MEETING NEAR BABIY YAR
This is not a dream, not ravings. This is, rather, dream in reality.
September 29 at the meeting near "Menorah" an acquaintance of mine approached me and asked if I was eager to talk to a Japanese.
- To a Japanese? What language can we speak?
- What do you mean? You know Yiddish, don't you?
My interlocutor appeared a lean, modestly clothed person to be easily lost in a Kiev crowd, among meeting's participants' if it were not for his Orientally narrow, lynx-like eyes.
- My name is Mitsukhari Akao. I was born in Yokohama in 1952. Parents have a small flower shop. I studied in Yokohama, then entered a Department of Russian in Osaka, grew fond of Russian literature.
We speak "mame-loshn".
- What induced you to learning Yiddish?
- I learnt many talented writers in the Soviet Union are Jews by descent. For instance, Yitzhak Babel. Initially, I intended to study Jewish connections in the Russian literature. But later I got interested in the Jewish life, history of Jews, in particular, East European ones - Ashkenazi. And I understood I wouldn't do without Yiddish.
- Where did you learn Yiddish, Hebrew?
- I started in Japan. I found a self-tuition manual. We already had such.
- How many languages do you speak?
- Five. - Japanese, English, Russian, Yiddish, Hebrew. Seven years ago I studied in Moscow attending, alongside, lectures at the Jewish university. There was a course in Hebrew there. As for Yiddish, I learnt it independently. I read Sholom Aleikhem in original - "Tevje-milkman" and fragments of "Boy Motl".
I stay in Ukraine for a month and a half, prepare a dissertation "Hasidic pilgrimage to Uman", deal with sociology and anthropology of Hasidism. Why does the philosophy of Bratslav tsadik interest me? First of all, this is optimism. And then... His poetry in parables, allegories, stories.
- Are there any Jews in Japan?
- Yes, from around the entire world. Jews got to Japan in the years of WWII escaping total extermination. Somebody remained here, learnt the language. There are synagogues in Tokyo, Kobe. Jews from other countries - journalists, scientists, specialists in Judaic, Oriental studies - come to us. They show interest in the language, culture, rich literature of modern Japan.
- Do you have anti-Semitism?
- Alas, like everywhere. There is no daily anti-Semitism, but enough anti-Semitic literature. I wish peace and prosperity to the Jews of Kiev, Ukraine, "Glik un gezunt, taiere briden. Biz undert un zwanzik" ("Happiness and health to you, dear brothers! Till 120!").
... I cannot forget this meeting near "Menorah". A Japanese speaking Yiddish... Isn't it a wonder? Should there be any other proof "mame-loshn" is alive, will be in demand at all times? It is an integral part of our history, eternal as our nation is.