Wednesday, Mar 01, 2017
Name: Yuka Ozaki
Status at Waseda University: 1st year, Graduate School of Asia Pacific Studies (GSAPS) Master's Course
In October of 2016 I participated in the two-month “Ship for South East Asian and Japanese Youth Program”, an international youth exchange program sponsored by the Japanese Cabinet Office. Originally created in January of 1974 through a joint declaration between Japan and various SE Asian governments, the program is currently run by the Japanese government in cooperation with 10 different SE Asian nations and celebrates its 43rd voyage this year. The aims of this program are primarily to promote international friendship and understanding and to encourage youth participation in social activities. Every year this program gathers roughly 330 young men and women from Japan and participating countries on board a ship where they live and work together over a two month period.
During these two months, we participated in a variety of activities not only on board the ship, but also within Japan and in various SE Asian countries as well. During our time in Japan, we formed 11 groups made up of two to three members from each participating country and visited 11 different prefectures. During these visits, each group conducted exchange with local people and got to experience a homestay in a Japanese home.
The view from the prow of the boat
As for our activities on board the ship, we held discussion sessions on a variety of different topics, as well as organizing activities and giving presentations to share aspects of each participating country’s traditional culture. For example, the Japanese participants introduced Japan through demonstrations of “furoshiki", tea ceremony and “yosakoi” dancing as well as presentations featuring highlights from each of Japan’s 47 prefectures. Additionally, living conditions were arranged so that three participants from different countries would share one cabin together. Thanks to this arrangement, I was able to develop quite a close connection with my cabin-mates, often sharing noodles and drinks as we talked into the small hours of the morning.
Participants wearing the traditional dress of their home countries
One activity that left a particularly deep impression on me was our very own “Furoshiki”demonstration. In our presentation we touched not only on the long history of “Furoshiki” in Japan but also its many practical modern-day applications in reducing daily trash and waste. After our presentation, we took a number of colorful and richly patterned “furoshiki” and taught the other participants how to wrap objects of various shapes and sizes such as bags and plastic bottles. Afterwards, we heard a lot of positive comments such as“ the great thing about ‘furoshiki’ is that you don’t need to throw them away like plastic bags” and “I never knew one sheet of cloth could have so many different uses!” And even after our presentation was over, I noticed a lot of the other SE Asian participants actually using “furoshiki” in their day to day activities. Thanks to this presentation, we were able not only to teach others about Japanese traditions but also to remind ourselves of the usefulness of “furoshiki” as well gain a fresh perspective on our own culture in the process.
Participants holding bags made from “furoshiki”
As for the overseas portion of our trip, we paid courtesy calls to a number of local governing bodies and participated in homestays with local families. In total we visited 4 different countries: Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, and Indonesia. These visits were a valuable opportunity for us to directly experience a different culture, and to get a taste of the different lifestyles, religions, and social issues that make up the fabric of everyday life in each of these countries. For example, during my homestay in Indonesia, my hosts cooked a number of traditional dishes and introduced me to their extended family over dinner. During such leisurely and extended sessions, we were able to open up to each other and share our cultural and religious views along with our hopes and dreams for the future, thereby deepening our mutual understanding and appreciation for each other. But beyond even this, I was truly moved at how my hosts treated me just like a member of the family. I will never forget how my host parents took me aside on the last day of my homestay and told me “You are our daughter forever!” On the day our ship was due to leave port, my host family even took time off from their school and work just to see us off on the pier. I look forward to seeing them all again very soon!
Saying goodbye to my host family on the day of our departure
Thanks to this program, not only did I learn more about SE Asia’s many different cultures, traditions and lifestyles, but I was also able to deepen my understanding of my own Japanese culture as well. Additionally, through meeting so many other participants and host families, I gained a large number of friendships that will last well into the future. Looking back now on my experience, I feel that although those two months were only a very short period of time, I will treasure the experiences and friendships I made there for the rest of my life.
A group photo session of participants from 11 different countries
Posted in Others
Tuesday, Dec 27, 2016
Name: Bilguun Chuluunbaatar
Status at Waseda University: 1st year, Graduate School of Business and Finance
On December 2nd, 2016 I had the opportunity to participate in a special event held for foreign students by the First Lady of Japan, Mrs. Akie Abe at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence. The students invited to participate in this event were MEXT government scholarship students studying at various Japanese Universities who possess a firm command of Japanese. When I heard that only two students would be selected from Waseda I realized that the selection process would be quite competitive, but I decided to give it a shot and fortunately I was accepted as a participant.
The 22 foreign students who participated in this event hailed from 17 different countries and are currently enrolled at universities all across Japan, such as Hokkaido University, Hiroshima University and Kyushu University. Aside from one undergraduate student, the majority of the participants were Master’s and Doctoral students pursuing a wide variety of research here in Japan.
The event hall before the opening speech
The event began with some warm words of welcome from Mrs. Abe. Mrs. Abe spoke in a very understated and friendly manner which I found to be quite engaging. In her speech, the First Lady mentioned that as the wife of the Prime Minister she often traveled to foreign countries and was told by many people from around the world about how much they loved Japan. Such comments made her curious to meet with those students who had chosen Japan out of all the countries in the world to study in.
After that, each student gave a short self-introduction and described their various research topics. I was really impressed with the wide variety of fields and research topics that my fellow students were studying. In my self-introduction, I focused on how the Great Kanto Earthquake of 2011 had drastically changed my way of thinking up until that point.
