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Interview with Emiko Furuya and Keiji Furuya

Furuya, Emiko
Furuya, Keiji
Karakisawa, Mayako
Date of Interview: 
Cultural identification
Emiko Furuya talks about the differences between Japan and the US.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Mayako Karakisawa interviewed Charlotte, NC residents to collect various stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
MK (Mayako Karakisawa): Good morning. My name is Mayako Karakisawa. Today is July first 2003. I am going to interview Emiko Furuya and Keiji Furuya. Today's purpose of this interview is you can talk about anything, but Emiko and Keiji have worked in Japan before you came to the United States. Also, you are now working in the United States. It will be very nice, if you can compare and talk about the differences between Japanese working environment and American working environment. Is it OK? [Laugh] Now, we are interviewing outside at Caribou Coffee on East Boulevard. It might be noisy because of cars. Well, first, Emiko. What kind of work did you do in Japan?
EF (Emiko Furuya): Yes. I was a program coordinator, if I say nicely. I did whatever the program needed.
MK: Yes. Well, what did you do Keiji?
KF (Keiji Furuya): After I graduate from college.
MK: Yes.
KF: Well, I worked at magazine publishing company.
MK: A work at magazine publishing company. How long have you been in the United States?
EF: It has been nine years.
MK: Nine years. Emiko also, no, Keiji also?
KF: We came here together.
MK: [Laugh] Yes. What? What happen? Being so formal.
EF: [Laugh]
MK: You didn't start working right away when you came to America.
EF: America.
KF: Nope.
MK: [Laugh] Nope.
EF: [Laugh] The reason that we came here is to go to school.
MK: Yes.
EF: I was studying at the university, but.
MK: Yes.
EF: I worked right away as a professor's assistant.
MK: Yes.
EF: So, I started working as a secretary at Japan-America Society in Charlotte.
MK: Yes, now where are you working?
EF: Now I am working at a public school in Charlotte, called Smith Academy, which has language programs, and also K-8 program. I am a classroom teacher in 4/5 grade class in Japanese Immersion program.
MK: A classroom teacher. Well, where do you work, Keiji?
KF: Now.
MK: [Laugh] Please. Oh-no. Go ahead and move the microphone. [Laugh]
KF: You are going to edit later, aren't you?
MK: No, I won't. It stays like this.
KF: It stays like this?
MK: Yup.
KF: No, you are kidding. If you do that. [Laughter] Umm, it will take too much memory on a computer.
MK: Uh-huh. I heard that is OK. For 15 minutes, it stays like this.
KF: Uh-huh. I understand. Now, well, umm, I am working as a teacher in middle school section at Smith Academy. Well, a teacher of Japanese Immersion Program.
MK: Yes.
KF: And also, I am a teacher in the IBM program at Harding High School.
MK: Oh, yes. Then, Emiko, you started working right after you came to America.
EF: As a professor's assistant.
MK: Oh, as a professor's assistant.
EF: Yes.
MK: Then, What was the biggest challenge for you? What was the most difficult? What was the biggest difference between Japan and America about boss? Bosses are totally different. Is there anything like that?
EF: Um. No, no. Well, my work place in Japan, well, I worked with American, English, and Australian. Because of that, it was not that much of challenge for a working environment, I think.
MK: Uh-huh. But, well. Keiji is laughing right there. [Laugh] What was funny? [Laughter]
KF: I just remembered a TV program that I watched last night and was laughing about it. [Laugh]
MK: [Laugh] When we are interviewing, do not laugh like that. [Laugh]
KF: Because Emiko is saying, "English, America, Australian, and others," I remembered the TV said, "Bonk them on their heads." And I laughed. Oh. A bee.
MK: [Laugh] Keiji, well, did you start working right after you came to America?
KF: After second semester, I started teaching Japanese classes at a university.
MK: Starting from second semester. Keiji, you worked at magazine publishing company when you were in Japan. So you didn't work with American and /or English people?
KF: No, I didn't. I worked with Japanese people who have a "hard head."
MK: What do you mean hard headed Japanese? Well, can you explain a little?
KF: How can I say. Well.
MK: What kind of people? What is hard what oh, their head.
KF: Time. For example, it is about time. I think. When I'm a little bit late, they are irritated very quickly.
EF: That is about the same here, too, I think.
MK: Then, that part is better in America, isn't it? American people are pretty laid back and relaxed.
KF: There are laid back and relaxed people in Japan, but. It depends on who you work with, I think. I think. What I mean about "hard headed person" is who snaps at a person about very small things like time, and anything. Well, it is really hard to work with that kind of people.
