This post is also available in: Indonesia

Written by: Swastika Kusumawati

Everything Starts With a Dream That Everyone Laughs at

Flashback, when I was as young as 4-5 years old, Japanese animes were aired on Indonesia’s TV station almost every day gain my interest in Japan’s pop culture. In addition to the boom of J-pop music and J-drama at that time.

Gaining interest in Japanese culture, pushed me to learn Japanese by myself since junior high school and swells my image into a dream to become an interpreter for Japanese artists when they come to Indonesia. It sounds like daydreaming and most of my friends laughed at me, but it elevates my motivation to prove that I can realize my dream.

Embracing that dream, I continued to study at the National University in Bandung (West Java, Indonesia) which has a good reputation in Japanese Literature, which then led me to an opportunity to work in an apartment agent company for Japanese in Jakarta for 2 years.

Coincidentally, my Japanese boss is running another company engaging in an event organizer that handles the Japanese Pop Culture Festival in Jakarta. She introduced me to the Japanese artists and the entertainment world which helps me a lot to realize my dream. Alhamdulillah, I became an interpreter for various Japanese artists such as Hyde (L’arc~en~Ciel`s vocalist), LiSA, MIYAVI, AAA, Tokyo Ska Paradise, [Alexandros], etc.

In one corner of my heart, I think that working with great artists like them was only in my imagination, but when I saw them in front of my eyes, I found my heart almost jumping outside which reminds me it is not a dream.

A name tag when I was working as an interpreter for Japanese artists

Achieving one dream doesn’t satisfy me. A new dream popped out of my mind that led me to make one of the great decisions in my life, to learn business Japanese in Japan.

Sponsoring Myself to a Language School in Tokyo

To get myself registered to study in a Japanese language school in Tokyo, I submitted all documents needed to a Japanese language school in Tangerang city (West Java) which is representative of the Japanese language school in Tokyo where I want to pursue the study. I submitted documents from personal data-related documents and financial documents to a statement mentioning sponsorship by myself in terms of finances while staying in Japan.

I left my life in Jakarta in October 2013 to fly to Japan and pursue Japanese business study in a Japanese Language School in Tokyo. If most of the exchange or international students in Japan are obtaining a scholarship, but I wasn’t. I sponsored myself in all the expenses, from flight tickets and tuition fees to apartment rental which costs me a lot approx. 800,000 yen at that time. I paid all the costs from the savings I made from working in a company and doing freelance jobs on other days.

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I eagerly wanted to pursue a high level of business Japanese with the purpose to achieve the next career I am deeply thinking about.

Talking about the Japanese language school, there is a number of them in Japan, especially in Tokyo. However, not all of them provide business Japanese in their curriculum, so I was very lucky to find a Japanese language school that fit my needs.

I learned how to make a Japanese CV, honorific grammar, public speaking, and more until I got a certificate for Advanced Level of Business Japanese. I concentrated to study Japanese Business for 6 months while looking for job opportunities I can take after graduating. Unfortunately, I didn’t that lucky to find a job that fits me, so then I decided to back to Indonesia after my graduation.

Graduation ceremony of Japanese language school I learned at

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Second Stage of My Life

As my Japanese improved, I found myself more confident. Coming back to Indonesia, I got a lot of opportunities to work with many people as a freelance interpreter in Jakarta, as well as MC for Japanese-related events and coordinator staff that handled 30 more Japanese artists and staff when they had a TV drama shooting in Jakarta at the end of 2014.

Participating in Japan Travel Fair, Jakarta in 2014

Working as coordinating staff

When coordinating a shooting in Jakarta featuring Japanese artists

With all my career as a freelance interpreter for about a year, still, I wanted to go back to Japan and experience working in a Japanese company or in the travel-related industry which is also one of my passion. However, to get a job in Japan while I am abroad (not residing in Japan) was almost impossible at that time which makes me almost give up.

Until one day something beyond imagination comes.

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From Japan to the World

I got an offer to work in a Japanese cruise ship as the Japanese – English reception staff. I didn’t think twice to say “yes”, and started to sail around July 2015 from Kobe, Japan. I have blessed my parent’s support on my decision even though they know for a woman who becomes a sailor, the challenge and struggle were comparatively harder than men.

Me as a cruise staff

The system in the cruise ship basically the same as in the hotels and since I worked in the reception division, I have to handle and listen to all the passengers needed. More than 90% of the passengers are Japanese so I used Japanese and English every day.

Even though I have Japanese proficiency, I found it difficult to respond to them spontaneously for the first time. But the Japanese I learned from the Japanese language school was helping me so much to adapt quickly. I was chosen as employee of the month and in the next contract, I was designated as an Assistant Chief Reception.

Clear blue sky and silky desert in Africa

I had visited more than 50 countries in 6 of 7 continents in the world: Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Europe, North America, and South America. Of all the countries I visited, the most memorable journey was Antarctica, the South Pole. I saw penguins jumping from the iceberg and huge whales that welcomed the cruise ship with their tail.

There, I felt I can get this opportunity because of the kindness and greatest of Allah SWT. I realized that impossible only with my power I could see the beauty of the world. Alhamdulillah.

Cruising in Antarctica, the South Pole

And The Stage Still Continue…

I didn’t renew my contract as a sailor in April 2017. I ended my journey on the boat and back to Indonesia. Even so, I tried many ways to back to work in Japan.

Several months later, it was 2018, one of my seniors offered me an opportunity to work in Japan as an Indonesian Jisshuusei interpreter which I am still doing until now. I am feeling blessed to be able to learn business Japanese in the past few years so that I can give my very best to the company I am working for and get them impressed with my work.

My message is, effort in chasing a dream will never become useless. It might not come right after but it will, even in a different shape.