Japan is one of the most populated countries in the world, with a population numbering over 126 million. Increasingly, immigrants have flocked to Japan, including many Greeks.
Forming a new life and community in a foreign country often proves very difficult, and it’s particularly hard for the Greek immigrants in Japan to find other Greek natives near them and form a community.
A group of intrepid Greeks found a way, using the power of technology, to form a community for the Greek immigrants living there–a virtual community called “Greeks of Japan”.
The heart and soul of this community is Greek native Fay Savaidis who works night and day to make this small community a warm, welcoming piece of home for Greek immigrants living in Japan.
Creating a community of Greeks in Japan
Fay Savaidis has been living in Japan for the past 20 years. Over ten years ago, Savaidis had the remarkable idea to connect Greeks living in Japan to other Greeks living in the country and abroad.
She then decided to start an online community of Greeks living abroad, as both a way of linking those with a common heritage together, and of transmitting aspects of Greek culture to Greeks who were born and raised outside of the country, like her own children.
Savaidis’ website “Greeks of Japan,” which she created with the help of Christos Makiyama, launched in 2010. Since then, its members have increased exponentially, and the site has served as a reminder of home for many Greeks living so far away from their native country.
The Greek woman living in Japan was also inspired to create the website after reading a book called “Greeks in the Far Orient,” by Anastasios Tamis, which chronicles the history of Greek immigrants in Asia.
Along with Greeks in Japan, the site is popular amongst Japanese people who are passionate about Greece and Greek culture. Some of the Japanese people who have joined the online community of Greeks and philhellenes have children who live in Greece or are married to Greeks and want to learn more about Greek culture.
In addition to cultural exchange and community building, Savaidis also holds monthly Greek lessons for all those interested in learning the language, no matter their age.
The Greeks in Japan website includes countless resources for those looking to connect to the Mediterranean country, including lists of Greek restaurants in Japan, Greek stores with products like feta and olive oil, Orthodox Christian churches, Greek language schools, and other relevant events.
The community has grown
Savaidis was born and raised in Ptolemaida, which is north of Kozani in Greece. She moved to Japan in 1989 after graduating from college, where she met her Japanese husband.
When she first moved to Japan 20 years ago, being a westerner in Japan was like being an alien. The Greek native has not faced any discrimination since moving to Japan, however.
Now, decades later, that has changed and Japan has become a popular destination for many westerners.
Savaidis has two children, Savas and Athina, who were born and raised in Japan.
Making friends in Japan can be quite difficult at first, Savaidis states, because the Japanese keep their distance at first. Once they get to know you, however, you are friends forever.
Savaidis has no intention of returning to Greece, as Japan has become home to her and her family. She visits Greece with her family in the summer. Her children love Greece because of the lovely Mediterranean climate and the friendly, kind Greek people.
After creating the site, Savaidis never expected that the community would grow so much. She feels that her mission to unify Greeks in Japan and around the world has been accomplished.