Japanese international student Yuta Shimizu offers a fascinatingly fresh perspective on both his home country and the United States.
Shimizu is from Yokohama, a city with a population of 3.6 million that is roughly 30 minutes from Tokyo by train. He said that he likes the city - it has everything a young person could want, and more importantly, it's where his friends and family live. He said that misses them as well as some finer points of Japanese culture. "Food is a crucial point," he said. He described ramen - not the instant kind - that is prepared in a savory chicken or pork broth. Though he respects American sushi, he said that with its high prices stateside, he doesn't partake very often.
Though his home is just a train ride away from Japan's capital, Shimizu prefers the quieter environ of Yokohama. "Tokyo just has a lot of people, you put a lot of people in a small place - especially in rush hour," he said. "Those who work in the train station have to push people inside the trains."
Although he left a lot behind in Japan, Shimizu is on a fast track to success. He came to the U.S. when he was in high school and spent a year studying in Maryland to improve his English. In Japan, Shimizu said, the English curriculum teaches grammar, but not how to speak colloquially. "It was really funny back then … my teacher would ask me 'what's up?' and I would say 'good,'" he said, laughing.
When Shimizu's host family showed him some colleges, "It opened up my eyes," he said. "American colleges can provide quality education." He returned to the U.S. after high school, attending Geneseo because of its strong academics and affordable tuition.
Today, Shimizu is a senior accounting major and hopes to go to graduate school somewhere in New York state. After that, his goal is to join an American accounting firm as a mediator between his firm and others in Japan. At a time when international firms are increasingly linking with those in the U.S., people like Shimizu are valuable.
On campus, Shimizu is a starting midfielder for the Geneseo men's soccer team. He has been playing the sport since he was seven years old. His honed skills earned him a spot on the third All-SUNYAC team last season. Shimizu said he also loves watching soccer. "I'm a crazy fan of Chelsea [Football Club]," he said. "I watch every game."
Though the similarities between Japan and the United States are many, Shimizu said he sees subtle differences in the fabrics of the societies. For example, he finds the U.S. to be a more individualistic culture, whereas Japan is more collective. "I think I've had to adjust to the U.S. culture by expressing what I'm thinking," he said. "Here in the U.S. if you don't have anything to say, that means you seem kind of … insignificant."
In Japan, Shimizu said, "It's not what you are, but what you belong to."
Shimizu also places a high value on the rich heritage of his nation and family. His grandmother lives in Kyoto, the former Japanese capital, and when he revisits the old shrines and temples there, "Even though I've been to the same place over and over, I find new things," he said.
Shimizu said that in the generations of his father and grandfather, age was a significant factor in corporate promotions. And even today, when he meets an older Japanese person - even just a year or two older - Shimizu uses a formal mode of speech to show respect.
Shimizu's family has traced its lineage back hundreds of years. "I have respect for my ancestors," he said. "They have built for me [what I] have today."
Shimizu is building on the gifts of his ancestors, making his way into a proud and prominent future.