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Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto

Author: Mihai Claudiu Dragomirescu

I found out that I was accepted and that I was about to go to Japan for two and a half years, at the University of Kobe. When I got there, I realized: This is it, I'm living the dream! I am almost fiction now! I'm the person I was reading about in the books, the person I saw in the movies. Well, if they send me to space, I'll go, but... I won't say no! But let's do some things on Earth, too. So, here I am, on stage! I

didn't stay in Japan. I entered the Valley of Lamentation and I wanted to come back home in order to tell stories such as this one. My name is Mihai Dragomirescu and I am a jurist, a banking analyst, I do many things. Among other things, I'm also a dreamer. Today, I'm going to tell you about my adventure in Japan. I've always been fond of this wonderful country. Since I was a little child, I watched those Japanese cartoons I think many of you saw, when you were my age: Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball. They were beautiful. And I liked them a lot. I was absorbing them. They were exotic to me, except that, back then, I didn't realize they came from Japan. I didn't connect them to that country. Then, later on, during middle school, my mom recommended a book to me: It's a great book, read it, you'll like it!

Shogun, by James Clavell. It's not a masterpiece, but it's a book that opened my eyes to that society. I think that many of you have also read it. It's quite popular in Romanian society. And, from then on, I started absorbing, storing as much information as I could about this country. Then, during college, I got into Japanese cartoons or anime, as they call them, again. I started watching them a lot, I started learning karate the same way, which gave me a stronger bond to Japanese society. I started going to various meetings between Japanese expats from our country, from Bucharest. There was a nice organization back then, called Tomodachi. Tomodachi means friend or friends. But there was one more step. I did all these things, but I was dreaming of traveling there. I was thinking of a journey to Japan. I was thinking I could be a tourist or... Maybe I could save some money to go there for a week or two, and to see what it's actually like in this faraway country. But I stayed at that level. It remained somewhere at the level of a dream, a wish, an unclear idea. It wasn't something well-planned, I hadn't made any concrete steps. Then, I had the chance, the luck, to join the Leaders For Justice community and here I met an amazing person, a jurist, another man of justice, if I may say so, Emil Duhnea. Many of you probably know him. And he had the same passion: Japan.

However, unlike me, he was actually trying to do something in this sense. He was trying to get there. He was telling me, full of confidence in himself, how much he wanted to go there and that he had already planned to apply for a research scholarship of the Japanese government and that he was interested in commercial law and that he is already thinking of going to the University of Nagoya and that these are the steps you have to follow. And I was looking at him, astonished: Wow, this guy actually made a plan, he really knows what he wants. And I admired him. And, since he was determined, in the end, he got to Japan before me. He got to Nagoya, where he wanted to go, and I... I worked up a bit of courage. I'm not a very brave person, I'm very sensitive, shy, I stammer, look, I've even stammered a few times until now. I will probably keep on stammering. Try to get over it. I'm much more anxious than I seem, much more anxious than you could ever imagine. But, looking at the people around me, at these wonderful people, I couldn't help but be inspired and try it, too. At least, to dip my toe in the sea. Even if that sea were the Pacific Ocean. So, I applied for the scholarships of the Japanese government.

A very complicated bureaucratic process followed, with interviews, with many certified translations, with God knows how many procedures. I waited for six months to find out the result and I didn't know what would follow. I didn't get my hopes up, I was the only jurist who applied. Most applicants were in cultural studies, linguistics, and spoke Japanese well. My Japanese was at a level... Below sea level, actually. Or under a frog's knee, to cite Creangă. But there was a small spark of hope that remained and, somehow, that spark turned into a huge fire, when I found out that I was accepted and I was about to go to Japan for two and a half years, at the University of Kobe. I don't know if you've heard of Kobe. Basically, Kobe is a smaller city. It's not Tokyo, Osaka or Kyoto. It's a city that only has about a million and a half inhabitants. Yeah. Mostly, it's known for a major earthquake from 1995 and the local beef. Apparently, it has the best beef in the world. I also had some. It's very good, indeed. I'm not sure how good it is compared to others, I don't eat beef steak that often. It's good. It goes down well. Right... But for me, it's much more than that. It's the city I lived in, a city trapped between green mountains full of forests and the blue ocean. It stretched over hills, as well as mountains, and even into the ocean, since it had artificial islands.