Originally I was I majoring in Japanese language education at the Mongolian National University of Education. During my 3rd undergraduate year, one year after the disastrous events of 3/11, I visited Japan through a program that brought foreign students to the affected areas in an effort to strengthen international support for disaster relief.
As someone who comes from a seismically stable inland country, that was the first time I realized how severe and unpredictable natural disasters could be. I told the First Lady that I was very moved to see how courageously the disaster victims were working to rebuild their communities and that was the experience that made me decide to study full time in Japan in the future.
After our self-introductions, we tried our hand at making sushi under the supervision of a chef from a world famous Ginza sushi restaurant. It was the first time for all of us to make sushi ourselves, so we all tried our hardest to make each piece as well as we could.
Since sushi is normally made by laying a piece of fish on top of rice, I had assumed that the taste of sushi comes down mostly to the type and quality of the fish used, but the chef explained that the rice, especially how it is cooked and seasoned, is an equally if not more important contributor to the final product. Although I have been in Japan for almost 3 years, I don’t often have the opportunity to eat sushi, so I never really paid attention to the different flavors of sushi. But thanks to this sushi-making experience, I feel like in the future I would like to learn more about the flavors of sushi and be able to describe them more fully to my fellow Mongolians.
After eating our self-made sushi, we received a tour of the Prime Minister’s residence. As we walked through the various rooms of the manor, it became obvious how sturdily built it the complex was. Mrs. Abe’s secretary explained about how some of the events surrounding the “Feb. 26th Incident” happened right in the Prime Minister’s residence, and showed us some of the historical remnants from that time. “The Feb. 26th Incident” refers to an attempted coup d’etat held from February 26th to February 29th, 1936 when a group of young army officers influenced by the radical “Kodo” army faction lead a group of 1483 soldiers in revolt against the government.
We were also shown a room that contained a number of rare ornaments and artifacts that had be sent to Mr. and Mrs. Abe as gifts from various parts of the globe: a veritable trove of cultural treasures from all over the world! Among the objects on display, I even saw a bow and arrow that had been given by the President of Mongolia himself. A very curious room indeed!
After the tour, the day’s events were brought to a close. Thanks to the warm words of Mrs. Abe, the support of the MEXT directors, and the opportunity given by Waseda University, I was able to experience a day that I shall not soon forget.
During my time as a student here in Japan, there have been times when nothing seems to be going well, but there are also days where I feel like I’ve learned and accomplished a lot. This day was certainly one of the high points of my student career here in Japan, and one which reminded me of all the people and institutions supporting my studies here. Exchanging comments and opinions in Japanese with students from so many different countries made me very excited to continue in the future to foster friendly international relations even beyond the borders of Japan and to make the most of my time here in Japan learning about and appreciating different cultures.
Posted in Study in Japan
Monday, Nov 21, 2016
Name: You Haichao
Status at Waseda University: 4th year, School of Economics and Political Science
This summer our class went on a fieldtrip to Nagaland, in the northeast of India. We spent around one week in a typical Ao* village called Mopungchuket. Shifting cultivation is a specific method of agriculture that is being widely applied there. In this article, I’d like to briefly discuss some sustainable aspects of shifting cultivation as well as other, less sustainable forms of development that I observed during my stay in Mopungchuket.
Walking around Mopungchuket village on our first day to gain an overview of the village.
A day of fishing. I felt like a true fisherman siting on the river stones.
First of all, working on a certain field for several years and then turning to another field to let the former one rest is quite a scientific and long-sighted idea which is of great benefit to the ecosystem. People in Nagaland have been applying such cultivation methods for thousands of years and the scenery we saw in the fields showed that the earth had indeed been well protected. I feel that such kinds of resource management and land usage practices are wise and suitable for sustaining the environment.
In addition, from a social aspect, shifting cultivation is a collective practice that involves all the farmers in the village and contributes a lot to the unity of the community. In other words, shifting cultivation makes the community more sustainable as well. During our stay in the village, I observed close relationships not only between humans and nature, but between fellow humans as well. The village seemed to have a magic way of bonding people together. When I asked the villagers whether they would prefer to be a free-rider in the community, they answered that no one would willingly act in such a way. If they cheated a fellow villager they might get a certain one-time benefit, but they would never be accepted by the community again, and in the end there would be no benefit to the cheater. In such a society, participation in the community is just as much a priority as individual identity. What’s more, if the whole community shares the burdens and risks, the costs of cultivation can be decreased in an efficient way. Shifting cultivation links people in the village closely and provides a good method of resource management.
A farmer named Ben cooked a meal for us using certain special plants and fish from the river.
The rice was cooked inside bamboo stalks.
However, there are also some problems with regard to sustainability in the village. Take shifting cultivation as an example, more and more villagers are now starting to work on projects offered by the government and no longer practice shifting cultivation. Such people are often regarded as “lucky”, but I suspect there may also be some problems with the selection of such “lucky people” as well as with the distribution of land and benefits. During the selection process, bias may arise and hurt the harmony of the village. Many of these issues are brought about by the market economy. For example, another serious issue related to the rise of commerce within this area is that people are gradually becoming aware that even though they own land resources, they lack currency to exchange for other goods and services. “People here are fascinated by the world of commerce, but at the same time they are also confused by it.” said one of the members of a NPO in Nagaland. Young people in the village are beginning to go out to seek jobs with the government. In consequence, many traditional skills such as the making of bamboo crafts are being lost. Traditions are being forgotten, and that, unfortunately, is an unsustainable aspect of development in these villages.
