Boy! Can I NOT Speak Japanese Well!

So, yesterday was the interview with Gakujin magazine. My interviewer, Mr. Shikishima, was a very nice guy in his 50s, and an experienced climber (he told me he had climbed Mt. Assiniboine – the Matterhorn of the Rockies – some years ago. His climbing partner during that trip was one of two Japanese climbers on Aoraki/Mt. Cook – New Zealand’s highest mountain – who fell last year and he died in the accident).

Mr. Shikishima was in some ways a typical middle-aged Japanese man. He smoked, spoke kindly but no overly polite nor overly casual, never raised his voice with excitement, and politely requested that the conversation continue on the course he had sketched out for his questions whenever I led our topic astray.

I had been told that the interview would be about my impressions as a Canadian photographing and climbing in Japan and what I felt were some differences between the mountains of Canada and those of Japan. For the last four days I had thought much on these two topics and how I could also find time to mention a few success in my photographic career, semi-professional though it may only be. The actual interview, however, was more about my personal history regarding my pursuit of photography as a profession, my history of mountaineering and how I came to be living in Japan. I realized I was not truly prepared to answer about some things in detail, and as a result I found myself floundering in a language that I continue to struggle in when I have to explain anything in detail. Mr. Shikishima bowed his head, listened patiently, nodded and said, “I see. I understand.” But I felt I hadn’t successfully communicated my thoughts and so I continued trying to explain and watched him lower his head again, perhaps as if to plead, “Please stop making such a hodge-podge of my langauge!”

When I inquired about the use of my ice photos in the winter I was told that as far as he knew there was no such plan. The profile in November was all. But originally I had been told that my work would be in the January or February issue. As my Nishizawa Keikoku slides were handed back to me, Mr. Shikishima said he had not heard such a thing and if my slides were needed later then the magazine would contact me and ask for them. But he added that the area was too small to be featured in the magazine. My submission was for a photo gallery page, however, and not meant to be a main feature.

Though I was grateful to know my autumn photographs and profile would be featured in the magazine, it was still disappointing that what I had written would not be published. It’s the second time I have prepared a document in Japanese which caught the editor’s attention but was then approached for an interview and my writing cast aside. Well, there’s still time to see what comes out of it. For now I have to wait until next week sometime when I will be sent a PDF file and asked to provide captions for the photographs and to check over the text for accuracy. At least on the checking for accuracy I am pleased because it means I have a chance to point out any erroneously reported details of my life.


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