Last October, as I was in Kagawa to cover the Setouchi International Art Festival for the Shikoku Muchujin organization, I thought that, as I had a Press Pass, intead of using it only to show off (and also to get access to all the Festival sites), I could give a more journalistic approach to my coverage of the event. Indeed, I didn’t just want to visit the Festival and write a few lines about it during two weeks and that’s it. I had something else in mind (no, it’s not to dedicate more or less entirely this blog to the Festival during a few months either, that came later, after I was back home).
The idea was to try interviewing as many islanders as possible, in order to give some sort of social dimension to my visit (after all, the Festival had this socio-cultural dimension too), fully knowing that wouldn’t be an easy task as:
- I had never done this.
- I don’t speak Japanese.
- 康代 had no experience in acting as an interpreter whatsoever.
In the end, the best way to know whether that was going to work was to just try, wasn’t it?
So this is what I did.
Things didn’t exactly unfolded as planned. Apparently, even if they were very happy to see new people, tourists and foreigners, most of the islanders are well… islanders… and even more so, Japanese islanders. And I understood very quickly that one doesn’t just address to them the same way you would speak to a Westerner and I saw how a very pleasant encounter and subsequent conversation can quickly turn cold with any misstep from my part, for example, pulling out my camcorder and asking whether I could film said conversation.
Very soon, I had to make a choice: would I rather have pleasant encounters or would I rather try to do not so good and not so pleasant interviews? Because it was obvious that I wouldn’t get both. So I decided that it was better to leave my camcorder in its bag for most of the times people talked with us while visiting the Seto islands.
However, things had started pretty well, as on the first day of the visits, on Ogijima, fresh out of the ferry, luck was on our side and brought us Mr. Tanigawa. I was gone walking the trail that goes through that pat of the island, its hill and its forest (a thing that I had wanted to do since the very first time I had set foot on Ogijima, about one and a half year earlier). 康代 was waiting for me by the lighthouse (walking in the middle of nowhere in a forest full of insects was one of the last things that she wanted to do at that moment) when she met Mr. Tanigawa who was there and who nicely kept her company and chatted with her while I was on my little trek. He was this nice and open, that once I had returned, he accepted to be interviewed and as such to be my “test subject” for my first attempt at interviewing a Japanese person who doesn’t speaker neither French nor English. However, even him, who had been so friendly and talkative earlier, became suddenly very quiet and shy when the camera started recording. Only to become friendly and talkative again once I stopped. I won’t blame him, he must not get interviewed by foreigners everyday either.
Actually, I can’t thank him enough for having accepted to be my first interviewee (even though I doubt that he will ever read these lines) as well as having introduced me to the person that was going to be one of the most wonderful encounters I made while visiting the islands. (I won’t give any detail yet, some suspense won’t hurt you).
In any case, this little experiment made me want to do this more, refine my ideas about it and without telling much more (I was told some people I don’t know read this blog at times) my future projects with the Seto islands involve a camcorder.
Let’s end this post with the interview itself. Not the best film you’ll see this year, but this is not a reason for not sharing it with you: