Tag Archives: Japan

Greetings from Sapporo

This year I had an internship in the city of Sapporo, Japan in Hokkaido University’s department of engineering. There I mainly did laboratory works with my pair and reported on the findings we did. I didn’t participate in any lectures, but I did participate on weekly meetings with our professor to update our situation and seminars in which each week somebody announced their progress to the members of the laboratory.

The main thing what I actually did was studying the materials related to the next laboratory work and then making a lot of experiments. Then after that was handling the data in excel and reporting it to the professor.

Arrival to Japan happened in late spring just in time for the late cherry blossoms of northern Japan. It was an historical time to be in the country since I was there just when the emperor retired, and a new era, Reiwa, began. To celebrate there was a festival in the local park, where I went. It was timed to group of national holidays called golden week, which was extended this year.

In my spare time I visited neighbouring and went to eat local food towns with some new friends from my laboratory. One such trip was to the town of Otaru with a bicycle. It was an interesting trip and, on our way back I definitely noticed I need more exercise. The place is famous for its seafood, historically remarkable city centre and beautiful landscapes.

 

We also visited the town of Furano in central Hokkaido to see the lavender fields they have there, also there was a place where everyone could try their hands at pottery. I went also to couple of mountains around Sapporo. Mount Moiwa is said to have one of top five, night landscapes in Japan.

One great thing about Hokkaido University is that the University has clubs that arrange meetings and different events where locals and international students can meet. There were barbeques, cooking sessions, one museum tour and many other things. There are also all kinds of event for the whole school. There was a sports day, and a festival, where the main street of the campus was filled with different stands and all kinds of events like mini concerts and dance competitions. This and my other activities made it so that it doesn’t get boring!

Studying there was different at least for me. I wasn’t a normal student so I can’t compare the lectures given there to the Finnish ones. But for the working culture around the laboratory and maybe little in general is something I can compare.

It was very common to work late. The seminars where I did attend started generally at 5 pm. Sometimes there were still people in the student room of our laboratory working at 9 or 10 pm. It was not a rarity to go out eating after the day. I discussed about the working culture in Japan and apparently it is common in the working world that you go out to drink most days with your boss and co-workers after work. This way you can bond with them, but you miss a lot of time in home compared to Finland.

People are also much more company loyal and don’t really change their workplace that often. But companies also take good care of their employees. This is what I heard at least. However, my work in the laboratory was very independent. I needed decide by myself when and how to do the tasks that were given. In Finland we have some courses that are relatively independent but nowhere close to that level.

A City in the Countryside – Oita, Japan

When we landed in Oita Airport, I was too tired to even keep my eyes open, but I was still so fascinated by all the blossoming cherry trees and beautiful mountains. Everything was new and beautiful. I am glad that even after living there for a semester I still see the same beauty in the surrounding nature and cozy houses by the rice fields.

We settled down in a dormitory building near our campus, where other international students greeted us, showed the place and gave us free bikes to use for the whole semester! They helped us get started and we biked to some stores together, where we needed help with the language. I did not know any Japanese going there and studied mostly the language all semester.

During the studies we learned Japanese at an insane speed and went through the whole Genki 1 book. In addition to language studies, in one course we got insight on the problems and beauty of the culture, society and history of Japan. Maybe the most interesting part was to gain awareness of the reasons why Japan is the way it is, what causes the inequality and working culture problems. Oita University however was not interculturally very prepared and did not have clubs or weekly activities for English speaking people, which was a disappointment.

We made multiple road trips to Kunisaki, which a 1-hour travel from Oita. Kunisaki has very interesting spiritual and religious history as well as beautiful nature. In Kunisaki we joined a rice festival, connected with the locals, tried zazen meditation in a temple and heard a piece of history from the resident minister of the temple. We also saw multiple beautiful shrines and next to temples you could sometimes find “ojizosan”, little buddha statues.

 

After we were done with school, I travelled throughout Japan with my friend. First, we flew to Tokyo and started slowly traveling downwards from there by train, sleeping in Airbnb or hotels on the way. From Tokyo we went to Nagoya, where we visited some local tourist attractions and I finally bought a phone with a proper camera. From Nagoya we headed to Kyoto, which was stunning with its nature and old architecture. Kyoto was one of my favorite places I visited while in Japan. Next stop was Osaka, which was right next door and after staying there a few nights we went to Hiroshima for a little bit longer time. Hiroshima was another of my favorites, maybe because of how good accommodation we got! Then it was time to go back to Oita and pack our bags to head to Finland.

Overall the exchange was great. There were many happy moments and many disappointing moments, but it is all part of the experience. I have much better understanding of Japanese culture and people, and I have more perspective to life in general through this intercultural experience.

