Tag Archives: Japan

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.


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.


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.

img_0418 img_0425 img_0439 img_0444

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!


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!


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!


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!


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.


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.

Kiyomizudera in Kyoto
Kinkaku-ji, the golden temple in Kyoto
Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyoto
The famous Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo
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.


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!


Greetings from Japan


Mt. Tsurumi in Beppu is definitely one of my favourite places here.

I am currently in Japan, doing my exchange studies in a small town called Beppu. Beppu is known from its hot springs, Japanese Onsens. I have been here now for 3,5 months and was lucky to enter Japan in the most beautiful Spring season. During the Spring season cherry blossoms are blooming for two- or three weeks and it’s really beautiful everywhere.

Language barrier between the locals is huge, which makes everyday life a bit complicated sometimes. Local people doesn’t speak Englis very well. Of course everyone at APU, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, are able to speak English (at least in some level). There are big differences between the classes and the teaching.

I’m the only Finnish exchange student, so using English every day has improved my language skills.  I also have Japanese classes every morning, so conversations with the locals are getting easier every day. My other courses are related to marketing, tourism business and culture and society of Asia Pacific. These courses have really opened my eyes about the local business culture, and also about the culture in and around Japan.

Kushida_Shrine_Fukuoka beppu city IMG_1693

During my time off I’m enjoying this small city with friends I’ve made. We have already done some trips and some are sill ahead. At the beginning of the semester our university was closed for one week because of a strong earthquake. Beppu was not safe place to stay and after spending one night in an evacuation place, I decided to take most of the extra free time and booked a trip to Tokyo. During our quarter break last week we traveled to Okinawa which is located in the southern Japan. Okinawa has white sand beaches and warm climate all year round.

Japan is definitely not the easiest country to do an exchange. This has been the biggest challenge in my life even though this is not the first time for me to be overseas for a long time. Still, I can strongly recommend this as an option for a students, who are going to do an exchange. People are really friendly and always willing to help. Nature is amazing and the student house is located next to the sea, surrounded by mountains.



  • Hannele


Amazing days in Japan!

Hi everyone! Here is Yuqing Wang from IB12.

I have done my exchange in a beautiful Japanese city called Beppu and spent some really nice time in Japan! The country is full of kind, helpful and welcoming people, as soon as I landed in Japan, I got help from everywhere and everyone. During the six month many exciting things happened, and the best part is all the beautiful trips I took with my friend. Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka…. All of these legendary cities are more beautiful than they has been described in books and documentaries.

and guess what? The sushi is amazing! 😉




Japan is a wonderful and beautiful country to visit, stay and to do the studies. I arrived in Sapporo, Japan on April 4, 2015 at Chitose International Airport and I was picked up by Dr. Ilto to my apartment which was located North 12, East 2. During the time I arrived, Japanese people were celebrating cherry blossom the symbol of love, family unit and friends coming together to enjoy good moments of the year. Cherry blossom is characterized by trees flowering with different colors thus giving the environment a sense of beauty and attractiveness. And during this period the weather was very good.

During a four days national holiday in Japan, I was privileged to travel with my friends to various places in Hokkaido Island starting from Sapporo to as far as matsumae. I had a good moment with friends and enjoyed the trip. During our journey we kept on stopping and viewing some volcanic eruptions residues, Cherry blossoms, eating, listening to the history of Japan and having wind bath along sea coast. The journey took us two days to go round, on the map the red line shows the route we took, I must say that it was a wonderful moment to see the beauty of nature unrevealing itself in such a manner.

The map of Hokkaido Island, Japan

Some of the moment we cherished so much was togetherness, laughing, eating and posing for pictures, as shown below.

Matsume trip.PNG 2
The beautiful moments of the two days tour in Hokkaido Island, Japan.

Matsume trip.PNG 3

Matsume trip.PNG 4

In the pictures you can see the happy faces, cherry blossom, the Japanese temple, sulfur on the volcanic eruption site and the mountains

Another moment which captured my attention was the initiative of African student studying at Hokkaido University hosting an African day event. The event was spectacular and wonderful, I was pleased to part of it. Hokkaido University consist of different international student from all walks of life and having event like African day or other events hosted by international student are very productive and enhances team work, peace,support and eliminate all kinds of discrimination within the campus. Below are the pictures of the event.

African day event.1African day event.2

The moment at African day event with lovely people

african words

Some event was to wonderful to forget, like this one shown below. The wearing of Japanese traditional dress known as Kimono. During this event we were served green tea which is characterized by bitter test prepared in front of us. Kimono is a traditional dress which is highly valued by Japanese people.

Wearing Kimono, Japanese traditional dress.

Despite my engagement in all this mentioned activities, I had time to spend with my fellow laboratory student. I enjoyed each moment we spend together both leisure and academic time. Academically I learnt a lot via observation, discussions, practicing and instruction, and during leisure time we cherished each other and we had good moments.

fellow labs.1
fellow labs Environmental engineers in the division of Sanitation enjoying themselves.

Overall the internship period was remarkable and nothing to regret. Japan is a beautiful country, you must visit. My journey began from Tampere all the way to Japan, Sapporo and back to Tampere, Finland. Throughout this journey I saw the beauty of nature, the breathing of seas and was surrounded by good friends who cared and helped me a lot thus the journey of leisure and academic fulfillment was achieved with excellence.

Japan 1