Connor Forrest is headed to Japan on July 1! That isn’t just cool because he loves Japanese culture and even speaks the language, but also because he’s the winner of our Act for Japan contest.
We partnered up with People To People and invited y'all to send in vids explaining why you’d be the perf person to volunteer in Japan for two weeks. And none other than Jordin Sparks picked the winner! Check out his winning video here:
Before we bid him “sayonara” as he heads off to the Land of the Rising Sun, Connor told us about his love for Japanese culture and what he wants to do in Japan to help. And he taught us some neat Japanese phrases we can use!
ACT: It's cool someone so into Japan won the contest! What aspects of Japan really interest you?
CONNOR: I have always loved Asian cultures. I am not sure why. I think it's because when I was five years old, a really impressionable age, my favorite movie was "Mulan." I would watch it all the time, and I even told my parents one day, "I am going to move to China and marry Mulan!"
As a freshman in high school, I decided to take Japanese class and that's when my love for Japan began. I studied every day and did well. I was a little Japanese nerd! Ha! I also had an amazing teacher, Mr. Marsh and he really helped my love for the language and culture grow. I am so thankful for him because, without him, I would have never had an opportunity to learn Japanese and I would not be where I am today -- heading off to Japan!
MTV ACT: What aspects of Japan really interest you?
CONNOR: There are so many different things I love about Japan! The best thing about Japan would have to be the people. Everybody is just so kind and everyone is treated with respect. Plus the Japanese are just so fun. I have many friends from Japan, and each one of them is just a character! I just think they are so cool.
I also really like to listen to Japanese pop music. While it’s great to listen to, it also helps me expand my vocabulary, and memorize words and phrases easier. I really like Koda Kumi, Meisa Kuroki, 2NE1 and many others.
Photo: NE1 killin it at the MTV Video Music Awards in Japan earlier this month. (Getty)
One thing that people may find surprising is that I am not really an anime nerd. I have met a lot of people who think that Japan is full of green and blue-haired people who run around shooting energy beams at giant Gundam robots! Haha. While that would be pretty awesome, these people seem to think that this aspect of Japanese culture is really what Japan is all about. In reality, this pop culture is only a small portion of the entirety of Japan. Don't get me wrong, I love a good Pokemon game or a Hayao Miyazaki movie, but I know there is much more to Japanese culture than its anime.
ACT: Can you teach us a few cool words or phrases we could use?
Yabai (yah-bye): Oh my gosh!; That’s crazy!
This is probably the most overused word with the younger generation. It is used ALL THE TIME. Be prepared!
Enryo shinai (en-rdhree-o she-na-ee)
This is a phrase that translates loosely to “Don’t be shy.” Some Japanese people may act unsure or shy around new people. Simply say this phrase to reassure them that it’s okay.
ACT: What do you plan to do in Japan to help out?
CONNOR: Ever since the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami last year, I have wanted to hop on a plane and help clean up and rebuild. So I am very excited for this opportunity! I plan to help clean up, rebuild and I would also love to be an English tutor if I could!
Photo: People To People volunteering in the Land of the Rising Sun. (People To People)
ACT: What was it like to learn you won? What was it like to have Jordin Sparks pick you?
CONNOR: IT WAS CRAZY AMAZING!! Oh my gosh. I totally freaked out. I picked up the phone and Scott Cocking [the Senior Director at People to People Ambassador Programs] answered, saying Jordin Sparks had picked me! I was stunned.
This experience just reaffirms to me that positive affirmations really do work! I have been saying for months to everyone that I would be going to Japan this summer -- yet I really didn’t have the funds for it. Then all of a sudden this contest pops up and I win. I still cannot believe it. This kind of thing doesn’t happen to small town kids like me. It’s crazy to think about still!!