The issues above are also linked closely to the purpose of education for young people in the village. The central question is this: what is the purpose of education in the village? Does it aim to educate the young to be knowledgeable enough to leave the village and find a job in urban areas? Or does it try instead to hold them within the community and teach skills and farming methods that will benefit them when they are working in the fields?
The departure of young people from their villages is a serious problem faced by not only Mopungchuket village but many other traditional villages as well. A method offered by one local council was to focus on specialized place-based education, and to keep maintaining traditional skills while developing small industry that fits the scale of the village as much as possible. To educate young people about traditions re-emphasizes the value of the original norms of the village, and helps them to rethink the concepts of “self-sufficiency” and “sustainability” both for the village and for the ecosystem as well. In my opinion, focusing on the village’s natural resources and how to use them to create value and land-specialized products is the best way to attract young people back to their hometowns and promote sustainable development in these villages.
In conclusion, I noticed both sustainable and unsustainable aspects of village life in Nagaland during our fieldtrip. Although I was not able to write down everything that I observed, the aspects I mentioned above should hopefully provide a brief overview of my thinking in terms of “sustainability”.
* A Naga tribe living in northeastern India
Cultural performance day. I performed a traditional Chinese dance in a special costume
while the other Japanese students performed a dance called “Tokyo Ondo” wearing Yukata.
Dressing in the traditional costume of Mopungchuket village. We were told that each village
has a slightly different style of dress.
Posted in Study Abroad
Wednesday, Oct 12, 2016
Name: Li Hanshen
Enrollment year and status at Waseda University: Double Degree Student
at Graduate School of Information Production and Systems, 2015-2016
Specialty at Waseda University: Information Architecture; Neurocomputing Systems
Advisor at Waseda University: Prof. Takayuki Furuzuki
How has studying abroad at Waseda aided you in your academic path?
The Graduate School of Information, Production and Systems provides an exceptional environment where an assortment of grad students coming from diverse countries around the world research and discuss numerous subjects and fields with each other. Local students are able to exchange thoughts and opinions with overseas students as well, which broadened my own horizons as well as enriched my life quite a lot.
Most memorable event at Waseda University:
I’m a Waseda University-Shanghai Jiao Tong University double master degree student that entered the Graduate School of Information, Production and Systems on Sep, 2015. In August of 2016, IPS held their AY2016 summer school. 56 college students as well as teachers from four overseas universities including Fudan University took part in the summer school. It was an honor to become a student assistant throughout the summer school period. During the entire event, I come to feel everybody’s enthusiasm along with their excitement. We were all able to have not merely an unforgettable experience but also to forge profound companionships with each other.
A gathering by all summer school members
All through the summer school, participants were able to experience the Japanese educational system as well as various cultural differences. They were able to select seven professors’ courses including those offered by Professor Osamu Yoshie. Courses covered supply chain management, semiconductor technology, computer network engineering, robotics, etc. Students got not a mere glimpse of the Japanese graduate learning atmosphere, but additionally were able to gain an in-depth knowledge of Waseda University. After classes ended I frequently saw students gather around the professor to put forward their own points of view. I do believe most of them really enjoyed themselves a great deal.
Kokura Visiting with Professor Osamu Yoshie and Fudan University students
During the factory visit component, every student visited the Toyota Motor Kyushu, Inc., the Denso Kyushu Co., and the TOTO Ltd., where they witnessed Japanese business culture. Inside Toyota, they got a feel for how they produce automobiles for the establishment of a rich social contribution as well as the Toyota Production System. In Denso Kyushu, they discovered the way an automobile components supplier works as well as the development of science and technology. At TOTO, they experienced 90 years of brand history and its patented "Washlet" technology (a combination of plumbing and electronics) which has propelled it to the forefront of the business world. Through the factory visits, they sensed the team spirit of Japanese business, their innovative spirit and the integrity of their relationship with the outside world. There is no doubt that this is the primary reason why Japanese companies have large distributions around the globe.
Visiting Toyota Motor Kyushu, Inc.
Visiting TOTO Ltd.
Aside from that, they also took part in certain cultural experiences. They appreciated the Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine, the Tenjin City Walk, Japanese Tea Ceremony, Japanese Flower Arrangement and Wasshoi Hyakuman Natsu Matsuri. Through such peaceful and delightful Japanese activities, the students were able to encounter a totally different culture from their own, experience the tranquility of the tea ceremony, and feel the vibrance and excitement of a fireworks show. This summer school was not merely an act of verbal communication, but a profound cultural interaction. Through the process of understanding and gaining experience, the students now have a deeper comprehension of Japan. In my opinion this will become a valuable experience for them in their lives.
For the most part, we forged in-depth friendships, and many students expressed the hope that they could return to Japan someday as well as to Waseda University. I would like to thank Waseda University and also the Shanghai Jiao Tong University for giving me the opportunity to research in a foreign country. Thanks also to the Dean of IPS, Osamu Yoshie, and IPS staff Taro Umetsu for making such a fantastic summer school possible. Finally, thanks to every one of the IPS teachers. I love WASEDA; I adore Japan!
Message to WiN members:
Thanks to the Waseda University Vision 150 Plan, a growing number of international students like me are able to come to Waseda University to experience Japanese culture. I hope to make the most of my experiences in Japan in the future. Best wishes to Waseda University!
Posted in Study in Japan
Monday, Sep 26, 2016
Report on the 21 Tokyo Challenge
This summer, 59 students from the University of Washington (UW) implemented for the first time in Tokyo a three-week summer program called C21 Tokyo Challenge. 20 Students from Waseda University participated for three days of the program (from July 29 to July 31) and carried out a special weekend project with the students from the UW.
