Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Learning to Say Goodbye さよならの伝え方

This article was first published in English in the magazine "5": Designing Media Ecology (6th issue, December 2016 INFO), and appears here with permission.  The Japanese, translated by Takako Matsui, is published here for the first time. My gratitude to Sarah Lushia for her editing and advice, as well as to the editors of "5" for their corrections and the opportunity to write this article.

本記事は、雑誌『5: Designing Media Ecology』6号(『5』編集室、2016年12月発行)に掲載された英語原稿と、その日本語訳です(翻訳・松井貴子)。日本語訳はこれが初出となります。

It has been an honor to serve as a Bird’s Eye View guest columnist for the past two years, but as they say “all good things must come to an end.” Since learning this would be my last column, I have been reflecting on the words we use when parting both in English and Japanese.
2年間にわたってこの「Bird’s Eye View」に寄稿するという光栄に浴してきた。けれど、どんな良いことにも終わりはある。今回が最終回だと決まってから、僕は日本語と英語の別れの表現について考えていた。

In Japan, people tend to opt for parting phrases such as: “Jya, mata ne,” (see you again) or “Rai shu ne,” (see you next week) which feel quite friendly and imply a future meeting. In more formal situations, one might say shitsureitashimashita (please forgive my intrusion), domo arigatou gozaimashita (thank you so much), or something as simple as oyasuminasai (goodnight). But despite the word sayonara being widely known abroad as the Japanese word for “goodbye,” even by those who have not seriously studied the language, it is actually a word seldom heard in Japan.

If one is not careful when using sayonara, it can make the parting feel cool, or depending on the situation and tone of voice, it could even sound quite final with the implication being that the separation will be forever. And while there are times in life one must say a final “goodbye,” perhaps following a fight between two lovers, in most social situations one would not wish to leave friends or colleagues with such an ominous feeling.

Such subtleties in using newly learned words and phrases are often overlooked in beginner-level language courses, which is perhaps why I never liked studying Japanese with textbooks. Wanting to learn not just vocabulary but also how to use the words in more complex social situations, I prefer instead to share a meal or go for a drive with friends. Interactions such as these provide opportunities to learn the words and phrases native speakers really use, like what they actually say when parting.

Admittedly my uneasiness with how and when to say sayonara did not begin in Japanese… it began with how to say “goodbye” in English. Growing up, my family moved a lot. I attended nine schools from kindergarten to 12th grade, including four high schools in three different states. While this may have given me the ability to make friends quickly, it also forced me to part with them as well. After a while, the pain of saying “goodbye” was something I did everything I could to avoid, preferring instead to quietly fade out. When I knew it would be the last time to see a particularly close friend, I would leave with an upbeat “see you later!” leading my friend to believe there would be at least one more chance to say “goodbye,” although I knew there was not. Having to hear or say “goodbye” had simply become too difficult for me.
しかし、いつ、どうやって「サヨナラ」を告げるかという問題は、僕にとっては日本語の学習とともに始まったのではなかった。そもそもそれは、僕には英語の問題でもあった。僕の家族はとても引越しが多く、僕は幼稚園から12年生の間に9つの学校に通い、ハイスクールだけで4つ、それも3つの州にまたがっていた。おかげですぐに友だちをつくるという能力を 育んだのかもしれないが、そこには常に友だちとの別れがあった。やがて僕は、「goodbye」の語を口にすることが耐えがたく、それを言うくらいならだまっていなくなるほうがましだと思うようになった。とくに仲のいい友だちに対しては、僕は別れの瀬戸際にも明るく「じゃ、またあとで!」と言ってその場を離れた。相手はまたあとで「goodbye」の語を交わす機会があるのだと思ったろう。もちろん、その機会はなかった。だれかと「goodbye」を交わし合うことは、僕にはただつらすぎるものになっていた。

My inability to say “goodbye” was something I was forced to come to terms with the last time I saw my mother alive. She was sick, and I was visiting her for Christmas. At the end of our visit, I stopped to see her one last time on my way to the airport before flying home to Tokyo. I leaned down and hugged her while she was lying in her bed, and although I knew it would most likely be the last time I ever saw my mother alive, I uttered, “see you soon.” She looked up at me and as if to correct me, replied “talk to you soon.” My mother knew we would not see each other again, and she was not going to allow that to remain unacknowledged. But still, neither of us used the word “goodbye.”

