Tag Archives: Japan

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.

 

Greetings from an old Japanese inn

The ground of a narrow hillside path burns my feet through my shoes as I wipe sweat off from my forehead. In the distance I hear a ship horn, closer around me the chirping concert of thousands of cicadas. An old lady  appears from behind a corner, gives a smile and says “Konnichiwa”. I respond with the same and smile back. But the smile doesn’t last long as I am immediately forced to swipe off more sweat from my face. It’s so scorching hot and incredibly humid that even the cats that this town is famous for lay in the short shadows as an occasional sweaty tourist tries to take pictures of them.

Welcome to Onomichi, a lovely small port town of about 40,000 residents in Hiroshima prefecture, Japan. I’ve been working here as a practical trainee/helper staff in a guesthouse/café since mid-June. The place I work for is called Miharashi-tei, a building originally built in 1921 in the traditional Saen(tea culture) architectural style. It stands on a stone wall cliff about 300 steps up from the town. It operated as an inn for a short while after the second world war but had been out of use for almost 30 years before it was renovated into the guesthouse that it has been operating as since March 2016. The guesthouse is run by a non-profit organization.

My main duty here is to help in the reception and give house tours for guests – both Japanese and foreign – after they have checked in at the reception desk in the guesthouse café. I take the guests around the facilities, explain house rules and finally show them to their rooms. I also help in the café/bar and when I have morning shifts I work with the cleaning/maintenance staff.

On my days off I have explored Onomichi and done a few daytrips to nearby cities such as Hiroshima and Okayama. I went to see the yearly Peace Ceremony in Hiroshima on the date of the atomic bomb of 1945. On normal evening shift workdays I spend the morning studying Japanese in the Onomichi Municipal (air-conditioned) Library.

Japanese work culture is known to be strictly hierarchical but a non-profit guesthouse is a slighty different thing. Here even the manager does dishes and fixes drinks. Everyone’s effort is equally valued and, as probably in every Japanese workplace, here also the sentence “otsukaresamadesu” is an essential part of the daily cycle. It’s a ritualistic Japanese expression which translates to something like “you must be tired” or “thank you for your good work”. People say it to each other when someone leaves the workplace.

Living and working in Japan has been my long-time dream and this training period has been a wonderful and useful glimpse into what life here is like in reality. I hope to be back as a trainee and exchange student before my permanent stay.

日本が大好きです!

Yamanashi, but believe or not, I managed to get lost between the Sakaori station and school grounds… You can see the school from the station.

Finally I found my way to my new school. I signed myself in and went to my room, my future home for 4 months. I slept first 2 days before my school started. First weeks we had orientation studies, how to enroll to courses, what are the rules, who are the teachers. As a typical Finn I found it hard to find people to connect with. But after a week or two, things started to work out for me.

My first class in iCLA was Elementary 1 Japanese. The teacher turned out to be the sweetest and most helpful lady named Akiyama Maki. In this point I have to praise her and thank her for all the help and encouragement she has given to me. Arigatou gozaimasu! I ended up taking a literature course with Romanian professor, George Sipos. The course has been a lot of work, but 10 traditional Japanese books and history papers later, I feel very happy that I ended up taking this course. Knowledge indeed increases the pain you feel but it also opens your eyes for certain things. In the end of semester George will move back to USA, so sadly the future students will not have the possibility of taking his classes. My drawing teacher Kristen Newton was half Icelandic half Californian. What a strange but talented lady. She believes that everybody can draw, we just need to learn the best way to do it. And in the end of her course I agree with her. Last but certainly not least… Professor Alex Wilds, USA. There is a character, I ended up taking 4 of his classes during my stay in Japan and I have never met a teacher like him. The amount of positive energy this teacher has… even a Finn starts to smile. It is thanks to him, that I found my love towards ceramics, clay and sculpting.

