Tag Archives: Japan

Konnichiwa from Beppu the onsen city!

The view from our dormitory lounge.

My exchange studies began well in Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University. The city of Beppu and region itself have been delightful and the life is so different here. It has been quite a learning process to get hang of everything (and a money sink) but nonetheless, it has been a nice experience.

The pictoresque twin towers of APU

In TAMK, I’m a media student but here in APU I’ve been studying more common topics: Japanese language, history and multicultural studies. The university offers some media courses but they are more analytical than practical ones that we have in TAMK (well, APU has media lab courses but they are in Japanese). My media studies here have been about analysing media theories and its history. Basically we have been watching movies and reading texts and then analysed them by discussing or writing essays about them. It has been interesting change of study style. And even though I ended up studying more non-media courses, it is nice and interesting to acquire common knowledge about this part of the world – I also think that the knowledge is very valuable if I try to get into Japanese media market in the future!

The lunches are very nice and tasty in APU cafeteria.

The study style is very different in APU when compared with TAMK. APU is an academic university so the studies are more about listening to lectures and writing essays. It took some time to get used to it. The class schedule can also be quite daunting: earliest classes start around 9 a.m. and last ones end at 8 p.m.! The school days can be quite long, depending on what courses you pick (I’m still wondering how the actual degree students here cope with it because they have even more courses than I!). APU does not have separate lunch hour for students and therefore, we have to schedule our lunches or snack breaks by ourselves – which might be hard if you have multiple subsequent lectures on a day. It is not a surprise that multiple third-party food stalls dot the university yard, providing grab-and-go sustenance for the busy students.

Beppu offers multiple nice activities to do during my spare time. The region is especially famous for its big number of onsen (hot springs), e.g. “Hells of Beppu”, but there are of course many other tourist attractions like the monkey mountain, aquarium, shopping centers etc.

The monkey park in Beppu
Otherwordly hot spring at Hells of Beppu attraction.

The area is also very beautiful: it is nice to stroll around the city and check out the Japanese architecture and nature because it is so different in comparison with Finland. There are always interesting new side alleys, little shrines and nooks to explore. I’m not a big foodie person but it is still very delightful to try out the local restaurants because the price level is a lot cheaper here! Obviously, the food tastes crazy good too – even though I have to evade seaweed and raw fish almost all the time (not a big friend of those).

Lots of sweet and snack stalls were present at the Christmas fair of Beppu

See you!

 

別府からこんにちは!Warm Greetings from Beppu!

Did you know that in Finnish Beppu really sounds like a soft way to say butt? Needless to say, my exchange has been full of bad jokes on that accord!!

Welcome to Beppu!

Jokes aside, my study exchange in Beppu and in Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU) has been an absolutely amazing experience. Initially, I had the choice between Beppu (APU) and Kōfu (Yamanashi Gakuin), both quite small cities but Beppu in the south and Kōfu a couple of hours outside of Tokyo, and I was wondering if I should have chosen to go to the Yamanashi prefecture after all. Now, after living in Beppu for half a year I’m glad I chose this way since I got to experience so much, both in and outside of the city.

Photoshooting kimonos at the neighbouring beach

Beppu in itself does not seem to offer much, given it is a small city in the Oita prefecture, but during these past months, I discovered loads of interesting things to see and do. Beppu is famous for having approximately 2,000 hot springs or onsens across the area. We were lucky enough to have our dorm right next to a large, a rather modern onsen with both inside and outside baths, and needless to say, it became a regular spot for us to visit.

View to the next door onsen (on the left) after Typhoon Trami

In addition to bathing onsens, there was also a famous area called the Hells of Beppu, Beppu no jigoku, which held eight large natural hot springs of various colour that were too hot for people to bathe in. The jigoku area was covered in awfully sulfur-scented steam but offered some of the most beautiful views in the city.

Path to Umi Jigoku

Our massive campus was located on top of a nearby mountain and offered a breathtaking view down to the city – as long as it wasn’t foggy!

View from campus on a sunny day…
…and on a foggy day.

Studies in APU were very different from the ones I had gotten used to in TAMK and quite curiously the university did not offer us any actual media and art subjects, meaning we had to assemble our study plan from language studies and a variety of subjects that kind of supported our topics back in Finland. I didn’t personally agree on all the teaching methods of the professors in APU as for me it felt like they didn’t have a common guideline for the lesson structures or especially for the exams, but I also found some subjects I really enjoyed! One of them was the Japanese language course I took, and I am determined to keep studying the language in Finland as well! Compared to TAMK, the days in APU could get tiringly long (I had from 10:30 to 19:30 twice a week + commuting to campus 30min one way) and we often got tons of homework, resulting in less exploring during weeks than I would have liked to do. In that sense, I am really glad to be back in a practical university!

