The Cagli Project
About the Project Authors Subjects Cagli Partners Faculty Contact
A Day in the Life of Tomo...

Tomo Maekawa is looking for a fiancée.

Maekawa, a 28-year-old from Hiroshima, Japan, came to Italy to study the Italian language and to further his love of soccer in hopes of becoming professional. But really, he came to Cagli, a small town of about 10,000 people in Le Marche region, to meet a girl.

“I want an Italian woman because they are beautiful,” he smiled.
Before traveling to Italy, Maekawa ended his engagement in Japan, leaving at home a heartbroken woman. But he had new hopes of meeting his future bella donna.

In Cagli, where he arrived in December 2004, Maekawa has felt a clash of cultures: the only Japanese man to currently studying at the Atrium, an Italian language and culture institute.

Just another day in the life of Tomo.

After six months in Cagli, he finds himself having a similar lifestyle here as he did in Japan.

“I have always lived alone, so my lifestyle in the house isn’t that different from what I have been used to for the past 15 years,” he chuckled. “The food is very different, but Japanese people like Italian food.”

Maekawa has two younger brothers. One is an English and math teacher, and the other studies English in the morning and works as a waiter in a casino at night. Although his brother was an English teacher, Tomo didn’t want to learn the English language.

“I have never bothered to learn the English language because I think it is ugly,” Maekawa said.

While he is here studying, he takes his time and relaxes. After he eats, he takes a nap. In Japan when he worked, he couldn’t do that.



Tomo bonds with some Cagliese while working up a sweat.

Not only does Maekawa take classes, but he also has joined two soccer leagues in town. He plays at night with the locals in town on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

“I want to go pro, but I know that my time has run out because I am getting too old,” Maekawa said. “I collect soccer jerseys and I traveled all the way to Parma to get my jersey signed by Gilardino. It is my most prized possession.”

He owns seven different jerseys from different Italian teams — none of which come at a small cost. He has two favorite Italian teams: Milano and Parma. The jersey that was signed by Gilardino, currently considered the best young Italian soccer player, would be a prize for nearly any Italian.

Playing soccer has enabled Maekawa to make friends.

Marco Mezzolani and his brother Roberto, soccer players who work at the weekly market, have tried to help Maekawa meet Italian women.

“I know that Tomo has met Marco’s friends that are girls,” Colonelli said. “But he has no stories with Italian girls being his girlfriends. For now they are all his friends.”



Tomo studies Italian in the Atrium.

Because he comes from a place where Latin is not the root of his language, he found it hard at first to adjust. With no knowledge of Italian and speaking only a few words of English, he has had to learn in a classroom where only Italian is spoken.

At the Atrium, where students come from around the world, the only common language is Italian.

“I chose to go to school in Cagli because it is a small town that is not popular among the Japanese,” he said. “If I went there with other Japanese people, I would end up speaking Japanese, and that wouldn’t help me learn or exercise my Italian.”

Despite living in a small town where he is among the minority, Maekawa has been welcomed by all of the townspeople.

“It took three months to make friends, but now I hang out with people in Cagli,” Maekawa said in Italian. “It was not that hard an adjustment because the townspeople were always very nice, fun to be with and happy to have me.”



Tomo takes a picture to remember his time in Cagli.

He acknowledged the fact that things might be different in Japan because he was a working man, whereas in Cagli he is a full-time student. In Japan he worked in the car industry with all of the big car brands.

Maekawa starts out his day by studying in the Atrium. He has language courses every morning for three hours. Twice a week he has a class in guided conversation for another two hours in the afternoon.

“I like Tomo very much,” said Maria Rita Colonelli, his professor at the Atrium. “He is very nice and always jokes in the morning. He likes to make conversation and often speaks about his life. I am not his teacher, and he is not the student: we are friends.”

For all of his courses, Maekawa comes fully equipped with his Japanese-Italian computerized translator.

“It was very difficult to learn the alphabet because in Japan every sign is a syllable, and the grammar is also very different,” Maekawa said.

Tomo shows off the skills he hopes will help him go pro.


“I have not found any girls to date,” Maekawa admitted, “only friends.”

Maekawa knows that he is going to end up in Japan where he will focus on finding a job. But he plans to travel to Italy frequently. If he finds a girl in Italy, he has said that there is a 50 percent chance that he will stay here.

“There are positives and negatives between the countries,” he said. “In Italy everything is more relaxed, where in Japan there is a strict schedule.”He is still in search of his fiancée that he can travel the country with, one he can possibly take back to Japan.

“For now I am Italian,” he laughed, “so I am looking for an Italian woman.”


Story by Christen Grasso

Pictures by Maggie Mednikoff

Video by Charles Duva

Web Design by Annie Curran