What is different compared to Finland? First of all most of the courses are very different. Of course my teachers are all from different backgrounds, while in Finland most of my teachers are actually Finnish. Lectures are shorter in here than in Finland, 75 minutes, after that 15 minutes break. Also classes are smaller and a lot about the interaction between the professor and the student. Of course there is a lot of work to be done, but at the same time the students are fairly free to choose the themes of their work themselves. This makes it very interesting.

Differences between Japanese and international students can be seen in dormitory life. It has been great to see how some of the Japanese students open up to new cultures and friends. But where there is light, there is shadow. Japanese students tend to take way more pressure of their studies. Also not all of them are quite as open minded as they could be.

But in the end, I have enjoyed every second of my stay and to be honest I am not ready to go home. But as all good things, this experience has to come to its end.

Best regards

Riina Haapakallio

Japan times from Oita

Happy new year from the beautiful small (in Japan terms) city of Oita, Japan! I have been here for three months now, and there are only two left. I will definitely miss this place, my second home! As a TAMK business student, our choices are limited to Ritsumeikan in Beppu and Oita University. I chose Oita University due to wanting to experience a more rural and exclusively Japanese atmosphere – compared to Ritsumeikan where around half of the students are foreigners, in Oita University there are only a handful of us westerners.

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Commuting to university every day

I arrived at the end of September and for the entire month of October the weather was around 30 degrees, which was way too hot for me! In addition to the temperature, the air humidity is very high, thanks to the subtropical atmosphere. Now in December it has finally reached around 7-12 degrees, and as soon as the sun is out it’s a bit chilly. The courses and studying here aren’t much different from TAMK, except maybe when it comes to the amount of homework. Teachers are respected much more than in Finland, and unfortunately this also means they do not take well to any kind of criticism. This is the same when it comes to any workplace, as the hierarchy rules are much stricter than in Finland. The first week was intense with everyone having to go through a lot of bureaucracy at the city hall, get our own hanko, and take part in a physical examination.

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Places close to our university & Kokonoe rope bridge

The study programme in Oita University is mostly about Japanese language and culture. If you were interested in international business, and learning skills and getting international contacts, I suppose Ritsumeikan is the better alternative. But for me, Oita has been perfect so far. Out of my eight courses, five are Japanese language and the other courses are more about Japanese culture, like the “Ethnographic study of rural Japan”-course, where we have been doing overnight study trips to a few places. It’s a great course to experience rural Japan and eat many delicious foods!

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One of the mysterious ghost buildings close to University…

Every new student’s Japanese language ability was tested on the first day in a written test and a subsequent interview. My own ability was intermediate as I thought, and I took the level 3 courses out of 6. The higher courses are for very advanced people though, so I didn’t mind. My language has improved and I’ve gotten encouraged, even though the first two or three weeks were incredibly intense and I felt I might not be able to keep up! Don’t worry if you don’t know any Japanese, you will start from the basics at level 1, but many students told me that it was a really fast and intense course, so you should definitely learn hiragana and katakana at least before coming here. It will make your exchange experience infinitely better!

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Every week we write one essay for writing class by hand – improved handwriting…?!

There are three different accommodations in Oita University, and I was placed in Kishukusha, a dorm for international students located on campus. The rent is very cheap, approximately 18 000 yen a month including internet, water, electricity and gas. My room is quite small but includes a Japanese toilet (a washlet with all the regular functions like butt shower), an AC, fridge/freezer, and a very tiny kitchen. The showers are shared per floor but very private, so no worries there even if I was scared at the idea at first myself. The other options are the general student dorm Gakuseiryo (most expensive), and another international residence downtown called Kaikan (cheapest but far from school).

 

I have experienced so much on my exchange so far, and I can’t imagine it getting much better than this. During the first month we had a school trip to Kokonoe rope bridge, had a cultural festival where we made food to sell for others, and I visited and explored many many areas including a beautiful Buddhist temple and endless rural living areas. I even had time during Christmas holiday to make a short trip to Taiwan! Nowadays I spend most of my free time at the dorm’s common room, and try to study (but am often distracted…), but especially the first two months I spent a lot of time exploring the city, playing at arcades, going to the movies (expensive here) and eating at various restaurants. I enjoy life here and would prefer to stay!