Studies starting in 3 2 1!

As it’s common for students in Japan to join in one or more extracurricular activity circles in the university, I was also looking forward to finding an interesting circle to join. APU had a reputation in that accord as it had tens of circles to choose from, including a traditional taiko drum group, large and loud dance group Yoshha-Koi and several other dance groups and others. In the end, I joined a Japanese archery (kyūdō) circle and was the only Western student to do so! I was really happy that I was allowed to join and practice with them, especially after hearing how some universities have banned Western students from joining their more traditional circles.

Training on a makiwara target

When I think back to all the adventures I had during this past half a year I am really happy I chose to come to Japan and to Beppu. As commuting to the nearest bigger city Oita was cheap and took only fifteen minutes by train, we could explore there during weekends and even after shorter days at uni. In addition to the Oita prefecture I had a chance to visit Fukuoka, Hiroshima (a tour arranged by APU), Osaka, Sapporo and Tokyo. I made countless of amazing memories and most importantly, met people from different backgrounds and made friends who I know I’ll be keeping in contact with.

It wouldn’t be an exchange without all the group selfies!

I feel that even though I got to see so much, I have yet only scratched the surface of what all Japan has to offer and I know I will be coming back in the future.

またね、日本!

From Aichi with love

Greetings from Japan’s Aichi prefecture, where I have been doing my exchange studies since september 2018 in the composition department of Aichi University of the Arts, or AUA for short. The spelling of the prefecture’s name, ”Aichi”, contains characters meaning ”love” and ”know”, which is very appropriate since the place is quite lovely!

The studies here have been quite similar to what I’ve been used to in Finland. There are the usual solfege and theory subjects, as well as private composition lessons and concerts for performing the students’ pieces. The focus is mainly on European music, perhaps with a little more stylistic spread than in Finland, but traditional and modern Japanese music has been covered as well during intensive courses.

I made it my goal to travel as much as possible during my free time, both in the areas near the university and a little further as well. Since this was my first trip to Japan, I wanted to experience all the ”basic stuff” during the exchange, such as going to a hot spring bath, seeing the world-famous Miyajima torii gate and trying the weird foods you always see in traveling programs.

The local studying culture in general is not particularly different from that of Finland. However, because of university tuition fees, practically all students have to do part-time work. I’m amazed at their ability to finish schoolwork and produce great pieces despite the time and energy they have to put into their part-time jobs. A lot of times I’ve witnessed the overworked poor things sleeping or dozing off on classes. Regarding student work in general, I had heard rumors of immense amount of schoolwork in Japan, but at least in my own experience I feel the amount of work is approximately the same as in Finland. That may however be more indicative of the huge amount of work required in the music field regardless of country.

For anyone considering doing their exchange period in Japan, I can wholeheartedly recommend AUA. The school is in a naturally beautiful area and you don’t get the culture shock of being thrown into a crowded neighborhood since day one, but at the same time it’s quite near to Japan’s 4th largest city, Nagoya, which in turn has great traffic connections when you’d like to travel a little further away.

 

Business in Japan

Japan is a country very different from Denmark and Finland.
I have been here in Tokyo for 2.5 months so far and it has been a crazy experience!
Currently I am doing my internship as a sales intern at a start up coming called
Beyond Borders, which is a company that deals in real estate and it has been
the busiest time of my life. The company growing fast and we recently moved
to a new office so.. YAY!

Anyway.. As a sales intern, I am not really an intern but actually function as a full-time employee. I work as long hours as the full-timers, I have the same responsibilities and I am in charge of managing a huge amount of customers.
So how long is a general working day for me? Well, first of all I get up 7.30 in the morning and make it to work by 9AM (There is a 30 minute walk to the office, so need to get up well in time for breakfast), I then work until 1 o’clock and have around 1 hour for my lunchbreak and finally I end work at 6PM.

With that said, there is a lot of Zangyo and my longest day has been a whopping 12 hours!
Of course, in Japan there is also time for fun and that’s where nomkai comes into play.

Nomikai is a sort of drinking party together with your boss and co-workers and it is an
incredibly good time for bonding and just overall having fun and relaxing a bit more than
the somewhat tense atmoshphere that can sometimes be at a serious day at the office!

