How long have you been a member of the Japan Society of Boston?
I became a member of the Japan Society of Boston quite recently, just a few months ago. The events I have taken part in so far, though, have been such rich and enjoyable experiences that it feels as if I have been a member for ages.
What drew you to JSB?
I actually am quite new here in New England, as I moved from Italy just about a year ago. Wherever I move to, I always look for connections with the local Japanese community, and this is what I did here. After settling down, I looked for opportunities to engage with Japanese people and the Japanese culture.
Thanks to Instagram, last Autumn I found the event 「絵本の時間」(ehon no jikan) organized by the Japan Society of Boston and a local bookstore. Along with my daughter, I had the chance to meet the current Director Naoko Takayanagi-san. Also, I was eager to dedicate my time to volunteering for some Japanese-related Cultural Centre, given that I was not yet eligible to work in the US (but now I finally am). I then discovered how many events and resources are offered by the Japan Society of Boston and so I became a member.
[Tiziana meets the Governor of Fukushima for the International Project with Fukushima Prefecture]
How would you describe yourself and what you're passionate about?
Japan and the Japanese language and culture have been the center of my life as long as I can
remember. I fell in love with the Japanese as I started studying the language and literature at the University of Venice. Also in my professional career, there has not been a moment I have not worked with Japanese or in an environment where Japan was not at its core.
As soon as I graduated I flew to Japan, looked for a job, and lived there for a few years. The
only thing I aspired to was to listen to the Japanese language 24/7, master it and live as a 社会人(shakaijin) / working member of society. At the time when the Internet was just born and social media were not available yet, working in Japan was the only way. I experienced a
homestay with a lovely Japanese family who was like a family to me. It may sound weird or
even presumptuous, but I never ever experienced any cultural shock because in Japan I have always felt as if I were living in my previous life.
After I earned a Ph.D., I taught Japanese language and culture at the University of Milan for 13 years, and I really enjoyed this work. In addition to teaching, I loved engaging students in intercultural exchange projects with several Japanese Universities (such as Kobe and Waseda University), and I also dedicated my time to organizing many events and International conferences for scholars or students on different topics related to Japanese culture. I continue to be passionate about bringing people together and really enjoy organizing events and programs.
[Tiziana coordinated a group of her students from the University of Milan for an International Project with the Fukushima Prefecture. Here they are visiting Tsuruga Castle, Aizuwakamatsu]
Currently, I am also volunteering for the online community “IWUSA - Italian Women In the USA” as Assistant Ambassador for the Greater Boston area. I am enjoying very much finding new ideas for the events we offer to an increasing community of Italian women. Beyond Japanese language and culture, I am also very passionate about contemporary art, and cooking (I love cooking easy Japanese recipes) and I have always had, since when I was
young, a special passion for dance, from ballet to contemporary. In 1999, in Venice, I
experienced an epiphanic moment when I watched one of Kazuo Ohno’s final butoh dance
performances. Since then I watched dozens of butoh performances by famous and less famous butoh dancers, either in Japan or abroad. I attended many butoh workshops and classes by masters of Butoh (the last one just a few weeks ago here in Boston with one of the most prolific female butoh dancers – Yumiko Yoshioka).
Do you have a favorite event or program that you have participated in with JSB?
I have just participated in two wonderful events. Being a lover of Japanese food, I joined the
series 「おうちごはん」Ouchigohan / home cooking. The last appointment was with a Buddhist Monk, Reverend Daiko Matsuyama from Taizo-in, a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, who taught us about精進料理 (Shōjin Ryōri). He introduced us to the history and significance of traditional temple food and later gave a demonstration of how to cook one of those meals. I was taken away by the simplicity yet the sophisticated way of preparing and cooking a few selected ingredients, the spirituality infused in each dish, and the taste that was so distinctive.
Another event I enjoyed immensely was the MFA Hokusai Exhibit Private Tour for JSB
Members by Dr. Sarah Thompson, the curator of the exhibit. It was actually my third visit to the exhibit and obviously, this one was unforgettable. When art is explained through the work that lies behind its production/realization, through the choices that lead a curator to select some works instead of others, and through anecdotes about the artists and their entourage, the experience becomes dreamlike. I am so grateful to JSB and to the curator for this rare opportunity.
What about JSB makes it special from other groups within the Boston area?
I honestly do not think that JSB can be compared to any other group in the Boston area both for the long-term relationship between Boston and Japan and for the variety of events offered both in-person and online and through specific programs. When I met for the first time some of the JSB staff at the “Connect with JSB” Networking Event I was very surprised because I realized that behind all the events and the programs, there are just a few very passionate people with lots of knowledge about Japan and expertise to promote Japanese culture and business events. The quality of the programs, events, and speakers makes it a unique opportunity for those who want to be connected to Japan.
[Tiziana and her husband, Stefano Maria Iacus, visiting Momiyama-san’s peach field in Kōriyama (Fukushima Prefecture)]
What would you say to somebody who is considering joining JSB?
If you want to keep some connections with the Japanese world or just learn more about its
culture, JSB is the place you want to be in touch with. Benefits range from discounted rates to participation in a vast variety of events and programs (workshops, performances, and
exhibitions) some of which are free (such as Japanese language exchange, bookclub, etc), and the privilege to have access to unique events (such as the MFA Hokusai exhibit private tour I have just taken part in). You have the chance to meet and speak to well-known scholars and experts in an informal context (by the way, Professor Susan Napier was present at the Hokusai exhibit tour), not to speak of the network that opens up when you exchange words with any other member: the common thread will always be there, shared passion or curiosity for Japan.