Experience Living in Japan

Public Relations Office        March 21, 2013

Student from Simon Fraser University (Canada)

I have always dreamed of traveling to Japan, but it never actually seemed like a realistic option until I discovered the study abroad program between SFU and Kwansei Gakuin University. I realized, going on an exchange to Japan is a perfect way of acting on that dram and pursuing my academic goals.

I was placed in with a home stay family in Osaka City. Osaka is the second largest city in Japan after Tokyo. From where I live to KGU is an apt comparison in terms of travel time by public transit is SFU in relation to downtown Vancouver. Being such a large city, Osaka has two or three areas that can be considered city centers. The Kansai region, within which Osaka is located, is probably the best region in Japan as far as sightseeing goes. Kyoto, not far by train, has served as Japan’s capital on and off over the centuries and is consequently richly endowed with historical sites and famous temples. Likewise, Nara, another nearby city, is known for its sightseeing destinations.

Home stay, likewise, has both strong pros and cons. To put it simply, there is no better way to improve your Japanese or experience authentic Japanese culture than to do home stay. Many of the home stay students I spoke with loved, or were at least satisfied with, their home stay family. There were also a few number of students, however, who were either slightly dissatisfied, or downright disgruntled with their home stay situation. One must keep in mind that the idea behind home stay is to insert yourself into a Japanese family as if you were truly a member of the family. This may mean some restrictions on your freedom – your “host parents,” for example, are allowed to instate a curfew. However, I had a great experience with my home stay family and would recommend home stay since it is the most rewarding form of accommodation.

Compared to Canada, Japan is definitely very different. In Japan, everything is pretty much walking or biking distance, and trains are very efficient and can get you anywhere. Also, Japan is a very safe country, you can usually walk around alone, even late at night it is fine. You can drink and smoke in public as alcohol and cigarettes are sold in vending machines, as well as in convenient stores that are located pretty much anywhere. Depending on what you eat or how often you go out, of course your living expenses will differ. Meals outside can range anywhere from 400-yen to 4000-yen depending on what you eat, and how much you eat.

There are many things you can do for fun in Japan. Traveling is a big part of it, many people on weekends will travel around the area, such as to Nara, Kyoto or Wakayama, but during school holidays, some people may choose to go further, such as to Hokkaido or Tokyo. The transportation system in Japan is very convenient. For example, if you wanted to go to Tokyo there are many ways. You can take the fastest—bullet train to Tokyo for around 20000-yen one way, or you can take a night bus, for 8 hours for around 5000-yen one way, or just use the train system. On a day to day basis, usually people would go shopping, sing karaoke, go bowling, play pool, go to clubs, and many other things. Places to do karaoke, bowling, pool, and of course clubs also, are usually open all night long, so there is always something to do, regardless of the time.

Maybe you have heard this numerous times before from other people, but I still have to say it, having made my decision to go on an exchange to another country is one of the smartest choices I have made in life. Some of you might hesitate a little bit about doing this exchange program, experience culture shock at the beginning, yet if you do open your mind and try to enjoy it as much as possible, the whole experience is totally worth it and you will only regret if you decide not to do it.

Rachael Buell, Exchange Student from Mount Allison University (Canada)

Rachael Buell

Life here in Japan is very different from what I am used to. I grew up in a quiet town in New Brunswick, Canada, with no major cities nearby. So I was not only surprised by the differences in Japanese and Canadian culture, but also by the change from small town to big city. There are many things I have learned about Japan in my nearly four months here, particularly about life in the city in general, such as trains, safety, shopping, fashion, cell-phones, and much more.

For one thing, you can get almost anywhere by the various railways. I was surprised by this because in New Brunswick we have very few trains, and we very rarely use them. Since I have been in Japan, I use the trains daily for commuting to school, and getting to and from shopping and tourist areas. The trains are sometimes very easy to understand, but sometimes difficult, though the station staff are always very helpful if you have lost your way or are having trouble. The trains are also very convenient and efficient, and they are always on time! Most people don’t need to own a car, because the train systems are cheap and effective.

I was also surprised by how safe Japan is. Not that I was expecting it to be dangerous, but I did expect that I would need to be more on guard than I was in my small town back home. However I find the opposite to be true. People in the cafeterias and mall food courts often leave their bags unattended while they buy food, which we would never do in Canada. It’s also very likely that if you lost something or forgot it somewhere, it would be turned in to the proper authorities for you to reclaim later. In Canada, that would depend on exactly what you lost, and where you lost it. I also very rarely feel unsafe walking alone at night, particularly in busy areas, which I had expected would make me feel uneasy.

