Kaho Koda, a Japanese writer, theater maker, producer, and one of the associated artists in JACCU, tells about her podcast show “Controversial Japan”.
The idea of the podcast show
“Controversial Japan” started from a single conversation I had with a Mexican man I met at a meetup event back in Toronto, Canada. His name was Cuau and he had just moved from Japan. He had immigrated to Canada after living in Tokyo for 5 years.
I had a lot of questions for him.
How was the experience overall? Did you like living there? What was a weird thing you experienced from your perspective? Did you learn to speak Japanese? Why did you want to move to Japan in the first place? Why did you decide to leave?
I am always curious to know how expats perceive Japan and the Japanese people, and this was one of those occasions where I could ask these questions to a complete stranger. One of the things that Cuau mentioned that stuck with me was the roundabout way of communication in Japan.
Let me give you an example. Cuau asked a colleague out for drinks after work. And the colleague’s response was 「今日はちょっと。。」(kyou wa chotto…) meaning, “Today’s a little…” The sentence ended there. Cuau didn’t quite understand what his colleague meant so he kept asking, “Today’s a little…what?” and his colleague kept repeating 「ちょっと。。」(chotto…).
Saying “no” to someone in the Japanese culture is rude. It’s too direct. And so the colleague was trying to be considerate by not giving a direct “no”. By saying “a little…” instead.
I never thought about it because it was just something I did in Japan. But hearing him talk about it, I realized that this roundabout way of communication is uniquely Japanese.
Cuau and I stayed in touch and I kept going back to our conversation. And I thought, there must be more concepts, customs, Japanese mindsets that are incomprehensible from the expats’ perspective. That’s how I came up with the show.
Who is Kaho Koda?
I should introduce myself.
Hi! I’m Kaho Koda, a Japanese writer, theater maker, and producer, currently based in Utrecht. As a writer, my work has always explored themes like race, cultural identity and Japan. I grew up in Japan, the US, and Canada – and I’d say it was like a going back and forth kind of situation. I lived in Japan for 5 years, then in the US for 3 years, then went back to Japan and lived there for 10, then moved to Canada for 8… so you know back and forth, back and forth. You get the idea.
I experienced culture shock and went through an adjustment period every time I moved to a new country – even when I moved back to Japan, I experienced it. Moving from a collectivist culture to an individualistic culture can be a bumpy ride.
Ironically, I continue to learn more about Japan by living in the western world. Living overseas gives me the opportunity to compare Japan to other countries. Right now living in Utrecht, the Netherlands, I know that Dutch people can be quite blunt.. Which would be a huge taboo in Japan.
At this point, I’ve lived outside of Japan for more than half of my life. And I do acknowledge that when I interpret a situation, my western point of view comes out so naturally, almost by instinct, and then a few seconds later, my Japanese point of view kicks in. Sometimes when those views are such polar opposites, I get to see how the Japanese mindset can be so different from the Western perspective.
I wanted to explore these perspectives by listening to controversial opinions about Japan from expats and Japanese people. That’s the origin of the podcast show.
Every episode we unpack one controversial opinion about the Japanese mindset, culture, and custom through stories and interviews. I dive into my own culture and attempt to make sense of the disconnect between the Japanese and Western point of view. Themes like: feminism, race, tourism, love and affection, and so much more.
Produced by Human Burrito Productions
Written and hosted by Kaho Koda
Cover art by Macie Matthews
Sound design by Junan
Theme song by Mikara
Special thanks to: Sophia Gupta, Eelke Verboom, Rutger Wink, Merel van ‘t Hooft, Van Anh Nguyen
Human Burrito Productions
Since its founding in 2018, Human Burrito Productions values human connection and fuzzy feelings. Through original stories, we aim to spread awareness and create a dialogue on critical issues that society faces today.
Support Controversial Japan
You can support this podcast show by purchasing designed objects from the webshop.
Kaho Koda is one of the associated artists of JACCU.
She is the founder and the artistic director of Human Burrito Productions. Her passion for culture and identity is often reflected in her work. Originally from Tokyo, she has studied and practiced theatre in Tokyo, Montreal, Toronto. She is currently based in Utrecht, The Netherlands.
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