Melting in the heat of Kyushu

I am writing from the faraway land of Japan, more specifically from the southern main island of Kyushu. The summer here has been brutal for a northern boi like me, but somehow I have survived thus far. The nature, culture and food over here is pretty much reasons alone for anyone to travel to this place. I have been able to go on field trips to remote areas deep in the mountains of Kunisaki peninsula, where one could find an old samurai castle town of Kitsuki, which still has many old buildings, original or rebuilt. Going there was instantly a trip back in time, much like any old temple one might bump into when exploring the countryside. I have found so many Shinto shrines by just jumping on the bicycle and going somewhere. Many of then are luckily marked on Google maps, but I have been doing more of the rogue exploration with nothing to guide me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The studying here is a lot more intensive than back home, and the campus library is full of people studying till the closing time and even on weekends. People seem to take their studies a lot more seriously, but also they are given a lot of homework, which I’m not used to at all. Of course we international students have different courses for the most part and the teachers are pretty chill, so I don’t think we are doing nearly as much work as the Japanese students are. Also, here a course only has a single 1,5h lesson a week, so in my case I have 8 courses and 8 classes every week.

As a film and TV student I pretty much had nothing here that would strictly connect to my studies, but I don’t regret coming here for a second as the cultural experience has totally been worth the effort. As I said before, international students have a pool of courses to choose from, and I think most of them are catered towards people who study economics, with minor overlap with other majors. Still I would recommend Oita for anyone who wants to experience Japan, especially if you are into the countryside and exploring remote places like I am. Any city dwelling folk could maybe benefit more from going up north into a bigger university.

We got to participate in a local rice planting festival, where people would assemble in a row to fill a section of the field with rice, then everyone would step back and fill another row. This way a rather large field was filled pretty quickly and the end result looked something like this. Pretty cool huh.

In between a mountain valley was a ton of rice fields and these lonely houses, humbly sitting beneath the towering mountains all around.

I would say this university is best for people who want to learn Japanese or perfect the skills they already have. There are other courses that one could find interesting, like popular culture (manga, anime etc.) and history. If you want to advance your studies or career plan maybe this place is not the best place for you, but for me it was just fine as a cultural experience and a cool new view into a bigger world than Small Town Finland where I’ve spent most of my life.

日本はすてきですね!With kindest greetings, from Sapporo, Hokkaido

Just a month ago, I arrived at Japan for an internship exchange in Hokkaido University in Sapporo. Time flies so quickly when you’re having fun, and the last month was a wonderful time for me and probably the Golden time of my academic journey.

I came here as an intern student for Water Reclamation Laboratory in Department of Environmental Engineering. The aim of the researches in the lab was to improve performance of pre-existing treatment methods, or further develop it. At first, I thought my task was to conduct measurements, lab works and do errands in the lab. However, as soon as I spoke to the Head Professor of our lab, the situation was totally different from what I was expecting. Each student here has their own research project, and since I join as an intern student, I should choose a project that I am most interested in and work with it. Thus, the first week of my internship was basically just talking to everyone, getting familiar with the working environment, and getting ready. Therefore, my recommendation, if you decided to conduct an internship here, is to be clear of what you want to do before coming.

Besides the work here, everyone was super friendly and kind. I have really fun lab-mates who held a welcome party for me, which I didn’t have to pay anything. We also had a barbecue party to enjoy the cherry blossom, since in Hokkaido they bloom later than the rest of Japan. My lab-mates English skills are not so good since Japanese people overall do not excel in listening and speaking. However, they are always eager to learn and very patience when they try to communicate with me. A guy even told me he wanted to practice his English with me, and I was thrilled that I could also help them like they have helped me here.

My lab-mates enjoying Sapporo cuisine, soup curry
e3 welcome party

In Hokkaido University, there are many student clubs and organizations. One of them are e3, which are the students studying their master and doctoral in English Engineering Education program. This student organization held many events for members, including a welcome party and barbecue in a park. Even non-e3 students can join, if you contribute to the club by paying for the event you participated in. I joined both of the party and made friends with plenty of international students of Hokudai. It really helped me with my time here, since I don’t have many friends besides my lab-mates. It was great to be able to socialize with other international students and share with them your experience in Japan. I highly recommend that you join events like this one.

Last week was the Golden week in Japan, when they have a 10 days holiday to travel or rest. During that time, people often travel all over Japan for sightseeing, hobby, and to relax after months of hard work. However, the ticket price was very high during this period, so I decided not to go too far and just travel around Sapporo. I went to hot spring in a small town near Sapporo and visited some sight-seeing location there. This was also a good time to enjoy Japanese food, as I got the chance to try real authentic sushi!

Cherry blossom season
Seafood rice bowl, my favorite Japanese dish

Japan has always been the country on the top of my bucket list, and I finally made it. All the experiences, good or bad, will be something that I cherish. Japan is such a lovable country, that I look forward to returning here again, either for business or vacation. So, are you ready for it?

 

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.