MK: Uh-huh.
KF: But there are people like that in America, too, I think.
MK: People who get irritated about such small things.
KF: Yah, too particular of a person.
MK: Hmm.
KF: So. Then. I have never worked in school system in Japan, but here, it is easier to talk to colleagues, and they are easy going, I think. And the biggest difference in school is that in Japan there is a teacher's lounge where teachers are stationed, and all teachers work at the same place. Umm, how can I say. In English it is "Groupism." Japanese society is where everyone tries to work together and create harmony. But here in the United States there isn't "teachers' lounge" where all teachers are stationed. Here in America I can work at my pace, but because of that all that I do will be my responsibility. But, we help each other here, too.
MK: Well, so from Keiji's point of view, Japanese tend to be inflexible. Americans are more relaxed. In Japan everyone tries to work as a group. On the other hand, in America everyone is on their own. Did I say it right? About the differences.
KF: I think so.
MK: Yes. [Laugh]
KF: I think, there are good parts and bad parts in both countries. Well, each countries good parts are their bad parts. I forgot who said it, but America's strong point is "Individualism." Oh, a good point, not a strong point. America's good point is "Individualism," and Japanese's good point is "Groupism." America's bad point is "Individualism," [Laugh] and Japanese's bad point is "Groupism." So their own special points are the good parts and also bad parts.
MK: Oh, that is a good point.
KF: That is what I think.
MK: What do you think, Emiko?
KF: A conclusion.
MK: [Laugh] A conclusion?
KF: Finish.
MK: [Laugh] Finish?
EF: [Laugh] Ummmm.
MK: Emiko, you worked in school system in Japan and America, didn't you? Like Keiji was saying, Japanese school system has a teacher's lounge where all teachers work together. Even though you worked with American, English and other foreigners, was there any harmony working together, in the environment there? Or.
EF: Ummmm.
KF: There was harmony and people worked together.
EF: Harmony. Ummmm.
KF: Like, when I say harmony for example, at the end of the day someone might say, "Well, everyone. Let's go and eat." At Smith Academy, Japanese Immersion Team is always doing that. [Laugh]
EF: Well.
MK: Umm.
EF: Not only the Japanese team does that. You go out and eat with your teacher friends with teachers from other countries.
MK: Yah, with Helga.
EF: Someone in that group says, "Let's go and eat."
MK: Yah let's go and eat.
EF: Yah. That's true.
MK: But something is different.
EF: Something is different?
MK: Yah. Umm.
KF: Yah. I think, here is more like eating with your friends.
MK: Yah, here is more like Japanese, Japanese group is.
KF: Whether people say yes or no, we ask everyone in a group.
MK: Yah.
EF: Oh, I see.
KF: But it depends on what kind of level of getting together.
MK: And, going out to eat after working together. Don't you think so?
KF: Yah, yah, yah.
MK: I think.
EF: Oh, I see. But they were doing it.
KF: But there are custom like that here, too.
MK: But something is different. What is it?
EF: But in Japan.
KF: What, what is expected. That is the difference, isn't it? What is expected.
EF: But, then, so what is it? Those foreigners that were working with me back in Japan.
KF: Oh, no.
MK: Yah, agree. [Laugh]
KF: Was I Japanized?
EF: Expectation, Japanese, Japanizes? Anyway, I ate with my colleagues.
KF: It sounds funny "expected" in Japanese.
EF: I ate with them. And also, but what they were very irritated about was that it takes a long time to make a decision. It might be because Japanese society has a strong bond vertically. But anyway about that matter they were very irritated. However, that kind of tendencies might apply to our school system here.
KF: That is CMS. That is CMS's vertically, forever making decision, irritation. That is the same.
EF: That doesn't change much? It takes time before some reply comes.
KF: Well, that is "hierarchy" in English.
MK: Oh, hierarchy.
KF: Divide the organization vertically by hierarchical.
MK: Uh-huh.
KF: Mum.
EF: I don't' know why, but it doesn't make it smooth.
KF: There was a person called Eric Smith.
EF: [Laugh] He has nothing to do with it, I think.
KF: Mmmm. I think, he is. Mmm.
EF: So.
KF: Ahem.
MK: Well, if, umm, you go and talk to your boss. Well, for my case, for a school the boss will be principal and assistant principal. Oh, Dr, who was it? Eric Smith. There is a superintendent also. If I want to talk to superintendent, I can, can't I?
EF: Oh, I think we might try to convince people around us for our opinion before we go to our superior.
MK: In Japan?
