Hopeful comments from Japanese in the UAE By Ohood Ali As the number of Japanese people living in the UAE is increasing in the past few years, many of them are living with mixed emotions. They have different impressions about the country, rarely interacting with Emiratis, and forced to cope with the shocking earthquake news while being 10 hours far away from their country. Naomi Matsubara, a Japanese teacher who has been living for five years in the UAE, approaches with a smile to talk about how satisfied she is in this country. These five years changed her first impression about the UAE, and the Middle East in general. Her only image about the Middle East was related to the history of Egypt and the pyramids, but in a fast tone she expressed her excitement when she first knew she would be living here because she heard many good things about the UAE from her friends. However, the first thing she said when she first arrived to the UAE is “Where is Emirati?” as she only saw Pakistanis and Indians almost everywhere. After living here she noticed that many of her friends didn’t know much about Emiratis. Hoping to change the impression that Japanese people have about the UAE, Ms. Naomi started a blog on 2007 about Emirati males and females from her experiences after interacting with them in different occasions. Ikko Tucker, a Japanese science teacher, gave a different opinion. She has been living in the UAE for almost two years, and had many interactions with Emiratis in universities and shopping malls. She already knew about the country, saying with joy “I was very excited to come to the UAE.” She reflected about how her impression of Emirati women changed after she realized that it’s normal for them to be in shopping malls and other opened places.
Dr. Ikko Tucker in her office at Zayed University in Dubai.
“Actually I was surprised because I thought women here are little bit more conservative,” she said. Both of Ms. Naomi and Dr. Ikko expressed how happy they were when they first had an Emirati acquaintance, as they couldn’t have any in the beginning. “I didn’t know that the Muslim people are that much open to non-Muslim people,” said Dr. Ikko.
“I’m used to be away from the family or my main country,” Dr. Ikko said, when she was asked about how lonely she is being away from her country. She never showed any lonely feeling in her tone and expressions as she’s satisfied living here with her husband. She also experienced being away from her home in Japan before, when she was pursuing her Doctoral studies in the United States. Ms. Naomi had the same expression when she said that she was teaching in Thailand, before living in the UAE. She believed it was a good opportunity to compare both cultures, as she was brought up in a family that liked foreign countries. The huge earthquake and the Tsunami in Japan last March shocked the Japanese people who were living outside. Dr. Ikko expressed her feelings with a very sad expression and tone repeatedly saying it was a “shock.” Ms. Naomi said that Tsunami is expected in all Japanese coasts and that the victims living in the dangerous areas were a bit “careless.” “But the scale of Tsunami was more than expected, so I am deeply sorry for the victims,” she said. “I’m very lucky to be here when it happened,” added Ms. Naomi, explaining how she took advantage of being in the UAE to encourage people to help donate. “We can feel that we can do something,” she added. She was committed to do it, which is shown in her very detailed reports to her students about the victims’ area even months after the earthquake. Dr. Ikko expressed the same feelings when she said “I did not feel that I should be there, but I immediately thought I should do something to assist.” She was thankful that many Emiratis especially the members of Japan-Club in Zayed University immediately started the donation process. Even with all the sad news, many countries over the world made an effort to raise donations. “I was also so moved that Emiratis were very cooperative to collect money for the victims,” said Ms. Naomi.