The first day of the project started with a lecture at Waseda University. Afterwards, Waseda students joined UW students at the Olympic Center for three days and two nights, where they spent in 10 different groups of eight students (six from the UW, two from Waseda) throughout the weekend.
In order to find “something which is a result of a fusion between the cultures of the US and Japan”, which is their assigned theme, the students took to the streets in Tokyo amid the scorching heat in groups, holding discussions. Thus they prepared for the presentations they were supposed to give on the third day. All of the presentations were very interesting, as the students directed their attention to various phenomena and deepened their understanding in the society, culture and history, including sushi, jazz, pop music, tattoos, and rap music.
The professors also participated as judges. At the reception, Outstanding Performance Award, Innovation Award, and Popularity Award (which is given to the group which proved to be the most popular among students via a student vote) were announced. Each of the students seemed to have felt a sense of achievement, whether or not s/he has received an award, and thus the three-day project ended. Many students, professors, and staff members from both universities who participated in the program gave favorable comments about the project, saying that the three days were truly meaningful.
(Miki Mizuno, C21 Tokyo Challenge Program Coordinator)
Excerpts from the messages from Waseda students who participated in the project:
- Cross-cultural communication with UW students was fun. I could talk with them on topics including not only cultural “fusion”, a theme assigned for the project from an academic perspective, but also daily matters such as daily life, student life, family, friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, shopping, music, clothes, movies, and apps. I was inspired by them, and am happy to have participated in the project as the time spent with students from a foreign country with different mother tongues and backgrounds was truly worthwhile. As we were divided in small groups, everyone had a chance to speak up, and I was happy we could share our opinions.
- Being provided a chance to conduct an interview on the street with the students from the UW and Waseda in groups was the most impressive. It was very fun to see the students learn the Japanese culture through me. It is very important not only to talk with each other but also to actually do something together. This way, we can get to know each other better and become good friends.
- The professors from the UW talked to us from various angles about the theme and how to tackle the assignment. When it was time for the professors to give each of the groups advice, we (the professors and the students) sometimes clashed with each other hoping to gain understanding from each other. This was very new to me. The fact that the professors eventually understood us led to our confidence and sense of achievement.
- The assignment was more interesting with less restriction than I had expected, and truly required the originality of ideas. In addition, the style of the assignment in which we go out to town and gain information from there was very new and interesting. Furthermore, UW students were given a chance to explore Tokyo. The assignment was a very good idea.
- It was not easy to tackle an assignment while exchanging opinions with the students from a foreign country; however, this became a precious experience for me. The largest fruit of this experience is that I could find many things in myself I should carefully rethink about.
- As the number of UW students was larger than that of Waseda (2:6), it was a truly international environment and fun. As there was much time to talk with everyone, I could talk about various values and differences between the US and Japan, which proved to be quite stimulating. I was satisfied to have walked around Tokyo with UW students, and been given the opportunity to see creative presentations of various groups. Most of all, I became friends with many UW students, and am looking forward to keeping in touch with them.
- It is a nice program. For Japanese university students, we do not really have an opportunity to study with American students like we did in this program. It was good that we spent lots of time with each other. It was not just during lectures. I could communicate a lot with the UW students and go to many places together. I was able to learn how they think and take an action. And it was interesting to see that sometimes they do differently from Japanese students.
Posted in Event Reports
Monday, Sep 12, 2016
Name: Koh Liang Wei
Home Institute: Fudan University, Shanghai
Enrollment year and status at Waseda University:
Waseda Summer Session, June-July 2016
My first contact with Japan during my childhood was one that made me fall in love with the country and all it had to offer. My parents had brought me on a trip to Tokyo—one of the first trips that I could remember as a child and one that I would never forget; the numerous wars waged against the clock during rush hour, the vibrant lights and colourful signs glued haphazardly to the sides of buildings, the glow of dreams come true plastered on people’s faces at Tokyo Disneyland—these were what captivated my younger self. In the following years I would make three or four more trips to Japan, each time engaging in new activities and never going home disappointed. Even as my travels took me around the world to different countries and continents, there was always something about Japan that kept pulling me back.
Due to my late semester end date, it was always challenging to apply for summer programmes that started early in the summer. It was thus with excitement that I was finally able to make it into the Waseda programme this year, finishing my final exam in Shanghai just two nights before orientation started in Tokyo. I was fortunate to have a friend from my home university of Fudan join me on this programme, and this made planning a lot easier.
My experience started the moment the plane touched down in Tokyo. Despite being separated by only a two-hour flight, Shanghai and Tokyo were so culturally different. I remember how my friend was extremely impressed with the punctuality of the Japanese transport system, being able to plan our trips down to the very second. After checking in at the arranged accommodations for the month, my friend and I spent the evening exploring nearby Ikebukuro. Back in Singapore and even while studying in China, there were many aspects of Japanese culture that we always came into contact with, whether it was the Japanese language to the animated films that we always watched as kids, and even down to the stationery that we use (Pilot has always been one of my favourite). It was no surprise that we were extremely excited about everything around us.
The next day was the start of the Waseda Summer Session, beginning with the student interns guiding us to the campus from our respective accommodations. Ekoda had the largest group of students attending the summer programme and the journey to school was pleasantly peppered with conversations of everyone getting to know each other. Though we came from different parts of the world, there was always something we could talk about, and that was our love for Japan.
