Well look, I really don’t want to buy into stereotypes – but Kazuya is sooooooo the Zen master to my flitting travels in Colombia. We met in a happy hostel in Cali and made firm friends with a very mixed bag of other travellers, starting off several nights danced away in the city’s salsa clubs. Since impressing the caleños no end with our moves, we’ve continued up the country with that same group, sampling some truly heart-racing coffee in the zona cafetera and marveling at the complete lack of raucous New Year’s gaiety in Medellín in the process. Kazuya is one of a seemingly growing number of young Japanese professionals who’ve managed to swim against the current caused by their parents and grandparents’ working habits – and quit jobs in order to make time in their lives to actually enjoy the money they’ve been earning. Two years of constant travel under his belt later, Kazuya has Zenned his way through the USA, Europe, the Middle East and South East Asia…next stop???? I’m not even going to guess!
How has being Japanese left its mark on you?
I never think about that. I was born in Japan so therefore I’m Japanese. I was normal in Japan, but I’m not normal now because I left. Most Japanese people work in the same company, but I think the younger generation is changing…they might change jobs or companies. It’s not normal to travel – we only have one week’s holiday a year. It’s unusual to do something like come to South America, but I’ve actually met so many Japanese 30-year-olds who’ve quit their jobs. They had money, but not time and so decided to quit.
What would your 13-year-old self think about you if they met you?
I was a junior high school student, oohhhhhh I was so young! At 13…he had hope. I’m an engineer, but he wanted to be an inventor, like to develop rockets or time machines.
I think he’d be happy – he was so serious, more serious than normal people. So he would think I’m a bad man, but so interesting. ”Wow, he changed!” he’d say. He wouldn’t think I’d be travelling. I hadn’t been overseas when I was 13.
If you could meet your 13-year-old self, what would you say to him?
See everything, including what’s not so interesting to you. He was just thinking about inventing, he didn’t care about anything else. And I’d tell him to read more books, read about everything. I didn’t like to read books, but now I like to read sometimes.
How do you make decisions?
When I think, I can’t get an answer. So I spend time thinking and then finally I choose by inspiration. Otherwise, I’m advised by friends – then I can choose.
Do you think you’re on the right path? How do you know?
I hope travelling was the correct decision. Now I’m so happy – but sometimes I’m worried about my life after travelling. But it’s my life now. I’m not always thinking about the future. I liked my job but it was just a job. My life was my job. I wanted to change something – maybe the company. I needed a change. I was bored, so I travelled.
I didn’t have an interest in travel, I just quit my job to change something. I didn’t have the idea to travel. The idea was inspiration.
I though three months was enough (I never took three months’ vacation before) I thought I would find a job after three months, but no it was much more. The turning point happened in Turkey. Istanbul is a connection point for travellers, so I talked to everyone and decided to continue.
I didn’t speak English or any language except Japanese. I had no interest to. So the first destination was the USA. I bought a ticket and decided that if I didn’t like it in one week, I would return to Japan. But it was easier than I thought.
How do you feel when you think about your future?
I don’t like thinking about the future. For now, I’m deciding between going to Cuba or Venezuela.
What fascinates you about Japan?
Oh I don’t know, it’s normal! It’s really normal! (pauses) Oh I know. The people want to be the same. Like if one person does something, the other wants to do it too. It’s easier for some people.
Most people look happier to me. In Japan, we think we’re a rich country, and everything is about money. We think we’re happy, like Africa is so sorry. But when I was visiting some poor countries, I saw that everyone looked happy. They had time for their family and friends.
(Mutters) I’m interesting, I’m interesting, I’m interesting….why? I think I’m a changeable person. I can decide anything, I just need inspiration. It’s easy for me to change my life – I think in the future it will be easier and easier. Now I’m already 30, usually we have to get married. We need stability in these years, this age. But I threw everything away. It’s dangerous, but it’s so interesting. I want a more interesting life.
What scares you about Japan?
Sometimes people care too much – like I have to say yes to everything. It’s from Confusionism. If I have a different opinion, sometimes I can’t say. Older people have an advantage, as there’s a lot of respect for them, they’re so strong (including with the salary in a company) and everyone agrees with them.
The fact that we have wars. Why we keep weapons and start wars. I think it’s just the thinking of rich people, I can’t understand the sense of war.
I’m so shy. It’s really difficult for me to talk to people. When I was in Japan, I was working in a building and so met the same people everyday. After starting travelling, I could meet so many people – amazing for me! At first, I couldn’t speak, my English was so poor. I started in the USA, I couldn’t understand the people, I could only say “How are you?” English people speak more slowly, and so I could talk a little. I think English and Spanish are similar. Now I translate English to Spanish, not Japanese to Spanish.
What do you wish for to make the world a better place?
For peace, not war. To throw away every weapon, especially atomic bombs, it’s a problem. And for unification of language – for easy communication. It would be good for everything.