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A home away from homeWife of Consul General for Japan finds natural energy on Jeju
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승인 2009.10.28  00:07:44
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▲ Quiet inspiration: Softly spoken and eloquent Yoden Akemi describes her feelings of harmony with the island’s natural landscape and ever present Jeju wind. Photo by Cat Lever

Jeju receives its fair share of travellers, new residents and adventuring explorers; each new visitor is unique, with a different story to tell and a whole new way of experiencing the island. Yoden Akemi, who was born in Yokohama, Japan, first visited Jeju 25 years ago, when her husband, Consul General for Japan was stationed in Busan. “It was in May, so the contrast of colour, sea blue, fresh green and blooming yellow flower, the contrast of the colour was so beautiful.” She said, remembering her first impressions of the island.

At that time, she spent three years living in Busan and says that is the usual length of time she and her family lived in one place. “[It] feels a little bit short,” she said, “five would be better as the children have to stay and learn the language and be educated.” As young children, her three daughters spent much time travelling around the world and lived in the mainland United States, Hawaii, China, Korea, and their native country Japan. She feels that “living in many places, meeting many people was a very good experience for them.”

Yoden’s current home is Jeju, where she and her husband will spend the next three years(?). She has some very good memories of previous visits to Jeju and is enjoying the prospect of getting involved in community life, despite the difficulties that come with living in an unfamiliar culture. “I still find it hard to live in a foreign country,” she explained, “sometimes it’s difficult to make friends, but in this country the people are so kind, they come up to [me], even though I am just standing here, they pull me out. It really helps me to get into the society.” She is currently studying Korean and attends two classes a week at the Jeju Multicultural Family Center.

She feels it is important for people to embrace new cultures while still keeping their own, “it is important to get good things, even though that culture is not our own culture. I make my own culture, that’s the important thing.” In her free time she practices the Japanese art of ikebana, or flower arrangement, a pastime that makes her feel close to nature, and will also begin teaching Japanese to Jeju elementary school children in November. “[the] Japanese, you know, we conquered Korea, so we have to do something good for this country. We have to start something, I only have a small power and no chance to do something, so I have friends who cooperate; together we can make a good community.”

As well as learning to speak Korean, she also speaks very good English, which she began to learn at an early age. “My father was working at the trade company so he always used English and he always listened to the English radio in the morning, so English was very natural language for me in my young age.”

While ikebana makes her feel close to nature, so does walking on Jeju, and climbing the island’s oreums. One of her favourites is Yongnuni (Dragon eye) oreum, “in that area the wind is so strong,” she said, “I feel the energy and power of nature in my body, I love that oreum so much.” She also enjoys spending time, at least once a month, at Sangumburi crater which has special significance to her as she used to visit it with a close friend. “My most favourite place is Sangumburi, and also its eulalia reeds. I can feel the change of the seasons, and the reeds move in the wind, that’s the best place for me in Jeju.” Walking on Jeju is something she loves to do, “Korean people like to go together and chatting and walk, it’s a very good thing and I like that, but also I like to go alone and feel the nature and think.”

Yoden commented that many Japanese visitors come to Jeju and enjoy its environment in a similar way she does. The island already has a strong relationship with Japan, as many Jeju natives moved to there around the time of the Sa-sam atrocities and now exceed 200,000 in number. While her husband works in an official capacity for the Japanese Consul on Jeju, maintaining relations between two nations, her open-mindedness and quiet yet passionate striving towards involvement in an multicultural community, is equally as valuable.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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