[From June Issue 2015]
“I like Japanese architecture. Buildings in Europe are regulated because of the history of its cities, but in Japan, unique buildings keep popping up. In addition to this freedom of design, there is abundant funding available to implement advanced architectural technology. All this drew me to Japan,” says Ari TAMAT, from Indonesia. He speaks Japanese fluently and his pronunciation is perfect.
Because of his father’s work as a scientist, Ari grew up in both Indonesia and Australia. “As a child, I spoke English better than Indonesian,” he says. “My father had traveled to Japan several times for work, and told me that Japan was the most technologically advanced nation in Asia and that the people were nice. That’s partly why I chose to study abroad in Japan.”
A scholarship from the Japanese government enabled Ari to study in Japan. “I had already enrolled at the prestigious Institut Teknologi Bandung, but because I was going to study abroad, I dropped out after the first six months. I learned hiragana, katakana and basic conversational Japanese in Jakarta before I came to Japan in the spring of 1994.”
He attended a Japanese school affiliated with Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, and during the course of one year acquired a proficiency in Japanese sufficient to graduate from high school. “Japanese grammar and pronunciation were not as difficult as I had imagined, but kanji were difficult to learn,” he says. “At the Japanese school we studied about 13 kanji every day. I practiced them repeatedly by writing and reading them out loud. I also tried to memorize them as pictures, to understand the concepts behind them and to compare their current meanings in Japanese with their original meanings in Chinese.”
I think the reason my Japanese improved quickly is that the teachers and the program at the Japanese school were great. I was able to remember my lessons because the teachers made the classes fun by telling a lot of jokes,” says Ari. “Moreover, my classmates were exchange students from all over the world. We lived in the same dorm and used Japanese to communicate, which helped a lot, too.” In addition, Ari made Japanese friends outside his Japanese school; he joined an exchange group and in order to create more opportunities to use Japanese, participated in activities with Japanese people.
Ari studied architecture at Yokohama National University. “The biggest difficulty I had was not being able to read my professors’ messy handwriting,” Ari laughs. “College life was very enjoyable. Together with my classmates, I designed and actually built a beach hut and constructed a booth for a school festival.” He went on to graduate school at Tokyo University and majored in city planning.
Ari got a job in the real estate industry. “I didn’t have trouble using Japanese, but I struggled with business etiquette because I didn’t study it in college,” he laughs. “By observing my superiors and bosses, I learned how to exchange business cards, where to stand in an elevator, and where to sit in a room. In order to learn honorifics, I would recommend using them as often as possible so they come to you naturally,” he says.
Now he works in finance. “I’m interested in work assisting Japanese companies to expand into Indonesia’s booming economy,” says Ari. “But I like Tokyo a lot, so I would prefer to keep on living here. What’s great about Tokyo is that it’s one of the largest cities in the world, and brings together unique places such Shinjuku and Asakusa,” he says with a mischievous smile.
Text: SAZAKI Ryo