My name is Mizuki Umebara. I am based at Delta State University in Cleveland, MS, and I have been introducing Japanese culture mainly in Delta region since August 2022.
I came to Delta State University as a Japan Outreach Initiative (JOI) Coordinator. JOI program is a two-year program, which aims to promote awareness and understanding of Japan by bringing volunteer Japanese coordinators to regions of the U.S. where there is relatively limited access to Japanese culture.
My life in Mississippi is full of new experiences. This is my first visit to this country. I have seen many American movies and have learned English since middle school, so I had a picture in my mind what American culture and society would be like. Yet, there are so many things that you would never know unless you actually visit or live in the country.
One example I noticed is that American people wish others good luck a lot. In a conversation, people almost always conclude with a phrase like ‘Have a good day’ and ‘Take care’.
In Japanese society, we don’t greet like that. We usually tend to only say, ‘See you’. Wishing others good luck may be natural for most American people, but every time someone says “Have a good day’ to me, I feel so happy, and I reply ‘You too’ with my appreciation.
The other example that is related to how people communicate in the US, particularly in South, and that I was a little shocked when I was called first, is that young people use ‘Sir’ and ‘Ma’am’ when they call an older person. I felt like I was a very old person. However, I learned that this is a way of showing respect to others. Speaking of showing respect, Japanese language has “honorifics,” which is used from a young person to an older person, or in a business situation. I thought English is a very friendly language in general, but it is very interesting we have a similar concept in the different languages.
For me, learning different culture and languages are something that broaden my horizon. The understanding lets me gain new perspectives and values, and enrich my life. I hope you will find the same joy through your own journey in learning about a foreign country. It would be great if you felt an interest in learning about Japan, Japanese culture and Japanese language on your way!
Mizuki Umebara, Japan Outreach Initiative Coordinator (Aug.2022 – July.2024)
Official Instagram: @mizuki.in.mississippi_joi