Home > Local News > Cambodian restaurant owner in Tokyo starts teaching at university in Phnom Penh

Cambodian restaurant owner in Tokyo starts teaching at university in Phnom Penh

Setharin holds up a school textbook for Cambodian children that she
compiled at her restaurant “Angkor Thom” in Machida, Tokyo. (Mainichi)

December 3, 2010
Mainichi Japan

A Cambodian restaurant owner in Tokyo
has started teaching at a university in her home country based on her
experience of spending 36 years in Japan.
Penn Setharin, 56, has been
working as a bridge between Japan and Cambodia for over 30 years while
running her own Cambodian restaurant in Machida, Tokyo. She was
appointed as a linguistic anthropology professor at the graduate school
of the Royal University of Phnom Penh earlier this year.
Setharin will travel back and
forth between the two countries and give lectures to Cambodian students
in Phnom Penh. She will teach the effects of language on society based
on her experience of living in Japan for many years.

first came to Japan in 1974 as the first female student sponsored by
the Cambodian government. After completing studies at a
Japanese-language school attached to Tokyo University of Foreign
Studies, she entered Tokyo Gakugei University.

the rise of Pol Pot in Cambodia prevented Setharin from going back to
her own country. The Cambodian Civil War took the lives of her parents
and four other family members.

It was not until the war came to an end in 1991 that she could finally set foot on Cambodian soil again.

an elementary school in her home country Setharin was shocked to see
school textbooks that contained illustrations of soldiers holding guns
and saying, “Kill the enemy.”

Pol Pot regime collapsed in 1979, but the civil war continued for many
years, making it natural for students and teachers in the country to
talk about the war at school.

education system is crumbling,” felt a concerned Setharin. She started
sending Cambodian translations of Japanese children’s books to her home
country while running her own restaurant named “Angkor Thom” and
teaching her native language as a lecturer at Tokyo University of
Foreign Studies.

1995, she opened a vocational training center for women in the suburbs
of Phnom Penh to promote women’s participation in society.

Setharin entered Hosei University’s Graduate School of Humanities in 2004 and received a doctor’s degree in March this year.

dream of teaching Cambodian students came true when she was appointed
as a professor at the Royal University of Phnom Penh following
graduation in Japan. A series of lectures on Japanese literature and
other topics that she gave at the university while visiting were highly
acclaimed by school officials.

40 students attended Setharin’s first class at the university on Nov.
4. Cambodian students asked a lot of questions throughout the class and
told their professor that they enjoyed her class very much.

“I received a lot of energy from my students,” Setharin said after the class, which lasted about three hours.

Japan, I learned the Japanese mentality of ‘Wa’ (meaning harmony or
peace in Japanese), in which people place great importance on kindness
and cooperation. I want to teach the dignity of Japan (to Cambodian
students),” says Setharin.

Her next goal is to build a women’s college to improve the social status of Cambodian women.
Categories: Local News
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