Hello everyone! My name is Oana Dumitru, and I currently live in Okinawa, Japan. I am a recent graduate of the master's program specializing in International Business at the Romanian-American University. At the same time, I coordinate the Japanese branch of the League of Romanian Students Abroad and work as a hotelier in Okinawa. I aspire to one day work in diplomacy, but until then I wish I could gather as much experience in the field of business. I chose to start my professional career by working in the field of tourism out of a simple curiosity towards this industry. During my studies, I worked for Free Spirit Travel (as consultant for Japan), but I also had the opportunity to be an intern at the U.S. Embassy. I believe that during college I managed to create a foundation for what I would like to do in the future and to develop professionally.
My journey to discover Japan and its culture began somewhere during high school. My father, being passionate about folk dances and being part of a cultural ensemble, participated in many dance festivals in Europe. At one of them, he had the chance to befriend some dancers from Japan, with whom he corresponded for a while. At one point, the Japanese dancers sent my father a package with some Japanese "souvenirs", including the first volume of the comic "Doraemon", translated into English. My father was not passionate about comics, so he gave me the volume, and this was my first contact with Japan.
I would be lying if I said that anime did not play an important role in discovering more about Japanese culture and language, the volume "Doraemon" being only the first step. My father noticed that Japanese had already become a passion for me, so he helped me find a teacher with whom I learned and deepened this language. The element that most likely attracted me to Japan was aesthetics. Japan is based on a culture and a history in which aesthetics played an important role in the lives of the Japanese, and the love for harmony and beauty still remain strongly present today. I can say that I was attracted to beauty from an early age, and anime was just a first step, a gateway that introduced me to the world of contemporary Japanese art.
After graduating from high school, I decided to move to Bucharest and apply at the Romanian-American University to start my studies in international business, but also to continue learning Japanese at the "Angela Hondru" Romanian-Japanese Studies Center. At the urging of a friend who was currently an active volunteer at this Center, I chose to volunteer with the thought that I would be able to be part of a community with which I would have something in common. At CSRJ-AH I managed to get involved in organizing many cultural events, including the Haru Urara Anniversary Gala, to be part of a taiko band (Japanese drums) and also to participate in tea ceremony classes. Every moment spent at CSRJ-AH is a beautiful memory that I always think of fondly. We were part of an exceptional team, coordinated by experienced people who helped us grow not only professionally but also personally. All these activities shaped me as a person and helped me get an idea of what I would like to do in terms of my career.
During college, I had the chance to be an Erasmus+ student in Osaka, at Ritsumeikan University, where I studied "Business and Administration" for a semester. I chose Ritsumeikan for the reputation and prestigious history it has as a private university in Japan, but also for the international student community found on the campuses of this university every year. It was a memorable experience, no doubt. I lived in a rented apartment and had a part-time job so I could live the 100% student experience. As there is a lot of emphasis here on study and research, but also on extracurricular activities, I was able to focus on further developing on a personal level.
The employee life of a luxury hotel in Japan is a demanding one. Working in a hotel in a country that operates on the "our client, our master" system, I can say that adapting to this style of work has been difficult. Especially as a foreigner among the Japanese. I ran into a lot of cultural barriers compared to the months I spent as a student at Ritsumeikan. However, the team I was part of was always ready to support me and help me overcome many difficulties. Working in a luxury hotel you have the chance to improve your Japanese, learn about Japanese hospitality and be able to communicate with customers from all over the country. Japan is a country that is not yet sufficiently exposed to external factors or trends, so I always wanted to be a way for them to get used to foreigners living here. This is one of the determining factors in my ambition to improve my Japanese language skills. It gives me great pleasure to communicate with the guests we host at our hotel. It is a unique experience that gave me the chance to grow and get used to the rhythm of Japanese life.
If you live in the city and need to temporarily get rid of all the urban bustle, then the Okinawa Islands are the place to be. Being some of the southernmost islands of Japan, here the pace of life, traditions, customs and atmosphere are completely different from the big islands. As many of you probably know, the Okinawan archipelago has not always been part of the Japanese archipelago, formerly known as the Ryukyu Kingdom, an important trading point linking Japan and China to East Asian countries. It was later forced to become a tributary state to both China and Japan, followed by a process of assimilation of the islands by the Japanese state. However, the Okinawa Islands continued to maintain their customs and traditions until they became a prefecture of Japan in the Meiji Era, and the Japanese language began to be imposed on the locals.
Okinawa has also managed to maintain its lifestyle, which is now internationally recognized, and the nature around you helps a lot in the relaxation process. The food here is almost 100% made from local products, being encouraged the idea of supporting farmers, especially among tourists. The lifestyle is simple, people are not bothered by the small worries of society. Okinawa is based on a collective society, as is the whole of Japan, but here is a much more united community than anything I have felt elsewhere, helping each other and supporting each other. The people here are full of goodwill and are eager to help you, regardless of race and / or origin. During these two years I had the chance to meet many locals who told me about the history and culture of the Ryukyu Kingdom and who always, in the end, offered me something grown by them, fruits or vegetables.
Even though I will return to the city soon, the time spent in Okinawa will be unforgettable, the memories will remain in my heart and I will recommend everyone to visit this place at least once in their life.
It is very difficult for me to choose a favorite experience lived while I was a CSRJ volunteer, but if it were a memorable one, I would say that it was the preparation of the small skit at the Haru Urara Gala in 2018, when I had to help with script and participate in the organization of filming. All the preparations for that skit meant a lot of work and involvement, which is why I can say that I had many unforgettable moments with the team of volunteers. At that time, we had with us four Japanese students who came with a scholarship to our University and who helped us a lot in organizing the Gala. I created beautiful friendships with them, and together with the rest of the volunteers we managed to film a funny skit. For the live part of this moment, on stage, the taiko band had to accompany the skit, so I was also a Japanese drummer then. I remember how much we had to work for that Gala, but I can say that it will remain in my heart as a beautiful memory that represents the team spirit and passion that exists at CSRJ-AH.
Even if I am thousands of kilometers away from everything I love, I want to wish those at the Romanian-Japanese Studies Center a warm "Happy Anniversay!" and in this way I want to thank everyone, especially the coordinators Șerban Georgescu and Diana Peca, for all the support and for everything they taught me! Good luck to all!