Tanabata Festival in Tokyo!
I took two classes during the summer session. The first was “Controversies in Southeast Asia” by Professor Dabney and the second was “Japanese Popular Culture” by Professor Lim Tai Wei. In Professor Dabney’s class, we explored the concept of being a nation and a state, in the context of Japan, as well as how those ideas shaped and developed the behaviour of Japan as a country towards the way it deals with many of its modern day issues. Everyone was extremely open to different ideas and viewpoints and this was key in allowing us to have mature and deep conversations about a range of many different topics. It was supplemented by visits to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine where we explored the many facets of the delicate situation that it was in. Professor Dabney also provided a rigorous syllabus, trying to teach us as much as he could during the duration of the summer programme, whilst making use of the diversity of the students in the class to allow us as much time as possible to voice our opinions about the issues.
With classmates from Professor Dabney’s Politics III Class
Professor Lim’s class on Japanese popular culture was an extremely interesting one as well. It allowed us an in depth look into the Anime Comics and Games (ACG) industry, one whose products I myself have been a consumer of but never took the time to understand the process behind its development. From articles and books about Pokémon and Godzilla, Professor Lim provided us with many an interesting read—something that I as a finance student would normally not see as part of my reading list in school. Our field trips took us to Harajuku as well as Akihabara, the mecca of the ACG world. It was not difficult to see the amount of influence Japanese Popular Culture has had all over the world, with the entire class being really excited to see their beloved ACG characters. The trips allowed us to experience and explore the different subcultures that exist in Tokyo and understand how they all coexist together and contribute to the larger Japanese culture. With Prime Minister Shinzo Abe even dressing up as Mario during the closing ceremony of the Rio Olympics when the flag was passed on to Japan, we can see the significance of the role the ACG industry and its products play in shaping the Japanese identity.
Professor Lim’s Culture III Class!
Akihabara! The mecca of ACG fans
On top of the lessons we had at Waseda, there were also the numerous trips that we went on within Japan. I was very fortunate to have been able to arrange my classes to be on just two days a week, lending me time to explore this beautiful country. With a highly efficient and connected railway system, it was unbelievably convenient to take many day trips to places just outside of Tokyo. Weekends at Yokohama and walking along the beach at Kamakura while exploring the many temples and shrines scattered around Japan allowed me the chance to be intrigued by the nuances that differentiated Japanese culture from so many others.
Travelling at Kamakura/ Wedding Ceremony at Meiji Shrine
Interacting with locals over lunch at Shibuya!
One of the highlights of the programme was the trip to Nikko; over 150 students, student interns as well as staff spent a weekend at the beautiful town of Nikko. It was a chance for many of the students who had classes every day to take a break and learn about the history and culture of ancient Japan. Nikko was also home to the mausoleum of Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of the key figures in Japanese history. After a few hours of travelling by train and bus, we arrived at the scenic town and were treated to the beautiful and tranquil scenery of the mountains and rivers that surrounded Nikko. Many of us were more excited about the onsen at the hotel, rushing to take a dip the moment we settled down in our rooms. Come nightfall, the students—most of whom were dressed up in Yukatas—descended upon a grand Kaiseki dinner with tables upon tables stretched out across the dining hall. That the weekend was a wonderful opportunity for everyone to mingle and get to know each other, as well as for us to get to know the staff and all of the other student interns.
Kaiseki Dinner in Nikko!/ Onsen is a must!/ Kegon Waterfall
All in all, my four weeks in Japan were nothing short of amazing. The Waseda Summer Programme offered me the opportunity to study under wonderful professors who were all extremely knowledgeable in their respective fields and to be able to interact with students from a host of different nations, cultures and walks of life. It was definitely sad to see everyone return home, but if there is something we learn from such programmes, it is that the world is smaller than we think and we will all definitely cross paths again. I myself hope to return to Japan in the near future and continue learning about the intricacies of Japanese culture.
Closing Ceremony! No one wants to go home!
Posted in Study in Japan
Wednesday, Sep 07, 2016
Name: Miosha Page
Home Institute: University of Michigan
Enrollment year and status at Waseda University:
Waseda Summer Session, June-July 2016
I knew the minute I landed that this summer session would help me grow as a person and an academic. Waseda Summer Session was an absolute fun experience and provided me with a great time for my first time leaving my home country. Tokyo and the Waseda campus was an awesome place to be and I really enjoyed my residence in Takadanobaba. I was able to see what life was like living in Japan and attending a university. It was really cool seeing the college district and being able to eat, shop, and explore Takadanobaba and Tokyo.
During the session I had so many great experiences and made many great friends along the way. It was so great to meet people not only from Japan, but also other countries across the globe and share our experiences and cultures together. I made friends from Thailand, Singapore, Australia, the United Kingdom, and other parts of the United States. I learned a great deal about Japanese culture, as well as myself throughout this process. I was able to open up to new ideas and ways of life and grow as an open minded individual.
I came out of my shell a lot during the Waseda Summer Session and became an independent person. I learned how to be out of my comfort zone and still grow as an individual. Waseda Summer Session provided me not only with the tools for learning about Japan, but new experiences like watching fireworks in Yokohama, going to an onsen in Nikko or doing karaoke in Ikebukuro, where I also had the chance for great learning experiences. I was even able to learn Japanese words and phrases and conduct interviews and talk with Japanese shoppers in Harajuku! The fun experiences and memories within the summer session are endless.