For a year, I even lived on such an island, in the middle of the ocean. God, was it humid! Yes. This really struck me the first time I got to Japan. I felt as if I were in a different realm, basically. The air was different. It was hotter, more humid than it was in Romania during spring. It was... I felt as if I were somewhere else. When I got there, I realized: This is it, I'm living the dream! I am almost fiction now! I'm the person I was reading about in the books, the person I saw in the movies. Tokyo Drift. I'm the guy who goes to Tokyo and starts joking with the Yakuza. Yes, I joked around with the Yakuza. I met Yakuza, too. Actually, Kobe is the center of the Yamaguchi clan, the largest Yakuza clan in all of Japan. What can I say... As I was presenting... But wait, I haven't told you about the research project that got me there. It's pretty important because Japan is not my only passion. I have many, many, many of them! Yes. I also like looking at the stars. Since I was little, I've been looking at the stars and I even remember how, in the room I stayed in, in my parents' apartment, while trying to fall asleep at night, during autumn, winter and spring, I could see the Orion constellation through my window. It's my favorite constellation. Look for it in the sky, you can see it from Bucharest, too. Right. Then, I simply read all the encyclopedias I could get my hands on: on planets, on the cosmos, on space, on nebulas. I watched documentaries, I watched sci-fi movies, I read many sci-fi books. Read Dune before watching the film. The book is better. And I hanged on to this passion. Towards the end of college, I discovered that there is a branch of law that studies this and is connected to it. Space Law. When I found out, I opened my eyes wide and said: Where have you been until now? Where have you been? Yes, there are some treaties from the 60s, 70s, 80s, a pile of treaties that describes what happens in space, how the satellites orbit the planet. How they orbit the planet legally speaking. No, we won't be talking about physics.

Right. And I started to read as much as possible about this, by myself, at first, because, as you know, we don't study this in our country. It's mentioned in two words at the most during the International Law course. Then, I started going to workshops, contests, at home as well as abroad. I started writing articles, short articles on my blog, on my own, and, somewhere, as I was writing my application for a scholarship of the Japanese government, somehow, the planets aligned. Yeah. I realized that I, as a jurist, could leave for Japan, a country I was so passionate about, and I could leave thanks to something related to Space Law. I wrote a research project, and I even finished it, about planetary defense. Asteroids, comets, solar storms, all seen through the lens of a jurist. No, we're not in Armageddon, though. If they send me to space, I'll go, but... I won't say no. But let's do some things on Earth, too. Right. And imagine me presenting it there, in Japan, in a conference hall with Japanese people and with students from all over the world. Behind me, there were slides with different types of asteroids. I was losing focus sometimes, just like now, I'm a mess. I would look... My gaze would turn to the window, and, through the window, I could see the blossoming cherry trees, as they were shedding their leaves. As they do in spring. In Japan. I thought: God, I can't believe I'm here!

The evening I headed home, to the dorm. I had dinner with three guys from Africa, one guy from South America some Japanese guys, and a Russian woman. Not really... I said them randomly now, but I'm sure I guessed correctly. It was a different combination each night. Somehow, I lived my dream. I saw many things, such as fireworks during summer and summertime festivals, Matsuri, as they call them. During summer, cicadas would wake me up each morning with their infernal noise, while in the winter I could see how those huge snowflakes you see in the movies in the mountains in the North of Japan set themselves peacefully, whereas next to me there was a hot spring where a monkey was having a bath. Yes. I saw so many beautiful things. So, so many! And I liked it so much there that I would like for you, too, to feel a bit of what I felt, and, if you have a similar dream, don't be afraid to follow it, to make it real. You should at least try. I think it would be nice. I think about my life... Right, I told you about Emil earlier. This is a kind of sum of the stories I encountered over the course of my life and I even participated in some of them. And I would like for the story I just told you to stay with you, if I at least aroused... I meant to say that at least if... In the outline of the speech, it read: If I can at least make you smile, I'm happy. But I heard the laughter! I'm already happy.

This means something to me. If a spark appeared in you, a bit of extra hope, or maybe if it got a little bigger. If you have such a dream, too, and if you can combine it with what you do, your careers, it would be wonderful! And here I am, on stage! I didn't stay in Japan, even if I spent two and a half years there and it was the time of my life. I thought that if... I could've stayed. But I thought that, if I stayed another year, it would actually end up being 10. If I stayed there any longer, I would've stayed forever. And just like the hero from Youth Without Aging and Life Without Death, I entered the Valley of Lamentation for a moment and I wanted to come back in order to tell stories like this one. And I don't want this journey of mine, this amazing adventure, for me at least, to be the highest peak in my life. I'm greedy. I want more. I want to do other things, too! I want to do things at least as wonderful as my experience in Japan! And I wish for this to happen to you too! You're welcome! I heard a Thank you! Arigato gozaimasu, as the Japanese say.


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