Interview with our international residents: Kakizome, a Japanese New Year’s calligraphy

This is an interview with Ms. Noriko Otsuki from America and Mr. Florian Urach from Austria, before and after they practiced the traditional New Year’s custom in Japan called kakizome. Kakizome is the act of writing in calligraphy or painting at the beginning of the year as a way to make a wish or express a goal for the New Year. Primary school pupils in Japan are sometimes required to write kakizome as a homework assignment during the winter holidays.



Noriko Otsuki is a Japanese American born and raised in the US. She is an active volunteer of MIFA. She is currently working enthusiastically in preparation for the MIFA Festival, taking an important role as an interpreter. She has always taken great interest in Japanese culture since her childhood in America, and has come to Japan in order to study Japanese language and culture. She is very happy to be able to get acquainted with many Japanese people through MIFA activities and to enrich her life through cross-cultural interactions. Since coming to Japan, she has deepened her understanding of Japanese culture through a wide variety of firsthand encounters. While she has enthusiastically studied such traditional performing arts as kabuki, she is now taking another look at the art of Japanese cooking which has gained worldwide recognition. She also took great interest in old Japanese art and was an ardent antique collector. But looking back, she now thinks she may have collected too many less valuable items and would like to learn to better distinguish what truly has value. As a resident of Meguro City, she is quite satisfied with its convenient access to transportation and shops, as well as hospitals and clinics. As for her New Year wishes, she wants to live to b 105 years old. To be able to spend such a long life traveling between Japan and the US to help people of the two countries with her bilingual skills would make her very happy.

Florian Urach is from Vienna, Austria, the capital of classical music. Coming to Japan as a foreign student of a medical college in 2015, he has been living in Meguro City since this June. Although he worked as a doctor in his home country, he has been studying hard in order to achieve his dream of obtaining a medical license in Japan.

Q. How do you feel about living in Meguro City?
A. I really like living in Meguro City. There is a variety of nice stores, shops, and restaurants. Since my home is very close to Meguro River, I also enjoy walking along the river everyday. And of course in spring the cherry blossoms are incredibly beautiful.

Q. What kind of a doctor would you like to be in Japan?
A. Since I believe the demand for English/German speaking doctors is very high here, I would like to open my own clinic focusing on providing foreigners with quality medical care. Many foreigners are not happy with the medical care currently available in Japan mainly because of the language barrier.

Q. How have you been able to improve your Japanese language ability in just two years? 
A. I  started off studying kanjis only. But recently I focus my studying on reading books from different genres and authors to increase my vocabulary and to get a better understanding of how to use kanjis. For improving my listening skills, I find it very helpful to listen to audiobooks and of course to watch the news on TV and so on.

In light of his endeavor to make his dream come true, Florian has chosen the word “challenge” for kakizome for the new year.


January 5th, 2019
Edited by: Meguro International Friendship Association (MIFA)



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