When I have a day off and actually have time to do something other than work and visa related things, I tend to spend it on exploring Tokyo. So far I have walked aroudn most of Shibuya and Shinjuku and have also been to various other areas due to the nature of my job.

Japan is an amazingly beautiful country with many shrines and a great view at night (Sorry I don’t have any night life photos of the city), but I promise it’s great!

Finally, as I worked in Finland last year I guess I have some experience to compare the two working cultures.
As I’ve already mentioned working in Japan is a lot tougher due to the many extra hours of work, possible overtime (which often is the case in this business) and  a stronger social hierachy.

While this company is a start-up, they are not exactly your traditional Japanese company, but still has some traits of traditional Japanese working life.

Overall, I have loved this experience so far and I definitely recommend trying out something similar if you are really looking to get hands on experiene!

Konnichiwa from Tokyo

Hello everyone,

I am doing my practical training in Tokyo. My work place is small cafe and shop. The unique thing about this shop is that it’s a Finland themed. The owner of this cafe loves Finland alot and was an exchange student in Finland in 1989. She speaks finnish a little bit and speak english well. This is a lot easier for me because I don’t speak japanese fluently. I know some japanese and I understant a little bit of japanese. Sometimes I am little embarrassed that I speak japanese so little, but that has not been a problem so far. Sometimes I do customer service at the cafe. It is little diffucult but I am usually told what to say and how to act. I am lucky that I found a place where it is not that big problem. Of course I should have studied japanese a little more, but so far it has not caused any problems. My main job is probably cooking and helping in the cafe. Another big thing I do at the shop is helping packing product to department stores and customers. Sometimes even making or altering products. Like making paper fans (uchiwa) or fabric frames. I also keep one cooking lesson per week with the help of my boss Michiko-san.

My daily life in tokyo maily revolvels around work. I eat breakfast before work and after work I eat dinner. In the evening I am too tired to do anything so my sightseeing and shopping is left for free days. On my free days I rest or I have something planned for those days. With the help of my boss Michiko-san I have been to some great palces and have had company to those places. Few times I have been to sightseeing with Michiko-san and few other people through work. I have also visited few places with a girl from the finnish language lesson that is kept at Michiko-san shop. I have not been to many places alone because it is a little scary to go alone. Because Michiko-san had a meeting in Nasu in the beginnig I also got to go there.

Working here has been a good experience. Mainly because the service culture is different. Everything is so different that I can not possible tell everything. I think the biggest difference is the way we think about customers. I have heard that in Japan the customers is like a god. I have seen this to be almost right. Another way I think I find a difference is the way japanese people treat customers. This is the thing a want to learn but I have only been able to grasp a little bit it. I have had few conversations with Michiko-san about these things. For her these things come naturally and I have hard time with them. In reality she sometimes has hard time with customers and customers service. Because she has to be kind to customers and help but not only that sometimes she has to act and this is hard for her. One example comes to mind right away. This old lady that lives near comes to the shop every week and she is a kind lady, but when she comes to the shop, she drinks beer and want us to have a conversation with her even though we have other things to do. We have to be nice to her and serve her because she is a customer. She is probably the hardest customer we have. In Japan I think this is the biggest thing. Serving a customer and having a conversation with them even though it might take time of other things.

I have tried my best to discribe my experience but there is just too much that I can not  possible write everything. I tried to write the most important and memorable thing. I hope you got so kind of grasp of what kind of experience I have had.

Greetings from Onomichi!

こんにちは!尾道へようこそ。

I am currently doing a training exhange in Onomichi, Japan. My workplace is a guesthouse called Miharashi-tei and it is located at the hill of a mountain. The guesthouse has amazing views across Onomichi and the Seto inland sea. This is actually my second training exhange in Onomichi. The first one I did two years ago at another guesthouse, and I fell so in love with Onomichi that I wanted to come back. I am staying here for three months, until mid-August.

My work here includes helping around the guesthouse; cleaning, doing the dishes, helping with the breakfast service and also showing guests around the guesthouse and telling them about the history of the place, both in English and Japanese. It is a great way of learning more Japanese!

During my spare time I’m travelling around the country as much as I can. So far I’ve visited Hiroshima, and next I’m planning to go to Osaka. Later in July I was be travelling for a longer time to visit Kyoto and Tokyo.

