海外生活体験者・社会人インタビューvol.27 English Version ~Part1~

interviewee_s_68_profile.jpg Roland Nozomu Kelts was raised by an American father and a Japanese mother. He is a graduate of Oberlin College and Columbia University. He majored in literature, journalism and creative writing. He has lectured at New York University, Rutgers University and Barnard College. He is now a Lecturer at the University of Tokyo, Sophia University and the University of the Sacred Heart Tokyo and a co-editor of the New York-based literary journal, A Public Space. He is the author of Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the U.S. and is first novel, Access, will be published next year.

-Why did you come to Japan?

I had chances to come to Japan before I came here for work. I went to kindergarten in Morioka for a year. I could not speak any Japanese, so I was not happy at first; but eventually I became comfortable. I have great memories of catching cicadas and watching Sumo wrestling with my grandfather. I loved Ultraman so much and I still have an Ultraman mask at home. The next time I came to Japan was when I was fifteen years old. I walked around Tokyo alone and enjoyed the atmosphere of this massive city.
Then in 2000, Francis and Sophia Coppola asked me to write a story about a foreigner visiting Japan. They new I was half Japanese and I also had an outsider’s perspective.  So I went to Osaka. I taught English and wrote “Hiropon My Heroine”. After Coppola’s project, I went back to New York. After that, I was writing articles about Japan. I had chances to interview Haruki Murakami (I have seen him several times since then) and my editors were interested in stories about Japan. It was time when Westerners were beginning to be interested in Asia. I was lucky, because not many writers were writing stories about Japan. Then I came back to Japan. I worked at Japan Inc, an English-language business magazine, for two years as a chief editor and I made great connections with business people and journalists, who later became very helpful when I was writing Japanamerica. After that work, I was going back and forth between New York and Japan. In 2004, I was asked to work as a lecturer of Univ. of Tokyo by Motoyuki Shibata who is a professor at Univ. of Tokyo and a friend of Haruki Murakami. I still spend half the year in New York, because my business will always be in the U.S.

-I see. What was your impression of Japan?

I was very surprised when I came to Japan in 2000. The images of Japan were salarymen crushed in a train, very conservative, and somber. They were from the 80s and 90s. However, what I saw were Ganguro, Yamanba, and young people dying their hair. It was so colorful and people were so expressive. Also it was when oyaji-gari and enjo-kosai were in the news. Japanese culture was obviously changing from conservative to something different.

-After seeing those changes in Japan, what inspired you to write “Japanamerica: How Japanese Pop Culture Has Invaded the U.S.”?

In 2005, I was asked to write a book introducing contemporary Japanese pop culture to a general audience. First I said no, because I was not an otaku, but the editor said that books that have written about Japanese pop culture are either for otaku or for academic people. He wanted a book which regular people can understand. So I agreed to write it. It was A LOT OF work! I had to interview so many people, such as people in the media industry and business industry, and otaku from many countries. I hired a professional interpreter, because I wanted my Japanese subjects to feel comfortable and talk in their mother tongue. I met great people who would introduce me to more people to talk about my topic, and industry people helped me a lot to create connections. Also, I cannot deny the power of Todai (東大). People trust me more when they see “lecturer of Univ. of Tokyo” on my business card. I really appreciate the many people who helped me meet new people. I spent lots of time in Akihabara then.Go to Part2>>
内山紗也子。1986年鹿児島県生まれ。その後、東京、沖縄に暮らし、小学5年から2年間マレーシアに滞在。東京に帰国後、中学2年の夏から米国シカゴへ。高校卒業まで5年間在住。帰国後、東京大学理科Ⅱ類に入学。現在、農学部獣医学科3年に在学。