How long have you been a member of the Japan Society of Boston?
I've been a member of JSB since around September 2017. I had just returned to Boston from
living in Japan for three and a half years. I was asking some friends of mine what's going on in Boston in terms of activities related to Japan and a friend of mine, who'd been a member back in the 90's, suggested I joined. So that's how sort of that's how I got started. I should also add that I worked for JSB for a few years as well.
Where did you live in Japan? What were you doing there?
I was living in Kochi prefecture in Kochi city. It’s on the island of Shikoku. I lived there teaching English through a private connection instead of JET. There was a job posting and I applied and I went over there in 2014. I had a lot of fun teaching English. My goal, though was to learn the language and sort of attain fluency as much as I could.
[Spencer was involved in his community while living in Kochi.
Here he is in a violin concert he took part in.]
How would you describe yourself and what you're passionate about?
I've always been a writer, I've always been a creative person. I went to undergrad for creative writing and never thought about Japanese and poetry at that point, but that is what eventually led me towards moving to Japan and really becoming involved with the country. But I've always been creative.
After graduation, I was living in Boston. I met this guy who ended up being my translation partner through a book, as well as another book coming out next year. He was going crazy trying to translate poetry by himself and he was like, yeah, the Japanese is okay for me, but does it sound good in English? So I didn't really have very much Japanese skills at the time but I was helping out with the English versions; being kind of someone that he could bounce ideas off of. And then from there, I began to get more and more interested in Japanese culture, the poetry, and eventually I ended up living there. And so here I am today.
[Spencer was featured in a newspaper article for community involvement
with children studying abroad]
Do you have a favorite event or program that you have participated in with JSB?
One of the great things about JSB is that it not only has so many great programs but that it also has such a wide range of them. I really love that you can do anything from getting good ramen recommendations to professional networking. One of my favorites was a chopsticks-making class, featuring someone from a chopsticks school. We just spent hours just carving our own chopsticks out of a block of wood which was really fun. There was another event during my time in Kyoto that featured some faculty from the College or Museum of Fashion.
Anyway, what they ended up bringing over to the United States was a Gini style, which is a kind of Heian-era garb for women that comprises 12 layers of fabric, and it's really beautiful. Each one kind of overlaps the other and it takes about 45 minutes to put on. They put it on a live model who was our intern at the time. It was really cool to see the finished product on a real person and also to see how it got put together and just the amount of time it took to kind of prepare these people for their court life.
What about JSB makes it unique from other groups within the Boston area?
Again, the wide range of people and really how unique everyone's story is, and how willing they are to share their experiences. You go to an event, and you meet really cool people who have been involved with Japan in really interesting ways. That was something that I think is just unique about the Japan Society of Boston.
What would you say to somebody who is considering joining JSB?
I would tell them to join JSB! I would say the same thing that I just said is that you'll attend some really cool events and have some conversations that are really interesting and unique. You'll end up meeting people who just have a lot to a lot to share and you'll learn you'll learn a lot, even through the online events. Just the conversations that can be started are really great and meaningful.
Visit Spencer’s website to see his translations and other work.