Working in a japanese guesthouse isn’t that much different from working in Finland. Of course, these kind of guesthouses don’t really exist in Finland, but the daily tasks are similar to that of a finnish hotel. The guesthouse where I’m working is a very old building, almost 100 years old, so good care must be taken when working here. In the guesthouse there are no regular beds, and guests sleep on futon mattresses on the strawmat floow (tatami). The futons are aired outside daily to keep them clean and fresh.

Customer service in Japan is a bit different from Finland. The customer is very important and must be spoken to extremely politely. I can speak basic Japanese, but learning the polite way of talking is bit of a challenge. I don’t want to offend any of the guests, so I will have to keep studying.

 

 

 

Greetings from Japan!

I am working as an internship student at Hokkaido University in Sapporo. So far my journey has been amazing. Luckily I still have some time to have adventures and experience wonderful things. When I arrived I didn’t have much knowledge about Japan. I just knew sushi and Studio Ghibli. But now I know so much more. I know more about the culture and the people and their weird habits.

I am working in a laboratory doing some research about forestry in Japan. I also attended two courses just for fun. Sounds probably weird that I took two courses when I don’t get any credit for them but I wanted the full experience of university life in Japan. Now I know what kind of education system they have here. It differs from the Finnish education system a lot. Here they do a lot more research independently in the lab than in Finland.

I have been doing other things also, not just sat in the lab and lectures. I’ve eaten amazing food and also not so amazing food. My favorites are salmon sushi, okonomiyaki, yakitori, and ramen. The not so great food for me is the seafood. Especially raw seafood. I tasted some sushi with octopus and squid and they were not so good. We barbecued some scallops on a field trip. Definitely not for me. I missed sausage at that moment very much.

 

Okonomiyaki                                                                   Ramen at University café

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sushi

 

Yakitori

Barbequing scallops

 

At first, it was very difficult to get along since I don’t speak Japanese. But luckily there are translators on smartphones. And when shopping I know that the cashiers always ask for some bonus cards and if I pay with cash. So actually it is quite easy to get along. I just smile to people when I don’t understand them. The grocery shopping is quite difficult though. But I just buy what looks good even though I don’t always know what it is.

So far my best experiences have been meeting new people and as Disney fan the lion king musical and a trip to Tokyo Disneyland. I was so happy that I could just cry. The musical was amazing. I had glasses with subtitles so I could understand the dialogs. But like I said the best part is the people. I have met students, scouts (I am a scout myself) and people who work (yes I mean the guys in their suits). It is nice to meet all kinds of people in all ages and see that they all treat me the same way. They are so friendly and excited to meet a foreign person. I met one older lady scout who was an exchange student in Helsinki 40 years ago, she still knew some Finnish. I also met an older man who asked me where I am from and after I told him I am from Finland he started to hum Finlandia. I made friends with a Japanese woman the same age as me in a pub. It is such an amazing thing abroad that you can make new friends anywhere. And I feel that I can tell her everything even though we have known for a very short time. The worst part of making new friends abroad is that I know that my time is limited with them. It is sad to make new friends knowing that I won’t probably see them ever again. I know this because I have already experience from it from my earlier exchange period. Luckily I have made friends with one girl who I can again see back in Finland.

Disneyland

 

This experience has taught me so much about myself. Sounds a bit corny maybe. But I think I have really changed here. I hope that I will keep my new features when I go back to Finland. I have been braver and got more self-confidence. I have had adventures here that I would have probably refused before. So I would definitely recommend everybody to go for exchange or internship abroad, you can’t get these experiences at home.

 

Here are some photos from my journey

Kisses from a walrus and greetings from Japan!

-Miia

日本へようこそ! Welcome to Japan!

First of all, I have to tell this one: not many people in Japan can speak English, preparing some basic Japanese phases is definitely must-do.

I go to Hokkaido University at an intern student. I work in Solid Waste Disposal Laboratory, and basically my work is about researching and supporting master and doctor students in the same laboratory.

After spending two months in Japan, there are many differences between Finnish style and Japanese style in working. The most obvious is Japanese people always are overworking, they always stay in the office although the working time is already over. In large cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, it is common to see many people wearing vest and leaving workplaces at 10-11pm. On the other hand, in studying, the study-load is much more lighter. For graduate students, they have only 2 or 3 courses per semester. Most of the time they do researches and experiments in their assigned laboratory.  However, when talking with my lab-mates, for master and doctor students, if they want to graduate, they have to have at least 3 academic papers on scientific papers or newspapers, which means that they have to do at least 3 experiments and researches during their study. Doing researching is common for doctoral level, but it is the first time I have heard about doing research for master level.

