ONE outgoing Japanese woman is having the time of her life in Phnom Penh teaching youngsters at local schools how to play the trumpet.
Rika Nishiura, 33, is a teacher from NGO Japan Team of Young Human Power, an organisation funded by the Cambodia branch of the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
Each Thursday afternoon, Nishiura shows up at the Hun Sen Bun Rany Wat Phnom High School and teaches trumpet.
The mother of two daughters hails from a town of 40,000 people called Kainan, in Japan’s Kansai area.
She was employed in Kainan selling stocks for the Mizuho Securities company, but then took an exam through a local JICA branch and as a result, arrived in Phnom Penh in September, 2010 for a two-year stint as a music teacher.
“When I was a child in the 5th grade I started to play the trumpet,” Nishiura said.
Later, she volunteered to play for the residents of a local elderly people’s home and was a member of the Kainan Wind Orchestra.
In Phnom Penh every Thursday Nishiura (nickname Sujahta) is found with a group of 7th graders helping them hit the right notes with their trumpets. The students played in the parade in November during the visit of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
Nishiura loves working with the students.
“They like music and I’m so glad to meet them and play music with them. It is a good time for me,” she said.
Nishiura also appreciates the opportunity to be outside the parameters of regular society in Japan. “Most Japanese people, if they don’t know you, find it hard to talk to you,” she said.
“But I always like to say hello to strangers and ask where they are from.”
Since she was a young girl in Japan, Nishiura has been told she should be a comedian.
When she was in junior high school, at age 16, she visited London to study English for four months. Since then she’s visited the United Kingdom a dozen times to see concerts by the punk-goth band The Damned, visiting at various times Manchester, Leeds, Brighton, Edinburgh, Glasgow and other places, meeting all the members of the band.
She has also visited France, Italy, Poland, Belgium, Romania, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
Her mother takes care of her two daughters, Kaede, 14, and Hijiri, 11, while she’s working in Cambodia.
Kaede is one of the top speakers of English for her age group in Japan and is a member of the local English Speaking Society. She was honoured with an appearance before the Emperor of Japan’s family for her linguistic talents.
One of the things Nishiura likes about Cambodia is the slower pace of life when compared to Japan.
“I’m Japanese so I always hurry up,” she said. “Cambodian people go more slowly. Maybe Japanese people hurry too much and we get stressed. Maybe it’s good for health to have a slower life.”
All the musical instruments, including drums, clarinets, trombones and many others, were donated by people from Japan.
“Every school in Cambodia should have a music class and an art class,” she said.
JHP has two programs in Cambodia, one for building schools.
Since 1992 it has constructed 250 buildings all over Cambodia.
The other program features an education support team, of which Nishiura is part, specialising in marching bands and music education.
“I am the first member with JICA cooperation,” she said.
She is joined at Hun Sen Bun Rany Wat Phnom High School by director Nget Sem, English teacher Noun Chan Borey and music teacher Leng Phally.