EF: Uh-huh. You wouldn't step over your boss to talk to your superior.
MK: Oh, yah.
EF: But, if you do it here.
MK: Not that many people do it here either.
EF: Yah. But anyway, if you wouldn't have any good plan for your superior and be careful, you would get burnt. I think.
MK: Hmmmm. Are there any differences about boss here and Japan?
EF: Oh, a difference about boss. My boss was from England, so I could say my opinion very frankly.
MK: Yes.
EF: I could say my opinion frankly. If my boss was Japanese, I don't think I could say my opinion that much and easily. [Laugh] It means.
MK: What do you mean "frankly."
EF: Things that we don't like, inefficient way of doing things, and others. For example, "This is easier to do this, so can we do it this way?" "Everyone is thinking this way, but what do you think?" My boss was talking to me and listening to my opinion at the same level. I didn't have the situation where things were demanded from the above. So it was easier for me to work. However, I don't think it would be the same if I was working with Japanese boss. Of course, if I want to say what I want to say, I need to speak in round about away.
MK: That is the difference.
EF: Uh-huh, I need to be more careful how I say, I think. Now, now I look back.
MK: So that is Keiji's work environment, isn't it? Umm, you spoke in round about away to magazine publishing company people well, your boss was not American and/or any foreigners. Did you get to say what you want to say? To your boss.
KF: Oh, I see. My opinion what I want to say. [Laugh]
EF: [Laugh] "My opinion what I want to say."
KF: [Laugh] When we go out for drinks without our boss, we complain.
MK: Then, without saying that to your boss, you swallow your desire, complain, and others.
KF: Sometimes we take it in. Hmmm. Because we can't say all what we want to say.
MK: Yah.
KF: We might say some of what we want to say. Or, but even though we say. Hmmm. I quite the job because of loosing my patients. [Laugh]
MK: [Laugh] But when you speak to your boss, you use polite form of Japanese, don't you? In English, there isn't honorific language, but in Japanese we have honorific language.
KF: Yah, not especially. Ummm. What was I going to say. Well, the higher the level of a person's position who you are going to talk to, the bigger differences of levels between a person who you are talking to and you, the more formal and polite language you need to use.
MK: So, for example, what kind of honorific language?
KF: [Laugh] What is that.
EF: [Laugh] What is that.
MK: [Laugh] If.
KF: For example, "I am much obliged to you, President."
MK: Oh. Not, president. If you want to say to president what can you say. No toilet paper is in a toilet.
KF: [Laugh] You don't complain that kind of things to President.
EF: [Laugh] You don't say that kind of things to President.
MK: [Laugh]
KF: [Laugh] That doesn't matter.
MK: [Laugh] How about. No paper in Xerox.
KF: Not that kind of things, you talk to president about a problem about the work time, vacation problem, Salary problem, Bonus matter, and Money situation.
MK: So, then, well.
KF: Who is going to be responsible for what. Who is going to be in charge of, hmm? Did I say it right?
MK: Well, then if your mother was.
KF: Being in charge that is. Who is going to be in charge of which work.
MK: Your mother is ill and collapsed. You need to go back home.
KF: I live there, so I don't have to take days off.
MK: Just pretend your parents live far away.
KF: I don't have.
MK: If you need to ask for days off to President.
KF: That kind of thing is.
MK: Don't you say that kind of things?
KF: Hmm.
EF: That kind of thing.
KF: It is OK to ask for days off about family emergency.
MK: Either way, I want you to use honorific language.
KF: What. Honorific language.
MK: Honorific language, for example.
KF: Well, please, Ms. Karakisawa, give us an example.
MK: [Laugh] I can't do that.
EF: Honorific language, well.
KF: Do you want to have a sample of honorific language?
MK: Yah, yah, yah. For example, until now in our conversation, there was some honorific language that came out.
KF: A roll plays of a cashier at McDonald's and a customer.
MK: Thanks. And I will be the customer. Is it OK? But a cashier at McDonald's needs to. What was it? Oh, you need to smile while you are taking order.
KF: I have never worked at McDonald's.
MK: Well, then, you pretend that I am President.
KF: [Laugh] No. That is impossible.
MK: [Laugh]
KF: But, well.
EF: But, how can we do it?
MK: Honorific language. There are many way of saying it.
KF: "Welcome to McDonald's. May I help you, Ma'am?"
MK: [Laugh] "Could you please give me a hamburger?"
KF: "One hamburger. Yes, certainly, Ma'am. What would you like a drink, Ma'am?"
MK: "Coke, please."