I had expected people in Japan to be more fashionable than I was used to back home, but I was certainly surprised by the emphasis university students have on fashion and shopping. I’m particularly surprised every time I see girls wearing skirts and cute tops in winter, but complaining about the cold. Also a lot of the boys look like they spend more time on their image than I do, which I have never seen in New Brunswick. I find myself worrying more and more about looking good as well!

Along with fashion, cell phones in Japan are practically a necessity. Even my host family’s nearly ninety-year-old grandmother uses one! In Canada I had one, but I hardly ever used it, since I was nearly all the time within walking distance of all my friends and anywhere I wanted to go. But in Japan, where your friends may live more than an hour away from you, cell phone communication is a must, and addictive! In Canada if I left the house without my cell phone, I never cared, or even noticed, but since I have been in Japan, I can’t live without my cell phone, and I even feel anxious if I leave it at home!

All in all my life in Japan is very different from the one I had back in Canada. It makes me wonder how this experience will change the way I live my life when I return home! But I am very glad for this chance to explore another way of life!

Alan Chang, Exchange Student from University of the Pacific (America)

Alan Chang

During my current study abroad experience in Japan, I joined Kangaku’s Classical Guitar club in an effort to not only become more proficient at the Japanese language, but to deepen my understanding of Japanese culture through assimilation. In addition, I wanted to learn something new, and of course make new Japanese friends. What I got instead was nothing compared to what I expected.

The first difference I noticed between Japan’s clubs and circles and America’s school clubs is the variety and the extensiveness of Japan’s organizations. Before I even joined the Classical Guitar club, I flipped through the school catalog and noticed the diverse selection of clubs that revolve around sports and activities ranging from American football to mountain climbing. In Japan, there are two main extra-scholastic organizations: clubs and circles. Circles are generally known to be more low-key and require less commitment and time involvement than clubs.

Clubs require more dedication and are for those who are passionate about that particular sport or interest. In America, clubs can be said to be synonymous with Japan’s circles in terms of frequency of meetings/gatherings, group activities, funds used, etc. America’s clubs and Japan’s circles typically have meetings about once to three times a week, Looking at Japan’s clubs and circles for the first time, I was impressed by the sheer volume of members, manpower, and the level of organization of the entire system. There were as much as 300 members in a single club, but there were also clubs with as little as 10 members. It was proof that the Japanese place a deep emphasis on extracurricular sports and activities and that such things play a essential role in student life.

In conclusion, joining Kangaku’s Classical guitar club has been a life changing experience for me. I have made memories and friendships that will last a lifetime and I wish that I could somehow continue to be a part of the club after leaving Japan, but unfortunately that doesn’t seem feasible. Needless to say, the experiences and memories I have made in this club are one-of-a-kind, and can be obtained nowhere else, especially not back at home in America. For one thing, my school in America does not have a classical guitar club, and it will never match up to what I had with this club. I will never forget what I did as a member of this club and I will take these valuable memories with me wherever life takes me.

Xiao Hua Law (Dawne), Exchange Student from University of Toronto(Canada)

photo1

As the year progresses, trees lined along the campus walls echo the colours of each season. The Uegahara Campus of Kwansei Gakuin University is fairly large with a span of greenery that expands across the school grounds. Ponds and tiny waterfalls are constructed in comfortable niches where students longue; at times, the school is swarming with activity and yet there are moments when all one hears is the bubbling of water (be it from a tiny waterfall, a man-made canal that runs through the campus, or ponds in sitting areas).

photo2

There are pockets of woodlots on campus where, in autumn, the leaves change from green to red and during winter, there are lit decorations strung across the enormous branches of Christmas trees outside the main clock tower that looms ahead of the school gate. The clock tower that one sees across a wide open area upon passing through the school gates towers over the other buildings close by, bearing the slogan “Mastery for Service”. Just past the clock tower is the school library designed with a sense of the modern with glass walls for study rooms along with a sense of tradition in the wooden shelves crammed with books stretching out into the deep darkened corners of the library.

Just to the north of the campus lies the archery range where the twang of bows can be heard piercing through the muted silence of the trees that surround the area. It is a sharp contrast to the buildings where student club rooms are established where there is the constant blaring of students practicing musical instruments, training for dances, singing, and the overall roar of chatter of daily life.

The Uegarahara Campus is a comfortable place for students to study, as well as to relax, serving as a suitable environment for a diversity of talents and students from a wide range of backgrounds. As a Christian school, there is a chapel that is located on the campus, as well as a small community church close by, emphasizing the need for spiritual space.

Backnumber