Greeks of Japan: A Worldwide Phenomenon

One of the most populated countries in the world is Japan. With about 127 million people, it’s hard to get around. It’s even harder for the Greek immigrants that have been living in such a populated country to find other Greek natives to form a community. In spite of the chaos that surrounds Japan, some Greeks found a way through internet a technology to form a Greek community for the Greek immigrants living there. The heart and soul of this community is Greek native, Fay Savaidis who works night and day to make this small Greek community possible for Greek immigrants living in Japan.

Fay Savaidis, a Greek native who has been living in Japan for the past 20 years, had a remarkable idea about a year ago, to connect Greeks who live in Japan and other Greeks who live in other countries around the world including their native country Greece. Fay wanted to find Greeks who have been living in Japan and start a new Greek community in order to unite them. Her only problem was that Japan is a very overpopulated country and to get from end of the country to the other is almost impossible.

Fay then decided to start an online community to unite Greeks living in Japan and also Greeks that live in other countries around the world. Also because she was concerned about her two children growing up in Japan that they may never learn of their Greek decent.  The community website “Greeks of Japan”, which was established by Fay Savaidis and created by Christos Makiyama, was launched just last year. Since then its members are increasing having about 190 members worldwide. Sixty Greeks from Japan, 40 Japanese natives who are interested in the Greek culture, 60 Greeks from Greece who are interested in their fellow natives who are living in Japan, and 30 other Greeks who live in other countries around the world. Some of the Japanese natives that have joined Fay’s online community have children who live in Greece or are married to Greek natives and want to learn more about the Greek culture. Fay also holds a class once a month on a Sunday for about an hour and a half, which she teaches speaking, writing, reading and listening to Greek. She also teaches various Greeks songs, games and the history of Greece to children of Greek decent.

A year later membership for the website has been increasing through networking or just by internet search. There are no fees to join and all expenses are covered by Fay. The idea for this community website was triggered by Fay in 2008 after a book that was published by Anastasios Tamis,  “Greeks in the Far Orient”, which then granted her the title as the Japan researcher. Fay wanted to know who these Greeks are who are living in Japan and what they can bring to the community. She wanted to introduce each of their talents and what those talents can do for the Greek community in Japan. On the website Fay introduces Greek restaurants in Japan, where various Greek products are sold, Orthodox Christian churches, Greek language schools, events and a forum amongst members, blogs and various photos of each member.

Fay Savaidis was born and raised in Ptolemaida, which is North of Kozani just north of Greece. Fay moved to Japan in 1989 after graduating from college. She is happily married to a Japanese man and has two lovely children Savas, 12 and Athina, 5 years old who were born and are being raised in Japan. Since moving to Japan Fay has not faced any problems by the Japanese natives. Her attitude has been accepted by the Japanese people. Fay has never acted against their customs and traditions and abides by their rules. One small problem that Fay could say has faced in Japan is that the Japanese people are non-expressive. They do not express their feelings such as happiness or sadness and you never know what they are truly feeling; most of the time the things that they express contradict what they are truly feelings on the inside. This in Japanese is called “Giri” or “Tatemae”, which is what their morals teach them. Their morals tell them to think of the other person first then to think of themselves first, which are the opposite if the Western morals. This may be frustrating to someone who is not used to these morals but because of these morals the Japanese have managed to keep peace in their daily lives.

Making friends in Japan can be quite difficult at first because the Japanese keep their distance at first but once they get to know you, you are friends forever. Fay’s children who are born and raised in Japan don’t have any problems making friends at school and the speak Japanese fluently being that they were born in Japan.

When Fay first moved to Japan 20 years ago, being a westerner in Japan was like being an alien. Now 20 years later all of that has changed and Japan as a country has become a popular destination for many westerns and they don’t feel like “aliens” anymore. Especially in the city of Tokyo it is now trendy to be a westerner or a mix between westerner and Japanese.

The way of life in Japan is very different from the way of life in Greece and many other Western countries. One example that came to Fay’s mind was how people in Japan are very organized. The Japanese program their every move and every task that they are supposed to do each day. Every single appointment and task is pre-booked and scheduled in advance with detail and care. For westerners this may seem mundane but for the Japanese it has resulted in perfect organization and they are capable of accomplishing many things in one day. The service in banks, post offices, etc is pretty fast. Each worker is trained and is specialized for their station, which means that they can’t do anything other than what they are trained to do, which is also very different from Greece and other Western countries.

Fay has no intentions upon returning to Greece being that for the past 20 years Japan has become home to her and her family. Fay visits Greece with her family in the summer but she can only stay three weeks because of her busy schedule back in Japan. Her children love Greece because of the all the freedom the country provides, the climate of the country, the friendly and kind people that Greece has. They find all of these things fascinating but they feel more at home in Japan.

Fay was never expecting that her community website would be such a worldwide phenomenon and is extremely happy and satisfied. She feels that her mission to unify Greeks in Japan and around the world is being accomplished. Fay says, “As long as I keep having the positive support from members, my aim is to continue updating with information related to the two countries keeping us together”.

Throughout the year, Fay organizes gatherings and events for members of her website to meet each other in person. Fay’s website is www.greeksofjapan.com and she is encouraging for more Greeks to join from around the globe. The more the merrier.

 


LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here