Waseda Summer Session was a great way to spend my summer and I wish I could have stayed longer with everyone in Japan. Through this study abroad I learned that I am extremely interested in learning more about Japan and hopefully interning in Tokyo or Kyoto next summer. I hope that I will be able to visit Japan again and gain even more knowledge and experiences!
Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
Fieldtrip Culture III, Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan: hanging wires
Posted in Study in Japan
Friday, Aug 26, 2016
Name: Livija Berzins
Home Institute: The Australian National University
Enrollment year and status at Waseda University:
Waseda Summer Session, June-July 2016
I had briefly been to Japan once when I was quite young, but I could barely remember any of it, so I was quite excited to experience Japan more thoroughly. But I come from a small regional town, and was therefore completely unprepared for the massive size and population of Tokyo. On my first day I stood in the middle of Shibuya Crossing, amazed and admittedly a little bit daunted by the sheer number of people that surrounded me – I later found out that more people cross at a single light change than the entire population of my town! I realised that each of these people had a life as intricate as mine, and I suddenly felt very small. In that moment, my entire existence was put into perspective - for the first time I think I fully appreciated that I really was only one tiny person amongst 7 billion people in the whole entire world. Putting things into perspective really became a recurring theme of my experience at the Waseda Summer Session, from what I learnt in my classes, to what I learnt from all the people I met and from the things I did during my time in Tokyo.
Despite my minor existential crisis on day one, nothing could curb my excitement. On the first day of the session I was very impressed with the university campus, which boasts beautiful gardens and integrates almost seamlessly into the city, and the student interns and staff were really friendly. The classes I took were History 1, Politics 3 and Japanese 1. They were of the perfect difficulty; challenging enough to be interesting, but relaxed enough to be enjoyable. History 1 was focused on the history of contemporary Japan from 1989 onwards, which proved to be very useful in helping us to understand the current economic, social and historical context of where we were living for the month. In Politics 2 we learned about Japan’s role on the international stage, and it was fascinating to explore Japan’s complex relations with countries such as China, Korea and the US, with a focus on apology politics. Japanese language classes were intensive, but everything we learned was very practical, and we could immediately put what we learned in the classroom to use in everyday life. These classes were very valuable because they helped me to put everything I saw in Tokyo into context, and provided me with a more meaningful experience outside the classroom. I also came to appreciate the incredible global significance of Japan’s history and actions as an international player, which I know will provide me with a valuable perspective and a deeper understanding of many global issues as I continue my degree in Australia.
The timetable was structured so that we had plenty of time to explore Tokyo, and the classes incorporated field trips. On field trips, I was able to see the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, the Edo Tokyo Museum, the Kanto Earthquake Memorial Museum and the Tokyo Museum of Nature and Science. The teachers were extremely knowledgeable and I learnt a lot of valuable information about my surroundings on these field trips that I otherwise could never have known without them.
We were given plenty of opportunities to socialise with the other students, and I made friends from all over the world. I had lots of time to see the sights of Tokyo and many of my fondest memories of my trip are from sightseeing with the wonderful friends I made. Some of the things I did during the Summer Session included visiting the Pokemon Center with a group of people I had only just met straight after the orientation, going to the top of Tokyo Skytree, spending an afternoon in the beautiful Shinjuku Gyoen National Park, shopping at the famous shopping centre Shibuya 109, and having a really fun night at karaoke –until they handed us a bill far bigger than we had initially intended it to be!
A real highlight was the field trip to Nikko. It was refreshing to see the more rural side of Japan and the temperature was much cooler in the mountains. On the first day of the field trip we were taken to see the Nikko Tosho-gu shrine, which was one of the most amazing and intricate structures I have ever seen. Staying in a traditional-style hotel in a room with a group of other students was really fun, and we were served a very delicious meal for dinner that night, with the whole group eating all together. On the second day I chose to visit Nikko Edo Wonderland, which was a fun insight into what Japan might have looked like in the Edo period.
By the end of the trip, Tokyo was really beginning to feel like home. I realised by this point that even though so many people live there, the scale of it is not so big as to render everything impersonal, as I had initially thought. I recognised some of the people who made the morning commute from around my residence, I knew my way around campus and became able to recognise the staff that I saw daily, and the man who sold bubble tea on the street corner just before I got home even knew my order by heart! I was touched by the kindness and warmth I received from the people of Japan, from people I saw almost daily to total strangers on the street. I was sad to leave, but I definitely know that I will visit Japan again. I will really miss all the wonderful friends, teachers and staff that I came to know over the course of the session. I am so grateful and honoured that I was chosen to take part, and I would like to say a big thank you to all the staff at Waseda who made everyone’s experience so fun and rewarding!
The Waseda Summer Session has given me an invaluable understanding of Japanese life, culture and perspectives, the opportunity to meet some incredible people, and a set of wonderful memories that I will treasure for life.
Posted in Study in Japan
Wednesday, Jun 22, 2016
Name: Nobuko Akashi
Enrollment year and status at Waseda University: Doctoral Course, Graduate School of Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences 1994-2000
Current position: French Lecturer at Waseda University (2003-)
When I received this wonderful invitation to write an article for the WiN organization, initially I found myself at a loss for words. As I have contributed articles to many magazines/journals over the years, writing is usually an activity that comes easily to me. However, when I thought about what to say about my experiences with the French language, with Waseda, and with study abroad, my thoughts became curiously stopped up. I think that initially there were simply too many emotions trying to get out all at once.
Along with all these emotions came the lyrics of song from many years ago.
“If I hadn’t met you on that day, what kind of woman would I have become?”
