A Japan lover was born…

I dedicate this blog to my grandfather Ahmed El Kahlaoui. I only knew you for 16 years, but those 16 years were enough to inspire me for the rest of my life.

March 17, 2017, is the big day. That is the day when I take the plane from Amsterdam to Tokyo. Something that has been only a dream is now becoming a reality: Studying in Japan! But before we jump into life in Japan (which this blog will focus on), who am I, and why the heck do I want to go to the other side of the planet and spend 2 years of my life studying in Beppu, Japan? 

On October 26th, 1989, a boy named Zakaria Ennahachi was born. This boy had no clue where life would take him and what he would be doing……

When I was a youngster, I remember watching Dragon Ball Z on Cartoon Network at 10 or so. I enjoyed watching this cartoon a lot. Trunks is my favourite character in this show. Cartoon Network was broadcasting a lot of anime shows back then. Dragon Ball Z, Digimon, Pokémon, MedaBots, Shaman King, Shinzo, Yu-Gi-Oh, Beyblade, Gundam Wing, and probably a lot more. Little did I know this was all God’s plan to lead me on a specific road where I am headed now. I was not aware of the existence of the word ‘anime’ back then. I would watch every single one of those cartoons and would re-watch them again.

At the age of 13, my pal Wesley introduced me to Naruto. This is where things really took off. The anime that were mentioned above were not spoken in Japanese on Dutch television. They were all voiced in either Dutch or English. Japanese was a strange language to me, and I never came in contact with this peculiar language. Naruto was a new anime that came out on the Japanese national television in 2002. It is about a kid who is a ninja with all kinds of special powers. The anime only became dubbed in 2005. When it finally became dubbed, the Japanese version was far ahead in the storyline. This part became critical in my life. I was exposed to the contagious Japanese language, and there was certainly no cure.

I grew up in a Moroccan family where three languages were spoken: Moroccan-Arabic (it is a dialect to Arabic, a.k.a Al-Darija), Berber (Al-Riffia), and Dutch. When my mother moved to the Netherlands, she spoke Moroccan-Arabic, Arabic, French, and English. She did not speak a word Dutch, and her way of communicating with the Dutch locals was English and French. A friend of hers came to our place a lot, and my mother always conversed in English with her. And as you know, when you are a child at a young age, your mind works like a sponge. You will learn a language quickly. So I grew up speaking Dutch, English, and Moroccan-Arabic. My mother did not want the Berber language to be spoken in the house, so we never learned to speak it, though I can understand the language a bit.

This pool of languages always has been of great value to me. I have always been a firm believer that language brings people together. There is something magical in a language. Besides understanding each other through different words and pronunciations, it is through the language you understand each other on a higher level. Language creates friendship, mutual understanding, and respect. I always had an affinity for languages, besides the ones I already spoke.

When I got exposed to the Japanese language by watching Naruto, I started to enjoy the language. After Naruto, I hooked up with Bleach, and this was also in Japanese. The language sounded enjoyable and beautiful to me. After a year of watching Naruto and Bleach, I was able to distinguish the Japanese language from Chinese or, for example, Korean. Within the Japanese language, there is a clear hierarchical structure. For instance, when you talk to an older person, you would use different and longer words to show your respect to this person of age. The more important the person is, the longer the words become and more difficult. As a language lover, this appealed to me, because one would implicitly show his/her respect and gratitude to the listener. The appeal I had for the Japanese language brought me eventually to their culture, the history, the landscape, the food, and the people.

There I went down the rabbit hole that was Japan. My gateway drug was the language, and I never thought I would be such a Japan lover or felt that I would actually go to Japan.

At the age of 19, I reached a crossroad, and I took a turn which, made me who I am today. I could have gone into a path and followed my childhood dream and become an anchorman(!) or go onto a road that may or may not lead me to the international world and eventually Japan. When I was 8 years old, there was a television show in the Netherlands called ‘Geef Nooit Op!’ (Never Give Up!), and there was this kid who wanted to be an anchorman. This inspired me to become an anchorman one day myself. When I was 19, I did a journalism selection test for the study course. I failed the test. So, I had to re-evaluate what I really wanted.

I asked myself the question: ”Where do I want to be in the future?”. The answer was Japan. However, I could not just reach Japan just like that. I had to do a 4-year study course because I had to get a bachelor’s degree that allowed me to enter the international world. I started International Communication & Media in Utrecht. The study course was in English, and this diploma would open the world for me. I graduated in January 2014. But I was still not there. I could not finance anything as multiple scholarship institutions denied me a scholarship. My family could not afford my study. So I had to be patient again and take a long detour.

I started to work at a company as customer support for Electrical Vehicle (EV) charging stations in September 2014. My goal was to save money as much as possible. I grew to become a Software Quality Assurance Analyst within the company. Also known as Software Tester. In August 2016, I finally managed to save up a large sum of money, and it was time to apply for a study in Japan. Before that, I already applied for a study course in Duisburg, Germany, but they did not accept me. I thought heck with it; I will just apply for a master’s degree in Japan. I applied for a study course at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific Studies University in Beppu. And in November, they returned to me stating they accepted me to their university!

Now imagine yourself as a 19-year-old who had to take his/her biggest decision in his/her life. I am glad I chose this path because now I am finally going to fulfil my dream. There is a Japanese saying 七転び八起き (fall seven times, stand up 8). I keep this proverb close to me as this really applies to me. Be patient and never give up on your dreams. Persistence will pay off. Never Give Up! It took me 8 years, but I am finally going to the land of the rising sun.

A 27 old guy from Berber descent but speaks Moroccan-Arabic, born in the Netherlands, studies and prefers to write in English, goes to Japan…

On October 26th, 1989, a boy named Zakaria Ennahachi was born. This boy had no clue where life would take him and what he would be doing……

Masha’Allah