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Ai Yugo - the Japanese student who came from Tokyo in a quest to learn Bengali – GetBengal story

23 February, 2024 16:58:19
Ai Yugo - the Japanese student who came from Tokyo in a quest to learn Bengali – GetBengal story

Ai Yugo is a 20-year-old who has come from Tokyo to Kolkata to study Bengali. He is currently a student of the Foreign Studies department of Jadavpur University. Not just Bengali language, Yugo is studying Rabindrasangeet to be more specific. I met this shy and happy youth on a Spring morning in JU. We sat for an adda over a cup of tea. He is a great tea lover and while in Japan he had heard from the elders of his family a lot about Darjeeling and Assam tea He even told us how Darjeeling and Assam tea have reached every household in Tokyo.

Ai Yugo with Suman Sadhu, content head of Bongodorshon

Yugo studied in a Tokyo school and was brought up there. While a student at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, he developed a love for Indian languages, particularly Bengali. He gradually grasped the life and times of stalwarts like Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Swami Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore. He started reading books on the freedom struggle of both India and Bangladesh. And that is when he fell in love with both the countries, particularly with Bengal and its culture. He was greatly inspired by the Bengali freedom fighters who had usurped the colonial British rulers. Tagore’s song Jodi tor daak shuney keu na aashe gave him strength and inspired him to go ahead in life. For the last few months, Yugo has been staying at Netaji Nagar. He loves travelling in Kolkata’s autos, though he has still not tested the yellow taxi or the trams.  

Yugo, experiencing Kolkata's Durga Pujo


When asked by GB what is the difference between Kolkata and Tokyo, he said: “Tokyo is my heartthrob and like Kolkata life is chaotic there too. But Kolkata is truly the City of Joy. Though I had a language problem in the beginning, I was warmly accepted here. In Tokyo, I live in a quiet locality, although I am still loving the noise and chaos of Kolkata. Also, the relation between Bengal and Japan is since long.” Japanese emperor Hirohito had expressed his gratitude towards Bengal and said: “As long as Japan exists, Bengalis will never die from lack of food or money. Japan will always remain the selfless friend of Bengal.” We know that Rabindranath Tagore had gone to Japan thrice. He had a deep connect with the intellectuals of Japan. After he received the Nobel Prize, the people of Japan were as happy as the Bengalis. In 1995 Japanese author Kenzaburo Oe received the Nobel Prize and his mother said: “I am happy that you are now at the same level as Rabindranath Tagore.” Tagore had always been deeply respected by the Japanese. Every Japanese author knew him and his works.

 Yugo with his friends at Jadavpur University

After World War II, Japan went through a big social change and became westernized. But it is so great to know that even today the youth of Japan have not forgotten Tagore and believe his works are still very relevant. Even great Bengalis like Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Swami Vivekananda, and Rashbehari Bose have influenced the Japanese largely. Yugo said: “Bengalis had largely contributed to defining the character of India and taking society in the right direction. Tagore is a pride for Japan too.” Yugo can read and speak Bengali to some extent. As a student of Tokyo University, he was also introduced to Sukumar Ray and his works. While studying in JU he studied Satyajit Ray’s short stories. It was fun to hear Bengali words from him like ‘Niribili’, ‘Adaanpradan’, and ‘Adarsha’. 

He is also a foodie and loves phuchka. He spends most of his time on campus and is hooked to Youtube and Instagram. Though he hasn’t seen many Bengali films, yet he has seen Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali. However, he is still facing the language barrier as many in Kolkata, especially in markets, people have been talking to him in Hindi as he doesn’t look like a Bengali. But he doesn’t know Hindi either and was amazed at how Bengal people spoke that language. He said: “Though I have come to learn Bengali, I wish to learn other Indian languages too and I have realized Hindi is a dominating language everywhere in India. Everyone here doesn’t understand English, so to make my work easy, I have to learn Hindi.” In an age when the young generation of India and especially the Bengalis are largely influenced by the West and have literally forgotten their mother tongue and are used to speaking in a mixture of Hindi, English and Bengali, Yugo is a ray of hope, and so is love for the Bengali language. His phone’s ringtone is Tagore’s song Gram chhara oi ranga matir path. Even the Indian flag peeps on his Facebook profile. And most of his friends here are Bengali students of JU. No doubt Yugo is an inspiration tin a true sense.

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