― A song from the Showa era, Megumi Asaoka’s “Seedling”
Although the exact date that we first met is difficult to pin down, the love of my life has always been the French language. When I try to think about what kind of woman I would be without it, I can’t picture myself at all. French is truly my all and my everything.
“France is beautiful!” “France is delicious!” “France is amazing!”
I often try to appeal to my students in this way, and as far as the three points above are concerned, there aren’t many people who would disagree.
However I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that it took me quite a long time to realize this for myself. One reason for this was that since France was the very first foreign country I ever visited; so for many years I simply assumed that such breathtaking beauty, delicious food and fascinating culture was simply the norm for all foreign countries. However, after travelling to more than 25 different foreign countries, I realized just how special France really is. I had been standing on the highest peak the whole time and didn’t even realize it.
Over the years French has helped me to meet a number of interesting people, and as I have often found it easier to speak my mind to people who are not from Japan, many of my closest friends hail from French speaking world as well.
My first study abroad was a one year master’s course in Literature at Nantes University, which I was able to attend thanks to a generous scholarship from The Rotary Foundation. After finishing my master’s, I moved to Germany for family reasons, and lived there for 4.5 years. At that time I was just beginning my doctorate, and so, aside from working on my thesis research, I only needed to attend two classes per week. Although they were luckily both held on the same day, I still had to commute to France from Germany by train once a week. The route was 6 hours one way, which meant a total of 12 hours travelling in one day. In the same span of time, you could take a plane from Narita all the way to Paris! I would wake up at 6am, leave Germany, arrive in Lille by 12 noon, attend both my classes, board the homeward-bound train at 6pm and arrive back at home by 12 midnight.
However, I didn’t find this schedule to be a burden in the slightest. My normal route led me from Germany to France by way of Belgium. I was always fascinated by the view out of the train window, which changed along with the people boarding and leaving the train. I remember one time when I was returning home to Germany and had to change trains in Ghent. Ordinarily the Germany-bound train would come from across the Straight of Dover from Britain, but it was often delayed in stormy weather. As I stood waiting in the station in Ghent one stormy day, an announcement was broadcast over the PA in Flemish (a language closer to Dutch than to French). However, I couldn’t understand a single word of it. I approached another passenger waiting on the platform and tried asking a question in French. It’s said that the Flemish and the French have a long history of mutual distrust, but seeing that I was Japanese, this Flemish-speaking Belgian passenger translated the broadcast into French for me without a hint of resentment.
Even more memorable than my master’s and doctoral studies however, was the intensive course that I took to receive a bachelor’s degree in teaching French as a foreign language.
A commemorative photo taken in 2002 with the other participants at a French language teacher training course
At that time, I was receiving financial support from both the French government and the Japanese Ministry of Education in the days before it became the modern Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). I found out about a program that covered a year’s worth of study in only one month, and if you could handle the work load it would grant you a degree as well. Though I was excited to think about such wonderful opportunity, I realized that the curriculum would be extremely intense. It consisted of four classes held Monday through Saturday from 8:30am until 6pm, with 4 comprehensive examinations held every two weeks: a workload that even a French native speaker would find overwhelming.
From morning till night my classmates and I worked and lived together. Most of them were already teaching French in various local schools, but wanted a certificate (qualification) that would allow them to teach overseas as well. We would meet first thing in the morning in the cafeteria for breakfast, have lunch together after our morning classes, and regroup once again in the evening for dinner. After that, I would either return to my room or head out onto the terrace of the dorm café and share a bottle of wine with my classmates in the growing dusk. Sometimes we would discuss Japanese literature late into the night. Once one of my classmates ventured an opinion that although Haruki Murakami was more popular in France, his personal favorite was Ryu Murakami, who he felt would surely win a Nobel Prize someday. I will not easily forget these nights. With such a busy schedule, it would be natural to spend my one day off simply recuperating, but I took every opportunity and invitation I could to get out of my room on the weekends as well.
To tell the truth, I never got to know most of the other students in my graduate-level literature classes. But this course was different: we were all living under the same roof and sharing the same food, and as a result, I became very intimate with the other students on the program. And over time, they began to open up to me about their personal struggles such as bad boyfriends, fathers struggling with alcoholism, and fears of being trapped in France for the rest of their lives. I realized that, in France as in Japan, it is often easier to share your most intimate fears with someone from a totally different culture rather than with someone who shares the same background. Thanks to this environment, a movement began among our classmates to put pressure on the teachers to graduate us as a group. In short, the other students decided that they wouldn’t accept their degrees unless every student would be able to graduate, native and non-native alike, a sentiment that surprised and touched me greatly.
A friend I met in training named Leticia; we reunited in Yokohama when she came to Japan in 2013
A party in 2015 that I was invited to by Marie, another friend I met through teacher training
Through experiences like this, as well as through the many years I have spent as a teacher, French has connected me with thousands of people. And over the years I’ve had similar heart-to-heart talks with foreign students studying in Japan as well.
One such encounter was with a brilliant Korean student named Park. Park was not on a short-term exchange, but had entered Waseda as a full-time, matriculated student. Originally he had wanted to study in France, but eventually settled on Russia for his further study abroad due to its proximity to Asia. When I went to see him off, I told him I hoped he would continue to be a link between S. Korea and Japan. When he replied, “That’s exactly what I want to be” I knew without a shadow of a doubt that he would do just that. Another full-time student I met was Ren from China. She was always smiling and cheerful, and would sometimes point out little mistakes that I myself had made. There I was being taught by my own student! And when she got a perfect score on the final exam, it absolutely bowled me over: even though she was learning a foreign language (French) in yet a different foreign language (Japanese), she was still at the top of the class.