Thinking about my inability to say “goodbye,” I began to question if it was really true the word sayonara is rarely used in Japanese or, perhaps, if I was subconsciously inventing a cultural observation that provided me a convenient excuse not to use a word that already made me feel uncomfortable. I decided to ask Arakawa-san, my first teacher of Japanese when I moved to Japan many years ago.

Arakawa-san told me that while it was something that had never occurred to her before, she believed it was true and that even she herself rarely used sayonara. In fact, the only time in recent memory she had uttered the word was at a funeral for a friend; in offering she had said, arigatou (thank you) followed by sayonara (goodbye). Arakawa-san told me that she sometimes even says sayonara with a feeling of thanks to her possessions when they are no longer of use and must be discarded. When she told me this, I was reminded of the temples that assist with the disposal of auspicious objects such as seasonal decorations, dolls and even sewing needles, as it is felt these things cannot simply be unceremoniously thrown away.

Cautioning me against thinking of sayonara as a bad word, Arakawa-san said she believes it has a beautiful hibiki (ring) to it. As an example, she told me about a recent poetry reading she had been to where sayonara had been used in a poem to communicate many complex feelings, like giving thanks and bidding farewell to the cherry blossom season.

So sayonara does not merely signal the end to something, but it can also be used to mark a transition and give gratitude. While I may still be learning to say “goodbye,” I realize now that there are situations in life where no other word can express one’s feelings in quite the same way as the word sayonara.


Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 year in review

It is hard to believe that there are only a few more hours to 2016!  As I started doing in 2013 (HERE) and then continued in 2014 (HERE) and 2015 (HERE), this is my 2016 year in review.

We put the finishing touches on my documentary "Dying at Home", a film commissioned by NHK World for their series "Inside Lens".  I was also honoured to appear on the main NHK domestic channel to promote my episode and represent the series (STORY).  Meanwhile, I was already editing a new film, "Sezaruowoenai" (working title), which was scheduled to screen in Berlin in March, as screenings for my film "-1287" continued around the world (STORY).

I was honoured to serve as the MC for the press conference "The Risk of Low Dose Radiation" given by Angelika Claussen, Medical Doctor & European vice-president of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (HERE), and my film "-1287" was awarded Best Documentary at the SoCal Film Festival (HERE).

"Sezaruwoenai" (working title) (INFO) which will be the 3rd documentary in my series about the Fukushima nuclear disaster, had work-in-progress screenings in Germany and Ireland (STORY).  The 5th anniversary of the nuclear disaster was marked, and I re-published THIS collection of short documentaries, continued screenings of my Fukushima-themed films "In the Grey Zone" and "A2-B-C" (STORY), and was invited to speak at conferences about my work (HERE).

I published "Mr. Hata and T, a dying father reunites with his son after thirty years", a story I was extremely honoured to share and one that has continued to influence my work throughout 2016 (STORY).  

Mr. Hata died three weeks to the day of the reunion with his son (STORY).   I  served as the MC for the Q&A following a screening of Fukushima: A Nuclear Story held at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (STORY), published a testimonial of the first young thyroid cancer patient from Fukushima to speak out (VIDEO), while screenings of my films "-1287" and "Dying at Home" continued around the world (STORY).

I accompanied AP reporter Yuri Kageyama to Fukushima where I introduced her to the young woman with thyroid cancer. Yuri's story, "Woman breaks silence among Fukushima thyroid cancer patients" was published by the AP and was included in their "The Big Story", "Top News", and "10 things to know for Today" sections and featured my video (STORY).  Screenings of my film "A2-B-C" continued (STORY),  and I attended the burial of Mr. Hata (STORY).

