Russia is Unexpectedly Close to Japanese People
by Mika Iwasaki
(Mitaka, Tokyo, Japan)
Nicolai-do Cathedral: An instance of Russian culture around me
To tell you the truth, I have had the idea that I was not familiar with Russia and it was remote to me. But I found some connections between Russian culture and me, when I was recently thinking of Russia afresh.
I remembered my first encounter with Russian culture was when I was five years old. I used to go to the ballet school near my home at that time. The ballet school teacher was producing an original ballet dance that took in the elements of Russian folk dance.
Every year we performed an original ballet of Russian-style folk dance, wearing Slavic-style costumes on the stage of the ballet school. I learned Russian culture through the ballet school in my childhood, and began to partially imagine the Russian way of life.
After growing up, now I am surrounded by some examples of Russian culture. There are a few long standing Russian restaurants around our university. I like to eat borscht, beef stroganoff, pot soup with baked bread cover, and piroshki there. When I eat them, I often feel a kind of nostalgia similar to Japanese local cooking.
What’s more, around our university in the Ochanomizu area, there is a famous cathedral of the Russian orthodox church called Nicholai-do. Nicholai-do was built by Russian orthodox Christians about 120 years ago, owing to many Russian people’s donations.
The cathedral opens some rituals to the public, for instance, the Christmas ceremony, and so on. So I can see a part of Russian religious culture through Nicholai-do.
I think many Japanese tend to keep away from Russia, because they might have a negative image about Russia due to the Northern Territories issue, and memories of the closed society in the period of the Soviet Union.
But in the private sector, many Japanese people (including me) can find that Russian culture is familiar to Japanese.
Today Russia is making remarkable economic development, it has a vibrant atmosphere, and many Russian people have a great interest in Japan and Japanese culture, I heard.
I hope that almost all restrictions on foreigners' travel in Russia will be abolished, and many more Japanese will visit Russia.
I imagine that when Japanese people who have a potential interest in Russia meet the actual modern Russia, the old stereotype about Russia will be swept away, and a new bridge of understanding between Japanese and Russians may come into existence.