Shuko Yokote

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Showing emotion or hugging are not Japanese culture. When I started travelling I did not know how Japanese culture is good. I didn’t like having to guess what the others think; in Japan, even if a person says ‘yes’, sometimes the person means ‘NO’! It made me confused most of the time. I thought showing emotion makes it easier to understand a person.

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It was always hard for me to understand my father and grandfather, who are both typical Japanese men. My father was very strict and loves working. He told me I was not smart enough to working in an office in Tokyo. Instead I studied farming at university, majoring in livestock. My first full-time job was milking cows. My father told me working on farms or in rural areas are not what smart people do in Japan. I felt my father was not proud of me or my work.
My grandfather, my father’s father, had similar character and he used to say I was damned daughter because my mother is damned woman. I think this was because my mother is not typical Japanese lady, who should walk three steps behind her husband. In Japan, we used to be told that we women have to follow men. It is Japanese culture, its changing these days, but elders, like my grandfather, still think this way. I asked him to stop calling me this many times. I told him, “If you don’t stop saying that, I will NOT come back here to see you ever again!” Well, he didn’t stop it and since then I stopped visiting him. Of course I expected he’d stop saying that but he didn’t!

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I decided to start travelling while I was working at a hotel. My co-workers loved talking gossiping and complaining about everything. One day I read an article that said if you sleep 7 hours a day, by the time you’re 80, you will have slept over 20 years in your life. I realised if I joined them gossiping for an hour a day I will lose my precious time! The hotel also made me wanted to learn English, because when we had guests from overseas I couldn’t explain things to them. So I started taking an English class.

During my travels, I was interested in farming in different countries. Working on one farm, I saw the farmer and his family abused their animals. Most of their neighbours told me that I was the luckiest girl to work with the most generous and sweet family. But they weren’t taking care of their animals. The family said they feed baby animals since they are cute, but once the animals grew up they didn’t take care of them anymore. I needed to make some money to keep travelling, so I worked for them for 6 months.

I then went to vegetable farm that good friends of mine recommended. The farm owner told me he was going to pay hourly but he didn’t. He could not keep running his store so my co-worker didn’t get paid either. He kept saying he would pay 'next week', but it never came. I got shocked because I had trusted them. I believed that good people have good friends and the owner had good friends. I think he was a good person but he was too weak to accept his failings. He never said sorry to anybody. After this experience, I could not believe anyone for a while.

I had a hard time after these experiences but I didn’t want to tell my father that. If I told him, father would say “See! Farming is not a job that smart people do.” I wanted to keep travelling until I ‘found’ an answer.
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After 3 years travelling I had no idea what I wanted or what should I do. I was completely lost. I hated myself. I was such a negative person and whatever people told me I said something negative. I couldn’t have normal conversation like “Hi, how are you?” I would only reply, “I’m bad!” and start complaining. I was too honest to care about others. 
I started woofing (volunteering on an organic farm) in New Zealand. There I had some housemates who accepted me as whoever I was. I was totally terrible! I always wanted to say ‘I am so sorry to be such a terrible person and thank you for accepting me’. I could not love anything. One of my job was water the garden every morning but I killed many plants! I didn’t know watering plants without love could kill them. When my housemates watered the garden instead of me, the plants looked totally different. I love animals, but at that time I could not take care of adorable baby lamb because I could not share love with others; I knew I couldn’t be a ‘perfect mother’ so I thought the baby lamb better die with his mother instead. I knew I was terrible.
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I spent 10 months on that farm having very interesting experiences with other people. Somehow learnt unconditional love. I became free. 
Here are the top 5 things what I learned at that place:
  1. I can NOT have LOVE all to myself
  2. Watering a plant without love will kill the plant.
  3. My life is mine (so it’s up to me if I want to be happy or not)
  4. Unconditional LOVE is the strongest thing in whole universe! 
  5. Forgive myself and accept myself
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In my 4 years overseas, I met some men who didn’t have a good relationship with their daughters. But all of them told me, no father doesn’t love his daughter. I can’t remember how many ‘father’ I have met on my travels but all of them said same thing! I stated realizing that not all people could show their children and family love. It doesn’t matter if the person Japanese or not. Human is a human.
Now I know why my father denied me most of the time. He just didn’t want me to get hurt. Maybe he was afraid of accepting me as who I am. Accepting others is sometime hard since sometime we feel like we need to deny ourselves. My father doesn’t know having different perspectives/opinions doesn’t mean a person doesn’t love him. And my grandfather suffered from the same idea as father. They think making money is equal to showing love. Perhaps the time in which they grew up gave them this idea. I learnt to love them unconditionally, so I could forgive them.
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When I got back from my travel I gave my dad a hug and told him “This is what I learned on my travel.” He shyly smiled and patted my hand. I couldn’t see, but I bet he was crying. 
I visited grandfather the next day. He was very old now and couldn’t talk or eat. He just lay in bed. My auntie said he might not recognize who I was. But I knew he would recognize me because I used to be his favourite grandchild. When I looked at him he had big smile! I hadn’t visited him for 13 years but he recognized me! I held his hand and talked to him from my heart: “I forgive you. Thank you for waiting and giving me the chance to meet you again.” 
My grandfather passed away a month later. On the day of his funeral we saw a fully blooming cherry blossom. Everybody said it was a  gift from grandfather.
If I do not forget the power of unconditional love, I can go as far as I want. This is what I learned from my 4 years of travel.


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