I went pretty quiet as I moved into the role of Executive Producer on a documentary directed by an up-and-coming new director.  Filming and editing on that project continued in the background as I worked on my own films for the rest of the year.  It is set for completion in January 2017, and I look forward to sharing more about that film and upcoming screenings in the months to come.

I returned to Fukushima to mark the Festival of the Dead at Mr. Hata's grave (STORY).  I was honoured to be invited to Taipei to serve as a lecturer beside filmmakers Feng Yan, from China, and Cathie Dambel, from France at the Doc + Documentary Workshop sponsored by the Taiwan Film Institute (STORY), where my first feature documentary "the ballad of vicki and jake" (2006) was screened (STORY) and I took part in a panel discussion about editing (STORY).

In addition to being in pre-production for a new commission by NHK World, I appeared in some promotional videos created by a friend's PR company (STORY).  It had been over 10 years since I had worked professionally as a model/ actor in Japan, and I was reminded of all the reasons I prefer to be BEHIND the camera.  ;) 

Friend and fellow filmmaker Thomas Schlottman flew over from Germany to Japan (twice!) for what turned out to be a nearly 5-week shoot on the new commission for NHK World.  Thomas had also shot some of my last commission "Dying at Home" and it was great to work with him again, including a very fun shoot with a helicopter (STORY)!  Our new film is scheduled for broadcast in February 2017.

My lecturing about filmmaking at the University of Tokyo continued this year as did my instructing of filmmaking at the Japan Visual-media Translation Academy.  Also, the first in my series of documentary-style PR videos for the Imperial Hotel was published (STORY).

My article "The making of a Twitter documentary: The last wish of Mr. Hata" was published on the front page of the No 1 Shinbun, the magazine of the The Foreign Correspondent's Club of Japan (HERE).  And I ended this year with a visit to Mr. Hata's grave (HERE).

2016 has been such an amazing, fulfilling and humbling year.  Thank you all so much for your support and encouragement. 

May your 2017 be filled with much Peace, health and Happiness,
Tokyo, Japan

Friday, December 30, 2016

Giving Thanks and Saying goodbye

The time I spent with Mr Hata this year really changed me, and I wanted to visit his grave to give him my thanks and leave an offering.

Yesterday I visited Mr Hata's home. His favorite cherry tree by lake Inawashiro was covered in snow as Mt Bandai looked on.

After leaving offering of wheat liquor on alter in Mr Hata's home, I retraced our steps from late spring when we buried him in the forest.

Wearing Mr Hata's long rubber boots I found in his shed, I headed into the forest that holds his grave.

Mr Hata's forest grave is a place of peace. May we all find such peace both in life and in death.

I am so grateful to have met Mr Hata. My gratitude to you for sharing in his story. Much peace, health & happiness to you all in 2017, Ian

(Originally published on Twitter at @DocumentingIan on December 30, 2016)

Original story about Mt Hata I published on Storify:

My article about Mr Hata published this month by the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (FCCJ) magazine:

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Active Duty

Each autumn for the last three years, I have taught a class during the autumn term at the University of Tokyo.  Teaching intensively so that the schedule allows for travel to film and attend screenings, I teach a 30-hour class in 6 sessions of 5 hours each (!) on consecutive Saturdays.  This year, my class is focusing on the editing of oral histories.

In addition to my regular class, I was also honoured to present a guest lecture to the greater campus community on November 2 as part of a special series.   

I have also returned to my post teaching evening/ weekend filmmaking classes at the Japan Visual-media Translation Academy (INFO), where my work was also featured me in THIS in-house article.

Meanwhile, in the midst of filming a new documentary for NHK World (INFO), producing a feature documentary by another director (more to come on that in the next couple of months) and my teaching duties, I have been asked to create a series of documentary-style videos for the Imperial Hotel Tokyo, a luxury hotel with a deep-rooted history in Tokyo.

The first of the three-part series, which each will contain a video and column, was published this week on the Imperial Hotel website (HERE).  A direct link to the video is here:

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Inside Lens, take 2!

