I’ve met Bamban during SWY 29. He was one of participating youth from Japan, who brought us understanding of authentic “Soran-bushi” dance. Unfortunately, during our trip across the Pacific Ocean in the frames of Ship for World Youth leaders program we didn’t get aquinted that good, but I’ve got a chance to meet Bamban once again in Ukraine. Yes, this courageous guy just booked his ticket and came from Japan to check what is this far away land Ukraine. I was super excited to hear about his impressions, expectations and lessons learned from visiting Ukraine, so here I’m sharing interview of Bamban – my 1st Japanese friend who came to explore my homeland.
L: Why did you decide to visit Ukraine?
B: There were 3 reasons:
1) to visit a country which is far away from Japan. Before, I was visited only China, Taiwan and Korea;
2) to meet friends who inspired me during SWY 29 program. During this program I’ve met one Ukrainian girl who is a politician and she is just one year older than me. I was really surprised, coz in Japan it’s quite difficult to become politician in such a young age, I was really encouraged by her. Also there was young Ukrainian journalist who changed my thoughts about negotiation on important issues. She was the one who succeeded in changing some rules during SWY program, while these rules seem to be unchangeable. Because of these people, I thought Ukrainian mind to politics and public policy is different from Japanese;
3) Investigate the country I didn’t know before. One more thing I would like to mention – there was a movie “Winter on Fire” which we saw during SWY about Ukrainian revolution, this movie also inspired me to learn more about Ukraine.
L: What did you know about Ukraine before coming here?
B: I didn’t know that much about Ukraine. If to Google ウクライナ (Ukraine) we will get “ウクライナ 美女” which means “Ukraine – beautiful woman”. This is the first suggestion Google offers to Japanese people about Ukraine. Also, I’ve got to know about conflict with Russia in Ukraine and it’s crisis.
L: What were your expectations about visiting Ukraine?
B: Before coming, I’ve made a small research about the country I am going to visit and got to know there are political and economic problems in Ukraine. I was thinking how could Japanese guy helps Ukrainian friends to solve these problems. I am working in a trading company in Japan, so my thoughts were what if we can start business with Ukraine to raise economics of your country. Well, later I’ve figured out it’s quite difficult to implement something in current situation. But I have continued communicating with Ukrainian people who support trading.
Also, I wanted to know how come Ukrainian youth are so deeply involved in politics. In Japan it is completely in opposite way. We have only elder people as Japanese politicians and younger people don’t have opportunity to join politics. Though the situation is changing, there are not so many young politicians in Japan. And there is a problem in Japan that youth people almost don’t go to elections; they are not interested in politics as long as they can’t be involved in it. But in Ukraine I’ve figured out that many youth are so much interested in politics and could be involved in different stages, including volunteering.
L: How long did you spend there? Was it enough to understand what Ukraine is?
B: 1 week. I was’t able to take longer vacation – this is my maximum. I spent 9 days for my trip: 7 days in Ukraine and 2 days for the road.
L: Where did you go in Ukraine? What was the place you will never come back?
B: My friends took me to Kyiv, Dnipro and Zaporyzhia, I’ve met lot of new friends there and I would like to see them again, so there is no place I won’t come back=) I would like to visit all those places again. Next time I would like to visit Lviv and Vynnyisa. I’ve heard that these places are very beautiful and my friend politician is residing in Vynnitsa.
L: Tell me about the most memorable moment during this trip. What was the most pleasant opening for you?
B: On the first day in Dnipro I was invited to join International party. I guess there were many leaders of NGO and other youth groups from Ukraine and neighborhood countries. I tried to communicate with everyone, but at first sight I felt like there were cold contacts and I didn’t really enjoy the party. Later we started to dance by pairs and everyone was needed to switch the partner, so I was involved in dancing by one girl (I didn’t know how to dance so I showed them “Soran-bushi”, one of Japanese traditional dances). After several dances I started to enjoy the party. On our way to hotel my new friends told me, that at the first sight they thought I was not that friendly and easy-going, but while we were dancing they changed their mind.
During the party, many representatives from government or NGO and so on looked like high school students. They really enjoyed the party. But after the party, they looked like great business people. I have learnt how to keep balance from them.
Soran-bushi by Bamban and SWY 29 Team:
L: Did you get troubles in Ukraine?
B: Yes, one is connected with my speech in Dnipro. I was told to prepare speech just few days before leaving Japan by one of my Ukrainian friends, so I had to do nothing but make it during the night just before the conference. I was told it was Ok to make 20 minutes speech. I’ve prepared my speech and was practicing it many times during the night. When I was already sitting at my place on the stage, one Ukrainian lady came and asked me to shorten my speech from 20 to 7 minutes, 3,5 minutes of which should be given to interpreter to translate from English into Ukrainian.
I’ve managed to do this and highlighted just some essential information about SWY and my program activities. But after the speech, the Ukrainian friend told me that many Ukrainian youth were interested in my speech and asked her how to apply to Ship for World Youth leaders program. So I was really glad! Japanese government, please invite them for SWY again;)
Click on the picture below to check the presentation of Bamban about SWY:
L: How did you fell being here?
B: I could say that I experienced many things and was relaxing in Ukraine. I’m residing in the city of Osaka, which is one of the biggest cities in Japan. Many Japanese friends envy me but it’s too overcrowded and noisy for me, so Ukrainian cities seem to be so relaxing and calm – so many of beautiful buildings, especially churches there. This is why I would like to visit Ukraine one more time. But, I had been nervous at the first half of this trip. For example, one of my friends made an appointment with an Ex-minister, suddenly for me, so I was not mentally prepared for that. Also, in Dnipro, I felt overwhelmed by great people at the party. In addition, I was always thinking about my speech in Dnipro even while sightseeing. But those experiences are all important for me and I think my mind grew by those experiences. After my speech, finally I could be relaxed in Zaporyzhia and Kyiv lol.
L: What about stereotypes? Did you have some about Ukrainians before coming and did you get stereotypes while visiting the country?
B: During the SWY program many of Japanese youth got the stereotype that it will take time to make friends with Ukrainians. Actually, same happened with me in Ukraine in Dnipro – people from the international youth party thought that I’m not friendly from the first sight…
I was a bit confused, because I was thought as Chinese several times by Ukrainian whom I met for the first time. I’ve got to know that it’s quite common for Ukrainians to mix up Japanese and Chinese people, but… if to talk about Japan, when we see a white people on the streets we usually think they are Americans =D
L: If you could change one thing about Ukraine what it would be?
B: If I could do anything for Ukraine, I would end conflict with Russia. I know that economic problems take place in Ukraine and I would like to resolve them too.
I don’t want to tell my grandchildren ‘There was a country called Ukraine in the past…’ I mean, I hope the case with Crimea won’t happen again. So now I am still studying the relationships and history between Ukraine and Russia.
L: Will you advise your friends to visit Ukraine?
B: Yes, actually I’ve already told many of my friends about Ukraine, that it’s a great country and if you will have a chance – please visit it, but bear in mind don’t visit Eastern part – there is a conflict now. And of course I am open to share suggestions and tips about travel to Ukraine to all my friends.
Btw, before I left to Ukraine, my mom asked me: “What is Ukraine?”, I just told her that it’s far away country. When I had my transfer in China, my mother texted me: “Ukraine, it’s dangerous, don’t got there…” but I said to my mother «it’s totally OK because I will always stay with my Ukrainian friends»
Actually, one day a friend asked me whether I could get on train alone in Ukraine, I said no. I was so coward lol. They stayed with me all time. I really appreciate what they have done for me.