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A crossdressing competition at cultural festival at the university – this wasn’t the winning team

If there’s anything negative about Oita University, it’s that I haven’t been able to get any kind of contacts or help regarding a possible internship from here. For this reason, I believe Ritsumeikan might be better for many people, as I know many foreigners end up working at some place in Beppu, and they encourage people to even start their own business in Beppu/Oita area, and give support to this. Still, my own main goal of gaining Japanese experiences has been fulfilled, but I guess none of this is directly related to international business. When it comes to finding part-time work, knowing really good Japanese is a must except for English teaching jobs, but those require one to be a native speaker so I couldn’t do anything except help out as an English tutor for the Japanese students. I’m going to return to Finland in two months and this has been one of the greatest experiences in my life! Consider Japan for your exchange too!

 

 

こんにちは!from Japan

Konnichiwa from the land of the rising sun!

     Osaka6

From the moment I arrived to this amazing country, I totally fell in love with this “craziness” and lovely, caring culture.  I have been living in a small city called Beppu, located in the Oita prefecture in the Kyushu island, southern part of Japan. This place is known for the city of hot springs, so called onsens. And yes, there are onsens everywhere and they are amazing.

Onsen

The uni, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, is located up in the mountains and we travel there by bus. The busride takes about 30 minutes and without a doubt, it is sometimes exhausting. But the views from the mountains are absolutely worth it. I’m living in a student house downtown by the seaside and my own room is placed on the top, 9th floor, with own balcony and sea view.

view from my balcony
our campus

Japanese people are very kind, welcoming and helpful. Even though there is a language barrier, since the locals don’t speak English well, I feel myself safe and welcomed here. I have got to know people from all around the world and we have been doing some travelling around Japan during the weekends and longer breaks from the uni. We have visited of course the huge Tokyo and Kyoto, that can be called the cultural capital of Japan, Hiroshima, Osaka and we’ve also done some travelling in the Kyushu island.

Kyoto
Kiyomizudera in Kyoto
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Kinkaku-ji, the golden temple in Kyoto
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Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyoto
Tokio
The famous Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo
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Atomic-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima

Japan is delightful, the culture is incredible, and not to mention the food here! Oh, Japan is definitely treating me well.

ARIGATOU GOZAIMASU AND SAYONARA!

尾道へようこそ! Welcome to Onomichi!

Konnichiwa! I am currently living and doing my practical training in Onomichi, a small seaside port city in the Hiroshima prefecture, in Japan. I am almost done with my training period of three months, and with heavy heart I will soon have to go back home. Onomichi has become a second home for me, and I feel like I know it like the back of my hand by now.

I am working at a small, japanese styled guesthouse called Anago No Nedoko, with a cafe located on the side. The guesthouse has two dormitories and two private rooms, with space for 25-30 guests. The cafe has seats for 16 guests, and the guesthouse’s breakfast is served there. My work consists of cleaning the guesthouse rooms as well as preparing the breakfast. The workdays here are usually about 6 hours long, starting from preparing the breakfast and then cleaning the guesthouse. There is another helper working here with me, so I don’t need to work alone. Thursdays and Fridays are free from work, and I have made many trips around Japan.

I’ve made trips to the nearby islands, as well as bigger cities such as Hiroshima, Kyoto and Tokyo. I love the different atmospheres these places have: Onomichi is a very peaceful, small city, compared to the hectic and never-ending Tokyo! Though I do love both cities very much. The people in Japan are very friendly and helpful, and I can always rely on them in a time of need.

The weather in Onomichi can be brutal, with 30-35°C with very high humidity. You really have to watch out for a heatsroke, and remember to drink enough. When I arrived, there was a rainy season that lasted for about a week, during which it rained almost nonstop. After that the “real” japanese summer began. The summer is very different from the summer in Finland.

Unfortunately, my training period is soon over and I will have to make my way back to Finland. These three months have been absolutely amazing, and I can’t wait to visit Japan again!