As an intern student, my schedule is not to tight, I can decide what I want to do, when I want to work, and my professor always tries his best to support me in my research and study. However, there are some differences between Japan and Finland obviously:

  • In Japan, they won’t use card. Every place accepts cash, only some very big shopping mall accepts credit card. However, withdrawing money in Japan is easy because you can withdraw money in convenience stores, which are available everywhere. However, remember to contact your card issuer before departing because my friend can’t withdraw money although she use the same card as mine.
  • Not many Japanese people know English, then it would be better if you know some basic Japanese phases.
  • There are not many trash bins in public. One time I had to carry my plastic bottle for 3km for finding a trash bins.
  • Vending machines everywhere. You can find vending machine for each 3-4meters away.
  • When you stand on an elevator, standing on the left side. However, in only Osaka, when using elevator, you have to stand on the right side.

For me, going to Japan for my practical training is one of the best decisions in my life because Japan is always my dream country. Luckily, I have a long vacation after arriving in Japan which are called “Golden week”. I spent my time to travel to a tradition area in Japan – Kansai, including Osaka, Kyoto, Himeji, Kobe.

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Sakura road

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Fushimi-inari in Kyoto

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Children’s day decoration

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Whale shark in Osaka aquarium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the most famous castles in Japan – Himeji Castle

Exchange in Oita, Japan

Studying and living in a new environment has been very exotic and interesting with many fun things, loads of social experiences and with some challenges as well. The courses are varied, and each teacher has their own style: that fact is similar to Finland and probably true no matter where in the world one might travel to. Even inside a country and a culture the people are not all the same.

On the way to Oita University campus

Free-time in Japan can be spent in myriad of ways. Living in a dorm has the upside that there are people around for just hanging out. The city of Oita is much bigger than Tampere, even though the locals consider this city be “small and rural”. When compared to Tokyo, with a population of more than 13 million people, I can see their viewpoint, but from a Finnish perspective Oita is large. Movie theaters, game centers, stores, concerts, onsen, restaurants, karaoke and culture can all be easily found in the city, just a 15-minute train ride away from the campus of Oita University. Sometimes it is also nice to relax by just reading some manga, which can be bought with 100 yen (0,75 €) from a nearby second-hand bookstore.

Studying culture here in Japan differs from Finland in many ways. When it comes to teaching a language, there is a quiz at the start of every single lesson. For me this means a quiz four times a week. It seems like a lot of extra work for the teacher, since they need to make and grade the quizzes. Japanese teaching also values exams more than the Finnish style; at the half way point of the courses, after 2,5 months of teaching we had mid-term exams and in a month, we will have the final exams. Our grade will be based on these exams. And one needs to study a lot for them, for the concept of re-taking an exam does not exist here. TAMK often gives the opportunity for a retake twice, which feels nice and fair to me.

日本から From Japan

Here in the city of Kofu my daily life is full of studying at iCLA, Yamanashi Gakuin University of Liberal Arts. I spend my days watching films and discussing about them and their impact to Japan’s culture, or studying acting guided by a professional actor from States. I also read many novels and poems for the literature class where we talk about them and how they give a shape to their writer’s thoughts and how they reflect society. Of course, I also study nihongo, which means Japanese in Japanese language.

Most of my time goes for doing my homework and reading for exams, but when I have time I try to visit new places, or I hang out with my international friends. We love to go to eat sushi, or to go to drink coffee in different coffee shops. iCLA is half an hour away from Kofu’s city center, but you can get there really fast by local train. We like to go there sometimes to sing in a karaoke and spend time. You can also get to Tokyo by a bus and it takes only two hours to get there. I have visited Tokyo two times and it is very popular place to go among students. Tokyo is huge compared to any city in Finland, there is so much to see and so many people walking on streets, so much life! I have visited many old temples and admired Japanese architecture here in Kofu, and I went to see Mount Fuji up close, Kofu is located so near to Fuji that it only took me one hour to get there by a local bus.

Differences between studying in Japan and in Finland is that you really must study in Japan. There are so many school assignments to do! You really must do your homework and read for those exams, so it is common that you are still working for school during late hours. Or that you don’t get to sleep much during nights.

Film studies are different, we mostly watch films and talk about their plots and how they have been affecting society, and why such films are made. Back in TAMK we study film making, which is totally different. We don’t really talk about meanings of those films (or maybe they do in script writing studies, I don’t know because my major is light & camera and sound design ), but we go to and make them from script to screen.