Speaking different languages allows us to cross the barriers of nation and ethnicity and connects us to people all over the world.
Teachers are at best a temporary presence in their students’ lives. Even at its longest, the official relationship between a teacher and a student lasts only a scant 4 years. However, I would like to think that the bonds that I have made with so many of my wonderful students have not faded over time. I also hope that I retain a small place in their memories of their youth. Writing this blog gives me hope that even after my students graduate or return to their home countries they will be able to take a minute to read up about me and see what I’m doing these days.
In the teachers room showing off "Festival", the French textbook that we use to teach students
at the Open Education Center. The Open Educaiton Center is very popular with foreign students.
As a kind of homage to the wonderful life that the French language has made possible for me, I am currently creating a space where lovers of France can gather only a two minute walk from Iidabashi, so if you are interested in French culture, please keep one eye open for this little fleur-de-lis blooming in a quiet corner of Tokyo.
The last line of that old song returns to me once again, “I’ll never leave your side.” I couldn’t imagine a life without French; It will be a part of me as long as I live.
“Si je ne t’avais pas rencontré ce jour-la, quel genre de fille serais-je devenue?”
("If I hadn’t met you on that day, what kind of woman would I have become?")
Hope to see you after school at Atypique!
Posted in Career
Friday, Jun 10, 2016
Name: Tatsuhiro Shinagawa
Status at Waseda University: 4th year at the School of International Liberal Studies (SILS)
I participated in the “Building the TOMODACHI Generation” Program in Washington, D.C. this February. Since I had previously studied in D.C. for a year, this was my second visit. This visit, however, was very different from my previous stay and became another unforgettable one.
BTG program was started by two institutions, the Washington Center and U.S.-Japan Research Institute (USJI). We, the students from all over Japan and the United States, gathered in Washington, D.C. in order to learn about leadership skills, cross-cultural relationships, and possible solutions to social problems. In addition, we had opportunities to listen to and talk with leaders from different sectors. This program aimed to develop international leaders in the TOMODACHI* generation, who will be deeply involved in the U.S.-Japan relationships in the future. Nineteen Japanese students and fifteen American students joined this year.
In front of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial (Writer in the back row, 6th from the right)
One of the most important missions in BTG program was how each individual can cooperate together to work on projects. Each participant had a unique background. We were in different majors, from different universities, and had different cultural backgrounds. As a final goal of the program, Japanese and American students cooperated in team projects together. In these very short two weeks, we had to figure out a way to accomplish this mission.
It would have been very difficult if we had had to deal with this mission all by ourselves. We were given many hints along the way which helped us a lot. The most valuable activity was finding out each participant’s strength. This activity helped us realize that each individual has different strengths, and having different strength is beneficial to teamwork. When we work individually, we have to fill in our weaknesses by ourselves. When we work with others, however, we can make up for each team member’s weakness through other members’ strengths. Thus, we learned that the key to succeeding in team projects is to apply each member’s strength and to contribute to the team.
Throughout this program, we held multiple meetings, and got feedback from professionals
working in Washington, D.C.
Another important mission of this program is to understand the structure of civil society in the U.S. In order to do so, we attended some lectures and visited various organizations. Through these experiences, we realized that different sectors contribute to civil society by using each sector’s unique strength. Therefore, we came to understand that our previous discovery was not only useful in team projects, but also in civil society.
In front of the World Bank
After we reached that understanding, we prepared a group project presentation as the final part of this program. The goal of this presentation was to propose a restoration plan for the reconstruction of areas in Tohoku affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. Judges working actively in D.C. decided the winning teams. Our team had no problems with our preparations at first, but we faced some challenges later. The most serious one was that each member could not communicate fluently with other members, especially between the students of different nationalities. We, the Japanese students, gathered and discussed how we could overcome this challenge. The main obstacle was the gap in English ability. In order to minimize this gap, the Japanese members prepared documents and visual materials beforehand so that we could more easily communicate our ideas with the American students. This method worked successfully, and we were able to advise each other more easily from then on. We unfortunately did not win the competition in the end. However, we were able to work together with American students to overcome challenges and get closer to them, and we were all proud of that.
Our team. One of the members designed a T-shirt for this presentation, and we all wore it.
While the BTG program lasted only two weeks, we had lots of opportunities to strengthen our skills. The activities ranged from outdoor leadership training in the mountains to a networking reception. For all of the participants, this program was something very important and unforgettable. We figured out different methods of cross-cultural understanding, and how we can contribute to civil society. In addition, by meeting with lots of people working in D.C., we strengthened our desire to work internationally. By utilizing what we learned through this program, the participants, including myself, will keep moving forward for the better future of civil society while inspiring each other.
Leadership training at an outdoor athletic facility
A networking reception
Last but not least, I would like to thank everyone for all the support during the program, especially the Washington Center and USJI; Tomodachi Initiative, Toyota Motor Corporation, Hitachi Ltd., Morgan Stanley for their financial support; and I would like to express a special thanks to Waseda University’s Center for International Education (CIE) for choosing me as one of the representatives of Waseda to participate in this program.
“The TOMODACHI Initiative is a public-private partnership, born out of support for Japan’s recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake, that invests in the next generation of Japanese and American leaders through educational and cultural exchanges as well as leadership programs.”
Posted in Study Abroad