun (a Japanese girl who spent a semester at SMSU), and Akizumi, a friend of mine who works at AFLAC in Tokyo, for dinner at Nishio-san’s. The food at Nishio-san’s was delicious (as always), and it was great seeing everyone. Akizumi is a freak for work, but he makes bank, so I guess it’s worth it. He said I should come work at AFLAC after graduation, but all I can hear is that silly duck quacking the company name every time I think about it...
The next morning, Maiko and I had lunch at an Italian restaurant in Shinjuku, then I went to the CLAIR headquarters in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo. This is the Washington, D.C. part of Tokyo. You can see the Diet and the Prime Minister’s official residence from CLAIR’s 19th storey back window and the Tokyo Tower out of the front window. I met Chris, the other CLAIR intern a few minutes before our presentations were to begin for the first time and we wished each other good luck.
Chris went first. He had planned on doing a study on Japan’s declining birthrate, a shrinking workforce, and Japanese attitudes towards bringing in foreign laborers to deal with the shortfall. I thought it was an excellent project, but unfortunately, he hasn’t had much time to work on it at all this summer. While I have been running around learning about Japanese emergency management all summer, Chris has been teaching English lessons in a small town in Aichi prefecture. I felt a little guilty, because Yokosuka has gone to great lengths to make sure I acquire a thorough understanding of its emergency preparedness and management system, while Chris’ town probably doesn’t have the assets to provide him and hasn’t given him much free time to pursue his research himself.
In spite of these obstacles, Chris seems to have done an excellent job of getting some information for his study. He made surveys about attitudes toward foreign laborers and the labor shortage before he came and distributed them to several companies and 100 citizens in his town. Although it seemed like it was a very extensive survey, he did a good job summarizing the main results for us. Chris, if you read this, I would love to hear some updates on your study and maybe get a copy of your results when you are finished.
To be honest, I was much more nervous giving the presentation on American emergency management in Yokosuka shortly after I arrived than I was in Tokyo. That was the first real presentation I have had to give in Japanese, but having had that experience, this one was much easier. I still need to work on practicing my presentation more and being able to talk about it without reading my notes. Chris did a good job of talking about his results without ever reading his notes. He glanced at them every now and then, but I straight up READ them off of my desk. I hardly made eye contact with my audience until Q&A. Aside from just being boring, I think a major drawback of this approach is that my audience might assume my Japanese is better than it actually is. Since the script I was reading was essentially written by native speakers translating my English version, most of what I read was very natural-sounding, but incredibly difficult Japanese. I think this sets your audience for a bit of a let down when it comes to Q&A time and you sound a little choppy. Regardless, I think I answered all the questions fairly well and everyone understood what I was talking about. I have really learned a lot here and I think I managed to covey that to my audience. Although my style was a little dry, I think it went pretty well, overall.
We had a small reception afterwards. The sushi looked great, and I tried to plow as much as I could into my mouth, but it’s tough when you are one of only two guests of honor and it seems like everyone wants to talk to you. I managed to cram my face in between conversations, but I still could have eaten a little more. CLAIR has a good mix of academics, officials, and a few foreigners working at their office, so it was nice getting meet most of them. I had a good time there, and I want to thank all of the CLAIR people for giving me the opportunity to Japan this summer and for letting me present my findings in Tokyo.