Masaki Enomoto's dream is to live in Siberia's Novosibirsk
Masaki Enomoto is a student. He came to Russia to study the Russian language. Having lived in Novosibirsk - the capital of Siberia - for several months, the Japanese young man fell in love with the city. Masaki likes the city very much, he is very interested in Russian people's lives. Moreover, the Japanese student wants to stay in Novosibirsk for good.
The student studies at the global economy department, conducting a scientific research devoted to Russian pensioners' economic problems. Why was he interested in that subject? What did he find so appealing about Russia?
How did you find yourself in Russia? Why did you come to Novosibirsk?
I graduated from the Kanagava University in Japan. I am an economist. It might seem strange, but the Japanese economy is experiencing a crisis. My tutor advised me to pay attention to the neighboring country. He told me that Russia was full of interesting material for scientific research, huge perspectives for the development of economic relations. I liked the idea of visiting Russia. My father approved the decision, and soon after that I came to Moscow. I have to say that my first impression of the city was basically negative - Moscow did not give me a hearty welcome. Police officers would stop me in the street to check my IDs on a regular basis, robbers tried to steal from me. A friend of mine told me about the city of Novosibirsk, and I decided to go there. It is a very big city, but it is rather quiet there. Someone tried to snatch out my cellular phone four times, but it did not ruin my impression of the city. I fell in love with Novosibirsk and I would like to stay there forever.
Why is it interesting for a young Japanese man to study the life of Russian pensioners?
The pension problem is one of the most serious ones in Japan. My country ranks first in the world from the point of view of the life span. Every fifth Japanese national is a pensioner. Both men and women retire to pension at the age of 65 in Japan (it used to be 60 years old). My grandmother, for example, worked as a police officer before she retired to pension. All Japanese citizens must pay the pension tax from the age of 20. At present, the tax is a lot higher than the amount of the future pension. A lot of Japanese people do not pay the pension tax, and neither do I.
I think that Japanese pensioners get very good pensions on a monthly basis. My grandmother gets 200,000 yens (about $1,500), although it is an average pension in Japan. My grandmother often complains that it is very hard for her to live for that money. I realized during the time that I spent in Moscow and Novosibirsk, Japanese pensioners live a lot better than Russian pensioners do. When I see elderly beggars in the metro or in a market place, my heart aches.
Is it very difficult to conduct a scientific research in a foreign country?
I thought that it would be a lot more difficult. In Novosibirsk, I was not only observing Russian pensioners' life, I started getting interested in the Russian pension policy - I was reading articles in newspapers and magazines, meeting elderly people. I compiled a questionnaire for the case study - 22 questions about the profession, education, employment, work experience, privileges, and so on.
Were you surprised with the answers?
Almost a half of my respondents still work even though they are officially registered as pensioners. I was very surprised with the results. It seemed to me that a lot of Russian women continued working after they turn 50 years old, because their small pension was not enough for them. However, there were answers like "I am bored to sit at home all day" or "I want to work because I have an extensive experience that I can share with other people." I agree that pensioners can work if their health allows it, although it would be better for them to rest, not to work."
I was surprised with the fact that 80 percent of pensioners can not save money, even if they get wages in addition to the pension. They can not afford having false teeth or visiting their relatives in another town. To my mind, the pension problem in Russia is one of the most serious social and economic problems, which must be solved now.
You say that you fell in love with Novosibirsk. Is there anything that you like most of all?
I was struck with the soul of the Siberian people, I like the optimism that Russian people have. Russians, as Japanese, respect elderly people. I admire the Russian nature - clean air, beautiful landscapes. A Russian friend of mine invited me to her country house, and that was the first time of my life when I saw a cow. I even decided to go back to that village again with a camera to photograph the animals. I remember the meeting with schoolchildren of the Novosibirsk special school. I was telling kids about Japanese hieroglyphs. I could feel that they were sincerely interested in Japan. They are familiar with Japanese cartoons, Japanese cars. I have been to the Theatre of Opera and Ballet many times. Novosibirsk is a cultural city. A Japanese puppet theatre has recently performed in Novosibirsk. I purchased tickets for my friends and we went to see the show altogether.
Do you have any friends here?
Yes, they are students like me - they study the Russian language in Novosibirsk. I have friends in the sports section, my girlfriend and her brother.
How did you get to meet your girlfriend?
She works as a salesgirl. When I was buying foodstuffs, I asked her to help me to choose the things that I needed and our friendship started.
How do you like to spend your free time?
I go in for sports, the aikido fighting, in Japan I was also fond of baseball. I like taking walks around Novosibirsk. I talk to people when I go to the zoo or to the movies. It is a language practice for me. I have a hobby too - I teach the Japanese language to the students of the historical department of the pedagogical university. I get paid for that - 1,000 rubles a month ($35).
Is it enough to live here?
No, of course, not. My parents help me: they pay my rent and my studies. My father is a responsive man, he understands my ideas and plans and he supports me too, although it is not easy for him now. He had to sell his restaurant business after the economic crisis, so he is unemployed at the moment.
How did you find the Russian meals?
I was ready for it. I like Russian dishes, especially borsch and pelmeni. The river fish does not taste good, though.
What are the things that you don't like?
I do not like going to the market, because people think that I am a man of the Caucasian origin. I do not feel very good when people stare at me.
When Russians think of Japan, they always think of high technologies. What does Russia mean to the Japanese?
We have a lot of information about Russia. Japanese people call it a closed country, with a very powerful mafia. Russian mobsters are the most powerful - they import stolen cars from Japan and then sell them in Russia.
What are your plans for the future?
When I finish my studies, I will return to Japan to get a diploma. I would like to live in Novosibirsk, to buy an apartment there. I have been thinking about it a lot. At first I was thinking about selling motorbikes, but now I have plans about opening a Japanese restaurant. I have been to one of them in Novosibirsk and had a negative impression about it. I think that I will not be able to live without Novosibirsk. I will definitely find a way out to return to the city of my dream.