By Ana Nicole Vigueras LaRochelle
My name is Ana Nicole Vigueras, I am a 20 years old Mexican-American sophomore undergrad studying at Temple University Japan Campus (TUJ). TUJ is an American university based in Philadelphia but with a branch campus in Azabu-Juban, Tokyo where I study everyday. On the weekends, I like to exercise, spend time with my boyfriend, read, and listen to podcasts (some of my favorites are Tofugu, Ultimate Health Podcast, and Art of Charm).
I’ve had an interest in Japan since I was twelve years old. I used to love watching anime and reading or drawing manga. I even wanted to be a mangaka when I was a freshman in highschool and I took all the art classes I could. That changed when I took an exchange trip to Nichinan, Miyazaki.
My home town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire has an interesting tie to Japan. At the end of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, the “Treaty of Portsmouth” was signed at the Portsmouth Shipyard. In Japanese history this treaty is referred to as ポーツマス条約 (ポーツマスじょくやく). It’s quite famous and each September 5th on the anniversary of the signing, Japanese students from Nichinan, Miyazaki visit our town and witness the bell ringing to signify the memory of the war. This is why, every year my high school also takes students to Japan where they might experience a homestay in Nichinan. I participated in the trip when I was 15. The homestay was very nice and although it was only the first part of the trip, getting to know rural Japan was my favorite aspect of the trip. We then traveled to Kyoto and finally Tokyo. When I was on the plane back to the United States, I cried in between two strangers on the sixteen hour flight back home. I was depressed for two weeks after I returned home to the United States, because I realized I wanted to live in Japan for an extended period of time. That is why, when I had to choose where to go to college, I was determined to find a way to study in Japan. Temple University was the most accessible so I asked my parents if I could apply to the international campus of Temple University. My parents have experience living and traveling abroad and since they are internationally minded like this, they agreed.
In September 25 I boarded on a plane to Tokyo where I would stay at an international share house, study Japanese in a language school, then attend my first year at Temple. That is a whole story on its own.
In my university, I am currently en route towards receiving an Asian Studies degree. At some point I would also like to pursue a minor or dual major in psychology and/or marketing. At my university, I have Japanese and foreigner professors who are all fluent in English. My classes are in English, which means I can absorb everything but it’s taking longer for me to learn Japanese. I actually love my classes because it mitigates what I learn outside of school. For example, if I ask a question to my Japanese friends I receive the “Japanese” answer. If I ask my foreigner friends a question I receive the “outside” answer. When I go to class, to a certain degree, the answer is neutral because it is backed by research from experts. I can gauge Japan with a cultural relativist view (sorry nerdy nerdy nerdy…)My love for travel has really grown in this period of time. Within Japan, I have had the chance to travel to many areas such as Miyazaki, Kyoto, Nagano, Toyama, Osaka, Kyoto, Mt. Fuji (I climbed to the top!), Shizuoka, Yokohama, and Yokosuka. This winter I will be going to Akita, which is the farthest North in Japan I will have been to.
While living in Japan, I took the opportunity to travel to a little Southeast Asia. I traveled to Singapore and Indonesia to visit my Singaporean friend for a week. I had an amazing time and realized that the one true way to experience a different culture is tolive like a local—do as the locals do, keep an open mind, and you will have the time of your life.
(This is outside a cat cafe in Mexico!) I was surprised because Mexico also has cat cafes!
This summer, I visited my family in Mexico City by myself. When I was in middle school, I lived in Mexico for ten months and I had not been back since that time. I was really shocked by what I saw when I visited for the first time in seven years. Previously, I was entranced by the insanity of Mexico and its people. However, after living in Tokyo which runs so flawlessly, I was really disconcerted in Mexico. The corruption and dirty sides were more exposed to me. As well as the machismo attitudes which still prevail among Mexican people. However, Mexico is another part of my identity so I also saw the positives as well. Mexicans are open, loving, family oriented, happy, and really focus on living in the moment. Not to mention the food is truly unique. I surprised myself by being able to remember almost all of my conversational Spanish and I feel like I want to eventually get better at speaking Spanish and learn more about that culture as well. I’d like to incorporate the aspects of Japanese culture and Mexican culture which I admire and love into my own identity. I also want to share these experiences with other people.
By traveling more, we can see the world with unbiased eyes which is one final goal of mine.
Food of mexico: www.instagram.com/p/BXO9VmQhGRY/?taken-by=ana.vig97
the Satin Doll in Roppongi
Other than Japan, travel, and many other hobbies, I love music and could probably be considered as a semi professional musician. In high school I sang in my chamber singers, in a cappella groups, singing competitions, and I also was a part of my high school marching band where I played trumpet. I have had several incredible opportunities to sing in Tokyo including the Tokyo Embassy Choir with concerts at Aoyama Gakuin and Rikkyo University, two vocal demos with a professional recording artist, and two solo performances at famous jazz clubs in Roppongi and Ginza (Roppongi Satin Doll and the Ginza Cygnus). I prepared about six or seven songs and covered each of them in the jazz style. It was quite a new experience for me but I grew as an independent performer. Since that time, I do not perform as much because I am starting to write my own lyrics and mix electronic music. It’s just another genre of music but I am open to all kinds.
Feel free to watch my performance at the Satin Doll through this link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=-EeRqwQXh3Y
Performance at My Friend’s International Event
Tokyu Plaza in Harajuku/Omotesando
So far, I have truly loved living in Japan. I am so comfortable here. I have been in Japan for about two years now. Japan is a puzzle and I am happy when I can learn even a small thing about Japan, about Japanese people or culture. However, do not underestimate how different Japanese and Western cultures are. The mindset behind the whole country is almost opposite to the United States so be careful how you treat others and make the extra effort to be considerate. Regardless, Japan has treated me well and given me so many cool experiences so I am thankful to have experienced this for a long period of time and at a young age. I do not recognize myself from two years ago, but I like the progress I see in myself. “If we aren’t growing, we’re dying” as people tend to say.
In Japan I hope that I can continue on an upward path towards learning more about Japanese culture but I also want to possibly take a break from Japan and transfer to another university in the United States. In the future, I want to try working in Japan but
I think I will travel to other countries before that happens. There’s a lot more I can learn about Japan and I want to share my experiences through blogs and videos that I make with my friends. Thank you for reading.