Last summer I received a commission from NHK World to direct an episode of their series "Inside Lens".  Called Dying at Home (WEBSITE), my 28-minute documentary about a home doctor caring for terminally ill patients aired across the globe in February of this year (STORY).  I am currently planning the schedule for editing the feature-length version of that film, which I plan to complete next year.

In August of this year, I submitted a proposal to direct an episode of "Inside Lens" for the current season (seasons change with the fiscal year, starting in March).  With only one slot left and several projects under consideration, I was thrilled to learn in September the project was commissioned!  With an airdate of February, we quickly went into full gear, arranging for Thomas Schlottman, the director of photography I worked with on Dying at Home, to fly over from Germany with very little notice for a three week shoot (!).

I generally do not talk much about work-in-progress, but I can say that the topic of this film is, like much of my recent work, medically-based.  I look forward to sharing more about it as we edit throughout the New Year toward an airdate of the first week of February 2012.

***** UPDATE November 6 *****

Last time we used drones (STORY).  We have just upped our game:

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

In front of the scenes

It has been over ten years since I worked as a model/ actor for a famous agency in Japan specializing in foreign talent.  Working in front of the camera for a year after returning home to Japan upon completing grad school in the UK helped me to achieve my main goal, which was to work behind it.

With so much time having passed since being in front of the camera, it was with reluctance that I accepted a request from a good friend who was producing a commercial and was in desperate need of a foreign talent.

It was fun, but not addictive.  I will now be returning to my seat behind the camera, thank you very much.  ;)

Monday, August 29, 2016

Group Photography

The final day of the Doc+ Workshop in Taipei began with a screening of "We Come As Friends" (2014) followed by a Q&A with the film editor Cathie Dambel.  In the afternoon, Ms. Dambel gave a master class on film editing, which was followed later in the afternoon by a panel discussion about editing with the three international filmmakers, including Director Feng Yan and myself.

As I did after Director Feng Yan's master class on Friday (STORY), I would like to share a few lessons that master editor Ms. Dambel shared during the panel:
  • There will be conflicts.
  • The editor must always accompany the director.
  • Each player on the film team has a role to play and does not cross-over.
  • A director should spend 50% of the time selecting the team.
  • If the edit is 6 weeks, I like to work 3 weeks, then 2 weeks, then 1 week on the edit, with breaks in between.
  • When the character is speaking, we must sense what is being said as well as what is not being said.
  • The aim of editing is how to represent what you felt.
  • Sometimes in our own films we must take a risk, we need to take this risk to express ourselves.
Following the editing panel discussion, the members of the 8 groups of filmmakers who had applied to attend the workshop with their film projects, gathered together for a de-briefing during which the young filmmakers shared their observations and some of that they had learned.  I was deeply honoured to hear that although some of them had not fully comprehended our feedback during the initial one to one sessions, after taking part in our master classes they had more fully understood what we had shared with them.

The event ended with a group photo:

This morning I was interviewed by Shr-tzung and Fan Wu from the Taiwan International Documentary Festival for the Taiwan Documentary E-Paper and their readership of Taiwanese documentary filmmakers and industry professionals. 

It was so interesting to be interviewed about my film career so soon after the workshop ended; my mind was still swimming after having shown some of my early work and that had inspired me to start tracing back the path that has brought me to where I am today...

I am now at the airport on the way home to Japan, sad to leave Taiwan, a country I love so much, but also happy to get back to work on my new films re-inspired and re-invigorated.

********* UPDATED October 2, 2016 **********

Shr-tzung has just e-mailed me the links to the published article, so to all of my Chinese-speaking friends, please take a look!  And for the rest of you, there are lots of pictures!  ;)

【紀錄・人物】「最親密的他者」——專訪紀錄片導演伊恩.湯瑪斯.艾許 LINK

And the transcript of the master class I gave has also been published in two parts:

【DOC+紀錄片工作坊】以紀錄片之名 ─ 伊恩.湯瑪斯.艾許大師講堂記錄(上)LINK
【DOC+紀錄片工作坊】以紀錄片之名 ─ 伊恩.湯瑪斯.艾許大師講堂記錄(下)LINK