Lucky fate of Masako Tatsumi
[b]Belarus has been home to Japanese Masako for the past 15 years[/b]Everything began with fairytales. As a child, Masako read a book of Slavonic stories and was completely enthralled. The fairytales were interesting and unusual, unlike any told by her mother. So, her journey to Belarus began.Masako entered Keio University (from her native Kyoto), studying Slavonic culture and history, while taking Russian language courses. In 1992, her sacred dream finally came true and she took a holiday to Russia, Belarus and Ukraine — travelling for a month. She returned full of wonderful impressions and a desire had been kindled to gain closer acquaintance with the culture, history and language of these states.
Everything began with fairytales. As a child, Masako read a book of Slavonic stories and was completely enthralled. The fairytales were interesting and unusual, unlike any told by her mother. So, her journey to Belarus began.
Masako entered Keio University (from her native Kyoto), studying Slavonic culture and history, while taking Russian language courses. In 1992, her sacred dream finally came true and she took a holiday to Russia, Belarus and Ukraine — travelling for a month. She returned full of wonderful impressions and a desire had been kindled to gain closer acquaintance with the culture, history and language of these states.
Masako was disappointed by her first trip to Vladivostok’s school for foreigners, at the Far Eastern University. “Local residents treated us, foreigners, badly. Nobody wanted to make friends with us, so there was no language practice,” she recollects sadly. “Moreover, the living conditions were awful!”
Masako returned to Japan but her goal remained and, in 1995, she enrolled as a student at the Belarusian State University’s courses for foreigners. At that time, she was the only Japanese student at any Belarusian higher educational establishment — unlike the Chinese, who come in large numbers.
“Belarus impressed me, being clean and beautiful. Meanwhile, the people were friendly,” she recollects. “Soon, I acquired acquaintances and, even, friends.” Petite framed and exotically beautiful, Masako also conquered the heart of Stepan Bugaichuk, of Belarus. Their wedding followed Belarusian traditions, with the bride’s parents arriving from her remote homeland. They were pleased with their daughter’s choice and, several years later, a daughter was born, called Yue — unusual for Belarus. In Japanese ‘yu’ means ‘a person who unites Japan and Belarus’ and ‘e’ stands for ‘impetus, activity and accumulation of life experience’. Little Yue became a symbol of unity of both cultures as well as representing the peak of love between her parents’ hearts: a big and courageous Belarusian heart and a small, delicate Japanese heart…
In 1996, Masako, being curious and used to taking the initiative, began to teach Japanese at the BSU’s Department for International Relations. Her course was very popular but she sometimes lacked enough original Japanese literature. Masako-san didn’t lose heart; she wrote to a Japanese newspaper, asking for their help in sending books and dictionaries.
“We’d been working thoroughly on literature, but I felt I could do more. I wanted Belarusians to learn more about my homeland and its culture,” Masako explains. She dreamt of setting up an Information Centre of Japanese Culture and, in 1999, finally felt ready. On September 9th, when Chrysanthemum Day is celebrated in Japan, the Information Centre of Japanese Culture opened in Minsk.
Masako has been performing charity works for 11 years now, supported by the Japanese Chiro Foundation alongside sponsors from Belarus and Japan. She brings in medicine and medical equipment for children’s clinics and hospitals. Her desire to promote Japanese culture has been successful, with hundreds of Japanese books for children translated into Belarusian and donated to libraries. Several musical projects have been jointly implemented with Belarusian musicians — such as the Moon and Sun project, which features Japanese folk songs sung in Belarusian.
“I translated some songs into Russian, then Ales Kamotsky translated them into Belarusian,” Masako explains. “Dmitry Voityushkevich made the arrangement and we donated discs to musical schools and libraries.”
Additionally, the Information Centre organises weekly classes for those wanting to learn Japanese; people of all ages attend. From time to time, Masako organises Japanese style festivities, inviting pupils from various schools. During these meetings, she shows the children aspects of Japanese culture, such as the ancient tea ceremony.
Masako Tatsumi is satisfied with her life. If she could turn back time, she wouldn’t change anything. She is involved in her favourite occupation, which brings her pleasure and joy. She has a wonderful husband and little Yue is an enduring delight. In her free time, Masako cooks Japanese dishes for her family and goes to church. “After marrying, I became Christian. I’m delighted with Belarusian churches and their beauty. When my parents or friends visit me, I always bring them to the church.” Belarus has become a second home for Masako Tatsumi and she is confident that this is the best life she could choose for herself.
By Tatiana Danilushkina