KF: "Coke. We have small, medium and large size. Which would you like to have, Ma'am?"
MK: "Mmmmm. I like small. Small please."
KF: "Now, we have a special deal. 50 yen more."
EF: [Laugh] Oh my.
MK: Oh my goodness. "What is the special for 50 yen more." [Laugh]
KF: "Only 50 yen more, you can make your drink to large size. What would you like to do. Ma'am?"
MK: "Well, then. I will have a large coke for 50 yen more."
KF: "Thank you very much, Ma'am. Now you ordered one hamburger and one large coke. Is that right, Ma'am?"
MK: "Yes. Please."
KF: "It will be 580 yen, Ma'am."
MK: 580 yen? Isn't it too expensive? Only 50 yen more. Isn't that expensive? Well, anyway. That is the example of honorific language. A honorific language example done by a roll play of a cashier at McDonald's and a customer.
EF: "What would you like to do, Ma'am?"
MK: "What would you like to do, Ma'am?" That is the honorific language. Well, those languages are not used in a conversation with your friends, are they?
EF: No, we don't use them.
MK: But, is there higher level of honorific language for President?
KF: Honorific language. Well, honorific language. After I came here to the states, I don't forget much Japanese because I speak Japanese to Japanese people. But I don't have much opportunity to use honorific Japanese language. On, last August, Dr. Kazuko Nakajima, who is very famous for Japanese language education, came to Charlotte, [laugh] I need to use honorific language to a very famous university professor.
MK: Yes.
KF: Well, honorific language didn't come out of my mouth and I didn't know what to do.
MK: Well, I understand. I haven't used honorific language for a while mmmm. So, we are not working, so we don't have much opportunity to use honorific language. But American-.
KF: Who is not working?
MK: Huh?
EF: We are not working with Japanese people.
MK: Yah, with Japanese, with Japanese.
KF: In Japan. With father of Japanese Association of Charlotte. Yah, and we quite Japanese Saturday School. At Japanese Saturday School you need to use honorific language to father, mother, and principal. But we don't have that kind of opportunity anymore.
MK: Well, then, Japanese Saturday School?
KF: Especially, Dr. Kazuko Nakajima is Japanese Saturday school.
MK: [Laugh]
KF: Oops, I will stop. [Laughter]
MK: Then, Japanese Saturday School. In like Japanese Saturday school where Japanese culture came from Japan, there are many opportunity to use honorific language. Or, we don't have to use honorific language because we are in the states?
KF: Yes, Emiko, please.
MK: Yes, Emiko, please.
EF: Well, more than honorific language. Polite language. We use more polite language, I think.
KF: There are different levels for honorific language.
MK: Oh. What is polite language?
EF: [Laugh] Adding" de su" and "ma su" at the end of sentences.
MK: Oh, yah, yah, "de su" and "ma su" when you speak to principal, you use more honorific language, don't you?
KF: Polite language plus honorific language.
MK: Oh.
KF: When a famous professor comes, I can't use I need to use higher level of honorific language. So I was a little bit frustrated with myself.
MK: [Laugh] Well, but in Japan no, in America there are some opportunities to use honorific language and polite language, but not that much.
KF: With Japanese people.
MK: Japanese people, well, we don't use that to American.
KF: But people say, there are different kinds of English language for friends and for friends' father.
MK: Yes, Yes.
EF: A little bit different?
KF: The language that students use to a teacher.
MK: Yes
KF: And the language in business is different.
MK: Yes
KF: Yes. But English language changes words and the way of saying according to the situation not really honorific language.
MK: Yes.
KF: So, polite language. Wait, there is like polite language in English, isn't there?
MK: Mmmm.
KF: There is no way of not having it.
MK: I agree.
KF: Isn't it? If there is social status, there must be a language according to that.
MK: But that is much stronger in Japan.
KF: Yes, that is strong.
EF: Yes, that is strong.
MK: Well, thank you very much.
EF: You're welcome.
MK: Well, I interviewed you for a long time.
KF: For twenty minutes.
MK: Twenty minutes.
KF: 100 dollars for one hour. So 1/3 of 100 dollars for twenty minutes.
EF: [Laugh]
MK: Problem for money. You need to talk to President about money. [Laugh] Now, please use honorific language. Well, this time we talked about honorific language, polite language, and the environment where you worked.
EF: Working environment.
MK: Yah, that is right. The environment where you work is working environment. Oh-no. Well, the differences of working environments in Japan and in America. Thank you very much. This concludes the interview.
EF: Thank you very much.
MK: Thank you very much.